Whether our years are few or many. All of us at some time in life come to a crossroads and often we find the ways are not as clearly marked as we would wish for and there are no guarantees that we shall find what we desire by following this path or that.
Perhaps we may look and choose the “Road Less Travelled By” (Robert Frost) setting off hopefully and Cross Roads left behind, then suddenly we aren’t so sure… How do we know just which is the good way?
Many set off with a strong sense of vocation, and certainty of the road to take. Many more do not.
How do we find certainty
Mark’s Gospel, full of immediately’s, or straightaways, has this little account:-
“Now in the morning, having risen a long time before daylight, he (Jesus) went out and departed to a solitary place and there He prayed.
And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him.
When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”
But He said to them. “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth’
Mark 1. 35-38 (NKJV)
When the Holy Spirit points out to us the good way, of Prayer way we should “immediately” take it. It is a quiet way and a lonely way but it is the way our Master took, His feet never left it not even surrounded by great crowds …. and from that good way…. He gained direction for the coming days.
Lord be with us today in the good way
That we may leave behind yesterday’s town and regret
These ruins are an 11th century building on the foundations of St Hilds original double monastery, which was most likely several much smaller buildings of timber, wattle and straw. St Hild, known nowadays as St Hilda was a great niece of King Edwin of Northumbria and a key player in the history of the Church in England. She hosted the Great Synod of Whitby in 664 AD which meant the adoption of the Tradition of the Church of Rome and a movement away from Celtic Christianity as bought to our shores from Ireland. Hild herself, leaned more to the teaching of St Aidan than St Augustine.. but that is how the Synod went.
Today, when we think of monasteries, Monks and Nuns we possibly have very fixed views about them. But truth is, the lamp for our feet-the message of the Gospel was held carefully and bravely in their hands for many, many centuries they were the Evangelists and Missionaries of those centuries, they guarded the light, kept it burning through dark times, and were themselves on fire for the salvation of men, women and children
So what do I see when I look at the lamp in the photo.
I see in my Spirit, the faithfulness of Christ the Light of the world, the Everlasting Light, Hilds Abbey has long since gone, and the 11th Century Ruins are just that. But the same Sun still rises, still sets, and will go on doing that, long after you and I have folded up our mortal tent. Yet one day, science tells us that the Sun will be gone as well.
But not Christ our Sun and Lamp, He was the same yesterday, inspiring Aidan, Hild, Augustine, Martin Luther, Charles and John Wesley, Billy Graham and before all these, Peter, James, John… He went before Israel in the Wilderness, met with Abraham and Sarah. He is the same today, pouring out His Light and Spirit on me, on you and
He is the same tomorrow, when
“The city has no need for the Sun or the Moon to shine on it, because God’s Sh’khinah gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Father who wakens us, calling us
And bringing us safely through darkest night
To fairest, brightest day,
Grant that we may be pure and holy, clean
And clear as crystal-glass letting your glory shine through,
We do not ask that we might be known, simply
That we may be the vessels your light shines through
Sometimes, the Lord surprises us in unexpected ways. We know, that He knows all about us, each word before we even think to utter it. At some time or other, these words from Psalm 139 have rung gloriously true for most Christians
“How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand-
when I awake, I am still with you”
Psalm 139.18 (N.I.V)
During these ‘Coronavirus’ days, I have felt, as you have also, no doubt that the Lord has been very present in many situations, in many ways, great and small.
I chose the picture of Julian of Norwich with the well loved words that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well, because reading her Revelations of Divine Love we feel we almost ‘know” this homely lady born in 1342. She speaks comfortably, from her heart to our heart. The little cat sits comfortably on the window sill joining in the conversation with the odd purr from time to time. As I read Julian’s writings I feel assured that Julian knew our Lord God very well and that He knew Julian very well. In fact they were very close friends who shared heart to heart thoughts of each other.
Sometimes people who know each other very well surprise each other.
My first thoughts each morning are spontaneously with God. No effort involved. I know that I am awake and with God, that God is with me. Just over a week ago I was surprised as into my head came a fleeting glimpse of the computer work station, as it arrived new with my first home computer in the year 2000.
