Church of England Diocese of Rochester St. Andrew, Bromley

Thought for the Day

8th December 2021

Micah 7:7 But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

In the coming weeks of Advent, we will hear of the prophets who came to prepare the way for Jesus, especially John the Baptiser. We will hear a message of repentance and of a baptism of fire. And of course, we will hear of Mary and Elizabeth. The task before us is to read and hear these stories in the spirit of Advent. It is a time to stop and to hesitate. It is a time to dig into the discomfort and seeming incongruities Scripture presents to us. It is a time to linger with questions rather than rush to answers. These moments of delay or disruption create space to feel. In these coming weeks leading up to Christmas, may we all pause and look around. May we notice those things which are and those things we wish would be. Certainly, we believe in Christmas and the theologies of Incarnation and of God’s presence with us. But we also believe in the not-yet. We hold onto those feelings of discomfort and of doubt. We believe in Christmas, but let us also believe in Advent. What does it mean to believe in Advent? To believe in Advent is to believe in waiting. And may our waiting be full of dreams for a better world, full of God’s justice and love made present to all. 

7th December 2021

Revelation 1:18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

We all knows that the Church is facing various forms of persecution across the world, some blatant, some subtle, in almost every country of the world. There are few places on the globe where the political powers are even a little sympathetic to the Church, usually because it benefits them. This can lead us to feeling that history is out of control, and question God’s power as King. It’s helpful to remember, however, that this phenomenon is nothing new. St. Augustine, on his deathbed in AD 430, heard the Vandals were besieging his beloved city of Hippo, and it looked like Latin Christian civilization was going to be completely and violently destroyed. More recently, many believers met their ends in the Cristeros rebellion in Mexico (1926-29) or the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) under conditions where it was not at all clear the Church would survive at all. Yet these saints and martyrs did not give up their confidence that “The LORD is king! Revelation 1:5-8: is about the end of history and the return of Christ the King. It refers to Jesus as Son of David and King over the House of David, which was to rule the whole earth. This covenant promised that they and we will become “a royal priesthood.” Israel rejected God’s covenant but it is granted to all those of us who join themselves to Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega. 

6th December 2021

John 18:36a Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world.

John’s gospel is a great reminder to us all about the nature of Jesus kingdom and his kingship. It is not of this world. That does not mean it is not in this world. The Kingdom of Christ is very much in this world. Its visible in us the Church. Things everyone take for granted like the hospital, the university, and “human rights” came squarely out of the cultural heritage of the Church. Even the welfare state, the care of the poor, education all have religious roots in the church. As Christians, we distinguish the Church Triumphant (the saints in heaven) from the Church Militant (us struggling here below). But the heart of the Church, and the Kingdom, is with the Church Triumphant, the future to which we are joined by faith and the sacraments. Our world, our country is a long way from the “Kingdom of Christ.” Political involvement is a duty of the Christian, as we fight for holiness, for communion with God, for the salvation of souls, and eternal life. As we share Christ the king with all through our care of the other, giving of our time, out of our abundance to make sure all have enough to flourish and find Jesus for themselves.

5th December 2021

Revelation 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Another of the names used for Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. This term is used in Revelation, the prophetic end book of the Bible which refers to the end of times. The term sets Jesus as being Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, in other words the beginning of everything, putting Jesus as in the beginning with God at creation. Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet, in other words the end. This sets Jesus as being there at the end of times just as He was at the beginning of times. Just as the beginning and end letters of the Greek alphabet encapsulate all that lies within them, so it is with Jesus who has been there throughout all times from the beginning to the end. There is one other thing to note about the letter Omega, it represents a constant, Jesus is our constant, always with us, never giving up on us, always available to us. Jesus’ role as Son of God, as part of the Trinity, as part of creation and the constant throughout everything, sets Him as first and last, as Creator, King and Saviour.

4th December 2021

Ecclesiastes 1:8 No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

The word discover means to make known, to make available and visible. In law discovery is a vital part of the process of the story behind the story. There is a TV channel called Discovery which started life as a channel for education and discovery but seems to have lost its way now, the longest serving of the Space Shuttles was called Discovery and of course there is the up-market Range Rover discovery just in case the ordinary Land Rover was not enough for us. Being curious, wanting to learn and find things out for ourselves is what has led to the great discoveries which have changed lives, people such as Louis Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, Thomas Edison, James Watt, Edwin Hubble and so on. This desire for discovery is built into our nature. God gave us brains with which to learn, to discover, to create and make. In the world of religion and faith the discovery is in finding God for ourselves through Hope, believing in the good which is to come, discovering God within us through our abilities and gifts which come from God via the Holy Spirit. We discover God works within us as we learn new things about ourselves and our world and uses our discoveries to works all things together for good, the good of all. May we be people of discovery, people who want to learn and help each other and our world through the discoveries that God offers us every day.

3rd December 2021

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

At this time of year days are very short and it gets dark early and the light of morning gets later and later. We see Christmas lights appear, ever earlier, to make the days seem brighter and bring some well needed light into our lives. So, when Jesus uses the term Light of the World, He is declaring that He is cutting through the darkness of the world and making things bright and well-lit once again, that way the works of darkness can no longer hide. The term light of the world is rooted in Jesus’ relationship with His Father. Jesus speaks from God and for God and as God. Apart from Jesus, apart from God, we live in darkness. We have a limited capacity to understand who we are or what we see in the world. The light of Christ, is the brightness of God shining into our human soul and then out through us. Life can be okay on earth, but not fully complete or worthwhile without Jesus. We are all created with a God shaped hole in our heart which means we long for and crave our Creator, our Father. It is only through our relationship with our Saviour Jesus, that the dark parts of our hearts become bright again. It is only through Jesus that we become bright and whole, no longer living in the shadows or the darkness.

2nd December 2021

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

As we begin to listen to the readings of Advent and Christmas, we discover that there are many names used for Jesus. The most famous of the Advent hymns is O come, O come, Immanuel. Immanuel is a name used for Jesus that means God with us. The whole point of Jesus coming was to restore the relationship between God and humans which had been severed. God’s plan, which runs like a gold thread through the Old Testament, was to become one with His people again by becoming one of them, in other words God with us humans. This name of Immanuel, also Emmanuel in Greek, was used in the Old Testament, in the prophecies of Isaiah and then in the gospels. It reinforced the presence of God with His people to call Him Immanuel. When Jesus was born all doubt about Isaiah's prophecy being fulfilled, was gone. Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the prophet's words because he was fully man yet still fully God. He came to live in Israel with his people, as Isaiah had foretold. The name Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, means the LORD is salvation. Jesus the Saviour came so God was with His people once again.

1st December 2021

Daniel 2:23b Now you have enabled me to understand what I requested from you. For you have enabled me to understand the king's dilemma.

Every now and again we face a moral dilemma. Should I do this or not, should I support this or not, should I help this situation or not. We can feel guilty for not helping or supporting but also, we can know inside that perhaps we should not be involved in something because we are uncomfortable, or it breaks the moral code we live by. People asking for help in the form of money can be an issue like this. A big organisation we know we can trust is one thing, but individuals who send a letter, an email, or approach us in the street is another. We are currently experiencing huge amounts of scams, people making huge amounts of money by pretending to want a relationship, have a terrible illness and no medical cover, promises of paying it all back several times over if you lend them money and so on. We all think we won’t fall for it but many of us do. That compassion and empathy within us can tug at the heart strings and also the scammers are hoping for the greed we often feel to kick in as well when we think we could earn a nice lump sum. Our goodness, compassion and empathy come from God, from our creator, sadly Satan has also sown evil, greed, lies and cheating within us and therefore knowing what to do is difficult. It is okay to say no when we are not sure, when the little voice within says, just hold on, this is not quite right. The uncomfortable feeling we can get is our gut working, it is our sense of right and wrong at work and worth listening to. If we are not sure, it is good to look at it again, examine the situation and if it seems immoral in any way, if it is not what a Christian would be involved in then best to steer clear.

30th November 2021

John 6:8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up.

Today is November 30th and is St Andrew’s Day. St Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland and of any church bearing his name, like ours. Bible references to Andrew show him to be the quieter, more thoughtful brother of Peter who is often in the background but yet is the one who quietly gets on with the job of being a disciple, bringing his own brother to Jesus, bringing the boy with the packed lunch which goes on to feed 5000. Andrew is one who does not rush into things but thinks things through, he develops wisdom and self-confidence as he follows Jesus. He is allowed to be himself and grow into who God made him. It can’t have been easy with strong, brash Peter as your brother, but Andrew learns to be his own person, to be the person God called him to be. Andrew goes on to take the gospel far and wide, his influence in Scotland made him their Patron Saint and ultimately, he was martyred for his faith insisting that his cross of execution could not be the same as Jesus because he was not worthy. The flag of Scotland portrays the Saltire, the X shaped cross on which Andrew died. May we be willing to develop our wisdom and understanding, to listen and to learn and then have the confidence to speak up for God in the right way at the right time.

29th November 2021

Psalm 25: 2 I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies’ triumph over me.

Imagine being part of that first generation of Jesus’ followers who experienced His teaching and miracles first hand, saw Him die and also saw Him rise again. Jesus promised these folk that He would return. But now, people are dying, and understandably, the church is a bit confused. Awkward questions are being asked by the community in Thessaloniki. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is about precisely this issue. Jesus was expected to have come back before this generation passed away. Now, people are dying, and the community is concerned about the place those who have passed will have in the coming kingdom. When is Jesus coming back? Was Jesus wrong? Is Jesus coming back at all? Has Jesus left us alone with our death and our suffering, and what enemy seems more triumphant than death? Wasn’t Jesus supposed to come by now? Wasn’t He supposed to come and save us? Paul’s response to the Thessalonians is both theological and pastoral. Paul addresses the community’s fear about those who have already died, affirming that they will experience resurrection and have a place in the coming kingdom of God. He also acknowledges those feelings of grief, helplessness, and powerlessness that accompany that feeling that God has forgotten them. Paul declares that we need to wait with faith. Acknowledging that the waiting is not pointless, but to believe that the waiting will be worth it. Paul is waiting to see this community again and his faith influences the way that he waits to be reunited. Paul reaches for the joy of Christian connection through faith as well as naming the fact that he misses his friends.

28th November 2021

Jeremiah 33:6 I will bring health and healing; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season where we are looking; in everyday life as well as liturgically; toward Christmas. But as we move forward there are some other things we must think about. We must set this season in the context of Jesus’ triumphant return and the prophecy from Jeremiah which signals the coming of the fulfilment of God’s promise when all shall live in peace and justice. This era of justice and flourishing for all has not yet come to pass, we can all see that. The coming Messiah was meant to usher in this age of peace on earth, end to war, and an end to the woes of humanity. But Jesus clearly says that the time has not yet come, this will happen at the second coming when there will be difficult, painful times, when the Son of Man returns and that will be in the future. Here we are, approaching another Christmas, nearly two thousand years later, and the second coming of Jesus has not yet happened. But to be seasonal, let us, in this season of waiting, hold off from that immediate jump to make sense of it and try and explain it. Instead, let us be patient. Let us lean into the discomfort that the second coming brings us, remembering and trusting that God knows what He is doing and use this advent as a time to remind us of our secure future with Him.

27th November 2021

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This week has seen the American Tradition of Thanksgiving. We don’t tend to celebrate here, but being thankful is something we can all benefit from. The tradition of telling everyone around the table what you are thankful for before you eat seems like a great tradition and worth doing whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. It is good every day to recognise the things we have been blessed with, but when times are difficult, when we are feeling down or struggling then remembering the good things and giving thanks for them is really beneficial to our well bring and mental health. We become so expectant and entitled that we forget that actually we came into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing so everything we ever have is a blessing, something to be thankful for. The more we recognise this and are thankful the more appreciative we are of life and the more we want to share with those who are less fortunate than we are. So whether you celebrated Thanks giving or not, make sure you thank God for the abundant blessings He has given you

26th November 2021

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

We celebrate new year each year as December ends and January comes round again. We make resolutions and hope for things to be better. It is a time of hope and promise. The new church year begins with the beginning of Advent, the preparation time before Christmas. Depending on which day December 25th falls on, means Advent can begin in the last few days of November, as it is this year. The churches year, called the liturgical year, begins with Advent, a time of preparation, of self-examination. We tend to see Advent as the preparation for Christmas and the coming of Christ, that is part of it, but it is also a preparation for Jesus return as foretold by the Bible. The term means arrival and coming, taking from the Latin. The arrival of Jesus at the nativity and the coming of Jesus as eternity dawns and God’s plan finally comes to its conclusion. It has existed since about the fifth century and included fasting as usually observed in Lent. One of my favourite traditions is the advent candle marked up for each day with a different name for Jesus. It is only lit for about half an hour but it is to encourage prayer and thought about who Jesus is and to make sure we are prepared for His return. As we start Advent in this coming week, may we remember what Christ has done and what He will do when He comes again.

25th November 2021

Matthew 25:32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

What kind of Christian are you? One of those who think Christianity is for the elite, impenetrable for all but the few? Or are you the sort of Christian without much real spiritual discipline at all? Don’t bother studying the Bible or reading and learning about faith. Both are tempting ideas about faith but neither will do! In the church some still cling to an idea of a cultural Christian, the occasional attender, who are tentative, often conservative, very supportive, but uncomfortable with a full commitment to faith. It is a traditional Anglican view point; a large feature of cathedral ministry and it covers a multitude of sins. But it is not a substitute for the reality of faith, which-like it or not, calls all of us out from where we are: sheep, goats, lukewarm, hot or cold, to make a full and complete commitment to God. As Augustine said “To love God and the world equally is to live neither for God nor the world”, We cannot hedge our bets. We need to love God first and foremost then from that full commitment to Him comes our deep love for the world that causes us to want to share the love we have found with everyone. 

24th November 2021

Mark 8:29b Peter answered him, You are the Messiah.

How’s your balance? Do you feel balanced, happy, on point? No sooner has Peter expressed his conviction of Jesus as the Son of God than Jesus completely knocks him and the others completely off balance with what discipleship entails for them. At the first hurdle Peter is labelled an opposer. As we seek to serve Jesus, declare His glory and share His good news there appear to be plenty of things to knock us off balance. But in the same few verses Jesus offers ways to keep us balanced. Humility and love to keep us standing and Two feet to keep us walking along the straight road and leading us on through to Heaven. There are those of us who want to approach faith through our brains and through argument and then there are those who disregard the dogma and teaching altogether and are guided only by their feelings or intuitions. The challenge is to find the balance. Those doctrines which reveal the radical nature of God’s love, but also that experience of God is not an idea to be understood or an argument to be won. God is love, we love Him and he loves us. There is a risk that we don’t listen and learn, that we neglect reading and study, that we forget sound argument and solid ideas. There is also a risk that we forget the personal love of Jesus and the servant attitude we seek to imitate. The gospel of Christ is Himself. If we keep these things in balance then we cannot be knocked off course.

23rd November 2021

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.

If nothing else Cop 26 was an example of looking at the bigger picture. Examining the danger to our world now but in the future and across all lands and seas. Our selfishness and short-term values as human beings have left many in the world already suffering the consequences and it will only get worse. Our willingness to look at the bigger picture affects how we think, act, work and live. Being willing to see how what we do as individuals in the context of others and the world, gives us a bigger and better perspective. We can begin to see beyond money, possessions, success to how we as individuals affect others. We have running water in our homes, proper toilets and so we easily forget those across the world who have neither. Those who walk miles for dirty drinking water, those whose lack of sanitation causes illness and disease. Because it is not “our personal problem” we forget, we carry on because we are okay. The bigger picture reminds us that others are dying because they cannot access the basic of life. Everything we do, read, study, think etc has a context, it can open our eyes to the bigger picture. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians is being encouraging, faithful, helpful and yet he writes from prison. Even in a small room he is able to see the bigger picture, to remind others of the God given resilience, strength and hope needed to keep going, to value what we have and to share it with others. Whatever is true, right, lovely etc, think on those things and see the bigger picture.

22nd November 2021

Jeremiah 32:40 God says I will make with them an everlasting covenant that I will not turn away from them.

A friend of mine recently spoke to me of their desire to see true disability rights actioned in this country. By this they meant that they could call the station and book for the ramp to access the train but more often than not they arrive to find no one to action it. They can complain but nothing can legally be done. The will to really change things is not there. Accessibility in shops, museums, parks, transport etc is still not imperative, there are still excuses that can be made and accepted while disabled people are excluded. This goes for many in our society who are excluded because of disability but also gender, skin colour, religious belief, life choices, orientation and so the list goes on. God does not exclude anyone from His love, His care. We often exclude ourselves by our own behaviour and choice, but God never turns away from us. He has made an everlasting covenant or promise to never turn away. The nature of God and so our nature as His creation, His children should be to never turn others away. To never abandon those who are disabled or different, to never judge another by our own standards. We can make a difference if we treat everyone as chosen and precious before God because that is exactly what they are.

21st November 2021

Matthew 8:5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.

How is your resilience? In recent times many outspoken MP’s and commentators have been quite rude about our young people and even called them snowflake generation. As someone who is working with young people, I can tell you that is wrong. As we move on, still living with the affects of the pandemic and its ongoing clutches, it is young people who are coming back stronger. They are looking forward, being positive while many of us are struggling and in affect grieving over these lost couple of years and lost lives and ways of life. The reason for this, I believe, is the spring of youth but as we have adapted in schools, we have created an environment where asking for help is okay. We have provided counsellors and pastoral workers so if someone needs to talk, seek help, then they can, no shame, no worry. Just having that support gives strength and encouragement to move on. We need to give ourselves this opportunity. To be reminded that it is okay to ask for help, to seek out a counsellor, mental health first aider, a doctor; whoever can help us and not be embarrassed to do so. People in the Bible came to God for help, to Jesus for help. It is okay to need to help and God gave us each other and people trained in areas so we can access that help for ourselves. If you need help, please ask for it. Resilience is built when we have support and learn strategies to help us cope and build back better and stronger.

20th November 2021

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

We all wish for more time, if only there were more hours in the day, more days in the week, more months in the year. And yet if there were we would only fill them and wish for more. Time management is one of those things often asked for in Job interviews. Can you fit everything we want into the time we are giving you and can you do it well? We are seeing increasing demands on people in their work and home life and our human resilience means we try, we try our best to do more and more in less and less time. Time is precious, if we have learnt nothing more over the pandemic it should be that life is precious and we do not know how long we will be on the earth. Many lives have been cut short and these have not just been older people. The Bible tells us that there is a time for everything under heaven. We are encouraged by God to use our time wisely because He knows that there are so many things in life that can distract us from what truly matters. We must not waste our time so that we look back with regret, we simply do not know what tomorrow holds! How we spend our time is far more important than how we spend our money. We have time but we have to chose to use it properly, to give time to what matters, to what God calls us to do. In respecting time and our use of it we will gain a heart of wisdom.

19th November 2021

1 Samuel 16: 7b For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

If you were asked to describe yourself, what would you say? Perhaps it would be what you do, who you are, your role, your hobbies and so on. I wonder, would you use words such as fallible, vulnerable, restless or perhaps angry, open, fearful? If we are honest with ourselves many of us have worries and concerns and hide parts of our lives from others and from God. Being a Christian can be costly, it can demand of us a willingness to be vulnerable, to accept our weaknesses and not hide them, to accept our brokenness and that Jesus is the one to heal that, maybe through counsellors or doctors. We are all in need of God’s grace, thankfully He offers it in abundance. We can often condemn others, because it helps us feel better about ourselves. If we look strong and opiniated we can hide our weaknesses from others and look powerful. God’s grace is not about strength or power, it is about weaknesses, needs, fallibility. Our need to control others and situations rises out of selfishness and not out of service, compassion, empathy or love. As we walk the way of the cross, our example is Jesus, and we should be able to describe ourselves in ways that reflect Him.

18th November 2021

Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

How are you at disagreeing? I have met many folks who are convinced their job is to disagree with everything no matter what it is. Disagreement is not necessarily a bad thing; we need to know all the pros and cons of anything to make good decisions and by thinking deeply about our attitudes and behaviour we can nurture understanding and respect between people who disagree. If we recognise ourselves as the body of Christ with differing gifts, abilities and talents, all God given, then we can be open to each other, honest with each other without any hidden agendas. What is in both heart and mind needs to be shared gently and lovingly so that conversations can be had about difficult things without folk feeling embarrassed or hurt. In this way we can learn together, flourish together, grow together. We can be faithful to the Bible and to Tradition by reasoning, listening to differing perspectives, differing lived experiences, and valuing them with the same value we place on our own ideas. Together does not mean in full agreement, but it accepts the other as a fellow child of God who is just as valued and loved by God as we are.

17th November 2021

Romans 15:7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

Across our world and in our neighbourhood are communities of Christians. These communities are, hopefully, held together in the love of Christ. We are all different, God made us that way and these many differences are God given gifts that can enable us to flourish and create mutual respect for each other. But they can also damage the image of Christ that we are called to show all through our life together. The quality of our relationships is devalued by certain behaviours. We need to address these to live as better Christians. We need to accept that we have prejudices and ignorance’s. We all see things differently, but our way is not necessarily the right way. We need to recognise our own hypocrisy in pointing out others faults but ignoring our own. We need to pay attention to and call out those in power so as to drive out fear and speak up for all. We are called to welcome and love people as they are, unconditionally. That means seeing Jesus in the stranger who walks into church, in the homeless, in those who have to use foodbanks, in the shop worker and delivery driver, in everyone. If we can reflect Christ in these ways, we can bring others to know Him because they see Him in us as one who accepts folk just as they are.

16th November 2021

Romans 12:10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another.

At the end of the sermon on the Mount, a discourse on how followers of Jesus should live, the people who hear Him are astounded by His authority and teaching. Are we? Do we recognise Jesus’ authority and does our teaching about Jesus have authority? The Church of England says the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation, but we also learn from history, nature and sciences. The Bible is the source for Jesus’ teaching, rooted in His time and place. We are to use the Bible to reason our ideas, to learn and to set these into the context of our traditions. The church teaches that there is no fear in love and that marriage is the ideal commitment for sexuality and family. It also recognises that there are many voices in the church, and some different interpretations of Scripture. The Church of England tradition is marriage between a man and woman, but it also supports same sex civil partnerships. Clergy cannot yet do same sex weddings although Church in Wales is now allowing blessings. The ideal is lifelong union, seen as marriage, but it also recognises and accepts committed relationships. The church also teaches that Sex is also about Joy, given as a gift from God, to be a blessing to both and bring them closer. There are many issues currently being discussed over relationships, but one thing is clear, the abiding view of God, of Jesus, is love and respect for each other and not judging one another because our view maybe different to another.

15th November 2021

Mark 8:36 Do you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not!

At the time of Jesus, becoming a disciple required an unwavering commitment to submit to the rabbi’s authority, living every day with Him in close proximity. This meant that every day was full of opportunities to learn new things about God, to study, to discuss, to grow. We may not be those first disciples but we still need to recognise who Jesus is; the Messiah, the Son of God, our saviour and Lord, and then submit to His authority by obeying His commands and living as He lived; learning new things about God every day through prayer and the Bible. We have a choice, to live our life all about worldly gain, the wealth, power, fame etc or all about Jesus’ ways, being a servant of others, loving and caring for them. We must decide what really matters to us, and if our eternity with God is what we desire. If we are ashamed of God, of Jesus, then we cannot expect Him to be anything but ashamed of us. If we deny self, take up our cross and follow Him then we will see the bigger picture, we won’t be blinded by worldly things and we won’t become a stumbling block to God’s mission.

14th November 2021

Mark 13:8a For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines.

What do you do with your poppy after Remembrance Sunday? Do you throw it away? Or keep it for next year? Does it go in a drawer until you come across it in a few months’ time? Perhaps you have a very particular place for it? The Poppy is a symbol of our remembering. So, what will you and I do with our remembering after today? Today there are many acts of remembrance, but what happens on Monday, and the next day and the next? Will we put our remembering away in a drawer until next year, when we will get it out again and remember for a few days once again? For some of us the remembering is more personal, because we are grieving what has happened to a family member, a colleague, a friend, a parent, a child. That isn’t something we can switch in and out of for one day a year. How we remember and what we do with our remembering, matters. What we do once today is over, matters. Because if we just put our remembering, along with our poppies, to one side, to forget until next year, then we have not remembered rightly today. Remembering rightly is about how we live and what changes because of what all these service personnel did for us as a community, as a nation. Right remembering, means we must remind ourselves of the facts of wars and conflicts, past and present, and remember with sorrow, pride, gratitude, wonder. Remember those who gave their lives. Remember that behind each name we remember is a family, colleagues, a group of friends, a community, a nation that is different because of that one person and their sacrifice. We will remember them.

13th November 2021

Matthew 16:24 If anyone would follow me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

As Christians we are called to live every day in such a way that it is apparent to everyone that we have died to ourselves, to our selfish ways and ambitions, and live lives for God. It is what is meant by taking up our cross and following Jesus. Yet as soon as something unfair happens we instinctively want to get even. But we have died to that, haven’t we? We have prayed “not my will but yours be done.” So, hopefully as we become more like Jesus we will humbly submit our will to God’s will, and we will respond to difficult things in kindness and humility. Will we always do it right first time? No, but life is a journey. God knows we are fighting the habits of a lifetime and He is patient with us as we learn to walk the right path. Nevertheless, we are called daily to take up our cross. It is good for us to remember that many Christians still bear the cross of persecution, imprisonment and death for their faith. Something we can’t even imagine. Taking up our cross is much simpler and easier than theirs.

12th November 2021

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

For most of history we have been contented to make temporary patches to cover the holes and problems in society which in fact have served to maintain the very structures that created the holes to begin with. This way of life disempowers those on the margins, it always has. Now it has caught up with us as well. Those we have supported are now turning in on us. We are called by God our creator to love our neighbour and that is the very foundation for re-establishing and reclaiming the common good for all. The common good has fallen into cultural, political and even religious neglect, while we have put ourselves first and others second. The commitment to the common good of all dates to the very beginnings of our faith and is rooted in both the Old and New Testaments. Presently our western civilizations appear to be in a state of spiritual emergency. For Christianity to be effective in its re-establishment with the common good, it must create a universal hope that both brings peace to and unshackles the human soul. The mystery and blessing of the poor is this: that they are Jesus, and what you and I do for them we do for Him. The common good of all provides a larger moral perspective, living for the good of everyone not just ourselves. It ties into the current climate change emergency and the need to change for the good of all now and in the future. This must challenge us to deepen our faith, to reach deeper into our relationship with God and to work tirelessly for the good of all and the good of the Earth God gave to us to sustain us. 

11th November 2021

Matthew 6:10 Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

As we follow Jesus, we should start to look and be more and more like him; and as we look more like him, we look less like the world. As we deny ourselves it means we say “No” to ourselves and “Yes” to God, to humbly submit our will to God. It means we go through life repeating the words that Jesus said the night before he died in the garden, he said to God his Father, “Not my will but yours be done.” It is what millions of Christians pray in the Lord’s Prayer. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Becoming more like Jesus, St Paul tells us, is imitating Him, putting Him on like an actor takes on a role and becomes that character through study, learning, following, using the same language and attitude to become like them. We often speak of good role models, those we should look to as an example of how to live. Jesus is our chief role model and as we become more like Him we should become good role models as Christians for other people to look to.

10th November 2021

Ephesians 1:18 I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people.

How good are you at learning new skills? I wonder if you enjoyed your time at school and felt you learnt well and valued that learning? Learning is very much a lifelong process but the majority of what we learn is learnt in our early years. Our young brains are hotwired to soak up as much as we are willing to let it. We are very much independent people, with strengths and weaknesses. We learn through life whether we actively chose to or not, we are challenged, we grow and we learn to support others and they us. Paul encouraged all the places he visited with His letters, he tried to show them the value of learning, of growing in faith and in supporting each other through life. As each person made their independent choice to follow God Paul prays for them to receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation and that they would be enlightened. He knew that as we all grow as Christians we need to learn, to value that learning and to become wise and enlightened in our faith. How we grow as Christians depends very much on how willing we are to learn, to pray, to listen and to grow. We are independent people but we also need to be team players in our community and society. God never gives us more than we can handle, we need to be willing to learn each day, to value our learning, our opportunities, to allow ourselves to become wise and enlightened and to share this given learning with others as a valued gift from God.

9th November 2021

Mark 8: 32b So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

As humans we have times when we are at our worst and times when we are at our best. Peter is a disciple we see at his worst and his best. His moment of glory, declaring who Jesus was, one of his worst moments, Peter tells Jesus that what He is saying about having to die is wrong. In other words, Jesus, I Peter, know better than you or God do. Peter has his moment of seeing things from a basic human and selfish point of view, we all do that. We think as Peter did, come on Jesus we are fine as we are, let’s just keep doing what we are doing, nothing rash. Jesus words to Peter might seem very harsh, but at this moment Peter is acting like the opposition and by promoting the status quo is actually thwarting the very mission Jesus came to fulfil. If Jesus does not fulfil His mission, then Peter and all the disciples and all the believers through history and us today and those to come would have no access to God, no forgiveness, no salvation. As Jesus reminds Peter; you are thinking in earthly terms not heavenly ones. Peter is not seeing the bigger picture at this moment, how often is that the same for us. Peter goes on to make an ever-bigger error when He denies Jesus, but is he lost? No! He is forgiven, loved, blessed and given the job of leading the earthly church. Just like Peter we can be forgiven, blessed and given a new mission. God never gives up on us, even at our worst.

8th November 2021

James 3:13 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts.

We like to think about life and living well, we don’t like to think about death or dying. Jesus shows us how to die. We have been given life and then Jesus demonstrates how we are to give it up and give it away. For most of us, this is an idea that runs contrary to all that we want to believe. Yet, Jesus makes it absolutely clear that God is not about giving us all we want, all the creature comforts. What God does care about are matters of the heart. Jesus makes it clear that if you want to have a deeply meaningful life that truly matters, you are going to have to hand over your ideas and mistaken priorities. Quite frankly, following Jesus means living a very counter-cultural life and letting go of the intense narcissistic focus on self, that runs rampant in our culture. Christianity is more about loving than being loved, more about working to understand than being understood, and more about forgiving than being forgiven. <span style="font-size: 1rem;">The life that Jesus speaks about is not something we can buy or earn. Like love and grace, it is a gift and can only be freely given away. The deep truth Jesus is trying to tell us is that only when you give your life away for the sake of others, only through serving, loving and caring for others, do you really discover life, life that truly matters. When we are able to finally let go of the ego, the cult of false self, that part of ourselves which believes we are in charge, or self-sufficient, then we finally begin to live a life that truly matters. 

7th November 2021

Acts 7:56 Look! he said. I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!

When someone speaks of Heaven, we often think of it as an ethereal place somewhere out there, that brings some comfort in times of loss. Jesus himself speaks about heaven. He calls it “my Father’s house”. Heaven is the place we identify as where God lives and yet we are also told that God is everywhere, He is omnipresent. So, what of Heaven, perhaps it helps to think of it as that place where God’s glory dwells. Our human nature is such that we need a place, a physical identification that we can point to. In the Bible we are, from time to time, given a glimpse into heaven where God is worshipped day and night by the heavenly hosts and the saints who have passed from this world into glory, His father’s house. This is what Stephen sees as he is stoned to death in Acts 7, Jesus waiting to welcome him home to His father’s house, Heaven. Jesus in His teaching, also has in mind the new heavens and the new earth that those who are in Christ will enjoy for all eternity as told in Revelation 21. A wonderful place with ample room for all his people, for everyone who has and will ever live if they choose God and Jesus. When talking about heaven people are accustomed to speaking of pearly gates, streets of gold, and mansions on hills; we also speak often of no more sin, sickness, or death. We long for these things, but we also need to see “God with us” as the most treasured feature of Heaven. He is what makes heaven, heaven. He is what makes paradise, paradise. Just as in the first creation, we will again walk with God in the cool of the evening. We will enjoy unbroken, unhindered, non-restricted fellowship with God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, forever.

6th November 2021

John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Most of us choose religion and come to believe important things deeply because we believe they are good for us, in all honesty we like a religion that makes us feel good. We like a faith that fits our comfortable, recreational life styles. We tend to like a faith in which we can participate when we choose to participate and that does not demand too much from us. We want to follow a strong God who heals us, provides wealth and success, guarantees our security, leads our sports teams to victory, and keeps us happy. When Jesus speaks about suffering it is not something we want to hear. When we are offered a life of suffering versus a life free from suffering, you can bet your bottom dollar we are going to go for the one that is pain free! So, this is where we must be very honest about the Christian life. Nobody’s life is ever going to be pain free or free from suffering and Christianity is not about living an easier life, with a personal Genie type God to give us everything we want. It is about following Jesus, allowing Him to share the load, to give us the strength we need to cope with life’s ups and downs and knowing we will never face anything alone. When we are finally able to let go of self, to let go of our worry, to let go of our anxiety, to let go of our need to control, then we discover that God is already in that place, walking with us and holding us in love. It is then that we discover what the cross really means.  

5th November 2021

John 14: 1 Do not be worried and upset, Believe in God; believe also in me.

These comforting and hopeful words which are so familiar to us are made as an imperative in the Greek, a command that we are given to act upon. When our hearts are anxious, when our hearts are troubled with the cares that come with living in this world, we need to hear the command of our Saviour saying, do not be worried and upset. There is substance to this command. There is weight behind it! You and I might say to one another, “don’t worry”, or “be happy”, but there is little substance in platitudes we just say. We might respond to encouragement like that saying, but why shouldn’t I worry? Or, why should I be happy? Jesus gives us a clear reason. He directs our attention to God, our Father and urges us to take comfort in Him! To believe in the God who created you, the God of Abraham and the patriarchs, the God who cared for His people again and again, who blessed people and kept them safe and helped them in times of trouble, a God of miracles and of complete love for His people. There is no greater reason to not worry or be troubled, than to remember the God who made us and the love that He has for us in Christ Jesus. This is where Jesus directs our attention. “Believe in God”, He says. And “believe also in me”, the one He sent, the promised Messiah, who came to save us through the cross. So, when we are troubled, worried and struggling we are to turn to God, tell Him everything we feel, we think, we need and place our trust in Him to be the strength, support, comfort and protector we need.

4th November 2021

Mark 8:31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will rise to life.

Over the years there have been huge numbers of books written about Christian Discipleship. Discipleship is currently a big thing in the church, they want people to become disciples rather than followers or church goers. In his book Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “When Christ calls (someone) He bids (them) come and die.” These words, and many like them, cut straight to the nitty gritty of what discipleship and following Jesus is all about. Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Impetuous, impulsive Peter gets all excited and confesses that Jesus is the long-promised Messiah. Jesus next few words are hard to hear. He will need to suffer, be tried and found guilty by the high priests, be killed, and after three days rise again. Peter’s reaction is to step back and reprimand Jesus, his words shatter the attraction of following this long-expected Messiah, not what any of them or us want. Leaders don’t suffer and die. This is simply ridiculous. Who in their right mind chooses to suffer and die, and who in their right mind wants to follow a leader who is on this ludicrous path. Jesus doesn’t hide what following him really means. Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead, He says. You’re not in the driver’s seat, I am. Don’t run from suffering, but embrace it. If any of you want to follow me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. Self-sacrifice is the way to true discipleship.  

3rd November 2021

John 13:33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, Where I am going you cannot come.

Picture, if you can, Jesus in the upper room with his disciples. He had walked with them for over three years. He taught them many things. He performed miracles before their eyes, and in the sight of others. They believed that he was the Christ, the Saviour of the world, and they expected him to remain with them forever. But now he is talking about going away. The disciples were really troubled by these words. The thought of their Master going away. You can imagine the questions; Why does he need to leave? Where does he plan to go? Will we see him again? And how will we possibly get along in this world without him? These are feelings and thoughts we also experience. As always Jesus brings comfort and reassurance to his disciples and to us. Jesus, at times, was troubled in His spirit, after all He knew what was coming, the agony, death, battle with Satan and then the resurrection; He knew that we could not go through these things but He could, on our behalf. Even with the weight of the world on His shoulders Jesus still comforts His disciples and offers them and us words of hope. Don’t worry, don’t be upset, God the Father and I have got this, believe in God, believe in me and your future is assured, not just in the distance but now, today, your future is assured and we will be with you through everything, every day, every hour, every moment, you will never have to cope alone if you just believe.

2nd November 2021

John 6:40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.

Today, 2nd Nov, is All Souls Day also called The Commemoration of The Faithful Departed. It is the day in the church year when we remember those of our family and friends who have departed this life and are with God. As such it is also a day when we are confronted with our own mortality, as well as with the great hope we have in Christ bringing us to our future in Heaven along with those who have died. Recalling the death of our loved ones we are confronted with a perhaps startling reality, that we too shall die. That our life has bounds marked by birth and also by death. There was a time when we were not and there will come a time when we are not again. In the deaths of our loved ones, we come to see our own death before we die. As those who have come to know, or are coming to know, the reality of our existence, we are taught by Scripture to number our days, that we may gain wisdom. And so, we are called to serve God in our own generation, as our loved ones did in theirs and to which their lives bear witness. It is to the tremendous reality of resurrected life, that Christ will bring with and in Himself all the faithful departed including us. So let us rejoice, even as we remember our loved ones and face various trials in our life, and let us pray for those of our loved ones who have departed this life in faith, and for ourselves as well, and thank God that the good work which God did begin in them, and has begun in us, may be completed unto the day of Jesus Christ.

1st November 2021

1 Corinthians 1:2 To those who have been blessed in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I wonder what comes into you head when you hear the word Saint? Our Cathedrals and old churches have statues of them in various niches and many churches have them in the stained glass. We can read about their exploits and good deeds which have caused them to be remembered. The disciples are addressed as saints, as are the writers of many of the Bible’s books. There are Patron Saints for every manner of things. Countries have them, St. George is England’s, St. David is Wales’. St Andrew for Scotland and St Patrick for Ireland. Every kind of activity and craft has a patron Saint, for example St. Amand who is the patron saint of bartenders, brewers, innkeepers, merchants, vine growers and vintners. St. Clare of Assisi who is the patron saint of theatre performers, embroiderers, gilders, laundry workers, goldsmiths. Christians worldwide recognise more than ten thousand saints, so there are many that you and I have never heard of, but they are still Saints, recognised for all they have done. Today, November 1st, is All Saints Day, a special day when the Church commemorates all those saints, men and women from history, who were ordinary people and were extraordinary in the life God gave them. We have the opportunity to be saints too, to be people who serve God in the ordinary each and every day and in doing so, do extraordinary things through God’s strength. So, just like the Saints in our Stained-Glass windows and picture books, brush up your saintly halo and be an ordinary person doing extraordinary things for God.

31st October 2021

John 6:58 This, then, is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread that your ancestors ate, but then later died. Those who eat this bread will live forever.

At times Jesus loses followers because His teaching is difficult; even many of his disciples turned their backs and no longer went about with him. What about us? Do we stay when teaching is hard and takes us out of our comfort zone or do we just give up? Sometimes the crowds couldn’t wrap their heads around what Jesus was saying, they struggled with his very life giving them eternal life, that it was His sacrifice of flesh and blood that would secure their salvation in Heaven. From our side of the resurrection, we can understand Jesus’ words as speaking about his death on the cross and his resurrection on the third day; we can understand that his words are about the way his very flesh and blood opened the pathway of salvation for all people; but even with this knowledge, we can find his teaching hard, we can find it provocative, words that turn our world upside down. The crowds of His day often did not believe, they did not find the gift of faith. This question lingers for us today; do we also want to abandon Jesus because his teaching is just too hard to bear, too radical, to life-changing, to all-encompassing? His desire for us, and for the whole world; is to experience the very life of God in the midst of this broken world; His desire for us is to be restored to a right relationship with the Father and with one another; His desire for us is take in his body and blood so that our lives might be transformed, so that we might commune with God, and experience His eternal and abundant life. Is that too hard for us? Is it just too difficult to follow Jesus, to do things differently to the world, to think differently and act differently? To stand up and challenge when things are wrong? That is a question only we can answer.

30th October 2021

Genesis 3:23 So the Lord God sent them out of the Garden of Eden and made them cultivate the soil from which they had been formed.

When we speak of the human condition we tend to lean toward the idea of original sin, we forget that actually humans were created originally good and perfect. It was Augustine who pushed this idea of original sin even though it never appears in the Bible. His teaching was that all humans were born into Sin because Adam and Eve turned away from God by eating the forbidden fruit and were then cast out from the garden and perfection. We tend, these days, to see sin or wrongdoing as personal choice and personal responsibility. The idea of original sin was something passed onto us from Adam and Eve, not something we actually did. It has its value because we recognise that everyone is frail, vulnerable and imperfect, but it also devalued the goodness we all have inbuilt in us. This idea of original sin should make us more compassionate, more forgiving and self-accepting of ourselves and our imperfections and I believe that Augustine meant the doctrine to be a compassionate one, but in fact it led us away from our ability to trust, we became negative instead of positive and it became a problem to be solved which has kept us imprisoned in an idea that we can’t seem to escape from. We became entangled with the doctrine of original sin when actually we need to be freed with the doctrine of Original Goodness. At the beginning we were made perfect in God’s image, created to reflect God’s goodness in us. We are innately good! When we accept this about ourselves it puts everything else into perspective. When we start from a point of goodness then we are compassionate, forgiving, positive people. We are generous in our life; we trust and see the innate goodness in others as well as ourselves. Our faith in God should never be based on fear and punishment but on the positive vision God had and still has for us. 

29th October 2021

Psalm 30:8 Weeping may last for the night time but joy comes with morning.

Why does everything seem so much worse in the night time. I remember when we were up with very young ill children the daylight brought a comfort, a clarity. Most attacks take place in the darkness and in the dark of night life doesn’t seem to make sense. The night is a time of vulnerability, of questions, and of wrestling with life and we all know that old saying about the darkest hour being just before dawn. Our world orbits around day time living, even though we have all night shops and jobs, day time is still the main living time where we establish who we are, gain recognition and approval; it’s safe and predictable. Daytime life is the life we create for ourselves. The problem is that daytime life keeps us stuck on the treadmill of always having to re-create our lives. Somehow, we can never quite get there. It seems that which we most desire is always just out of reach. It means we keep doing the same old things and yet expect a different result and that is the definition of Insanity according to Einstein. This life will always be less than the life God intends and desires for us. Here’s the irony. This very life we create for ourselves often becomes the very thing that take us into the darkness because it is not of God. We keep doing the same old thing but nothing changes. We’re so exhausted we can’t muster the energy to re-create our life one more time. We have everything we want, everything is fine, but something is lacking. There lies our darkness. We cannot be part of the kingdom of God without being born again into God’s ways. No matter how successful daytime life appears to be it will always be incomplete, fragile, and transitory because It’s the life we have created for ourselves and is not of God. 

28th October 2021

John 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.

In the age of constant media, social media, 24/7 connectivity via the internet, information is constantly at our fingerprints. We see news from across the world just moments after it happens. There is information and offered wisdom concerning just about any question, any problem or any issue. Want to know the best investments to make, there are a hundred-thousand experts giving you contradicting advice; the same for being happy, parenting, studying, vitamins to take, self-help etc. Supposed experts are a dime a dozen as we search for wisdom and advice. This search and thirst for knowledge and wisdom isn’t new, in every generation of human history, people have looked for guidance and wisdom. This was just as true in Jesus’ day, a fact we see from the great crowds who followed him, often hanging on his every word. Many of them were happy to simply benefit from his miracles, whether it was healing, or being miraculously fed. Many people today see Jesus as just a great teacher who provides excellent wisdom and truths about life, the universe and morality. In fact, there are even atheists and non-Christians who see value in the teachings of Jesus, trying to harmonize him with other religious teaching or with general moral teachings. Jesus, however isn’t just a teacher, He pushes the boundaries of the crowds’, disciples and our comfort level, His words are more than just good advice, or food for the soul. Jesus is the bread of life, the living water, the one and only who gave His life for ours. He is the one who has the words of eternal life.

27th October 2021

Matthew 8:24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.

When Jesus calmed the storm, if Peter or any of the disciples had been millionaires what good would that money have done to save them. If John had the wisdom of Solomon, what would it have done to save him? Sometimes, all the resources we have at our disposal cannot deal with certain storms in our lives. Certain problems we encounter cannot be solved with our experience, wisdom, money, the services we can buy, and so on. For the unbeliever, when they get to a point in life where every means to get a cure, or a job, and or a better life fails, in despair, they are easily driven to break down, even suicide. But for the Christian we shall never run out of hope, because if everything fails, we have faith at our disposal. Faith enables us to tap God’s supernatural power to overcome any storm that will rear its ugly head in our lives. ‘Jesus calms the storm’ teaches us to apply faith in our lives, especially, against the problems we are powerless to overcome. I do find it odd that Jesus would sleep while the disciples were struggling. In fact it makes me a little cross. Why is God not noticing when they and I am in trouble? Well, Jesus knew how they felt, just as He knows exactly how you and I feel. He also knew that the storm would not overtake them, but He calmed it in order to calm them and to reinforce exactly who He was. God’s son, omnipotent, omnipresent and powerful. God is never asleep in our storms, He is right there, but we need to reach out, to let Him work, to either calm the storm or to calm us and strengthen us to face the storm and ride it out.

26th October 2021

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life in all its fullness.

Just recently medical professionals and religious leaders have warned peers against backing a fresh attempt to relax the law on assisted dying. A new bill to enable terminally ill adults to legally seek assistance to end their lives has been debated by the House of Lords. Campaigners say a change in the law would give them greater control over how and when they die. But opponents argue a change in the law would threaten vulnerable people. The proposed new law would enable adults who are of sound mind and have six months or less to live to be provided with life-ending medication. The person wanting to end their life would have to sign a declaration approved by two doctors, which is signed off by the High Court. However, a group of 1,689 current and retired doctors, pharmacists and medical students has urged peers to reject it. In an open letter to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, they say a change in the law would "threaten society's ability to safeguard vulnerable patients from abuse," and "undermine the trust the public places in physicians". "It would send a clear message to our frail, elderly and disabled patients about the value that society places on them as people," they added. Jesus Christ calls his followers to compassion. But compassion must not be drawn too narrowly. It must extend beyond those who want the law to provide help to end their lives, to the whole of society; especially those who might be put at risk. Our choices affect other people. The common good demands that our choices, our rights and our freedoms must be balanced with those of others, especially those who may not be so easily heard. We know that the sad truth is that not all people are perfect, not all families are happy, not everyone is kind and compassionate. No amount of safeguards can perfect the human heart, no amount of regulation can make a relative kinder or a doctor infallible. No amount of reassurance can make a vulnerable or disabled person feel equally safe, equally valued, if the law is changed in this way. 

25th October 2021

Isaiah 48:17b I am the Lord your God, who teaches you, who leads you in the way you should go.

I have been watching the Cycling World Championships this week. These athletes are quite incredible, it seems to us that they just go round and round in circles, sometimes play cat and mouse, sometimes just follow, other times break away. There are tactics being used dependent on whether you are a sprinter or more of a long-term hard worker. Sometimes it all goes incredibly well but other times it can go wrong in a flash and someone can crash out. I think this is a good metaphor for our Christian lives. Daily life can often seem like going round and round in circles, like playing cat and mouse with events and people. We might spend a long time following someone and sometimes we can break away from everyone else and go for it. We can sometimes be Christian Sprinters, all or nothing, do it quickly, go out hard and fast, others of us can be those who are in it for the long term, steady life while others stream back and fore around us. Life for us can go really well for periods of time, we keep well, healthy, on track and everything seems fine and then it can all go wrong in the blink of an eye. We can seem to crash or be brought down by events or people. We go up and down in life, we have good days and bad days, we have slow and fast times and sometimes we win through and other times get left behind. The great news is that God is our constant guide, with us in every moment whether good or bad, whether fast or slow. To carry the analogy one step further think in terms of s tandem and Jesus is in the front seat with us behind. As long as we allow him to lead, to push us on we will always make it to the end and we shall always be rewarded, blessed and encouraged for living our best life for the Lord.

24th October 2021

Psalm 56:5 All day long they distort my words and actions; all their thoughts are against me for their evil gain.

I have recently been in the situation where I was unable to attend the funeral of a friend. Not because I had other commitments but because of certain other events, no friends were allow to attend. This happened as a knee jerk reaction to other things which took place and these overtook an event that should have been the opportunity for friends and family to celebrate the life of someone who made a difference to many lives. So often things can be hijacked by other situations, people, events or political gains. In recent times we have seen people misrepresented, mis quoted and used to promote lies and misinformation. It is part of the human condition, using and misusing others for personal gain. For those of us who live honestly and with integrity, who seek to do the best for others, it is frustrating and upsetting when we are misrepresented, used and mistreated for someone else’s personal gain. So, it may not surprise you to find that God has been misrepresented many times, even by His supposedly own people. Abraham misrepresented his wife Sarah as his sister to protect himself instead of trusting God, Isaiah, Jeremiah and other Biblical books are full of those false prophets who misrepresent God to get personal gain. Stories of Kings who only employed people who agreed with them and did not tell them God’s truth. We see these things happening today, people surround themselves with yes people, pay for lies rather than truth and treat anyone who is honest and truthful with contempt and remove them. This behaviour exists in society but also in churches and in the hierarchy of our institutions. We are called to be people of integrity, we must look to God and His ways and not allow ourselves to be hijacked by politics, self-promotion or aggrandisement. If you have been misrepresented, I am sorry, stand firm, challenge their treatment of you and keep standing in honesty and truth because God is on your side.

23rd October 2021

John 3:2a One night Nicodemus went to see Jesus.

The use of night time in the Bible is often about darkness, hiding in the shadows, doing wrong things, not wanting to declare openly a belief in God or Jesus. It is also a way of categorising us into people of the day time and people of the night. We begin to realise that we can be one thing in the day, confident at work, with family, reputation and then another at night, in the darkness, worried, not sleeping, full of questions and concerns. By day Nicodemus knows who he is. He has an identity, a Pharisee. He has a status as a leader of the Jews. He knows and applies the law. People listen to and follow him. He has a place in society with security and power. He fits into this world. By night it is different. Nicodemus is misplaced and muddled. He cannot see or recognise. He’s living in the dark. His work, actions, reputation, and place in religious society do not provide constancy or answers. He’s faltering in the dark. The certainty of Daytime has given way to questions and uncertainty. By day he keeps the Pharisaic beliefs. By night his life comes up empty. He’s searching for something the daytime life cannot give him. We all know what this is like. We live daytime lives and we live night-time lives. By day all is well. We live with a sense of purpose, identity and security. But by night everything is different and hidden. We stumble through the darkness, grasping for something to hold, searching for answers and explanations for the events and purpose of our life. Nicodemus comes to Jesus to seek the way; this is exactly what we need to do. Come to Jesus, be honest and ask Him to help us be born again each day.

22nd October 2021

Matthew 8:26 Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Sometimes we refer to difficult times in life as storms, it could refer to any undesirable thing we face in our lives such as temptations, persecution, marital problems, disease, unemployment, infertility, poverty, debt and any other thing that we meet and see as a problem in our life. The story of Jesus calming the storm reminds us as Christians that God has a solution for all the storms of life. During this storm on the lake, some of the disciples, being fishermen, applied their years of experience and their strength in an attempt to save their boat and their lives, but the storm triumphed over them and their efforts did not pay off. It was only then that they called on Jesus and Jesus spoke, “Peace be still.” and there was calm. His disciples were gripped with wonder because, for them, it was impossible to overcome such a storm and they were wondering how Jesus was able to command away a storm of this magnitude that had outdone their wisdom, experience, and strength. Self-reliance didn’t work. This is a lesson for us. Jesus knew very well that they had a terrible storm on their hands, yet he remained sleeping until they called upon Him for help, and then he responded. The event of Jesus sleeping during the storm is a picture of God’s response towards the storms in our lives. Though He knows and sees our situations, He will not force Himself on us, we must call upon Him for Him to step in and help us. We must recognise our need for God and ask Him to step into our lives each and every day.

21st October 2021

Romans 12: 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed and changed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; His good, pleasing and perfect will.

I have asked several people recently if they are ready to change, I also ask it of myself regularly. We are being challenged by St Paul here to not conform but to change and renew our minds. So, what are some things we can change? We can change our relationships, making sure we are surrounded by those who support us, strong, positive people there for us in both bad and good times. Each day we need to make meaningful connections, a sense of accomplishment that we have achieved something today. All of us need to learn from past experience, we band this phrase around but very often we just don’t learn from the past, but yet we can see where we did cope, where we didn’t and what strategies we used to help ourselves and others. All through life we need to strengthen and develop new skills, be lifelong learners in our Christian life and within life in general. We also need to participate, to do things for ourselves and others, hobbies, taking a walk in God’s amazing world, playing sport, gentler as we get older, or supporting others, and we need to sleep well, to allow ourselves quiet, restful time where worry is handed over to God and we rest awhile. The biggest tool for us to grasp is Hope. Hope keeps us going in the darkness of times, it is crucial to our life and to change. We must never ignore when things need changing, we need to figure out a way forward, be proactive and when we need help to never be worried about asking for help. If we are struggling then be reminded that we are not alone, we have our strong relationships, we have places to go, we have God who will point us to people who can and will help us. As we do not conform to this world then we do not allow it to dictate to us, to tell us who we are, to drag us into the often vileness of social media and cause us to lose hope and heart. We can be transformed, changed, by the renewing of our mind, by allowing the elasticity of the incredible brain God gave us, to create new pathways, new ways of thinking and doing, and the blessing that we can do this every day, as we start a new day and all through the day. Step by step, day by day, we can change things and God is right there providing us with the strength we need.

20th October 2021

Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

The events of the last few days, the murder of an MP, have prompted people to take to social media about how we speak to one another, how we become aggressive towards those who disagree with us and instead of listening to one another resort to insults and rudeness. The ability to debate has been in our education system for along time, but in recent times it has seen insults, banter and supposed humour replace the presenting of an argument and the willingness of folk to listen and reason what they hearing. Our politics have become politics of insult, of ignoring questions and honest comment in favour of making the questioner look small and stupid. We cannot ask why this kind of behaviour is prevalent in society without looking at our politicians, our leaders whose poor example is watched and reported on and thus becomes acceptable. The Bible reminds us time and again that the way we act, the way we talk, our attitude must be considerate, wholesome and peaceful towards everyone, even if we disagree, even if our ideas are worlds apart. The French author Voltaire, said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” in an attempt to calm things in his society and to support the principle of freedom of speech. It seems we no longer want to defend the rights of others to speak out if their opinion is different to our own, but we cannot be right all the time; growing up and learning teaches us to respect each other, to respect that others might have better ideas or answers than we have. We all, no matter who we are, must calm our tongues, speak in peace and consideration of each other and not fan the flames of aggression, anger, slander or malice. Only then will society be a better place for us all to live together.

19th October 2021

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Have you noticed that some people can never be pleased or helped? You try everything, make exceptions, alter things, accommodate them and they are never pleased, never say thank you, never appreciate the effort and just keep criticising. In trying to help them you often upset others or make others feel they are not as important. The trouble is we try our best to be good people, to help others and we can be taken advantage of. I was told when I was younger that being kind, generous and caring to others does not mean being a door mat for them. Jesus stood up to those who used His Temple as a place of iniquity, it is okay to get to a point where you can no longer keep allowing certain people to dictate to you and gobble up your time. It does not stop us praying for them, being kind and helping them as we would any other person, but it does mean we no longer allow them to dictate to us, hurt us or demoralise us. We need to do this because we need to look after ourselves, our wellbeing and mental health, and because we have God’s love for the other person, we have to show them, honestly and kindly, that their constant abuse of us is not acceptable. 

18th October 2021

Ezekiel 18:4a Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the parents as well as the soul of the child is mine. 

I have noticed the costumes and pumpkins in the shops, the big bags of sweets and the colourful buckets and cauldrons to collect the sweets in. As October marches on we will arrive at Halloween. This year it falls on a Sunday, the last day of the half term break. Because it falls on a Sunday, we are going to be marking three days in one. It is All Hallows eve (Halloween) on the 31st, All Saints Day Monday 1st and All Souls Day on Tuesday 2nd. The eve of All Saints was always considered to be a thin time, a time when the gap between Earth and Heaven became thin enough for souls to move between the two worlds, it is why Halloween is linked to ghouls and ghosts and witches etc. The 1st sees us celebrate all the Saints, all those who have gone before in the life of Christ and all those of us still on Earth serving the Lord. Then on the 2nd we remember those we have lost, those we love yet see no longer because they have died. In the space of three days, we celebrate life, death and a half way house of unpleasantness and wickedness. Halloween is a human invention, a myth born out of wanting an explanation for that which could not be explained at the time. A desire to tinker with evil and wickedness and prove that it is not really harmful or bad. We currently let our children approach strangers for sweets, dressed in costumes, when every other day we tell then to not accept sweets from strangers and not to go near them. It may seem like a bit of harmless fun but actually it opens the door to evil and bad things because none of us is immune from the pull of evil and sin. At the vicarage we never give sweets or encourage this practice. We pray for those who pass our door and for all children who are learning that things of evil are fun to play with, that God will guard their souls and protect these little ones from harm.

17th October 2021

Jeremiah 22:3b do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

I expect, like me, you were saddened and probably angry at the report of how the Government initially handled the pandemic and the many unnecessary deaths and mishandling of events. It is almost like a burial of their heads in the sand, a blinkered approach which was not going to change no matter what, and with no acceptance of their failure. The huge loss of life, the treatment of the elderly, the stranger, the bereaved and those who were working to help these people was unashamedly disrespectful of the sanctity of life. Time and again we are told in the Bible that life is sacred, special and that taking life is the prerogative of no one. Those in positions of power have a role of protection and care of their citizens and when they do not do all they can to protect them they are not respecting the sanctity of life and therefore, not worthy of their position. As humans we are capable of mistakes, forgiveness is available and the Bible is clear, when we are wrong, we need to apologise, recognise our errors and change our approach. I have not heard an apology; I have not seen a recognition of error and certainly no willingness to change. Instead, we have witnessed even crueller treatment of the stranger, orphan and widow as well as still seeing higher daily death rates and an NHS pushed to beyond its limits and blamed for something it had no power to change. Our role has to be that of those who do follow God’s teaching, who do not mistreat anyone and do our utmost to prevent any loss of life where we can. The least we can do is remind those in power of their obligation to care for all and to listen, learn and make the necessary changes for the good of all.

16th October 2021

Job 12:9 Who among beasts and birds, bushes and fish does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?

However we look at creation, whether we accept scientific explanations or spiritual ones, there is no doubt that creation gave us the world we live in and has enabled us to live and grow and develop. Sadly, it is also now very clear that we have so mistreated creation that it may well reap its revenge on us if we do not change our ways. St Francis of Assisi was a hermit who lived within creation, within nature and saw God within it. He preached not only to humans but to animals. We are now also recognising that getting into nature and creation is hugely beneficial to our mental health. Walking in forests and trees, alongside the sea, camping out, even just going to the local park, it all helps with how we feel as humans. Just getting away from the voices, the pressures, the rat race and into God’s creation brings a balm to the soul, a joy to the heart, a peace to the mind. It is much harder to live the life of a hermit these days, to be in and of nature, but some still make that choice. We all do have the opportunity to take time, to go on a retreat or chose to step away from life for a few days. To take the opportunity of letting God guide our time, speak to our minds and hearts, not rush but take time and literally smell the roses. A new appreciation of daylight and darkness, sunrise and sunset; what happens to plants and flowers, the changes in nature and how fresh the air is. We have chosen, through our life styles, to separate ourselves from the natural world. We have paid for this in losing our spiritual side, our ability to contemplate and see things differently. Spirituality and faith are blessed, enhanced, strengthened when we ground ourselves in God’s creation, when we appreciate how much God has given us and how poorly we have treated it. Being in God’s creation, having that channel between us and God opened and cleared in the peace of creation allows us to realign, revitalise, reappreciate who God is and what He has done for us.

15th October 2021 

Deuteronomy 15:7 If any among you becomes poor, in any land or community, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against them.

On the 16thand 17th of October we have both World Food Day and Child Poverty Day. It is somewhat shocking that in the 21st Century with all it’s advancements that we still have to be reminded of child poverty and food poverty across the world. At present about 2.4 billion people do not have access to decent nutritious food and many are starving to death daily. This is just over a quarter of the world’s population. We mustn’t be complacent here in the UK where 5 million, just over 9%, of our own population are going hungry on a regular basis. 4.3 million children live in poverty, that is 31% of the children in the UK. So, in a class of 30 between 9 and 10 of those children are in poverty. You and I are probably safe, well fed, have enough to heat our homes, eat well, clothe ourselves and have some nice things. For so many this is not the case. More children are now living in poverty than in the time of Queen Victoria. A shocking indictment on our world and on our country and it’s leaders. As Christians we cannot sit by and just accept this as the norm. We cannot just allow things to get worse for the majority while the privileged few benefit. God is so clear in the Bible that no one should be hungry, no one left without basic food and clothes and a roof over their head. In fact, all religions are common in their approach to the poor, that all of us who can give to others must do so. It is only when we share that all will have enough. Sadly, the human view is generally that if I am okay then I just need to dig in and keep myself in a reasonable state and let everyone else deal with the less well off. It is a clever leadership ploy to give just enough to those with enough that they will be happy and not want to upset the apple cart by fighting for others. We should not need a Child Poverty Day or a World Food Day but we have them because we do not follow God’s plan and God’s clear teaching on how we treat each other and how valuable and unique every human being is no matter who they are or where they are from.

14th October 2021

Colossians 3:17 Everything you do or say, then, should be done to your best and more in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks.

