First Snow

We had our first snowfall, of 2015, overnight. I took the picture in the churchyard this morning.

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A stroll around some of the paths told me that I wasn’t first visitor, Imprinted alongside the tracks of small birds and animals were human, wellie treads and dogs paws. No matter what the weather man and dog must keep to their schedules. And so must Mother Nature, I don’t know how long the snow will be around but I can say that in a very short while there will be a carpet of snowdrops to replace the snow-blanket.

I love little snowdrops (botanical name Galanthus Nivalis) but other names are Candlemas Bell, Our Lady’s Taper, Fair Maid of February, in France they say Perce-neige (snow piercer) and Eve’s Tears.

Eve’s Tears is a name with a story, but not a biblical one.
‘Long, long ago after Eve and her husband had been swept out of Eden, Eve sat crying, crying, crying. A kindly angel came to comfort her. Now, Eve hadn’t seen a single flower since the Fall and the snow had just kept falling, falling, falling. As he was speaking to her the angel caught a falling snowflake in his hand. Breathed on it and let it fall to earth as the first snowdrop. The story goes on to say that the humble snowdrop blossomed every February until the birth of the second Eve, the Virgin Mary and still does every Candlemas ( 2nd February) in her honour.’

Well, I’ll be looking out under the trees for the snowdrops, until then I’ll be following in the footprints of the Lord, in the snow:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control (Galatians 5 v23) as best I can.

Wishing you all, rather belatedly, a very Happy New Year!

Arty Crafty

This week Church is playing host to an Art Exhibition, children and young people who live in Rowley were invited to draw, paint, sculpt anything to do with the people, wildlife, buildings, well anything Rowley the age groups begin with 5. Impressive that is one word heard quite a lot today.

The Dean of Birmingham Cathedral came along to open and judge today, and on the top of our windy hill, the winner from the youngest group was chosen as overall winner. Why? She reckons he was trying to show just how windy it is on the top of this hill.

The Dean’s thoughts in the visitors book are shown in the photo posted with the Gold Rosette winner. The pictures are on display until Friday and we are looking forward to children and parents over the next few days, it is good to make new friends.

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The floral arrangement standing in the entrance porch is Carole’s handiwork, Carole is Secretary to the Church Council and just, a little older but she loves to create lovely things.

“He paints the way side flower, he lights the evening star” these words from the favourite Harvest Hymn say something about God and his children, we love to paint the wayside flower, and if only it were possible, light the evening star too. Human beings reflect the joy of the Creator in their own creativity – my favourite writers on WordPress – are like the one, described in the Psalm, they have the tongue of a ready writer.

Air and Wind

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It was a Day Trip, a visit to the sea, a change of scene, a change of air. The air was so fresh and the wind ran its mischievous fingers through our hair blowing the cobwebs away.

A change is as good as a rest, so we say, and this was true of this day.if the air had been still, hot and full of smells, (as it can get in some towns) – it would not have been so pleasant a day, the air would lacked that special quality of freshness. You, know what I am trying to say; sometimes it’s not a change in location that’s needful but a change in the air which we breathe.

This is true of our churches, fellowships and social circles and very much with ourselves… We need a change in the air, in the atmosphere and a change in the air is brought by wind. It is the wind which brings freshness, cleanses and blows the cobwebs away. The wind brings change and movement which is so needful to freshen, renew and waken us up to life,

When God’s Spirit blows we are best to open our doors and windows to let him blow through our hearts, to breathe in us like breath in a flute or oboe, like the air in a big pipe organ, it is so much better to let him make music to accompany us in our singing and dancing; then it is to nail up all the shutters and oppose Him .. and thereby lose our vitality.

I write like this, because I believe in God, and know his presence in all his creatures and all created things, in water, in air, in stillness in movement, in quietness and in sound. I know there are those who do not believe as I do, but I wish them the pleasure and enjoyment of all these, good, wonderful things, the balm and medicine of life, fresh air. I cannot give my faith. I can only wish you well and all the blessings of this life.

The Change Is In The Waiting

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Well it did rain; and not a little God was generous. Perhaps he will be equally generous now with sunshine, at any rate today has dawned a blue, bright day with Rhododendrons, Columbines, Lupins and Poppies fluttering on a gentle breeze. Ascension Day is past and the fiery splendour of Pentecost to come.