When my late mother became ill, she just wanted, needed me to be always in her sight, so abandoning the work station and its little den, I switched to a lap top so I could type up Church Minutes and stuff in the room where she was, Mom would look up from time to time, and we would exchange little thoughts… presence is comforting. Well, my Mom died 17 years ago and the work station on wheels, was never given a second thought. The little upstairs room, which I had turned into a den all those years ago, had slowly become a storage room for boxes and boxes of files that Martha has busied herself with down through the years.
Well, seeing the fleeting picture in my head, I knew, just knew that I was being prompted to do something.
Something like finding the tape measure and finding the work station a new corner elsewhere in the house. It, was, as I vaguely recalled, comfortable to work at.
Not for one moment did it occur to me that the room might be cleared of boxes. A couple of days later, tape measure in hand I entered the room. The work station had been pushed into a corner blocked neatly in by a box, or two.
It was so quiet, restful in that room. I ventured over to the window, opened it, and looked out into the back garden, where the little birds were busily having breakfast.
I just knew. This is my new ‘prayer closet’
The Lord and I are going to be comfortable here.
Of course, there are the boxes to sort, and made ready for their new storage home in church, the Martha side of me has already taken first steps in arranging that!
God, of your goodness, give me yourself; you are enough for me, and anything less that I could ask for would not do you full honour. And if I ask anything that is less, I shall always lack something, but in you alone I have everything.”
The prayer above comes from Chapter 5, Revelations of Divine Love
Thank you Lord, that you see all our needs and recognise them when we do not.
Thank You for your many thoughts towards us, your wise provision.
You carry us, dear Lord throughout all our days; teach us to know when we are being carried that all shall indeed be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Teach us also, to recognise that following You does not always mean a journey of miles, we do not reach your throne by any other means than Jesus who is the way, and though our bodily strength may fail us…. it is always by your Spirit alone that we are empowered.
Many of my posts have been centred on my younger self, well this one is from very recent days, as recently as 2018 a little baby of an elephant presented herself/himself? The lord knows. During my morning prayer time. I was charmed, fascinated. Momma elephant stood nearby, watching as baby raised a courteous trunk in greeting.
They stood by a roadway constructed from logs, all neatly and perfectly laid
I still find the image of baby, mother and Mahout stirring in my mind from time to time. Yes, I did say Mahout, elephants do not naturally lay logs to construct roads, but they are capable, very capable of learning much and teaching much, passing on knowledge and experience gained down through their generations.
We say, don’t we, that an elephant never forgets? Memory and learning go hand in hand. With people not all learning comes from books, classrooms, teachers, the internet, much of it like that of elephants is from experience. From the moment we are born we are learning from mothers, fathers, siblings, all of our senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight inform us .. we are fearfully and wonderfully made. All God’s creatures are wonderfully and delightfully made – yet all must learn, and to a certain extent learning to all creatures is instinctive, so much is gifted to us before we are even born. Yet… there is always so much more to learn.
I captioned the picture we all have to learn, simply because we do Baby elephants need Momma on hand the first time they take a bath; and a fledgling’s parents are not far away when baby wings are tried out; water for a baby elephant, air currents for a bird. What about a child of God?
Just the same? We need the Holy Spirit. All the way along, on looking back we will find that even before we tried the water of baptism if we were baptised as older persons, the spirit was carefully helping with the construction of the road, present, although we may not have been fully aware of it, in our choices and decisions .. especially that big decision of trusting our very self to our Saviour and Lord to a new element .. the water of Life in Jesus.
Momma Church can teach us a lot, but not all because when it comes to choosing which logs to lay, which direction to go in, Momma church like Momma elephant needs Mahout, and Mahout is the Man Christ Jesus.
It is through Jesus, that the Spirit, and instruction is given.
I invite you to think about this “showing” with me, share your thoughts please if you will. I know that I still have much pondering on it to do for myself. But one final thing. If you will accept them, the words of Jesus to the little elephant
“Don’t be afraid. I must touch your head as well as heart.”
Lord, there are times
When our biggest need is for your
Touch on our heart, to warm our coldness,
Inspire our thinking.
There are times when you understand,
But we do not yet comprehend it, that
Our greatest need is the enlarging of our understanding
Your touch on our head, your gift of understanding,
To the heart you inspire with your thoughts
To bless and willingly to serve in the way You direct.