Over the years I have met many children who were not expected to do well, to even function in society and yet time and again I have seen them surpass expectation because family and friends have never given up Hope and worked for the best outcomes. It is far too easy to take the easy option, to accept something rather than challenge it and make a difference. As we enter a winter of difficulties and problems, we need to know that 5 million people in this country are living in food poverty, that can only worsen with the removal of the Universal Credit uplift, rising gas prices and rising food prices. This situation does not inspire or exceed hope and it certainly doesn’t positively surpass expectations but, as we look forward, we have a choice to make. I will be honest and say it looks hard and difficult and I wonder if anything I do will make a difference but my very faith, my very belief in a God who surpasses all my expectations and constantly renews my hope is that I can make a difference. All of us can do something because lots of somethings soon mount up. We have the possibilities of giving time and talents, of contacting Local Councillors and MP’s not just once but regularly. We have the opportunities to give out of what we have and share with those less fortunate, even help at a food bank or community fridge, a night shelter or debt counselling. We can donate to organisations who will make life better for others and we can be a good neighbour and friend to those we know whose life might be difficult right now. It might seem a lot to ask but God will always give us the strength we need to do these things. Our Hope is in God who made everything and therefore can enable us to work for change. Do not give up, tap into God’s hope, into Gods love and strength and that way you will be able to exceed in hope and surpass expectation.

13th October 2021

Romans 15:2 Let each of us think well of others, for their good, to build them up. 

I have often heard people ask if someone is a team player, it is even asked in interviews these days. The question being asked is whether a person is concerned for themselves or will work with others for the good of everyone. We live in quite a selfish society today, yes, we saw glimpses of goodness in the pandemic, but with a government who promote me first, selfishness, leave the weak and protect yourself etc we are now finding people just don’t want to help others, don’t want to put themselves out to help someone in need. We have made things about ourselves first. There is nothing wrong with looking after ourselves and our family but if we do so to the exclusion of all else, we become selfish, blinded to the needs of others, we accept standards for others that we would not accept for ourselves. It is too easy to be selfish and yet time and again the Bible tells to share, to think well of others and to build each other up. It is as simple as the language we use, if it is derogatory or negative it only serves to hurt and upset others, but the simple manners we were taught as children, to say please and thank you, makes everyone's lives better. To be willing to go that extra mile when someone is in need, that is our calling as Christians who serve each other in God’s family.

12th October 2021

Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

We will not forget 2020 in a hurry, COVID-19 wreaked havoc upon the health and economic well-being of all people across the world and this will continue for years to come. It emphasised the inequalities that exist between countries and continents and within counties themselves. The poor and marginalised have been far more affected by the impact of the virus. Alongside this racism and racial injustice has been seen throughout the world. We watched in horror at the killing of George Floyd and witnessed the officer’s brutality and lack of action from those around him who became complicit by their failure to stop him. This clearly showed us that racism is still prevalent and accepted even in countries who claim to be multicultural and multifaith. We have a history of slave trafficking from Africa, racial stereotyping according to skin colour, and we still use this for discrimination and inequality in our communities and our world. In Jesus time and the early church people were branded by their nationality, their gender, their freedom or slavery, yet the teaching of the early church is clear, in Christ there are no distinctions. It is not enough for us as Christians not to be racist; we must actively stand against it, and clearly oppose racial injustice. This is not easy, but no one ever said following Jesus was easy. Despite our call to behave as if we are all one in Christ, no distinctions, the deep inequalities that exist between people of different colours, cultures and ethnicities continues. But we must make a stand, hard as it might be, because when we do nothing we are complicit in allowing it to continue and that does not honour God or our calling in Christ.

11th October 2021

Genesis 2: 15 Then the Lord God took humans and put them into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and take care of it. 

St Francis of Assisi is a saint most people know of and usually talk of him having something to do with animals. There are many statues, pictures and representation of Francis surrounded by animals. Francis lived a frugal lifestyle, tried not to overuse commodities so as to look after creation properly, even then Francis saw a danger in our overuse of resources. He and his followers lived a simple life and saw God in everything. The popular hymn All Creatures of our God and King is the hymn attributed to Francis and all through Earth, it’s creatures, rivers, lakes, wind, clouds, sun, moon, fire and even death are exhorted to praise their creator. He addresses all these as brother, sister, mother and friend. Each is shown in its unique place and glory before God. Francis did not see humans as superior to the rest of creation, he saw us those given the blessing and responsibility of caring for it, being stewards of God’s creation not aggressive rulers who take all we want, who asset strip creation and then want to walk away. We are finally waking up to how much we rely on the eco systems of the world and how we have damaged our world because of our selfishness. Living a simple life is not easy but it is possible, it does not have to mean becoming Tom and Barbara in the Good Life, or wearing sacks and living in a commune. It means being careful, not over indulging, recycling, reusing, avoiding damaging products and being ethical with investments and endorsements. Treating God’s creation as our friend, brother, sister and mother.

10th October 2021

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. 

The fruit of the spirit is quite simply what we are called to be. As we come together in church and in faith we learn as followers of Christ as we grow in these fruits and develop them. Sadly, not everyone finds a welcoming safe caring church when they try and join us. Certain things seem to make us unwilling and reluctant to welcome folk. Yet we are clearly called to live well together, to accept one another, to do our best to welcome everyone; to love, to care and be inclusive of all. As we welcome people, we should enable them to speak up when they are ready and if they so wish. Within the family of God everything should be confidential, no gossip, our churches must be safe spaces, where we recognise that we all learn differently and have individual relationships with God. The fruits of the Spirit call us to listen to God and each other, to speak in love, to be patient with each other and faithful to each other as we grow and learn together. This means we need to listen well, pay attention, not interrupt, notice feelings, and definitely not judge. The term Disciple means learner and we learn by a combination of seeing and doing, hearing and feeling, asking questions and telling our stories. The world got lost by turning away from God, but God never turned away from the world, He sent Jesus to save us all, He gave us hope. We are all imperfect, complicated and lead messy lives. There are many voices, many people but one church which must bear fruit together.

9th October 2021

Acts 2:4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

The gift of The Holy Spirit at Pentecost offered the ability to communicate across barriers and boundaries, people heard the gospel in their own languages, the Holy Spirit was and is for everyone just as Jesus was and is for everyone, just as God was and is for everyone. The Holy Spirit enables God’s intended equity, equality, unity and flourishing across all cultures, ethnicities, genders, nations, peoples, young and old, rich and poor, anyone and everyone. As Christians we are charged to build an inclusive kingdom of God from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, to stand before the throne and before the Lamb Revelation tells us. We as the body of Christ need to understand that we are all the body of Christ. This is central to our social justice, and how we offer mercy, equity and righteousness. Racism of any kind is a sin; it is against God. It is born out of our denial that all humans are created equal in God’s own image and that in Jesus we are all one and all equal. Slavery still exists in our society, people are still treated differently because of their skin colour, gender, disability and economic status. This should have no place in our churches, in our society or in our life. We have, in the past, weaponised the Bible to justify slavery, to treat others as lesser than ourselves and assert our own white Christian superiority, even picturing Jesus as blonde, blue eyed and very white. When the Spirt came at Pentecost it enabled the disciples to bridge and transcend ethnic and cultural differences, this same Holy Spirt enables us to do the same. Much work remains for us to overcome racism in our context and in the culture of racial inequality that has long been accepted by too many in our society and in the Church. The question is are we willing to be part of that work and change things for the good and flourishing of all?

8th October 2021

Deuteronomy 5: 29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to me and keep all my commands, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

We don’t seem to talk about respect much these days. Respect is defined as a deep admiration for others because of their qualities as a person, we hold them with esteem and have due regard for their feelings and rights. Respect carries with it courtesy and politeness. Treating everyone with respect no matter where or when we meet them, who they are, their background, ethnicity, gender, disability or life choice. We may not always agree with someone, but we should respect them as a fellow human and treat them well. Working on the streets with the homeless found me speaking to a university graduate for whom things had gone wrong, he spoke of the verbal abuse, the kicking and hitting from people and having liquids thrown over him. He then spoke of the dignity and respect that the volunteers showed him and how that had helped him. None of us has the right to judge someone else’s situation and certainly we have no right to abuse or condemn because someone is different. God has always desired that we follow His ways so that everyone is respected and treated equally well. He tells us that if we do that then all will be well for us and our families. God’s way means everyone is cared for, everyone looks after each other and all of us would be respected and esteemed by each other. We have forgotten that if everyone is treated well then everyone wins, everyone benefits, everyone has a better-quality life. Life in it’s fullness for all has always been God’s plan, God’s intention for all, but we have a choice whether we follow that plan or not.



7th October 2021

Galatians 5:13 But do not let freedom become an excuse for letting your selfish nature control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another.

I heard the story of a man today who works 6 days a week, paid minimum wage which is so low he receives Universal Credit. By the time he and his family pay bills, rent, food, transport, clothes and shoes etc there is nothing left. On Wed 6th October the Government took £20 a week away from him and thousands like him saying it will force people into work, he is working, his fuel payments are up, food is going up, he will pay extra National Insurance. He and so many are going to suffer terribly, will be turning to food banks and will live in more poverty this winter. More than half the people who use foodbanks are in work; nurses, labourers, carers, students, apprentices, working but not able to afford to live. What an indictment on our society. The governing classes of this country have used their freedom to force and hold down others so they can maintain their power and wealth. Taking from the poorest to supposedly balance the books whilst paying vast sums to the rich for mythical supplies and work. This is not the world God created or intended. God’s way is about fairness and justice for all, about love of our fellow people prompting us to serve them not take from them. The money that the wealthy throw away on trifles and expensive brands would feed poor families for weeks. We must, as Christians, fight for the rights of the poor and downtrodden, challenge our governments and be selfless rather than selfish. That is what God requires from us as we serve one another in love.

6th October 2021

Matthew 14:14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Compassion is something most of us want to have. But it isn’t something that can be taught, you can’t just buy it from Amazon. Compassion has to be felt it comes from inside, sometimes it happens without us even realising it is there. We can’t produce what isn’t there, but we can create a lifestyle where it can flourish. A start is being open to others, allowing them to get close. This is fairly easy with the people that you already feel love for and want to be close to, but we need an openness to everyone. Those we work with, those we see around us, people in our church or local clubs. As we are more open, then we become more open and it grows. Our capacity to understand and accept difference deepens. We can begin to accept everyone with open arms not because we have been told to, but because we realise that we are all deserving of love and compassion. We are all God’s creatures and we are all equally deserving of love and compassion. This in turn opens us to the poor and homeless, the sick and dying, and prompts us to help where we can. When we choose to be compassionate, we are allowing the compassionate nature of God to flow in and through us. Compassion is within us, in our hearts because a compassionate God created us but we are not forced to release or develop this compassion. As with all life and how we live, we are given freedom to choose. If we choose to open ourselves, to practice God’s compassion in our lives then we will be compassionate people and make a difference.

5th October 2021

Matthew 11:2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples.

When we think about Jesus who do we think He is? In Matthew Jesus’ identity is as an unexpected Messiah, as the fulfiller of Isaiah’s prophecy and as God’s wisdom. Jesus was regularly rejected by the Jews, especially their leaders, because they had their own misconceptions about the Messiah that was to come and Jesus completely failed to meet these. Even John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus’ coming and who baptized Jesus in the Jordan, has his own expectation of Jesus as the Messiah. John was in prison and sent his disciples to Jesus asking him if he was the one who was to come, the Messiah, or was there another. John had expected the Messiah to come with fire, brimstone, with a winnowing fork in hand to exercise judgement just as Isaiah had prophesied. Jesus’ answer to John are His works as a healer, preacher and teacher. This answer shows that His messianic identity is defined by signs that include healing the sick and preaching the good news. He was a Messiah who came to judge but also came to have compassion and mercy for all. What do we expect of our Messiah? Who do we think Jesus is? To grow in our faith, we need to know who Jesus is and what He means to us and for us.

4th October 2021

James 5:10 As an example of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

The story of the poor being oppressed by the rich is as old as time itself. Once people have money, they exercise power over those who do not. James of Jerusalem was encouraging his oppressed members to have patience in their sufferings. In fairness, this was quite demanding for them, why should they wait? Why should they suffer? These were the poor Christians oppressed by the rich but James was encouraging them to patiently wait for the coming of the Lord. To look o the future and the Hope of God’s promises. He gave them and us, two examples of how to do this: first the farmer who patiently waits for his harvest, even though it takes time to grow and mature, second the example of the prophets like Job who had given them examples of patience and endurance in times of suffering. Despite the disasters he faced, and the lack of his friends support, Job kept his faith and did not abandon his trust in God. As a result, the Lord finally brought about the restoration of Job’s life, as He will ours. James message is given to strengthen their hearts to keep the faith, patiently waiting for the coming of the Lord and not grumbling to their fellow Christians. The term suffering probably refers to a broad category of all different kinds of suffering. In our society today, people are suffering. You and I may well be suffering. Can we learn the lessons of patience from the Harvest and the example of job to help us deal with our own suffering? Can we be an example of suffering well to those around us? In God’s strength we can.

3rd October 2021

Isaiah 35: 10a The redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing to Zion and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.

Isaiah is a prophet who speaks about the day of God’s glory when there will be rejoicing, gladness, blossoming, and shouts of joy. Sounds good doesn’t it. Isaiah says the people will experience a sense of renewal, and he assures them that their salvation includes being saved from their enemies and their restoration to their place in God’s kingdom. Isaiah is clear there is no place for fear in God’s coming kingdom. God will restore all those who are in need: the blind, the deaf, the lame and the mute. The chosen people who rejected God’s way and suffered the consequences of judgement and alienation still have hope and will again be the objects of God’s undeserved favour. God provides a way for them and for us, which has the qualities of holiness and joy. The people who walk in this way are described as the redeemed of the Lord who will come with singing into Zion, the Holy City. The place where God brings full liberty and freedom to all His people. The words of Isaiah served as an encouragement to the people to never give up, they are the same for us. Encouragement not to give up, to keep serving and working for others. To walk daily with God in holiness and joy.

2nd October 2021

Psalm 146:6 Praise the Lord who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps His promise forever.

The psalms are expressions of anguish, questioning and challenge but they are also expressions of faith and great joy in praising God. How do you express your feelings of joy and praise? Can you say with the Psalmist, Praise the Lord? We don’t know who wrote this particular psalm or when it was written; but we can see that with confidence, the psalmist proclaims that God Almighty is the one who keeps His promises forever and who will always respond to the needy by; giving justice to the oppressed, food to the hungry, freedom to the prisoners, eyesight to the blind, lifting up the humble, caring for the stranger, sustaining the orphan and widow, and loving the righteous. The psalmist may well have experienced or witnessed all of these occurrences and we experience them as well. We can see them in our own lives as we serve God and His people, but also we see it in the lives of others who serve God. The psalmist expressed faith and great joy in praising God through writing this psalm, but how do you express your faith, your joy? Through prayer, action, writing, worship. We are all different and express things differently, but most importantly we need to recognise our joy and faith and express them in praise of Our God.

1st October 2021

Romans 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them for His glory.

Some years ago, I heard the then Bishop of Southwark talking to Children. He explained the shape of his Mitre as a symbolic flame of the Spirit placed upon his head when He was made Bishop. Then he also referred to it as a type of Spirit sorting hat, as in Harry Potter, where the Spirit blesses the person with the gifts, they need for the life they are living. These gifts are given within our personalities, our talents. Yes, when necessary, any gift can be given to any person at any time, but we tend to have gifts that are innate to us. We need to cherish and celebrate these gifts in others as well as ourselves. We need to accept our gifts and not long for the gifts of others and use all of them for the common good. I have witnessed miraculous healing, but I also witness the gift of healing in every nurse, doctor, carer every day. I have witnessed incredible discernment and see it every day in people who just know what to say or do at the right time. I see wisdom, faith, prophecy, understanding, service, care, creativity, strength, gentleness, compassion…….. being shown every day around us, by us, by others. I am so grateful for the encouragers, for the listeners, for the fixers, the cooks and cleaners, the prayer warriors, the Sowers and the reapers, the carers, the wise, the knowledgeable, the poets and writers, the artists, the teachers and preachers. There are so many wonderful gifts and we need to cultivate them in our lives so we can work together as the body of Christ and make things better for everyone. We need to be willing to let the Spirit into our lives. We need to be willing to be faithful in allowing God to work in whatever way He chooses and be the conduit for the gifts God has given as we let the Holy Spirit gift us in whatever way is necessary. 

30th September 2021

Acts 2:38 Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As Christ’s body on Earth, we need a presence, a power, a guide, an enabler, and that is God’s Spirit living within us. Just as Mary became God bearer in having Jesus, we become God bearers as we bring God to everyone we meet. The challenge is for us to always act and speak as bearers of God. We cannot do it all, so thank God that there are millions of us to help one another, to cover the gaps we leave. We are much better God bearers when we do it together as God’s family, God’s church. Pentecost celebrates the birth of this church, of this God bearing Community of Christians. We are in Communion with God and with each other and that is utterly amazing. When we talk about the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost, we tend to like the comforter, counsellor parts of the Spirit and not the wind or the flames. We like the quiet, slow and subtle working of the Spirit……we want to see things change, people come and churches grow but we want it “our way”. Trouble is the Holy Spirit can be loud, bold, raucous, obvious and signs and wonders can and do happen. The Spirit can be both a thunderstorm and a gentle breeze. There is both a terrifying power and gentle peace and nurture. This powerful Spirit is available and bearable because of Jesus. Don’t forget Jesus had his wild side, He had harsh words for those who treated others with contempt and profited from God’s laws. He cleared the temple; He raised the dead but He also showed love and compassion beyond our imaginings. Jesus is both the beauty and the terror of God and is the outpouring of God’s love in restoring us to Himself. God comes in three parts and we need them all to be God bearers on earth.

29th September 2021

Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

We all hear things incorrectly sometimes; we all know the joys of Chinese Whispers and the final message bearing no resemblance to the original. The first time I heard the hymn There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, I thought it was There’s a wildness in God’s mercy. I quickly discovered my mistake but sometimes I am not so sure that I was wrong. Wildness is extravagant, exuberant, abundant, challenging and sometimes uncontrollable. God’s mercy is all those things but wildness, extravagance, exuberance, abundance, challenging and sometimes seemingly uncontrollable is very much the Holy Spirit. I am a big fan of CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and the character of Aslan. Descriptions of this Lion who represents God, talk of Him being both frightening and beautiful. A being who can eradicate life with one swipe but who also gently picks up the needy and holds them protectively. The depth of power is frightening, the wielding of that power can also be gentle and fair. We are rightly fearful of the unknown and of power wielded incorrectly and perhaps that prevents us from understanding and accepting the Holy Spirit of the New Testament. After Jesus crucifixion the disciples were scared and fearful for their own lives, they needed something to allow them to step up and step out to do what Jesus had asked them to….enter the Holy Spirit. We too need something to help us, empower us…..enter the Holy Spirit. Christians become the active body of Christ on earth through the Holy Spirit. The outpouring is powerful, it is unpredictable, insuppressible, formidable and fairly messy. Incredible things happen and that might have been okay for the early church we think, but it’s a bit too wild for us now. But people who are seeking God are naturally drawn to the power because if this God is real then He must be powerful, and we will see that power at work. 

28th September 2021

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? You may have watched the ones on TV at Easter. Go back to Jesus’ time and thousands upon thousands of faithful pilgrims would travel “up” to Jerusalem to the holiest of holy sites on earth. They would arrive in the Holy City with very little and the Roman imperial money in their pockets had to be exchanged for Tyrian coins, at a very high rate of exchange, which then could be used to purchase animals for sacrifice. On the first day of the Passover festival, thousands of pilgrims would purchase their oxen, their paschal lambs, their pigeons, and doves and bring them to be sacrificed. For hours animals would be sacrificed to remember Israel’s liberation from Egypt. There were various areas where certain people were allowed depending on gender, religion and status. And then there was the Court of Gentiles where everyone else was allowed to stand and watch the religious ones allowed enter. Anyone was welcome here, but between the Court of Gentiles was a wall separating the Gentiles from everyone else, and inscribed above that wall was a warning that any Gentiles that entered would be killed. You could call this a wall of hostility. We all put up walls of hostility which stop people finding the God they set out to find on their pilgrimage. The Apostle Paul talks about how Jesus tore down the “dividing wall of hostility” and truly called us all to be one, together, no matter who we were or where we came from. No longer strangers or aliens but citizens with the saints. May we be those who tear down walls for everyone to come to God, to be pilgrims on a journey who find God who is waiting for them.

27th September 2021

John 2:15 So he made a whip of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

I love a good fair or bazaar, look for the bargains, help out a good cause. For many of our churches and community groups this is one of the main ways of funding things. In Jesus time people came to the Temple, not to support the work but to do what they were told was expected of them. The message of the religious elite in that day, propped up by the Romans, was built and communicated in the very structure and system of the Temple. God was at the centre, and only certain people could come close to the centre. Only certain money could be used so huge profits were made. There were all sorts of merchants selling overpriced food and cheap souvenirs. It was not really a holy, spiritual place. It had turned into a unholy bazaar. A shopping mall. Very far from its original intent. Jesus is going to do something about it. He drove all of them out of the Temple, the sheep and the cattle, poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told them to stop making God’s house a marketplace! A place of robbery! For it is a place of prayer! Jesus occupied the Temple because the people who believed they were in charge had rewritten the script and were now excessively involved in injustice. The Temple had become a private enterprise. A big welcome to those who towed the line, paid the money, followed the protocols, but not inviting, nor inclusive to others who didn't, which was what God had always intended. Jesus is stating very clearly that God rejects and is angry at the exclusion of anyone from Him and His love, that no one can be forced to pay to meet Him. Perhaps we might overturn a few tables today, when we do not justify and excuse the injustice, the poverty, unfairness. When we call out those in leadership for their mistakes and stand up for everyone. We must not stop challenging, praying, working until everyone is included and treated equally and fairly.

26th September 2021

Ephesians 4: 16 The whole body depends on Christ, and all the parts of the body are joined and held together. Each part does its own work to make the whole body grow and be strong with love.

As a young person I played a game called Consequences. A group of people each have a scenario in their head writing their story line by line but each time folding over the paper and passing onto someone else so they cannot see. The final line is….. and the consequence was…. the final scenario is filled in. The story could be amusing, confusing or strange, but there was always a consequence, always an outcome based on the actions and events leading up to it. Everything we do and say has consequences. When we lie, it gets bigger, harder to cover up and it has consequences not just for us but for others. There are consequences to the flippant comments, to peer pressure and being forced to do something just to be accepted. There are consequences to carrying weapons, to hanging around with the wrong crowd, consequences when people are stolen from, abused, attacked, defrauded and lied to. There are consequences when we overwork, don’t take care of ourselves or our world and we are seeing that now. Being honest people, who speak the truth, deal in the truth and live truth we are aware of consequences and we help each other and live as people of God, people who care, who are patient, humble, gentle and forgiving. This is basic to our core human needs and the balance of God’s created order. Being someone of truth and integrity, who can be trusted, who keeps their word, these are the people the world needs, our country needs and our community needs. People will see and recognise honesty and truth and people will recognise something of God within us.

25th September 2021

Matthew 14:29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

I like to paddle, in a stream, a river, the sea. It is lovely to take off shoes and socks and feel the water on my feet and legs. If you are in a boat, you might dip your feet in over the side but you don’t step into the water as you do not know the depth and you will just sink unless you swim. Peter is invited by Jesus to come out onto the water and walk on it. Jesus invites, come, trust me, I will look after you. The impossible happens. People have tried to recreate this, tried to prove it is possible but they always have to use technology or cheat to do it. There is a lovely version of this story in the film The Shack, well worth watching as it challenges many of our ideas about God and make us think. As long as Peter keeps his eyes on Jesus, he is safe, he walks on the water. From this we deduce that the impossible can happen when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and He invites us to come. As soon as Peter takes his eyes from Jesus and lets everything else crowd in, he begins to fall, to drop down into the waters where Jesus’ hand reaches out and lifts him back up again. God is God of the possible and the impossible and we can be a part of that when we keep our eyes fixed on Him and follow Him. But we can also be assured that even when we begin to fall, to let everything crowd in on us, He is always there to reach out and restore us.

24th September 2021

Luke 10:40 Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

If you have siblings, how alike are you? Often siblings can be almost the antithesis of each other as well as sharing certain traits. In the gospels we meet a family close to Jesus, sisters Mary and Martha with their brother Lazarus who Jesus brought to life again. Mary and Martha were quite different in their attitude to Jesus. Martha was the hostess, cooking, cleaning, attending to His every need. Mary was much more contemplative, preferring to spend time with Jesus, listening and learning. Often, we are almost forced to take sides, who was right, who was wrong? Both sisters are icons in the scriptural world; Martha of the traditional female role as set out by males; Mary more of an icon of feminism, contemplative, disciple like, much more of the independence women have fought for, not dictated to by males. As such we can identify with either or both. We can be like Martha, feeling hard done by, that it is not fair. We can be like Mary, spending time with Jesus, listening, learning. We may feel a little cross that Jesus seems to side with Mary and not Martha, that He doesn’t tell Mary to help a little. In the form of service, it is Martha who is the example, in the form discipleship it is Mary. When their brother dies and Jesus finally arrives it is Martha who confronts Jesus, she is strong, bold with spiritual insight. Here are two sisters, both followers of Jesus, is one right and one wrong? No, certainly not. They are two sides of the same coin. We are to love God with heart, soul and mind and love neighbour as self. That means we need both contemplation and listening as well as action and service. The rules of God’s Kingdom are not those of society; equality, injustice, fairness are things we still need to fight for. We must be people of prayer, contemplation and listening but we must also be people of action and service. Life is not either/or but both. If God is at the centre, if God is priority all the rest will fall into place.

23rd September 2021

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

Have you visited The Shard in London, if not it is well worth a visit. It has 11,000 glass panels, 44 lifts, 306 flights of stairs and took three and a half years to build. Within its construction plans it had to have a deconstruction plan as it is made of so much glass. It is an amazing building. In the Bible the Temple built by Solomon was an amazing building, ornate, costly and magnificent. It took seven years to build and then the second Temple, after the exile, reconstructed and expanded by Herod, took twenty years to build. In the Old Testament the Temple is used as a visual aid to proclaim that what is to come from God is so much more. The prophet Haggai speaks God’s message of the final piece of the covenant to come, Jesus, the Messiah, God encourages His discouraged people to stay strong. As we move to the New Testament Jesus speaks of himself metaphorically as the Temple, He will be destroyed but rise again in three days. The people of the time took it literally, they knew how long it had taken Solomon to build the Temple so how can one man, not even a worldly king, possibly do it in three days. Impossible! Buildings are important to humans; they are signs of power and wealth. They are also signs of God’s presence; we have put God in a box so to speak. Jesus comes as the living temple, with us all day, every day, by His Spirit. His death and resurrection are the key, His rebuilding in three days. His living presence who walks alongside us day by day; but can also be a stumbling block to those more concerned with worldly trappings. Jesus is the living Temple, the cornerstone on whom we build our lives, the sure foundation to our lives as Temples of God here on earth.

22nd September 2021

Hebrews 1:3 Our world was spoken into being and is maintained by His power.

If I asked you to describe ordinary daily life, what would you say; We eat, sleep, work etc. Once in a routine we easily allow the wonders of our life and world and of God to be lost, because it has all become ordinary, everyday experiences. As we grow up, we lose that childlike quality that looks with awe and wonder at everything. Our ordinary lives are daily miracles, the healing of a cut finger, the food grown in our fields and gardens, the flowers and trees around us lining our paths and replacing CO2 with oxygen, the ability to communicate by speech, the ability to taste, hear, touch, see and smell, the fact we can travel so far in amazing machines. So much that we see as just ordinary life is a miracle, is a blessing obtained by people’s hard work, discovery and God’s gifts. God is everywhere, in everything we do, see and experience; as creator God He is in everything, including us, however ordinary it may appear. Ordinary is only ordinary because we have made it so, actually it is given, it is offered, it is blessed and it becomes a way of life that we just expect instead of appreciate. We need to see God in the ordinary, thank God for the ordinary, for our food, our work, friends, family, homes, gardens, parks, education and so it goes on. If we see God in the ordinary it will no longer be ordinary, instead we will see the blessing, the wonder, the miracles given by God to us and for us every day.

21st September 2021

Psalm 16:3 As for the saints who are in the earth, They are the majestic ones, the heroes in whom is all my delight.

Do you like the superhero movies of recent years? Marvel or DC, Batman, Superman, Wonder woman, The Flash etc. These are all comic book heroes who find a way to save the world one way or another, often at personal cost to themselves. We have a fascination with Superheroes, they fight for Good, they succeed against the odds, they may have their flaws but somehow, they come through and save the world. We love the ideas of superpowers, something miraculous and wonderful and we, of course, would always use them for Good if we had them. We have had a longstanding joke in the vicarage from when the boys were small that my husband’s alter ego is “clergyman”. Joking aside, we can all actually be superheroes. We are Superheroes because we are in God, of God and we fight daily for good in His Strength. We can and do turn up into situations and perform incredible acts by being kind, by loving and caring for our neighbour, offering a helping hand, listening, doing and being God’s presence in all situations. We might not have x-ray vision, but we do have eyes which can see needs and help. We may not be able to fly but we can arrive in people’s lives just when we are needed. We might not be able to stop a speeding bullet, please do not even try, but we can stop or deflect a bullet of hurt or harm directed at someone. The desire to do good, to do the right thing, to live as God desires us to, makes us superheroes. So chose your name, your badge, your cape and serve God as you fight for good and God every day.

20th September 2021

Psalm 38:4 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

I enjoy a glass of wine with a meal as many of us do. I have favourites that I buy because I like them. For a while I fell into the trap of being told what I should like and what I should not. Being told what was the right price to pay for “good wine” always more expensive than others of course. As a result, I drank some unpleasant and tasteless wines which cost too much! I have now come to a point where I buy and drink wine that I like. I have my taste just as you have yours. Some wine snobs I know criticize and ridicule my choices but I have learnt what suits my palate and now I enjoy my wine far more. Funnily enough I have experienced a similar thing in churches. Just as there are wine snobs there are also church snobs. People who like to tell others what they should and shouldn’t do, how they should worship, pray, what books to read, what is good and what is bad, in their opinion of course, but sadly that opinion is one they consider to be expert. As an older and wiser Christian, I now realise that the only input I or you need on our Christian life is from God and His word, with help and advice from those with no hidden agenda and are called to be teachers and leaders. We are all different, with differing palettes so we all find churches and faith groups which allow us to grow and learn and become the people God desires us to be, not what the church snobs want us to be. The breadth of the C of E means we can worship in a way we find comfortable, read books which help us, pray and communicate with God in the way that works best for each of us and Him. Instead of forcing others to do things the same as we do, we need to encourage them to find what works for them, what tastes best to them and to find and enjoy God in that way.

19th September 2021

Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the ways you should go; I will counsel you with my eyes upon you.

In my younger days I was a walker, exploring places like the Lake District, using maps to find, safe and hidden paths, rivers, roads, villages and places of interest. I love maps, so much information in a flat one-dimensional picture. But you need to learn how to read a map, I learnt for Duke of Edinburgh awards and as part of my Geography O Level. You learn what the symbols mean, the lines as they curve or are close or far apart, how to distinguish roads and rivers, crossings, forests, terrain, hills, mountains and so on. A map is of little use to someone who cannot read it. For hundreds of years ordinary people were reliant on those who could read to tell them what things meant, what books and texts said. This depended on those who could read telling the truth and being reliable. In churches those in the congregation were reliant on the priest to decipher and explain the Bible to them. Like a map can be confusing and unreadable if you do not know its language so it is with the Bible and church. Even today we have our own language and symbols which are not clear to those who are not from a church background. We are very good at using church speak, images which are unclear to the new, offering a code which the ordinary person struggles to decipher. God never intended for anyone to be left out, cut out, turned away because they did not understand the cues or the language. The gospel message is basically simple, God loves us, sent His son Jesus to die for us so we could be forgiven and made whole again. It is us who have complicated it all, it is us who need to change our language and attitude to allow everyone to understand and grasp God’s love for them.

18th September 2021

Acts 1: 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.

Saints are ordinary people who let the love of God shine through them. Each of our nations of Great Britain has a patron saint and November 30th is St Andrew’s Day in Scotland, but as well as being patron saint of Scotland Andrew is also patron saint of Russia, and of Sicily, Greece, Romania, Amalfi, and Luqa (Malta); and patron saint of Army Rangers, mariners, fishermen, fishmongers, rope-makers, singers and performers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers. Quite a lot of areas covered here. Andrew receives only a tiny mention in the Book of Acts, listed as one of the witnesses of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, going onto preach the Gospel in Greece, Asia Minor and in Scythia, along the Black Sea as far as the Volga and Kiev. This is how he became the patron saint of Romania and Russia. Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at Patras but he did not die in the same way as Jesus; Andrew was bound, not nailed, to an X-shaped cross, now commonly known as a "Saint Andrew's Cross" or Saltire which became the national flag of Scotland. Andrew considered himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross that Christ was. We are not worthy to be given all that Jesus offers us and yet it is freely given to each of us. Like Andrew we need to serve Jesus as best we can, let God’s light shine through us and always give the credit and glory to God.

17th September 2021

John 1:40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

As the vicar of St Andrews, I have a soft spot for Andrew. We know that he was a son of Jonah, or John; that he was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, and that both he and his brother Simon Peter were fishermen, hence the tradition that Jesus called them by saying that He will make them "fishers of men". Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him to follow Jesus. The name "Andrew" comes from the Greek and means valour and brave. He was brave enough to follow John the Baptist who was a rebel, he was brave enough to give up his job and livelihood to follow Jesus, facing opposition from the Jewish authorities almost every day. Through the Holy Spirit, Andrew recognised Jesus as the Messiah, and very quickly introduced him to his brother Peter. For the rest of their lives the two brothers were Disciples of Christ. Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. This is the challenge for us: if we recognise Jesus as Saviour, do we do all we can to introduce our relatives, friends and neighbours to Jesus? Are we fishers of men, women and children? Without Andrew, no Peter, without you or me well who knows who might never hear about Jesus. God does and wants to use you and I to share His love with all. Andrew went on to do many amazing things for God, many of which we are not aware of, but exist in the history of the early church. You and I will also go on to do amazing things that will exist in the history of the church but only if we let God work within us.

16th September 2021

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

It is always great for our self-confidence when we are chosen to do something, chosen for a promotion or new job, chosen as a representative. It means people have a high opinion of us. How much more wonderful to know we are chosen by God whoever we are. Jesus who chose the poor, the broken, the sinful; Jesus who healed and transformed lives; Jesus who excluded no one; Jesus who assures us there is a room for us in his Father’s house; Jesus characterised by love, forgiveness, and welcome. Jesus chose us to die for and then sends His Holy Spirit so we can share this chosen love of God with everyone. This Holy Spirit is not some formless, invisible, floating essence. It is God’s Spirit present in our life. In our choseness we are given the Spirit to enable and strengthen us. The Spirit challenges and supports us to live as Christians and live our lives as Jesus commanded through our thoughts, words, and actions. We feel the Spirit as the restlessness of our hearts, challenging, calling, provoking a response in real daily life situations. As we live as chosen people, with the Spirit within us, we are the ones who make God’s life present and tangible here on earth We are the ones who give flesh to Jesus’ words. You and I are the presence of God filled with the Spirit of God. We are the chosen hands and feet of God in the power of the Spirit, we offer love and affirm life. When our heart breaks for the pain of the world, when we reach out in compassion, when we weep over another’s loss that is the Spirit working. When we offer or seek forgiveness, when we refuse to judge, when we offer mercy and not condemnation that is the Spirit at work. When we speak words of hope, hold another’s needs and concerns as important as our own, when we pray for another, the Spirit is at work. The Spirit in us strengthens us to sit at the bedside of another, to care for the sick and dying, to console the bereaved. Each of us has that promised Holy Spirit within us but as chosen people we also have a choice; whether we allow the Spirit to work in us, or keep Him unused and hidden away.

15th September 2021

James 4:14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

We often ask young people what they want to do with their lives, we also look at own lives and think about what we have done with them. What we refer to as life is actually our life situation. We are alive whether we are young or old, women or men, black or white, rich or poor, it is our situation that we actually live in and change through the things we do. Our life situation is our past, present and future. Things from our past will always affect us, for good or bad, will strengthen and weaken us. How we live in the present will be affected by our past. As we live, we keep going, we have hope, it focuses us on the future and the possibilities in front of us. Hope is definitely God given. Of course, the focusing on the past and the future can become so dominant in our mind that we look there instead of right here and now and so we can become unhappy with our present life situation. As with so much in God’s gift of life, we need to find a balance. It is good for us to focus on the value of life and being alive and less on our current situation. Life, life in its fullness is now, not yesterday or next week, but now, that’s we call it the present, it is a present, a gift which is ours to do with as we wish. The past and the future are the stuff of our mind, right now is reality. The present is the narrow moment of time we are presently in, it is the narrow gate of now that leads to real life. Our life situation may be difficult, with issues and problems but right now is it an issue? Not tomorrow, next week or next month but right now. When we are full of problems, there is no room for anything new, no room for a solution. Whenever we can we need to make room, create space, so that we can find real life in its fullness because that is what God desires for us.

14th September 2021

John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

As we look back, we often speak of life before the pandemic, which we call normal, and then there is life during and now with the pandemic; the new normal. It has completely changed how we are with one another, how we see life, and we are reassessing what is important. The pandemic has been a pivotal moment. It’s one of those threshold moments that calls into question everything: priorities and values, the way we live and relate to one another, the things that truly matter, where we want to invest our time and energy, how we want to be in this world and what we want from life. Pivotal moments are when life gets truly real. They hold before us questions about who we are, who we want to be, what we’ve done, and whether our life matters and makes a difference. When Jesus came to these pivotal moments in His life He didn’t isolate or close in on himself. He didn’t get angry or resentful. He didn’t resist or fight back, run away or try to escape. He didn’t complain or deny the reality of what was happening. Instead, Jesus faces up to His life. He’s in touch with his humanity. He feels, He grieves, He weeps, He gathers with his friends and He prays. This is the example we need to follow in our lives. Take our cue from Jesus, come together and pray, feel, weep, grieve, laugh and stand together and we move forward together.

13th September 2021

John 17:9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

We follow Jesus’ example of prayer each week as we pray the lord’s prayer but in other places His prayers are different. In John 17 the prayer is a bit rambling and confusing. Moving back and forth, folding in on itself; as much about Him as it is the disciples. But quite simply Jesus asks three things of his Father: that God would enable the disciples to be one with Jesus, that God would protect them from evil and that God would purify them in the truth. The rest of the prayer is Jesus working through what’s happening. Have you had those kinds of conversations? Where we are thinking out loud, wrestling with life, making statements, asking questions. The conversation goes in all sorts of directions. It circles back on itself. It’s anything but straight forward. We’re listening to ourselves as we talk and trying to get clarity and come to terms with what’s happening to us and within us. Sometimes these are conversations with a friend. Other times they are prayers to God. Jesus’ prayer isn’t so different from the way you and I have prayed at times. Threads of grief, trying to get some clarity, what we have done and what is coming next. Moments of life and death. These are the things we pray about, that we need to pray about with God, being honest, open with questions, choices and struggles which change our life. Here is Jesus standing in solidarity with us and our humanity, working out his life with God just as we do.

12th September 2021

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.

I wonder if you are a fan of bridges? I particularly love the little stone ones in places like the Lake District, but also the feats of engineering Like the Clifton Suspension Bridge or the beauty of Tower Bridge. Whether we pay much attention to them or not they are vital to our lives. Bridges offer us a safe connection between two sides, shortening journey’s considerably, provide a link to places nearby but effectively cut off. Of course, particularly in the past, they could also provide a way into a city or land for the enemy and we saw many bridges destroyed in the wars to give protection. These were then rebuilt as places healed and recovered. Bridges work by keeping tension and compression in balance, opposing forces which give incredible strength when held in tension, this tension is like a constant battle. As a teenager, Jesus was presented to me as a bridge, someone who came to bridge the gap between Humans and God, whose death on the cross spanned the gap that we could not get over by ourselves. In building this bridge God opened the way to all humanity to achieve holiness, to become part of the family of God again, to find freedom from the enemy and this bridge also works in tension. Bridges of any sort are beautiful but very hard to build, the bridge of Jesus is beautiful but cost so much in its construction. Jesus came and lived as one of us, experiencing all that we experience and then was falsely accused and murdered on a cross so that we might live. This incredibly high price was what Jesus was willing to pay for us to be able to once more have full and free access to God. That tension continues, every day, the battle between good and evil, held in tension by Jesus on the cross and allowing us access to the eternal life God has always desired for us.

11th September 2021

John 14:16 “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus says. “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate.”

When someone leaves or moves away, we are sad, we don’t want them to go, we find it difficult and upsetting. Jesus’s disciples were bewildered when He told them, He was going away. How could they who witnessed His miracles and learned from His teaching be better off without Him? But Jesus promised them that Him leaving meant the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, would come to be with them. The advocate who represents us, helps us, defends and protects us. When we accept God’s offer of new life, we are given this gift of His Spirit living within us. From this Spirit we receive so much: He challenges sin, He brings us comfort when we ache, strength to bear hardships, wisdom to understand God’s teaching, hope and faith to believe, love to share. This Advocate will teach us everything, remind us of all that He said and taught. We all need an Advocate, the Spirit within us. We all need to be reminded, especially when the future is uncertain, when life has been turned upside down, and we’re afraid or overwhelmed. We need to be reminded when we’re angry or frustrated. We need to be reminded when we are sad and grieving. We need to be reminded when we’re busy, successful, and self-sufficient. We need to be reminded when we’re lost and don’t know the way. We need to be reminded when we feel like an orphan, alone and lonely, on our own, having to look out and fend for ourselves. None of us get through life alone. We need God’s reminding, God’s support, God’s Spirit to be our advocate, our comforter. “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus says. “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate.” 

10th September 2021

Matthew 25:18 But the servant who had received one thousand coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master's money.

Are you an Ostridge? You may not look like one but some of us are very good at burying our heads in the sand. In fact, we are very good at burying the very things God has given us to use for His glory. We say, I'm going to play it safe! I won’t use this just in case I get it wrong, or get laughed at or use it wrongly or get embarrassed. We think I’m not really good enough, there are others better than me. Don’t let fear keep you from developing your talents and gifts. We often play it safe because of fear, fear which leads to self-doubt, self-pity and self-consciousness. We cannot please God by playing it safe. We must take risks in life. If everything is safe in life you don't need any faith! Doing nothing is inexcusable. God would rather have us try to serve him and totally blow it, than do nothing. I'd rather attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed. What matters is the effort, trying! Trying to make your life count, trying to make an impact with your life, trying to do something significant that is going to outlast you. It's not whether you reach it or not, it's the effort that counts. But doing nothing is inexcusable. Sadly, we think we are nothing special; thinking I'm not going to do anything; I'll let the pros do it; they have more than me, since I only have a little, I'll just bury it. We decide we are not going to make any attempt in ministry with our life. I love being a Christian, it excites me, I do what I do because I want everyone to find this fantastic God that I have found. I want to heal the worlds ills, save the planet, help the poor and make the rich realise they can do so much good with all they have got. Most of all I want to see every Christian alive and excited by what God has given them and yet so often I see sad Christians, the fizz, the sparkle has gone out of their life. The Christian life is not a relationship any more, it's become a routine. There is no joy like it used to be. Their spiritual life has gone flat. Why? Because they are sitting on the side-lines, they are not in the game, spectating and not participating. These folks have buried their talents. It is so wrong to waste our life. I sometimes shudder to think of some of the excuses I will try to give when God asks, excuses as to why I made no attempt to get involved in helping other people and serving others. Those excuses will seem pretty inadequate at that point. Don’t sit on the side-lines, take what you have and use it. Go for it, you might get it wrong, I regularly get it wrong, but God would far rather we try and mess up than not try at all.

9th September 2021

Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us.

There are three things we can do with our life: we can waste it, we can spend it, or we can invest it. There are plenty of things to spend it or waste it on, your hobbies, on acquiring certain possessions, the high life, partying, or you can invest it. Jesus taught that the greatest use of your life is to invest it in that which outlasts it. The parable of the talents gives us principles for investing our life. We invest our lives because everything we have belongs to God. God made it all. We really own nothing. We didn't come into this world with anything and we’re not going to take anything out of this world. What we have we simply get to use for 60, 70, 80, 90 years. It's God's. We just get to use it. God made us to manage his resources. God has entrusted some things to us to use. God has given each of us some talents. We all have God given talents. Talents are abilities, resources, skills or opportunities, all of the things that God has given us. Anything that God has trusted us with; our children, our job, our home, our family, our voice, our love, our cooking, our writing, our sport, our garden, our encouragement….. everything can be considered a talent. Everybody gets something. There is no such thing as a person with no talents. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. We are all unique. God has given each of us gifts, talents, skills, abilities, experiences, personality traits, temperaments, all to make each of us who we are. You and I are unique. There's nobody else like you in the world. You are so special and He made you for a purpose. God expects us to use these gifts. God has made an investment in our life and one day God is going to ask us, "What did you do with what I gave you?" The greater the privilege we have, the greater the responsibility we have to use everything for God’s glory. God’s challenge to you and to me is to use what we have been given. He stands alongside us, gives us the strength and helps us overcome the fear. It’s not always easy BUT As we use what we’ve got for God watch what happens. Little becomes more and more when we put it in God’s hands. By the things we do, the words we say, the love we give, the things we challenge, we can and do change our world for the better.

8th September 2021

Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

What are your priorities in life? Do you care about others across the world? Are you constantly looking for more money, bigger and better cars and houses, better more expensive holidays? As Christians, although we must do the best for our families and loved ones, our selfishness is not what God needs from us. Instead, God needs us to care, to be compassionate and empathetic, to act, to challenge unfairness and make a difference not just for ourselves but for others, particularly the less fortunate. If our life is all about worldly gain, the wealth, power, fame etc and that is all that matters to us, then in reality our eternity is lost. If we are ashamed of God, of Jesus, of our faith, then we cannot expect Him to be anything but ashamed of us. If we deny ourself, take up our cross and follow Him then we will see God’s purpose, God’s priorities and we won’t be blinded by worldly things and we won’t become a stumbling block to other people or to God’s mission. But, be encouraged, even though we fail, sometimes spectacularly, we are still used by God. We may mess up but if we recognise this and are sorry, looking to change, then God will still use us, bless us and work with us, even though we get it wrong. God will change our priorities if we let Him. God never gives up on us, we should never give up on God or each other.

7th September 2021

Matthew 6:10 May your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

When I was younger, I was often told to look more deeply into things and to expand my thought processes. This is often called looking at the Bigger Picture. As Christians, how do we do this? As we follow Jesus, we start to “look” more and more like him; and as we look more like him, we look less like the world. We learn to deny ourselves which mean we say “No” to ourselves and “Yes” to God. We humbly submit our will to God. It is what millions of Christians pray in the Lord’s Prayer every day, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” Every day we are to live in such a way that it is apparent to everyone that we have died to ourselves, to our selfish ways and ambitions, and now live for God. So, when something unfair happens and instinctively we want to get even, we have as Christians, died to that “right,” we have prayed “not my will but yours be done.” Hopefully, as we become more like Jesus, we will humbly submit our will to God’s will, and we will respond in each situation in kindness and humility. We will not always do it right first time; but life is a journey. God is patient and knows we are fighting the habits of a lifetime as we learn to walk the right path. We are called daily to take up our cross whatever that might be. As we become a disciple of Jesus, we seek to live every day with Him, recognising who Jesus is, as messiah, as the Son of God and then follow Him in living as He lived and learn new things about God every day.

6th September 2021

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.

In our world, even today, people are still enslaved, some because of rules and laws, some hidden away, some quite legally in unjust systems. More and more of us find ourselves in a place of being enslaved, not in the form of slave labour but our slavery is often self-constructed, self-imposed, and therefore far more difficult to detect or overcome. We have become enslaved to notions of success, and therefore put few limits on our work. We are enslaved to ideas about our children or grandchildren having every opportunity possible, and therefore schedule them into frenetic lives and wonder why they have a hard time focusing and sleeping. We are enslaved to the belief that the only thing that will bring contentment is more; more money, more space in our homes, bigger homes, more cars, more things to put on our resumes or in our closets, more, more, more. Such levels of wanting more don't permit time for anything but work, at the job, at home, working even during our so-called leisure time. This is the slavery we call success, and the rat race we call life. How much quality time do we spend together with family or friends? We are so busy working to make a better life that we miss out on actually living it. God desires more for us, but it is quality, quality of life. God wants all of us to have life in all its fullness, abundant life. Where we look at all the Lord’s provides and are thankful, we appreciate all of creation, we spiritually soak in it, marvel at it and really enjoy it.

5th September 2021

Mark 8:33 But Jesus turned around, looked at his disciples, and rebuked Peter. “Get away from me, Satan,” he said. “Your thoughts don't come from God but from human nature!”

I expect, just like me and everyone else you have good days and bad days, times when we are good Christians and times when we really aren’t. The disciple Peter is the perfect example of just this and as such is also a real encouragement to us in our messy lives. In one of his moments of glory, Peter declares exactly who Jesus is, not long after in one of his worst moments, Peter tells Jesus that He is wrong…. In other words, Jesus, I know better than you and God do. Peter, just like we do, is seeing things from a basic human and selfish point of view. Jesus we are fine as we are, no change needed, let’s just keep doing what we are doing. We all recognise this attitude in ourself sometimes? When we act like this, we are actually thwarting the very mission Jesus came to fulfil. If Jesus does not fulfill His mission of the cross then Peter, all the disciples, all the believers through history, Christians today and those who are yet to come would have no access to God, no forgiveness, no salvation. God’s mission is for everyone, we must not be a stumbling block to this. As Jesus reminds Peter, he is thinking in earthly terms not heavenly ones. Peter is not seeing the bigger picture; do we see the bigger picture? We must learn to think in heavenly terms, not earthly ones so that we aid God’s mission and not thwart it.

4th September 2021

Mark 6:31 There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his disciples didn't even have time to eat. So he said to them, “Let us come away and rest a while.”

I wonder if you need to come away and rest a while! Maybe you are exhausted, work, family, commitments, the coming and going, no time to even eat. The pandemic has reached further and further into our lives, for longer and longer and we struggle. Testing, mask wearing, distancing, do we, don’t we, it is exhausting, confusing, frustrating; we need to come away and rest a while. The key thing about rest is that it gives us a chance to step back and stand apart from all the things that usually drive us and consume us. This is so we can once again find God's presence, love, wisdom and blessing, experience a sense of contentment, peace and rest. We cannot just keep going or our bodies will pull the plug somehow. Jesus knows first-hand how difficult this is to do, but also how vitally important it is that we rest. Before we can do the Lord’s work and help others, we need to be rested and grounded, breathing Him in. How good are you at caring for yourself, at coming back to Jesus for a while to be recharged? Out of this resting and recharging comes a new healing, increased sensitivity and compassion for life; an ability to be with people in a way that is not possible when we are tired and exhausted and short tempered. We must be deliberate, make ourselves find time for rest. We must regularly make time to come away and rest a while.

3rd September 2021

Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on human rules they have been taught. 

Traditional pharisaic Judaism believed that humans were made unholy by what they put in their bodies. Jesus taught that it is what is in the human heart that matters, that makes humans unholy. In a time when hand washing and sanitising is a high priority we can sympathise with the idea of not washing hands but not everyone does the same thing, not everyone prioritises hand washing the way we might. Isaiah reminds us how easy it is to honour God with words lips, but not with our hearts. In other words, many of us are hypocrites, abandoning the commandments of God in favour of human traditions. This leads to empty worship practices; a misrepresentation of tradition in order to avoid God’s law, deliberate and selfish interpretations of traditions and teaching. The only way to not be a hypocrite is to have a heart for God. What is the state of our human heart? Whatever our practices, whichever traditions we do or don’t uphold, these are not the things that ready us for God’s kingdom. Unlike food that simply passes through our digestive system, that which comes from the heart affects the whole person. It is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions can come. The heart is understood here as the centre of human will, rationality, and desire. It is the place from which all our intentions come, both bad but also good. Evil things come from a desire to take, to grasp, to own, to devour. The corruption of the human heart is rooted in desire, want and greed. We can become insatiable consumers: of things, of pleasure, of people, even of our own energy. What is in our heart matters. If they are cold and hard, unfeeling and sarcastic then God’s desires are not in us. If they are full of selfishness then we are not of God’s kingdom. May our prayer be; Lord make my heart to be like yours.

2nd September 2021

Galatians 5:1. It was for freedom that Christ has set us free, no longer to be subject to a yoke of slavery. 

Nelson Mandela spent many years in prison for fighting for the freedom of black people in South Africa. Amongst other things he said that “For me to be really free I must live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Mandela realised that only when everyone was free to live in their way would everyone be free. Our own freedom of expression, lifestyle, religion, personality depends on others also being free to express themselves, their lifestyle, religion, personality. The freedom of all depends on the common good of all. Across our world so many are still oppressed, girls forced into slavery and prostitution because of family debt in India and Nepal, domestic workers treated as slaves and not paid along with child trafficking, begging and prostitution in places like Tanzania. Even in the UK we have domestic slavery that we can’t seem to combat effectively. There is a circle of slavery; no schooling, education, no knowledge of rights, therefore others have power over you and they exploit it. This is why people will sell everything to pay unscrupulous traders and people smugglers to sail them into Europe and across the channel to the UK, believing they will at last be free. The freedom that we take for granted, others never even have. We are currently more polarised and fragmented in society than ever. The quest for individual rights and profits, complete selfishness above all else has meant the loss of community trust and the working together of all to gain freedom for everybody. The result is weaker local institutions and communities which become marginalised and identity politics divides allowing the selfish to gain even more power and thus squash the freedoms of others. Our freedom was paid for in Christ, we were to no longer be slaves but to be free, and that was all of us no matter who we are. God’s love of us means freedom, freedom for everyone.

1st September 2021

Psalm 19:8 The laws of the Lord are right, and those who obey them flourish. 

In recent years we have used the term flourishing a lot more. Flourishing means someone reaching their full potential, being allowed, encouraged and facilitated to become the best they can be throughout their life. For this to happen each person needs certain basic things, we call these Human Rights. Across the world there is agreement as to what these are but even so they are regularly not implemented, even here in the UK. Each human being has the right to life, liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, a good education and work prospects, adequate living standards, a home and food, freedom of belief and religion, justice, fairness and dignity. As human beings if we desire these rights for ourselves, we must also desire them for others, for everyone regardless of who they are, where they are from, what they believe, the colour of their skin, their culture and nationality. Human Rights can only work if everyone takes part. If I demand one rule for me and different for others then I am not an advocate of Human Rights, I am just selfish. All rights come with responsibilities, as each of us demands our rights we must also fulfil our responsibilities. As I demand my right to life and liberty then I am responsible for making sure that others gain their life and liberty. If I demand good a good education for myself and my family then I have the responsibility to fight for a good education for everyone here in this country and across the world. If I demand fairness and justice for myself then I am responsible for treating others fairly and with justice and demanding our government and governments across the world treat their citizens with Justice and fairness. God asks of us that we treat others as we are treated by Him. As Christians we must always fight for the rights of others as well as ourselves because only then will all be able to flourish as God intended us to.

31st August 2021

Ephesians 4:28 Let no one steal, but rather let them labour, doing honest work, so that they may have something to share with anyone in need. 

Do you like shopping? Are you someone who likes to stroll round the shops, looking and buying? Are you an armchair shopper, looking at websites and ordering things to your door? Are you a bargain hunter, looking for the best deals or do just like to treat yourself? I am not a great shopper, I just go and get what I need, although I will have a good look in the sales, as I like a bargain. I was thinking how we can treat our Christian faith in the same way as shopping. We can be Christians who stroll around our faith, looking and applying our faith in different situations. We can also people who are armchair Christians, read a book, look at a service on You Tube, have a comfortable form of Christianity that never really steps out into the world. We can be bargain hunting Christians, looking for a church or a service we like, that doesn’t challenge us, that is cheaper and costs less to us as a person in the changes we need to make to our lives before God. I have met many Christians who regularly move churches because they want to be a Christian in their own way rather than God’s way. When they are challenged or asked for commitment they move on, find somewhere else. Christianity is a form of living that means we look to abide by the teachings of Jesus, the ways of God and so we will be challenged, we will need to change, we will need to pay the costs associated with being honest, true, caring people who want to expand the family of God to everyone. We need to be active Christians, people who pray, people who read the Bible, people who challenge wrong doing, people who fight for the rights of everyone. That means we can’t be armchair Christians, we can’t be cheap Christians, we can’t be Christians who just wander from place to place without commitment. As a Christian we are God’s representatives on earth, His hands and feet, we are the ones who can and must make a difference.

30th August 2021

Colossians 3:13 Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a grievance against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 

Friendship is one of life’s blessings. We like the company of friends, to go out together, share experiences. We choose our friends so they are people sensitive to our ways and ideas. They are people we can trust and share things with, people we can talk to about things. And yet friendships sometimes suffer or are lost because of events, moves, disagreements and life changes. A recent survey on friendship asked the question about the difference between Christian and non-Christian friends, the same word kept coming up, forgiveness. Christian friends are more willing to listen, more willing to understand and to forgive. There is understanding from Christians that just as they need forgiveness, recognising their own imperfections, others need that forgiveness to. The human condition is that we are not perfect, we do make mistakes, we do say things we shouldn’t and sometimes do stupid things. Jesus speaks a lot about forgiveness, some of His last words from the cross are asking forgiveness for those who crucified Him, asking forgiveness for all of humankind as we do things we shouldn’t. Jesus own example was to forgive, He forgave Peter for his betrayal and gave him the role of leading the church. He forgave the disciples for abandoning Him and equipped them to continue spreading the gospel. We are forgiven on a daily basis as we confess our sins to God, as we recognise our imperfections and strive in God’s strength to do better. As Christians we are called to forgive as we are forgiven, it is good to hear that people are seeing that forgiveness being practiced by Christian friends. May we be good Christian friends.

29th August 2021

Genesis1:31a God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

From an ostensibly privileged white British perspective, I have sat with the very serious issue of what Jesus actually means for those at the margins of our society: the poor, the suffering, those that are mistreated and oppressed in our world? Contemplative Richard Rohr says, “God loves things by becoming them.” Quite simply this is the Incarnation, the great Mystery of the universe that God is not just present in us because He created us, but He also became one of us in Jesus. If God is present in each of us and became one of us then everyone of us is holy, loved and special. The asylum seekers and refugees at our borders, the disabled person, the transgender person, the gay person, the incarcerated person, the Muslim person, the black person, the women and children, all are equal and loved by God and all should be treated with respect, with parity and equity. What I believe and understand is that we are all loved, we all belong, and that no one is a mistake or a problem to be solved or a public policy to be fixed, or a threat to be rejected. Each and every human being is a holy part of God’s creation and we need to remember that everything God created He saw that it was very good. If we can believe that we are all loved just as we are and that everything and everyone else is equally loved just as they are, then we finally recognise the reality of the goodness of all creation and accept all our brothers and sisters equally and without qualification. 

28th August 2021

Amos 5:24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

I like to watch the documentaries of Louis Theroux. He gets to the heart of the matter and has a way of getting people to open up. I recently saw a follow up to one he did with a Baptist Church group in the USA. Both programmes unsettled me because of the vile behaviour and language used against anyone who does not believe exactly as they do. They very much fit into cult status rather than Christian status and they are led by one man who has no accountability and is surrounded by bodyguards and has great wealth. Their vile judgement is against anyone of race, ethnicity, origin, tribe, sexual orientation, pro-choice etc but these distinctions actually have very little meaning in a cosmos created with original goodness and universally shared dignity. Many of us have spent our lives trying to fight racism, sexism, gender, sexual identity bias, racial and cultural stigmas. We all struggle with the -isms of society longing for true justice to flow like rivers. Our intentions are good, but our efforts can often be clouded by presumptions such that if our western culture would just include others and their ways, all would be well for everyone. This is not true. Jesus makes it quite clear that everyone and everything was included in the very beginning. It is us who have constructed the hierarchies, the values, the supposedly right culture, the political systems and allegiances. For these people of the Baptist Cult, they have weaponised the Bible to justify hatred, persecution, bad language, suppression, even extermination in the belief that all but them are destined to hellfire and need to be helped on their way as soon as possible. It is so awful to see Jesus being used in this way, to equate their doctrine with the true God of love who sends His son that all may be saved. God made us all, as we are and who we are, we have no right to decide who is of God and who is not, nor do we have the right to decide that we are always right and others are wrong. We are all God’s children, created in His image.

27th August 2021

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught. 

Sometimes we are convinced that at some point others will find out that we are not who they think we are. We live divided lives. Jesus has been dealing with division from the beginning. He has healed People, cleansed people, enabled the lame to walk and the blind to see. Within all these situations there is division. Each person’s life is not their own, we all live with inner turmoil, with division, disconnected from community and family, all that gives identity. Illnesses can point to inner conflict both physically and spiritually. This division and inner conflict is a major part of today’s world and each of our lives. Just think, a marriage becomes divided and ends in divorce. The product of nations being divided offers us the vitriolic politics we are seeing, and in some places even civil war. A divided economy has given us and many places poverty, poor health and injustice. Once the community is divided it becomes individualistic and tribal, prejudice and aggression abound, anonymous persecution happens through social media. Humanity divided makes sure the few prosper at the cost of the rest. You and I know what it is like to live divided lives, when our outsides and our insides don’t match up? We are one person at work another at home. We act one way with certain people and a different way with other people. We have that phone voice and our other voice. Life gets divided into pieces and behaviour, beliefs, and ethics change depending on where we are and who we are with. Work life, family life, prayer life, personal life, social life. We’re a bunch of pieces like an unmade jigsaw. We are forever trying to put the jigsaw pieces of our lives together into the perfect picture on the front of the box. Jesus provides unity, wholeness, as part of the Trinity. He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He puts our divided lives back together. Jesus offers the best and right image of what life could and should look like on the front of the box. Jesus wants to put that jigsaw together. There is nothing about our lives that cannot be put back together by the love God in Jesus.