Just at the present time I feel that I have come to a kind of waiting time myself; not sure why this is so, it is simply a puzzling intuition. Perhaps it may be I am due a change in my life, a break perhaps from Multi Tasking, at the same time I have a quiet assurance that everything-will-be-as-it-should-be. I leave all that in God’s hands, glad that the rain is gone, I look forward to summer sunshine, and spending time hovering like a bee amongst the sweet scented flowers sipping up all the nectar I can find.

After the dreadful, bloody and agonising death of Jesus he kept his word and the disciples saw him again, not just once, but many times he came to them in those days leading up to his Ascension and he didn’t appear to ones and twos. Five hundred brothers and sisters are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15. V6. I am certain that The Lord wanted these loved ones to KNOW Beyond all doubt that all-was-well, and would-be-well for them. They probably began to settle comfortably with Jesus around with them in this new way before Ascension Day. After all now his enemies could no longer touch him, it must have seemed to them that now the Kingdom could come. In fact they asked him this very question.

“Lord are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1 v6)

But The Lord left them, but not in the anguish and fear of Good Friday but looking forward to the promise of power and blessing to come. He left them to wait. On the Day of Pentecost all would change again.

Outwardly the disciples may not have changed much up to now, but inwardly great change had already occurred since the fateful night of their Masters death. In the Garden if Gethsemane he had pleaded with them to wait, to watch, to pray and they had fallen asleep overwhelmed by sorrow, at his crucifixion they scattered, all going different ways,now on their return to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olive we are told that the brothers and sisters were constantly in prayer, together waiting (Acts 1v14).

From scattered to unified.
From sleeping to watching and prayer.

Waiting and change,

Sometimes the change is in the waiting.

Spring blossoms needs to fall. Fruit needs to set and ripen, and here is another thought waiting is best done with empty hands.

May God fill your hands and mine with his most gracious blessing!

Going Up. Coming Down

As a young Christian I had the pleasure of knowing Colonel Cook retired. He and his wife had also been Missionaries, they were inspiring to listen to, supportive and encouraging in every way to a young woman who although belonging to the big parish church on the top of the hill, shared with them in the mid-week prayer meeting at the small New Testament church at the bottom. I learnt many things from Colonel Cook, he kept bees and one memorable day, treated my curiosity to a close look at the queen in the hive! I was, so he said, a true Englishwoman and could be relied on to be calm in all situations!

I don’t know about that. I do know that in their long lives the Cooks had many adventures in The Lord where calm and cool courage was called for. A look in the Colonel’s bible was revealing, his must have been amongst the most marked up bibles in the world. He always got ones with wide margins, read and wrote down insights received. When there was no room to write more, he bought a new bible and started over again. Somewhere, I hope there is a book shelf filled with his lifetime’s study notes.

Yet, surprisingly this man of the book, once told me, and seriously, that he considered the Lectionary readings of the Anglican Church were something to be treasured, because, he said you actually get to read and consider the whole of the Story, “There is a lot,” he said,” that is good about keeping set days.”

Perhaps you may have a different view?

This Thursday, our Lectionary Readings and Prayers are for Ascension Day, as far back as Church Records go, this day has been kept to mark the final departure and return of The Lord Jesus to heaven. For 40 days he had appeared after the resurrection, teaching, strengthening and preparing his disciples for their work of witnessing and carrying forward the work of the Kingdom of God.

I have noticed that we always seem to get rain either on Ascension Day itself or a day or two either side, maybe that’s because like a true Englishwoman I notice the weather. The rain of Ascension Day prepares the soil for the sowing of seed at Pentecost, my gardening uncle would absolutely forbid me to plant out Runner Beans until Whitsun (another name for Pentecost), it was reckoned that once Whitsun arrived the frosts would finally be done, the soil is friable. Things sown grow then. The teaching of those 40 days between the Easter Day and Ascension Day, prayed over, pondered over in the next 10 days was sown in the Spirit’s Power when the Day of Pentecost had fully come.

My nephew used to call Ascension Day “Going up Day” while Pentecost was “Coming Down Day” Jesus was taken up into heaven to receive a crown and gifts to shower down. (Luke 24 v50-52.Eph. 4 v8).