It takes time to grow a rose. Time for buds to firm, open. It takes time to take in its fragrance, to enjoy its sweetness. Such a pity to be in such a hurry that we have no time to simply look and notice the subtle shading of its petticoat, to touch and smell.
At the beginning of Lockdown in the U.K. I just simply didn’t realise how tired I was. It wasn’t until two weeks in that I came to a stop with trying to get some important things in order – even that stop came as the result of being blocked as necessary communications with various official offices closed down. Telephone queues became hours long, replies to emails were likewise delayed by several days…. so I came to a stop, found content in my little wilderness garden, and found joy in just being still in one place,
Silence will speak more to you in a day than the world of voices can teach you in a lifetime.
Find silence. Find solitude – and having discovered her riches,
Bind her to your heart
Frances J. Roberts… Come away. My beloved (Barbour Books)
And in the silence.. the sound of the rain, the gentle soft rain of the Holy Spirit that refreshes, restores and brings new growth.
Not, the hard, loud, rain of a deluge that causes panic as the flood waters rise to overwhelm a distressed soul.
Not the cold, persistent rain that chills to the bone.
But the soft, gentle, showers of blessing, that leave rainbow crystal drops on herbs, grass, thirsty flowers: rain to swell the buds, causing them to open.
As I rested, I was aware that the Lord was never going to chide me for sitting, and just sitting, because I was sitting with Him, and this was what He wanted, and what He purposed.
As we sat, so my understanding grew, and grows of many things shown and given, through the long years.
He showed me a box, a golden box, a bejewelled box, which I thought must contain some fortunate ladies precious treasures.
“I gave you the box, many years ago!
I gave you the key,
But you were careless with it;
You put it aside, out of sight:
Too busy, Martha to sit awhile,
This to do …..
That to do ….
You gave me back the key.
And the box?
The box you forgot. Placing it
Conveniently, at the back of memory’s closet.
My sweet girl,
I let you,
Allowed you to do this,
Because, I your loving
Friend and brother, watching jealousy
Wanted the pleasure of sitting with you,
To watch you open your gift and taking
Out every treasure reward me with your
Me and Jesus sitting together
The story is true but praise God for His Grace, the Lord and I sit together, and even when Lockdown is done and tiredness done. We will still be sitting together.
He put it in my hand. A piece of broken pot, carefully shaped into a square. And on the tile it now was, the words, “I am broken” written
There are many who who are broken, some in the sense of financially broken, many have lost their livelihoods, some are heart- broken, grieving for loved ones, and some have come to know they are broken because of sin.
I didn’t know why this little token, was placed so gently on my palm. But I felt I must accept it, take it, turn it over, ponder it, keep it. This little fragment was important to the Lord, it was shown, given for a purpose.
When, the Word of God came, He came, He said to open the eyes of the blind, He came to heal and repair a broken world. To search for the lost, the fragmented, when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, Christ kept His promise and into that upper room the Holy Spirit blew…not a whispering breeze but a great, violent, noisy wind that swept the disciples out into the street and became a broom in their hands… a broom to sweep up and together the pots broken by itsferocity.
I write and speak so often of the gentleness of God, the whisper of the Spirit, the still, small voice. Yet, I know that still, gentle voice is the Voice that breaks twists great oak and strips the forests bare, yes the same Voice, the Lord Thunders over the mighty waters, shaking the desert… the Voice of the Lord breaks…..
The preaching of Peter and the Apostles on that Day of Pentecost was so powerful, breaking strong wills and stubborn hearts, casting down proud hearts and in their shattering the Church was born.
Before the world can be repaired, it needs to know it is broken.
Before the patient visits the physician He needs to realise He is sick.
The least welcome of all preaching is that which shows the world that it is sick, that it is broken and needs mending. Bringing conviction of that is the work of Holy Spirit preaching. It is also the Work of Christ and the Father… God does not thunder out of heaven with intention to destroy beyond all mending… He does it that we may know our brokenness and be put together again…. not as we were but better.
Pondering the fragment that had been given, observing that already it knew the hand of the Craftsman I knew that this would be fitted carefully into place:
We are broken to be transformed together into the likeness of Jesus broken for us on the Cross of Calvary, in order that we might be perfectly whole, forgiven, repaired, better a New Creation.