26th August 2021

Luke 24: 30/31 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. 

Do you recognise people by their actions or certain words and phrases? We all have quirks that we do and say and make us recognisable for who we are. In the Bible it is when an unrecognised Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, and breaks it, that they finally recognise Him because of the same gestures He did at their last meal together. Jesus gives the disciples two ways to find him. He opens up the scriptures for them and he breaks bread with them. The good news for us is that Jesus has given us those same two ways to open our eyes to his presence: opening up the scriptures and the breaking of the bread. We are people of word and sacrament. People of the Book and People of the Mass/Communion. We are called to Jesus by the central acts of our worship, by reading God’s word, hearing the word preached and then as we meet around the Lord’s table breaking bread together. In the meeting together and breaking bread together the early church had a source of confidence and power. The encounters with the risen Lord Jesus moved the disciples from despair to hope. It does the same for us today. It is that encounter with the risen Jesus that opens our eyes to the truth, to the love of God for us, to the promised saviour set out before us in the Bible, the Holy Book, that we should be reading, studying and learning. It is the opening of our eyes in the breaking of bread together, the symbol of our redemption, the re-enactment of what Jesus did for us that first Easter, in the meal He left for us to celebrate together. The early Christians clearly felt the Holy Spirit burn within them and if we want to walk with Jesus like the early disciples, we must open the scriptures and break the bread and allow the Holy Spirit to ignite and burn within us, opening our eyes to God’s purpose and plan because that is how Jesus blesses us, uses us, inspires us and ultimately brings us home to him. 

25th August 2021

Luke 24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them. 

Have you ever been driving somewhere, and you realize you’ve gone to work instead of the Supermarket, for example? I have a tendency to do it at our junction of the A2. My internal map sends me to the old, expected place instead of to the other one. We are, after all, creatures of habit. So it is in our Christian life, we can be heading in one direction and end up in another. The disciples found this to be true, they thought they were going to one place and ended up in a totally other place, literally and spiritually. Two disciples are walking on a road to a village called Emmaus, just after the women have told them about the empty tomb. They are deep in conversation with each other, they are sad, confused and discussing all the happenings with Jesus, the crucifixion, and the empty tomb. A stranger walks up to them and asks what they’re talking about. They don’t recognise Him. They tell the stranger all about how they hoped Jesus was going to redeem Israel but now He’s been killed, and the tomb was empty, and they went to check it out and Jesus wasn’t there. You can almost here the rambling. They just can’t see for looking. They don’t recognise Jesus on the road. Jesus needs to reveal himself to them in a new, unexpected, way to shake the disciples out of their old way of thinking. Just as we sometimes need to see Jesus differently to change our perspective on life, to shake us out of old ways of thinking! These disciples had a map they expected the Messiah to follow, a map that had been given to them by history and tradition. A map that included their saviour being a king and conqueror, freeing Israel from its Roman occupiers, and since that didn’t happen, they believe they’ve reached the end of the road. They had been expecting the journey would end with a conquering hero. The old way of thinking is keeping them from getting to the new place Jesus wants them to go. Jesus questions them, He challenges their foolishness, and their understanding of all the scriptures shows them! He does the same for us. They and we sometimes need a very clear history lesson so we can remember exactly who Jesus is and go in the right direction.

24th August 2021

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. 

Recently I was given a favourite book published in the year of my birth, making it even more special. We all have books that are special to us for a number of reasons. Within all religions there are Holy Texts, books which hold the teaching of that belief and are studied and held with esteem and reverence. Why do we read and study? It builds mental capacity, it makes sense of our world, we learn new things, we improve our life prospects and future career options. Studying increases our confidence, our self-esteem and it reduces the stress and anxiety of exams and interviews. A number of job recruitment agencies offer reasons people should study, they suggest it helps us figure out where our passions and skills lie, qualifies our learning, fulfils our ambitions, makes life worthwhile and makes us more rounded people. Imagine if we begin to apply all that about studying to our Holy books; you can see why Joshua tells us to study the law, learn it, meditate on it and so be strong and courageous. If you carry the Holy words inside you, you carry God with you! The words of our Holy Book, the Bible, gives confidence, increases self-esteem, widens our horizons, makes sense of our world, reveals our passions and interests and improves our life completely. The Bible is key to our Christian life, to growing closer to God, to living more like Jesus, to being the people God intended us to be. We need to read it, study it and carry it within us and in doing so we will carry God with us.

23rd August 2021

John 19: 25 Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 

In the churches calendar Mothering Sunday acknowledges all women in the church in their motherly role of caring for others and we of course look to Mary, Jesus own mother, as our example. There are many images of Mary in mourning, and pointing the way to her Son. Mary is present at the foot the Cross, not only as a loving mother, but also as a disciple who follows her Lord to the hour of His death. Suffering is not something that attracts us. It is hard to stand firm when those we love are suffering, not just physically, but spiritually, especially for a mother who is watching her son die. This is saying something very profound about love and suffering. We cannot forget that Mary is not just a mother, she is a Jewish mother, she knows that her role is not only to be a loving mother for her children, but also their teacher. She is also a disciple that follows her son to the cross. She is giving her spiritual sons and daughters, us, the example of a witness who follows the Master’s footsteps and lives in constant prayer. Prayers are important when you have to see your loved one suffering and you cannot do anything to stop it. Through Prayer we offer our pain to God. How often is it that all we can do is pray. It may seem little but it is actually vital, a gift and a blessing, never to be underestimated. Mary is our example of one who stands up for Her son, in love, prayer and witness no matter the cost. If we are willing to stand with Mary at the foot of the cross, we too become sons and daughters of Mary, part of this new family of God who witness Jesus’ cross and resurrection, who look after each other as family. 

22nd August 2021

2 Samuel 6:14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might.

When was the last time you danced? Strictly Come Dancing has brought a popularity to dancing for all ages and is one of the BBC’s most popular shows. The celebrities who take on this challenge all speak of falling in love with dancing, of the physical and mental benefits it has. We tend to lose the dancing as we grow older and we no longer live the nightlife we used to. Yet dancing is so beneficial we really ought to try and do it, even if only in our own kitchen or living room, even if only when we hoover or dust, yes that is a thing. Dancing features in the Bible, people danced before God, as an expression of their love, in celebration of what God did and just out of pure joy. Dancing was seen as a form of worship because to dance you use your whole body, your mind, your heart, your soul and your breath. In dancing you completely give yourself to the activity and so to the one you dance in honour of. When you watch people dance, they are so focussed, so totally invested in what they are doing because it is a total mind and body experience. Far from the thoughts of the past that all music and dancing was of the Devil, it is rather a Biblical and God given expression that we can use. Using our bodies for worship is not a new thing, in the Bible people danced, raised hands, fell prostrate, stood, moved, knelt and so on. Yes, we may feel too old for some of these things but we do them not for others but for ourselves and God. Why not dance round the kitchen, why not listen to music and move with the beat, why not move your body in praise and worship of God in many of the things you do around the home? No one else needs to see, it will do you good, it will bless God and it will improve your wellbeing.

21st August 2021

Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God as His beloved children.

Being a Christian or follower of Jesus is such an amazing and wonderful experience that we cannot and should not keep it to ourselves. We have great, amazing, life changing news and we should readily share it with others. We are all called to reflect the love of Jesus to our local community, to our friends, families and neighbours, as we introduce people to Jesus and help them discover God’s love for themselves. We are called to be imitators of God, to be like Him in our lifestyle. We need to reflect the love of Jesus to the world so that others will be inspired to come to know him for themselves. If you remember the 9/11 tragedy in the USA we saw the images of people streaming out of the Twin Towers but you will also remember the Fire Officers who were running into the burning buildings to save people. A wonderful metaphor for what Jesus has done for us; Jesus rushes into the burning building of sin and death by dying on the cross for us. Through Jesus Christ, we are free to live and that is a life changing gift we need to share with others. It is not enough for us to show one random act of kindness and then think we’ve done our bit. It is not enough for us to be nice to someone to their face and then join in the gossip about them behind their back. We are to be full of God, of Jesus, full of grace and truth all the time: consistent in our words, actions and behaviour with others, whether face-to-face, through social media, or e-mail and so on. We are the only Bible some people will ever read, we are the hands, feet and voice of Jesus on Earth, so it is up to us to share the love of Jesus with everyone, to share the Good News we have been given and not keep it to ourselves.

20th August 2021

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

What was the last gift you were given? We all like a present, that special gift given on a birthday or Christmas, it says we matter, we are important and special, someone thinks so much of us that they want to give us something to show their love. When it comes to gifts Jesus Christ is the most incredible and wonderful gift that God could ever give to the world to show His love for us. God becoming human flesh and living among us is the ultimate gift of love and hope for us as human beings. The news that God does not leave us alone in our mess but is willing and able to leave heaven and get his hands dirty here on earth, WOW! God doesn’t just watch from a distance, doesn’t just impassively sit and watch us, but we are so special, so important that He loves us enough, to come down here and get fully engaged in every aspect of our life, quite utterly astonishing! God cares so much about us that he wants to be involved in every aspect of our life: all the good, all the bad, all the hopes, all the fears, everything! In Jesus, God is amongst his people in a way that he never had been before; actually living in physical, human form, and personally becoming one with his people in the most incredible way so that he could experience everything that you and I experience. The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. A simple truth that can transform our lives. God became human so that he could experience what we experience and so he could identify with us in how we live our life, empathise with our struggles and give us the strength and support we need to live well, every day with Him right by our side.

19th August 2021

Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

As children we love the idea of treasure, finding the treasure chest left by pirates. I remember borrowing some of my mum’s jewellery to place in a tin or box, drawing a treasure map and pretending to find it. Treasure is a romantic idea we play with because it means wealth, it means no more worries for the future, no working, no struggling, it offers us security in this world. As we grow older the treasure chest we longed to find is replaced by the treasure of better paid jobs, cars, houses, lottery wins, windfalls, anything to make life easier for us, and to gain it we are often willing to spend on the never, never, putting off the reckoning to the future, sometime. The Bible has a different view on treasure because it sees the affect it has upon us. The Bible knows that what we treasure we hold dear, it is where our heart is, it is the most important thing to us. It is why we have such phrases as put your heart and soul into something, that is the heart of the matter etc. The Bible calls us not to treasure money, wealth and possessions but to treasure people, family, friends and God. In other words, our hearts should be in our relationships. Someone once told me that their partner loved his car so much that when there had been an accident, he was not concerned about her but only about the damage to his precious car. He treasured the car more than the person he was supposed to love. Knowing the value of something and appreciating it is a good thing but placing that above life, above relationships, above God means we can never be fulfilled, never be truly happy and never put our heart and soul into our relationships with family, friends or God. We need to examine our priorities and learn where our treasure really is and then treat those treasures; family, friends and God, with the value, love and respect they deserve. 

18th August 2021

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of Mary, born under the law.

A great deal of nonsense has attached itself to the figure of Mary over the centuries. She sums up the ambivalence of a Church which took 600 years, to declare officially that women had souls, and at least 600 years to begin to take seriously the theology of Jesus being both fully human and fully God, the incarnation, God with us in human form. Mary, his mother, is an ordinary human being like the rest of us, her humanity is not a matter of shame, to try and be explained away by male dominated theology. The very point of Mary is that she is indeed human; for if Mary wasn’t human then neither was Jesus, and if Jesus was not born human then we are not saved. Mary’s existence as a human physical woman has been problematic. Mary’s virginity, her motherhood and just being a woman, have been used down the centuries to limit options for all women. Even today in the 21<sup>st</sup> century there’s still a bias response against women in many fields of life. We still live in a world where senior politicians can openly be little women in parliament, in the press and get away with it. We still live in a culture which thinks it can tell women (and men too, for that matter) what to eat, how to look, how to behave. Mary is and has the vision of a better world where the hungry are fed and the powerless enabled, where wealth and influence are equally distributed, where women have parity and equity and nobody is made more perfectly in the image of God than anyone else, whoever they are. Mary has been treated poorly and ignorantly throughout history and yet she is central to the Christian story and a wonderful example to us. Mary said yes to God and miracles happened. If we say yes to God then God will use us, ordinary human beings like Mary, and miracles will happen.

17th August 2021

Luke 1:52 God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.

At my primary school, we had weekly hymn practice with music teacher Mrs. Brookes. She had a profound impact on me and my love of music. Her favourite hymn, because of her Welsh background, was Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah (Not Redeemer but Jehovah!) which we sang week after week, always followed by: When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old. This hymn goes on to describe some of the clichés of chivalry. Knights are gallant and bold and they kill dragons. As a person who defines as being Welsh, I’ve always rather enjoyed the fact that the book of Revelation contains dragons, and red dragons at that. In our very science based and factual modern society we can no longer afford to believe in romantic visions of the past, but there is still a role for faith in the constant earthly battle between good and evil. Mary, the mother of Jesus, helps us to root that battle, and our faith, firmly in the real world instead of a world of fantasy. Her song or hymn, the Magnificat, is a rallying cry for the transformation of the world. This young woman, whose whole place in society is marginal because of her gender and an unexpected pregnancy, sings with absolute confidence of a God who confounds expectation. Mary names the dragons of her own day, and of ours: poverty, power imbalance, injustice, hunger, pride and speaks of God’s utter commitment to their destruction. Mary’s song is not a wistful ‘if only the Kingdom were like this’; it is a profound and radical call to put our faith into action, to challenge and change and to build the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

16th August 2021

Philippians 3: 20 But we are citizens heaven through our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you ever think about Heaven? Is it a word you band about as you say heaven’s above or for heaven’s sake? Jesus calls heaven “my Father’s house”, a place we identify where God dwells and yet we know God is everywhere, He is omnipresent, but heaven is that place where His glory dwells. In the Bible we are sometimes given a glimpse into heaven where God is worshipped day and night by the heavenly hosts and the saints who have passed from this world into glory. Jesus refers to this place as “my Father’s house”. This is what Stephen sees as he is stoned in Acts 7, Jesus waiting to welcome him home to His father’s house, Heaven. When talking about heaven people are accustomed to speaking of paradise, pearly gates, streets of gold, and mansions on hills. We speak of no more sin, sickness, or death, and it is true that we long for these things, but it is being with Father God that is the most precious part of Heavenly life. He is what makes heaven, heaven. He is what makes paradise, paradise. The promise of Heaven is for all of us if we chose to take it. The promise of eternal life with Father God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit forever. This is such a comfort for us, such an encouragement and blessing because what we actually deserve is to be cast from the presence of God into utter darkness and eternal hell; but God made a place for us in heaven through Jesus’ resurrection to new life. So, we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation belonging to God because of Jesus who made for us an eternal place in Heaven.

15th August 2021

John 14:2 My Father’s house has many rooms; I am going there to prepare a place for you.

Picture Jesus in the upper room with his disciples. He had been with them for over three years. He taught them many things. He performed miracles before their eyes. They believed that he was the Christ, the Saviour of the world, and they expected him to remain with them forever. But now he is talking about going away. The disciples were troubled at these words. They were bothered at the thought of their Master going away. After all, they expected him to remain forever! They thought to themselves, why does he need to leave? Where does he plan to go? Will we see him again? And how will we possibly get along in this world without him? Jesus brings comfort to his disciples. That is what John chapter 14 is all about. Jesus is comforting his disciples concerning his departure, but he also comforts you and I who live now in this difficult unprecedented time. Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Or “Do not be worried and upset, Believe in God; believe also in me.” We know that he himself was troubled in spirit, and yet, even with the weight of the world upon His shoulders, He gives himself to the task of comforting his disciples and also us. These words are an imperative in the Greek, a command and something that we are to do. When our hearts are anxious, when our hearts are troubled with the cares that come with living in this world, we need to hear the command of our Saviour saying, “let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” There is substance to this command, it is not a platitude but a direction to creator God who made us, cares for us and has our future in His hands.

14th August 2021

John 1: 43 Jesus went to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’

We all like an invitation, to be invited to a party or a big wedding, that special event or celebration, an invitation out for dinner, to the theatre etc. Of course, any invitation we receive needs a response, an RSVP from us, will we choose to go or not? This verse and it it’s context passage from John’s Gospel is one of invitation: the invitation to follow me, the invitation to come and see and the invitation to experience God’s promises. All of these invitations require a response. Will we follow, will we come and see for ourselves, will we allow ourselves to experience God’s promises? We are invited to become a disciple and join the Christian family. This invitation to follow is open to all, all of the time and it requires a response, a choice to follow or not, we have the choice to come and see for ourselves. A choice to cut through all the rubbish, the arguments and the false truths to come and see Jesus, find that Jesus is all we need, and that God will do the rest. God’s promises are for everyone, whoever they are, whatever their background, culture, gender, race or sexuality. God, through Jesus, is available to everyone who wants to follow Him, but we must be willing to both respond to the invitations given to us and offer these invitations to others so they can also respond. 

13th August 2021

John 8:32 You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

One of the things that has bothered me during the Pandemic is those who have decided it is not real or is some conspiracy. Conspiracy theorists have been around forever. Those who would rather believe something because it offers a simpler idea. For many the theories they believe are not really harmful or worrying. But when affects people’s health, when it prevents those in need from taking a vaccine that will save their lives, when it means not using technology that can help and instead end up very ill or unable to communicate it is dangerous. At Jesus time there were conspiracy theorists as well. People who believed Jesus was a political activist, someone who was subverting the true way of the people. Jesus was actually the truth teller, the one who was preaching a simpler life based around God where all the demands of their religion was what was actually leading people astray. The conspiracy then, as also exists today, are those who will do everything to maintain their power and authority by leading people astray, by bending the truth, stretching reality so as to dictate the situation. Truth is important, it is vital, how can we trust anyone if we are being lied to. It is always good to check things out, to not take things at face value. Jesus never stopped people from questioning Him, from challenging, from seeking the truth. Jesus taught us to seek the truth and that the truth will set us free. There is no conspiracy in faith, no conspiracy to fool us or mislead us, only truth and honesty and those bring us true freedom.

12th August 2021

2 Corinthians 9:6 Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 

As a young person I was often told that there were givers and takers in the world. Those who will give and give, even though they are taken for granted and often abused; and those who will take, take everything they can get their hands on and don’t care who they trample on to get it. I expect you have met both kinds. Most of us probably sit somewhere in the middle. As Christians we are called to be givers, to offer to others out of our blessings, to give our time and energy to support people, pray for people, help where we can. We follow the example of Jesus and the disciples, the teachings of the early church and try to be the best of ourselves we can be before God. BUT, we also need to take. Take energy and love, support and help from one another and from God. Jesus took time to be with God, to be refreshed and blessed by Him, so must we. We need to take from the fellowship of Sunday worship and Bible study, from sermons and thoughts, from Books and programmes. We need to take things that bless us, encourage us and help us, these in turn enable us to give out to others because our store is never bare. We never run out of love, compassion, empathy etc because we are taking from God’s endless, unconditional love to enable us to give on out to others. Our form of taking is not selfish, not aggressive, not egotistical or for our own aggrandisement, but instead it is for replenishing, strengthening, enabling and ultimately giving to others. We need to be givers but also takers from the abundance of God’s love and provision for us.

11th August 2021

Matthew 5:37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ be ‘No.’ Anything more comes from the evil one. 

How good are you at communication? Are you one of those who can get your point across easily or do you struggle to show and tell others what you mean. Sometimes we allow our emotions to get the better of us and instead of communicating clearly, we are not able to be clear what we mean. In saying that we do need to own our thoughts and feelings because they are God given. Once we decide to communicate our message, to act, we need to be clear in what we are saying and doing, clear in our message and follow through with what we are trying to say. Clarity in thought and communication is vital. Jesus is quite clear in His message to us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. In other words, we must be completely honest, truthful and clear in our dealings with others. It is so easy to be dragged down or drawn into making compromises to make ourselves look good. To manipulate a situation or information to make sure we come out well or get a promotion, or to keep certain contacts or friends. We often think we will never compromise our beliefs, never let others down, always stand up for those in need until opportunities present themselves and we believe that if we take the opportunity now, even if it means a compromise, a small lie, a grey area, it will be okay, we justify it because we think we can work from the inside and change things. That never happens. Once we compromise, we cannot then re-establish our credentials, once we sell our soul to achieve something, we no longer hold the higher ground and our power to help others is lost. Honesty and integrity are the key to being the best people we can be as Christians in this world. Jesus did not compromise His message for anyone or anything, neither must we.

10th August 2021

Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed the human from the dust of the ground and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living creature. 

I’m only human after all, is a line from the Rag and Bone man song, Human. It is an experience we can all relate to and because we are human, we get hurt, we feel pain, we get our hearts broken, we cry, we experience both love and loss. We experience disappointment and agony. Through all the sad and difficult times in our lives we experience feelings of anger, disappointment, sadness, loss and stages of grief. Each time we hit another low it is compounded by previous experiences of difficulties and loss. Because we are human, and we equate strength with not allowing ourselves to grieve or feel, we also try to escape the stages of grief and pain that we actually need to go through. We want to get back to normal as quickly as possible and as a result we never really recover fully, we just cope and we can only cope for so long before we crumble. All traditions and religions respect the need for us to take time, to not run from difficulty or hurt but to allow it to teach us, to change us, to make us better people. It is not about getting over things but rather learning to live with them, allowing them to become part of us and our lives. No human will ever escape loss, pain, hardship, grief or death but we can share in it, learn from it, live with it and become better people, more empathetic people, more caring people because of it. This is God’s love and grace at work in us, we are human, but we were created human by Father God and He is always with us, supporting, encouraging and strengthening us in our human lives.

9th August 2021

Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 

When our boys were younger, we would often visit family in Dorset and they had some wonderful walks nearby and a small river. Amongst other things we would play pooh sticks on one of the bridges. Pooh Sticks is a game Pooh, Piglet and their friends would play where you drop a stick over one side of the bridge then go to the other to see whose would come through first. The boys and their cousins would love to play and carefully chose sticks for the race, not too long, not too short, no bits sticking out, a slightly pointy end and so on. It is such a simple game and yet brought such delight to small children. Pooh discovers the game by accident, dropping a fir cone in the river and watching it float away. So much in life is quite simple and yet we complicate it. So many people have tried to take this game and add new rules and change how it is played but it is quite simple, a game for friends to play on a hot sunny day Pooh says. We, as humans, are very good at complicating things, at inventing new rules to make ourselves superior, to try and give ourselves an advantage. The same is true in faith and being a Christian. Over the centuries humans have tried to change the rules, expand the ideas, give advantage to some rather than others and yet it is quite clear that faith begins with Jesus. Yes, there are things to be done once we find faith but becoming a Christian is simple, we believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour. No if’s or buts, if we believe Jesus died for us on the cross and rose again defeating death, then we are Christians and no one can take that from us or complicate it. God never intended for life or faith to be complicated, He made it simple for us, it is us who have complicated faith and in doing so have often made it unattractive to others.

8th August 2021

Psalm 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand will save me. 

Unable to take our usual holiday this year, we as many, opted for the seaside on the south coast. Pebbly beach, good waves, lovely view but an incredibly windy few days that we were there. I was determined to go into the sea, I put on my wetsuit and trainers for the water and dutifully tried to get into the water. I would get into about the tops of my legs and then was knocked over by the wind and waves, getting up was really difficult and in the end, I found myself sitting in the surf, being pounded by the waves. The situation was just too difficult to overcome so I decided to go with it, to sit and allow the waves to crash over me, to push me up the beach, I would straighten myself after each wave and move back down before the next wave came. It was hard work; it was a little battering at times and when I removed my wetsuit, I had a lot of small stones and grit stuck to my body as well as a few bruises. As I sat there in the water it struck me that this is what life is like. We step into each day with our protection on and sometimes we don’t get far before we are battered to the ground, we might keep trying and are constantly pushed back. We can keep pushing and sometimes in God’s strength we may well break through, but we also can lean into it. Accept the situation and see how best to remain safely within it. We can sit in or lean into each wave that comes, it will knock us, it will deposit stones and grit into our lives but it will also wash over us and we can we straighten ourselves and prepare for the next wave. It is good to know that not every day is like this, eventually the wind slowed and the waves became smaller and it was easy to navigate into the sea, but sometimes we will have days, even longer periods when things will seem rough and hard and almost insurmountable, we can keep fighting and maybe make it through, or we can lean into the situation, protected by God’s care and enabled by God’s strength and we will be able to make it through the difficulties, maybe with a few bumps and bruises to show for it, but we will be okay and we will be better people because of it.

7th August 2021

Isaiah 43:1b Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 

How important is your name? Does it have a special meaning, is it a family name, is it unique… whatever it is, it is your name, you are identified by that name. As Mary Magdalene went to the garden on that first Easter morning, she cried, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Mary didn’t recognise the risen Jesus at first. She thought he was the gardener, the tears in her eyes, the lack of sleep and she was not expecting to see Jesus. Jesus was transformed that morning. God had taken death and transformed it into life, into hope. Jesus speaks to Mary and simply says, “Mary.” Jesus calls Mary Magdalene by name. “Mary.” And it is only in hearing her name spoken that Mary is able to conceive the possibility of resurrection. It is only in hearing her name called that Mary is able to understand that here in the garden, Jesus is alive. This transformation of both Jesus and Mary is a transformation we too can experience. That hearing our name called by Jesus, by God changes our lives. It is personal, God knows us by name, we are His and He knows us. Jesus’ resurrection teaches us to believe in things that seem impossible. It tells us that what we see is not all that there is. It holds before us the hope of new life, abundant life, spring life; whereas before all we could see was winter, fear, and death. Most especially, and most importantly, the transformation of Jesus resurrection encourages us, compels us, to roll the stone away and step out of the tombs of our lives, as our name is spoken, so that we can embrace new possibilities. So that we can be filled with hope. So that we can live the resurrection life of change. We can step, run, or even leap, out of the tombs of our lives, and we can live: freely, fully, abundantly. That’s God’s hope for us. That’s God’s dream for us. That’s God’s promise for us. Jesus was raised, so that we, too, will be raised. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” May we, with Mary, with the disciples, also see the Lord alive and live the life of resurrection ourselves, today, tomorrow, and always.

6th August 2021

Zechariah 9:9 This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

A clergy colleague I know got a phone call from a parishioner asking what time Holy Commotion was on Sunday. Commotion, not usually unless we go back to Palm Sunday. Now imagine you’re one of the disciples, and Jesus tells you to go ahead into the village to fetch a donkey and her colt and bring them back to him. What would go through your mind? Why me? Why this? But he sends the disciples on this mission, and he gives them a backup plan in case anyone starts to question. God always give us more than we need. Everything seems very arbitrary and chaotic, giving up a donkey is giving up an essential part of your working life, your economic security; but even a donkey gets to be used by God. God uses everyone and everything. Yet even as things can seem so arbitrary and chaotic, God is doing something through these characters. God is also doing something amazing through each one of us, despite the fact that we’re afraid, that we have a pretty mundane existence and don’t think we have much to offer, even when we feel that following Jesus might cost us too much. God is still calling us to serve, to be used by him. This verse is really the centre-piece of the text here. There’s a comforting word of hope: Jesus is the king of their prophecies, but He is not on a mighty steed with a sword but is gentle and on a donkey. The disciples go where Jesus directed them and did as they were commanded, they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and He sat on them. There is a celebration of this gentle king’s arrival. They shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” the one who will save Israel. He has authority over heaven and earth. The crowd doesn’t quite get it, but we do. When we see this man, we see who God truly is, the gentle King, the One who loved us so much that He laid down His own life for us. Jesus not only shows us what true royalty looks like, and what true power is, but reveals God the Father to be this way.  

5th August 2021

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 

Some years ago I heard the then Bishop of Southwark talking to Children. He explained the shape of his Mitre as a symbolic flame of the Spirit placed upon his head when He was made Bishop. Then he also referred to it as a type of Spirit sorting hat, as in Harry Potter, where the Spirit blesses the person with the gifts they need for the life they are living. These gifts are given within our personalities, our talents. Yes, when necessary, any gift can be given to any person at any time, but we tend to have gifts that are innate to us. We need to cherish and celebrate these gifts in others as well as ourselves. We need to accept our gifts and not long for the gifts of others and use all of them for the common good. We become God bearers as we bring God to everyone we meet. The challenge is for us to always act and speak as bearers of God but we cannot do it all, so God, in His wisdom, has given millions of us to help one another, to cover the gaps we leave. We are much better God bearers when we do it together as God’s family, God’s church. I have witnessed miraculous healing, but I also witness the gift of healing in every nurse, doctor and carer every day. I have witnessed incredible discernment and see it every day in people who just know what to say or do at the right time. I see wisdom, faith, prophecy, understanding, service, care, creativity, strength, gentleness, compassion…….. being shown every day around us, by us, by others. I am so grateful for the encouragers, for the listeners, for the fixers, the cooks and cleaners, the prayer warriors, the sowers and the reapers, the carers, the wise, the knowledgeable, the poets and writers, the artists, the teachers and preachers. There are so many wonderful gifts and we need to cultivate them in our lives so we can work together as the body of Christ and make things better for everyone. We all need to be willing to let the powerful, exuberant, wild, energetic Holy Spirit into our lives. To not be fearful but faithful as we open ourselves to a different Spirit than just the one we like. We need to be willing, to be faithful in allowing God to work in whatever way He chooses and be the conduit for that as we let the Holy Spirit gift us in whatever way is necessary. 

4th August 2021

John 2:11a. This, the first of his signs, turning water into wine, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee. 

How do we expect Jesus or God to act for us? There’s a problem we want to be fixed so we tell Jesus and expect Him to sort it out so the party or life can continue just as before. But is that it? Is all we want just more of the same? Just fix this problem Jesus and let me go on with the same old life like before? Sometimes all we want is Jesus to show up, wave the divine wand, and make it all better. But that’s not who Jesus is and that’s not what the gospel or Christianity are about. Jesus turning water into wine is about new life, and transformation. There is a wedding, two people coming together to create and live a new life, to grow and change together in a future of possibilities. Running out of wine is not a problem to be fixed, but the beginning of something new. A calling and invitation into a new and deeper life. Nobody likes to run out of wine or out of anything, but sometimes it’s necessary for our progress, wisdom and change, and that can be difficult and painful. In life if we run out wine, literally or metaphorically, life is empty, colourless, tasteless. Nothing seems to be happening, or maybe we still have some wine but it’s turned sour. What parts of our life are dry and empty today? In what ways has life become sour or colourless and tasteless? I’m not actually talking about actual wine. I am talking about the wine of faith, hope and love, the wine of integrity, honesty and justice, the wine of peace, joy, forgiveness and mercy, the wine of friendship, relationships and family, the wine of generosity, patience and belief, the wine of truth, strength and self-respect, the wine of prayer, social action and welcome for all. When the wine gives out and life is dying on the vine, we no longer feel empowered. Every prayer we make is telling Jesus about where the wine has run out. We tell Him the situation and leaves it to Him to deal with giving us new possibilities, the way to a new life, a way of hope. When we pray, we are offering to God the need, the rest is up to Him.

3rd August 2021

Nehemiah 8:3 Ezra read the word of God aloud from daybreak until noon in the presence of the people. 

From Friday 1 September 1939, the BBC changed its religious programming to meet the wartime needs of our people. C.S. Lewis, began to present broadcasts that would take the word of God and apply it to the circumstances of the nation. These talks would become the basis of C.S. Lewis’s classic, Mere Christianity, well worth a read. The impact of these talks was widespread: At a time of crisis, a nation was captivated by the reading of God’s Word and the explanation of what God’s Word meant for their lives. The story of Nehemiah speaks of a similar moment in Israel’s history. The people had been exiled because of their selfishness but by the grace of God the people returned to their land, and began to rebuild; part of this was a new listening to God’s word. Christians are known as the people of the book, but we not only need to read the Bible but hear it and act upon it. The people came together to hear God’s word read aloud. God spoke to His people, revealed who He was, and how to live, they rediscovered the gift of God’s Word. At this crucial moment in Israel’s history, the nation was transformed by hearing God’s Word. It is the same for us now. We could see our nation transformed, if we hear God’s Word and act upon it. At moments like this in our nation’s history, when there is great uncertainty, where there is fear, when people are looking for answers and there are many competing voices, we must listen and hear what God has to say. As individuals, as a church, as members of our nation we can make a difference. We need to do more than just read and hear the Word of God; we need to understand God’s Word, it’s relevance for today and then respond, Recognise the wrong that has been done, be sorry for the mess we have created and turn to God to help us. As we gather together as Christians and we hear God’s Word to us, we need to respond with prayer, with change, with a willingness to do whatever is needed to help make this nation be what God intended. That change starts with us.

2nd August 2021

Isaiah 43:2 As you pass through the deep waters, I will be with you, and they shall not overwhelm you. 

A White House official died unexpectedly in 1917, another person seeking uplift hurried to the White House to tell President Woodrow Wilson that he would like to "take the deceased's place." The President answered, "If it's all right with the undertaker, it's all right with me." No one can take the place of someone else in their death. And we don't have to. Jesus did it once and for all, for all of us. But no one can take the place of someone else in their life either. And when we experience a loss in our lives and have to go on living ourselves, we experience every emotion we know in that grief: anger, love, fear, hope, insecurity, abandonment — you name it, and we all have our losses. They come in many different forms. They come as separation, children leaving home, moving, conflict, job change, retirement, ageing, disappointment. And these are all experiences in which we feel real grief, and all our strong emotions rise up in us and flow over us like the deep waters that Isaiah talks about going through. And we wonder: If we start to cry, will we ever stop? Or will the flood tide take us with it. We hold back and hide our grief because we imagine that once we begin to really feel it, we won't be able to bear it. Many people hide their grief for years, and it gnaws away at them from the inside. Then comes the torrent: 2 months later, 5 years later, 20 years later. But eventually our grief catches up with us, and we know that it did happen, and there was nothing we could do about it. When Jesus comes to find his friend, Lazarus is dead Jesus looked at those people He loved and saw their suffering, He felt all the same things you and I feel when someone we love dies. And He wept. The people said: "See how He loved him." But others said: "If He loved him so much, why didn't He save him from this death?" And that's the question we all ask in that situation: If God loves us, why did He let this happen? Why didn't He get here sooner? And why wasn't our love enough to save this person? Do we really think the Lord doesn’t know all of that? Not a sparrow falls without the Lord knowing it. He knows the number of all our days, and He is there. That doesn't mean things don't go wrong or that there will not be evil that effects our lives and deaths but He has also assured us that before it even happens, He has already overcome all of it and is able to bring good out of all of it for those who love Him. He is there before and during and after. We have to go through these deep waters and let go of the bad grief before we can enter into the good grief. After the pain and guilt and anger, then there is an awakening, a morning when you remember the good memories that bless and finally no longer burn. It is not that we have got over it but that we have learned to live with it, to accommodate it in our lives. This loss, whatever it is, should teach us to appreciate far more what we have for we never know when life may change for any of us.

1st August 2021

John 20:19 The Disciples were together; the door was locked and Jesus came among them.

We all have those days when we prefer to just stay in bed, pull the covers over our head, and close out the world. Some days it seems easier and safer to lock the doors of our house and avoid the circumstances and people of our lives. Sometimes we just want to run away, hide, and not deal with the reality of our lives. For some of 202 and 2021 we have had to do just that through Government imposed lockdown. But every time we shut the doors of our life, our mind, or our heart we imprison ourselves. For every person, event, or idea we lock out, regardless of the reason, we lock ourselves in. That’s what happened to the disciples after Jesus Crucifixion. The disciples are gathered in the house, the doors are locked with fear. They are in lockdown. A week later they are in the same place. It is the same house, the same walls, the same closed doors, the same locks. Nothing much has changed. Jesus’ tomb is open and empty but the disciples’ house is closed and the doors locked tight. The house has become their tomb. Jesus is on the loose and the disciples are bound in fear. The disciples have separated themselves and their lives from the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Their doors of faith have been closed. They have shut their eyes to the reality that life is now different. All this, and it has been only one week. what about us? Where are we living? In the freedom and joy of resurrection or behind locked doors. The locked places of our lives are always more about what is going on inside of us than around us. What are the closed places of your life? What keeps you in the tomb? Maybe, like the disciples, it is fear. Maybe it is questions, disbelief, or the conditions we place on our faith. Perhaps it is sorrow and loss. Maybe the wounds are so deep it does not seem worth the risk to step outside. For others it may be anger and resentment. Some seem unable or unwilling to open up to new ideas, possibilities, and change. Jesus is always ready to enter the locked places of our lives. Standing among us he offers peace and breathes new life into us. He doesn’t open the door for us but he gives us all we need so that we might open our doors to a new life, a new creation, a new way of being. This is happening all the time. Christ stands among his people saying, “Peace be with you,” breathing life into what looks lifeless making a resurrection difference in whatever circumstances we are in.

31st July 2021

Matthew 22:1 The kingdom of Heaven is like a King who prepared a wedding banquet for His child. 

When were you last invited to a big event? Wedding, 21st, 18th, Silver Wedding, Golden Wedding, Baptism, Christmas or New Year party? It’s a big thing, it matters to people, it matters that you are invited, someone invited you¼ but sometimes we are so busy that we may have to apologise. That can be really sad for them and you. I remember being devastated because the person mainly responsible for me being a priest today couldn’t be at my wedding. If you read novels set in the 17th and 18th century a big party at the manor was something everyone went to and it was the talk of the village or estate and there was a dress code, everyone dressed up and came together to celebrate. Heaven, through Jesus, invites us to a very special party. Eternal life in peace and joy. Question is do we chose not to go, do we forget, do we make excuses, are we too busy, do we want to go and if we do, do we follow the dress code? The Pharisees, religious leaders of the time, were challenged as to their behaviour as they chose not to follow the Covenant God had made with them. They knew all the promises of God but chose to turn away from Him. A useful aide-mémoire for us about What God does is the hymn Praise my Soul, which says that through Jesus we are Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven and this leads to the ultimate wedding banquet, the party we are invited to in Heaven. So, we are all invited, do we go? Do we make excuses? Too busy, not gifted, poor, needy, unwell, tired, too old, too young, family to care for, job to do, don’t like this way, that way, the church doesn’t need me, I’m not sure a party is a good idea, God didn’t mean it that way, etc, etc. With God there are no bystanders, the character of God affects all of us, everyone, one way or another. There is a dress code, but it isn’t anything other than clean clothes. Only clean clothes are necessary at Heaven’s party, clothes made clean through Jesus’ death on the cross. But we have to make that choice and decide to follow the dress code. It is our choice whether we accept the invite and whether we follow the dress code. I hope and pray that you do.

30th July 2021

Matthew 18:21 Peter asked Jesus “How many times must I forgive those who sin against me? Up to 7 times?” 

Not being able to forgive is a stumbling block and we pay a terrible price for it. It creates baggage in our lives which holds us back and can cause us to stumble, and yet, we do it all the time. We carry unforgiveness around with us and it tinges everything we think, say or do. More than that, it keeps us from becoming who God wants us to be. Life is just better when there’s less baggage. That’s why we need forgiveness in our lives. When we forgive we are not justifying another person’s actions, we are not saying that what they did was OK. We are simply letting go of the baggage that is holding us back. Forgiveness is not waiting on the passage of time. Time does not heal hurtful wounds, in fact over time people who haven’t forgiven become hardened and distant. Forgiveness is not denying you’re hurt because we are and if we don’t deal with it causes infection and pain. Forgiveness is about accepting we are hurt and dealing with it in a Godly way. Just because we forgive someone doesn’t mean we have to trust them. Forgiveness is a choice we make. Trust is something a person earns through wise choices and actions. Perhaps the most difficult thing Jesus calls us to do is to forgive and yet it is absolutely essential for our lives and our well being. Sometimes what has happened is just too horrific and forgiveness seems impossible, at that point we ask God to give us the grace to forgive, in time, when we are ready and to let Him do what is needed within us to offer grace to those who have so deeply hurt us. We never have to face forgiveness alone but we do need to deal with it in some way for our health and well-being, so that another life is not damaged unnecessarily.

29th July 2021

Matthew 18:15 If you brother or sister sins against you, go and show them the issue between the two of you. 

They estimate that in today’s society one out of every five people has an anger management problem. Anger related violence is the reason stated for 22% of divorces. Road rage seems to be increasing exponentially. How do we handle Conflict? Disagreement? Anger? Hurt? Human beings are not very good at dealing with these things. “They’re not my friend any more” “They said this” “They did that” It happens through school, and we carry on as adults and keep doing it. Sadly, If you do something that really annoys me and I throw a custard pie at you everyone else will find that far more funny than if we sit down reasonably, sort our problem out, and become best of friends again. Stories about how people handle things badly are treated as much funnier and appear all over social media and YouTube than stories about people handling relationships well, but the reality is that conflict is corrosive. Conflict causes damage and Some damage cannot be repaired. In churches we like to finger wag, to turn away those who do not agree with us and we are not good at conflict. We need to change our perspective, our prism and realise that actually things may need to change, just move the prism slightly and the colours are different. The problem is that far too often we read the bible with a pair of scissors or the loose-leaf edition. We cut out the bits we want to keep and throw the rest away. We read things out of context. Jesu tells us we should never set a limit on our forgiveness, God doesn’t, neither must we. The point isn’t about finger wagging and telling people off it’s about restoring relationships. The thing we most commonly do, but is the worst possible thing we can do when someone has upset us; is we go and tell EVERYONE else about it. We talk to the entire community, bar the one person we should talk to. Everyone hears about the terrible thing so and so did, or at least about the terrible feud that lies between me and so and so. It is all just made worse. So, we are clearly told, don’t go and talk to everyone else. Just go privately and talk to that one person. After all it may be a misunderstanding. Or they may have perfectly good reasons for what they did, which if you heard would make perfect sense. Or they may have not understood how much it would hurt you. They may just say sorry. Jesus’s language is all about reconciliation. We are all flawed. We may need to change our view, to move the prism so that we see differently, we may need to change our perspective, to compromise BUT the purpose is always forgiveness and reconciliation. It is about building bridges and not walls, loving neighbour as self, living honourably, not quarrelling or being jealous but being like Jesus. It is not easy but we need to try our best, in God’s strength.

28th July 2021

Nehemiah 3:10 The Joy of the Lord is your strength. 

You may have the heard the idea that the internet was invented for cat videos. I do find myself enjoying the things cats get up to, just as I enjoy the things my own cat does. These cute, sweet and mad things cats do somehow make us feel better, make us smile and laugh, get the chemicals in our bodies, that make us feel good, working. It is actually true that the more we smile and laugh the more we want to smile and laugh. As the dopamine is released in smiling and laughing, we feel better and want to laugh and smile more. There is real values in taking pleasure in the simple things we have like smiling and laughing with loved ones, over little things; who doesn’t smile at new babies, kittens, puppies, at children having fun, at other people enjoying themselves. We can be so caught up in life that we no longer see and appreciate the simple things in life that make us smile and laugh. As we grow up and older, we easily lose our awe and love of life, we take for granted the fun things, we smile and laugh less as we are caught up in the pressures of life, work, family etc. God’s intention has always been for us to have joy in our lives. He has always wanted us to know happiness and joy, laughter and fun. It may be that we need to learn to smile more, laugh more, to look again with wonder and awe at the world around us. We might need to watch a few cat videos or see a few new babies or children playing; get out the old photos, remind ourselves of the treasured memories, allow ourselves to laugh and smile more and because we do, we will find ourselves smiling and laughing more and find strength in the joy of the Lord.

27th July 2021

Romans 7:15 What I want to do I don’t do and what I don’t want to do, I do. 

I recently heard an interview with a top, now retired, sports person. They spoke about the selfish streak needed to be a top sports person these days and how it conflicted with their own desire to be a kind supportive person in daily life. Our Christian teaching encourages us to be a kind people, to be supportive and helpful to others and yet we all have a selfish streak. The part of us that doesn’t want to share, that wants to keep what we have earned for ourselves, that wants a better life with a nicer home, better holidays, more meals out etc. This creates a tension and means we are constantly performing a balancing act in daily life. St Paul understands this with his comment on doing what I don’t want to do and not doing what I want to do. Even for St Paul it was a struggle to be the person he should be in Jesus. This balancing act we live is how to be the kind, loving, supportive person we are called to be whilst also taking care of ourself. If we look at Jesus, He regularly took time for Himself, time to pray, to be with God, to rejuvenate. This is not selfishness but self-care. If we keep giving then eventually the well will run dry and there will be no more for us to give and we will be dry and lost and damaged. Therefore, we must keep replenishing the well of our soul, keep ourselves well cared for, making sure we leave time for ourselves and God.

26th July 2021

Acts 2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 

We all hear things incorrectly sometimes, the first time I heard the hymn There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, I thought it was There’s a wildness in God’s mercy. I discovered my mistake but sometimes I am not so sure that I was wrong. Wildness is extravagant, exuberant, abundant, challenging and sometimes uncontrollable. God’s mercy is all those things but this wildness, extravagance, exuberance, abundance, challenging and sometimes seemingly uncontrollable is very much the style of the Holy Spirit. I am a big fan of CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and the character of Aslan. Descriptions of this Lion who represents God, talk of Him being both frightening and beautiful. A being who can eradicate life with one swipe but who also gently picks up the needy and holds them protectively. The depth of power is frightening, the wielding of that power can also be gentle and fair. We are rightly fearful of the unknown and of power wielded incorrectly and perhaps that prevents us from understanding and accepting the Holy Spirit of the New Testament. In the early church the coming of the Spirit was tied into the Jewish festival of Shavuot, 50 days after Passover, Pentecost is Greek for 50 and is 50 days after Easter, its colour is Red, picking up the tongues of fire, and celebrates the outpouring of the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. It was and still is the birth of the church on earth without the presence of physical Jesus, humans become the active body of Christ on earth through the Holy Spirit. The outpouring is powerful, it is unpredictable, insuppressible, formidable and fairly messy. Incredible things happen and that might have been okay for the early church we think, but it’s a bit too wild for us now. We tend to like the comforter, counsellor parts of the Spirit and not the wind or the flames. We like the quiet, slow and subtle working of the Spirit……we want to see things change, people come and churches grow but we want it “our way”. Trouble is the Holy Spirit can be loud, bold, raucous, obvious and signs and wonders can and do happen. The Spirit can be both a thunderstorm and a gentle breeze. There is both a terrifying power and gentle peace and nurture. This powerful Spirit is available and bearable because of God’s love.

25th July 2021

Luke 1:29 She asked herself what this greeting could mean. 

Mary heard from the angel those powerful words: “The Lord is with you” and “asked herself what this greeting could mean” Mary is a woman of contemplation, of deep thought. After the visitors came to see Jesus, Mary treasured all the things and pondered them in her heart. When Joseph and Mary took the baby to the temple, Mary wondered about what Simeon and Anna said about Jesus. When the 12-year-old boy Jesus was found in the Temple Mary stored up all these things in her heart. Mary is constantly portrayed as wondering and pondering in her heart. We call this contemplation which is a prayer of the heart. In contemplation there is a movement from the head; the thinking unit, to the heart; the feeling centre. Contemporary neurobiology suggests that besides the brain and the spine, there are at least two spots where there is a concentration network of neurons: near the heart and closer to the large intestines. Therefore, it is not by chance that we identify the heart and the gut as centres of a deeper form of knowing. This knowing is at an affective level, it is intuitive, it is awareness, and it is transformative. The Bible tells us this about the heart and the gut long before neurobiology said it was fact. We are invited, as Christians, to imitate Mary in her attitude of listening to the movement of God by pondering in our hearts the situations of life. Contemplation will allow us to move nearer to God and His wonder, it will allow us to move closer towards ourselves and humility and it will allow us to move towards others in compassion. That in turn will bring others to God. This is the core of our Christian life: God, others and self. 

24th July 2021

Isaiah 40:29 God gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 

In the summer months we often put up a gazebo in the garden to provide shade as we spend more time out there. Currently we are experiencing quick flash storms with heavy rain. As I went outside, I noticed that the gazebo had collapsed on one side, the heavy rain had pooled in an area and the weight became just too much for the frame joints underneath and the fixing bolts sheered. Only 2 of them broke but it was enough for one side of the frame to cave in as a result. Sometimes things just can’t cope with heavy and quick pressure, sometimes the joints in some places are a little weak and need tightening, sometimes it is the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back and we cave in under the pressure. Life has its ups and downs; it has its pressures and we can never know what is round the corner for any of us. Now, to fix the gazebo we needed a couple of longish bolts and nuts, the right size, which fed through the holes and tightened up. Suddenly it was all back up and happy, supported, the right shape, providing the shade we need. We were able to fix it quickly and effectively with what we had in our house tool kit. As humans literal nuts and bolts are not what we need, but the nuts and bolts of our faith is what we need. Part of our Christian tool kit for coping with life. A simple and basic knowledge of what God has done, is doing and will do for us each and every day. A belief that He desires the best for us in all circumstances and a knowledge that God will never let us down or leave us to face anything alone. For the times when the pressure is raised, if we constantly make sure that our basics are kept tight and strong then in times of pressure, we will be able to stand straight and tall in God’s strength.

23rd July 2021

Acts 12:1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.

Stories from the early church show that early Christians were heavily persecuted. Peter was put in prison by Herod who was murdering and imprisoning people linked with the Church because it would please his citizens. Herod put extra guards on Peter because he wanted to make a display of Peter’s captivity to demonstrate his power. Herod desired the praise of others, he liked being flattered and wielding power. He liked to show off and his guidance was self-interest. This attitude is one that has persisted in kings, governments, dictatorships, across the ages. But alongside there has also been those who witness truth to expose it. We know that respect, honesty, and truth will produce a better outcome for everyone than pleasing the popular vote and yet we so often strive to please others, forgo our high standards so as to gain their support. Peter, on this occasion, is freed from captivity by an Angel. He had been commissioned by Jesus to care for His people, to build His church, to hold the Keys of the Kingdom. As Peter does strive to do as Jesus has called him, he incurs Herod’s wrath, as do many other disciples and followers; yet the early church grows quickly despite the persecution. They make a stand for their Lord and things happen. We don’t see that type of persecution in the UK, but across the world many do. People are still imprisoned, brutally punished, even killed for believing in Jesus. Yet even where persecution is virtually non-existent, we would still rather seek the approval of colleagues, neighbours and friends than do what is right and stand up for our faith. Being a Christian is not a popularity contest, people will comment, say unpleasant things, even be rude and aggressive, but God calls us to make a stand for what is right not what is popular. 

22nd July 2021

James 3:9 With our tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. (Part 2)

Imago Dei is the belief that we are all made in God’s image, the image of the creator God, and therefore all life is valuable and is not something you can destroy on a whim, and yet we still see genocide, terrorism, exploitation in our modern world. We praise God with the same tongue that we use to vilify other people. The image of God is broken in us as Human Beings, we reflect God, we represent God, and we reflect and represent humans back to God. We were created to reflect God’s Goodness, His glory, His character, to represent Him to the world and we have a duty to do that accurately. If we reflect God’s glory to the world then we fill the world with it. It is a relational creative, we are relational creatures made to reflect the original. It makes us spiritual people, reflecting the light that comes from God. We have God’s glory in us and we reflect it outwards. We cannot create our own glory or light, our sense of worth comes from outside, from the face of God, the face of love; we have this image of God in us and we either bring life by reflecting it or death by not. If we know our worth and value then we serve the other not ourselves, if God is the source of our glory, then we will serve the other, If our value is our job, our education then we work too hard, we overdo it, we overthink, we protect it no matter what, it becomes so important that it becomes more than God to us and therefore the image of God is broken in us. We trample on it and we trample on others. Jesus is the perfect image of God, so He is the example of how we should live as Christians, transformed into His likeness, attracted to the heart of God, to the centre of our image. We have to allow Jesus to transform us and if we do not believe or accept who we are in God then we can never be transformed. God fixes us as we gaze on Jesus, and we stop trampling on others. Jesus was poor, tortured, falsely accused, beaten, trampled on and yet He is the only perfect image of God, and He saves us, He loves us so much. As Christ is perfect, His representation of God is perfect and in that He turns us back to God, to the image of God, and if we are back being the image of God, we will treat others better.

21st July 2021

Wisdom of Solomon 2:23 God made man to be the image of His own eternity. (Part one)

Every human bears the image of God, when we get hurt or damaged, when we ridicule another person or they us, we are doing that to God. We all belong to the one race, the Human race. Within that we might belong to a culture or a country or a religion, but we are all human and all humans deserve respect and tolerance. God can see humans and they can see God, a bit like an angled mirror, we reflect God on earth to each other and we reflect the world to God. How we treat the world and others has to be affected by this, as I look at you and you look at me we see God in each other, it is why we exist and therefore we need to value all people and creation. Every human reflects God no matter what their past is. We are valuable, we are treasured and sometimes we need reassurance we have dignity, we have value, we have worth, we have rights and that’s no joke. Each one of us is valuable to God. The Bible tells us that the way treat people who come across our path, who we interact with is so important, we must treat everyone with dignity, with worth. We cannot trample on other people’s rights, human rights come from the Bible, from God, and we are accountable for our treatment of others. God says, in Genesis, that humans are made in our image and Martin Luther King Jr was quite clear because we are made in the image of God, that means we all have human rights. The secular society loses the value of human rights because it does not see humans as made in God’s image. It is being made in God’s image that gives us a value. If we do not accept that then the reason, the morals, the capacity disappears. Are we worthy of protection, are new born babies worthy of protection, are the senile, the elderly, those with mental illnesses worthy of protection? Suddenly they lose their value, their rights and that is how we ended up with slavery and poverty, we left the sick and poor to die because we saw them as worthless, and that is happening again today around us. That is not right, we must treat people with reverence, with sacredness, with grace, with gentleness and respect; just as God treats us.

20th July 2021

Matthew 17:2 He was transfigured, His face shone like the sun and His clothes as white as the light.

The story of the Transfiguration is a strange one, it looks both forward and backwards, it is a 360 degree story that reaches into everything. The presence of Moses and Elijah reminds us that Jesus came from the Jewish faith. It says clearly to Jesus followers that the God of the Old Testament is o longer veiled and distant, and that we God’s people, no longer need to approach God in fear or with our guard up. We can come to God just as we are. The story is also about power and radiance, about Jesus being the Light of the World, who is now literally illuminated in front of them. It brings to life in a very physical sense His statement that He was a light to the Gentiles and to the people of Israel. To you and I, to everyone. He is changed and we are changed by God, by Jesus and so are able to shine His light into the dark corners of the world. We are the light of Christ, here and now. Jesus is physically and spiritually illuminated and transformed, so that He with power and authority can enter the chaos of this world. The very first thing He does after this power and authority is shown is to heal a boy who is demon possessed, who has been overwhelmed by the chaos of this world. Jesus uses His power and authority to change things, to do good, to heal. If we are going to follow in that path of Christ, we need to allow ourselves to be transformed and then we need to get out into the chaos and disorder of the world and work for God’s healing. Work to do good, to change things. Our efforts don’t necessarily need to be dramatic, but we must try on a daily basis to make a difference. Jesus’ faith allowed Him to see the world and its people as God sees them. Our faith allows us to see the world and its people the way God sees them. To achieve this, we need to ask God to transform us from within, to illuminate and transfigure us so that we can point people to a better future. As we increase in holiness, we become the sort of people who can bring real and lasting healing. We don’t need to become superheroes, just ordinary transfigured Christians

19th July 2021

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; we are God’s field, God’s building.

None of us ever really knows the impact that we make on the world, we may never see all the people whose lives are different because of us. But just as an encouragement, there are stories that we sometimes learn that make us realise the difference we can make. If we go back about 65 years something happened in history that changed the world. A small black boy went to work with his desperately poor and neglected mother to a Johannesburg hospital where she worked as a cleaner. She was very much a lower grade of citizen and treated badly. The boy was quite sensitive and very saddened by the way his mother was treated and was angry at a system that was so prejudiced and full of injustice that treated his mother in such an appalling way. That day a tall man in clerical clothes came into the hospital, approached his mother, smiled, greeted her and asked her how she was. He took off his hat and gently bowed toward her in respect. This man was Trevor Huddleston, a white English priest who had gone to work in South Africa because he was appalled at the injustice of Apartheid. The young boy had never seen a white man before, let alone any man who smiled and spoke to his mother with respect and care. In this moment the boy decided that he wanted to know more about this man and the God he served. That young boy is who we now know as Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In that moment, in that simple act of respect and care, Trevor Huddleston made a difference, changed a life, just be being a good Christian. He did not talk about his faith, he was respectful, showed the care and love of God through his simple actions toward someone considered lowly and poor. The cleric changed the world for this young boy, for his mother, and through them the world was made a better place through the work of Desmond Tutu. The cleric did this out of the faith and love he had as a Christian, seeking to serve God. He saw people through God’s eyes. If we are willing to live as Christians who see others through God’s eyes, we will always give respect, love, care, compassion, to whoever we meet and because of the way we treat them they will want to know about this God that we serve.

18th July 2021

Luke 2:22b They took him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

When a child is born in this Country, we have to register the birth, give the child a name and identity which will allow them to function in society. As a member of society that child has obligations as it grows; to obey the laws of the land and to pay taxes into the common pot to keep society functioning for everyone. Our laws are here to allow everyone to flourish and live safely. Yes, sometimes they need to change and we may well fight, as legally as we can, for change to happen. At the time of Jesus, the people lived under the occupation of the Romans but under the law of Moses, the Jewish law. This gave them clear obligations for every child born into their society. They had to be circumcised, if a boy, then presented at the Temple and offerings made to God. As Jesus is brought into the Temple for these offerings to be made, He becomes part of God’s chosen people. In the Temple are not only thankful parents in Mary and Joseph, but also Simeon and Anna, prophets, people of great faith who held onto the promises of God over many years, and in this moment, they see these promises fulfilled in Jesus. They were both where God wanted them that day, they had listened to God’s voice, do we? Are we in touch enough with God to hear when He calls, to go where we are sent. Simeon and Anna heard God because they listened, believed God’s promises even when they were a long time coming and praised God for what they saw in front of them. May we listen, believe His promises and praise God just as they did.

17th July 2021

Isaiah1:17 Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

How we live matters, what we say and do matters. We leave an impression on daily life and on everyone else we meet and every situation we are in. We are called to be just and fair to everyone, to allow every Human being to flourish and reach their potential. If we are just and fair then we will make sure that everyone, whatever their skin colour, gender, culture, religious belief, life choice, disability and age we treat with dignity and respect. None of us should disrespect anyone else, or disrespect nature or creation. If we do then we are guilty of disrespecting God. Being Just and fair doesn’t only mean that we share what we have, but that we restore to others what is rightfully theirs. Building a just and fair world is playing our part in bringing God’s kingdom to earth. This is not easy, when you are shrugged off as a child, or a woman, or old, or disabled, or black and so it goes on. The society we live within will always fight to keep itself as it is because those who maintain the status quo do so because it suits them. We can and must work to restore creation, to protect it, to work for justice and fairness for all. If we do not speak up, if we walk past and accept the mistreatment of others, if we do not make a stand then we are saying that we accept the unfair treatment of others by our very silence. How we live matters, what we say and do matters, God has called us to justice and fairness, if we ignore that call we ignore God and that is exactly how we have got into the mess we are in.

16th July 2021

Isaiah 44;21a I created you, you are my people; I will not forget you.

Much of the structure of our year and our life revolves around remembering through common events, celebrations, holidays (from Holy days) etc. Memory is a record of our personal and community experiences. Memory makes us who we are, it is our Data Collection Point if you like. We acquire, store, retain and then retrieve information or memories. As a priest I visit care homes and hospitals and often meet people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia their memories are of mixed up or only from long ago but one thing always amazes and blesses me; when I start saying the Lord’s Prayer they join in, they know it, it is memory of comfort and help, a remembrance that God is there too. Whatever happens to our human memories, God does not forget us. So many times, in the Bible, we are told that God created us, loves us and will never forsake us. Our memories, good or bad, make us who we are, they make us people who either become angry, aggressive and ungrateful or people who realise that we face nothing alone and that whatever happens we are cared for by God. People who count their blessings even when life is tough. People who will always help others and share God’s love. Yes there are memories we would like to forget, there are memories we treasure and keep blessing us. Whatever our experiences God is there and God will never forget us.

15th July 2021

Psalm 51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my wrongdoing, and cleanse me from my sins. 

There is an old word we do not use much these days, Penitence, it is linked to repentance and means the feeling of sorrow and regret at something you have done wrong, asking for forgiveness and trying to change your ways. We are not a very penitent people these days, which is why the word has probably been lost. Presently we are more like to brazen out our mistakes than to admit them and try to change. The word sorry is used freely, without real meaning, and with no intention to change. It is also used as an excuse to pass the blame; I am sorry if you…… The key to penitence is recognising the fault, to accept that we have done wrong, to understand that we are not perfect and we all make mistakes. It is common to play the blame game, right back in Genesis, Adam blamed Eve, she blamed the serpent, in the Old Testament thy had a scapegoat, an animal to carry away all their wrongdoing. Our current society is very much about blaming others, finding excuses because we do not want to admit our faults. We hide our shame through bravado and confidence when what we all need to do is recognise we are wrong and admit it. Be remorseful, recognise things have consequences, look to change and rectify the wrong and know that when we are sorry, we can be forgiven. Wherever we turn in life, in religion, it is wrongdoing that puts a divide, a wedge, between God and humans and between humans. We have the opportunity every day to change that. We can recognise our wrongdoing, be penitent, admit it, be truly sorry and try to rectify it. In doing this we can be forgiven, we can be cleansed and renewed. As this happens to us, we can forgive others. We can show the compassion shown to us by God, to others around us. We can forgive others because we have been forgiven. 