Although the Ascension is often ridiculed, it is worth remembering, what ever kind of mental picture you have, that the church from its earliest days has acknowledged its belief in this as an actual event in its creeds, we declare that we believe Christ ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God,

The painting is the work of John Singleton Copley ( 1775) an American born artist.

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…All the way, until you reached this place

I am tired.

January tends to be a month that tires me out, 31st December is year end for Church accounting purposes, and evenings tend to be as busy as the days. I don’t think the grey mornings help much either, but I notice Snowdrops are pushing through, Hyacinths are there beneath the window and the tips of Bluebells are visible… Still looking for that first snowflake …. But the weather lady isn’t promising any for this week.

As a teenager I worked in the Office of a Veterinary Chemist. We made medicines, lotions and potions and animal feeds. The smell of the Cough Mixture we made for horses was wonderful. On one never to be forgotten occasion, we, the ever curious, office girls were allowed to leave Underwood typewriters aside and cook up a batch. Yes, I meant cook, because that is literally what we did, using the secret recipe, (at least one of the ingredients is a controlled substance today-keeping pace with changing Statutory Regulations proved too difficult for that small company in the end and pushed it out of business, however by the time that happened, I had been with a large Electrical Company for 20 years or so). That Cough Mixture was highly rated by Race Horse Trainers, as were our ‘famous’ liniments and embrocations. On many an occasion an elderly enquirer would ring the reception bell and ask if they could buy a single bottle of the embrocation for their winter aches and pains. What was good for horses was good enough for them!
Besides catering for Horses we supplied farmers all over the U.K. with feeds and medicines for cattle, poultry and sheep.

January meant we would hear hardship stories from Scottish Farmers, in the 10 years I was with that Company I cannot remember a year when we were not told that Scotland was experiencing the “worst winter in living memory” – Global warming suddenly comes right into perspective when looking back on those years. Especially our girlish hearts would be tugged at the thought of those little lambs out in the cold, despite farmers frantic efforts to locate them .. Some were always lost.
Small, weak, helpless; who could not pity them?

Over the past couple of days, a fragment, just a fragment of scripture from the first chapter of Deuteronomy has stayed with me, they were spoken as Israel prepared to enter the Promised
Land and remind them how it has been for them in the howling wilderness:

There you saw how the LORD your God carried you as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

These are words I think that tell us of a Shepherd’s care … Whether through scorching desert, or icy snow drifts, he will carry his sheep all the way … At least that has been my experience as sheep 100 , the one for whom the shepherd searched.

Loving Shepherd of thy sheep,
Keep thy lamb in safety keep;
Nothing can thy power withstand,
None can pluck me from thy hand.
(Jane E. Leeson)

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Shelter from the storm

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When I look at this photo of the path leading to a tiny, old country church I am reminded that back in history the strong walls of a church truly were a refuge for the dwellers in towns where the churches were much bigger and in the little villages, where perhaps there might have just been a half dozen houses or so. They provided shelter from great storms, from armies, from marauding
Vikings, Danes …

I think of the many feet who have walked the path to the open porch door, sometimes those feet would have belonged to children, skipping along, sometimes, perhaps man and wife might have walked it arm in arm … The long ‘Nave’ of a church like mine with its timbered roof is to remind us of Noah’s Ark carrying precious cargo, the family of Noah and the animals who also walked up the gangplank two by two.

That was quite Storm, wasn’t it? 40 days and 40 days with the days as dark as night, and the nights so palled with cloud that the light of moon and stars couldn’t break through, and then the jarring jolt as His Majesty’s Ship ARK came to rest on Mount Ararat. After the rain, the sun and rainbow, and that is the way of things even today. We have our storms and all need to find refuge and shelter from time to time, equally we all need, in church and life, to be good sailors working together to bring HMS Ark safely through storm and high seas,

⚓️”We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
Fastened to the rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep
In the Saviours love!’
⚓️
Priscilla Jane Owens (1829-99)

King David looked for help in his troubles and came to rest on a rock higher than Mount Ararat, higher ground there is none and no fortress ever built as strong as the love of God.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
A strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent for ever
And take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Psalm 61 vv 3-4