I don’t, usually write like this, but feel compelled to do so, as Pentecost approaches because on that day, when God bought the Church to birth, Peter preached, and pressed his case with many arguments and pleaded that those hearing would ‘save themselves from this perverse generation’ until about 3000 people were baptised and added to their number. Is our generation any better?
I think not. We just don’t fully realise that the world needs repairing, and making good. It is only when we know that we are broken that the Maker can begin to make the repair!
Well, the rain finally arrived, out came a rain coat to venture into my little Wilderness to feed the birds, and just to walk awhile, the birds watching from the shelter of the trees, watching, waiting. When would I disappear into the kitchen and leave them to their dining?
When? Is the big question in the U.K. When will people be able to get back to jobs in offices, restaurants, when will hair dressers be opening up to cut our lockdown hair problems down to size?
My own hair is quite long now but not as long as it was. Yesterday morning, I took hair dressing scissors and matters into my own hands; gathered it up into a ponytail and cut off two inches. This took all of 30 seconds and a lot of courage. Actually, combed out it looks good and it feels good!
“That feels good, Lord,” I murmured ~ and why not our Father knows our thoughts anyway. “I’ve pruned it. It will grow again but without the dead and split ends.”
Our Father, of course made no reply. After all He is the True Gardener and expertly, keeps the branches in the Vine in good trim, removing the old growth so they will produce new, more vigorous growth, more, good fruit.
Stay united with me, as I will with you – for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine – so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.
John 15.4 CJB
Another scripture tells us that Our Father corrects every child of his, and that if He doesn’t then we are none of His. We cannot keep our old, childish habits and grow into mature Christians, growing in Jesus means we must accept correction and that is pruning.
As small children our youngest brother would happily forgo washing, if he could. But keen sighted mom would take firm hold of him and the soap! “No child of mine goes out looking like that”
“Oh no. No. Mom not the soap”
We would just smile at each other. He was, a handsome little lad really, when washed and his blonde hair neatly combed.
Everything takes time. It takes time for hair to grow. Time for mucky little lads to grow into smart young men. It takes time for a Vine to produce fruit. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season and a right time for every intention under heaven.
For some of the Father’s children, isolation and lockdown are, I am sure proving to be a season of correction and pruning, as in solitude and silence the Father’s heart and our heart have met together. And what a wonderful, beautiful, holy time this can be… as we have clung tightly to the Christ the Vine “stay united with me” He says, “As I will with you”
At the time of writing I cannot say when I shall be at liberty to come and go, as I choose again, I can say that I love, more and more, to be with the Gardener and His Son, with freshly opened eyes.
Lord be with us, especially those who are shut in and live alone, you have called us to take off our shoes and be content to stayawhile. Nothing can happen to us, or with us, that you do notknowalready. You hide us in your secret place whilst theworld passes by. Speak to us now, and let us hear, so that in theproper season we may bear much fruit that will be delightful to your taste. This we ask in the Name of Jesus who is one with you in us, shares The Gardener’s pruning with us. Amen
When the world is Coronavirus free, my friend has promised a visit to Chester Cathedral, where I like to walk in the Cloisters, and a cream tea.
I am fortunate, I am blessed with a large garden~ My own little wilderness
During the past few few days, I have spent much time out in my wilderness, chopping, pruning, digging, planting and just sitting, looking, listening
Just sitting, I have been visited, by small elusive birds, cheekier and noisier larger ones and the butterflies
Birds, looking for food in their eating place, the little ones careful to avoid the bigger, bossier ones and a squabble, and the spring butterflies searching for nectar amongst the flowers. All at peace. All at rest.
Why can’t the world always be so quiet, so calm at rest?
I am distracted by thoughts of Elijah being fed by the ravens and because it is sunny, and hot my butterfly thoughts flitted back to a visit to Italy, Subiaco and Santo Speco where Saint Benedict lived as a hermit, in a rocky wilderness of his own. Saint Benedict also had help from Ravens. A hard, difficult climb to his cave, here was another man of God … on the run: like Moses from Pharaoh, like Elijah, like David from King Saul. Sometimes harsh, wild places are to be preferred to harsh, wild, angry kings and enemies.