14th July 2021

 Luke 11:36 If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.

I love the longer summer days, light late into the evening, travelling to work in day light, it lifts our spirits, makes us feel better. Did you know that all humans glow? Especially our faces. It is linked to metabolism and body clocks, the glow is less than we can see with the naked eye, but we actually omit light. We need light to see, we us the language of light in our conversations, being enlightened, seeing clearly, shining out etc. Light is a key in all religions with festivals and celebrations around light and it triumphing over darkness, and the key role it plays in our lives. God is referred to as light in all religions and there is so much teaching about making things visible, seeing things clearly and finding truth as we expose darkness. God called for there to be light in the very beginning of our earthly story and Jesus came as the light of the world. As created beings we reflect the light of our creator, of our faith. We don’t hide light we use it to guide us, to enlighten us. Light dispels darkness; within darkness bad things occur because people can hide their evil intentions. The light in us means we can choose to look, see and ignore bad things or to look, see and expose bad things, fighting for good, for justice. Put symbolically we need, as our reading tells us, to be full of light. We need to shine in the darkness and expose the bad, to speak up and out. There is a difference between looking and seeing, we can look and ignore, shrug it off, walk past or we can really see a need, the unfairness, injustice and act as we shine a light on that which needs exposing. We have light within us, we can use it for good, to dispel the darkness, to sow light and goodness. May we shine as lights in the world.

13th July 2021

Romans 8:39 nothing can separate us form the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

At school we are heading for summer break, it marks the end of another school year and we will move onto new groups, new classes, new places and new education experiences. Some will have spent their whole first year in secondary school without face-to-face assemblies, events and social mixing; experiencing teaching through computer screens and bubbles. The pandemic has changed all our lives and we have had to learn to cope with change, with new challenges and situations, but whatever has happened life still moves on, we get older, we grow up, we change experiences, jobs and locations all through our lives. Moving can be scary, leaving what we know, stepping into something new and different is not easy. The wonder of faith and belief is that we go into none of these things alone. Romans makes it completely clear to us that God is on our side and that nothing can separate us from Him. Nothing can take God’s love away from us; we are told that no one, however powerful, nothing, however awful, can separate us from God. Therefore, as we step into the future, whatever it may hold, God is right there with us, God goes to! Oh Yes, we can choose to slip away, to think we have no need of Him or need His help, but He never loses sight of us. He never gives up on us, even if we give up on Him. His hand is always ready to take hold of us again if we choose to. All faith is a choice, God does not force Himself on us, and even when we choose to go it alone, He is still there, ready, willing and able to step in if we only but ask. Let me encourage you to put your hand into God’s hand and let Him guide you, bless you and protect you as you move on into the future with Him.

12th July 2021

Genesis 12:1 The Lord said to Abram go from your country take your people and your household to a land I will show you. 

The character of Abram who becomes Abraham as he follows God is fascinating. The change of name, the lack of a son rectified in old age by God, his treatment of his wife to save his own skin, but this fascinating story is the beginning of the narrative of the people of Israel. As Abram learns about God and His calling he leaves his own city of Ur of the Chaldeans, these days southern Iraq, and journeys to somewhere new. God tells Abram that this new land will be given to his descendants, this relationship is a new a chapter in God’s relationship with His created beings and created world. He becomes more visible, more accessible. Abraham, a human like us, will make many mistakes, some of which are incredibly costly, but he will ultimately remain faithful to his calling, and God will keep His promises, a real encouragement for us as humans. Abraham was called to move to a new place, it is a call that has challenged Christians over the centuries. We can be happy and settled where we are but we may also sense that God is calling us to go somewhere else. For Abraham the call happened when he was an old man, a reminder that God uses all of us at all times in our lives. We feel secure when we know a place, its landscape and the deep relationships we have built there. With Abraham his entire household went with him, we may well not have that blessing, but God will enable and provide and bless in all necessary ways if we go. Moving from what we know to what we don’t know is never easy or simple but when we can take others with us the road is easier. Sometimes God calls us to go on a journey, it may be in our mind and spirit or physically, but when God calls are we willing to go as Abraham was?

11th July 2021

Job 2: 13 They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. 

It is often said that a true friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you. A true friend understands that we are not perfect just as they are not perfect and they stand alongside us no matter what. Proverbs actually tells us that a true friend is like a treasure. In the story of Job, he goes through utter hell, life is at its worst for him with everything that can go wrong, going wrong. His friends come to offer support and they just sit with him in his grief, no platitudes, no excuses, no comparing their experiences, they simply sit and suffer with him. It is actually when they start to talk that things get worse. The most important thing here is that they just be with him, just being there is crucial. People often ask me what they should do when a friend is suffering, grieving, hurting, going through illness or bereavement. I always say just be there for them. Be around, make a cuppa, make them something to eat, sit with them, just be there. We will never know how much we help others by just being there, let me assure you that it means so much more to people than we can ever know. Be there for friends, for family; be a good friend, be a treasure given by God to those who need it.

10th July 2021

Luke 1:38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word`.

We often hear about having good role models, someone we look up to, who we want to be like, they are not perfect but they live and behave in ways we admire and respect. We try to emulate these people because they are the best they can be and we desire to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. The danger is that we admire the wrong things about others, their money, status, celebrity and power. True role models show us the qualities of truth, honesty, empathy and compassion for others. Jesus’ mother Mary shows us so many incredible qualities worth emulating. Mary has complete belief in her God doing the best for her people. She exhibits faith and trust, determination, honesty, faithfulness, truth and such compassion and love. She is so humble even when she is asked to be the bearer of God’s Son Jesus, exhibiting faith, virtue, patience, endurance and ultimately terrible grief at Jesus’ crucifixion but it does not stop her always seeking the best way. Mary had a choice and she could have said no! We have a choice, a choice to strive to be better people, to always look for the best in others and ourselves. We have a choice to follow a way of honesty, integrity, virtue, compassion, faithfulness…. To strive to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. Mary is an example to all of us, an example that we can emulate in our behaviour, our attitudes, patience and determination. Mary is one of many excellent role models for us, in emulating them and being the best version of ourselves that we can be, we too, can be role models for others.

9th July 2021

1 Samuel 8:9 Now then, listen to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.

Do you sometimes look at society, at its leaders and just wonder why? We look at someone and think that anyone else would be an improvement and when anyone else arrives we soon realise they are even worse. In the early times of nation Israel, they followed charismatic leaders in times of crisis. We still do that today. As they became larger and more settled nation they wanted more structure, organisation, and surprisingly, bureaucracy to establish themselves. They even told God they wanted a King to rule over them instead of Him. OUCH. It is the point where they and we stop trusting God because we decide we can do better ourselves or with worldly ways which must be better than God’s, right? They wanted a king so they could be like other nations with a visible ruler and a great military leader. Samuel is told by God to accept the demand but to warn them of what will happen. Have your king but do not take them too seriously, they are only human too. We often take ourselves too seriously, believing in ourselves rather than in God. Our daily actions do not come from prayer and listening to God, but from what we want to do and what leaders tell us is the best for us. The proof lies In the 2,000 years of Christianity so far where we have been totally complicit with injustice; slavery, racism, gender bias and the degradation of our society. We just do not believe and trust what we cannot see or prove. Well, what leaders tell us we can see or prove. So, we bow down to lesser kings; charismatic leaders, institutions, nations, wars, ideologies, politicians, celebrities etc. that we can see, even though they let us down time and again and do not serve us well. Any human appointed over others will be tempted to exercise their power for the benefit of themselves not the people. This is not service or true leadership.

8th July 2021

Matthew 5:45 He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

When it rains a lot we say, well we need the rain don’t we, but secretly, or maybe not so secretly, we want our summer, our sun. Last year, when we really needed it in lockdown, the weather was good. Currently a couple of good hot weeks are all we have had and we have been experiencing a lot of rain. We want to be outside, we can only really holiday in the UK this year, so we want beach weather. I don’t think that is unreasonable under current circumstances. With the price of hotels who need to catch up, going away and being shut in because of rain is a real waste of time and money. I don’t pretend to have the answers, I don’t pretend to be happy about the weather and the summer, but I do know that getting away for just a few days is vital, is very much needed and will do all of us the power of good. We have often holidayed at home when money was tight, but we never really got a break. Housework still got done, mum still cooked, people still rang and clergy can’t ignore that. You go for days out but it takes so long to get there and then come home, the few hours in the middle does little to help. I really hope the weather will improve, that we will see hot days in July and August and that we can enjoy the beach. If it doesn’t improve I and many will need to change our mindset so as not to be too disappointed and appreciate the getting away, the doing something different. Remember, God doesn’t choose to make our weather one thing or another. We are not being blessed or punished differently. The weather works for and against all on this world, good or bad. We, as selfish humans have caused a great deal of the changes in our environment by our careless attitude and behaviour. We must look after our world if we want it to look after us.

7th July 2021

Mark 6:7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

Jesus sent out the disciples, giving them specific instructions: Go two by two, take a staff, no food, no satchel, no money. Wear sandals, stay in the first house you enter, shake the dust off your feet when no welcome. The disciples followed the instructions and amazing things happened. People were healed, brought wellbeing and wholeness. The instruction to go two by two comes from Israel’s teaching that at least two witnesses were needed to establish the truth of a matter, in this case, they gave authenticity to Jesus’ ministry. There is the challenge that we are to trust God for our needs. That as followers we are not after people’s money, and that we need to travel light to show the urgency of our mission. For everything we do we must trust God, we must not be looking for what we can get out of something and mission is always going to be urgent. A clear message here is worth and value are not determined by what you have. Believers come in all shapes and sizes. God gives us all we need. By going out to share the gospel we receive as well as give. Our hospitality in church is wonderful and it ours to give, but we also need to receive the hospitality of others as we share Jesus, this is relationship evangelism. For each mission we undertake Jesus will give us the necessary instructions and supply our needs. The Bible is full of instructions that we should follow and promises from God to be fulfilled, but If we do not read and know our Bible we cannot tap into that. What marks us out as His true disciples is that we love one another. Wouldn’t it be great if we gave that instruction the most attention? Let our power be stripped away as God’s authority and power is all we need, given and received through Love.

6th July 2021

Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.

How can somebody you grew up with, somebody whose habits and idiosyncrasies often get on your nerves, suddenly start acting as though they were somebody? Just who do they think they are? If Jesus can just be dismissed as a local lad, so can we, and we can also dismiss others as just locals who may be God’s very blessing for us. It seems we are a lot more infatuated with impressive strangers than we are with the people we already know all too well. Because we know them. In Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, he could only heal a few people. Why? Because they didn’t believe he could be a healer. They could not accept one of their own as being somehow greater than they were, even if it meant foregoing the healing He gave. Trusting Jesus means seeing yourself in need of Him. Knowing you need Him creates trust in Him. Jesus, His love, His healing needs to be received as well as offered. Pride can prevent us from allowing Jesus to heal us, bless us and provide for us. We don’t want to admit our faith, our belief, it can be embarrassing. Even though Jesus is unable to really do God’s work in Nazareth, He keeps teaching, keeps showing the disciples the way forward. He does the same for us. He does not give up on any of us. He keeps giving are we willing to receive? We may find being a Christian in our homes and families difficult because they know us well, but we are still called to share the gospel, to be witnesses and friends, people who love one another whatever our differences. May we be people of love who share Jesus in everything we do and say, who are prepared to both give and receive.

5th July 2021

Acts 8:20 May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money.

The stoning of Stephen in chapter 7 of Acts marks the beginning of the first great persecution of the early Church, in which the man, who later becomes the Apostle Paul, played a leading role. This persecution led to a scattering of the believers which in turn led to the spreading of the gospel. Someone who heard the gospel was Simon, a sorcerer in Samaria, who subsequently believed and was baptised. But then he tried to buy the ability to receive and then pass on the Holy Spirit, naturally the Apostles condemned him. What seems to have happened is that the giving of the Spirit in the early church was often accompanied by blissful, supernatural experiences that were visual and impressive. Simon saw himself as a fellow-practitioner, and proposed a transaction in the same way that a magician might buy a trick from a colleague. The Apostles are very clear: that's not how God works. Simon is rebuked, things are explained and Simon realising his mistake is sorry and repentant. It's easy to condemn him, but we ought to learn from him as well. He was applying the world's methodology to the Church, as though they worked in the same way. No one had yet explained this was not how God does things. Many churches and church leaders are prone to this: the right techniques for leadership or church growth are drawn from the worlds of business or marketing that they think will solve the Church's problems. These are people who have had the ways of God shown clearly to them and yet easily forget that God's kingdom is quite different. Yet we try to impose successful worldly ways on God’s perfect spiritual ways, what happens is wealthy, dictatorial leaders rise up who hurt and destroy the holiness of God; who are not held to account and damage Jesus place in the world. Nothing good happens unless our hearts are right, unless we are centred in the will of God, unless we learn His perfect ways and live in them. God’s ways are not ours and we must not try to impose our worldly ways on His kingdom.

4th July 2021

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

The author Somerset Maugham once said that Tradition is a guide, not a jailer. Just because something is old or traditional does not make it right. We live in a society that provides itself on traditional values, that is until those traditions do not suit the narrative. We have been jailed by many of our traditions and instead of being a guide they have become a straight-jacket. The reasons we still have gender inequality, very poor LGBTQ+ rights, slavery, dictatorships, poverty and inequality is because we use tradition as a weapon to hold back change, to maintain a status Quo. The point of tradition is to embed the good, the holy, the blessed into our lives, our hearts and minds. Our laws are based on good traditions but also have been manipulated to reflect the desires of those in charge. We have law that forbids the killing of another and yet this country hung those it found guilty until the mid-sixties, some countries still allow capital punishment, yet it is against the law of our traditions. It is only 54 years since homosexuality was decriminalised, it was only last year a black man was pinned by his neck to the ground by a white policeman and died. Our traditions have often been a jail not a guide and in some cases we have finally begun to see change, but it is slow and regulated by those with a vested interest in keeping the traditions as they were. Good traditions teach us, strengthen us, encourage us, allow us to flourish and grow. We need these. Other traditions hurt, destroy, devalue and preclude, these need challenge and change. The traditions we need to embed, learn and be proud of are those which teach equality, compassion, empathy, honesty, that promote the collective good of all. These were the traditions Jesus promoted, all based in love, all based in fairness and justice for all. Our lives are based on traditions but we must not use them as excuses, as a jailer, instead we must use them as a guide on which to build a better, equal, honest, loving world where everyone can flourish.

3rd July 2021

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. No longer subject to a yoke of slavery.

At the moment there is a huge amount of sport on TV, Euro’s, Wimbledon, Cricket, Lions etc. You can watch sport all day every day and through the night if you so wish. What you notice is how tribal people are in their support, The Scotland, England football match was a case in point and the support of Andy Murray which left his poor opponent quite distressed at times. This support of a player or team is tribal, we get behind someone and it can become so intense that anyone who disagrees or supports elsewhere can be treated very badly, even ostracised and criminalised. Empathy is a huge and valuable human quality, the ability to sit with someone in their grief or difficulty, what this tribal attitude does is eradicate that empathy and brings out vitriol and aggression. We saw and still see this with Brexit. One side treating another appallingly because they disagreed. Jesus found himself in these situations with religious groups treating Him as evil, as wrong, as the enemy, because He actually lived the very way their religious laws taught was right. Followers of Jesus were treated as criminals, were aggressively punished and lied about because they were not the same as those in the majority, those with the loudest voices. Currently social media gives huge voice to those who wish to have free speech without responsibility, those who do not want another to hold a differing view and will abuse and decry while hiding behind anonymity. For thousands of years, we have fought to be able to live freely, hold differing opinions and stand up for good, that means everyone has the right, not just those who think they only hold the right opinion. So, we must look for empathy, offer empathy, be willing to always defend the right of others to hold a different view even if they disagree with us. That is true democracy, true empathy and true love at work.

2nd July 2021

Genesis 2:19b God brought the animals to the Adam to see what he would name them; and whatever he called each living creature, that was its name.

The first two chapters of the Bible show us God's creation in harmony, in concord and perfect. The people, living creatures and the natural world all fit together, work together and life is good. The other creation stories of earlier times present a more violet time, and scientific theory suggests huge explosions and aggression. But Genesis presents a calm creative God who looked at what he had done and saw that it was good. It is in Genesis 3 where things start to go wrong for us as humans. We are drawn to the 'forbidden fruit': something darkly attractive, about pushing the boundaries and doing something wrong, it can’t do any harm, everyone does it. So Adam and Eve disobey God and they suddenly become ashamed of who they are. As humans the first thing is to avoid responsibility, deny our blame. Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent. And the serpent does not have a leg to stand on. The harmony, the concord, the perfection is broken and gone. Death and destruction enters the natural world as God walks in the garden to find them and so makes clothing for them out of animal skin. The perfect, wonderful life now becomes much harder and much more painful. Theologian and philosopher Simone Weil once wrote: 'Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvellous, intoxicating.' We are persuaded by lies, by soundbites and pretty things into wrongdoing, while the goodness is lost. Thankfully and undeservedly, Adam and Eve weren't abandoned, and neither are we. Throughout the Bible is threaded the golden thread of grace. But this is a warning we need to hear and remember; sin always has consequences, and when we do wrong we will regret it.

1st July 2021

Mark 5:36b. Don’t Be Afraid, Just Believe!

Have you ever needed to think quickly, to do something to save another? Jairus had to think and act quickly, his daughter was sick. The president of the synagogue was kneeling before the carpenter’s son from Nazareth. He must have Jesus’ help. But Jairus told Jesus exactly what course of action he wanted Jesus to take. Come to my house, touch her and she will be healed. Jairus had certain ideas about Jesus; just like we have certain ideas about Jesus. We don’t just bring our need to Jesus but we tell Him just how He is to meet that need for us. Jesus didn’t need to go to Jairus’ house for the girl to live, but He went. There was no lesson given by Jesus about telling God what to do, and that He didn’t have to be there to save his daughter. This clearly shows us that we don’t have to get our prayers and requests absolutely correct in order for God to hear and answer. Then, on their way a sick women touched the hem of Jesus garment, and the Saviour is delayed as He deals with her. But what about my daughter? Jairus thinks. We sometimes think that there are some situations which are beyond the scope of Jesus. There seems to be no way out, not even Jesus Christ can’t do anything, can He? Just go on believing, Jesus says, please don’t stop trusting me now that things have got worse. Don’t let your fears win. If Jesus is adequate when there is still hope, then He is also adequate when there seems to be no hope. Jesus heals her. That is the way these miracles of Jesus function. They give hope to the people of God. Our God is a God who performs miracles; with Him nothing is impossible. 

30th June 2021

Isaiah 41:10a I am with you, I am your God, I will strengthen and help you.

At some time or another we all face disappointments; the exam results were not what we expected, not the university or job offer we wanted, turned down for a role, rejected in favour of someone else, our team does not win, friends leave us, a partner cheats on us, and so it goes on. Being disappointed and then picking oneself up again is what helps to build resilience. We don’t allow ourselves to be held back just because it did not happen the first, second, third time. Where it becomes an issue is when it keeps happening, when we just keep being rejected, keep on failing to get he grades, never seem to get the jobs we apply for or the promotions in the team. Are we setting our aim too high? Are we just unlucky? Are we going in the wrong direction? Or is someone just against us? Whilst it is true we can set expectation too high, we should actually aim high, we should have high expectations of ourselves and believe in ourselves But we also need to recognise our gifts and talents and if we are in the right place or just where everyone else expects us to be. It has often been said that when God closes one door he opens another and yes sometimes I have found that to be true but I also know I have had to open doors myself, close others because of a situation, person or place is too toxic and causing more harm than good. I have also had to climb in and out of the odd partially open window as well. God is always there, ready and willing to help if we but ask for it, but He also wants us to use the natural gifts and abilities He gave us. We need to look at every situation, learn from it, see what needs to change in us or a situation. We are never alone in our decision making but neither is God going to do it all while we just sit and wait. We build resilience by looking honestly, examining our ways and gifts, seeing where and when we can improve and seeking God’s help all along the way. Just a thought, are we exactly where God wants us t be? If so, why are we trying to move out of it?

29th June 2021

Matthew 25:40 Whatever you did for one of these you did it for me!

Ever had a bad day? Everything just seems to go wrong. We all have bad days, they are not really who we are. But one ill choice comment, one bad reaction, one careless word or action and suddenly we can be seen in a bad light. We are human, not perfect, it does happen. The good news is that God is interested in who we are all of the time. The things we do and say that no one else does. The person of our heart. That is who we really are. I hate upsetting people, I feel dreadfully guilty even when it is not my fault but when the tension rises, you’re having a bad day, the final straw breaks the camel’s back, you snap and in that one moment people see and judge you; God sees it too, He judges you as well BUT He looks at it alongside all the rest of your life, all the good you do. He sees every part of your life, everyone else only sees the odd moment, He sees you 24 hours a day, He knows the real you! Yes we need to apologise to those we hurt, even when it’s not our fault, we also need to apologise to God, but God and perhaps those who know us best, see what happens in the context of all of who we are; Whatever you do for one of these you do for me. I know there are folk who regularly visit others, check on neighbours, get shopping for people, organise appointments, help with friends’ children, donate to places like the Salvation Army, give to food banks, help out at these places, offer help and companionship and so the list can go on. You are doing this for God’s people, you are doing it for God. Bless you! Be encouraged! Within every human heart, there is a desire to help and care for others. Yes, in some people the desire is so small that they never really find it, but for us, who we are before God is seen by Him. Those little acts of kindness, our words and actions, the smiles, the tears, the shoulder to cry on, the hands we hold, the hugs we give, the just being there; that is doing unto others as we do unto God. We have bad days; we also have good days. We are human, we get it wrong, but God sees the heart, the real you and me. 

28th June 2021

Matthew 28:20b I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

When I drive to school early, I like the not very busy roads, the not queuing at every junction or set of lights. I can have the radio on and enjoy the ease and tranquillity of everything. Some hours later when everything is busy it is so different. So much traffic, lorries everywhere. People who seem to have forgotten the rules of the road, it takes so much longer and is fraught from beginning to end. During lockdown one, the roads were empty, only those considered essential workers were out and about and it was peaceful and eerie. Now traffic is at worse levels than before the pandemic and everyone is going nowhere fast. The Christian life can be like this. Times when all is peaceful and you can move forward easily and in tranquillity and yet only a short time later you can be dodging everything around you, people who have forgotten how to behave, how to live well, milling, arguing, complaining and you get caught in the middle. The peace and contemplation of one moment is lost in the business and craziness of the next. Life is never plain sailing. For some it seems stormier than others but for all of us we have the good, peaceful times and the chaotic times with many days being somewhere between the two. Jesus promised that he would be with us always, in every situation, every day, every moment. This means that whether it is peaceful or chaotic He is right there with us. Whether listening to the radio and moving steadily or encompassed by lorries and stuck in a queue He is right there. Each day, whatever it holds for us we do not face it alone. It is one of the reasons why starting each day with a prayer is a good idea, a reminder of Jesus being with us and a reminder that nothing is going to happen that day that you and Jesus cannot handle together.

27th June 2021

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

When did someone decide that gender, colour, nationality, race, religion… define your value, yours and my place in the world? These decisions and stipulations have come from one group of people deciding they are superior to another and doing anything they could to hold onto that status. Here we are in 2021 and it is still happening and we are still falling for it. Everyone one of us is part of the Human Race. Our gender, race, colour, disability, religion, life choices, do not change that. We should not need equality rights and protection laws but we do because some human beings decide they are more superior and better than others. This way of life just keeps coming around, power, wealth, status, notions of superiority and entitlement are passed on, a culture of class has exacerbated this and all this promise of levelling up is just a smokescreen, a soundbite, because their own entitlement depends on keeping other people in their place. As long as we can be fooled into blaming others, our neighbours, people not exactly like us, we focus our energy there instead of seeing the need to change things higher up. Fires of racism, sexism, discrimination and blame are being stoked around us right now. We have the opportunity not to accept this, to challenge and follow a different way. If we listen to the words of Jesus, pay attention and do the right thing we can bring change. Quite simply we need to treat others as we would want to be treated. Everyone treated with respect, with fairness, no suspicion or blame based on ethnicity, life choices, gender, disability, race or religion. Our example is Jesus who did not turn anyone away, who loved each one exactly for who they were and saw everyone as Human no matter their differences. We can be a catalyst for change if do to others exactly what we would want for ourselves.

26th June 2021

Proverbs 28:6 Far better is a poor person who walks in integrity before God than a rich person who is crooked and dishonest in their ways.

Do you listen to the weather forecast? Perhaps you have a weather App on your phone. If we are putting out washing or planning a BBQ, we tend to check the weather. This morning I did washing to go out before I left for work. The BBC weather on Breakfast was absolutely clear, there would be cloud but no rain today. I left, got half a mile away and the rain came. I could not go back and get the washing in. It was now getting wetter than when it came out of the machine. It rained until I reached my destination about half an hour later. How do they get it so wrong? How can they stipulate no rain and yet it rain heavily for half an hour? I was somewhat cross that I trusted the BBC weather and then was so badly let down. For us, as humans we have tendency to be trusting, to accept what we are offered because we believe that others want the best for us and will do their best to lead us honestly. Unfortunately, humans are also selfish and many people will happily mislead those who are trusting because they can, and because they have the power to manipulate. Honesty and integrity are key in faith, in God’s ways. We cannot say we love God and then mislead people. We can say we are Christian and then lie about where we are or what we have done. We cannot say we follow God and then manipulate others into dishonest ways. I find our present society is becoming more and more dishonest, less and less about caring for everyone and more about making money and keeping power. It saddens me that honesty and Integrity are no longer valued. I for one will always value them and I encourage you to do the same. Value them in your own life and in the life of others being clear that they are important and treasured values by yourself and by God.

25th June 2021

Mark 4:37 A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.

Have you ever been in a storm? I will never forget when we were crossing Biscay 25 years ago and it was such an awful storm the crew and Captain were all seasick and the ship was damaged. These disciples had spent their life on the sea as fishermen. Yet they did not see the storm coming, It was sudden. Many of life’s storms are sudden. Illness, redundancy, accidents, business goes under, debt, family death, all sudden storms. As the storm hits, we throw up a desperate prayer, a panic plea. Just as the disciples did, “Please help! Don’t you care?” God is never surprised. Because He knows everything. Perhaps, instead of rushing to communicate our panic to Him, we should allow Him to communicate His calm and peace to us. When Christ is with you, even when the worst storms of this life batter against your ship, even if your ship goes down, we will not perish because we have Christ. He died on the cross to keep us from perishing. He did all that was necessary to make sure that when our ship goes down, when our earthly lives end, that we do not perish. Just as he rescued the disciples, He can rescue each of us. His rescue will not necessarily keep us from the storms, or even quell the storms, but His rescue does something much greater, it supplies the strength we need and keeps us from perishing. Jesus was asleep in the boat and He knew that the storm was not going to overtake them. But to calm the disciples down, he calmed the storm. Whatever our storm now, or to come, He will never forsake us, and will provide all we need to weather the storm whatever it may be. 

24th June 2021

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened as an example and they were written down for our learning.

I have never liked being told off, it always made me squirm and wriggle and feel terrible. For some people it is water off a ducks back, they don’t worry about being told off. In Junior school I had a wonderful teacher, she used to say, now you know better, do better. She understood that sometimes we do the wrong thing because we actually don’t know it is wrong or make a wrong choice but for the right reasons. Her idea was that to learn from our mistakes was the key, not to be shamed into not doing them again but now knowing why. Yes, many folk know things are wrong and they keep doing them because they are selfish, because they do not care, but for many others learning from our mistakes so we do better next time is the right and best way forward. It is very much a Biblical idea. So many times in the Old Testament, God shows Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David etc the error of their ways and allows them to learn from them and thus grow in their understanding and faith. It is a good approach with children, how can we punish them for doing something wrong if they do not know it is wrong or understand why it is wrong. The rule of fear, you do what I say or else, is not acceptable, it is tried by many in senior positions to preserve their status, but it is wrong. Standards in public life makes it clear it is unacceptable. The God I love, the God I worship who loves me, wants us to understand, to learn from our errors and to do better because we know better.

23rd June 2021

Mark 4:26 The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground.

Are you a gardener? Do you have those green fingers people speak of? I don’t, but I do appreciate and recognise the gardening references Jesus uses. In order for the kingdom of God to come and take root, its seeds needs to be cared for, kept in a place to ensure healthy germination. This happens in us when we read scripture and pray. We hold on to the seeds, deep inside our hearts, germinating, they wait there until it is time for scattering. Our spiritual soil is made nutritious when we rest it from constant planting. Keeping Sabbath is one of those practices, giving us some time for our soil to lie fallow, some time for the earth to replenish itself. Sabbath practice is one of ceasing, and pausing, it’s counterintuitive to the world, which would have us work without ceasing. Our soil is turned and aerated when we pray and take time to dwell with God. Delving into the Word creates space in the soil, preparing it to be good ground in which God’s kingdom can take root. We water and tend our small seedlings when we pray or meditate, when we take time to be with God. This will look different for different people; for some, being with God is singing along to hymns, and for others, it’s sitting in silence. For some, it might be in reading a book, and for others, in going on a walk. Taking time to abide in God, the seeds we are caring for are scattered into good soil and nurtured as they grow. The kingdom of God is like a seed, it still needs good soil to take root. It needs levels of nutrients and water and a clear patch of earth to call its own. While God does the work of creating the seed, we do have a responsibility to prepare the soil. The kingdom of God will surprise us with how, where and when it pops up, but we still have to do the work using our Spiritual green fingers.

22nd June 2021

Proverbs 14:23 In all toil there is return, but mere talk tends only to poverty.

Often when I talk to people, they express a wish to do more. If only I could…. If only I had….. If only I was….. We have a natural sense of being ill equipped for certain situations. We come, over time, to believe that with more money, more resources, more time, more energy we could solve all the problems. It is a great desire but is it really realistic? Theodore Roosevelt had a wise saying “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” As president of the USA he realised that although it is good to plan, to look forward, we have to do what we can where we are with what we have to achieve anything. We can be so focused on what we would do if we had, we do nothing. Vision is really important, it is Biblical, of God, but as well as vision we need practicality, we need to work with what we have, be creative, be realistic. The character of Moses could not see the way forward when God called him to go and release the slaves, he could not see what he had, what he was able to do. Once he saw what God could do using him, amazing things happened. Many biblical characters cannot see that they have so much to offer where they are, until God shows them. As Christians we have to be realists, we have to work in the world, we have to be in the world and use what we have where we are. Be God’s representative where you are, using the gifts He has given you to do what you can, if we do this, God will do the rest.

21st June 2021

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Have you ever watched Fake or Fortune, where they decide if a painting is genuine or not? What strikes me every time I watch it is that no matter how much evidence someone has it is more important for the experts of the art world that they are not undermined or proved wrong. People have excellent provenance, family stories and even knew the person but the experts say that is not one of theirs, we are the experts and this artist would not have painted this. I find this attitude frustrating and quite simply arrogant. Of course, we need experts in things but when self-preservation becomes more important than the truth, we have a serious problem. Let’s be quite certain, none of us are perfect or know everything. All humans make mistakes and all humans are selfish. Personal opinions and ideas will always affect how we judge things and people. If we dislike a person, we will tend to find them dishonest and unworthy of us, if we like someone, everything they do is fine. Thank goodness God does not see us like this. Imagine if God decided your fate, your future, your position in life based on if He liked you or not. This would mean that all good, true honest people would live a wonderful life and all the rest not; yet we know this is not true. Many good, true honest people have difficult lives and many nasty, shameless people live a great life. The good news is that God looks on all of us the same. He judges us all as humans and all equally, no matter our lifestyle. All have fallen short, none are perfect, only God can make us perfect in Him through Jesus. Only God knows the truth. Thank God we are not dependent on self-proclaimed judges and experts to decide our fate.

20th June 2021

Isaiah 30:21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you saying “This is the way, walk in it” when you turn to right or left.

Sometimes it’s all too much! We’re not sure where to go next, what to do? We feel lost, confused and not cared for. It seems God is miles away and others just cannot see or just don’t care about us. The façade is broken, the strength gone and the plastered smile has cracked. Now What? We are tempted to hide away, go back to bed and stay there, feign illness for a day or so. All of which just hides the problem, pushing it away and down until the next time, when it will be worse! God has always advocated dealing with the problem. Whether Noah and the flood, Moses and Pharaoh, King David, the money changers, prison for Peter and Paul and so on. when a major problem occurs, God steps in. Sometimes miraculously, sometimes through another, sometimes through prayer, Bible, music, friendship etc. There is something common here, we need to both admit the problem and ask for help and then do as we are told. In all psychology, counselling and self-help you must admit there is a problem and ask for help. So, we tell God, ask for help and then listen, look and see where He sends the help from, because be absolutely sure He will send it! It might look like a coincidence, might look like a good friend, a family member, a conversation; who knows, but it will be there. We must listen and learn and do so that God’s healing, helping power can begin to work in us.

19th June 2021

Ephesians 5:1 Follow God's example, as dearly loved children, walk in the way of love.

If you did the Romans at school, you will remember learning about their straight roads. We still have roads in the UK based on these Romans roads. The idea was you went straight from A to B and nothing got in your way, the quickest route. We like life to be like this, go straight and direct from one place to another but life and creation is not like this. I have come to love Pilgrim ways, whether the Camino to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela or the new pilgrimage routes to Durham Cathedral. When you travel a pilgrim’s way you twist and turn with the landscape, you see that nature around you is full of curves and bends, nothing is completely straight and true. The bending and curving teach us to bend and flex with the world and with those around us. Just as reeds and branches bend with the wind, so we need to bend and curve in life. Our directness, although we think may save us time and effort, actually can cause pain and hurt to others. We need to journey with others, offering words of comfort and encouragement, being supportive and learning as we bend and curve with the landscape but physical and metaphorical. We are reminded in this verse to walk in the way of love, love bends and curves, flexes and moves with the people we love. God’s love, unconditional and everlasting, given freely, bends and flexes with us. It offers support and encouragement, leads us, walks alongside us, goes behind us and sometimes even carries us. Life is full of twists and turns, nothing is ever straight and direct, but that is how it is, God’s beautiful world, bending, flexing, accommodating and full of His love for us to walk in.

18th June 2021

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

The Bible reminds us that there is no limit on how often we forgive because there is no limit on God’s forgiveness of us. In life, family, relationships, we all make mistakes and so we all need to learn to offer forgiveness as well as take forgiveness when it is offered to us. We learn to forgive from those around us, from our faith and because we come to learn that we are not perfect and need forgiveness ourselves. If we are not prepared to forgive others then we cannot expect others to forgive us. This does not mean that sometimes forgiveness just does not seem possible. God knows and God understands. In everyday life forgiveness is a two way street and is necessary to restore and maintain relationships. Our treatment of others, our actions, our speech will be affected by events, feelings, emotions and we will all say and do things we shouldn’t and will regret. If we recognise that in ourselves, we can recognise it in others and then we are able to offer forgiveness to restore the balance. Another side to forgiveness is the willingness to be sorry, to accept we are wrong and to offer an apology, not an excuse apology, but a genuine, honest apology. Bearing with each other means we accept that none of us are perfect and so we are able to both apologise and forgive. The simple truth of this verse is we forgive because God has forgiven us; that forgiveness comes from love, His complete and utter love of us. Our forgiveness also comes from love, the love and respect we have for each other as God’s children.

17th June 2021

John 13: 15 I have set you an example that you shall do as I have done for you.

When the word servant is used what do you think of? Downton Abbey? The rich and wealthy? World Leaders? Someone forced to work for someone else? We use the term to describe someone who is paid to serve another but we also need to remember that some in this role are highly trained and very well paid. The word defines someone who performs duties for others such as Civil Servants who perform the duties of the Government. The base for the word is serve, to perform duties for another and we speak of serving in the military, in law, in priesthood, in restaurants. To serve another or one’s country or government has always been seen as a desired and excellent trait and servanthood, taking on the role of one who serves others, was key in the early church and faith and is still crucial today. As a priest my calling and duty is to serve others. All who are elected to public office are all public servants! Their role is to serve the people, to do what is right and best and agreed by the people. Currently it is sad to see that roles of public service have become more about self-service than public service at which point service of the other is lost and selfishness becomes the reason behind decisions and actions. Jesus actions in washing the disciples feet are very unusual and challenging. They offer an example of how those in leadership, with authority and power, should actually behave. Here is a man, a leader, teacher, revered and respected, the son of God and He performs an act of service that none of his own disciples would have considered doing. His point is that none of us are too good, too important, too powerful, too rich to serve others. Every human being, whatever their gender, status, religion, culture, background has the calling, the duty, to serve others. Put simply we are all called to look out for the needs of others before and as well as ourselves, never seeing any task as demeaning if it helps others.

16th June 2021

Psalm 150: 6 Praise the Lord, all living creatures, Praise the Lord!

When you hear the word praise what do you think of? Perhaps synonyms like admiration, approval, gratitude, devotion pop into your mind, or those times as a child when you were given stickers or rewards and told you were a good boy or girl. Lets face it we all like praise. We like to be told we are good at something, we love recognition. The Duke Of Wellington, known for his boots, was also known as a brilliant but difficult soldier. He had a reputation for never offering a thank you, a well done or any plaudits. Near the end of his life he was asked what he would do differently and he said, ”I would give more praise.” Praise is really important, good for morale, mental health, wellbeing, it lifts our spirits, builds confidence and makes life better. We tend to work harder and more efficiently when we are praised. The Bible is full of encouragement to praise, to honour God through words and actions, to sing and make music in praise and it is a well known fact that music and singing do wonders for health and wellbeing. The Hebrew Bible has 7 words for praise, the core word is Hallal, from which we get our word Hallelujah, used in hymns and liturgy to praise God, it means to celebrate, to rave and get excited about. Current societal pressures tend to push us toward praise of money, power, status and celebrity and to neglect the praise of the hard working, the caring, the loving, the compassionate. To give praise is something we can all do and it costs us nothing but a few words of support and generosity while bringing blessing to others and ourselves. So lets be more forthcoming with our praise of God and of each other, a few more thank you’s, well done, that’s wonderful. It costs nothing but has huge benefits for all.

15th June 2021

Mark 10: 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. `

Do you get frustrated? I did the other day. I returned to school, switched on my computer and there was no internet. I assumed it was me at first, but then nothing changed, An important upload could not be done, no emails could be sent or received, I overhear the voice of the Computer tech near by and spoke to him. I was told the upgrade on our new Wifi system had not been done properly and the hotspot in my area was not working. I would have to wander around school and find somewhere to work, for how long I asked, it won’t be fixed until the summer break I was told. That is when frustration hit. So far 2 hours wasted, now weeks of not being able to do my job properly. Actually, my frustration brought forth a solution, now many of us are back using cabled internet until the Wifi has been properly installed. Being frustrated is not wrong nor is it unreasonable, what we do with that frustration makes the difference. God was frustrated so often in the Old Testament; Jesus was frustrated again and again as He tried to help people and heal people. Bringing love, peace and truth to us can be really frustrating when we do not have our hot spot turned on, when we are not plugged into God, when we just do not listen or try to find a way forward. When Jesus was frustrated, He did not give up, He did not turn His back on the Disciples or the people, He stuck at it and looked for a way forward, a solution. This is a lesson we need to learn and use, when we get frustrated look for the positive, look for a way forward and do not give up.

14th June 2021

Isaiah 43: 2a When you pass through water, I will be with you; when you pass through rivers, they will not overwhelm you.

I love bridges, the design, the idea of safely crossing water, who discovered and began to make bridges, it is quite inspiring. Do you remember the Millennium Bridge in London had to be closed not long after opening because it was wobbling when people walked across it. Something in the design did not work with how we walk, apparently. Currently Lambeth bridge is closed because of cracks and damage and so many people’s lives have been changed and challenged by this closure. Most places have one bridge to cross over, a few have two, an old and a new or a road and a rail, but in London we have so many crossing the Thames, from the huge QE2 bridge at Dartford to Hampton Court bridge is 36 bridges. Beyond that are even more. These bridges provide safe ways to cross for road, rail and pedestrians. Safe crossing or passage is important in the Bible. As the Israelites needed safe passage across the Red Sea, there was no bridge, behind were their enslavers, in front a body of water, how can God sort this one? Moses raises his staff, his symbol of God working, and the sea parts, two sides rise and hold the water while the people cross in safety. God in control of nature, of His creation. In Isaiah we are promised that that when we pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm us. God will provide us with safe passage over or through the rivers we need to cross. At times we will have places we need to cross or make our way through, God will always provide a way, if not a bridge, then a path or a clearing, something that will allow safe passage to the other side.

13th June 2021

Acts 6:13 They set up false witnesses who said, This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law.

Acts has several stories about conflict. Being realistic about our human nature we know that people disagree. In our churches we often argue about the way forward and particularly about change. If we go back to the early church, even there the believers fell out. Within this new, baby Church, the Apostles, who were the leaders, spoke Aramaic but also in Jerusalem were Jews from all over the Roman Empire and they spoke Greek. There were two groups and languages so how did they make sure both were treated fairly and equally. Here at the very beginning of the early church we see a call for justice and fairness. You can almost hear the 'It's not fair' from one group. While the others said 'It's not right, what about us? Some accepted the message of the Apostles, as their appointed leaders, others would not. Stephen spoke with authority and clarity, there were signs and wonders, yet they would not accept it, they disagreed, and so they resort to lies and stories to discredit him and get him into trouble. The desire to get our own way can cause us to do unpleasant and ungodly things because of how high we regard our own opinion and how selfish we can be. Stephen was trusted to keep the peace between argumentative and difficult groups of people so he must have been very patient, compassionate, understanding and willing to listen. He also had wisdom and authority and through the Spirit knew when to hold his ground even when the rumour mongers tried to discredit him. Conflict, though hard and tiring, can show us how strong we are in our faith and work but we also need to know when to bend and compromise, when to negotiate and find a compromise. Of course, at times there's no room for compromise, but to know which we must do we must always seek God and always put Him first, not ourselves.  

12th June 2021

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.

We all carry memories of our past, the good ones we like to remember, that make us smile, but also the bad ones we would much rather forget. These memories can and do affect us in our present-day life. Bad memories particularly can affect us. It may be a memory of when someone shouted at you, hurt you, lied to you, stole from you. A promise made to you now broken. A lie that backfired. Whatever it is, holding onto bad memories stunts us, it holds us back. Freeing ourselves from the hold of these things is not easy, especially when someone has taken something from you, invaded your home, invaded your life, it can be a long process, but we must try. There are consequences to all actions. It is not about finding excuses for what happened or pretending it didn’t happen. It is about coming to terms with it and allowing healing to happen. This takes time, it does not happen instantly. We must try not to be harsh on ourselves but be gentle and develop a sense of quiet within, an inner acceptance of ourselves and responding to ourselves as we would to those we love deeply. We must never be frightened to ask God or others for help. If we try, we will find our own capacity for empathy, compassion and forgiveness will grow and slowly healing will come.

11th June 2021

Acts 4:36 And Joses, who by the apostles was named Barnabas, which is interpreted, Son of Encouragement, a Levite, of the country of Cyprus.

Today is the feast day of St Barnabas. Barnabas was actually a nick name meaning Son of Encouragement because he was an encourager. He must have been very patient and caring and as a result was made a Saint. Among other things Barnabas was the one who trusted St Paul after his conversion to Christianity, when others were dubious. Barnabas travelled with Paul and helped and encouraged. But, even the patient helpful Barnabas had a falling out with Paul. When Paul was angry with a young helper and would not give them a second chance, Barnabas was the advocate, he offered argument and stood by the young apostle. He and Paul parted ways and yet Barnabas did not stop working, caring and serving. Later Paul realised how valuable Barnabas and the young Apostle were and the fences were mended. Barnabas also gave his land and possessions to serve the early church. He started a church in Antioch. He was so in touch with God that his whole life was completely lived in the service of God. What an example, what a Christian! For us he is a lot to live up to, and yet Barnabas was all about encouraging, encouraging the smallest offerings and works, empowering everyone to do their best, not criticising or condemning. This is lesson we need to learn from Him, to encourage all for their life no matter how big or small it may be. To be encouragers, to look for the good and not the bad, to see all as loved by God for who they are. We are not asked to be Barnabas just to recognise the good he did and try our best to imitate it in God's strength, using our gifts to bless and encourage others.

10th June 2021

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.

We all carry memories of our past, the good ones we like to remember, that make us smile, but also the bad ones we would much rather forget. These memories can and do affect us in our present-day life. Bad memories particularly can affect us. It may be a memory of when someone shouted at you, hurt you, lied to you, stole from you. A promise made to you now broken. A lie that backfired. Whatever it is, holding onto bad memories stunts us, it holds us back. Freeing ourselves from the hold of these things is not easy, especially when someone has taken something from you, invaded your home, invaded your life, it can be a long process, but we must try. There are consequences to all actions. It is not about finding excuses for what happened or pretending it didn’t happen. It is about coming to terms with it and allowing healing to happen. This takes time, it does not happen instantly. We must try not to be harsh on ourselves but be gentle and develop a sense of quiet within, an inner acceptance of ourselves and responding to ourselves as we would to those we love deeply. We must never be frightened to ask God or others for help. If we try, we will find our own capacity for empathy, compassion and forgiveness will grow and slowly healing will come.

9th June 2021

Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him forgive, not just seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

How good are you at forgiveness? When Peter asks how often he should forgive he probably thinks that he is being generous saying seven times, instead he is caught out by an answer which basically means you keep on forgiving, no limits. You don’t keep score. We should not think about how many times we forgive others because God has forgiven us without measure. To reinforce the point Jesus tells the story of the Kings forgiveness of the servant’s debt. This forgiveness, at first freely given is then withdrawn when the same servant does not show mercy to those indebted to him. Jesus is teaching that forgiving and being forgiven, the showing and receiving of mercy, are inextricably linked. Our forgiveness of others is an expression of the divine life within us, Our forgiveness of others is God’s mercy for our neighbour becoming real in us and in daily life. Because we are forgiven, we forgive. That forgiveness is so freely given to us by God that we should freely give it others. We need to move on from the guilt that holds us and others back to the freedom of forgiveness which allows us to dream and move forward. But remember it is not our job to decide if others should forgive, only if we can and will forgive.

8th June 2021

Mark 3:24/5 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

Division, conflict and suffering have been around since the garden of Eden and humans turned away from God and the perfect wholeness God had provided. This division and inner conflict is a major part of today’s world and each of our lives. Just think, a marriage becomes divided and ends in divorce. The product of nations being divided offers us the vitriolic politics we are seeing, and in some places even civil war. A divided economy has given us and many places poverty, poor health and injustice. Once the community is divided it becomes individualistic and tribal, prejudice and aggression abound, anonymous persecution happens through social media. Humanity divided makes sure the few prosper at the cost of the rest. You and I know what it is like to live divided lives, when our outsides and our insides don’t match up? We are one person at work another at home. We act one way with certain people and a different way with other people. We have that phone voice and our other voice. We behave one way in one place and behave differently somewhere else. Life gets divided into pieces: behaviour, beliefs, and ethics change depending on where we are and who we are with. Work life, family life, prayer life, personal life, social life. We’re a bunch of pieces like an unmade jigsaw. We are forever trying to put the jigsaw pieces of our lives together into the perfect picture on the front of the box. Jesus offers the best and right image of what life could and should look like on the front of our box. Jesus wants to put that jigsaw of our life together. It’s hard to look at the division and conflict in our own lives, but to start to be made whole again we must acknowledge we are broken, we are divided and know there is nothing about our lives that cannot be put back together by the love God in Jesus.

7th June 2021

John 3:2b Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.

The use of night time in the Bible is often about darkness, hiding in the shadows, doing wrong things, not wanting to declare openly a belief in God or Jesus. It is also a way of summarising us into people of the day time and people of the night. Realising that we can be one thing in the day, confident at work, with family, reputation and another at night, in the darkness, worried, not sleeping, full of questions and concerns. By day Nicodemus knows who he is. He has an identity, a Pharisee. He has a status as a leader of the Jews. He knows and applies the law. People listen to and follow him. He has a place in society with security and power. He fits into this world. By night it is different. Nicodemus is misplaced and muddled. He cannot see or recognise. He’s living in the dark. His work, actions, reputation, and place in religious society do not provide constancy or answers. The certainty of Daytime has given way to questions and uncertainty. We all know what this is like. We live daytime lives and we live night-time lives. By day all is well. We live with a sense of purpose, identity and security. We have a place. Our life has meaning and direction. But by night everything is different and hidden. We stumble through the darkness, grasping for something to hold, searching for answers and explanations for the events and purpose of our life. In the dark life doesn’t make sense and we don’t get it. The night is a time of vulnerability, of questions, and of wrestling with life. Most of us do whatever we can to avoid or get out of the darkness. Night-time living isn’t much fun. It’s difficult, uncomfortable, even painful. But yet we find ourselves there. We think we can find the answer and the outcome will be different. Like Nicodemus, we want more than night time life. We want the reality of God given life through Jesus enabled by the Holy Spirit, so Nicodemus comes to Jesus to seek the way, this is exactly what we need to do. Come to Jesus, be honest and ask Him to help us be born again each day.

6th June 2021

1 Corinthians 7:17 Each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.

Recently I have had some conversations with people about moving on. Things have changed, circumstances are different, things not quite working out and it has been difficult so that must mean it is time to move on, right? No, not necessarily. Sometimes we need to recognise that where we are is exactly where God put us, for a reason. If Jesus had applied the idea that because circumstances changed, life was difficult, things were not looking good He should move on, we would not have been saved, not have had the relationship with God restored. God places us in situations and environments for a reason, to be the shining light, to be the reason for change, to be the challenge against the norm, to be the encourager, to be the arms of love, to be who God needs us to be in a place, in a situation. Yes, at times, we will need to move on, to go where God wants us, but the reasons for this are not just because life is difficult, or not working out. We always need to look at where we are and what God is asking of us, if we are doing what God wants then we are where we need to be. God will always tell us where we need to be but we must look and listen, make decisions based on God and not on our desires and feelings. We face nothing alone, God is with us every moment of every day and He will give us the strength to keep going, to do what we need to do and be what we need to be in the place we are called to be.

5th June 2021

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

At some point in our lives, we have all been in education, been taught by teachers and lecturers. Some will have good experiences and some bad. Nearly everyone has a favourite teacher, the one that inspired and encouraged. The one that passed on to us the things we most needed for life. As teachers the role is to work through basic skills, then revisiting, building upon them, expanding them, revising and getting them into people’s minds so they can be applied to the world we are part of. True teaching does not give a lesson and then leave it at that, teaching means allowing the student to become proficient, able and secure before leaving them to their future. As an example of teaching Jesus taught lessons, deepening them, expanding them, teaching on differing levels so everyone could grasp what He was saying. He used practical examples, visuals and actions so the experience of learning was deep and meaningful. The role of any teacher is to get their student to a place where they are secure in their learning and pass on the baton of being proficient teachers themselves. The disciples went on to become great teachers through experience and learning from Jesus, by being empowered and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. God does not want us to be left to fend for ourselves as Christians so we have been given the Bible, we have scripture, tradition and reason, we have clergy and leaders, all of which are there to teach, encourage, build and pass on the baton of a growing faith to strong Christians blessed by the Holy Spirit.

4th June 2021

Genesis 1:16 God made the two great lights, the Sun to govern the day, and the Moon to govern the night; He made the stars also.

As a youngster I was afraid of the dark, I have never got to the bottom of why and I got over it. The landing light was left on at night for me for a while, but my father constantly complained about the wasted electricity, eventually the light was switched off and I had to learn to live with it. When my children were young, we kept a light on at night so as we could safely go into them at night if needed. Light offers us security in the darkness, it enables us to see and gives a warmth to the darkest and coldest of nights. Within the church we keep an eternal light above the aumbry, where we keep blessed bread and wine from Communion, in the synagogue the Ner tamid (eternal light) is lit all the time to symbolise God’s presence. God’s presence has been linked to light from the beginning of faith. Light is a symbol of goodness, righteousness, where bad things cannot be hidden or ignored. As I was fearful of the darkness as a child, because I did not understand it, so we are often taught to be fearful of the darkness in Christianity. Darkness has been associated with the devil, with evil and we have been told to avoid it, to be fearful of it. Yet the darkness was created by God, God’s presence is within everything He created, darkness is part of how the world works and it allows humans to rest, to use time wisely. God’s eternal presence lies within each of us as it does in the church building or the synagogue. It lies within us, shines out from us, illumines our life, our relationships and the outworking of our faith. God gave us light; He gave us dark and everywhere in between. All that God created was good.

3rd June 2021

Mark 1:4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Have you been baptised? As a baby or as an adult? A fundamental change takes place in baptism, For Jesus it is the official beginning of His ministry. For us it the acknowledgement that we are part of God’s family and within that family we have a ministry, a role given to us by God. John’s baptism of the people and then Jesus had two parts; repentance and forgiveness. As John explains what took place with Jesus, he adds that the baptism is not only with water, but with the Holy Spirit. Those elements are still true of baptism today. The baptismal liturgy marks the end of the old life as we renounce… and the beginning of a life lived in God’s grace and forgiveness. Then John’s further step with the gift of the Holy Spirit is also part of our baptism service. Towards the close of his ministry, Jesus himself makes clear that baptism leads to a new way of life. To be baptised in Jesus is to follow him. God gives the disciples the gift of the Spirit to carry on this new life in Christ, and they teach that everyone should “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. We do not have to be baptised to be a Christian but as Jesus was Baptised and He told us to do so, we follow His example and in baptism we become part of Christ’s body.

2nd June 2021

Philippians 3:7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider nothing because of Christ.

Would you describe yourself as a confident person? Your very reply if I asked you would show how confident you are. An immediate positive response would show high self-confidence, a more measured or unsure reply would mean you are not as confident n yourself, but it could also mean you are a humbler measured person who does not jump to conclusions. Confidence in the right things is good and what we need in life. The brazenly confident, no matter what, means no thought is given to others or the impact they have on people and events. Usually it ends in upset, pain and hurt. Currently we are putting our confidence in wealth, fame, celebrity, power, in large expensive property, in sport and success. Society has told us that certain things are necessary for a successful life and that is where our confidence should be. Research shows that the happiest people are those who have enough, who are not worrying about where the next meal is coming from, or where to shelter and keep warm. Research also suggests even the poor are happier than the rich as they appreciate what they do have and are grateful for any extras. The rich, have so much that they lose appreciation for life, for the basics and their time is spent on amassing more and more whatever the cost to others in the belief it makes them safe and untouchable, they never have enough. The confidence we place in earthly things is never justified. St Paul tells us that he has the right to be confident in his status and position, he is top of the pile and yet he clearly stated that trusting in these earthly things is nothing in comparison to trusting in God and what He offers to us. Paul recognises we can never have everything, never know complete security without faith in God. He calls us to recognise that all we have is from God and should be treated as a blessing to be appreciated and shared with others. Self-confidence should never come at the cost of others but out of the knowledge that I am who I am because God made me that way.

1st June 2021

John 6:9 Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?

When you were at school were you always eager to answer, put your hand up? Even now are one who speaks up in a discussion, calling people out on their behaviour and language? Or are you quite shy, easily embarrassed? Are you fearful of not getting things right or looking silly in front of others? Although it may seem hard none of us should be worried about those around us and what they think, we should never compare ourselves to others. I will let you into a secret, the loud opinionated people are no better than you they have just decided to not let it bother them and to hide themselves behind bravado and put up a front. If we were all more tolerant of each other, to accept that no one is always right or perfect, least of all ourselves, we would all live better and appreciate that nothing is achieved or learnt without getting it wrong first. Imagine Andrew stepping up to Jesus, who wants to feed 5000 people, with 5 rolls and 2 fish. Imagine the other disciples thinking, seriously, are you kidding? Andrew is a little hesitant but once he speaks up, takes that step of faith things happen. Jesus encourages his faith and this one small contribution is the catalyst for something amazing. The Bible tells us that nothing we ever do is wasted. We may never the consequences of the small things we do and say but they happen. Our unique perspective means we may well see an answer no one else sees. We need to step out and speak up. Sometimes we will get it wrong, everyone does, but it is only from failure that we gain success. The several hundred versions of the light bulb until it worked, the several versions of the vaccine until it worked. Success is born from failure. Nothing we do is wasted, step up. Speak out and be heard. Do not be frightened to fail and learn and come back stronger. You may have the answer no one else has, you are special, you are unique and you have everything to offer.

31st May 2021

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

There is something wonderful about completing a jigsaw, a picture, an assignment, a piece of work, a letter, an activity….. completing anything offers a sense of achievement, self-worth and value. Knowing “I did it” is a wonderful feeling that enhances well being and mental health. To achieve and complete we need sensible goals, things we can realistically work towards. We need to be able to stand firm when things are not comfortable and rosy, we need resilience. Resilience allows us to stay the course and overcome even when things are difficult. We develop determination. A wonderful story of determination and completion is the discovery of Hawaii by early Polynesian explorers. Hawaii is 2500 miles from any land neighbours but the early, ill equipped explorers knew there was something there because the golden plover bird flew that way every year. Every year they would follow it till it got away from them each year getting a little further, It took a very long time, several hundred years to finally find in about 1000 CE. Imagine if they had given up just a few years before. They never gave up, they believed and they kept trying. They believed, they had faith and they got there. There was risk, they set out, their goals and dreams were there but year after year nothing, the obstacle of doubt, but they kept going. One step at a time, the storms and flimsy boats were not insurmountable, they found a way and so can we. Sometimes there is little or no proof, the view is clouded over, there is little encouragement and this can make us question and give up. Fear of failure, of getting no where means we stop or don’t even bother trying. Faith in God is like this, we are encouraged to keep going to completion, on the path of life by St Paul, but it is journey with risks, which takes time and is often obscured from view. All God asks of us is that we take it one step at a time, small steps accompanied by Him. We are never alone on our journey, we will struggle at times but with resilience, determination, in God’s strength we will get there.

30th May 2021

 John 12:24 Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

We have all heard those stories about the fountain of youth, the secret of eternal youth and life. I am going to share with you the secret to life. It is in this verse. The pattern of loss and renewal that runs throughout our lives and our world, we’ve lived and experienced it, sometimes by choice and other times by chance. Look at the way this pattern is present in our life. If we’re married, we had to let parts of our old single life go so we could be with another person. If we are parents, we know that there are sacrifices to be made in order for the new life of our child to emerge and grow. We all give up parts of ourselves for another. We all chose certain losses and let go of some things so that other things can happen. For every choice we make, every yes, we say, there is at least one no and probably many other costs. This same pattern is in nature, in the changing of the seasons, falling leaves and new blooms, and the setting and rising of the sun. This secret of life is everywhere. It is a pattern of loss and renewal, dying and rising, letting go and getting back, leaving and return. It’s at the core of our baptism and it’s what we declare every Sunday in the eucharist: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Only when we make sacrifices, give up to remerge will we grow and bear much fruit.

29th May 2021

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

In Britain sheep are reared largely for their meat. They are a business to provide an income. In Palestine they are kept mostly for their milk and wool, this means they live longer; and this means a personal relationship develops between shepherd and sheep. Sheep are given names and respond to the shepherd’s call; he knows them and they know him. If you have watched British sheep dog trials you will know how difficult it can be to get sheep to go in the right direction. That is because British herders tend to drive their sheep from behind and with dogs. It is hard to keep them in a straight line. In Palestine it is a lot easier because the shepherd leads his sheep from the front and because they know and trust him, they follow. Jesus uses this obvious visual aid of sheep being cared for and led by shepherds to declare that He is the Good Shepherd and that following Him means listening to His voice. Jesus uses this illustration of the shepherd and the sheep as He is building his flock, finding and saving “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and calling sheep from all nations into his flock. This Good Shepherd is for everyone. A sheep pen is an enclosure open to the elements and the inspection of the owner. It is not covered in or roofed over like a barn or shed, it has no door either, just an opening. Its walls are open to the sun, the sky, rain and wind. They are often made of rough stones with a layer of thorn brush along the top and their main purpose is to provide protection. At night, after the sheep are in, the shepherd just lays down in the doorway. He becomes the gate. There is no access to the sheepfold except through him. Anyone who tried to climb over the wall to get in was obviously up to no good. If a predator tries to enter, the shepherd would be disturbed. The shepherd therefore puts his life at risk to protect his sheep in becoming the gate. A hired hand won’t put their life at risk, but the shepherd owner will. So many times, in the Hebrew scriptures, God is described as a shepherd. Jesus takes this role of Shepherd, the one who protects His people. Suddenly the whole illustration makes sense. Amidst the storms of life, Jesus is saying He is the only one through whom we can be safe and secure. Jesus is the gate, the way to God, our Good Shepherd. 

28th May 2021

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.

How do we declare the Good News about Jesus when there is just too much happening around us and in the world? Well, quite simply we show up. We show up as ourselves. We show up and love others. We share the Good News with others through our love, God’s love in us. We speak and act true to ourselves as God’s children. God knows us completely and there is no need to hide from Him, who loves us completely. So, what is this love? We could attempt to define it in many ways, and we could provide examples of how we have experienced this love, and it would still not be enough. We can read 1 Corinthians 13 and learn love is patient, kind, doesn’t keep a record of wrongs etc. But the best example of what this love is; is Jesus, who came into the world to live and die for us, to restore our relationship with the God who loves us so completely. This is a different kind of love, a personified love, a liberating love, an enlightening love that clears and opens our eyes to see the injustices of this world and empowers us to act in ways that seek the flourishing of everyone. This love makes us question and challenge the systems that oppress, hurt and destroy. This love gives us the compassion, the empathy, the grace we need to love others as God loves them, as He loves us, warts and all.

27th May 2021

John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

The word “abide” can also be translated as “remain,” or “stay,” and after the year we have had, we are very familiar with those words. After over a year of lockdown, quarantine, and social distancing, we know what it means to remain, to shelter in a place, to stay. We have become intimately familiar with the inside of our own homes and maybe with the interior of our own minds in ways we likely haven’t before and we’ve had time to think about what kind of place we want to shelter in. DIY stores have done very well in this past year. Priorities have shifted or become clearer, which has prompted changes both small and large. We have had more than a little time to think about what kind of physical and spiritual home we want and need to abide in. Perhaps you’ve converted some corner of your home into a home office, Zoom studio or virtual school space. We have become uniquely aware of the importance of home, of where we dwell, and of how we live within it. This past year, home has made all the difference, for better or for worse. To listen to Jesus’ words with 2021 ears, is to be reminded that our homes reflect our priorities, and our home affects how we live our lives. If we abide in God, in Jesus then we make our home there and we let God’s love be the foundation under our feet, let His love permeate the walls that shelter us, and let His love form the roof arching over our heads. Let God surround you in His love and strengthen you to share that love with one another as you abide in Him.

26th May 2021

John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower.

When you walk into a vineyard, you encounter life, growth and produce. The vine grower tends to all the vines, making no exceptions! The vine grower is aware of exactly what each vine needs to bear fruit. The vine grower knows each vine individually and personally and will prune away the dead parts to increase life, growth and produce. Similarly, God examines our hearts, provides for us, knows us individually and personally and can also remove those parts of ourselves that bear no fruit so that we have increased life, growth and produce. Pruning will change the outcome for the vine, and it will change the outcomes for us too. When we abide in God, we invite God into our lives, however messy they may be. When we abide in God, we are empowered to seek our place in this world, loving others, being part of the mission of the Church to restore all people to God and each other in Christ. It is a slow and transformative relationship between the vine grower and the branches. Between God and us. This relationship requires honesty and requires us to let go of all those parts of our lives that we think we can hide from the world and God. It requires us to trust God to do the pruning. God will not force us to be pruned, but He proves time and again that He can be trusted to do what is the very best for each one of us.

25th May 2021

Lamentations 1:20a Look at me, Lord. I am upset and greatly troubled, my heart and mind are troubled.

How often have you heard people say their success is down to them wanting it more than anyone else? Being determined and having will power are important, but they do not determine outcomes on their own. To succeed, talent, family care and support, being well off and from a good school with good contacts all come into play. Telling people, they will always achieve if they want it enough actually promotes the idea of winners and losers, where those who do not succeed have only themselves to blame. The pandemic has increased a sense that things won’t work out well for people unless they succeed at everything. The church has played its own part in this culture, ignoring mental health issues and wellbeing while spouting forth on victorious living in Christ. The writers of the Bible books did not always reveal much of what was going on inside people’s minds unless we read books like Psalms and Lamentations which are full of feelings and emotions. Here we meet folk who feel lost and alone and let down. We must prioritise Mental Health, make our premises available for the support of people’s mental health and well-being where we can. The Church is called to speak up on behalf of those who have no voice or who cannot be heard. We must use the power of example, Jesus example, our example, what it means to be followers of Jesus who care about people physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  

24th May 2021

John 17:17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.

As we look back over the past 15 months we often speak of life before the pandemic, which we call normal, and there is life during and after the pandemic. The new normal. It has completely changed how we are with one another, how we see life, and we are reassessing what is important. The pandemic is a pivotal moment. It’s one of those threshold moments that calls into question everything: priorities and values, the way we live and relate to one another, the things that truly matter, where we want to invest our time and energy, how we want to be in this world, what we want from life. Pivotal moments, dividing lines, are those moments when life gets truly real. They hold before us questions about who we are, who we want to be, what we’ve done, and whether our life matters and makes a difference. On our behalf Jesus asks three things of his Father: that God would protect us, making us one as Jesus and the Father are one; that God would protect us from the evil one; and that God would sanctify us in truth. In prayer we see the human Jesus standing in solidarity with us and our humanity, working through life. It offers us an example to follow and an encouragement as we seek to work through our lives and God’s part in them. As we do this we can find the answers to some of these questions and helps to reassess what is important to us as Christians and what God requires of us each day.

23rd May 2021

Luke 6:35a But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, care for one another.

Pastoral care has a much wider scope than it used to. The growing understanding of the need for humans to express themselves, to challenge the status quo and question their place in the world is brilliant. I am so pleased to see Young women speaking out about the constant sexual pressures they are put under and how the accepted norm of society has to change. It is great to see Black Lives Matter altering the way in which people are treated because of their skin colour. Equality and diversity are now key factors in our schools alongside safeguarding and wellbeing. A tradition and culture of knowing your place has, in many areas, begun to be broken down. These things are still in their infancy and have a long way to go. Let’s face it Jesus’ teaching on loving our neighbour as self is two thousand years old and we still do not get it, we still see others as a threat because of culture, nationality, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preferences, class and race. Many changes are long overdue and many have gone backwards in the last few years but the appetite for change is there and demanding to be listened to. Of course, as soon as someone makes a stand those who disagree will make their own stand and attempt to justify their behaviour. We are all different, we do have different needs and ideas but central to all is humanity, we are all human and there is no distinction because of where we come from, our gender or race, our skin colour, our disabilities, our sexual preferences, our politics, ethnicity or culture. None of us are perfect, none of us have superior rights to another, none of us can dictate to another how they should be because they are not like us. Caring for each other is part of our nature, part of our created being. God cares for every one of His people, as His creation we are inbuilt with that same desire to care for the other. The question is whether we follow God’s way or the selfish ways of our often-misguided society.

22nd May 2021

Matthew 26:39 Going a little farther, Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

How are you feeling at the moment? Has it all become too much, especially as the new freedoms are now tempered by another variant? The old proverb reminds us that there is a straw that breaks the camel’s back, it is often something small that finally takes us that step too far. Often under the really heavy weight of something we just keep going, we feel we just have to, then almost as the light begins to dawn, as the way through seems possible something else just hits. I often wonder what it was like for Jesus in the last week of His earthly life, one thing after another, yet he keeps His calm, keeps encouraging others, keeps giving and teaching knowing what is coming. Is it surprising that in the garden he finally lets go, he calls out to God, he asks the question is there any other way? He sweats blood, the trauma is so great, it seems as if the straw has landed. Yet in His calling out to God, in His questioning, in His challenge he finds a renewed strength. In the admittance of His need and fear comes God’s love, God’s support. In my own life it has often been in the darkest hour, at the time I am about to give up and give in, as I cry out and open myself, that the room is available for God to come in and strengthen me. They say the biggest barrier to dealing with a problem is not admitting to the problem. In wanting to just keep going we stop ourselves from asking for help, we become blinkered and do not accept the help that is there, that is freely offered by friends, family and God. Jesus knew He could only face Easter in God’s strength but even He had to admit it out loud and open Himself up for God to come in and take the strain.

21st May 2021

Proverbs 1:5 Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance

I have just had my car serviced and the MOT carried out. These check-ups make sure the big box of metal is running safely and properly which keeps me and those who travel with me safe, but also keeps others safe. The jobs that need doing can be small or large but each one has an impact. The need for clean oil to keep the workings of the engine smooth, the suspension keeping the running safe and smooth, the tyres with enough tread to hold the road safely, the lights so we can communicate our intentions and be seen in the dark, the emissions so we do not poison the atmosphere. These check-ups are necessary, they pick up on wear and tear, show where replacement or maintenance is needed. The same applies to our Spiritual life. We need check-ups, we need maintenance, we need things for smooth and safe living. Unlike the car, these check-ups are not mandatory, they are our choice. Many Christians go through life never questioning, looking, asking or learning. We all grow and change, so will our faith. The maintenance comes through reading the Bible, prayer, studying and praying with others, attending worship, hearing sermons, these all provide us with the checks and maintenance we need in our faith. None of us have got everything completely right, opinions will differ, ideas will differ, but we need to be listening, looking, asking and so changing and growing as well as being kept safe and roadworthy. Events in the church calendar can be service and MOT moments for us. Easter and Christmas give us real opportunity to improve and develop our faith. Pentecost is a wonderful opportunity to reignite our faith and our ability to live good Christian lives. May we be wise and discerning through guidance and learning.

20th May 2021

Romans 1:12 That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

Are you an encourager? Someone who always has a good word for others and helps them move forward? Encouragement is vital as we grow in life. The encouragement of our children to walk and talk, to read and play, to eat and learn. The encouragement to study, to go to college, to set out on a career path, to be a good, honest person. We all need encouragement, but as we get older we perhaps tire of keeping going. Here Paul is speaking of how we must be mutually encouraging one another. It is not just the church leader, the worship leader, the Bishop, the vicar, the pastor, the Sunday school teacher’s job to encourage, it is all of ours. None of us are able to just keep going without the help and encouragement of others. We all need to know we are doing a good job, saying the right thing, standing up for those who need it, learning and growing. If no one tells a child that reading is good and they are doing well they will not bother. If we do not encourage faith and the Christian life in each other then we will fall away, lose our joy and hope. Jesus needed encouragement, St Paul needed encouragement, the disciples needed encouragement, we need encouragement and we need to give encouragement to others. May we all mutually encourage each other through our faith and living as Christ has equipped us to.

19th May 2021

Matthew 22:39b Love your neighbour as yourself

If you look at the aggression, anger, vitriol, hate crime, political rhetoric, nationalism and social media posts, loving our neighbour is not an easy task. Cultures, landownership, traditions and beliefs seem to make us more willing to hate our neighbour than love them; especially if they are not the same as we are. We are very fearful of difference and this fear has been and still is being used to provoke behaviour that persecutes and accuses our neighbour rather than love them. Love may seem a strange concept here but this is quite simply about love for our fellow humans. It means we care about, are interested in, are concerned for every human being, we desire that ever human is treated with respect, with fairness, honesty and compassion so that everyone can flourish. It is this love of our fellow humans that means we hurt when innocents across the world starve to death, die from dirty water, are killed and abducted, are made slaves, imprisoned or left to die by their own leaders and governments. This love for our fellow humans challenges us to give to food banks, to donate to charity, to buy a bacon butty for the homeless person on the street. Here in Matthew Jesus is clearly saying that the greatest outworking of our faith is to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we have plenty to eat, so should everyone, if we have clean water, so should everyone, if we have a place to live, so should everyone, if we enjoy education, peace and freedom, so should everyone. We are reminded to look at how we treat our ourselves, the privilege, honour, grace and love we afford ourselves and then to treat our neighbour in the same way, with the same privilege, honour, grace and love. The next verse also makes it clear that everything else hangs on this. Fair society, justice, peace, protection, quality of life…. It all depends on us loving our neighbour as ourselves. May we strive to treat everyone with honour, privilege, love and grace we give to ourselves so that other things fall into place.

18th May 2021

Psalm 34: 17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

They say the mark of a good society is the way it cares for the victims of a crisis. The pandemic has been such a crisis with huge casualties and mental health has slowly come to the fore as important as well as physical health. We can all see this issue around us but I believe children and young people stand out as really struggling. Schooling has been disrupted, friendships lost and not even made, this current younger generation will enter the world of work after another major recession and they will inherit a huge national debt as well as their own personal debts, encouraged by a credit society. Their mental health is in need, as a good society how can we help? This mental health issue preceded lockdown and there has been a significant increase in mental illness among younger people in the last decade or so. We, as a society, have given our young people the belief that they must be perfect to fit in and to achieve, that their exam grades dictate the rest of their life. They have been involved in the least safeguarded culture revolution of social media which can destroy people in a matter of moments by comments, trolling, likes and dislikes. We have given them a society of winners and losers and thus given them a huge mental health problem. None of the above are true, they do not need to be perfect, life is not dictated by exams, friendship is not a social media construct and so on. If we look at the Bible through the lenses of mental health, we will see that Jesus himself had crises in His life, that the pressure at times was too much to bear. Read the Psalms and Lamentations and see the expression of feelings and needs and the cry to God in the depths of despair for help. There is an old prayer that says God be in my head and in my understanding. That is what we need, God in our minds and in our understanding, that we value our mental health as much as our physical health, that we recognise the mental health needs we have and we share that with our young people, we offer time to listen, time to talk and time to just be.

17th May 2021

Luke 15:24 My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found! So, they began to celebrate.

There is nothing like coming home, the joy of seeing someone after a long time apart. For many of us right now we long for that coming home as it was before the pandemic, the being able to hug a loved one, to have them close again after months of distancing. Reunions in the parable of the Lost Son and the Lost Sheep are not blighted by bad feeling or wrongs of the past. The shepherd searches everywhere for his sheep, the father is waiting and looking day after day for his son’s return. The love seen here is that of a God who has conquered all sin and thrown them all into the deepest parts of the sea; never to be seen or heard from again, love conquers it all. Our sin, our wrongdoing is forgotten, gone, never to resurface. God has gone looking for each of us in our need and picked us up, bringing us home and everyone who is brought home is celebrated with equal fervour and measure. God is always searching for us and waiting for us to respond, when we do, we are embraced, loved and celebrated. Think of those you are longing to hug and have close again? This longing that we have imagine it multiplied many times over and we begin to get just a glimpse of how God feels about us and longs for us to come home.

16th May 2021

Matthew 21:42 Jesus said to them, Surely, you have read this in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected became the cornerstone.

Do you ever feel like Jesus is talking about you when you read or hear passages in the Bible? At times we know God is definitely challenging us about our behaviour and life from the Bible. In the story of the Tenants in the vineyard Jesus does not hold back. He tells the chief priests and Pharisees that they are wrong, He is holding them to account for what they have done and for what they will do to Him. What about us? Where would we place ourselves in this story? As hard-working servants? Or are we more like the tenants? They reject the son, steal and kill for their own benefit and profit. Now, we may be involved in the extremes used here, but we are very capable of openly denying Jesus through our words and actions, behaving more like the Pharisees than the faithful servants. Jesus challenges the hypocrisy of those who supposedly lead people in their faith and represent God to them. The actions and words of these so-called religious leaders were the total opposite of What God had wanted for His people; but human nature, selfishness, power, wealth and self-aggrandisement had long replaced God as their priority. God also speaks to us about our lifestyle, we need to think about our priorities in life, are they selfish or are they God centred? The wonderful news is that Jesus has offered everyone and still offers us redemption, forgiveness and love, it is our choice what we do with it.

15th May 2021

Luke 16:10 One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Currently the news is full of stories about fraud, during the pandemic criminals have been able to bypass security checks, use people’s names and National Insurance numbers to take money. Those whose identity they have stolen are now being forced to pay back money they never asked for or received. In Government there is masses of evidence of money being given for contracts that do not exist, to companies who have politicians as directors and donate to the party. It is not a popular way of looking at things or people these days but if you look at someone’s behaviour in the small things, before they were senior you will see that they often were less than honest in their lives in junior and early posts. Sadly, we seem to reward those who lie and cheat rather than making them pay for their fraud. This verse clearly tells us that those who are faithful in the small will be faithful in the big, those who are dishonest in the small will be dishonest in the big. Anyone who cheats and lies in their early life will always do so, we need to hold people to account always and not reward bad behaviour and fraud with senior posts because society says everyone does it so it’s okay. Everyone does not do it and It is an indictment of our society that honesty and integrity is no longer considered as crucial for those who lead and want to be in the public eye or working in public roles. We must challenge the dishonesty around us, we must question and challenge those who allow this fraud to continue, we must demand justice against those who defraud us and we must demand that all fraudulent gains are returned so those who truly deserve help are given it. Honesty and integrity must come first.

14th May 2021

Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

How are you on a bad day, we all have them, whether from oversleeping and being late, to arguing with family or friends, stuck in traffic, everything seeming to go wrong and the weather being awful. Bad days are a fact of life, as are good days, what makes the difference is how we respond. One issue early on in a day can set the tone for the whole day but if we recognise it and see it for what it is, we can respond differently. When things happen to us what we need to do is acknowledge their presence, recognise them and then deal with them. If the matter is serious and deeply painful we may have to spend a considerable time acknowledging it, spending time with it, thinking it through, but our very recognition means we have the ability to deal with it. We can say, goodbye to the issue, own it and then we can let it go. For most bad days this recognising it, owning it and letting it go can happen quite quickly and then offer us the rest of the day to enjoy as we would usually do. These words from Isaiah remind us that we never go through anything alone, even when we are cranky and argumentative God is with us, even when we shout and let off steam, God is with us, even when we are late, miss the bus, get stuck in traffic God is with us, when we are having a bad day God is with us, just as He is if we are having a good day. God does not change His love for us based on how we are each day, He loves us unconditionally. We are never alone and that is well worth recognising and remembering when we are having a bad day.

13th May 2021

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Do you have lots of plants in your home? What about flowers? I do like the occasional bunch of flowers, they bring colour, life, smell and a smile to one’s face. Then they go over, the leaves become brittle, the petals drop, life is gone and they end up thrown away. These flowers have been removed from their life source, and although we can, for a few days, replace that need with water and plant food, the life is leaving them. Once they are cut, they begin to die. We are the same, our life source comes from the creator, God, abiding in Him is what allows us to live and live in fulness. When we are cut off from our creator we begin to die. The life source from Him is lost and the nutrients and goodness we need is no longer feeding us. Yes, we can do various things to try and prolong the inevitable, but we will become dry, lifeless, brittle, colourless and even mouldy on the ends. We are no longer bringing any value, any joy or colour, we are no longer fruitful and so we become those who no one wants to be around. I am not advocating that we do not have flowers in our home but we can learn a lesson from them. An Indian philosopher once said; “When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily. He who understands this, understands life…” Life in its fullness comes from being connected to our life source, it is so clear in Jesus’ teaching in John 15 about abiding in the vine. We will only ever find real life, true colourful and rewarding life if we are abiding in, connected to, our creator, God.

12th May 2021

Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen in nature, so that people are without excuse.

Some people just see things, just understand so much. We have been blessed by brilliant minds over the centuries and we have been blessed to have their writings and discoveries in our lives. Many of these brilliant minds found their inspiration in nature. If you ever get the chance to visit Barcelona, do go to the Sagrada Familia, a church build using the shapes and forms of nature. It is magnificent and awe inspiring. Einstein, too, looked to nature for understanding and in fact encouraged us to look deeper into nature as there we would find the ability to understand everything better. Paul explains in Romans that we really have no excuse, that creation and nature show God so clearly to the world that we have no excuse but to see Him. He also explains how we have turned away from this clear path and made paths of our own, rejecting God for our own personal desires and abilities. For those who actively seek to disprove God, to make themselves God’s, they constantly hit the wall of how, how nature works so perfectly, how everything sits in balance, how all we have discovered and developed found it’s beginning in nature. They decry a divine creator in favour of a haphazard collision of chemicals. If we open our eyes to the incredibleness of creation, of nature, to how things work so amazing well, to how perfect and in balance thing are until we start messing with them, we get a glimpse of a divine orchestrator, a creator and when we see this how can we do anything but recognise God in nature, we are without excuse.

11th May 2021

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.

I wonder if you watch Call the Midwife? I love it, a very moral programme centred on a religious order caring for their community. Recently the oldest Nun has had a crisis of faith after falling and breaking her hip. Even as she got better, she could no longer face the Daily prayer pattern the order follows and found herself in despair. I wondered how they would resolve this issue because we all suffer a crisis of faith at some point. She finds her wonder and awe of God returned in helping to deliver a baby, something she has not done in a long time, and in inspecting the placenta. Within this life-giving organ she speaks of the beauty, the life-giving organ that is hidden within us and so easily forgotten about. She speaks of the new life, fed and enabled by this organ which is then just taken and destroyed. As she looks, she sees beauty, pattern, richness and life. She is reminded of the life-giving amazing creation that enables babies to be conceived and born. She is reminded of the life-giving Creator God she had recently doubted and once again finds her faith. It is good for us as Christians to have experiences where we are lost in wonder, in awe, in praise of the God who created us and gave us life. These experiences can come through worship, through prayer, through experiences and through the wonder of creation. God knew us before birth and He provided us with life and protection even in the womb as we grew. It is so easy to take for granted that which is so miraculous, may we not take our God for granted.

10th May 2021

Isaiah 42:4 In faithfulness they will bring forth justice; they will not falter or be discouraged till they establish justice on earth.

When you look around at the media, the news, the politics, does it all seem fair? When you hear that someone has got away with a crime, does it make you angry? I have been trying to support the Domestic Abuse bill, amongst others, and shocked at a government refusing to identify those who have severely hurt and even killed their partners so future partners can know the truth and be kept safe. We try so hard to fight for justice and somehow justice is far more easily attainable if you have money, status, friends in high places, celebrity connections, yet surely that same justice and fairness should be available to all. Legal Aid, set up to help the poorer in society, has been cut so much that virtually no body now qualifies. Research shows us that if you are from certain backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities you are more likely to be stopped, searched and detained with little or no evidence. How can justice be for all, if all cannot access it at the same level. We have fallen into the trap of believing that those with more money, status and control are more deserving than others. We have allowed ourselves to be convinced by the adage that only those who work hard do well, when that is simply not the case. People in our society who work so hard are rewarded with a pittance while many who rise to the top do so because of family connections and wealth, not hard work. Privilege sees many rise for no other reason than the family they were born into and the school and college they attended. This is not justice and fairness for all. It may seem than we can do little but we must, as God tells us, stand up for justice, stand up for the oppressed. If we feel it is too hard, makes no difference then nothing will ever change. God gave us voices, ideas, actions so we can make a difference. In our careers, family life, social life if we are people of integrity, honesty and those who promote justice it can and will make a difference. God challenges us on our justice, our fairness, our honesty and integrity, are we up to that challenge? Are we willing to always stand up for what is right no matter the cost? Will we not falter or be discouraged until Justice is established on earth?

9th May 2021

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

Being content is not something I come across much these days. It exists most in those who have less. Part of my growing up took place in the yuppie culture, trading the markets to get more and more, bending the rules and taking the risks because there was never quite enough gained. I had friends who were burnt out by the time they were 30 from trying to get the bigger house, better car, holiday homes and all the trappings of wealth and success. They were never content, each time they got more, they wanted more. It is the same trap that Scrooge falls into in Dicken’s Christmas Carol, I never have enough and therefore I am never content. Contentment comes from an appreciation of what we have. Of realising that we come from nothing so everything we have is a bonus, a blessing and appreciating it rather than seeing it as an entitlement. We look to fill the perceived void in our life with possessions or money, but we only end up wanting more. We try to fill it with relationships that bring us gain, but we end up feeling even more empty and depressed than when we started. The dictionary describes contentment as a state of happiness and satisfaction, a state of fulfilment. We have become people who measure happiness by what we earn or own, seek fulfilment in wealth and status, seek satisfaction in being famous and influencing others. But it is never enough. Perhaps a stock take of what we do have and are is called for. Counting our blessings and being thankful for them. Less time searching for more that is never enough and more time appreciating what we have. Less throw away and more appreciative, less receiving and more giving.

8th May 2021

Proverbs 27:19 As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

There are some really amazing things about life. The day we marry, the birth of a child, going to university, getting a great job, being loved, following our dreams, how amazingly adaptable our physical bodies are, how creative we are, what we can do and so much more. These experiences enable us to grow, to become the people we were chosen to be. The experiences of life, positive and negative teach us compassion, understanding, love, empathy and resilience. If we stay tuned in and aware of everything around us then we never reach a time in our lives when there is nothing left for us to learn. This is the amazing and wonderful life God made us a part of. The vision, dream and drive of endless humans have created a better world, the selfish greed of others has often negated that progress for others. Life is an opportunity to grow, change, improve, help, challenge and be amazing. Humans were not an accident, not a load of molecules that just happened to combine in the right way, we were created by God for life and a full life at that. God created us each as individuals but with common and shared traits. We need everyone, every gift and ability, every creative, every visionary, every hard worker, every cerebral, every physical. We need to support and help each other and celebrate difference as well as similarity. Life was given to us for living, for living the best way we can, for living with community, gaining strength and support from each other as we grow and learn. We have been given an incredible gift, the gift of life, may we use it for the good of all.

7th May 2021

Jeremiah 21:35 For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.

Currently I am very tired. Suddenly back at work every day, catch up being necessary, a lot more time travelling and the traffic is so much worse. Adjusting to the very early mornings again and the later evenings is hard and I am sure it will work itself out, but, if nothing else, the being at home more has been much better for my sleeping patterns, better quality family time and allowed me time to wind down. I am glad to hear today that top companies are saying they will not return to the expectation of everyone being in work, every day of the working week. It is good that we have learned a few lessons. God understands that we get tired, that we have physical and mental limitations. He is aware of the toll the last 15 months has had on us all and that we still need to keep going as we return to the new normal. When we need rest, we are often unwilling to thinking that we must be there, do that, see them, finish that…. If this last period of time has taught us anything it is that we need time, time to rest, time to wait, time to ponder and be willing to be patient and take time out. We cannot be all things to all people, we cannot keep going without rest and replenishment. God offers this to us if we are willing to take it.

6th May 2021

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special ones, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Remember those times when you were chosen for a team or to go to a party, to be a bridesmaid or page boy and how good that made you feel, the privilege, that specialness because you were chosen. There are also the times when we were not chosen, left out, ignored and we felt alone, hurt and often angry. The feelings of specialness, of being chosen are what God wants for us every moment of every day. God chose us to be His people, not just ordinary people but a royal priesthood, a holy nation that belong completely and utterly to God. We are chosen, called out of darkness, out of evil and wrongdoing into light, into joy and peace and into life in all it’s fullness. This being chosen is not something we deserve or can expect or demand, being chosen is something God offers to us no matter who we are. You and I are considered royalty, we have privilege and status not because we deserve it or earned it but because God chose to freely give it to us. So if we are chosen and special what does that mean for us? That we show off, place ourselves above others, treat others badly… no, not at all. It means hat just as we are given that special status by God we must give that status and position to others. God’s chosen and special status is given to everyone. When we look at others we need to look with the eyes of God, the heart of God that sees the specialness of every individual, the different gifts we each have and the different people we are, celebrating those differences whatever they may be. God treats no one differently and neither must we. We are all chosen and special before God, all equal and we should all treat one another with respect and with the same specialness that God treats us.

5th May 2021

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

It has been very windy the last day or so, that wind has consequences, closed bridges, blown over trees, power lines down, bins and garden things blown around. We can feel the wind on us, against us, blowing the door open or closed, whistling down the chimney or whining through the windows. Unlike the other forces of weather, we cannot see the wind, just the consequences of it. I love the old Beaufort wind scale we studied in Geography and the little images that accompanied it, from smoke going straight up through branches moving to trees being uprooted. The work of the wind can be anything from gentle through to major disruption and anywhere in between. This is why the work of the Holy Spirit is often compared to the wind in scripture and in teaching. We don’t see the Spirit as a visible physical entity, we see what it is doing. When the Holy Spirit first came upon the disciples it gave them strength, courage, ability to communicate with different cultures and languages. The impact of the Spirit comes and goes as it is needed. When we are in need of courage, wisdom, understanding, strength the Spirit works within us to provide us with the physical, emotional and spiritual needs we have. The Spirit is within us as Christians but we have the choice as to whether we allow it to work within us and out of us or whether we keep it contained and unused. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence within us, communicating with us, stirring us up and empowering us, our choice is whether we allow it or hold it back.

4th May 2021

Mark 12:44 Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.

One of my favourite watches on TV Is Bargain Hunt. I love to see what people like and don’t like, what the professional’s rate and how good I am at guessing if they will make a profit or loss. It fascinates me the value people put on things and how that changes depending on whether you are the buyer or seller. Of course, there is the monetary value but also the social value and history tied to certain items. We all value everything differently and it is so called experts who seem to decide if something has value or not, if it is rare or not or if the artist or creator is important or not. Jesus lesson to the disciples and to us as he watches the poor widow put the smallest offering in the box is what it means to us when we give. In the widow’s case she has nothing and yet gives the very little she has to help others and serve God. The rich that Jesus watches offer much and make a huge show out of it but in comparison to what they keep, how important the money is to their existence, they actually give very little. It is a similar thing to when a pay rise is given, 1% of 16,000 is so much smaller than 1%of 160,000. If you have millions and give a few thousand you do not miss it but it makes you look good, if you have just a few pounds to live on but give away some of that to help another it is of so much more value, so much more is being given. The value we place on things is affected by the world view, by so called experts deciding what is valuable or not. In God’s eyes we all have unimaginable value and our offering to help others shows how we value them. If we give, even out of our little, the value is incredible, is blessed. If we give out of huge privilege and wealth the true value of what is given is so much less. May we look, see and give in God’s view of value not the worlds.

3rd May 2021

Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, ‘remember when you were alive you had the good things in life, and let the bad things happen to Lazarus. Now he is comforted here, and you are suffering.`

The story of the Rich man and Lazarus can be rather uncomfortable, after all we all like proof of things and obvious proof at that. Here is a story warning about inequality and saying pay attention folks while there is still time. As we sit in our decent homes with full fridges, central heating, all the creature comforts we need and more, it is easy not to pay attention to the needs of others, even those right on our doorstep. Once he gets his comeuppance the rich man wants to warn his family to change their ways and priorities and, not actually learning his lesson, wants the poor man to do the job for him. The evidence has been right there all along, it is right there for us in the prophets, in the Bible, in Jesus, but we make a choice based on how good life is now. Then when the chickens come home to roost, we say “If I had only known? If only someone had told me and I had realised” But all the information is there, we have been told time and time again, it is written in History. The choice is and always will be ours, sadly we think we know best and often do not to listen to history, the prophets, the Holy Spirit, Jesus or God. This story should make us feel uncomfortable and challenge us about all that we have in the here and now against those who are poor and go without. We need to use what we have more effectively and more honestly, give thanks to God for everything we have and then ask Him what we can do for others. It is not the having that precludes us from God, it is the attitude that puts all we have before God thinking we need all this stuff to be happy and fulfilled rather than God. 

2nd May 2021

Colossians 3: 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Being forgiven when we do wrong is something we all desire and long for. I have always hated anyone being angry with me and if I upset a friend, I feel like it is the end of the world and would do anything to obtain their forgiveness. Of course, when we are the ones doing the forgiving, we often hold out and are less free with our forgiveness than we want others to be with us. We all have the power to forgive, we have the choice. God’s forgiveness of us is freely given, we do not have to beg, plead or bargain, we only need to be sorry for our words and actions. God’s example of forgiveness is one we need to follow. We are told here to bear with, that means tolerance, accepting that none of us are perfect, that we all make mistakes and therefore understand the need to bear with each other, to be patient and understanding, which comes from love. God forgives us because He loves us, we forgive because we love others, we forgive because we are forgiven. Of course, forgiveness is not easy, especially when we have been deeply hurt and trust has been betrayed. Forgiveness can take a very long time on our part but all we have to do is be willing to try, God will do the rest. Forgiveness has been shown to have health benefits, to be a healing process for the one who forgives. It increases our own self-esteem, offers an inner strength and can help to reverse the damage done by the action or words within us. It is also beneficial in decreasing depression, in helping with psychological problems and mental health issues. God’s forgiveness of us is freely given, we do not deserve it, yet it is offered because of the love He has for us. We need to ask ourselves how freely we forgive and if we need to show mercy and love far more than we do. Forgiveness does not eradicate responsibility or consequences for the one being forgiven but it opens the door for healing, for restoration and for a better way of living.

1st May 2021

Deuteronomy 11:25 No one will be able to stand against you, the Lord your God will put fear and dread of you in all the land.

At present I am quite out of sorts at the behaviour of those in power, those with a lot of money, those who seem to be able to dictate policy while so many are suffering and losing out. As much as I write letters, send emails, challenge the local and national politicians it seems like nothing changes. Reading this verse gave me a sense of hope, if I am fighting to do God’s will and fight injustice and seek fairness then I am being told here that I and you will not be stood against. I guess that means we have to be the ones who are always truthful, who do not sacrifice our principles for favour or gain, who stand for truth and righteousness, who keep challenging the misspending of public money, the fraudulent awarding of contracts and the blatant ignoring of the law and flagrant misuse of position and power. I quite like the idea of people dreading us turning up and speaking the truth, challenging the status quo. I have seen this happen, been involved in organising community meetings where big business and local councils are taken to task and have to change what they have done, but also, I have seen those events bring tighter protection for those who have power and voice. We must not give up, yes sometimes it seems like relentless negativity, getting nowhere fast, but God says if we play our part, it will make a difference. Even in the darkest of times there is always hope. May God make us people to be reckoned with, not ignored, people with honest, clear voices who are heard. People who proclaim the message of fairness and justice for all. Known for our honesty and truth.

30th April 2021

Jeremiah 18:18b Come, let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says.

Do you remember that playground ditty, sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. We all learned very quickly that actually the words and names do hurt, sometimes really deeply. The angry crowd in Jeremiah used their tongues; the lies and the name calling, to try and bring Jeremiah down. These people tried to use Jeremiah’s own words against him, something our politicians do on a daily basis. Words have become a weapon that we use to try to destroy and hurt those we do not agree with. Words taken out of context can be manipulated and twisted to make them appear to be bad when they are good and vice versa. Our current media and political messages are based on sound bites. We never get the whole message just a snippet to pique the interest and get the juices of anger or support going. Words are very powerful, Jesus own words were used against Him and we are all good at using words to hurt others, but we are clearly told as Christians that our words should be honest, truthful and bring healing and peace. Before we speak, we need to be mindful of what we are going to say and how it might hurt or bless others. Perhaps think about what you have said to others recently and try this test; were your words true, were they kind and were they necessary? Often our words may be true but in our haste we are unkind. Often, we say things which are not necessary and also unkind. As you think about what you have said and what you will say, try this test. Remind yourself that everything you speak out needs to be honest, kind and necessary. That way all your conversations will be ones of blessing and encouragement and not ones that hurt and bring others down.

29th April 2021

Matthew 27:3-4 Judas, the one who betrayed him, realised that Jesus was doomed. Overcome with remorse, he gave back the thirty silver coins to the high priests, saying, “I've sinned. I've betrayed an innocent man.”

The character of Judas has fascinated me for years. As a young Christian he was the villain of the piece, the one who I would boo and hiss in the pantomime of the Easter story. In later years, with far more understanding and experience of forgiveness from God and from others, I am far more accepting of this man. The story of Jesus life, death and resurrection is dependent on someone giving Him up to the authorities, that had to be someone in the inner circle of friends or it would not work. Judas had a role in the story of our redemption, a role which without the job would not have been done. The God I believe in and preach about would not damn someone for doing what He needed them to do. Here in this verse is a key phrase, overcome with remorse, Judas knew what he done was wrong and he admitted it, he was sorry. God’s forgiveness is for everyone, no matter their sin, yes, consequences will have to be faced and in Judas’s case the consequences were far to much for him to bear, but his remorse, his pivotal role in the story of our redemption make me sure Judas was not condemned to Hell, for if he was not forgiven in his remorse then there is no hope for us who are often not remorseful for our sin because they become our normality. When we do very bad things, we usually regret them afterwards, if we are willing to be remorseful, to say we are sorry, to face the consequences of our actions, we also find God’s love and forgiveness ready and waiting. Jesus’ death on the cross was about our forgiveness, forgiveness for all earned by Jesus, all we need to do is to recognise our wrongdoing and admit to it. 

28th April 2021

Isaiah 1:17 Look for what is right and fair. Speak strong words to those who make it hard for people. Stand up for the rights of those who have no parents. Help the woman whose husband has died.

When someone’s life is coming to an end there tends to be an urgency to their words. They want to pass on the important things to loved ones, and we have many famous last words written in our history books. These words mattered to them and then to us. As Jesus is nearing His crucifixion He is speaking to His disciples and those around Him with a sense of urgency. This is what matters folks; this is what counts; it is not just about what you say but what you do about it. Jesus warns constantly about hypocrisy, He tells us we are not be people who say one thing and do another. We are to work for the good of all, and do so without wanting others to know and say how wonderful we are. Sadly, there are those, even among our religious leaders, who want everyone to know the good they say they do and are often a lot of hot air rather than people of action. Think about how you challenge the wrong in the world around you and how you can make life better for those around you. Are there things you can take action about, speak up about and in doing so make life better for yourself and others. May we all be people of action and not people of hot air.

27th April 2021

Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Jesus words here in Matthew reflect back to the laws originally given in Deuteronomy and take them further. There were plenty of people who had declared they had fulfilled these laws and kept the commands; they loved their neighbour but hated their enemy. Let’s face it there are always people who want to tell you how wonderful they are. Jesus challenges this attitude, belief and corruption by telling us to love and pray for our enemies. The expectation is for us to be as God and Jesus are, perfect in our dealings with everyone. This is impossible for us; we can never be Holy or perfect but we can live at our best through Jesus and God’s strength in us. We can have the Holy Spirit within us guiding and prompting us, allowing us to pray for those we struggle with, those we might consider to be our enemies. Something I was told years ago by a wise vicar was you do not have to like everyone, love them yes, but you do not have to like them. Families are the best example of this. We can we struggle with liking some family members but we love them because they are family. It is not an easy thing to do and we very much need help; God is right there to offer that help with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Think about what it means to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. It probably makes you recoil at the thought of loving someone who hurts you, but we have to try. God gives us His strength and we must ask Him for it and for His help to love those we find difficult. Jesus love for us, and some of us are not that likeable, took Him to the cross. It may be worth just thinking about some of the things that make you and I hard to love, be honest with yourself, are there things we can change to make ourselves easier to love? 

26th April 2021

Psalm 66:19 Truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Prayer is the way that we keep in touch with God. Many people think they can change God: ‘If I ask really nicely, then God will do what I want.’ Others see prayer as a form of magic: ‘If I say it in the right way, then God will answer.’ Neither of these is true. Prayer is the way in which we open up to God, so that God can work in us and God does always answer, although not always in the way we would like. If we love someone, we keep in touch. Prayer is the same. If we love God, we stay in touch. We talk to God and we listen to God. It’s a conversation. To begin our conversation with God we need make the decision to talk to God, it maybe we sit or kneel in a way that is comfortable and attentive. Normally our minds are full of distractions; thoughts just keep happening so we calm ourselves and put our minds on God. As we settle, our minds are less crowded, and listening is much easier. We let the awareness of God enfold us, like loving arms, we don’t need to say anything sometimes, the contact is enough. At other times, we need to talk; address God as Father or God or Lord, it really doesn’t matter. We say what we feel, what we need and it can be aloud or silently. God doesn’t stand on ceremony. Having a conversation means taking time to say, ‘Thank you.’ ‘Sorry.’ ‘Guess what?’ ‘I love you.’ Then we also take time to listen, to let God use our thoughts and feelings, Give God time to speak to us. Conversations take time . . . and patience. There is no right way to pray, it is different for everyone but we can use prayers written by others, we can use the Lord’s Prayer. The most important thing is that we pray.

25th April 2021

Deuteronomy 30:19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
This verse from Deuteronomy is about making a choice. The choice of life or death. The choice of a selfish life or an unselfish life and the consequences. The choices we make affects how we behave; listening to God or listening to self, choosing a blessing or a curse, choosing the whole world and losing our very self. We live in the world; our challenge is not to be of it. To not let ourselves be enticed by the promises and gains of this world and in doing so lose our very soul. The choice for us is stark, Heaven or Hell. We cannot know God or His love if we follow the ways of the world, if we listen to the worldly voices of gain, selfish ambition and me first. Following God’s way is not easy and may well involve suffering; being a disciple, a Christian, comes at a price. The world says that suffering and success cannot exist together, faith says they can. These choices are rather uncomfortable. Thinking about what it might mean to lose our life for Christ, maybe not literally, but in other ways. It means our attitude may need to change our routine may need to change. Less TV, phone, computer, reading, radio etc and more prayer. Less money spent on me and more on others perhaps. Speaking up when others suffer unjustly, even if we suffer too. In this way we chose blessings and real life in God.

24th April 2021 

Proverbs 31:8-9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are marginalised. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Think about the people you mix with, your neighbours, friends and colleagues. Are they marginalised in any way? Do you know them well enough to know? It is true that often folk do not want us to know if they have needs, but if the pandemic has shown us anything it is that people around us may not have enough food, may have lost their job, maybe being penalised for the colour of their skin, their gender, their social class, their disability. We have a voice, we have the communication portals, we can speak up and speak out. If you look back over this past year, what have you done for others? The danger for many has been the desire to preserve self above all and has meant some of us have just hidden in our ivory tower, waiting to resume our normal life again, instead of using what we have to make sure everyone is kept safe, everyone has food, warmth, clothing and is treated fairly by society. We are called to defend the rights of the poor and needy, to speak up for those marginalised, to defend the poor. All too often I have seen poverty and hunger blamed on the very people we are supposed to care for, because it is easier to find an excuse, to put the blame elsewhere instead of taking responsibility. Children are not hungry because of choice, it is because those who decide wages, job prospects, employment and costs have chosen to get as much for themselves by giving as little as possible to the poor and marginalised. It is the choice of those who have as to whether they choose to share with the have nots. I am very glad to see that many have chosen to share, and interestingly it is often those who do not have a lot themselves who share openly with others. It is our choice whether we speak up, speak out, defend the poor and needy but it is choice God asks us to make.

23rd April 2021

Micah 6:8 what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

When we apply for a job or write our CV we dwell on our strengths, attributes and achievements, and rightly so. How many of us would use these words from Micah to speak about ourselves? If we look more closely perhaps these are attributes we should be both desiring and offering up about ourselves. If we are just people then we will fight for fairness and justice for all, if we are merciful then we will not criticise others for the actions or mistakes but rather show compassion and forgiveness. If we are humble then talking about ourselves and put ourselves above others will not be on our agenda. Yet we know we fail in all these things. Even so we should not give up, God requires these things of us so we need to try. We need to have that moral rightness based on ethics, law, rationality, religion and equity that is justice. We need to have that compassion, forgiveness, blessing, favour, love, and response to need when it is unmerited and unexpected that is mercy. We need to have that modest, realistic view of our self that does not put me above you, that is not arrogant, that is humility. Perhaps these are the very things we should put on our CV. If we all excelled in Justice, mercy and humility the world be as God intended with all equal, all cared for, no one in need and selfish behaviour gone. We are rather good at complicating things but from God’s perspective if we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him everything else fits into place.

22nd April 2021

Job 2:13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

The visual image that was sent worldwide from the funeral of Prince Philip was the Queen sitting alone in her grief. Although because of protocols, she sat alone, she was not alone. Around her were family, those who wanted to take care of her and share the load as best they could. One of the most difficult things of this past year or so is not being able to be there for people as we normally would, not being able to visit family, visit the sick and dying, unable to turn up on someone’s door step and offer a hug, a coffee, some food or to just be a presence. We were not created to walk through life alone. Back in Genesis, God says it is not good for Human’s to be alone and so we have family, friends, colleagues, those with whom we can share the load. Often what is needed by anyone is presence, just being there, words may or may not come, but they are often not necessary, especially if they are forced. Just the presence of another in our grief, in our pain, in our need, is what is really needed. In Job’s terrible tragedy his friends came to comfort him, they saw his terrible state and they did not offer platitudes, advice or tell him to pull himself together, they sat with him for a week in his suffering and were just there for him no questions asked. It is difficult, we want to say something, to help alleviate the pain, often that is because we ourselves are uncomfortable. Actually, just being there with someone is what is needed, is what counts. Don’t worry about what to say or do, just be there for each other and the rest will happen when and where it needs to.

21st April 2021

John 1: 14b We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Being a person full of truth does not give us the excuse to be rude to other people by speaking the truth, even in love! Truth without Grace is not the way for us to go in any social interaction! Biblical truth is not our subjective opinion about something but the Truth of God’s eternal love for us. Jesus was the perfect truth of God’s love for the world. As a follower of Jesus, an imitator of God, we are full of that truth too. That does not mean that every opinion we have is true or right; but that we represent the truth of God’s love for us in our daily life. So, this week, each day, as we seek to imitate Jesus, what can we do to share that Truth with others? Sharing our truth is not about telling other people our personal opinions about faith. What people want and need from us is Truth: the Truth that God loves them, the Truth that God has come into this fallen world so they can live, the Truth that He wipes the slate clean from the past and gives a fresh start, the Truth that He will uphold them always and forever. That is Truth. You have a story to tell about God’s impact on your life, so tell it… Be Graceful, be Truthful, in all your relationships and communications with others. Jesus was full of grace and truth, that means there was never a moment when He was not God’s gift to the world or when he stopped embodying God’s love for the world. May we always be full of grace and truth.

20th April 2021

Ephesians 5:1 Follow God’s example and live in the way of love.

We are all called to reflect the love of Jesus to our local community, to our friends, families and neighbours, as we introduce people to Jesus and help them discover God’s love for themselves. We are called to be imitators of God. This means we need to reflect the love of Jesus to the world around us so that others will be inspired to come and know Him for themselves. Do you remember the 9/11 tragedy and the images of thousands of people streaming out of the Towers whilst the Fire Officers were running into the burning building to look for and save people. It is a wonderful metaphor for what Jesus has done for us; Jesus rushes into the burning building of sin and death by dying on the cross for us. Through Christ, we are free to live. Live a life of grace and a life of honesty. Grace comes from the Greek word ‘charis’, which means ‘gift’. Jesus was God’s gift to the world in how He lived and spoke and in what He did for us. If we are a follower of Jesus, we are full of grace because we have the Spirit of Jesus living in us. We are, in that grace, God’s gift to the world! People full of grace, full of gifts, to give to others. This means that we can make a real difference by becoming a gift of Kind words, a gift of forgiveness, a gift of help, a gift of compassion; in other words, following God’s example and being God’s gift of Jesus to others. May we be God’s gift, God’s grace, to others each day.

19th April 2021

Matthew 21:43 So I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to people who do the things God wants in his kingdom.

Often when confronting the religious leaders of His time Jesus does not hold back. In the story of the tenants in the vineyard, that leads up to this verse in Matthew, He tells the chief priests and Pharisees that they are wrong, He is holding them to account for what they have done and for what they will ultimately do to Him. Where do we place ourselves in this type of story? Do we see ourselves as the hard-working servants? Or are we more like the tenants? They reject the son, steal and kill for their own profit. Okay, we may not go to the extremes used here but we are capable of openly denying Jesus through our words and actions behaving much more like the Pharisees than the faithful servants. Jesus is challenging the hypocrisy of those who supposedly led the people in their faith and represented God to them. Their actions and words were the total opposite of what God had wanted for His people, but human nature, selfishness, power, wealth and self-aggrandisement had long replaced God as their priority. Jesus offered them and offers us redemption, forgiveness and love, it is our choice what we do with it. Think about your priorities in life, are they selfish or are they God centred? The Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them, do you ever feel like Jesus is talking about you when you read or hear passages in the Bible? Think about hypocrisy, can you think of examples in your life? Be honest, but remember that God is in the business of forgiveness and will help you to change the things that need changing in your life. 

18th April 2021

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Have you ever been a day dreamer? So lost in your own thoughts and ideas that you don’t hear someone or see when something is happening around you. I enjoyed making up stories as a child, acting out the parts and often when I was called by my parents, I was so engrossed in what I was doing that I did not hear or respond. In contrast, as a teenager I was told in no uncertain terms that I should not be so heavenly minded that I was no earthly good. Once again, we find ourselves needing to follow a central path, to walk a tightrope where we are aware of what’s around us but we are also aware of God and what He is doing. This verse from Colossian’s seems to say we should be so centred on Heaven that we are not overtaken by the things of the world. The meaning here is not one of day dreaming about Heaven but about having our heart and mind centred on the things of God and not the things of earth. In other words, we should not be occupied with gaining power, status, wealth and belongings on earth but rather working toward the things of Heaven for ourselves and others. We also need to be bringing these Heavenly priorities to our life on earth. God’s fairness and justice, God’s love and grace, God’s compassion and integrity should be what we strive for in our earthly life as well as the heavenly. If we live God centred lives on earth, we begin to bring the Heavenly realms back onto earth, we begin to make the world more like it was supposed to be for everyone not just those who have given themselves power and priority. If our mind is on Heaven and the ways of God then our worldly existence will be like that too.

17th April 2021

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind; Christ Jesus.

At this time of year particularly, we tend to be preoccupied with Jesus’ death, then His resurrection, and rightly so, it is the key to our faith, but we tend to forget, and so need reminding, that His death is nothing without his life. God is so overwhelming, so indescribable, so amazing that He can be almost inconceivable for us, and yet Jesus came and through His life revealed God to each one of us. Jesus acted as a go-between; an intermediary, He was a window to God for us. In a world such as ours, full of violence and injustice, Jesus lived so that we could see the very heart of God. This chosen way of life in such a ruined, sinful world led to His death. Worldly leaders and powers could just not cope with Him, they could not allow anyone to threaten their way of life, their power and wealth and so they put Him to death, tried to get rid of Him. But and it is a big but, in killing Jesus, an honest, genuine, sinless, pure and Holy person they uncovered themselves showing the corrupt, unjust, sinful, godless and fraudulent powers that they were. We are challenged to live the way of Christ every day. We are called to live as Jesus did, someone who was crucified, who exposed the dishonest, unjust powers and lived for justice and fairness. Through history, I am sorry to say, the cross has been used at times to keep people quiet and to force people to submit to violence and injustice rather than to expose these things. I am aware, even now, of shocking stories of women being told to live with violent partners and suffer like Jesus did. Of people being forced to work as slaves to learn to suffer and serve as Jesus did. Using Jesus’ cross in this way is a gross misrepresentation of the cross and of Jesus life. We must all speak out and fight injustice, we must not be complicit with injustice and the domination and punishment of others in the name of religion. 

16th April 2021

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened as an example, they were written down for our instruction.

If you have seen the Alan Bennet Talking Heads you will know that these are stories, people’s stories which are told, heard and held. Each time differing truths are found. The same is true of our faith stories, think of some of the expressions we use, “Tell me the old, old story”, this “bears repeating”, repetition makes things sink in. Using our stories and knowledge we must learn lessons and rethink our future, make it better, we have an opportunity, now. We are still blind to inequality, we have become tolerant of it and also unrighteousness, injustice, selfishness, poverty, vulnerability. We have a responsibility to our planet, to each other which has been ignored and forgotten. Our society flourishes in selfish ambition, but at what cost. Opinion is divided. We cannot follow Jesus if we evade difficulties, exclude others and their needs, be selfish and put money and power before God. Our priority must be Jesus and the love of all. Our loyalties can be misguided but we must be loyal to Jesus, we do because of Christ, the kingdom and the gospel. We are walking sacraments of faith, love and hope and we offer to others a blessing, the possibility of change. As we live as followers of Jesus mission happens in simple daily life, in the giving, loving, caring gestures. Any journey begins with a single step, each victory builds on the one before, giving that cup of cold water to a stranger is simple and life giving. We have the opportunity to change, now is a time for recreation, to find a new way but we use the lessons of the past, use the old stories to educate us as we move forward.

15th April 2021

Isaiah 40:12 Our God who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance.

As a family we are quite involved in photography. We have a number of decent cameras and lenses and are always on the look out for second hand equipment which fits with our set up. As a youngster I loved developing film with my father and then printing the photos. Mum was not enamoured by our use of the bathroom, fully blacked out, but the end result was always worth it. There is something just magical about watching a blank piece of photograph paper begin to be taken over by tone, colour and shade until a picture takes shape right there in front of you. A moment captured in time. Scientifically this is just a mixture of chemicals allowing light exposure to shade special paper, but that does not cover the pure joy of there being nothing one minute and a detailed picture the next. Moments in time that we can capture in some way offer us encouragement, blessing and remind us of God’s work in our lives and the lives of others. The Bible is full of word photographs or word pictures, which capture God’s work and blessing. These serve as an encouragement to us, they show us what God has done, what God has promised and allow us to tap into those for ourselves. I have many wonderful pictures of scenery, nature, weather and people that bless my heart, that remind me of the wonder of God’s world and serve as a moment in time where God is present and working. We may have no photos of Jesus or the world as it was then but we do have the Bible and the Holy Spirit to show us those word pictures captured by others for our encouragement and benefit.

14th April 2021

1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on you, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

I have recently been watching a version of Anne of Green Gables, a series of stories I read as a teenager and which I loved. A young orphan girl who ends up being adopted by a brother and sister who actually wanted a boy to help work their farm. She is creative, imaginative, a day dreamer, speaks her mind, has a temper but is also incredibly loyal and practical in her knowledge of what to do in a crisis. For me growing up she was a strong female character, there weren’t that many, it offered me the possibilities of someone from a very difficult background, mine wasn’t, but if she could do so much and flourish then surely so could I. We need role models in our lives, people we look up to, who show us what is possible and how we can do better in our lives. We are also role models to others, as Jesus is the light of the world, so we also become lights to the world as we become more like Him. As Christians Jesus is our chief role model, it is His life we look to for guidance and strength. We see how He treats others and we do the same, we see how He loves the stranger and we do the same, we see how He stands up for the poor and sick and we do the same, we see how He lives in peace, love, joy and patience and we do the same. I say we do the same, perhaps saying we try to do the same is more accurate, but He offers us this model of a life properly and well lived and as long as we try to do the same, we won’t go too far wrong.

13th April 2021

Romans 5:10 While we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!

I decided to make some fresh custard yesterday, as I have not made it in such a long time, I decided to check proportions on the internet, well, I was very surprised at how complicated making custard had become. I was almost put off by the complications but decided to persevere and made it the simple way I had been taught. I sometimes think Christianity has become too complicated, we have added so many more hoops for people to jump through and as such it has become unattractive to people. Of course, we should understand what we believe and learn more about our faith but so much is now piled upon us, much of which is opinion but presented to us as fact. We have added in extra ingredients, limits and steps which just complicate a simple fact. Christianity is a belief in Jesus as the Son of God who came, died, defeated death and rose again so our relationship with God could be restored. We model our lives on His life and His teaching and we try to live as decent, honest people who stand for love, justice and fairness in our world. Yes, it is good to read up, to read our Bibles, to pray and to seek to understand more about our faith but we must not lose sight of the basics of being a Christian by adding on so many complications that the basic message is lost and faith becomes too complicated to be attractive and engaging.

12th April 2021

Romans 2:11 For God does not show favouritism.

God loves everyone, we do not deserve to be loved and forgiven and yet He offers it freely to all. We, as humans, like to decide that certain types of people actually deserve less than we do and yet God is quite clear that He offers His forgiveness and love to everyone equally. This does not mean we are let off the hook, on the contrary, evil is punished and there will always be consequences for our actions and words that we will live with. In times of war, in times of national crisis, people believe that God is on their side alone, yet this verse in Romans makes it clear that God has no favourites, He does not show favouritism to one over another, but is on the side of truth and justice. We live in a hierarchical world with our rulers and leaders, our politicians and the wealthy who take it upon themselves to decide on our futures based upon their own desires and own greed. All war is born out of selfishness and the desire to have what someone else has because one side believes it is entitled to more, to take what is someone else’s, and both sadly and wrongly, this is often done in God’s name. Yet God clearly tells us we are to protect the innocent, punish the evil. We are to always look for the best for everyone not just those in power and those with money. Yet as we have seen throughout history and as we are seeing in the pandemic those who benefit from the actions taken are those at the top, those with power and wealth, those who chose to make decisions not for the good of all but for the good of themselves first and foremost. The Bible has been used all to often to justify war, attack, ill treatment, power and wealth and yet a God of love, a God who loves all equally will not sanction the pain of the many to protect the few. Those who lead us, those who make these decisions will and are held to a higher standard, something they would do well to remember, but before God they are no more important or special than we are. God has no favourites; He loves us all equally and wants the best for all of us.

11th April 2021

Ephesians 1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Him.

I was told as a youngster to see with the eyes of my heart, I did not understand this for a long time until I read and studied the piece in Ephesians. This is about the creativity God has given us, the ability to be enlightened and receive revelation about things. There is certainly an artistic element to this as pictures, poems, paintings people create often show things we don’t normally see, they look beyond, look deeper, they see with the eyes of the heart. We have had times of enlightenment throughout history but the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were a real eye-opening time of reason, intellect and enlightenment. These movements gave people the opportunity to see things for themselves, to ask questions, to challenge those who had used the status Quo, often the monarchy and the church, to hold them down. These movements offered a more tolerant, libertarian progress which gave us the right to talk to God ourselves and to examine His will for us as individuals. This encouraged a lifestyle of individuality but with a moral sense of duty toward each other, all humans are brother’s and sisters and are children of the same Heavenly father. All this happened and yet we are still held back by gender stereotypes, racial stereotypes, and by those with power and wealth who believe they have the right to dictate to others how they should live. God desires all of us to look and see with the eyes of our heart, to see the best in everyone, to acknowledge the individuality and equality of everyone and to encourage everyone to flourish just as God has always intended. 

10th April 2021

1 Thessalonians 1:3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We talk of hope, what we hope for in our future’s and perhaps even now. Without hope all is lost. Right now, we may hope for an end to covid or at least a way of combatting it effectively, we may hope for a good life, a new job, a family, to be happy, just another day please, to be well, to just put food on our table for our children. Hope for each of us is different but what is common is the desire for things to be better. Hope is a feeling of trust, an expectation, an optimistic state of mind that looks for the positive outcomes in life. It is hope that gives us resilience, the ability to keep going in the difficult times because we hope things will become better. Biblical hope is a confident expectation of what God has promised and His faithfulness in carrying out those promises. We see the keeping of His promises in the Bible stories, in Jesus, in our history and therefore we are secure in the belief that they will be kept now and in our future. We can envision a better future for ourselves and others and this motivates us to keep moving forward, to not give up and therefore to make life better and more hopeful. The hope of a better future allows us to live current life with vigour and strength. What we place our hope in matters, because hope is being able to see the light despite all the darkness, it is one of life’s greatest yet simple things expressed in one word and if we have hope in God then we have everything we need. Hope builds resilience, hope enables us to dream, hope offers us a better future and it offers us the strength to fight for what we believe in, for a better world for everyone as God intended.

9th April 2021

Jeremiah 7:32b For they will bury them until there is no more room to bury.

Dealing with the dead is part of my job as a priest and it comes into everyone’s life at times. This past year has brought this very much into focus. We tolerate and even expect deaths from old age, certain diseases etc and we know there will be tragic deaths because of accidents or carelessness but this passed year has seen people lose people again and again and not be able to bury them or cremate them or even grieve for them properly. Our NHS staff have worked so hard to try and help people survive and recover but it has been a steep learning curve and a constant fight against a what was an unknown disease until about 16 months ago. Our places to bury our dead have become less and less, grave yards are pretty much full and places to put ashes are running out and are incredibly expensive. There are new private burial grounds being built but it takes years to establish and people generally don’t want burial grounds near their homes. The need to deal with our dead respectfully and properly is part of the grieving process. We all need to grieve the loss of loved ones, especially when to something unexpected. The processes of burial have been part of life through the millennia, with ancient burial sites being honoured and sacred. How we treat our dead is a mark of our society, how caring and respectful it is. This past year has thrown a question on how we grieve and how we honour our dead. We need to be thinking in terms of how we can treat our dead as God intended, with love, respect and honour; and how we respectfully and properly grieve our loved ones.

8th April 2021

Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

For my parents Diamond wedding a few years ago, I wanted to get something significant, an actual diamond was out of the question but I found an engraving shop that specialised in gifts, one of which was a very large multifaceted piece of glass that resembled a big diamond. I had it engraved and my parents loved it as a memento of this very special occasion. It sits in a glass bowl on Mum’s window sill and depending on the time of day each of its facets or faces, reflect the sun across the room. Depending on the face, the view and placement of the sun’s rays will alter and change. These multiple faces are what give value to an actual diamond. We too have multiple facets or faces. A long-standing insult we may use is to call someone two faced but actually we are all multifaced. The expression of our ideas and views can depend on who we are with, where we are and even the time of day. We all have many multiple views and perspectives on life and what happens around us. We can hold perspectives that we offer as explanations and justifications for words and actions, and we can, at times, seem to hold opposing views and ideas depending on what we are dealing with. We are complex and multifaceted. Our views and opinions can change or can be entrenched, but very rarely do we have a clear-cut view that we do not waver from. Like the diamond we have many faces, many sides to us and depending on how the sun hits us, time of day, direction etc, our projecting of that ray could be anywhere and on anything. God created us and gave us a freedom to hold views and opinions as well as the tools to express them. We just need to realise that our views and opinions are affected by the world around us and can be two, three, four or even more faced as we express them.

7th April 2021

Joel 2:28 I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

Sometimes we find ourselves in that place that lies between sleep and awake. As we dose off at night or as we begin to wake in the morning, there is this place where all seems wonderful and clear, where the issues and problems of our minds can’t quite take hold and everything seems to be okay. I quite like this point, when any weight is lifted and life feels good. I understand that this was often the point that mystics and desert fathers and mothers looked for, a point where the things of earth grown dim and the spiritual things can be released. For them and for us it is point where the ways of the world stop becoming the lenses by which we see and understand, instead we are open to the spiritual, the working of the Holy Spirit and to the ways of heaven and the eyes and ears of God. At this time is when thoughts and messages can permeate our conscious, when God can speak and be heard, when ideas and words about our Lord can be formulated. This is the place that Joel is speaking about, where prophecies, visions and dreams can be seen and interpreted for our lives. The work of the Holy Spirit is to guide our hearts and minds but so often we have too many earthly barriers in the way and so it is only at these quiet, uninterrupted moments that God can speak and be heard, that God can be seen clearly and without obstruction. As Paul says “now, we see throw a glass darkly, then we shall see Him face to face.”