I recalled thinking at that time, what a hard and difficult way to live! Sitting in my chair, with my kitchen door and food and clean water a few feet away; it was not easy to picture, to imagine the rigours of life lived in such unfriendly environments of true wilderness. From the beginning the wild places, wilderness and desert have been not only the hiding places but also the birthing places of God’s people. It was in the wilderness that the people of Israel were shaped, where John the Baptist cried out to make straight the way of the Lord, where Jesus was tested by Satan and prevailed.
I have an idea that no one truly chooses to live in the wilderness but that our Father chooses them and then the wilderness to prepare them until ready, equipped, character formed, strengthened and empowered they are ready for the next stage of their life, and Life in Christ is never going to be easy.
Right now, there are millions of God’s children who with no regular public worship, feel kind of lost, in some kind of wilderness of our own. We are not lost. The Shepherd knows where each lamb is. In His time, the Lord will bring us out, a people ready.
Father, through all our wandering be our guide. Teach us that the safest place to be, is that place where You are. You are, and You alone our Rock, our Strength. It is You who provides our Daily Bread and water from Living Fountains. Neither fierce heat by day, frosty cold by night, plague, storm, the enemy withoutorthe enemy within can overcomeyourchildren and You make us more than conquerors through our Lord Jesus Christ.
These weeks of being shut in, quiet and still have been for me, a gateway into another place, a place of calm, and rest, a place of blessing and a joy.
I pray that you also may know these things for yourself. That you may know all the joy of abiding in the Vine, and the love of the Lord.. it is just a thought, but consider this, the branches actually have very little to do with the work of producing fruit, they are not responsible for their pruning; and they don’t water themselves, they cannot bless themselves with the sunshine of the Lord’s smile or care for the soil that covers their root… all of this is the Gardener’s part.
All you and I, dear friends have to do is abide in the Vine. And listen, to Ruach HaKadesh. This is what He says to me,
“Go and listen for the sound of the rain in the wilderness”
Your words are a doorway that lets in light, giving understanding to the thoughtless. Psalm 119:30
He leads me besides quiet waters, He refreshes my soul
He guides me along the right paths for His Names sake,
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, i will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
Social distancing… I saw a comment on Twitter that said simply that Religious Communities have practiced this for centuries.
True they have.
We hear, the Lord Jesus, speaking to the disciples said “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6. 31). And so they did, only to find a large crowd waiting for them on the other side of the lake, then we read our Lord had compassion on them, seeing that they were like sheep without a shepherd, so He began teaching them many things.
I do not know how you are coping with the virus, but it certainly is making a difference for some. A little while ago, I got a text message reminding me that I should remain at home now for 12 weeks, I have already done that for a week, not that I have any underlying health problems but because I am over 70, a little less mobile and needed to be at home to deal with the phone calls, texts, emails and queries that arise when a place of worship is going into hibernation.
So, quiet but still busy. It was so good to go out into the back garden for awhile, late yesterday afternoon, I planted out a pretty little Azalea hoping that a late frost won’t kill it…looked ok today, like quiet, rest is good, stillness is good.
I find, quietness and stillness are like two good friends, companionable and there is a third friend Presence. Not just any presence but the Presence of the Lamb of God, Himself.
Quietness and Stillness are the Pause which allows the Presence to speak and to teach if we ‘crowd’ ourselves with two many distractions and tasks we give no opportunity for the Teacher to speak and He is longing to teach us what we should be doing, to show us the right way for today.
As I am about my daily tasks, words from the mouth of Jesus are with me, often reminding me to be ‘anxious for nothing’ to ‘not to worry about tomorrow’ and when prayer doesn’t come with eloquent words, that my Father already knows the thoughts of my heart.
This is true. God is true to Himself and to us. He, can bring good out of all this. He will bring good out of it….
A prayer for these days
Lord we pray for all who work tirelessly to defeat this pandemic. Protect them, they have loved ones, protect them
For all who are ill, restore them to health. For all who are lonely, anxious, despairing, comfort them. For all who are bereaved, in their grief sustain them.
Lead us all, Good Shepherd as You led your people through the wilderness to the still and refreshing waters. To this end, and the purpose for which You have called us, grant us grace to be uncomplaining, without grumbling let us be burden sharers for those whose burdens are heavy.