6th April 2021

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing right, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I have been getting my little Mazda Convertible car out for use in the summer. It means a good clean and recharging the battery, checking and reflating the tyres and driving it around to get it going properly. As I went to drive it around, I became conscious of a noise, from the wheels as it was happening every couple of seconds as the wheel went round. My son jacked it up and checked the wheels, the problem is corrosion due to lack of use. Because I have not driven it for 4 months the discs have corroded a little as they do over time, which causes them to swell slightly. As the wheel goes round it squeals against the disc and hits the worst places. This just needs some use and a little treatment and all will be well. This is exactly what happens in our lives. We put things to one side for a while, we stop reading the Bible or praying, we stop going to church, we stop going to Bible study and then after a while we discover that things are not as they were before. The have become corroded and do not work as well as they did before. Yes, we can get back into the habit and get things going again but we must treat the situation, start doing them again and get things flowing again. As Christians we need the continuity of study, Bible reading, prayer and church life to keep us encouraged and growing in our faith. It is far too easy to give things a miss, to not bother for a while and then it becomes a habit not to do or go anymore. Things grow rusty without use so let’s keep using them and not grow rusty but rather grow in faith.

5th April 2021

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.

One of the most famous hymns we sing is “Amazing grace.” That line that says, “that saved a wretch like me” was written by John Newton in 1779 because by his own admission, he was a “wretch.” He was a slave trader, who was rebellious, a blasphemer who spoke against God, an immoral man who was responsible for the torture of others, and as all these things showed he was as far from the grace of God as anyone could be. As a child, John was fascinated by the adventurous and risky life of boats and seas. As an eleven-year-old, John Newton threw himself into that exciting life of sailing, and living his dream. This boyhood dream turned out to be a nightmare. Later in his life John wrote, “I sinned with a high hand, and I made it my study to tempt and seduce others.” Newton had lived a hard life with stiff penalties but eventually God got his message though. In 1748 Newton’s slave ship was nearly wrecked by a powerful storm. In the wildness of the storm, surrounded by high crashing waves, cutting winds, creaking timbers, and the fearful cries of the bound slaves onboard, John Newton fell to his knees and cried out for mercy, and for grace. God’s grace, which is open to anyone, anywhere, saved a wretch like John Newton in that moment. Newton wrote his hymn years later when he was serving as a minister and then as revival swept through the country, the words were paired with their now well-known tune and was used widely at rally’s, camp meetings and revival services. Today this hymn is still inspiring, encouraging, and reminds us about the amazing reality of God’s wonderful grace for each of us no matter our background. God is always looking for us, waiting for us all we need to do is respond.

4th April 2021. Easter Sunday.

Song of Solomon 8:7 Mighty waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If a man were to give all the wealth of his house for love, his offer would be utterly scorned.

What is this day if not the whole point of our faith! Easter Sunday is the ultimate in marking our faith, our point, our relevance and our existence. We are here, now, because in the first place God created us and then out of His great love, He brought us back to Himself when we turned away from Him. The joy of this day was bought with pain, suffering, anguish, injustice and pure love. Love that conquers death, love that fights for every person’s redemption, love that offers self in sacrifice for those who hate and despise Him. We cannot comprehend God’s love for us, we may get the slightest of glimpses from being a parent or caring for a loved one, but it is only small and even then, it is overwhelming. The concept of love within our world cannot show us the truth behind God’s love for us. We band around this word as if it will fix everything and explain everything but it does not. Our version of love is shallow and all too often relies on feelings. God’s love is unfailing, not reliant on feelings, does not provoke revenge when scorned, its depth is unfathomable and it is everlasting. God’s love for us is unbreakable. Today we see the result of such love, the defeat of death, the return of the relationship between creator and created, the price paid for love in sacrifice. 

3rd April 2021

Matthew 23:2 The teachers of the Law and the proud religious law-keepers have put themselves in Moses’ place as teachers.

When someone’s life is coming to an end there tends to be an urgency to their words. They want to pass on the important things to loved ones, and we have many famous last words written in our history books. Their words matter to them and to us. As Jesus is nearing His crucifixion He is speaking to His disciples and those around Him with a sense of urgency. This is what matters folks; this is what counts; it is not just about what you say but what you do about it. Jesus warns constantly about hypocrisy, He tells us we are not to be people who say one thing and do another. We are to work for the good of all, and do so without wanting others to know and say how wonderful we are. Sadly, there are those, even among our religious leaders, who want everyone to know the good they say they do and are often a lot of hot air rather than people of action. May we be people of quiet action and not people of hot air. We do this by keeping a short account with God, by confessing our sins regularly and asking God to help us to not keep making the same sinful mistakes. We need to think about things we can take action about and speak up about but also things we can monitor and change in ourselves to make things better for ourselves and others.

2nd April 2021

Luke 2:48 Son, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’

We don’t tend to think much about Joseph yet his role as earthly father to Jesus was a courageous one. He listened to God at great personal risk, taking Mary as his wife, he loved God more than himself. We actually see very little of Joseph in the Bible, an engagement, a pregnancy and birth and then a lost child. Sounds like normal life to most of us so his immense courage and quiet strength are easily overlooked. Joseph protected his wife and son putting them first always. When they found 12 year old Jesus in the temple, I wonder if the words of Jesus stung, “did you not know I must be in my Father’s house”, Jesus says. And yet as Jesus grows in wisdom and stature it is His earthly parents who provide the guidance and the love. St Joseph is probably one of the least appreciated Bible Characters and yet He is totally devoted to his calling, the calling God gave him to be Jesus earthly father. We often think we are underappreciated, and we have a choice in how we react, we can lash out and get angry or we can listen to God’s call, reflect, and do as God has asked; in His strength. Each day endeavouring to do what has to be done, to protect and love, to care and help as we have been called to do. Joseph must have prayed daily for strength and must have had incredible perseverance and trust in God. Ask God to help you pray, trust and persevere each day. God never let Joseph down, He will never let you down either.

1st April 2021

Acts 10:28 Peter made him get up, “I am only a man myself,” he said.

In current society the reverence and respect we used to have for doctors, nurses, teachers, police etc has been lost and if anything replaced by a reverence for celebrity. We think more of those who earn high sums for kicking a ball about, singing, blogging and acting than we do people who serve and protect us. To be quite honest no one should be held in such esteem that we bow and scrape in their presence. We can respect a person’s office and behave respectfully, but the person themselves is no different to us. As my Nan used to say the Queen uses the bathroom just like we do! Having privilege or money, coming from a certain family or race makes no one any more superior than another. The problem has become that many of those who have these privileged positions believe it is their right and many of us seem to agree with them and not hold them to account. In Acts the visitor to Peter falls before him and Peter tells him to get up because he is a man too, no more special and certainly not needing to be worshipped or reverenced. When God created all of us He made all of us a little lower than the Angels, He made all of us equal, He blessed all of us and we have no right to expect anyone to treat us differently because of who we think we are. All humans are to be respected and treated well, all human life is to be respected and valued. Every one of us is important in the eyes of God and no one can take that from us.

31st March 2021

Isaiah 50:7 The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced, therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

I remember as a child doing something wrong, we all do, but on this occasion my father thought it was so bad that I felt ashamed and disgraced. I was banished to my bedroom and for several weeks I was not allowed out apart from for school. It had a big impact on me and made me much more introverted. The feeling of disgrace, of deep shame is life changing. It alters our perception of ourselves, it makes us aware of how others may now look upon us even though they do not actually know the situation. Suddenly we feel like everyone knows we have done wrong and everyone is looking down upon us in our embarrassment. In Isaiah we are reminded that God helps us, God’s love and forgiveness means we are not disgraced, we are not ashamed, everyone out there does not know our deepest, darkest secrets and God is on our side. Yes, we must recognise when we do wrong, we must confess it and we must be sorry and willing to change, but we should not be made to feel so awful that it affects our personality and makes us heavily burdened and terribly sad. Being shamed has been used in the past to force people into codes of behaviour set for them by rich and powerful lawmakers. Shame has been wrongly used in the church to force people into a set way of life that has had little to do with God and His love. Yes, when we do wrong, we need to recognise and be sorry, but we do not have to be ashamed or disgraced because God helps us, God is on our side and God loves us.

30th March 2021

Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

Have you ever visited a religious community? I have stayed in a couple and visited others for a day. These communities have folk living in them who have given up normal ways of life to live a simple religious life. Life revolves around worship and prayer at set times in the day and then practical jobs are done within the community to care for each other. Some folks have been in these communities for fifty or more years, coming in their youth and they come for their whole life. Many of these communities now have very few members and most are elderly. They have seen less and less people come to this calling because as one put it to me if you have money and a good home why would you chose God. The demands of this community life mean giving up daily life as we know it. Giving up possessions, family, electronic devices, money, status, holidays, meals out…….. it means giving up the life that so many of us fight to get and don’t want to give up. God calls us all differently, but His voice is now so drowned out by the noise of the world, His calling is pushed aside by life’s business. The call of God on lives is actually what so many are looking for, the God shaped hole in our lives that no other piece can fill, longs and thirsts for God. We search and search, trying to fill it with good deeds, celebrity status, money, power, alcohol and so on, yet nothing can fill it, only God can take away the restless spirit when we find Him. This past year of pandemic has made many seek a deeper meaning to life and our God is right there waiting for them all. As St Augustine said “Lord, <em>our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”</em> May we open our own restless hearts to Him and encourage others around us to do the same.

29th March 2021

Philippians 4:9 Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

As humans we seem to have a negativity bias, the negative feelings outweigh the positive on the seesaw of life. If you receive several messages of which all but one is positive, it is the one negative one that will play on your mind and push into your thoughts. We seem to have become hardwired to concentrate on negativity and the evidence shows we have been doing this for thousands of years. As with everything in life we can chose to accept it or we can try, in God’s strength, to change it. Can we begin to tip the seesaw back into a more positive attitude and view? Yes, in God’s strength we can train our brain to be more positive. Firstly, as we become aware of the negativity, we can actually remind ourselves not to dwell on the negative but to think about the positive and ask God to help with that. Don’t let the good things from God come in and then go straight out, instead hold onto them, keep them in your thoughts for longer, it will make a difference. At the end of a day look at the good things, reflect on the positives of the day and thank God for them. Give yourself time to reflect, remember and even note down the good things of the day, swap out the negative for the positive; think about all those things worthy of praise, all those good, right and noble things, all those lovely, admirable and pure things and in doing so the peace of God can come upon you and bless you and together hearts and minds can be changed.

28th March 2021

John 16: 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.

The story of Easter happens very quickly over a week. It begins with Palm Sunday where Jesus was greeted as a hero, the Son of David their greatest King. But Quickly the mood turns. It is a rollercoaster of emotion from high to low and back to even higher with the Resurrection. It has food, friendship, betrayal, arrest, denial, anger, anguish, exhaustion and death. We cannot jump straight to Easter Sunday, we might want to get to the chocolate as quickly as possible, but to get to the resurrection, to the rejoicing, we first have to go through the despair, the hurt and pain of Holy Week. Walk with Jesus through the painful to reach the joy of the resurrection and the defeat of death. Our engagement with this story will come from our upbringing, our culture and our faith. We will see it as a holiday, a festival, a religious observance or an excuse for Chocolate. It matters because it has shaped two thousand years of history, it matters because it restores a broken relationship between Humans and God. It matters because it offers the connection between creation and creator. It matters to faith, religion, culture and belief of the individual as well as the corporate. Jesus’ death happens because He challenges the status quo, He stands up for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the unfairly treated; He makes a stand for the equal and fair way of life that God intended, not the systems of power, wealth and supremacy. Those of us who follow Him today try to do the same, we can also be persecuted and dismissed, ignored and removed when we start to gather support. However you celebrate this Easter I encourage and challenge you to be truthful, honest, and upstanding. To fight for the rights of all, to stand against inequality and injustice and to speak out in favour of equality for all. As Christians we live as a resurrected people, we believe in life after death, in heaven and hell, in God’s fullness of life for everyone. Have a wonderful and blessed Easter. 

27th March 2021

1 John 3:17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

Have you seen the Tesco Love Stories adverts? The welcome home lamb, the welcome jerk chicken, the make it better Jambalaya and my personal favourite Nana’s magic soup. They bring together the joy of food with the love of family and friends; they pick up on the desire we have to help and share with those we love. To love is to feel and act lovingly towards others, to care for and be concerned about. It is an intense feeling of deep affection. If you love then you do the best for them, you do everything you can to help. Within love lie the feelings of empathy, compassion, devotion and unconditionality. At the centre of our being lie the best interests of the other. In this past year we have seen an exponential rise in the need for foodbanks, mental health organisations, safe houses, community fridges and gardens. Groups are working tirelessly to help the hungry and homeless, to give people basics and to offer hope. These actions come out of a love for our fellow humanity, the desire for the best for the other. Notice how much of this help is linked to food, a basic human need and a way we show love for our fellow humans. The challenge for us is that we have so much while others have so little, so how can we have love if we are not prepared to help? Feeding and helping the other is in itself a love story. A love story shared by God, through us to one another. God’s love and provision for us should flow through us and be shared with everyone, as we receive, so we give, as we are loved so we love. Perhaps in your giving to a foodbank or community fridge, to help others find sanctuary and safety, you to can have your own love story for your fellow humans.

26th March 2021

1 Samuel 2:3 No more proud talk, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

I always struggle with the press conferences before big Boxing matches, the fighters will speak arrogantly and try to shout each other down. They will use unproven and outrageous claims about themselves and their opponent. At the end of the match the winner will be even more arrogant and the loser is forced to eat humble pie because all their big talk has been proven wrong. The statement, God knows, was said by my Nan very regularly. Whatever a situation, God knows, she would calmly say. In this verse we are reminded that God does know, He has the knowledge about every one of us, He knows the arrogance that comes from our mouths, the lies we speak to bring others down or the false claims we make to exaggerate our own accomplishments. But the next part of the verse makes it clear that our actions will be weighed by God. He will look at our arrogance and foolish words and find us wanting. Before Him we will look foolish and quite pathetic. Before God we can never stand in our own strength because we are just not good enough. The only reason we can stand before our all-knowing God, upright and loved, is because Jesus has taken that arrogance and selfishness to the cross; now, when we are weighed in the eyes of God, we are seen as Jesus makes us, perfect and complete. 

25th March 2021

John 8:32 You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

In our youth group, when I was a teenager, we would often play the game truth or dare. Either you chose to tell the truth to whatever question you were asked or you did a dare. Friends could be very cruel with their questions and their dares. I hated it because I always felt I was picked on, but actually everyone was picked on. What was interesting was that doing the dare was most popular, it seemed easier to do some awkward or embarrassing activity than to have to tell the truth about something. Truth can be scary, often more scary than physical challenges. The truth cuts us to the bone, it exposes our vulnerabilities and leaves us open to others reactions and judgements. Jesus speaks of a truth that will set us free, that sounds wonderful doesn’t it, but just like the game, we often find it easier to do something instead of telling the truth about things. It is easier, we think, to do something, it is less complicated, we think it costs us less than speaking the truth. Spiritual freedom, like all freedom, comes at a price, we don’t get to hide the truth, we don’t get to ignore the truth about ourselves and what we have done, no matter how painful it is. The good news is that we have forgiveness and redemption freely offered to us if we are prepared to face up to the truth and to change our lives for the better. This is the truth that will set us free, the truth of the Gospel, the truth of salvation and the truth of God’s love for the world.

24th March 2021

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to God’s teaching; avoid them.

I was chatting away to my Mum recently and we were remembering was I was quite young and my dad brought home a computer. It was a tape load and it would take anything from 30 to 60 minutes to load and quite often at around 30 to 40 minutes it would say error, please reload. All this for a game which pinged a ball from one side of the screen to another and you moved the bats up the side to stop it getting away. In comparison to what we have now it was pretty awful. Time and time again this error message would come up and all the time you had waited was wasted. I think this has something to do with my life distrust of computers. I do feel life is like this sometimes, we read the Bible, we get told about various theologies and recommended to read articles from church leaders and their books and we get to a point where the brain says error please reload. If we do not have an in-depth knowledge of something in the Bible, we can be twirled into believing something by big words and big personalities who we think must know it all. We get blinded by the science so to speak. I am a very down to earth person and I tend to use several simple words where others will use big technical words. I don’t like being bullied into my beliefs and I don’t think any of us should. Our brains have a capacity, a point at which we cannot understand any more. The danger for the ordinary person of faith is that those with greater knowledge and capacity can make us feel inadequate, with brain overload. God never intended that. God loves, God cares, God saves and for us it is simply about believing, no need for error, please reload.

23rd March 2021

Exodus 38:8 They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it.

There are times in the Old testament when God’s patience is wearing thin. This is one of them. Moses is able to speak into God’s heart, he speaks a clear argument about God and what He has done so far and what He wants to do for us all. Jesus also has to speak clearly about people following in the unhealthy footsteps of their forebears in their disbelief and unfaithfulness. We can know what the Bible says, we can even quote scripture, we can talk about truth, our version, but unless we look to God for life we cannot move forward. What is it that prompts us to look elsewhere when life gets hard and our prayers aren’t answered how we want; usually fear, frustration and despair turn our heads from God. Henri Nouwen speaks of our wandering around, hoping to find what we desire instead of looking within ourselves to where God is. Our Golden Calves are things like knowledge, success, pleasure, dreams, wealth. We never quite find our home in God. Have you had a time when faith has been difficult? When you have begun to question your faith in God? This can happen after loss in our lives, or when we are persecuted or falsely accused. Think about those times and contemplate why it was you pushed God away. We often talk of learning lessons for the future, but so often history repeats itself and we go round again, never learning and moving on. 

22nd March 2021

Jeremiah 19:3b I am going to bring such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle.

Have you ever felt your ears tingle? There is an old saying that people ears burn when someone is talking about them. My ears often itch in the winter when I get a cold. Our ears even go red when we get embarrassed and flush spreads across our face, but I don’t know if I have ever felt them tingle. In Jeremiah the tingle of the ears is about the impending disaster that is coming because the folk will just no listen or learn. We are so good at not listening to others, to teaching and to God. We all believe that we know best, that we do not need to listen or heed the warnings. The tingling here I believe is God actually working in people’s lives to make then listen and hear Him. Making their ears tingle means they will pay more attention to them and in the moment maybe listen to what is being said. God is constantly speaking to us but are we listening? This verse can also be translated as ears that will ring or reverberate, that happens when loud and destructive events happen around us. Our ears ring because we are affected by the events around us. Once again God is showing His people, us, that we will be affected by all around us and we need to pay attention and play our part in showing His love and care to everyone. We are called to hear, to listen and then to pass onto others the actuality of God and His truth.

21st March 2021

Galatians 5:22,23a But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

We all know fruit is good for us, the 5 a day programme has been part of our lives for years. What about your 9 a day? Nine fruits given by the Spirit that if we incorporate into our lives will change them forever. These nine fruits, things we grow and develop in our lives, are all intertwined. Doing one means it is easier to do the others. If we love then we will be patient with them, faithful to them, be kind and good toward them. If we are at peace, we will have good self-control, be gentle and appreciate the joys of life. If we are joyful then we will be kind to others, faithful in our behaviour and care of others with an attitude of peace and patience. So it goes on. In naming these fruits Paul is summing up real quality of life, what God intended for us in the beginning. Sadly, our selfish nature often boycotts these fruits in favour of selfishness, irritability, conflict, hatred, domination and aggression. We have come to believe that power over another is how we get the best for us. Many of us try to live with these attributes, lives of peace and patience, goodness and joy but society promotes a different narrative, ridicule the peacemaker, bully the good Samaritan, walk over the gentle and kind, bring down the joyful. We need to change that narrative, those attitudes, we have a part to play. We need to apply our 9 a day, to think about our behaviour, how we treat others and be an example of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. We are being offered a fruit basket full of good things to keep us healthy and well, our choice is whether we take that gift and use it or just leave it to rot away, never touched. Let me encourage you to take your 9 a day and live a better life.

20th March 2021

1 Timothy 4:12b Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in life and in purity.

Do you ever think about the rhythms and patterns of your life? When you sleep and eat, go to work, watch TV, play or do sports and hobbies. We need routine in our lives otherwise things are chaotic and we would never be where we were supposed to be. This past year has put many of our rhythms and routines out of place, looking forward to a holiday that was cancelled, visits to parents and family stopped overnight, physically going to work or events. We have learnt new rhythms of meeting via zoom, working from home, wearing masks and keeping our distance. As part of a healthy, God given life we must have balance. Knowing when to rest, to play as well as to work. St Paul letter to Timothy reminds us of the importance of this balance and this was written nearly 2000 years ago. Paul emphasises the need to live sensibly, to have a work life balance. He encourages time for work but also time for rest, recreation and fun. Time to be encouraged and to be encouraging. Time to use the God given gifts in all of your life. The pressures to work harder for longer are now a huge part of our society, yet if we have a good balance then we will have clear priorities, we will know when to say no, we will rest and recuperate well, we will value our down time, our hobbies, family and friends, our sport and recreation. Notice the word recreation, also re-creation, it means being reenergised, reinvigorated, created anew with all the joy and happiness that brings. Look at your life and make sure you have time for the things you enjoy as well as work. Appreciate the need for rhythm and balance, take time for yourself, for family, for friends, for fun and recreation and please do take time to rest.

19th March 2021

Luke 4:24 ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.

Can you imagine the scene, the local boy, the son of a carpenter, having the audacity to talk with authority about things, which in their opinion, he can’t possibly know or understand? Only certain special people, appointed by the chief priests, would get a revelation from God, certainly not a lowly carpenter’s son. How often do we, perhaps unconsciously, think we are better than others, that our opinion and understanding are worth more than someone else’s. We can be so wrapped up in our self-importance, our long held and established views and ideas that we do not want to be challenged, to grow or develop. We don’t want things to be different. Yet it is only by being open to learning, to hearing from others that we grow and develop as Christians. None of us will ever learn it all but we should never stop learning and growing and God will send us lessons from all sorts of places and people, often that we least expect. We need to be open and recognise that we always have things to learn and never think too highly of ourselves, our knowledge, experience or ability.

18th March 2021

Psalm 130:6 My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning.

This past Saturday, a vigil was called, others saw it as a protest, what is the difference? There is a place for activism and protest within all faith traditions, but a vigil has a spiritual background that can be lost. In its religious context, a vigil is about marking the eve of a major feast day or festival. It can be marked in prayer, liturgy or silence, and is specifically a time of staying awake and keeping watch in the dark of night. It is a practice as old as the Bible books themselves. In two and half weeks’ time churches will celebrate Easter. Many would usually keep a Vigil marking the night before the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. It is a hard, difficult service tracing the Old Testament cycle of creation, destruction and then restoration through Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus kept a vigil and wrestled with his looming death. His disciples also struggled, Simon Peter yielded to active protest with his sword and cut off the soldier’s ear. Actually, we may well have some sympathy for his position, he was, after all, making a stand for Jesus. The rest of them simply give in to exhaustion and fall asleep rather than keeping watch as Jesus had asked them to. In protesting we can make a stand, a challenge, which can be vocal and sometimes physical. We become weary of the world and societies injustice and inaction. Both are valid, both are acceptable and both happen because we recognise that something wrong is happening and we need to question and challenge in a way that is seen and heard. Last Saturday people gathered for many reasons; to lay flowers, to pay respects, to pray in the darkness of the night, others gathered to place a spotlight on the safety and value of women in public places. Both vigil and protest have their place and both need to happen to mark personal and corporate feelings in the public conscience.

17th March 2021

Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Today is St Patrick’s day, the patron Saint of Ireland. Patrick was taken by pirates as a slave to Ireland. He was able to get away but instead of keeping away he risked going back to share the love of God with the people. He had cause to be angry, to be frightened, he was surely justified in not going back, but he puts God’s call on his life first. As a missionary, even in his maltreatment by others, he did not want to deny them the prospect of hearing and witnessing the gospel. Because of his faith and humility Patrick could see beyond division, anger and bitterness to what brings humanity together. Patrick is a clear example of what it means to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Patrick shows us how we can share the gospel in the face of our harshest critics, how we offer the love of God even to those who hurt us, reject us and treat us with contempt. Patrick did many signs and wonders in Ireland and brought many folks to faith. He did not know all that he did for God and neither will we. As long as we show others God’s love and share the gospel with them, He will do the rest. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

16th March 2021

John 10:10b I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Jesus offers his disciples life ‘to the full’ or life in all its fullness. As His followers we are also offered this life, so what might that mean for us? Firstly, we must ask ourselves the question how alive are we? If it is possible to have life to the full, as Jesus tells us here, then it must also be possible to have a life that isn’t full. Perhaps if we look honestly at our life, we might see it is closer to empty than it is to full. Even if that is not the situation right now, we all have times in our lives when this is the case. We can’t all live at the top of our game all of the time. So, what can we do to try and make our lives full for as much of the time as we can? The key is our relationship with God. The heart of the world’s problem is its broken relationship with God, broken right back in Genesis. Once God was no longer the centre of everything, creation and humans lost their perfection, their abundance, their joy. If God is not at our centre then we lose our perfection, our abundance and joy. Jesus came to restore that relationship which is why He says He has come to give us life in all its fullness. Jesus offers us the opportunity to return to life as God intended, to restore the relationship and thus restore the joy, the abundance and the perfection we have in God’s sight through Jesus.

15th March 2021

1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

What is your favourite hymn? Behind many of our favourite hymns there are stories as to why they were written. The hymn What a friend we have in Jesus has an amazing story behind it. The writer, Joseph Scriven was an Irish teacher who was about to be married, but the day before his wedding, his fiancé drowned. Joseph was grief stricken so he moved to Canada to start again. He found love again but this time just a few weeks before their wedding she became ill and died. Joseph was still only 25 years of age. Once again grief-stricken Joseph channelled himself into working with the poor and disabled. He lived a very poor and frugal life for the next 10 years and cared for others. As if he had not suffered enough when his mother fell ill in Ireland, he did not have the money to get home. In the midst of all his heart ache Joseph wrote the poem which became the hymn we love. The central message of the hymn is that we should take everything to God in prayer. If a man who lost so much, gave everything to serving others and still had a difficult life can write such words, can still believe, can still keep on praying and believing, then so can we. We can give over everything to God, to the one who holds our future, to the one who is with us in every part of life whether bad or good. We can have peace and security if only we give it all to God in prayer.

14th March 2021

Acts 13:3 After they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

As Christians we are regularly told not to give up, we quote Bible verses about being given strength, holding on, not giving up. Well, I am going to say that sometimes giving up is the right thing to do. Currently we are in Lent, Lent is about giving up, giving up things which may hold us back, giving up things which have dragged us down or spoiled our relationship with God. Originally Christians would give up foods and drinks, spending Lent just eating basic simple food and drinking water. Some days would be complete fasting days when no water of food was consumed. In more recent times we have chosen to give up treats like chocolate, cake and biscuits. We give up things so we can focus more on God and our spirituality. We offer the time we would be preparing and eating to God in prayer. This allows us to seek God more deeply and listen to His voice instead of having our lives overcome with worldly needs and desires. In a world where we all have so much and we are used to getting the food we want, when we want, we have lost sight of the value of basic things. We have so much and so the value of what we have becomes less. Lent is a time for reflection, a time to let things go and give our attention to God. As such, at this time of year it is okay to give up, it is okay to give up the things that distract us from God. We might well need help and strength to keep it up, but giving up things for Lent is a valuable and rewarding part of our faith when it is okay to give up.

13th March 2021

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make humans in our image, let them be stewards over the fish, the birds, the livestock and over all the earth.”

I enjoy musicals, the idea of breaking into song about something that moves you or makes you think. As a teenager in school, I was in several musicals, one was Oliver. I have several favourite songs from this musical and one is Who Will buy? It starts with the street sellers singing out their calls and then it builds into the song; Who will buy this wonderful morning, such a sky you never will see, who will tie it up with a ribbon and put it in a box for me. This song sums up the wonder of God’s gift of creation, freely given to us every day, as a gift. We can be so wrapped up in life and ourselves that we forget the wonder of the world, of each new day, the sunrise and sunset, the rain, the sun, the seasons. The next part of the song says; so, I can see it at my leisure whenever things go wrong and keep it as a treasure to last my whole life long. We get to see the world at our leisure every day but we have lost our wonder of it. We should keep it as our treasure, it will last our whole life long and it is our duty to value it, treasure it, keep it safe and treat it with respect and dignity. We were given the role of stewards by God, a steward looks after, cares for, respects and values that which is given to them. Today, many of life’s wonders we have to buy and pay for, but God’s creation is not one of them, sadly we have turned much of it into something others have to pay for and which we are now paying for in the global warming problems and changes. As stewards we need to take much better care of our world, value and appreciate it as a treasure to last our whole life long and beyond.

12th March 2021

Psalm 8:3/4 When I consider the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and stars, What are humans that you are mindful of them.

Are you a star gazer? I love the night sky, the constellations, a bright moon, finding Polaris and the Plough. Light pollution makes this harder these days, but there are always some nights where the sky is bright and things can be seen. Abraham Lincoln once said that he could see why humans could look down on the earth and be an atheist but how could humans look up into the heavens and say there is no God. The expanse, the depth, the complexities of the universe, the galaxy is so big, perhaps too big to comprehend. It is so unfathomable, always some new discovery, idea and happening, that it is a lesson in just how great God is. Before we began to discover these amazing planets and universes, they were still there, people of the past never knew the extent of these things but they understood God created them, they saw themselves as a small part of a greater story. As we have made more and more discoveries, we have become very arrogant, putting ourselves in high position not only as rulers of our world, but also as rulers and controllers of the galaxies. Actually, we are not, and we sometimes need reminding that God did not have to make us special and unique, but He chose to. We need reminding that God does not have to be mindful of us but he chooses to. We will never comprehend the galaxies and universes, we will never comprehend God, but we can see just how wonderful and creative God is in the Heavens and begin to appreciate just how much He loves and cares for us.

11th March 2021

Matthew 6: 4 Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The Olympic motto, citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger), is a motto describing the Olympic ideal. This ideal is best personified by the decathlete who proved to be faster, jump higher, and have greater strength than other competitors; the all-around athlete who excels in many different competitions. Our Athletes are drive by the desire to be the best in the world, to run faster over various distances, to jump higher, to be stronger than all the rest of those who come. To even get to the Olympics you have to gain certain speeds, heights, times and levels in the year before it takes place. Each country only has a certain number of places in each event to fill. You can be on top form, have a bad day or suffer an injury and that is it for the next four years. There are people who are undoubtedly the best but have never won an Olympic medal because of injury or a bad season. That does not lessen how good they are but it means they may never gain that world-wide recognition because they never earn the Olympic title. This motto could be applied to our daily Christian living, the desire to be faster in our care for others, in our desire to work for good, higher in our attitude, striving to be more like Jesus, stronger in our faith, in prayer and growth. The big difference for us is that injury or a bad season does not stop us becoming part of God’s team. God does not set limits on the amount of people who can join the team. God does not demand perfection just that we try our best. In God’s eyes we are all medallists, we all deserve to be loved and treasured and we are all winners of eternal life through Christ. Yes it is good to strive for the best, to work hard, to look to grow and improve, but, our place on God’s team is not dependent on that, only on our willingness to accept Jesus and to try our best in all we do.

10th March 2021

Ecclesiastes 10:18 Because of laziness the roof caves in, and because of negligent hands the house leaks.

I wonder if you have ever had a leak? We are currently trying to find a leak we have been told we have at the vicarage. No joy yet. In church some puddles on the vestry floor by the wall, and a very wet wall growing mould led us to a blocked drain outside which was causing the water to leak back under the floor of the vestry and then onto the floor surface. This water was being absorbed into the wall and thus a damp wall began to breed various moulds. This problem, as with our leak at the vicarage, has taken quite a while to become obvious. The problem has been there a while but kept hidden, the surrounding area has sucked up the water to a point until it becomes saturated, then the outward signs began to show. Water, damp, mould, lifting of the floor. On there own we looked for possible reasons, leaking radiator, cold walls, water in the wall, lots of possible until investigation finally revealed the problem. Once the problem is identified the work to sort it out can begin. We can be very leaky creatures ourselves. Maybe not water, but the Holy Spirit, our goodness, humility, honesty, integrity can all easily leak out of us as things of the world press in on us. This can go on for a while before signs begin to appear, then we look for reasons for one sign until we begin to see the damp and cold, the mould begins to appear in our lives and our reactions and speech. Often by the time we realise we have these leaks quite a lot of damage can be done which means that it will take time and effort to put it right. Fixing a water leak can be very costly, fixing a spirit and goodness leak can also be very costly for us and for those we hurt as we cause them damage by our carelessness and attitude. We do not want negligent hands or lives which never work to repair the problem. Instead we need to keep an eye on ourselves, keep ourselves healthy and robust, check for leaks in our lives, check that we maintain our integrity, honesty and allow the Holy Spirit to keep filling us, working in us and repairing the leaks.

9th March 2021

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Last Summer Gareth and I managed a couple of days away at the Royal Foundation of St Katherine in London. I found the Thames Path and spent much of my time walking along, first to Canary Wharf and then into London and Tower Bridge. It was wonderful, I had the camera, as I walked the view and the lighting would change and I get some wonderful shots. As I got nearer to Tower Bridge, suddenly the path was blocked off, the gate was closed and I was forced onto the road, for quite a distance each time I went to get back on the path my path was blocked. There were a lot of skips and rubble and it looked as though work was being done in some places although no one was working. For some considerable distance I was unable to use this public footpath because people had put things to block my way. Needless to say, I was not impressed. As I walked it got me to thinking about all the things that get in our way on the path of life. Often, we are happily on the right path, enjoying the view, feeling encouraged and blessed and then we come across a closed gate, or a pile of rubble or scaffolding. Life has a habit of throwing up issues and problems which block our path. Now, we have certain choices, we can try and climb over or get round, we can try an alternative route, we can stand there and shout and complain until nothing happens and we get fed up. Ultimately, we can ask God what to do, I consulted a map so I could find the best way to bypass the problem, we can use our map, the Bible, our relationship with God, to seek the best way. We need to look and listen, use the signs we are given by God, but we keep moving on, finding the right path through God’s strength and guidance. We don’t give up, we don’t turn round, we keep going and let God deal with the blockages.

8th March 2021

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

When we used to have the youth group at the vicarage each Sunday afternoon, we would often play games. One of their favourites was Jenga, building the tower of blocks and then one by one removing a block from below and placing it on top without knocking down the tower. The more pieces removed, the more unstable the tower becomes, the more a steady hand and nerve is needed. We had a couple of lads who were really competitive and also excellent at the game. Quite often by the time they got to towards the end, everyone was gathered round egging them on until one made the fatal mistake and down came the tower to jubilant shouts and applause. This game has always reminded me of this verse from Proverbs. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, this is not a Jenga tower that can fall down when it is unstable, this is a strong immovable tower, one that provides protection and safety. We are encouraged to run into it and be saved, just as in a battle you were go to the central tower which would provide protection and safe observation as well as provisions, so God will do the same for us. As we seek His protection and provision for us there are no weak spots, no bricks pulled out, no danger of our tower being toppled by the enemy. God looks after us, provides all we need but, in this verse, we are told to run into it, in other words we have to respond. It is no good looking at the strong tower from outside and saying how wonderful it is, we need to use it, go inside, accept God’s provision and protection of us. The invite is there, every moment of every day, we just need to accept it.

7th March 2021

Matthew 7:13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

As a child if we went to North Wales we would go up around Birmingham and I would look out for the huge Spaghetti Junction that had been built to bring together so many of the new motorways and major roads that seemed to meet up in the middle of the country around Birmingham. I was fascinated by this twisting and turning road, going up and over, down and under and with no satnav you had to know exactly where you needed to get on or off for the next stage of your journey. In the first lockdown someone took a photo of the junction with no traffic on it at all, a very rare, beautiful but lonely sight. When I looked at this twisting and turning, up and down roadway it reminded me very much of life and of the book Pilgrims Progress. Christian’s road in the book is not quite as twisty and turny but it shows how easy it is to end up on the wrong road, to lose sight of where we are going and be distracted. In the wonder of that huge fascinating place, I could look out of the car window and marvel, my father had to keep his eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead and follow the map and the right signs. We need to do the same, it is easy to be distracted, to look out the window and marvel, to take the wrong path, but we have our map, our signs and we also have a personal guide in Jesus. We do not have to navigate this world alone, we have our co-pilot, our friend, our saviour and guide right there with us and He is always showing us the way if we look to Him and listen. 

6th March 2021

Matthew 6:2 So when you give to charities, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets.

I wonder if you remember two comedy characters in the nineties called 'Smashie and Nicey'. They were seventies style disc jockeys who kept repeating on air, 'I do a lot of work for charity, but I don’t like to talk about it.' The point was that they never stopped talking about it. We can often be very suspicious of celebrities who do a lot of work for charity and want us all to know about it. Is there an ulterior motive for their actions? We care about people’s motives, yes, it is good to know that people are giving but once they begin to shout about it, it becomes self-serving in its motivation and giving should be selfless. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus talks about the right motivation for our giving, not for glory or fame, but, because we care and because it is the right thing to do before God. Notice Jesus doesn’t say 'if' you give to the needy, but 'when' you give to the needy. He believes His disciples and followers will care deeply about those in need because God does and He teaches them that this is the right way to live. Jesus’ instructions for giving are exemplified by the many Christians who give quietly, without fuss or a fanfare. Christians who give of their time and money to help others; people who they have never met and who will never be able to say thank you. We have many forms of giving, through various charities, collecting, running charitable events, offering our time in service or as a volunteer. We do it because we have that God given desire to help and include everyone in God’s love. We give because we have had so much freely given to us. However you chose to give, thank you. God sees what you do and thanks you and blesses you quietly and without fuss and fanfare.

5th March 2021

Exodus 18:20 Teach them God’s decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.

We all have filters, or lenses, on how we see the world around us. These can be things like what we already believe, our background, our gender, our colour and then we process thinking does this new idea or piece of information confirm what we already know and believe? Does it fit in the structure we’ve already erected? If the answer is yes then we can accept it. If the answer is no, we will discard it as irrational and implausible, even though we are capable of thinking it through and finding the evidence. We do this because our brains need a level of efficiency, to be able to make quick decisions as information reaches it. The things which fit into our filters and lenses are easy to tick off and accept and they make us feel good because they tally with our current belief system. This all happens incredibly quickly and happens without our conscious awareness. We see things as we see they are, not as they actually are. We see what we want to see, in our preferred way of looking at everything. Challenges and ideas that don’t fit into our filters require thought, maybe challenge our long-held beliefs and ideas, that is both hard work and unsettling. We are already busy enough, our brains have enough to do and so our brain tells us this approach is too much like hard work, let’s move on. We are totally fine and right as we are. This, in turn, makes us feel good about ourself and justifies our filters and lenses. We all tend to follow and work with that which resonates with us, that confirms what we think and does not persuade us to change our minds. God is constantly challenging these filters and lenses, challenging us to see things as they actually are and when that contradicts our thoughts and feelings, He offers us His wisdom, His understanding, but we must be willing to ask for this and take it. Sometimes this won’t be easy but it will be right.

4th March 2021

Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I am often asked to read this psalm at funerals, the reasons being that it clearly says God will never give up, God will never sleep on the job, God will watch over us every second, God will lead us on the right path, never on the wrong way and our God, the God, is bigger than any other god!' This Psalm helps us lift our eyes towards Jesus as we walk through the hills and mountains of the countryside, and connect with God in nature and solitude. It provides a reminder to us as we look not only at the physical hills and mountains but come face to face with the metaphorical hills and mountains in our life. It encourages us to look a little higher and remember exactly where our help comes from; God our creator. These words move our hearts and redirect our attention back to God, to Jesus, our creator, helper, redeemer, saviour and friend. These words speak confidence and courage to our souls as we contemplate the times we live in, the challenges we face, and the circumstances of this life. This Psalm reminds us quite clearly that nothing is too big for our God. No encounter is too great, no problem is too complex, or situation too alarming, no calamity is too messy, and no worry is too trivial. We can look to the God who moves mountains and we can be supported and upheld by the God who is present with us throughout everything. This psalm reminds us of some basic, profound and wonderful truths about our relationship with God. As we look at where we stand and what lies ahead of us, we do so with a sure and certain hope and a true confidence. Our God is faithful and will never let us down.  

3rd March 2021

Psalm 103: 13/14 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

In recent years we have become more aware of mindfulness. It is an awareness of our own thoughts and consciousness as well as of others. The word attentive is close to it in meaning; being attentive to the world around us and what lies within us. We use the word mindful to speak of thinking about others and their needs. In the Bible God is regularly referred to as being mindful of us, in other words He has us on His mind in all that He says and does. In this verse we are told that He knows our frame, He remembers we are but dust, in other words God knows exactly what our weaknesses and strengths are and so makes sure that we can deal with and cope with all that happens by providing the strength, protection and knowledge we need. God is just as interested in people being as he is in people doing. At the beginning of time, God took seven days to create the world; the last one was set aside for rest. So, at the most basic level, God has structured our world to include times of stopping for rest, and he models this for us himself. He was mindful even at the beginning that humans need rest to function well. He was mindful of our need for food and water, for justice and fairness, for love and family as well as our need for solace at times. God is mindful of and attentive to us in our everyday life, in all that we need. We too need to be mindful of and attentive to each other, our world, nature, the needs of the poor and those who are in need physically, mentally and spiritually.  

2nd March 2021

Daniel 9:10  We have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets.

This verse and the chapter around it talk about our collective responsibility to live as people of mercy and forgiveness, without condemnation and judgement of others. As we live in this way, we hope others will treat us in the same way. In a religious order all those who live within it work for each other, supporting each other practically and spiritually. The life of the individual is inextricable from the group who hold everything in common. The kingdom of God is also one of interdependence, just as the Trinity functions each with a role of their own but interdependent on the other. We do not make this Christian journey alone. But it is important to remember that this good life is dependent on us not condemning, not judging but giving freely to others. We must also recognise when we are at fault ourselves and accept our wrongdoing and when we rebel and act selfishly towards others. In asking God’s forgiveness of ourselves we must then offer that forgiveness freely to others. We cannot receive what we are not willing to give. Each day we need to take an honest look at ourselves. We need to think about who we need to forgive, who we have unfairly accused or judged. Who have we gossiped about unfairly or condemned for something about them we do not like. This is where it begins, with us. Think of any niggles that you hold against someone, could be family, friends, neighbours etc. Is it really fair to hold this against them? When the BUT’s come into your mind, when you try to justify your condemnation and judgement, just remember that God has freely forgiven you, does not hold against you all the wrong things you have done. God clears our slate and it is gone, forgiven and never brought up again. If we are willing to accept that forgiveness from God, we need to offer the same forgiveness to everyone around us. Feel the weight lift as you forgive, as you release what you are holding and be thankful.

1st March 2021

Revelation 14:12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

Today is St David’s Day, 1st of march. David is the welsh patron saint and you will find many welsh people will be wearing a daffodil or leak as a sign that they celebrate this day. David was a Bishop in the 6th century, initiator of many religious communities, and the only native-born patron saint in the countries of Great Britain and Ireland. He died on 1 March, St David’s Day, in 589. He was canonised by Pope Callixtus in the 12th century. Saint David’s Cathedral is built on the site of one of his monasteries and is one of the smallest cities in the UK. He was a renown preacher and once when people complained about not being able to hear him, the ground beneath him rose up into a hill so he could preach to all and a white dove came and sat on his shoulder as he did so. One of David’s famous sayings, still used a lot in Wales is, Do the little things well. Such wise words, the big, loud, look at me events are not what count, it is the normal, every day things that we should do well. Be kind, generous, humble and loving. Look after one another, make sure people are fed and have what they need. If we do the little things well then there is no need for the big, loud movements as everyone is looked after properly and fairly. David led a simple life, did not eat or drink anything other than basic produce grown on the land and water. He was very popular because of his care and concern for all, particularly the poor; this made him a target for those who wanted wealth and power. There were several attempts made on his life. Spare a thought today for St David, you don’t have to be welsh to remember him, thank God for his legacy, his honesty and his desire to do the little things well and ask God to give you the strength and wisdom you need to do the little things well.

28th February 2021

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Do you ever think about breathing? We do it every day, all day, all night and it is vital to our life and yet we rarely think about it. God breathed into us and we became alive, human, with breath of our own. Breathing has a rhythm, in and out and depending on how much physical exertion we use determines the speed of that breathing. If we take breathing back to the Old Testament and the name for God sits in every breath. The sound of inhalation is Yah, the sound of exhalation is weh, our very breath is Yahweh. The very first thing we do as we enter the world at birth is breathe, as we cry when a midwife slaps our bottom; and the very last thing we will do is breathe. Through out our lives we breathe in Yah and out weh. The very name of God in our breathing, the very name of God on our lips. There is no Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu way of breathing, in Christianity there is no catholic, protestant, pentecostal, anglican, evangelical, reform or liberal way of breathing. There is no rich, poor, male or female way of breathing, no European, Asian, American, African, Oceanic or Polar way of breathing. All humans breathe in and out, all humans breathe the same way, all humans have God on their lips from birth to death, whether they believe or not, whether they recognise it or not. God is in all people and in the breath of all people. In and out, Yahweh, each day we breathe God, may we remember that as we breathe. 

27th February 2021

Genesis 3: 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

In the first two chapters of Genesis, we see a picture of God's creation as complete harmony. Humans, animals, birds, fish, trees and all the natural world all fit together perfectly and 'God looked at what he had done and saw that it was good'. Genesis chapter 3 is where things start to go wrong for us. Adam and Eve we're drawn to 'forbidden fruit': we find something attractive about not just pushing the boundaries but we jump right over them and do exactly what we know we shouldn't do. Adam and Eve disobey God and they become ashamed of who they are, of being naked. They try, like we all do, to avoid responsibility; Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent and the serpent doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The original perfect harmony between everything and God is broken, so is the harmony of nature. At this point death enters the natural world and God makes clothes from animal skins to hide their nakedness. As a result, life becomes much harder and more painful. We often romanticise evil and look on goodness as boring and yet real goodness is awe-inspiring, exciting and fresh. Evil meanwhile is painful, hurtful, debilitating and ruins our lives. Adam and Eve were not abandoned by God because of what they did and the Bible has God’s grace and love for us on every page. But, Genesis 3 is a warning for us: sin has consequences, and when we do wrong, we will live to regret it.

26th February 2021

Isaiah 58:6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to lose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Have you given anything up this Lent? Perhaps you have taken something up as is often promoted now. Lent can involve fasting, whether it is the chocolate, cake or biscuits we give up, or maybe a fast one day a week where we use that time to reflect and become closer to God. We give up food in order to channel our senses towards God, seeking forgiveness and thinking about how we can be better people. People may well ask us, what are you giving up for Lent? Here in Isaiah rather than dwell on what is given up when fasting, it suggests we focus on pleasing God by our actions in regard to others. Here lies a challenge to set people free, to feed the hungry, to provide shelter for the homeless, to help those in need and fight for justice. If we do these things, we are told our light will break forth like the dawn, you cannot stop the dawn, it comes, it washes over everything and God is glorified through our light, shining as we do well for others. What good is fasting before God if our behaviour towards others is unfair, unjust and uncaring. In the language of food, if we are treating others badly then we may as well stuff ourselves with chocolate and biscuits because we are not the people we should be before God. Fasting is a true spiritual practice, it needs to transform us from the inside out. If we have given something up, or fast each Friday and all we do is moan about it, or get angry or wound up because we really dislike what we are doing, then we need to examine why we are doing this in the first place. Rather than worrying about what we are doing we need to think more clearly about why we are doing it and whether it is causing our light to break forth like the dawn.

25th February 2021

Luke 15:17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!’

Coming to our senses over an issue is usually a steep learning curve. We realise that all we need to do is……. And suddenly all becomes clear. In the story of the prodigal son there comes a moment when the son realises that his father’s servants are treated better than he is. He realises that being a servant in his father’s household was better than feeding pigs and eating pigswill. We have developed a charter of Human Rights across the world, many countries stick to it in the main, and many ignore it in favour of wealth and power for a few. Human rights abuses are common everywhere, even here we do not fulfil equality human rights for all, still discriminating by gender, colour and orientation. Across the world Terrorism laws have been used to violate many rights in the name of protection. Every human being has been created by God and created equal, all with the same human rights. God did not and does not discriminate; over the centuries leaders of our churches have often painted God as preferring some humans to others, but that is just not true. God created every human equal. We need to come to our senses over this issue, realise that even as sinners, as those who have failed and hurt others, we are still treated the same by God. When we come to our senses and come home, God is waiting to give us the best, to celebrate our return and that is the same for every one of us no matter who we are or what we have done. God is ready and waiting for anyone who comes to their senses, recognises their mistakes and wants to change. Come home, God is waiting.

24th February 2021

Philippians 2:6 Though He was God, He did not think equality with God was something to be grasped.

My husband loves to watch documentaries and programmes about music and stars of the past. We quite often end up watching programmes about the Beatles. A recent programme had them complaining about the fact that everyone wanted a piece of them. They were incredibly famous and as such incredibly rich and with great influence. They had everything most people want but, as is often the case, once you get to this level of stardom you begin to believe your own publicity and you begin to think that other people should keep their distance, have no right to ask for an autograph or to talk to you. Once you are top of the pile you really begin to think you do not need to be involved with ordinary people any more. It is an attitude we see constantly from those in the public eye, believing no one should question them or challenge them, that they are above scrutiny or the ordinary. I have watched wonderful caring people become selfish and spoilt because they have become wealthy, famous and successful and then have no time for former friends and even family. This stems from an inbuilt selfish desire to ultimately look after self-first. A desire to think of ourselves more highly than we should, to think we are better than others and deserve better. Being a Christian cannot validate this way of living. Jesus never allowed His popularity to stop Him from always looking out for others first. Jesus is the Son of God, part of the Trinity but never tried to grasp power or wealth or popularity. Always others first, always moving toward His death so that every human being could have eternal life. Should we ever be given the trappings of celebrity, popularity or power then first and foremost must come service, service and care of others without complaint or superiority. None of us are more important than another, none of us are more special than another. Before God we are all special and we should all look for the flourishing and blessing of everyone.

23rd February 2021

1 Peter 5:2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly, not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve.

We often talk about Jesus as a King, particularly around Easter many of the hymns and songs we sing use this terminology. It is also used in the Bible to speak of the Messiah that is to come. Being a king comes with huge responsibility, they are in authority, they are accustomed to having others take care of their needs and are able to do as they wish. This is how we see kingship; it is what we are used to, it is what happened when the Israelites insisted on an earthly king who then proceeded to put their own needs before their people. Jesus version of kingship is very different, an awareness of those around Him, a sense of responsibility towards the needs of others and a willingness to put the needs of others before His own. Jesus kingship is not about ruling over but serving, bearing the burden of their people first and foremost. When we become a member of the Christian family, we become part of that kingship, we too must not look to rule over others but to serve them, we must put the needs of others before our own, we must bear the burden for others. This is a challenge for us as humans whose tendency is to put number one first. But we are called to this role, to care for and serve one another just as Jesus did for us.

22nd February 2021

Mark 1:15 The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and proclaims that the time has come. The Greek word used here means that this time that has come is a time critical event and has a time limited response. Repentance, turning your life around, choosing to follow God and accept His lifestyle needs to be done while the Kingdom of God is close at hand, while it is available to you. Noah experienced this time limited offer with the flood, he had listened to God’s voice, he acted upon God’s words and was saved in the Ark. The key to this story is the rainbow and God’s promise. Even today with all we know and have people still stop and stare at a rainbow, they still take photos and share them on social media. Even today people notice a rainbow and recognise it as a sign in the sky. As the spectrum of colours arc across the sky, we marvel in this beautiful expression of God’s promise to never again destroy His creation. We live in a fallen world; we are daily embroiled by the sin around us and we cannot be in total control of all that happens. Only God is in control and only He can give us the meaning and purpose to our lives through Jesus. But, we can only have this forgiveness, this meaning and purpose when we repent and believe the good news and this is a time limited offer which needs our response.

21st February 2021

Psalm 1:3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither, whatever they do prospers.

We had to have some trees cut down in the garden because they were becoming dangerous. Trees are all around us and perhaps we do not appreciate how wonderful and important they are. Trees are forefront in balancing our carbon dioxide and oxygen in the air, we know as more trees are cut down across the world in great amounts so the balance has become more precarious. Trees are right there in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. We read of the great Cedars of Lebanon used to build the Temple and the tree of life in Revelation which restores our eternal life with God. We speak of Jesus death on the cross, made from a tree. The trees were given to humans for food and shade, to build with and use to help them. There are trees in the Garden of Gethsemane which were there when Jesus was. In fact apart from God and humans Trees are the next most mentioned creature in the Bible. Trees are living created nature, all around us and with beautiful colours in the autumn. The Cyprus Tree is known as the tree of mourning, the Jasmine tree is the tree of romance, there is the parable of the Fig tree and the palm branches waved on Palm Sunday. Trees show us the importance of strong roots which ground us and keep us steady in the storms of life. They show us the need for food and nutrients to help us grow and the need to be rooted and grounded in God. 

20th February 2021

Isaiah 58: 9b/10 If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

Do you hold a grudge? We are often very good at holding onto small discriminations and what we believe to be a made against us. When we feel we have been treated wrongly a fervour rises up within us and we want justice. We know our rights and someone has done me wrong! We react with a passion, we get angry and we want something done and done now! This reaction is not of Jesus or of His spirit within us. Our heart, which should be the heart of Christ, is often not that but the heart of selfishness, the heart of quick judgement and the heart of anger. Jesus heart is one of healing, forgiveness, love and compassion and as we grow to be more like Him so our heart should become more like His. Instead of being quick to see others wronging us we should be seeing clearly how we have wronged others. We need to recognise how we have failed others and not kept our side of a friendship or family situation. Jesus heart knows no revenge, resentment or hatred but knows only forgiveness, encouragement and peace. Within our hearts should be only love, no hate, but we are human, it takes time and effort on our part. A good start is when we feel that resentment and fervour begin to surface, we summon Christ’s peace and love to quell the desire to treat others poorly. We are called to do away with oppression, with pointing the finger, with malicious talk and to help the hungry and oppressed, only then will our light shine in the darkness.

19th February 2021

Deuteronomy 30: 15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.

Every day we make choices in our lives, most of them simple and not really that important. This verse is about making a life and death choice. The choice we make is either of a selfish life or an unselfish life and we live with the consequences of that choice. The choice we make affects how we behave; listening to God or listening to self, choosing a blessing or a curse, choosing the whole world and as a result losing our very self. We live in this world; our challenge is not to be of it. We must not let ourselves be enticed by the promises and gains of this otherwise we will lose our very soul. The choice for each of us is stark, Heaven or Hell. We cannot know God or His love if we follow the ways of the world, if we listen to the worldly voices of gain, selfish ambition and me first. The Bible and Jesus himself make it clear that following God’s way is not going to be easy and may well involve us in suffering; being a disciple, a Christian, comes at a price. The world says that suffering and success cannot exist together, faith says they can. This is uncomfortable, we have to think about what it might mean to lose our life for Christ, maybe not literally, but in other ways. We need to ask ourselves does my attitude need to change? Does my routine need to change? Less TV, phone, computer, reading, radio etc and more prayer? Less money spent on me and more on others? Speaking up when others suffer unjustly, even if we suffer too? What are the things we need to change that will make the choice for life, the choice for God, the choice for blessing. 

18th February 2021

Luke 13:8/9 Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.

In the short Fig Tree parable, Jesus is speaking of the tree of God’s people. God had sent prophet after prophet throughout the Old Testament; but the results were always the same: God never found any fruit on the tree. The saving grace is to dig around it through the preaching of John the Baptist and then dig manure into it through the teaching and preaching of Jesus; still no fruit was forthcoming, Jesus was ignored and rejected and so that tree was to be cut down. In the year AD70, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, cut down. That tree of God’s people were just taking up space in the land. Everything that happened to these people, Paul tells us, is written down as an example for us to learn from. We are God’s fig trees today; we are God’s people, he created us and all we are. God sent Jesus to pay the price for us, we are God’s trees planted by God and He expects us to bear fruit. God is not a tyrant with a chainsaw ready to cut us down if we do not bear fruit because He loves us, and takes care of us. BUT He has planted us in the field of His Word and Sacraments which means we should be bearing fruit if we are reading and studying His word and living in His Sacraments. God loves to see the fruit we are producing. But does it ever seem to us like we’re just taking up space? We envy the fruit we see in other Christians who we think have more than we do. We see other congregations growing, we see other trees apparently covered in fruit, but not on our tree, we think. We feel guilt, envy, frustration and stress, when we are stressed, we can’t produce good fruit. Friends, God is only interested in us as we are individuals in Him. What God has for us is not the same as another, my gifts and fruits are different from yours, my calling is different from yours. All God asks of each of us is that we feed and nurture the fruit on our own tree and allow Him to bless and use that fruit in the way that is right for us. 

17th February 2021 Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:12 Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.

This verse and its context are about returning to God; we are reminded that God loves us and takes pity on us. The prophet Joel is clear in calling us to repent, turn away from sin and receive God’s grace. At the beginning of this Lenten season, we are very much challenged by the fact that we are sinners, we are selfish and ungrateful beings and we do not deserve God’s love and forgiveness and we certainly cannot earn redemption. Faced with this reality we have two choices; we either decide to bury our heads in the sand, saying we can and will make it on our own, that we don’t need God and ignore our reality in the hope it will all go away and we can live in our own little world. OR we can turn to God’s incredible grace and mercy and let ourselves be forgiven, loved and healed. This is a season of Grace; we can choose to let God’s mercy transform our hearts and lives and dare to believe that we can be more than we ever expected. We need to ask ourselves, when did we last really pray, get on our knees and make space and time for God in our lives? At the beginning of this Lent we need to make space and time for God, to take stock and start over. As we stand on the edge of remembering Jesus 40 days in the desert, we stand on the edge of really getting it right this time. If we are willing to give time to God each day, to rend our hearts and not our garments and let God work in us as we jump deep into this season and carve a new way through worldliness and dig out the weeds that threaten to choke our faith. 

16th February 2021

Luke 13:7b For years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?

I have been watching some cricket recently and something struck me, each person has a role to play on the field and certain ones have a style of bowling, spin, fast etc. What I notice is that they keep doing the same thing in the same way and the batters just keeping hitting them without problem. Almost in desperation they change what they do slightly and suddenly a wicket is taken. It is like Einstein’s quote that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting a different outcome. It is something we do a lot as humans and as Christians. We keep doing the same things in our churches, the same types of evangelism, the same types of fund raising, the same patterns and ideas and wonder why nothing changes. Please don’t misunderstand me, change for change sake is not the issue, it is when things do not work and we refuse to change that we need to recognise. It is running a service or event same time, same day for years and no one comes, a different day or different type of service maybe the answer. Running the same Course at the same time each year may need to be looked at, a different course or approach may be the key. The danger is that we pray for something expecting it to be successful, expecting God to deal with it when we have not fully played our part. Everything we do needs to be revisited, examined and looked at on a regular basis. If things are growing and working then we keep committing them to God and if they are not then we look at why and what changes we need to make to meet the need. If several churches all run similar events on the same days then no one is going to have a successful event. We are creative beings; we have abilities and understandings so we need to use those in our Christian life and in our church life to make the necessary changes.

15th February 2021

2 kings 6: 16 Then Elisha prayed: ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ and he saw the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

We like to talk about seeing things clearly, not having anything in the way to confuse us or mislead us. We like to think that what we see as the answer or the way forward is the right one. Seeing is linked to our eyes and our vision, we tend to depend on this sense more than others and we often speak of seeing is believing. It is no coincidence that the term vision is used for how we see and plan for the future. Our vision, literally how we see, is affected by many things, and actually what we see may not always be as it seems. In this story from 2 kings, what God and Elisha see are very different from everyone else. The perception of the enemy is that their attack will be easy because there is no defence, from the perspective of Elisha’s servant this is also the case and he is frightened and cannot understand how calm Elisha is. Elisha is calm because he sees what God sees. God has placed His warriors, horses and chariots all around in protection. Seeing what God sees is the most amazing of blessings and something we should be praying for and looking for in every situation. If we see what God sees then we will know exactly how to deal with things, exactly what a situation requires and the potential for the best outcome. Seeing what God sees is often called discernment and is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a gift we can ask for, but to receive it and know how to use it we must take the time to be in touch with God, to listen, to learn and the more in touch we are the more likely we are to see as God sees. May our prayer be that God will open our eyes that we may see.

14th February 2021

Exodus 20:16 You shall not bear false witness.

On social media one of the things I find hardest is the false accusations or claims which are then multiplied in their damage by being retweeted or re posted again and again. Just recently NHS staff have been trolled, that means harassed, by complete strangers who still insist that the pandemic is a falsehood, there are clergy regularly trolled for speaking about poverty, unfairness and misspent gov monies, you will all have seen the great deal of threats and nastiness around the footballer Marcus Rashford because he has dared to challenge the gov on school meal provision for the poor. We have developed a society where everyone has mixed up free speech with expressing their opinion whether it is unfounded, untrue and inappropriate or not. We have given anonymity to people who make themselves feel better and more important by hurting and destroying others through this anonymity. You can now falsely accuse someone of terrible things, ruin someone’s reputation with lies, you can threaten people’s lives and families and face no consequences and you do not have to provide any evidence. Bearing false witness is one of the original 10 commandments. The deal here is that even if you do not like someone or disagree with them you do not lie about them; you do not bear false witness. Of course, we can all see through history how this commandment has been ignored and broken in favour of keeping people in power, or keeping wealth and belongings and preventing those who stand for honesty and justice from having a platform. The story of Jesus is one of false testimony, of lies about Him when the evidence was obvious of a man who healed, practiced and preached forgiveness, fairness, justice and equality, but that meant the rich and powerful would have to share their wealth, take responsibility and that is too much of a threat to them and their power, so it is easier to get rid of the threat, to bring falsehood and lies against Him and bring Him down. How are we with our behaviour towards others? Are we willing to always look for truth, honesty and justice or do our opinions and ideas matter more than truth? As Christians we do not bear false witness, ever!

13th February 2021

Nehemiah 4:15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to our own work.

I ordered something recently and then waited a long time for it arrive. No one could tell me why, the company who sent it said they had done their bit and the Royal Mail said it wasn’t missing until a month had gone by. They also said they could only track it with a tracking number and the company said they don’t have a tracking number. Meanwhile I have paid postage, paid for an order and both sides have just dismissed their responsibility for this order leaving me out of pocket and without an order, stuck in the middle. Which way do I turn? Who is there to help? Is there anyone who cares? We are often caught in the middle of things and we don’t know which way to turn, no one seems to want to help us and we feel at a loss as what to do. I have found that being a Christian can be like this, caught between a rock and a hard place not knowing what to do or where to turn. When we read the Bible, we find many of its characters in exactly this position, Moses, Isaiah, Jonah, Nehemiah, and Paul to name but a few. In each case these folks come before the Lord God and ask why? They come and ask for it to be taken away or dealt with, what they tend to forget to ask for is the strength and wisdom to cope. It is when they accept the situation and ask God for His help and strength to cope that they find a way through. When things do seem to pin us down, we want a solution and that is fair enough, but what we tend to want is a solution which does not require any effort from us! Unfortunately, if we are in any situation, we will have to make some effort to resolve it and what we need to be asking God for is the wisdom and the strength to resolve it. We need to commit each and every situation to Him and ask Him to show us how and what we need to do to make things right for everyone. God is ready, willing and able to help and frustrate those who try to hurt and harm us but we need to ask Him for His help and be ready to accept it and play our part.

12th February 2021

Luke 6:31 Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This verse is known as the Golden Rule, it actually exists in similar form in all the religions and ethical philosophies of the world. In Christianity it is positive, do unto, where as most of the others are approached from a do not perspective. This rule involves empathy, selflessness, reciprocity and compassion. It involves us in putting ourselves in another person’s situation and reacting in the way that would best help them. As we live each day we should be helping our neighbours and friends, treat our family and others with respect, go the extra mile, helping those in need as best we can. This will do great things for all those we help but it will also bless us. Let’s face it if we all behaved better then the world would be a much better place. How can we try and live this rule? We need to practice empathy, to really understand what it is like for others. We need to be compassionate, looking to see how we can help ease another’s burden and suffering. We need to think if this was me how would I like to be treated and then respond in that way. One of the easiest things we can do is help, to not be blind to the needs and feelings of others. We can also listen, let others tell us how they feel and what we can do for them. We also need to take a look at our selves and recognise our tendencies to criticise, recognise our prejudices and recognise our desire to be in control. Each day, if we are able, we can set ourselves a daily reminder to treat others well, to show respect and care for others as we would like them to respect and care for us. If we treat others better, they will treat us better and we will all see things change for the better.

11th February 2021

James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for them it is sin.

How have you been in the snow? The main roads have been okay but the side roads are very slippery and once it freezes again over night it becomes very slippery. I must admit the garden looks beautiful in the white powdery coat it is wearing and the dark night has an eerie glow in the white covering. There is something quite lovely about the snow when it comes and the hushed tone it brings. Each year as the threat of snow comes, we find ourselves woefully unprepared. The roads don’t get gritted, we don’t have de-icer or scrapers to clear the car, hills and steep slopes can’t be safely used, the pavements become slippery. We know about the snow, we know the problems it can cause, we get warnings from the weather men and yet we wake up and we are in trouble. Life is like that, we have been given all the warnings about sin, been told the issues and problems it causes and then we are surprised when we are caught out. The Bible tells us that when we argue, lie, cheat, get angry, ignore others, hurt people………. We are causing bad things to happen and there will be consequences. God does send the gritters out, God does warn us, God gives us the tools to protect ourselves and keep ourselves safe but we carry on, blissfully unaware of the consequences and damage sin is doing to our lives, until it hits us like a ten-ton truck and shatters our world. Through prayer and reading the Bible we learn to spot the warning signs; we learn how to live life not dropping into sin and we are giving the tools and support by God to deal with the problems sin presents to us.

10th February 2021

2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid and worried, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

If you have ever seen the musical The Lion King there is a song that comes after Simba has been rescued from the desert by Timon and Pumba. The song is called Hakuna Matata and it means no worries for the end of your days, according to the song. It actually comes from Swahili and it does mean no troubles or worries. It is, for the characters, a philosophy of not letting life get them down and of living each day as it comes. As in so many of these stories, the song has a simple but powerful message. It is message that we also get from the Bible. We are told to cast our cares on God, to not be worried and upset, to let go and let God. It is not that life does not have worries or troubles, it does, but it is how we respond to them, how we deal with them that counts. God has given us the Holy Spirit in our lives so that we always have strength and support within us. To put it in the words of another Lion King song, He Lives in You. God lives in us through the Holy Spirit, that Spirit, sent at Pentecost, fills us with God and Jesus and enables us to become more like God in all we do and say. That Spirit also gives us the ability to rely completely on God knowing that He is in charge and He will always work things through for the best. Once we take that on board then we need not have any worries or troubles because God is in control. It is a tough life lesson to learn, especially when we are suffering and struggling, but we need to learn that God has our back, that we can cast our worries on Him, that we can allow God to take the strain. So, remember friends, Hakuna Matata.

9th February 2021

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one committed and trained, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Sport is often on in our house, rugby, cricket, Formula 1, athletics. I find it can be on while I do other things, sometimes stopping to watch a particular race or innings. Whatever sports we enjoy we cannot underestimate the commitment of those who are involved. We see the big matches, the big races, but behind the scenes are the days and days of training, the exercise regimes done daily whatever the weather, whatever the time of year. The commitment of getting up every day, particularly in the cold darkness of winter and running the streets, lifting the weights, using simulators or practicing bowl after bowl after bowl. To be top sports person today you have to be totally committed to your sport. This means long times away from family, little time for relationships, huge daily commitments for the few big events in the year or season, and always the possibility of injury or poor form which leaves you on the bench or not picked for the team. This type of commitment puts us as Christians to shame. We struggle with opening our bibles safe and warm at home, we struggle with spending just a few minutes in prayer, we pull away from talking to God or meeting with other Christians because we have more important things to do. Our commitment to our faith means we have to be willing to do some training, to lean new things, to exercise our faith, to build up our stamina and abilities so that we are at our best when we are needed to speak up and out about issues, when we are needed to step in and help others. Being a Christian is not a 9 to 5 occupation but a lifelong, 24/7 lifestyle that we need to be committed to. God asks of that we live our lives for Him as best we can and that means commitment to turn up, to learn, to practice and to grow as Christians.

8th February 2021

James 2:3/4 If you show more respect to the well-dressed man than to the poor man then you are guilty of creating distinctions among yourselves and of making judgments based on evil motives.

My mum finally had her vaccine the other day, she spoke of how well organised it was, how it was run by the army who made sure all was working effectively and efficiently. She was checked and double checked to make sure it was her; she was asked questions to make sure it was all safe, she was watched over for 15 minutes before leaving to make sure she was all okay. From what I have heard it seems to be the general experience, yes, there are some hiccups, and some people are not turning up and some bookings seem to have been messed up but for something organised so quickly it was a very wise move to use the army to sort out the logistics. It is what they do, they have experienced people who know how to put big projects into action. Knowing how to do something, being experienced and being recognised for that is an excellent and valuable thing. I would suggest that we have forgotten how to value certain things in favour of others. We have lost the value of organisation and wise judgement, making sure everyone is treated equally, making sure everyone is fed and clothed and has somewhere to live in favour of making huge profits, in cutting corners and jobs to save small amounts of money so shareholders can receive higher dividends. The organisation of getting vaccines ready and tested in ten months, of vaccinating around half a million people every day shows that things can be done for the benefit of everyone when necessary, it also shows that profit is the defining factor in usual drug production and business contracts and that all of us can be taken care of properly if the will, the desire for everyone to flourish, is there. In God’s kingdom everyone is of equal worth, everyone is treated with respect and has everything they need for a good life. God is not interested in profit or shareholders dividends; He is interested in everyone being treated with respect and value and we as Christians should be exactly the same. Doing things not for ourselves or for profit but for the benefit and flourishing of all people no matter who they are or where they come from.

7th February 2021

Isaiah 54:1b Sing, O sorrowful one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud.

I love musicals and the other Friday I really enjoyed having songs from musicals on Radio 2 all day, for once leaving the radio on while I worked. I found myself singing along to nearly every track. It reminded me of musicals I have seen in the West End and ones I was in as a teenager; it was a great opportunity to revisit some of my best memories and even dig out an old programme or two. Things that we enjoy, that offer us these positive and fun memories are really valuable to our lives, particularly when life is difficult or uncertain. In this past year I would have gone to see one or two musicals, but I could not because of the pandemic. These musicals offer me a place to step away from normal life, suspend reality and just enjoy a simple story interspersed with songs that catch a moment in that story. These songs are written to provoke a reaction and stir the emotions and nearly every musical has that one song that everybody knows. Within the Bible there are songs, we may not think of them that way because we don’t have the music, but the Psalms are songs, written to express emotion and provoke a reaction. The Song of Songs is a love song and within other books are phrases and sections that have a song or poem structure to them. Music cuts into our minds and hearts in a way nothing else does. When you read some of the Psalms or laments you can imagine someone baring their soul to God, singing out their anger or hurt, declaring their feelings of regret or apology. There are places in the Old Testament where the Psalmist or writer does not hold back in their condemnation of events or what God has not yet done about a situation. All this clearly speaks to us of expressing exactly how we feel to God. It is okay to tell God when we are fed up, angry, not impressed with a situation, just as it is okay to tell Him when all is well and that things are good. We love singing Hymns and worship songs because they express our worship and praise to God and speak of His wonderous acts, but it also okay to speak out the negative thoughts and emotions and even to sing those out if we know the tunes. God gave us emotions and feelings; it is good for us to express them.

6th February 2021

Psalm 86:5 You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.

Have you seen that Dairy Milk TV advert where the seemingly grumpy man is throwing the football, parachute man etc from next doors children back into their garden. I say seemingly grumpy because you catch a little smile as he throws things back. Next, they throw over the bar of Dairy Milk and as he picks it up the boy says you don’t have to throw that one back Mr Thompson. It is a gift of appreciation for his patience. This man keeps throwing things back, again and again to these children. It is as if these children never learn not to kick the ball over or throw toys too far. They are children after all. We had a neighbour when the boys were young, and she never threw anything back and was incredibly rude and unpleasant saying the boys could not look after their things so could not have them back. The way Mr Thompson is to the boys next door is, in its simplest form, like God is with us; and although God is not grumpy with us; I do wonder sometimes why He isn’t as He has every right to be; we don’t ever seem to learn how to stop throwing our toys out of the pram, so to speak. We just keep carrying on getting angry, being silly, saying and doing things which upset others and God, opening our mouths before we put our brain in gear and yet God keeps forgiving us, keeps sending the love back to us. As often as we keep getting things wrong, God keeps forgiving us and giving us another chance. What we actually deserve is the attitude of our old neighbour, that if we can’t learn not to do something then we deserve to lose it. We do not deserve God’s love; we do not deserve God’s forgiveness, and yet He keeps giving it to us. God always has a second, third, fourth, twentieth, thirtieth…..chance for us if we are willing to take it. God’s love is unconditional, He never gives up on us.

5th February 2021

Romans 13:14 Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and forget about pleasing your old sinful self.

One of the things that has always fascinated me has been how we become more like Christ. Paul talks of in habiting Christ and putting on Christ which seems almost like putting on a piece of clothing. That in itself suggests that it is a choice we make and that it is something we have to actively do, we want to be more like Jesus so we do what is necessary to achieve that. A practical example for me is wearing a dog collar. Part of my life is getting up in the morning and putting on my clergy shirt, putting in the collar and having that physical piece of clothing on. It does not make me a different person, but it does physically allow me to clothe myself in Jesus. It acknowledges the role I inhabit as a priest. One of things lockdown has done is change that process. If I am not going out at all, I do not put on a clergy shirt. If I am involved in Zoom meetings then I either wear a shirt or use my “bibstock” yes, it is what it says, a bib round the neck with a collar front which slips under your jumper. I have a lot of clothes I hardly ever wear since becoming a priest because I am wearing a clergy shirt every day; now I am wearing many more of those. For me, I actually miss the putting on of my clergy shirt every day, it does not make me any the less who I am in God, but for me that physical putting on encourages me in my being a priest, it is a physical reminder. There is something within us that responds to a physical action, I think that was what Paul was getting at; the putting on Christ, making the choice to act more like Him, to be physically and mentally more like Him. Actors speak of inhabiting a role, studying the person or character, taking on their mannerisms, speech patterns, actions etc. For us we need to daily put-on Jesus, take on His role, His character, speech patterns etc. If we model ourselves daily on Christ, through prayer, reading the Bible, learning what His word says to us, then we will become more like Him and inhabit Him in everything that we say and do.

4th February 2021

Isaiah 61:4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

As Jesus began His ministry he read and spoke in the synagogue and declared that good news was declared to the blind, the imprisoned, the oppressed, all of whom Isaiah had called ‘the broken-hearted’. Whenever the Bible spoke of these broken hearted it declared that they were to be healed and comforted and in Isaiah the prophet also adds that these hurt people will receive a new spirit, so they can be released from their problems and hurts. As they receive this new spirit, they will become the restorers and rebuilders of the damage about them. We learn that through the experiences of doubt and pain, through difficult times and decisions, through loss, suffering, oppression and broken hearts we are the ones who can rebuild, restore and help others through Jesus at work in us. We often admire people who appear confident and assured, wondering at what they can do for themselves and others who are in need. But if we have never doubted, never felt powerless, never known loss and the devastation of grief we may never learn how to rebuild and restore ourselves and others in a way that brings everyone newness of life. Try and reflect on something in your life that has hurt or grieved you and see how that experience has helped you to be compassionate, to encourage and help others. Remember that our God is no stranger to hurt, grief and rejection. In Jesus we are given strength in weakness, power in compassion, resilience in forgiveness. We always need to look for the possibility of growth and new life in every situation and use what we have learned to help others.

3rd February 2021

1 John 4:20b Whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Who do you look like or take after? As babies and children, we are often told we have our mum’s eyes or dad’s ears, mum’s smile or dads’ fingers. As we grow and develop our personality it is often then said you are just like your father or mother, not always in a good way. We do this because of genetics, we share DNA with our parents and so we will exhibit some physical attributes that are similar to them, we may also share some genetic faults which can give us certain illnesses or make us susceptible to certain problems. We often talk of family traits as meaning familial DNA, blood relatives. We all now recognise that family is not just about DNA or blood. We have long adopted children who lost their parents, we have taken those in need into our families and we have created stepfamilies. Family means a group who live together as a unit and help one another in basic living. We use the term family within Christianity. Jesus talked of loving brothers and sisters before God, children are told to obey parents, parents are told their children are a blessing and a glory, we are told to come together in unity. The thing about family is that we are all unique but also share many things in common. It is family who really know us, family that sees the real us and puts up with the good and the bad, most of the time. Forgiveness is more common in families as is unconditional love. We are told in Genesis that we were created in God’s image, so in some way we resemble our heavenly father. Jesus mother Mary is critical in His life and ministry and Jesus speaks of God as father. Family matters, whether as the unit we were born into or as the unit of Christianity, church family. It is the place we should be comfortable to be ourselves, where we forgive and are forgiven, where we live together looking out for one another as children of our Heavenly father.

2nd February 2021

Genesis1:16 God made the two great lights the Sun to rule the day and the Moon to rule the night and the stars.

I wonder if you remember when you were a child being told the moon was made of cream cheese, or perhaps being told the story of the man in the moon. I am sure we all remember A Grand Day Out where Wallace and Gromit go to the moon to get the cheese to bring home. We weren’t being lied to, it was just a way that people had come up with to try and understand something we could see so clearly but could not explain. This morning, as I drove to church as it was getting light, I could see the moon, nearly full, hung clearly in the sky. It was beautiful. Our understanding of the moon these days is incredible, we know so much and yet we know so little. The moon is mentioned from the beginning of the Bible and creation. God creates the Sun to light the day and the Moon to light the night. The Moon is spoken of as a source of light, as mastering the tides, the days and years. There is a short child’s prayer I used to say every night with my sons “I see the moon and the moon sees me, God bless the moon and God bless me.” Wherever we are the world we can see the moon it is a constant in our lives, one we so easily take for granted; we forget how ancient it is, that God created it for us and that it offers us light in the darkness. We know it is not made of cream cheese, that no man lives there, and we can’t build a rocket and fly there with loads of cream crackers like Wallace and Gromit did, but we do know that it is a necessary and vital part of our Earth tides, days, years and seasons, created by God and we thank Him for it.

1st February 2021

Mark1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

In Mark’s gospel we meet Jesus very quickly, he arrives on the scene, as if from nowhere, full of energy and truth. He calls for us to repent, to turn from our wrongdoing but then He turns away from the limelight and spends time alone to pray, to be with His father. Both these approaches are necessary for us as Christians. We need to approach our faith with energy and enthusiasm, people need to see in us that being a Christian is exciting, worthwhile, enjoyable and valuable. Also we need to be full of truth and honesty. People need to know that we do lie to them, that we do not bend the truth to suit our own agenda. As Christians the truth we preach can only be accepted as such if we are truthful and honest people in all we do and are. Then there is the quiet part of our faith, the time alone to pray and to be with our father God. Whether we do a daily quiet time, or the daily office/s. Whether we pray in the morning or the evening, or all day in our mind, however we do it we need time to pray, time to be alone with God, time to read our Bible and get to know more about how God works in our lives. The quiet times are just as necessary as the busy energetic times. We cannot be enthusiastic witnesses for God if we don’t know the God we are talking about properly for ourselves. It can be easy to become pretenders, people who just go through the motions of faith because we have always done it, but our faith needs to be alive and in the present; we need to be active in our relationship with God every day through prayer and Bible reading which then gives us the energy and truth we need to be the witnesses God has called us to be.

31st January 2021

Matthew 19:26 Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew, the gospel writer, sees Jesus as the fulfilment of prophecy, Jesus is expected! He uses the genealogy to put Jesus into the time and place, He is foretold and fulfilled. We too put Jesus into our time and place. Each generation proclaims the story afresh, as it works within them. We too, have a genealogy, our parents and grandparents, our education and family, our church tradition all impact into who we are. As well as this the mistakes we make, our rebellion, our regrets also make us who we are. We are a product of the good and bad in our lives and of all our family life. Maturity as a Christian comes as we accept ourselves as we are and so are able to live in the present moment. Life should become not either or, but both and. We learn to contemplate and accept our genealogies, our backgrounds and traditions. Within our backgrounds we will have things that we need to let go of, things which have brought us down, caused us pain and hurt, made us angry and cross and as we grow and mature, we need to let these go, not belittle them, but let them go before God. We offer up to him these things and let Him deal with them. This is giving ourselves completely to God, warts and all, so to speak. As we become Christians, we are worn and weathered, God takes the rough diamond forged in our lives and then soften the edges, cuts away the dross and fashions a beautiful, faceted diamond of a Christian. We all have sharp points, broken edges, dirty parts, missing pieces, dull areas, but God takes us and makes us perfect through Jesus life and death on the cross. God welcomes us as we are, with all our baggage and then works with us, a master sculptor, a master cutter and a master repairer, to make us who He has called us to be in all our glory.  

30th January 2021

James 1:14 Each person is tempted when they are pulled away by their own desires and enticed.

Many of you will know that we have a cat. Ash is a source of pleasure and joy and often has me shaking my head in disbelief. Earlier this week I was checking dates on some cake we had left over from Christmas and had put a stollen out on the table for use the next day. All pristine in its wrapping with a date for next week. Next morning, I came down to find the wrapper opened, several pieces on the table and large lumps of stollen gone. A rather contented cat sat nearby. I am floored as to what in a stollen attracted the cat, needless to say we have not now eaten the stollen. This got me thinking about how we see things in life, all pristine and well wrapped, they look attractive to us, but we don’t really no why and we think that there is no harm in trying it, just a little. We open up that attractive package and try some, and maybe try a bit more then we feel contented for short time until we go back for more, and more. This is how we are tempted in our lives, something nice and shiny and new and pristine comes along and we are drawn to it, we may have no need of it, it is often something of no real value to us but we get drawn in, something new, something different I will give it a try, no harm in that. We break it open; we take a little bite and a bigger bite and so often we are hooked in. What was just something different to do becomes a habit and we keep being drawn in. We are content for just a short time until we want more and then we are never really content. We just need to be aware of shiny pristine things we don’t need in our lives that can tempt us in if we are not careful. I can just get rid of the stollen, sometimes we can’t just get rid of the tempting things which turn up around us. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and not on the things of life which can turn our gaze away from Him.

29th January 2021

2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.

We love to think we know people, that what we see is it, but actually we all run much deeper than that. We have not just our physical presence but what is inside us, in our minds and hearts, we often call this our soul or spirit. It is these depths of character we find when we need to dig deep. In this current time with all the issues of living in a covid rife world is a time when we need to dig deep, very deep. We are not able to go out, we maybe shielding, we are in lockdown, a situation we have not faced before, and we have had to change our way of life, Our response can be one of resistance to what is different and difficult or we can respond by bending with it, responding with flexibility, as a friend says we can lean into it. We are all different and all respond differently but we are promised the support and help we need from God. We are promised that God’s grace is sufficient for us and that God’s power, the power of creation, of life, is made perfect within us. His strength enables us to deal with the issues of life, the things we may see as weaknesses and problems. Right now, we need to respect ourselves, acknowledge our needs and weaknesses, recognise that we are struggling and need help. We do not have to be okay all the time, we do not have to present a perfect façade, it is okay not to be okay! We also recognise and respect the same in others, they too need to be respected and acknowledged for who they are. We all need to treat ourselves and others with dignity, tolerance, self-respect and help each other cope. Our strength from within comes from who we are in God, as we allow God to work in us through others, through helps and through the guidance offered to us. We are not alone, none of us have to cope alone, our God given spirit or soul has God’s love and power within us, we just need to tap into it.

28th January 2021

1 Corinthians 6:19a You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who lives in you.

This week our car has gone in to have some work done. Now 14 years old and we are the second owners, it has begun to rust, there are some dents and cracks and the patch work of trying to keep it going is just too far gone now. From a distance the car looks fine, no great holes, no huge discolouration, but as you get closer the problem becomes obvious. You see the areas of rubbed away paint, bubbles of rust and flaking paint, dents and cracks which show the problems that lie underneath. So it is with our lives. From a distance we can look fine, come across as in tip top condition, look confident, healthy and strong. But when someone gets closer, we might desperately try to stop that happening, they begin to the cracks, the discolouration, the weaknesses and the problems bubbling away under the surface. All of us are good at putting on a front, pretending to be everything we think we should be, even when we are not. We put on the masks, the cover make-up, the clothes and trimmings that make us look okay, but underneath we can be lost, broken, damaged and in need of some TLC. We don’t need to go to a garage or body shop for these repairs, but we do need to go to God and to those who can help us. We do need to allow ourselves rest and healing. Our repairs may by physical but also mental. It is even easier to cover up the mental health issues, often until we have gone too far down that road and repair can take much, much longer. Our bodies and minds are temples of the Holy Spirit, they are places God lives within us, we are created by God and completely loved by Him. Our bodies and minds also need care, protection, repair and rejuvenation and we are responsible for looking ourselves mentally and physically. But we are not alone in this, we have friends and family, chaplains and priests, counsellors, doctors and nurses. If we need help, then we need to ask or at least let others near enough to see we need help and to offer it.

27th January 2021

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and teaches us doctrine, understanding, corrects us and instructs in righteous living.

How good are you at following instructions? I will always get them out and read them where as my husband just sets too and only looks if he cannot work out what to do next. As you can imagine working together on something can be interesting. Today we received an uplighter we ordered last week to replace the one we have had for a long time which has stopped working. It came in various pieces with wiring in place. It should have taken half hour tops to put together. After 2 hours and still not finished things were a little fraught. In fairness it was straight forward but the instructions left out some basic necessary steps that meant it was difficult to get to the next point. One main problem was they sent the wrong bulb and as we tried to fit it, it would not go and in the end it broke. These bulbs are quite niche, we did have a spare from the old light and when we compared them the bulb sent was half an inch too long for the space. This assembly was actually quite straight forward, but because the instructions were unclear and the bulb was the wrong one, we took a lot longer to make the light. Instructions are very necessary and must be clear and include every step, also, the component parts need to be the correct ones. So it is in our Christian faith. We so often try to ram something into place that is too big or too small or just doesn’t fit. We are also given an excellent instruction manual in the Bible but it is amazing how many of us never read it until we are desperate. Many years ago, someone took the word Bible and turned it into an Acrostic to remind us of this:

Basic

Instructions

Before

Leaving

Earth

The Bible is there to help us deal with life, with how we behave and react, how we become better people and how to live our Christian life the best way possible. Let me encourage you to read the Bible, you can find helps in books, on the internet, often in the Bible itself at the front or back. It is always a good idea to follow the makers instructions if you want to achieve the finished article in full working order and in all its glory.

26th January 2021

Luke 22:42 Father, if you are willing, take this cup of suffering from me; not what I want but what you want.

I expect you notice, as we all do, that certain subjects are never really tackled or talked about. We don’t like to talk about terminal illness, death, mental illness, disability to name a few. It is as if we believe that if we do not talk about them, they will not happen. We also feel, as adults, that we should protect our children and teenagers from these things and ultimately, we forge distrust about what else we are not telling them and make them in turn feel that certain things should never be spoken about. The truth in all this is actually quite simple, if we can talk about something, we can manage it. When we speak about things that are painful, even terrible, then the very voicing of the issue means we can find a way to deal with it. Once we give voice to our fears and worries, we open the door to help, to strength, to support from others and thus we can manage the situation. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus voiced his fears of what was going to happen, the beating and ridicule, the gruesome death and the descent to hell that were to come; in that opening up, that speaking out His fears and feelings He was able to manage what came next. His cries to his father were met with strength and support to enable Him to continue His calling. In the presentation of Baby Jesus in the temple words of death and persecution were spoken and Mary did not hide these or dismiss them she pondered them. When these things happen, and they do to all of us, we must speak about them, be open about what is happening, be willing to talk and discuss our feelings. This way we will be able to get the help we need, the support and care we need to be able to cope and manage the difficulties we face. 

25th January 2021

Ecclesiastes 3: 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.

At this time of year, we begin to put away the crib scene and the Epiphany figures who arrived just after Christmas. It always saddens me that these beautiful figures will go into a box in a cupboard for the next 10 months. It is like saying goodbye to old friends who for the past 8 or so weeks have been the centre of attention. As much as I love the seasons of the church sometimes I feel we see them as individual times rather than dependent on and working with each other. It is how these seasons play out within each other that makes our faith what it is. Without Christmas there is no Easter and vica versa, without both and Pentecost there is no Trinity, without the repentance and preparation of Advent and Lent there is no forgiveness forged by Easter. Without Remembrance there is no history or tradition to build upon. Our faith relies on the lessons and teachings of all the festivals of the church calendar and is much richer because of them. As we put away the Christmas figures we turn to Candlemas then Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. These will set us on a journey of repentance, abstinence and preparation for Easter. I must admit that this past year with its lockdowns, closed buildings and few services, has meant losing so many of our touchstones and thus often the key services and markers which move us on in our faith. Last Easter was lost to lockdown, and who knows about this year. But the changing figures and stories, the change in church colours, displays and decorations, all play their part in reminding us of the story of Jesus, of our part in that story and how we can grow and change as we learn the lessons of each church season. 

24th January 2021

Revelation 5:5 Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.

What’s in a name? The Bible has many names for God and for Jesus. We tend to know the most common, but did you know Jesus is called the Lion of Judah? What do you think of when you think of a lion? Majestic, regal, powerful, courage, justice, power, strength, wisdom, pride, dignity,? All of these can be said about Jesus. His kingship, His strength and power. But what of Judah? Judah was one of the original 12 tribes of Israel, in the south, and became the main country of the Israelites when the north refused the new chosen King after Solomon. Judah, Jacob’s 4th son, is referred to by his father as a young lion. The Kingdom of Judah had Jerusalem as it’s capital, David was its first king and thus the line to Jesus came through this land. Judah himself was at first a plotter against his brother but became the one that pledged himself as safety for his brother, in the same way the King of Judah pledged himself as safety for his people. In other words, any leader should be prepared to offer his or herself in protection and care of those they lead. To serve, to protect and lift up their people. This is exactly what Jesus does. Jesus Christ, as the Lion, conquered sin and death so that we could be forgiven and restored to the glory of his eternal kingdom. This powerful victory was made possible through Jesus work on the cross, in which he became the innocent Lamb to be sacrificed for our sin once and for all. Therefore, in the Lion we discover the power of Christ as an eternal protector king who pledges our safety, and in the Lamb we find the grace of Jesus as our eternal saviour.


23rd January 2021

Psalm 30:5 Weeping May last for the night-time, but joy comes with the morning.

I discovered this verse in my teens and although I liked it, I did not really understand it. It was only later in my teens and then in some of life’s really difficult times did I begin to see. When life throws us that curve ball, hits us with something mind blowing and awful we come into what we often describe as a dark time, a time when we are trying to exist let alone anything else. Bereavement is very much this sort of time, we struggle with what has happened and life becomes an existence, a routine, and we cling onto the things we know and are sure about like a life belt, to keep us afloat. The same is true in times illness, financial difficulties, redundancies, divorce, poverty…….the list goes on. All these events become like a dark time, like night-time, when we feel alone, scared, unsure, worried, concerned and so often this time is a time of weeping, of crying, expressing our feelings through emotion. This expression is necessary, we do need to allow our bodies and minds to deal with these very difficult times, as we exist, we need to find a way back to a form of normality and expressing how we feel, allowing these emotions to come out gives time and expression to begin to do that. This is the weeping that lasts for the night-time or the dark time which can of course last for quite some time. BUT, Just as night gives way to morning, darkness to light, so within our darkness light will begin to dawn, we begin to not just exist but to find some joy in living again, we begin to look forward again, we begin to smile and laugh again, we learn to live with and accommodate what has happened to us or those we love, we do not get over it, we adapt and begin to live life again as the daylight of morning spreads over us. In our lifetime these events will happen to us and those we love and each time there will be darkness, existence and struggle but also there will come the dawn, the morning and light will begin to spread over us again and there will be joy once again with that morning. 

22nd January 2021

Psalm 119:5/6 I wish I was better in obeying your demands. Then I would not be ashamed when I study your ways.

Do you ever feel guilty? At some point most of us feel guilty about something we have done or said. The Psalmist here, sees the truth which is that when we look at everything God requires of us as humans, we are guilty, guilty of not being honest, guilty of not caring for each other, guilty of injustice and guilty of not being fair. God’s standards are high, so high we cannot live up to them in our own strength. In that knowledge we too cry out I wish I could do better as a Christian, I am embarrassed by all I do wrong. Now it is good to recognise our faults and guilt and to do something about it; in doing so we recognise God’s provision of forgiveness and thank Him for that. In Jesus we have all we need to find forgiveness, all we need to change our outlook, all we need in strength and perseverance, all we need to live a better and more Godly life. Jesus life, death and resurrection gives us the relationship with God that the Psalmist longed for, that we long for. When we feel guilty, we can easily turn the attention on ourselves and our failures but if we turn our eyes upon Jesus, we have the strength to change for the better, to recognise our failings; not to condemn ourselves and punish ourselves, but to accept God’s forgiveness and to be thankful of that love and care and use it to make ourselves better before God and in our lives. In God’s eyes we are forgiven, loved, treasured and celebrated. He knows we have failed, and He still loves us, He knows we are not perfect, but He loves us anyway. God does not want us beating ourselves up but wants us to appreciate what we have, to be thankful for God’s provision for us and to praise Him for all He is, has given and continues to give. When we are feeling guilty the best thing we can do is to turn our eyes on Jesus, to recognise our faith and allow ourselves to be loved and supported as we seek forgiveness and change.

21st January 2021

Hebrews 12:1a Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

Are we there yet? Do you remember asking that when you were younger, or your children asking it on a journey? Time passes so differently for children than adults so asking this question repeatedly makes sense to them. Getting anywhere involves a journey, it can be long or short but all the time we are on that journey we are getting there. Along life’s journey there are things which entangle us, distract us, divert us and hold us back. These make our journey much harder. As Christians we can so easily be distracted from our calling, our way of life, by people’s opinions, misunderstandings, illness, mental health, bereavement, lack of food or resources and general situations. But alongside these problems God gives us support, people to help us, give advice, pray for us, encourage us and help us to see the way forward. As we journey, we gather experience, receive support, learn to cope and so are less likely to be diverted from our cause or path. We begin to have more purpose, a better sense of direction and with this comes self esteem and self-respect. We journey on, we achieve more, grow more, learn more and become better Christians. Are we there yet? No, but we are getting there. Sometimes it feels the journey is far too slow and at other times we seem to travel further and faster. As we are supported and blessed, we learn not to give up, to stick at it, to ask for help when we need it and to keep going even when things get really difficult. We are getting there, we are already further along the journey than we were last week, last month, last year. We never have to make this journey alone, God is always with us and has made sure family, friends, colleagues, organisations and support is always there for us along the way. Are we there yet? Not yet, but we are getting there!

20th January 2021

Genesis 44:5 Why have you paid back evil for good? You have stolen our master’s cup!

Joseph had placed his cup into the sack of his brother, Benjamin, he was the youngest and the only brother that had the same mother as Joseph. Their father had lost Joseph and now it seems would lose Benjamin too. What was Joseph’s plan? Was he testing the hearts of his brothers to see if they had changed? Would they drop Benjamin in it to save themselves? Did they still hate the favourite son? Had they come to realise what they had done and regret it? Joseph and Benjamin were their father’s favourite because they were born by the mother Jacob loved most. Sadly Favouritism does bring about jealousy, bitterness, anger and resentment but we are all responsible for our behaviour before God. All these years later, Joseph wondered what his brothers now thought of what they did in selling him. Were there any regrets? Were they treating Benjamin as they had done him? Joseph is now the one with the upper hand, and he takes advantage. He tests his brothers to determine what was now in their hearts. Judah takes responsibility and acknowledges that they all deserve to be punished for the wrong they had committed all those years earlier. God is just, what goes around, comes around. It might take time and we can be very impatient to see the outcome of other actions unfold, but we really do reap what we sow. Joseph’s brothers had lived this terrible lie for so long, it had driven a wedge between them and their father, thankfully it had also changed them into better brothers and sons who had realised their mistake and had tried to do better but without owning up to their sin. Joseph, who has also seen the error of his own pride and arrogance is willing to forgive, to restore the relationship. God is always willing to forgive us, but we must recognise our wrongdoing, confess it and be willing to change. The brother’s last step was to confess their wrongdoing. I pray that we all may have hearts both willing to forgive and willing to honestly confess and repent for our wrongdoing against others and against God. God tests our hearts because He wants us to know what is really in them and what we are really like, He already knows our hearts and He is so gracious and ready to forgive but we must be willing to confess, turn away from our sin and change.

19th January 2021

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

There are four simple words here, I sought the Lord, in other words I have gone to God to find out what is the right way forward. Four simple words but very challenging ones, how often do we actually seek God, actually go to Him to see what we should do? We expect Him to answer, complain when He doesn’t, but how often do we just not go to Him and seek His will? We will talk of God’s promises, His love of us, the new life given to us as Christians but then when something needs doing we rely on our own strength and our own ideas to do it and only go to God as a last resort. God meanwhile is waiting, frustrated because we do not come to Him and find out the best way. He wants what is best for us, He wants to help us, but we have to ask, we have to be willing to go to him talk to Him and listen to the answer. This verse in Psalm 34 reminds us that we can trust God in everything and in every situation, we can always turn to God and pray for strength, protection, wisdom, love and incite. Because we do not seek God we are not confident about speaking out on issues of justice and peace, we are nervous of who we might offend or annoy. When we seek the Lord, learn His ways, listen to His advice we can be confident because God gives us all we need to share the Good News, to stand up for what is right, to protect the disabled, to fight for those that society treats unfairly. When we seek the Lord we can confidently tell people they are special, they are loved and that God can deliver us from all our fears and difficulties when we seek Him as Lord.

18th January 2021

Exodus 9:1 God said to Moses, go and tell Pharaoh to let my people go!

We have recently seen a great deal about the way we treat others; particularly in the Black Lives Matter protests. Still, after years of so-called equal rights many people are still mistreated and condemned for the colour of their skin. We still have people enslaved across the world and trafficked to be used as slave labour, and people who it seems will never achieve freedom from oppression. During the terrible times of slavery, it is recorded that African Americans told, read and retold the story of the Exodus more than any other Bible story. You can see why, the aspiration for freedom from oppression and slavery was just as the Hebrew slaves longed for. This story gave hope that they too would find freedom. In Exodus there is place of freedom to come, the promised Land, and a place of slavery, that was Egypt. They had started in Egypt as free people but as they grew, fear of the indigenous people being overrun meant they were oppressed and became slaves. The term Exodus actually means way out or way of escape. Moses was sent to free these people to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go. A phrase repeated at least seven times in the story. Moses has an encounter with God in a Burning Bush, Moses raises many reasons why he cannot do this job……what if…..why not….I can’t….. in each case God patiently replies and promises His presence throughout and declares Himself to be a liberator God. As Moses is liberated from his unwillingness and weaknesses so he liberates God’s people. This story of the freeing of slaves is also a symbolic description of our own liberation, God gives us an inner and outer freedom to be who we are in Him. For us, many of us have never experienced the prejudice and aggression that those whose background is slavery have experienced and still experience; if it were not the case then the protests would not be necessary. Our consciences need to be challenged much more by the inequalities that produce our cheap clothing, by the huge wealth amassed by so few at the cost of so many. In seeking fairness and justice, freedom and peace for our brothers and sisters we discover the true freedom of ourselves in Father God, liberator God, who created us all equal in Him.

17th January 2021

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but the outcome is the Lord’s alone.

I wonder how often you or I use the words chance, fate, and luck. These are shallow but common terms which actually suggest that there are faceless, impulsive and unknown forces at work in the world and in humanity. Our very use of these terms is saying our very existence is an accident. If you read early Christian literature, you will find constant references to God's providence. In other words, how God provides for His children. We seem to have lost this idea of God’s provision for us in today’s world. The idea of naturalism, that all events in nature are ruled by independent casual and natural forces, has left its imprint on more recent generations. Perhaps we need to be reminded of God’s providence, of just exactly how and why God provides for us, His children. In Acts 17 St. Paul addressed the clever intellectuals on Mars Hill, he spoke of God’s providence when he said, "in Him we live and move and have our being”. Paul challenged them and reminds us that God not only created us and gave us life, but He continues to generate every heartbeat in every chest every second of every minute of every day. But not only that, which is amazing enough, He also does this us for the entire universe about us. Paul continues to remind us that what God creates, God also sustains. God knows the number of hairs on our heads, He governs the days of our lives. In doing all this, creator God weaves everything<em> </em>together into His wonderous design; His tapestry of creation which is something of great wonder and beauty. As we recognise this provision, we need to remove the words chance, fate and luck from our vocabulary and begin to use the word<em> </em>providence. We need to begin to see what we have and are has been lovingly provided to us by our loving Father God. Be encouraged friends, God is in full control. Nothing is happening on earth that is not known to heaven. Nothing happens that is not held in His hands. Nothing is off His divine radar, as He guides us through our earthly lives and safely home.

16th January 2021

Isaiah 41:10  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I am quite a fan of superhero movies and with two boys we have watched the various franchises and I am well aware of who is the Marvel universe and who is in the DC universe. They are, for me, an escapism, they are not real but they often have a sense of good fighting evil and good prevailing, eventually. One of the things I do question is how often the heroes get beaten to within an inch of their lives and yet always manage to get up and keep fighting without, it seems, much damage to themselves. Although I admire the determination, and there always seems to be something that just offers them that extra reason to keep fighting, it is almost as if they are indestructible and so they will always win. The reality of life is that we are not indestructible in the physical sense. Our bodies do get sick, do get broken and sometimes severely enough that they stop working. We are not able to get up from a terrible accident or illness and look like we are okay. There is though something about the determination shown that we do have. I often see people who have been physically damaged who have a real sense of determination make good progress and adaptability to their new situation. Those who do not have this determination often lose the quality of life they could have because they lose the will to keep going, to battle against the odds. When my husband broke his back and shattered his leg he was in hospital with someone who had a one fracture broken leg. My husband was determined to get better and get back to as normal life as possible, the fellow with the broken leg never attempted or tried, he just moaned. My husband left hospital on crutches within 2 months, the chap with the fractured leg was still there, not trying, just moaning. Of course, sometimes no matter the determination a physical condition may not get better and sometimes people have to live with disabilities for their life, once again it is the fighting spirit, the determination which sees some cope well and live affective lives while others just lose their focus and aims. We are not superheroes as in the films and comics, but we are superheroes in our attitudes and determination if we chose to be. We are promised and given strength, support, help and encouragement from God but we have to chose to take it.

15th January 2021

1 Corinthians 16: 13 Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.

I came across some information recently that surprised me, just how many men and women walk away from their families, their spouse and children when they think they cannot cope. These numbers have increased because people are less likely to get married these days and so walking away when things are difficult is much easier. In saying this, I also say no one should stay in a dangerous or abusive relationship. Sometimes people feel that they just need to escape, to get away, but actually walking away is not the ideal. Imagine if Jesus had walked away in the garden of gethsemane, decided it was just too much for him to go to the cross, then our salvation would have been lost. During the dark years of WW2 Churchill reminded people that Battles are won in the trenches, in the grit and grime of courageous determination. Of course, there are always reasons why folk might need to get away from a situation but stickability in the face of problems is the key to life and a key to our salvation. When things are tough there is a way forward, a way to cope and life maybe hard for a time but it will get better, especially if we look to God and to others for ways to improve things. Are you thinking of giving up or walking away? Have you considered the possibility of quitting? Most of us get to a point when we look for an easy way out? I sometimes think Stop the world I want to get off, but I don’t. Instead, I look for strength and encouragement from God and from others. Let me encourage you to draw near to God and to His people and not to retreat, but rather surround yourself with loving, supportive friends. Let God be supportive of you and it will always be easier to stay the course when friends stand with you.

14th January 2021

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the Peace Makers, for they shall be called children of God. 

Are we bridge builders and peacemakers or are we barrier makers and warmongers? An abiding memory from my 20’s was the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. I had grown up with the stories about this city and families divided by a wall between the East and West of the city divided up after the Second World War. The Berlin wall was constructed by the German Democratic Republic in 1961. Although they titled themselves as democratic, they were in fact a one-party republic. They wanted their part of the city kept away from the ways of the west and its actual democracy. The actual wall was built inside East Berlin on East German territory to make sure that it did not invade on west Berlin at any point. With this final closing of the East, West boundary in Berlin, East Berlin Germans could no longer travel into west Germany. Many families were now divided, those in East Berlin who had been employed in the west were completely cut off from their jobs. This wall was built to prevent West from diluting East with its ideas of freedom and democracy. Instead of differences being bridged and worked alongside to help people, barriers were made, people were divided against their will and war mongering continued constantly. The fall of the Berlin Wall started on the evening of 9th Nov 1989 and continued over the following days and weeks. After a few weeks West Germans and West Berliners were allowed visa-free travel. Families were reunited. On 25th Dec 1989, Leonard Bernstein gave a concert in Berlin celebrating the end of this dividing wall. In this fifth chapter of Mathew’s Gospel Jesus taught us that Peace Makers are Blessed and that they will be called the children of God. God is not a God of division or separation but a God of bridges and unity. We need to ask ourselves are we peace makers or war makers? Are we people trying to construct bridges or barriers between people? As Christians we are called to be Peace Makers, to unite and build bridges between people because that is what Children of God do.

13th January 2021

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105.

When I was a child, I can remember the nightly power cuts of the winter of discontent. After I got home from school, we prepared the candles, and we had a few old kerosene lamps. As the lights were due to go out, we would light the candles and lamps ready. If we needed to use the bathroom, we would take the lamps with us as they were safer to carry by their handles. These lamps would light the way down the hall, up the stairs and to the bathroom. Without a lamp it was dark, and we could not see the path in front of us or the steps and there was a risk of falling as we could not see where we were going in the darkness. Each Christmas, as a child, I would always ask for a torch as I would love to have one for Carol singing, firework night and to read under the bed covers. Once again, a torch gave a light in the darkness, the ability to see and be kept safe. As time has moved on we now use our phones as a torch or lamp to light our way and, I even received for Christmas this year, a hat with a light built into the front of it. It has been excellent on those early dark mornings when I have needed to defrost the car. Light is so important to us as humans, as people developed the ability to have lamps and light in the darkness we could then work in darkness, travel in darkness and have protection from the bad acts hidden in darkness. Here the psalmist says that the God’s word is a lamp to our feet and light to our path. In other words, just as lamps and lights keep us on the safe path and show us the way, God’s word, the Bible, does the same for us in our daily lives. It shows us what is right and wrong, how to treat one another, what is honest and worthy and what is evil and flawed. Without God’s word in our lives, we are in affect blind and walking without guidance and protection from harm. God’s word may not show the complete path all at one time, just as a lamp does not show all that is front of us, but just as the lamp does, it guides us one step at a time; it helps us to take one step at a time in life and it helps us not to get into trouble. May we learn to read it carefully every day, as much as possible, so that we will live lives of light and not of darkness. 

12th January 2021

Colossians 3:14 Clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Recent events globally, but particularly in the USA should be a warning that the desire to live in freedom and democracy is in danger, particularly in the west. Much of big nation politics now tells us that the purpose of our lives is to amass as many assets and belongings as we can and to experience the most pleasure, we can within our lifetime on this earth. It is increasingly hedonistic. This is a very selfish attitude and offers us no reason to change our habits or desires and certainly does not encourage us to manage our planets resources carefully. This selfish view tells us we are in a life and death competition with other nations and with our neighbours and communities, so we have no incentive to work together, to find peaceful resolutions or to seek reconciliation. So, we are called by powerful and decadent leaders to take to the streets, to take to social media, to speak propaganda and false truths as we try to force our rights and freedoms on others as the only way. Of course, this not true of everyone. Many of us see ourselves as free but responsible, created by a loving, wise, peaceful and good God who calls and enables us to live lives that are virtuous, responsible, caring and collaborative, peaceful and community minded. Jesus teaching on mutual flourishing clearly offers us deep meaning for our lives if we live them as relational, community beings who look out for and support each other. People who live this way make the world a vastly different and incredible place for everyone. As Christians we are not only called to live this way but have the blessing, encouragement and strength of God to do so. We all have a calling to live lives that look out for each other, for God’s creation, to be responsible stewards of all we have been given, celebrating our freedoms and the rights of all creation within the responsibilities we hold to care for one another and live for the common good.

11th January 2021

Ephesians 5:29 We do not hate ourselves, but feed and care for ourselves and should be kind to ourselves.

As a Chaplain and Priest, I deal with people at the happiest and worst moments of life, as well as everywhere in between. One of things I say to encourage people at the sharp end of life is to be kind to yourself. As humans we have a tendency to blame ourselves for things, especially when we are under stress or normality is lost. Being kind to ourselves allows us to keep our minds and hearts healthy and functioning well even in the midst of difficult, stressful times. Being kind to ourselves means many things such as sleeping and resting when we need to and for longer; treating ourselves to things we enjoy; eating things which we like and make us feel better; taking time out from activities that stress us or put pressure on us and letting ourselves cry and laugh about the silliest of things and nothing. The kindest thing we can do for ourselves is talk, talk to someone about our feelings and thoughts. We can talk to friends or family, we can talk to God, and there are also priests, counsellors, chaplains, helplines and many organisations who offer help and advice. People are there ready and willing to listen, to help us explore how we feel and why, to offer techniques and ideas to help us through. Admitting we need help is not giving in, it is a strength of character that allows that which is overwhelming us to be explored and helped. We can talk to God about anything and everything, it is okay to let off steam, to tell God exactly how we feel. We were created as relational beings; we were never meant to cope alone but to share the load of work and life together. We all have good days and bad days and we are all capable of helping each other to cope, to help shoulder the burdens, to offer a hand to help each other up when we fall and share the load. Let me encourage you to be kind to yourself, to seek the help when you need it and to do those things which lighten your spirit, that make you feel better and please do let others and God share the load when you need to because we all need a helping hand sometimes.

10th January 2021

Psalm 72:1 Teach the kings to judge with your righteousness, O God; share with them your justice.

The prayer of Psalm 72 comes from the pain of suffering under an unjust, worldly rule. As with the agreed God given principle of recognising earthly authorities, the psalm offers prayers for those who make them suffer, but it does so with the desire for justice and righteousness to prevail. Psalm 72 describes just what the ideal earthly ruler or leader should be: one who defends the poor and helps the needy; one who protects people and provides for them; one who always endorses their cause, and always has compassion on them; A true leader will consider their people to be precious in his sight. This prayer psalm asks for just that; that all authorities and monarchs be rehabilitated, and God’s values be completely upheld through them. The desire is that they will rule as God does, with His authority but also His justice and fairness for all. This Psalm celebrates the blessings of a true and honest ruler, stating that everything is better under such leadership, that decent rulers consider and take responsibility for everything, Psalm 72 rejoices in that goodness. It takes real faith to be able to look and see a good ruler, where no good ruler is evident, but then we find a further meaning. A prayer for the ultimate good King to come and in this Kingdom, which will be over all the Earth and acknowledged by all people, there is rejoicing, justice and equity. There is a celebration in the perfection of all things, as if they were already present, as if the wonderful God given future had broken through into the present with glimpses of Heaven. This good King, the King of Peace, who is our King, offers all we need for the here and now. Our deeds can reflect His goodness; we can bear witness to His goodness and strive for it on the Earth as His people. We can point clearly to the one who is righteous, just, fair, and honest. Even in the midst of difficult times and poor leadership the way of the Lord can shine through us.

9th January 2021

1 Samuel 2:1 Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.’

In the Bible stories about families and children this is one of my favourites. A woman longing for a child, embarrassed, ridiculed, in despair. Hannah prayed with great patience for years, at times she seemed to lose hope and was in despair. But when the miracle does occur, she has her son and as God answered her prayers, she remembered who it was who was responsible and she praised Him and spoke of His love towards her. Have you noticed how some people try to make bargains with God, if you get me out of this I will go to church, follow you, pray regularly, all these types of promises, and then when the miracle occurs they do not give God a second thought or even thank God let alone keep their side of the bargain. Hannah does not think twice about honouring what she promised to her Lord and her Lord God honours Hannah. It is not easy for Hannah because as her promise she has to give her son into God’s service. Her son is Samuel, the prophet who hears God call him as a boy. We need to ask ourselves do we too easily forget who made us, who has blessed us? Do we make bargains with God and then not keep our promises? It is always God who should receive the praise and glory for His creation, His miracles, His love, His provision but it is so easy for us to take credit for what God has done, or to not give God the glory when He has done wonderous things for us and others. People often refer to these events as coincidences, I prefer to call them Godincidences, in other words they are not random, or lucky or chance but actually they are in God’s control. Just as Hannah did we should give God the praise for all that happens.

8th January 2021

Romans 15:1-2. We who are strong must bear with the weak, not to please ourselves but each of us should serve our neighbours for their good, to build them up.

We are now being asked to clap for heroes on a Thursday night. The problem for me being that depending on which news service you hear there are different definitions of who those heroes are. The good news is that NHS have been in every briefing and rightly so. The question is what defines a hero in this current situation because, as it stands, I am probably going to clap for different people than my neighbour or someone living in Cornwall or Birmingham. So, for you and I what is a hero? Hero’s are often defined as brave, as willing to step into a difficult situation to help others even when it may cost them dearly. So, medals are awarded to armed force personnel when they risk life and limb to save colleagues, to rescue people from harm. The Bible defines being a hero as those helping those others who are in need and offering our strengths and talents to others to support their areas of weakness. Currently NHS workers are putting themselves in danger every shift to help others, firstly with inadequate PPE, when many died, now not even top of the list for vaccinations. They are heroes. But who else? Teachers for risking themselves looking after children with no protective equipment in place, our schools are not closed, they have many vulnerable children and key worker children in them every day. Those running food banks, risking themselves so others can actually get food, mainly people who have lost jobs or earn so little on zero-hour contracts they can’t feed themselves or their family. Those working in care homes, some moving in to help keep residents safe. Groups like the Salvation Army or Crisis trying to help the homeless and vulnerable at great risk to themselves. People providing hot meals to NHS staff and making scrubs and scrub bags, those working in our supermarkets or in small corner shops. Once we begin to think the list becomes very long. We are surrounded by heroes, by people giving of themselves, their strengths, to make things better for others who are in need. These are not extraordinary acts of bravery and the people themselves do not see themselves as heroes, they are people who serve, who have a calling, a vocation. Sadly, anyone with a vocation has always been treated poorly because they are not out for themselves but for others, therefore they are never rich or powerful; they are interested in others and fairness. It is good to appreciate our heroes, clap for them, but what would be more helpful would be demanding of our politicians that they treat all our heroes with respect, providing the necessary equipment, safety, personnel, staffing and decent, proper wages, truly acknowledging the value and worth of these heroes above their own. 

7th January 2021

Matthew 7:9 &10 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?

I wonder if you have seen the Madagascar films, the story is generally about a group of animals who because of various events at their American Zoo, end up in Madagascar and spend a lot of time and a few films trying to get home. On this journey to get back they discover a lot about themselves and what really matters; in the final film, as they get back to the zoo, they realise that life outside is actually what is the best for them and realise they have made a mistake coming back. It is all about the idea of always looking back and striving for what we had, for the security of the past, instead of looking forwards and to what God has in store for us which is wonderful and a rich blessing. We can be very safe and secure in our Christian life as it is, we can be stuck in a rut, and thus desire to not rock the boat or have any change. When change happens, as it inevitably does, we can spend a lot of time looking back, wishing things were like they used to be and we end up wasting time and effort that could be bringing blessing and joy to others, to get things back to how they were. It is only when we then begin to see what we are missing, that what we had before was not quite as good as what we have now that our eyes are opened. It is a lesson we never seem to learn; to allow God to work in our lives and use us, because however we look at it, God is always going to do what is best for us, He is never going to make life worse, only better, so very much better if we let Him. We, as parents and family, will always do what is best for those we love so how can we ever doubt that God would do anything but the best for us. It is good to look back for encouragement but most of all to see just how far we have come. It is not good to look back with the sole aim of finding our way back there because if we never grow and change then we will never receive the wonderful blessings and joy God has for us in our lives.

6th January 2021

Matthew 2:1b/2 Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born a king?”

Today, January 6th, we celebrate Epiphany, a very ancient feast even older in the life of the Church than Christmas! Just as Christmas is about what God gives us, Epiphany is about what we give to God, our response to the God given gift of Jesus. Old traditions suggest we should take down our decorations by this date but actually, if we feel that the lights and cheerful décor helps at this darkest time of the year, then we can keep them up until Candlemas at the very beginning of February; really it is up to us when we take them down and in present circumstances whatever helps us and encourages us is a good thing to do. The three Epiphany gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh given by The Wise Men or Kings were extravagant gifts, they acknowledge that Jesus deserved their allegiance; the gold, their wealth, their livelihood, is freely given to Jesus in a symbolic gesture. The costly spices of worship, devotion and burial are also given pointing from the crib to the cross. The word Epiphany literally means showing or revealing. In this story Jesus is shown and revealed to the Gentiles, in other words to all people whatever their race, gender, culture or belief; to all the people who have never heard of him. There are still people around us who have never really heard of Jesus and the loving ways of God revealed through him. This feast of Epiphany gives us, as Christians, a challenge: do we give sufficiently of ourselves and our lives to God? Are we open to those around us who still do not know the love of Jesus for them? For this Epiphany let us reflect and ponder on God born as one of us and strive to be open to God’s gifts revealed to us in Jesus, to give of our wealth and devotion to God and to share our gifts with our fellow travellers on the way whoever they may be.

5th January 2021

John 14:1 Do not be worried and upset, believe in God, believe also in me.

A growing concern presently is about anxiety; how worried and anxious we feel in the present pandemic and in what our future may look like, particularly after last nights announcement of a second national lockdown. As people have had to spend more time at home and as a result watching more TV and being influenced by more social media often with false information, all of us are open to far more stress and anxiety about what is happening, how susceptible we are and how we should protect ourselves. There have always been the worry mongers, the false truth spreaders, those who prepare for the end of the world, but currently this worry and fear is much more prevalent. It is easy to say it will be okay, it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security which perhaps we had been with the approval of the first vaccine, but currently things are worsening and we are once again facing a world of closures for all but essentials. A New Year brought the idea of a better future and perhaps the unachievable belief that it would be immediate. Telling someone not to worry isn’t really helpful but giving reasons why, assurances and encouragements that can help to see the bigger picture. When Jesus spoke these words to not be worried and upset, they came as part of a package, they had reasons which were assurances and encouragements about their future. Jesus offered the preparation of their future, that He was in control and had a future prepared for each of the disciples. That is also the case for us, in the midst of our worry and anxiety come these words of hope, do not be worried and upset because I have got it sorted, I have it in control, you can rest in me knowing that it will be alright. We do not have all the answers, we do not how this will all be resolved but we do know that we are not alone, that we have God on our side every moment of every day and that He promises that He is prepared for us always.  

4th January 2021

Genesis 2:18 he Lord God said, “It is not good for humans to be alone. I will make a companion for them.”

When at home over holiday time I try to go out for a walk each day. I am not one for the workout or jumping around in the house, I would much prefer to go out into the fresh air and enjoy what is around me. Today as I was walking, I noticed the way in which everyone is avoiding each other. People walk in the road to avoid passing too near to each other, people cross over the road to the other side to avoid others, people duck into other people’s front gardens to avoid someone passing them. This is a sign of the dreadful times we live in. We look upon others, especially those we don’t know, with suspicion, we think….they might just have it and I don’t want it so I will avoid them at all costs. It is very sad that now, instead of connecting with others, we have to separate ourselves from each other. It is necessary, it is prescribed by government, but it is also very damaging. God created us as communal beings, people who live together and help one another, working together for the common good. This virus has succeeded in making us a very individual nation and the longer it goes on the harder it will be to come back. Once that air of suspicion is upon us it becomes very difficult to go back to being the communal, helpful and collaborative people we were. Now, I am not suggesting we go against the rules, but I am suggesting that we make ourselves aware of what is going on and remind ourselves that others are not our enemy, are not out to harm us. It is the virus that has caused this distancing, and we need to remind ourselves to be sociable and communicable with those we can. We still have phones, email, Facebook, zoom, so we need to make sure we practice our communication skills and keep talking and interacting with people, this way we do not lose the desire or the skills to communicate and socialise. In Genesis God says it is not good for humans to be alone; therefore, we must do all we can to not allow ourselves or others to be alone, it is not good for our mental health, our social health or our life in general. Keep talking, keep communicating, keep supporting one another and remembering we all need each other.

3rd January 2021

Psalm 145:14 God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.

How have the New Year resolutions been going? I wonder what resolutions you have made, and which are the hardest to keep and why? From what we have discovered the origin of making New Year's resolutions comes from the Babylonians. They made promises to their gods each new year in the hope that they would earn good favour from those gods in the coming year; their New Year was in March. The Ancient Egyptians did similar things at their annual flood season which was the start of their New Year. By about 46 years before Jesus, Julius Caesar had moved the beginning of each New Year to January 1st in honour of Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings. This did not properly catch on and we ended up with various calendars to mark time and seasons. It was only with Pope Gregory xiii in 1582 that it became international to use the Gregorian Calendar and start the New Year on January 1st. Today we make resolutions each year and all to often they are forgotten or broken in a matter of days. Often, we lack the resolve to keep them, to make the changes, we actually need help. By telling others of our resolutions, we help ourselves because they can encourage and help us and point out when we are going astray. Change is part of the Christian life, as we grow as Christians, we are called to change the parts of our lives that are not compatible with our faith. God does not ask us to change it all at once, just a little at a time and with His encouragement and complete support. We also have our Christian family to help us with prayer and encouragement who we can share our resolutions and changes with. Perhaps you have made no resolutions this year, or right now, but when God does ask us to change, to use our resolve, we have support and help and even if we don’t succeed first time or second time or even third time, however many times we need we will get, all God asks of us is that we try.

2nd January 2021

Luke 2: 30-32 For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.

In the churches calendar January 1st is the naming and circumcision of Jesus, it comes 8 days after Christmas and fulfils the Jewish law. This puts Jesus very much within His Jewish heritage and makes it clear that He is born into the Jewish faith and as such is part of the messianic story. At this stage it may only be Mary who has an inkling of what is to come but even she cannot see all that is to come. There is, of course, a clue in His name. As parents they have been told to call Him Jesus who will save His people from their sins, they will know the prophecies of Isaiah about the wonderful counsellor, the prince of peace, of Emmanuel, God with us, and they will know that the name Jesus means to deliver, to rescue and that He is declared the Son of God. That is a huge statement being made in a name. When we chose names for our children we often turn to popular names, celebrity names, sometimes family names and we might even think of the meanings behind the name. For Jesus the name was His identity, His family name, His position within the traditions of His religion and culture. His name gave Him authority and humanity. Our names do not define who we are, but Jesus name did. As Jesus was named and circumcised in the Temple so He is validated, proclaimed and prophesied over by Simeon and Anna. Jesus Christ has been born on Earth for one reason, to save all from the sin and death brought into the world, to reconcile all humankind with their God and father but, this reconciliation will not be forced on anyone, the choice to accept or reject Jesus is ours alone. The choice to share our love of Jesus is also ours alone, and I pray that at the beginning of this New Year we will renew our strength and resolve to share the good news of Jesus and tell everyone we meet of the love of Jesus, Messiah, Son of God, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, deliverer and rescuer, for them.

1st January 2021

Lamentations 3:22 The Lord’s love never ends; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

One of my favourite things is a beginning a brand new writing book. Nothing but clean crisp pages for me to write on. Everything clean and fresh and new, then I start to write and within a few lines will be a crossing out, a blob of ink, corner bent over and longer is my book brand new and pristine. As humans we are born with no prejudices, no mind set, we are a brand new blank book, crisp and ready to have our story written across the pages. Very soon we make mistakes, blot our pages and the newness is gone. One of the wonders of belief in God is the opportunity to start afresh every day. God offers us the chance to clean away the mistakes, erase the blots, straighten the edges and begin again, a new page, a new start every day. We cannot rewrite our mistakes, we cannot change what we have done BUT we can start again, put the past behind us and change the future, we can turn over a new leaf, start a new pristine page from the beginning with the chance to do things differently. To be a better person. As we learn from our mistakes, recognise our faults, apologise if we need to, and are willing o change, thing happen! We have the chance to keep starting over, to begin again as forgiven people. As the verse says God’s love never ends and His mercies are new every morning. God does not give up on us, He is always willing for us to make a new start, to begin again. January offers us the chance to start a fresh, a new year, to put the past behind and start again but this doesn’t just happen every January, we have the opportunity to start afresh every new day! Take the opportunity, Begin Again – Everyday.

31st December 2020

Psalm 148:13 Let all creation praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His splendour is above the earth and the heavens.

The whole of this Psalm is about praising God, not just us as humans, but the whole of creation praising Him. Of course, with our very poor stewardship of the world creation is a lot less able to praise God now, and in many ways is fighting for its very existence. Psalm 148 offers expression and language which covers every emotion that you can think of: despair and gratitude, fear and wonder, praise and blessing. This Psalm is one of many which is overflowing with joyful praise. It begins from the heights of the heavens and encompasses all living things; it celebrates the multiplicity and vastness of God’s creation. Human beings both old and young, make an appearance towards the end of the Psalm but we are not set apart from the mountains and hills, the wild animals and the birds, every living creature is called to praise God. This unity of creation in praise is jeopardized and shattered when we exploit and damage the natural world for our own benefit and profit, when we should be seeing ourselves in communion and harmony with creation. Currently at the forefront of this this brokenness is climate change, it presents a very real threat to the communities of the world, coastal towns and villages facing rising sea levels, farmers across Africa and Asia particularly struggle with changing weather patterns, more and more places with drought and lack of vegetation, and more and more lives are being lost in deadly, destructive typhoons across so many countries. The saddest and worst fact of this is that the people least responsible for this climate change are hit the hardest; while the west and the rich countries of America and Europe spend much of their time denying it and arguing against the change which may disrupt their comfortable lifestyle. This Psalm is a reuniting and challenging call for all creation, including us, to praise God and then to do what we can to challenge and unite to take action together against the damage of climate change. This reading takes us into the world to witness the whole of creation singing praises to God. Handle and Watts carol Joy to the World summarises this very idea in its line ` and heaven and nature sing’. Perhaps we can spend some time outside today, even in this cold winter, noticing the beauty of our natural world and praising God, we could sing that very carol and praise Him for what He has freely given and let ourselves be challenged to play our part in changing how we treat the world God has given to us.

30th December 2020

Isaiah 11: 4 With righteousness He shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.

Isaiah 11 foretells a future messianic king and of the coming of a peaceful kingdom. Neither of these were achieved until Jesus came as Messiah. If I asked you to name a politician past or present who has been an ideal political leader for this country, I expect you would really struggle. Depending on your political affiliation of course, but if we are really honest most politicians seem to have little desire to really change things for the good of all. There are some who definitely started out thinking they could make a difference with whom we are in some agreement but even they will have personality traits or beliefs we wish were different. Our politics seems to involve so many compromises that the desire to change things for all, becomes watered down and even lost in an attempt to appeal to a certain group of privileged people. Isaiah presents his audience with an ideal future king, one full of wisdom, who is of the Lord, who judges with righteousness and fairness for everyone. God’s ways were always meant to alleviate poverty, to level all into peace and freedom, but throughout history leaders and rulers have been swayed by payoffs and backhanders; a bias to those who could repay favours and offer support to keep power. The poor have always and still do get an appalling deal. Prophets, speaking the words of God to us, have always tried to bring people back to the way of truth and justice for all, but they are so often a lone voice, ignored and ridiculed. Here in the UK and across the world, the gap between rich and poor widens each day. The politicians we vote in and the businesses who they often represent in the affluent countries, demand they get more for less, and they get it while the poorest lose out even more to increase the wealth of the rich. Right now, there is a desperate need for those in power to rule with justice, fairness and equity; for us and our politicians to surrender our requirements for more and cheaper things and to stop looking to our own selfish increase at the cost to another of poverty and injustice. We, as Christians and as humans, must look honestly at what creates poverty and then we need to follow in the wake of our King, our Messiah, building His kingdom on his earth with equity, justice, fairness and peace for all no matter their gender, race, culture, status, country of origin, religion or personal choices.

29th December 2020

Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

I have, as usual, watched many different versions of A Christmas Carol over the festive period. I love the story because it has those things which are so much a part of the Christmas story. We have love, forgiveness, hurt, anger, frustration, humour and ultimately redemption. For us Scrooge is the epitome of bad temper, selfishness and greed whist his nephew is the epitome of joy and goodness even when he is thwarted and shouted down. His nephew does not give up on his uncle, he still asks him to dinner, year after year, he offers friendship and hospitality which are constantly rejected but Fred, the nephew, takes strength from his own understanding of love and family and keeps trying. Then we have Bob Cratchit, the overworked, underpaid and maltreated employee who still remains loyal, who thanks his boss for the kindness which to us is not kindness at all. He recognises that even if his life is hard and undervalued by others it is not undervalued by him, his family and God. He is grateful for what he does have and brings his family up the same way. Each of the characters has a role in helping us find the true meaning of Christmas as well as Scrooge. Many Christians struggle with the idea of Ghosts but perhaps we need to just see them as Holy Spirit led promptings of the mind and heart. God at work in the mysterious ways we read and sing about, easy to dismiss as non-scientific fiction, and yet For thousands of years God has been at work in this way, we have histories, testimonies, events and experiences which have changed people, changed hearts and our world for the better. However we look at them these mysterious ways had an impact, because God uses everything He created to speak to us, to challenge us and to change our hearts and minds for the better. May we know Nephew Fred’s determination and love, Bob Cratchit’s loyalty and gratefulness and Scrooges complete change of heart and mind to the service of God.

28th December 2020

Psalm 18:28 You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; You my God turns my darkness into light.

The idea of light in the darkness is sometimes all that keeps us going. There is the old phrase that says the darkest hour is just before dawn. This comes from the long night in which we may find ourselves and that just as a new day is about to begin is the point at which we are about ready to give up because it seems as if the darkness will just not go away. When all seems lost and we are hanging on by a thread we are never alone. It may seem like it from the usual perspective but from a heavenly perspective we are never alone. This season of Christmas, particularly with the pandemic this year, can be a dark time for many, even those who appear fine. The days over the Christmas period when we can’t go out, can’t see anyone other than who we live with if we have someone, brings with it a sadness and a bleakness. When the wind is howling, the rain pouring, and the daylight hours are short it seems life is a struggle and there seems little hope of improvement. It is now in the darkest hour before dawn, the days before a new year that we need to cling to the hope of our faith and the love of our God which means we are never alone. Now is the time to remember the good times, the times of blessing and encouragement, the joy of our faith and love. Having faith does not mean life will be easy, that we will never face problems or difficulties, what it does mean is that we never face them alone. We always have God on our side, and we will always be supported in the bad times as well as the good. So however you are feeling right now, know that you are loved, cared for, supported and that you are not alone. God is right there with you, carrying you if you need it, holding you when you need it, so let Him support you and hold you this and every day.

27th December 2020

Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people and family live together in unity!

We are so used to being allowed to do what we like, when we like, within the laws of the land that this past year, particularly now at Christmas, we are really struggling with not having our freedoms, not being able to socialise and see our family. Most of us actually moan and groan about our family, especially at Christmas, but this year has shown us that being without family at a special time of year is not something we like very much. We often go through the motions of what is expected or done at Christmas and it is easy to lose sight of why we do these things. We gather because Christmas is about family. The Holy family bringing Jesus into the world and caring for Him. The family of humanity being given every possible opportunity to become part of the family of God. The family of God in the church brought together to celebrate and share in the story of their life in God. Family means we do not always get along because we are all different. Family means people coming together with a common bond that overrides gender, age, culture or personal choices. Family can be unpleasant to each other and argue, but beneath this lies a bond, something which makes us come together and be family for special occasions. Being family involves patience and love, tolerance and peace of body and mind. Whether family by blood, religion, culture, race or marriage being family is central to humanity. Hopefully this Christmas we will begin to understand how important family really is because we cannot be together as we usually would. Often the loss of something is what makes us realise how special and important it is. May we have a little more appreciation of our families and try to treasure them more as and when things allow us to come together again.

26th December 2020

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people`

Have you ever been an angel in the nativity play? Lovely white sheets, tinsel halo’s, the little ones look so cute and sweet but look beyond the cute wings and halos. At the time of Jesus’ birth, people knew about angels through their understanding of the Hebrew scriptures, our Old Testament. This taught that angels were messengers from God who were far from cute. Angels could be very frightening and, people believed, capable of bringing about destruction for those who did not follow God’s plan. Angels were quite special, quite powerful and to be feared. When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they communicated a very different message, one of joy and celebration. They filled the sky and sang God’s praises and directed the shepherds to find Jesus. When Gabriel visited Mary, it was a message of God’s blessing and purpose to be fulfilled. When the angel visited Joseph, it was to set him on the right path and set his mind at rest. The angels were very much bringers of Joy and purpose, not to be feared or dreaded but to be respected and listened to. What are we to learn from their presence in the story? God has ways of communicating with us and He will use any and all of those ways to speak to us, guide us and direct us if we are willing to listen. God’s ways are to be respected and listened to. Like the angels, we can be hindered by people’s negative expectations of us, but also like the angels we can be ready to change their opinions of us for the better. We need to be willing to be sent into the world as faithful messengers of God’s love, changing people’s outlook with a joy and purpose that is infectious?

25th December 2020 Christmas Day

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

These clues, written in just a few lines by the Gospel writer St John, sum up why the birth of Jesus changed everything. That’s the reason this seemingly unlikely reading is heard in churches all over the world on Christmas morning. It’s the perfect scripture to help us see why Christmas is so important. Do we really need scripture to tell us why Christmas is important? Surely, it’s because of family, friends, gifts, parties, food. At least that’s the message we get from the world around us. No doubt these play a huge part in our celebrations and rightly so, but they are not the reason we celebrate, that’s why we need scripture, so we are not misled into thinking that Christmas is all about us. We turn to scripture because if we look it will lead us towards truth. This word was made flesh, in other words God became human. He cried tears of upset. He smiled in joy. He had friends and family. This helps us understand how Jesus’ birth changed everything. Although the Christmas day Gospel reminds us that God has been present since the beginning of time, Jesus’ birth was the start of something new. For the first time in human history, we were able to know God, face to face, as friends. And the way in which ‘the Word was made flesh’, communicated further how much God wants to be close to us. God didn’t enter our world as a powerful warrior, or a rich ruler, or a handsome prince because these would have kept him out of reach. God was placed into our arms as a vulnerable baby, reliant on our care. Those who have babies in the family know just how much they depend on us for their wellbeing. We feed them, clean them, keep them safe and warm. The next time you are around a baby, consider that God became like this for you. God trusts and loves us enough to care for his greatest treasure, our lives and the lives of others. It is a message Jesus continued to communicate to us as an adult, reminding his followers often that by clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, nursing the sick, they were doing the same to him. From his birth Jesus communicated clearly that all people are gifts to be cherished; an important way we can do that is by appreciating our value and dignity and more importantly the value and dignity of others. The Word became flesh and lived among us so we could see that everybody is worthy of respect and care. 

24th December 2020

Matthew 2:1b/2 Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."

Did you ever get to play a wise man or a King in the Nativity play? No doubt you had to wear fancy outfits to suggest you were wealthy, exotic, and different to everyone else. We struggle with difference, even today when we are supposedly more tolerant, and the wise men were different in so many ways. These men were from a different culture, spoke different languages and they would have had very different beliefs. These wise men were not Jewish and to some they would have considered them to be non-believers which opens the door to the Gentiles or everyone being welcome into God’s people. For these reasons many would have closed their doors to these strange outsiders. To many, including Herod, they were a probable threat. Rich, powerful people who may be coming looking for land they can take or invade. Herod’s part in their story is one of pretence and politeness, a desire to catch them out and use them to destroy any threat to his power. What do we to learn from their presence in the Christmas story? These are wealthy powerful people who are interested in world events and watch the night sky for signs. This is inviting the wealthy and powerful to find Jesus, as well as the poor and ordinary. Yet again, we are being told that Jesus is for everyone no matter who they are or where they are from. But these wise men also have another role, that of prophets, in their gifts they are reiterating who Jesus is and why He has come. Gold for a King, Frankincense for a Priest and myrrh for one who will die for all people. These wise men are so in tune to what is going on that they are warned to keep away from Herod, they don’t ask why, they don’t question how turning away from the powerful King will damage them, they just know what the right thing to do is and they do it. These wise men have a great deal to teach us about being open to God no matter who we are or where we are from.

23rd December 2020

Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

Back when you did the school nativity did you ever play a shepherd? Remember the clean tea towel head-dress, the rough material tunic, often made from old curtains or sheets and your innocent cheesy smiles that the teachers kept asking you for. You were often in a large group sitting round a fire, as many shepherds as were needed to get the whole class in the story. Our understanding of shepherds was just about looking after the sheep and in our plays, they seemed to be clean and happy. But what was the actual reality of Shepherds in Jesus’ day? Shepherds were actually the lowest of the low; they were considered very dirty, smelly, rough and untrustworthy. These views were founded on the work they did; looking after other people’s sheep was tough, poorly paid, and kept them far off in the hillside for weeks at a time. They were expected to protect the sheep from wild animals and thieves but quite often they were not willing to sacrifice their own life for the sheep. To the owner of the sheep a sheep’s life was more valuable that the shepherds. That does not give a poor shepherd much value does it? On their rare visits into towns, shepherds were shunned by everyone, people didn’t want to be seen with them or anywhere near them. The townspeople regarded the shepherds as second-class citizens, as worthless and certainly not worth spending time on or helping in any way. So, what do we to learn from their presence in the story? It is the Shepherds that are invited to come and find Jesus in the stable. It is the shepherds, the poor, worthless members of society who God sends the angels to first. God was making it very clear from the beginning that Jesus was coming for everyone, poor and rich, lowly and important, educated and uneducated. Jesus was very much coming for everyone and this invitation tells us that everyone of us is welcome in God’s family no matter our position or place in society and no matter what anyone else thinks of us. 

22nd December 2020

Malachi 2:10 Don't we all have the same father? Didn't the same God create us all? Then why do we break our promises to one another, and why do we despise the covenant that God made with our ancestors to treat all humans fairly.

The carol O Holy Night was written in France in 1847 during a time when the practice of slavery was being challenged and changed across the world. Christians, inspired by the example of Christ, recognised that God’s commandment to love one another could not allow the denial of any person’s dignity. Jesus birth helped us understand that we are made in God’s image and that we have a dignity beyond measure. The second verse says: ‘Truly He taught us to love one another His law is love and His gospel is peace Chains He shall break For the slave is our brother And in His Name All oppression shall cease.’ What better way to remind people of this lesson, than in a Christmas carol? O Holy Night’ was by a French wine waiter, Placide Cappeau, and composer, Adolphe Adam. Written as a Christmas poem for the parish and inspired by the Gospel of St Luke, Cappeau wrote words that spoke of the justice and joy Christ’s birth would bring. A decade later, a Canadian, Ernest Gagnon, heard the carol and decided to share the message of ‘O Holy Night’ in the US. In 1857 America was divided over the issue of slavery. But O Holy Night could help Americans see that Christ was born to free all people from injustice and fear. O Holy Night became a huge hit and helped change the country's hearts. By 1865, after four years of civil war, slavery was outlawed in America. Forty-one years later a scientist, Reginald Fessenden, worked out how to transmit the human voice over the radio. On Christmas Eve 1906 he set up a microphone and read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of St Luke. After he spoke, the scientist picked up his violin and played O Holy Night. The carol was the first piece of music to be transmitted over the radio! Imagine hearing that for the first time. Once again O Holy Night helped share the message of Christ’s birth and God’s call for justice. None of this would have happened without a wine waiter, a composer, a Canadian writer, and an ambitious scientist. They all used their abilities to share the message of God’s love with the world; just as we are called to do today. God can and will use us to create a world where justice, mercy, joy, and peace reign; a world that Jesus taught us to build. But we must be ready to do as God asks of us, not just at Christmas but all year round.

21st December 2020

Isaiah 11:6 . ‘The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther lie down with the kid, calf, lion and stock beast together, with a little boy to lead them.

At this time of year, we hear and sing carols that are very familiar to us. So familiar that sometimes we forget to listen to the messages they contain. ‘Silent Night’, is one of the most popular carols translated into over 200 languages. This might explain why the carol helped to bring a moment of peace during one of the bloodiest wars the world has ever seen. You will probably have heard of the famous Christmas truce between German and British soldiers on 24 December 1914. Many soldiers spoke of it in letters home from the front line. They told how British soldiers watched amazed as German soldiers began to place improvised Christmas trees on the top of their trenches. Soon soldiers waved to each other and shouted Christmas greetings. A few German soldiers came warily over the top of the trenches to rescue their dead and wounded from the battlefield. Both sides worked until ‘No Man’s Land’ was cleared of the dead and dying. The pause in fighting brought a welcome sense of calm and through the cold, starry night a German soldier began to sing ‘Stille Nacht’. ‘Silent Night’ For a while both sides sang more carols in both German and English. Then soldiers ventured over the top of the trenches sharing smiles, showing photographs of loved ones, and they played football together. The carol Silent Night started this peaceful chain of events as it spoke of Jesus birth fulfilling the prophecies of a saviour who could bring peace and calm into all situations: reminding us that God became one of us and entered our world as a vulnerable baby, dependent on the care of those around him and especially the care of his mother, Mary. From his birth, Jesus helped us to recognise that everyone is a child of God, made in His image, and worthy of love and respect. This is what happened on Christmas Eve 1914, when the message of ‘Silent Night’ brought together enemy soldiers, who by Christmas Day morning, were playing football as friends. As followers of Christ, we are to share this same love through our words and actions. 

20th December 2020

Proverbs 19:21 You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail. Be present in every moment you have, don't waste time doing things that really don't matter.

Carpe Diem – ‘Seize the Day!’ Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase. Many people have, but few know the full quotation: ‘Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.’ However, some of us trust much more in the future than the present. We actually get stuck waiting for something to change: When I get that pay rise; when I meet the right person; when we move out of this house; when the children leave home; when God asks me to what I want to do…. We wait for something to change. Until then, we feel stuck; our lives are on pause, we get in a rut. Advent is actually about waiting and during Advent and as we wait and prepare for Christmas and the second coming of Jesus, we remember how God came to people who were stuck, who were waiting for something to change, who were waiting for their Messiah. He came right into their worry, their doubt, and their hopelessness. Since that first Advent, we can now reach out to God whatever our circumstances. We don’t have to wait for something to change. Grace can come to us today, right now. Too often, we wait for something around us to change, we forget that we can be part of that change, even the catalyst for that change, but we can never really know what tomorrow holds. Yet today, without waiting, we can reach out for the hope; seize the grace that God offers to us in Jesus.

19th December 2020

Psalm 37:7 Shortcuts may seem profitable in the short term, but they will never get us anywhere in the long term. Better to do things God’s way!

Many of us like to take a short cut if we can; we think that it will get us to be where we want to be much quicker. We turn off the main road and follow country lanes because on our map this looks like the most direct route. Sometimes it works, but most of the time we find ourselves wandering down narrow country lanes where we come to junctions without signposts and, very likely, get lost. People do similar things with cooking. They watch the celebrity cook make the most amazing dish and decide to have a go themselves. The recipe says to marinade for three hours but the family will be home before then so we cut that bit out and surprise, surprise it’s nearly not as good as we thought that it would be. In fact, it’s a bit of a let-down. Don’t we sometimes feel the same about Christmas, that it can let us down? All that shopping, all the gift wrapping, the dash to the carol concert when we are so worn out that we would rather watch the TV. Perhaps the reason that we sometimes feel let down with Christmas is because we took a short cut to the big day. We missed out Advent, that time in Church year when we prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming of the Christ child. If we want something to be a success, we have to prepare thoroughly for it, ask any painter and decorator, they will tell you that preparation is everything. It’s the same with Christmas we need to spend time preparing our hearts and minds for the most amazing thing that has ever happened, the Son of God coming into the world for our sakes. Don’t forget about Advent this year give yourself a different Christmas treat, prepare for the coming of the Lord.

18th December 2020

Psalm 130:5/6 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning.

I really dislike waiting. I like things to happen when I expect them to, things to be on TV at the time it says, appointments to be at the time I was given, orders to be received in the time frame given. Waiting is difficult, I get edgy, nervous, I look out the window, wonder why something is late. I really hate the doctor’s waiting room; I never seem to be seen on time and someone else always seems to go in before me even if they arrived after me. I dislike traffic jams and sitting waiting for lights to change. I am not good with waiting. So, Advent and Christmas can be hard. Advent is very much about waiting, waiting for the Christmas season to arrive, yes, but also waiting for the promised return of Jesus, His second coming. As a youngster I heard many emotionally charged sermons on being ready, I sang the Larry Norman song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” many times and felt the urgency to get people into the kingdom quickly before Jesus came back. This must have been how the disciples were in the early church, they expected Jesus to return very quickly and wanted to spread their message as far as possible. We are still waiting, no one knows the day or the hour we are told, we are offered signs and clues and there are many who have predicted a time and place and been totally wrong. This waiting of Advent is penitential, a recognition of what we have done wrong and a willingness to change. That applies to our lives whether Jesus returns soon or not so. It is reminder that we live in the now and the not yet. We live daily, in the now as followers who want to share God’s love and challenge worldly ways and selfishness, but we also live for that which has not yet come, we live in and with hope. Advent is a time to prepare, to make ready for Christmas and for Jesus return, may we live as those ready for both.

17th December 2020

2 Chronicles 32:7 Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and his army, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of humans, but with us is the Lord our God to help us, to fight our battles and to protect us.

How confident are you? In yourself and in God? Often when times are difficult, we can turn to God for help and then be rather annoyed because we feel He has not done what we think He ought. Often when we are facing difficulty or fear, when we undertake something which may cause us harm we look to our own reserves and to our knowledge of God’s promises. Here in 2 Chronicles the people are fearful of the King of Assyria, of his army which is descending upon them. This king is the oppressor and enslaver of the time, bent on occupation and complete rule. In Judah the people are doing their part, as we all must with God, thy are trying to repair the wall to give some protection and their King, Hezekiah, takes his role as their leader and speaks up. He tells his people that the other side might have an army, but they have God on their side, they have a greater power with them, the Assyrians have only human strength whereas the people of Judah have God’s strength. What a speech! Hezekiah’s faith in God is passed on to his people who play their part in keeping their kingdom safe. What about us? Do we have this faith in God, that He will protect us and keep safe? Are we prepared to do our part in the story? Although God time and again defends and protects often the people do not allow Him to work, they block His plans by enforcing their own ideas. They and we expect God to work for us as we want rather than asking God what we should do and listening to God’s reply. Our confidence in God is often strengthened when we are blessed and helped by Him; but our memories are short and we are very good, as humans, in thinking we know what is best and how God should fix a situation. Faith is actually a risk, it is looking to God against all the odds and saying I trust you, whatever you decide is okay with me. It is allowing God to work in miraculous ways and playing our part by listening and responding to Him. We can have confidence in God, even in the most difficult of times, it may not be easy, but it is worth taking the risk for there is a greater power with us than with our enemy! 

16th December 2020

Psalm 71: 14 As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.

How is your countdown to Christmas going? How is your daily munching of chocolate as you open another door on the Advent calendar? Have you forgotten it at all, left the calendar for a few days because there is so much else to do? The older I get the harder I find it to open the new door each day in the business. But this countdown continues to the biggest consumer festival of the year, millions of us are spending billions of pounds on gifts, mainly online this year, and we hope our gift choice will be welcomed and approved of. This countdown, through our Advent calendars, reminds us each day that a the very special day is coming. We get excited and make plans and want to celebrate. Christmas Day is a special, wonderful and joyful day, even without the presents, although I think many might think themselves cheated if there were no presents. But the day is special because of Jesus birth around 2000 years ago, a baby given to save the world. A vulnerable child born in poverty, in reality to bring God to every one of every race, creed, colour, gender identity. So why all this counting down, what is the point of this Advent season? It offers a time to reflect on what Christmas is really about, to think about the birth of Jesus and God’s abundant and everlasting love for us. It also offers the chance of reflecting on what comes next, the next part of our story and the next part of the Christian story. In the midst of Christmas lies the shadow of Easter. A few carols have it in their verses to remind us where we go from here. Once the Christmas season ends, we go into Epiphany and Candlemas and then into Lent and preparations for Easter. As the Seasons of the church role on, as we move from one festival to the next, we are given reasons for hope. The Christ child born that first Christmas is our hope of a future, His death and resurrection are our hope for eternity with God and His promised glorious return to make the whole earth and universe perfect again offers hope for the perfect future we were created for, a New Heaven and a New Earth. There is no chocolate calendar to count this one down we just know it is on God’s calendar. As we approach that final door to open, the nativity scene at Bethlehem, Christmas offers us hope, hope eternal in our saviour and Lord born on Christmas day.

15th December 2020

Psalm 105:2 Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.

One of the most special things about Christmas for me is the carols. I have loved carol singing since I was a child and loved going round in the streets, singing round lampposts, and walking along together as we moved to different places. In later years I would take my guitar out as we sang and gave out mince pies at stations when we were no longer allowed to collect for charities. There is something about these carols that tell the beautiful story of Christmas. Back 300 years ago there was only 1 carol allowed by the established church and that was While Shepherds Watched as it was a paraphrase of Scripture and it was sung to many different tunes. As non-conformist churches began to write and sing more congregational hymns and carols, the established church realised the importance of music in telling the stories of faith and of Christmas. At this time in history more carols were sung in pubs than in our churches, I rather like that idea and actually this still happens in places like Yorkshire in crowded pubs as families come together and sing old and new carols together in harmony. So, in this year of COVID-19 where we are not being allowed to sing in church, I am really struggling with not being able to sing carols out loud and I know that I am not the only one. In these days of streamed music most of us have access to carols, even on CD, so what I am encouraging you and myself to do is sing these carols at home, sing them out loud, sing those harmonies you are not brave enough to sing in church, sing those descants you were taught at school and enjoy singing your favourite carols out loud. The story of Christmas is told in these lovely carols, they bring back memories of our past and they remind us just how much God loves us and how and why He sent His son on that very first Christmas. So listen, sing and wonder at the story of Jesus birth and receive a blessing from these wonderful Christmas Carols.

14th December 2020

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Do you have a teddy bear? I still have several but my rabbit, bought for me as a young child at Christmas is still there with me. These cuddly soft toys are a comfort when you are young, they offer something to cuddle, to hold and to talk to when no one else will listen. They are great for mopping up tears and just being there. I am always saddened when I hear someone did not have a teddy as a child because they are so special and offer such comfort and blessing. They often come as gifts when babies are born or for early Christmases, there are special types and makes and they may have special meanings. The term Teddy Bear comes from Teddy Roosevelt who refused to shoot a small bear while on a hunt and the press called it Teddy’s Bear from which soft cuddly Teddy Bears were born. It is the comfort they bring which I love, the way in which a soft imitation given anthropomorphic qualities can give a person comfort, hope and encouragement. We all need companionship, friendship, comfort and help and all these things are offered to us through our faith. Jesus is everything we need when it comes a comforter, a friend, a companion, someone to listen to us, offer help and to mop up our tears when we need it. This verse reminds us that under us, around us are God’s everlasting arms, in other words we are always held and cuddled by God. St Hildegard spoke of God’s arms encircling us, holding us. Many Christians have written and spoken about how God has been their comfort, their constant companion, the one they can tell everything to and know they are still loved. Whatever our situation, however happy or sad we are, whatever we are going through Jesus knows and understands, God sends His spirit to comfort us and bless us, God listens to our prayers and He encircles us with His loving arms.

13th December 2020

Matthew 2:9 Behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.

I love Nativity sets and I have collected many over the years. I have beautifully carved wooden ones, tiny ceramic ones, snow globes, wall hangings, playmobil, lego and so on. One of my favourites is my Russian Doll style one which is carried around and loved in schools and children’s services. As I unpack the set it offers lots of questions and ideas about who each one is and what they did in the story. For size sake Joseph doubles as a shepherd and when we get to Mary everyone expects Jesus to be inside her as we open it up, but no, next is the Angel and then baby Jesus. It is so simple and yet so wonderful, as is every set. These figures tell the story, some with a stable background, some with no background, but in every one there is a star or an angel, Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus and then some have shepherds, some have kings, some have both and often there are animals and a manger. The point of these representations is just that, to represent and re-enact the story of Christmas. This tradition came from St Francis of Assisi who in 1223 gained permission from the Pope to set up a scene with a manger and live animals in a cave as a backdrop while he preached to the people. From here the nativity scene spread across Europe and people began to act as the characters and even whole villages began re-enacting the scene each Christmas. Within churches we have various traditions often performed by Sunday Schools, pre-schools and sometimes a scratch nativity where people arrive, choose a costume and with a little adult help are ushered in and out of the story as it is told. In my home you will always find something Christmassy around all year, a small nativity set, or picture is always in my office because I am inspired and encouraged by this story all year round. I will sing Christmas Carols at any time of year if they catch me because they mean something, they have a story to tell about Jesus coming to be our saviour. If you do not have a nativity set then do get one, there are plenty around, places like the The Works usually have something very reasonable and some card shops do as well. Set it up and let it remind you of that first Christmas and the blessing God sent to us. 

12th December 2020

Exodus 22:5 If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make proper restitution.

In the Old Testament we learn that the Jewish people lived by a strict code of laws that God had given them. If you read through these laws you will find that most of these, mainly concerning forms of worship and certain consequences and punishments, are not followed literally these days except in the most Orthodox of Jewish communities. But there are quite a few of these rules which are reflected in our modern statutes and laws. For the Hebrews, politics, law, and religion were all interlinked and part of everyday life with one set of rules applying to all. In western society today we have different laws and rules in the different areas of our lives, but the Hebrew laws still affect Jewish lives and to some extent ours as well. This can be seen in this verse from Exodus, this passage tells them and us that we are responsible for our actions and for any damage we might do to someone else or their property. We are also responsible for anything our pets or animals do to others. None of us like punishment and we will often do whatever is necessary to avoid it. Hitting a parked car and because no one has seen us we just drive away. We justify our action by blaming them, how they were parked, or that is what their insurance is for. Taking those things from work because everyone does it and it is a perk of the job. Lying to get out of a visit or commitment we have made. We can always invent several reasons why we don’t have to own up or take responsibility. We need to be reminded of something; material things are not the point of life and when we put material things before God in importance, we build a wall between God and ourselves, we lose sight of God and the justice, mercy and honesty that He asks of us. Earthly treasure is of no consequence in eternity, what we should be concerned about is treasure in heaven. Our concern with earthly wealth, our pride in what we have achieved, our love of self-importance causes us to deny our responsibilities and pass the buck on to everyone else for the things we do wrong. As Christians we have responsibilities, and we must accept them and live accordingly.

11th December 2020

Matthew 1: 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

In Chapter 1 of Matthew Jesus lineage is traced back through Joseph to Abraham, in Luke 3 it goes back to Adam. Both go through King David whose Father Obed is the son of Ruth and Boaz. The book of Ruth is well worth a read! Joseph is an older man, a carpenter, full of integrity and strong conviction. He is righteous and caring and not wanting to cause Mary any dishonour or embarrassment. He is the man entrusted with God’s Son on earth. Joseph’s reaction, when he hears that Mary is pregnant, is to suspect something, as he contemplates divorcing Mary he is “unwilling to expose her to public disgrace,” wanting to keep the whole matter quiet. Moreover, law and the culture of the day would virtually say that Joseph had no alternative but to divorce Mary. This would be humiliating for both but more so Mary. It seems Mary knows nothing about his deliberations. In any case, it all becomes a moot point when an angel intervenes, telling Joseph in a dream to go through with the marriage custom. The angel also tells him how it is that Mary is pregnant and announces Jesus’ forthcoming birth. Joseph is to name the child “Jesus” (Iesous in Greek). The Greek name is derived from the Hebrew Yehoshuah (Joshua in English), which means “Yahweh is salvation” or “Yahweh saves.” The child born to Mary is to be given that name as a designation of his purpose, which is to save his people from their sins. Joseph takes Mary into his home as his wife, and then, after the child is born, he names the child “Jesus” in obedience to the command of the Angel. Joseph is mentioned again when Jesus is 12 but not after. It is generally believed he died just before Jesus ministry began. We don’t tend to think much about Joseph but he was a man willing to do God’s will, even when it could be difficult and dangerous. He took his role as Jesus earthly father very seriously and he sets an example for us about how we should live, how we should treat those we love and how God can work in us if we are willing to let Him.

10th December 2020

Luke 2:4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

At this time of year, I would normally attend very many nativities and carol concerts in schools. Over the years I have seen all sorts of versions, heard so many carols and new songs, seen very interesting characters arrive in Bethlehem and I just love it. As a teacher it was always such a job to include everyone in the story and so people arrived in their various groups to find Jesus. We always had a lot of Shepherds, Kings and Angels as well as anyone else we could place in the town. The part of the story I love is the inn keeper part. I have watched children dying to say yes I have room, come on in, and hating having to shake their head and say no. I have watched many children want to be the one who says they have a stable Mary and Joseph can use and I have seen versions which give the inn keeper the central role allowing him and his wife to muse over who this family are and why they were late in arriving and seemingly unplanned in their endeavours. We have four gospels; one does not include the story and three tell it from different angles and perspectives. We have created this wonderful Nativity story where the starry night holds a magical hew and shepherds, angels and kings all make an appearance in the one night. We know it didn’t happen like that, the kings came later, for example. Yet we place it all into one event because it brings together the pieces of the story into that one day we celebrate Christmas. Yes, there are purists who want everything to be proper and correct but the truth is we don’t know exactly what happened and when, we cannot know the exact number of kings or shepherds and that does not matter, what we do know is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that all these things happened at some point, in some way and that God made it all as it should be. So enjoy the differing nativities and know that God is the centre of each and every one.

9th December 2020

Isaiah 9:6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

There is something about a new still morning, even in winter, damp it may be but still and quiet and there is something comforting and inspiring about it. A Christian Singer wrote a song many years ago called “Was it a Morning like this?” she was musing about what the morning of Jesus rising had been like. Like any other morning and yet something even more amazing than the gift of a new day was given, Jesus is risen from the tomb and she asks did the grass sing, did the earth rejoice to feel you again. It is a song of rejoicing that death has been defeated. As a youngster I was told an inspiring story of a man who had desired all his life to visit Calvary, to see the place where God had given His Son. As he lay dying and was tormented by his unfulfilled wish he fell into a fitful sleep where he was taken to Bethlehem and the first Christmas with Jesus in the manger. He asked God why He was doing this when all he wanted was to go to the place where God gave His Son for all humans, and God replied, “This is where I gave my son”. That very first Christmas was where Jesus was given to the world by God. Once sent from Heaven to Earth Jesus trajectory was set, His life was to be physically given for this world years later on the cross at Calvary, but Jesus is given on that first Christmas as the gift for Humans. given freely by God. That first Christmas, was it a morning like this? Well, it may well have been cold and damp, who knows, but it would have been a morning of new promises, a morning when Angels gathered on the hillside, a morning when a young woman and her husband would have nursed the special child given for this world.

8th December 2020

Philippians 3:4 If anyone has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more.

If I asked you if you were a confident person what would you reply? If your immediate reply is yes then you are confident. Confidence is a good thing but confidence in the right things is what we need in life. Those who are brazenly confident in everything are often the cause of hurt and pain in others because they do not see or care about the impact their attitude has on others. The tendency in present society is to have confidence in wealth, fame, celebrity status, power, large extensive property, sport and success. We are told, by society, that these are the things to desire, to put our confidence in and these will make us happy. Research actually tells us that those who are the happiest in society are actually those who have enough. They are not worrying about their next meal because they have enough food, shelter, and warmth. Research also tells us that the poor are happier than the rich because they appreciate what they do have and are grateful for the extras. The rich have so much that they lose their appreciation for life, for the basics, and they spend time amassing more and more at whatever cost to others in the hope of security which never really comes, because there is never quite enough for them. This earthly confidence is not justified, as we see from St Paul he has reason to be completely confident, he is top of the pile as regards status, religion, role, background and family; yet he realises that all this is worthless in comparison to his confidence in God. Paul recognises that we can be never be complete without faith and confidence in God. Paul realises, as we must, that all we have comes from God and should be treated as a blessing, blessings to be shared with others. Confidence in our self should never come at the cost of others but out of a knowledge that we are who we are because God made us that way.

7th December 2020

Jeremiah 30:17 I will restore your health, and I will heal your wounds, declares the Lord.

I do love The Repair Shop on TV and admire the skills of these wonderful craftspeople. I particularly like to watch the Master Saddler, Suzi, repair leather. She is able to take old worn leather and recondition it, mend it, nourish and clean it, finishing it with rejuvenating cream. Also, she is able to stitch pieces and edges together even through the toughest of leather. This stitching fascinates me because she uses a tool to make a hole first and then to pass a needle through, one goes one way and one another. All this hard work puts life back into the piece and returns it to former glory, giving further years of use and commemoration. As I watch her work it strikes a chord with me about how God treats us. We come to Him damaged, old and sometimes broken. We can have bits missing, have tears and broken edges and our stitching can be split or lost as well as being unnourished and dried out. God takes us and very gently begins to repair us. God will clean us up, looking at all our edges and scuffs. He will slowly and gently work on us stitching together the broken pieces and softening the hard and worn areas. He will make those necessary holes to lead the repair needle through and make us strong and worthy again. God’s rejuvenating cream is the Holy Spirit which comes upon us, through us and round us, into every nook and cranny so we have the energy and desire to love and serve Him to the best of our ability. I have never yet seen Suzi not be able to repair something and I have never known God not be able to repair anyone who comes to Him. It is true that sometimes repair can be a little painful and can take along time, but the end product is so worth it. God has always wanted the best for us and His love will use whatever skills necessary to repair us and make us new and clean and beautiful again. There will still be some scars and marks because they make us who we are, but they will be healed and rejuvenated by His love and care. There is only one thing God requires of us to repair us and that is we need to be willing to let Him do the work within us.

6th December 2020

Jeremiah33:14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

Notice that word Surely, what does that say to you? To me it is stipulating something, a certainty of faith that most of us, me included, don’t currently have because of the uncertainty of our present situation. You might think these words came at a time of certainty and wealth for God’s people. Nothing could be further from the truth. The prophet Jeremiah spoke these words during a time of intense pain for the people of God. In fact the people felt that their God had abandoned them. Do you ever like that? They really thought God had abandoned them. But why did they think that? They had lost a major war. Their religious, political and military leaders had been taken hostage and dragged off to a far land. The rest of the leaderless people had been left to fend for themselves in a ruined land. The initial belief that God would soon sort it began to disappear, time had marched on, generations of families come and gone, and still no sign of God’s blessing and promise happening. So the view of God had deteriorated and the questions are asked; just where is our God when you need him? Into this negativity and despondence, into this doubt and unbelief comes this prophet, Jeremiah, with a declaration of certainty. Jeremiah declares that all will be well. They had been waiting such a long time for God’s action, it had become almost a myth to them and then here comes Jeremiah with powerful, sure words, steeped with faith. Faith is what we need in order to wait a long time for action, for things to change. This faith is the centre of our belief and it is hard to keep going when things don’t happen immediately, when we think we know the answer, but God doesn’t seem to do it the way we want. It takes faith to stand up and believe that all will be well, that God can be believed in and depended upon. God keeps His promises but we must believe, must have faith and if we are struggling then all we need to do is ask God for a little more faith and He will give us what we need when we need it. We can be sure that God will fulfil His promises just as Jeremiah said He would.

5th December 2020

Luke 2:4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

There are lots of themes in the Bible around certain events and stories. Within the readings and stories of Christmas there are many journeys. Mary and Joseph journey to Bethlehem and then onto Egypt in fear of their lives. The Shepherds journey from their hills to find the stable, the Wise Men journey from the east as they follow a star to find the king who is to be born. In Mexico a tradition called Las Posadas happens just before Christmas. It means The Inns in Spanish. The tradition uses people dressed as Mary and Joseph to travel from home to home as they go to Bethlehem. Each home on the journey put the family up overnight and then they move on to the next family. On Christmas Eve they arrive at the church for midnight service and become part of the crib scene. In the UK and other countries small nativity figures of Mary, Joseph and the Donkey travel round the parish and are brought to Midnight mass. One year as a 5-year-old son rushed to bring the figures into church he tripped and fell and suddenly we had a headless Mary, a legless Donkey. a cracked Joseph and a distraught 5-year-old. In every church there has always been that person who can fix things and within 10 minutes with an amazing glue the reassembled figures were safely on the Altar and no one was any the wiser. All journeys are fraught with danger, even up to the last minute. Mary and Joseph’s journey was rough, difficult and Mary was heavily pregnant. Later they are “on the run” escaping from a homicidal king, to an unknown country with all the danger that brings. All our journeys have dangers and problems, there are unseen and unwanted hazards, and we are all at risk and sometimes even get a little broken. Yet Jesus was kept safe and looked after by his family, by His heavenly father in all the journey’s He ever made and so are we. As we journey toward Christmas may we be reminded of all that God does to take care of us.

4th December 2020

Matthew 2:9b The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them. It finally stopped over the place where the child was.

How are you doing with your advent calendar? We still use a traditional, no chocolate one but they are becoming harder to find. Behind the door today was a star, a bright, bold star in the sky. As we journey in Advent towards Christmas there are a couple of traditions we follow. As the crib scene appears in church the wise men can be found at places round the church or our downstairs as they journey towards Bethlehem and the rest of the crib scene. There is a star is nearby or over the scene showing them the way. This story which has been interpreted by story tellers and hymn writers presents us with wise men from the East who have followed a star which in their tradition indicates the birth of someone very special, a king or royalty. In faith these wise men, they were well educated, they studied history and astronomy and maths, they stepped out into an unknown journey following a star because they believed it was important to the world as they knew it. For us we set out on a journey each year toward Christmas. Advent offers us the time to step into a journey of preparation, to get ready for the celebration of Christmas and Jesus birth with all it’s decorations and traditions but also to be reminded of the promised second coming of Jesus which is important to the world as we know it; the promise that Jesus will return to Earth and take all His precious ones to Himself. Advent, as a season, has been somewhat lost in the Earthly traditions and I must confess that when in a church that took Advent so seriously and would not sing a carol or speak about Christmas until the day itself, I found myself feeling more like the Grinch than a Christian preparing for such a special time. Advent offers us time, time to prepare, to get ready, to mull over the familiar stories and find a new blessing, a new wonder for Christmas and for our Saviour and Lord. It has its serious side and its joyful side and, as with all these things, we need to find a balance and be willing to step out in our learning and faith to follow the star and find Jesus.


3rd December 2020

Jeremiah 3:17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem.

Within Christianity there is a reverence for the city of Jerusalem. It features in the Bible as beautiful, wonderful and is highly praised. It was in Jerusalem that baby Jesus was presented at the Temple as required by His family’s traditions and yet this is also the city that Jesus weeps over and the city that judges Him, rejects Him and crucifies Him outside the city wall. Helen, the mother of Constantine the first Christian Emperor, built churches in Jerusalem in the 4th century that commemorated the events in the life of Jesus; within the early church as it spread across the world, as monasteries were build in places like Iona, they were set out to reflect the city of Jerusalem and it’s part in the story of Jesus. Within these monasteries were places that represented His crucifixion, His tomb, where the Last Super was shared, His crucifixion and resurrection. So, even if you were thousands of miles away you could enter the city as you entered the monastery, sing psalms, share the Lord’s supper, sit at the feet of His cross and witness His rising as if in Jerusalem itself. Our churches as they were built were representations of this city, facing towards Jerusalem and symbolising life as a journey toward Heaven. As people would make pilgrimage to their local church or Cathedrals it was as if they made pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As Christians in the 21st Century Jerusalem may not have much of a relevance to us or our faith and yet it plays a huge role in our Bible and in the teaching, we listen to and believe. It has a spiritual significance to our faith, and it has a historical significance in our traditions and ideas. This is a city that was central to the covenant of God and His people, a city that was seen as central to God’s presence on Earth. Although we do not depend on it for our faith we do need to recognise it’s significance and the role it played in Jesus life.

2nd December 2020

Psalm 13:2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

A recent advert has the strap line If you’re feeling a bit lost right now, you’re in good company. This advert has a number of top and successful people admitting to struggling with all that has happened in our world. People have found themselves alone and scared. Our students found themselves with barriers put around their halls of residence to keep them in, our care homes have been unable to let visitors in and there is great fear. Our hospitals and GP’s stopped seeing people in person unless they were in need of urgent hospitalisation. People have lost their businesses and jobs. People feel they have been forgotten and abandoned. As Christians we may feel like God is not there, we can feel forgotten and abandoned and we ask questions, we want to know where is our God? The Psalmist in particular is very vocal with these feelings of being lost and abandoned and the Bible does not shy away from these hard questions and challenges because they come out of our deep longing and need for God. We have become fearful, in this present uncertainty, of losing friendship, intimacy, closeness, our family and our Christmas celebrations because we feel lost in this pandemic and how we are dealing with it. We need to be assured that all these fears are acceptable to have and they are answered in Jesus, Jesus who brings friendship, intimacy and closeness, Jesus who is the centre of our families, Jesus who is the true centre of Christmas and Jesus who brings us close to God. We all need and value the help of someone greater than ourselves and we are all in that company of the unsure, the lost and confused. For us, as Christians, we have that relationship with the Creator, our father God. This relationship brings us certain hope, comfort and assurance that we are not alone in our distress and that even in the darkest of times we are loved and cared for and never forgotten. 

1st December 2020

Matthew 15:3 He said to them, Why do you break the commandments of God for the sake of your traditions?

As we enter Advent, I am aware of the many varying traditions about when to put up decorations and trees. We have our own family traditions such as the tree has always gone up on the first weekend of December; when our boys were young, we went out to the Christmas Tree Farm and they chose our real tree. We now have an artificial tree, different but it still goes up on the first weekend. My son’s other half has started another tradition where she buys me a new special bauble decoration each year, one that reflects my personality and interests. We have had to compromise over the years as my husband’s tradition was always white lights and gold or red baubles only on the tree. He has come to accept that these new special baubles have their place even if they have lots of different colours. I had to give up my love of a real tree in favour of a much easier and a lot less messy artificial tree. It makes sense. We have friends who only put up their tree on Christmas Eve and only have real candles on the branches. As many families as there are, there are that many different traditions, but these grow and change with the years, with the changes in families as people marry and new family members bring their traditions. So it is with the church. As new family members join us then traditions will change, as society changes so will our celebrations to reflect that. It struck me the other day that as a child my Mum would get up at 5:30 am Christmas morning to put the Turkey in, we would not do that now. There is the standing joke that we put the sprouts on at the beginning of December because everyone overcooks them. Traditions are wonderful, they make already special occasions even more so, but they need to change as people, families and society changes. No one is completely right in their views however they may try to say they are. No one has the right to tell any of us that our traditions are right or wrong. Traditions come from how things were done and depend on whether they can work in new and uncertain situations. I love our Christmas traditions, but they have changed and will continue to do as our family grows and changes. May we be willing to have change in our traditions as we grow in our Christian and church families and not be too precious about things that may very easily turn new family members away.

30th November 2020

John 1:41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah”.

Today is St Andrew’s Day, the Patron Saint of Scotland and one of Jesus first disciples. You could call Andrew the first evangelist as before he does anything else, he goes to his brother and says we have found The Messiah. His greatest and first desire is to bring his brother into the joy, the faith that he has found in Jesus. Andrew’s role is one of bringing, bringing those who can serve the Lord in their way, their calling, whatever that may be. Andrew also had the willingness to speak up, even when he was unsure, speaking up to help those in need be helped and fed. Andrew served His Lord, even when others had greater earthly recognition, even when others chose an easier path he stood firm and went where God called him to go, willing to pay the ultimate cost. His role as a saint is not one he would have chosen for himself, but one given to him by his service and faith. Andrew did not bring his brother or serve his Lord for what he would get out of it, but because he had found The Messiah and wanted to share that with everyone! What lies behind our service, our faith? Do we expect some form of sainthood in our local community or do we do what we do because God has called us, because we have found The Messiah and our greatest desire is that everyone else would find Him too. As we celebrate St Andrew may we be reminded of why we serve God and be willing to always put God’s work above our own gain.

29th November 2020

Psalm 1:3a They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.

We have seen the leaves fall from the trees these last weeks. The vibrant green leaves of summertime, that provide shade and show life have turned beautiful shades of red and yellow and the process of photosynthesis weakens as summer sun is lost. The leaves fall from the trees and we spend seemingly endless hours sweeping them up, tidying the ground for the next ones to fall even as we clear. Those branches full only weeks ago with green leaves are now bear, they look cold and sad but they are just going into a survival mode, a type of hibernation while they restock for the new life in the spring. This cycle happens every year, it is all part of the seasons and the life cycle. The leaves that drop rot and mulch and go back into the ground putting nutrients back for the roots of the tree to feed upon. The trees need food just as we do, they need a time to sleep or rest, just as we do, while they restock their energy for the life and growth of spring. The very sign of life and health, those green leaves, stop making the food from the sunlight and turn yellow and red and fall away taking the last of their life into the ground so it can all start again. The story of Jesus holds this cycle of life, a life that had energy and vigour, gave shade and care to so many was then robbed of his life, hung upon a tree, a cross made of wood, then put into the ground to rot away. This story does not end there, because Jesus bring new life, a spring to humanity by defeating death and rising again. Jesus new life is our new life. Jesus is our source of energy and nutrients through the Holy Spirit. Jesus provides us with all we need to grow strong, to offer shade and comfort, to produce fruit and to pass His love and life onto others. May this life cycle of the tree remind us each autumn, of the life cycle of Jesus and ultimately of ourselves. 

28th November 2020

1 Timothy 2:8 I desire then that in every place you should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling.

Usually when I get to a point of not having any inspiration for my daily thoughts something just happens. The other morning, I was up early and looked out the window to check on how cold it was. I only glanced quickly and thought it’s foggy this morning, I hate driving to school in the dark and fog, so much harder to see. So, I prepared myself, fed the cat, unlocked, coat on and out into no fog. Nothing anywhere, just a crisp morning. My initial thought was that cleared fast, but that is not possible my brain said. Then it dawned on me as I looked up to my bedroom window from outside, the window was steamed up. What I had seen as fog in my quick glance was actually condensation. So it is in life. We take a quick glance at something, don’t really concentrate or take in everything and we begin working with the wrong assumption. So many of the issues we discuss, argue about, get fired up about happen because we do not look properly, we do not examine the whole picture and just make assumptions. The church is really good at this, I see on social media people from different ends of the churches spectrum say the most condemnatory and cruel things about others because they just will not listen to the whole story. They have a particular view that they have been told is completely correct and so judge others as being wrong when they are just coming at it from a different perspective. There are not that many things which are non-negotiable in Christianity. There are many ideas and doctrines that certain people have enforced on us, based on that time in history and their rules, but our first port of call should always be Jesus and His teaching, we then look at scripture and tradition and put these into context. I am always taken back to the importance of love as taught by Jesus. Love that forgives and does not condemn, love that cares for everyone and does not discriminate based on culture or background, gender or colour, mental health or physical health, there is no discrimination in Jesus love for us and there should be none in our love for each other. We are far too concentrated on judgement and a lot less fixated on love which is not the balance of Jesus teaching at all. All of us, that includes me, must be more understanding and accepting of each other, must be willing to listen to and accept other points of view and other perspectives and be very careful of making ourselves judge and jury because we are not God and we don’t see things clearly often mistaking a steamed up window for fog!

27th November 2020

Titus 2:13 We prepare for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

At this time of year, leading up to Christmas, many of us go without in order to prepare for the exuberance and abundance of Christmas. Spending time fasting and praying also gives us the time to prepare well for the season ahead and make sure we are doing it for the right reasons. Lent is another time when we go without in order to prepare and be made aware of things we need to change or refocus on. Within this year we have all had to go without, not seeing family or friends for months, not going to pubs or restaurants, not being able to use the library or swimming pool, not going to church and so much more. It has been a time where we have been limited, our freedoms have been cut back and we have, hopefully, had the opportunity to reassess what is important to us. We have looked ever forward to a time when we will return to normal but will we, can we? We wait for explanations and announcements, hoping we can at least go back to the gym or have our hair done, we hope that we will be allowed to meet family at Christmas and little bits of possibilities litter the papers and the news and we pin our hopes on common sense. Whatever happens, Christmas will be different this year. The reasons for celebration will be different, the people missing will be different and we will be bound by rules we have begun to resent and question. Even in the midst of that we will do what is needed to have some normality of a family Christmas. In church we will not be able to hold the big joyous services of music and light but we will find a way to still have our readings and carols, to still remember Jesus birth, shepherds, kings, angels and donkey’s. We may have to do things differently, do less of them and not be able to sing out our carols but we will commemorate, we will, in the less of this Christmas, find more. In appreciating the need for smaller, quieter services we may find a quieter appreciation for the story and our part in it. We often wish we had more time, this Christmas we have more time, more time in our homes, more time to do the things we usually rush at and more time to appreciate the real joys this season holds for us.

26th November 2020

Jonah 4:9/10 Is it right for you to be angry about the bush? You are concerned about something you did not create and which you did not grow.

I am a real believer in justice and fairness. I really don’t like people being treated unfairly and so sometimes I struggle with events and things around me. There is a character in the Bible I can relate to called Jonah. He has a real problem with God asking Him to go and tell the people to change their bad ways knowing that they will heed the warning and God will forgive them. He tells God that he understands God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love, but all this forgiveness is not fair in Jonah’s opinion. Jonah gets angry and sits under a bush sulking where God shades him from the hot sun anyway. God challenges what concerns Jonah and what concerns us all; God created everyone and everything and God wants everyone and everything to be saved. Because of this, time and time again God gives us all the opportunity to be saved, to find Him and to be forgiven. For those of us who decided on this Christian way along time ago it can seem a little unfair that all these other folks keep getting second, third, fourth and more chances. Yet our very calling as a Christian is to live a life worthy of our calling which means sharing what we know of God’s love with others. We are called to share Christ with everyone every day. It is not our job to judge others and where they stand with God, only to make sure we are in the right standing with God and to share His love. No one knows anyone else’s standing with God but their own and as such it is not up to us whether someone is forgiven or not. That decision is Gods and God’s alone. I might sympathise with Jonah but I also know that I want everyone to find the faith I have found, to find a living relationship with God as I have, and I am well aware that I am undeserving of all I have been given and yet God keeps forgiving me. God is the one who is completely and utterly fair in all His doings with us and offers all of us second, third, fourth, and so many chances to be part of His kingdom.

25th November 2020

John 6: 9 “Here is a boy with five loaves of barley bread and two little fish, but that is not enough for so many people.”

Are you someone who likes to offer up answers to questions, speaks out in a discussion, calls people out on their language or behaviour or are you quite shy, embarrassed and find speaking up difficult? Perhaps you are fearful of not getting things right or looking silly in front of other people. None of us should ever be worried by the opinions of those around us or try to compare ourselves to them. I’ll let you into a secret, the loud, outspoken, opinionated people are no better than us, they have just decided to pretend that it does not bother them, they have decided to put up a front. A more tolerant world where we accept that no one is perfect, least of all ourselves, and that getting things wrong allows us to get things right, would mean that none of us would need to pretend or hide. The courage it must have taken Andrew to speak up about the 5 loaves and 2 fish when more than 5000 needed feeding. Imagine what the others might have thought of him; was he serious, how inadequate, even Andrew is unsure of what he is saying but his step of faith, this small glimmer of hope, sets a miracle in motion. Our small contribution can be the catalyst for something great. Nothing we do is ever wasted. We may never see the consequences, like Andrew did, but the small things we do and say cause things to happen, but we must have the courage to speak out and step up. Each of us has a unique perspective on life and we can have the vision that no one else sees. We need faith in ourselves, faith to speak up and speak out. Yes, at times we will fail but without those failures the world cannot move onto the successes. Failures are the steppingstones to success. We must not be frightened to fail because we need that experience to build resilience, to build personality and to keep us humble when things do go well. There is a tendency for those who succeed after long times of difficulty and failure to be more understanding, more empathetic and have a desire to help others achieve. They are aware of their imperfections and do not get to big for their boots. It is only by stepping up and speaking out that we will ever know how good we can be and if we all allow each other to speak out without fear of criticism and judgement then things will be so much more positive for everyone.

24th November 2020

Philippians 1:6 And we know that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is completed on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

There is something wonderful about completing a jigsaw. A picture, an assignment, a piece of work, a letter, any activity. Completing anything offers a sense of achievement, self-worth and value. Knowing “I did it” is a wonderful feeling that enhances wellbeing and mental health. To achieve and complete we need sensible goals, things we can work towards and we need to be able to stand firm when things are not rosy and wonderful, we need to develop determination and resilience. A wonderful story of determination is the discovery of Hawaii by early Polynesian explorers. They knew something was out there, they followed the Golden Plover bird that emigrated that way each year, but it was so far away it took about 400 years to find it. Yet they did not give up, imagine had they given up after 395 years. They believed, had faith, did not give up and eventually got there. Of course, there was and is a risk. We can set goals, dreams and hunches and sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Determination keeps us going through the obstacles. We have to do it one step at a time, even if we cannot see the end, even if the view is obscured or clued over, one day at a time. Sometimes there is little or no proof, no encouragement and this can make us question and give up. Fear of mistakes and failures, of getting nowhere, of being wrong can make us not even try or give up far too easily. This verse is about faith in God and ourselves, the completion of a life set out for us, a path to travel, a journey to make. It all takes time and small steps. The promise of completion is there if we are determined and do not give up. Around us are many people who could have given up, but they chose not to. They stuck to their calling even though people and circumstances told them not to. We will want to give up, we will find our faith and our calling difficult, but our determination is God given and God driven. He will be with us each step of the way, encouraging us to find our Hawaii even if everyone else says it isn’t there.

23rd November 2020

Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD says “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”

I have had a cat through most of my life and always had rescue cats. Having a cat reminds me about unconditional love and trust. Each time we have taken a cat from a rescue centre with no conditions as to whether they would be suitable or not. Each one has come to live in our home as they were. Each one has trusted us to feed them, love them, come back when we go out, let them in and out of the house as they need and not to be cruel to them in any way. When I do not put fresh food down at their request, they do not pack their bags and leave. They still move round me, follow me everywhere, sit near me when I work and jump straight onto my empty lap. They regularly sleep on the bed; they patrol the house at night checking in on the family. We don’t ask them to love us, they just do. They sleep everywhere and tend not to jump when we move about, they trust us to stroke them, pick them up and they have all let the boys do anything with them and never run away. The claws don’t come out in anything but a need to grip or wear them down. Each one has sort to be centre of the family so where we are, they are. So, why am I telling you all this? Do we trust God to care for us, to give us all we need? Do we believe God always has the best planned for us? Do we seek to be part of the family and allow God to do what He wants with us without getting our claws out? We are loved unconditionally by God who does not refuse to love us because of our past or if we do or don’t behave in a certain way. God gives everything for us in Jesus. Just as every cat has had the freedom to be who they are in our family, whatever their baggage, we are completely free to be who we are in God’s family, whatever our baggage. So please know yourself loved, chosen, special, cared for and allow God to look after you and give you all you need to be free to be yourself in His family. In the words of Rob Haywards worship song: “I’m accepted, I’m forgiven, I’m fathered by the true and living God. I’m accepted, no condemnation, I am loved by the true and living God”.

22nd November 2020

Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.

How are you at trusting others? Recent surveys suggest we are not very trusting of our government and their handling of the present crisis. When we vote for parties and MP’s we are putting our trust in them to fulfil their promises. When we go to our doctor, we trust them to give us the correct treatment, when we buy a product, we trust that we will receive what we are promised. As the prospect of a vaccine comes along many are already feeling unsure, concerned that a process of usually ten plus years is happening in less than a year, can this be trusted to be safe? When we are told something is safe, tested, right or wrong we chose to accept it or challenge it based on how much trust we have, and that trust is earned through honesty and the keeping of previous promises. Trust and belief are a key part of the Bible and Christian faith. We are asked time and again to trust God, to believe He will do the best for us; we look at Bible History and Church History and see if that trust is honoured and respected and as a result we have faith and belief in God as one we can trust to honour His promises. Sometimes that trust is difficult, the world around us challenges our faith and our belief and we can be urged to not trust in God even though He has proved himself time and time again. We seem able to forget the constant lies and reneging on promises from our leaders, willingly trusting them again every five years and yet our God who does not lie, who does not renege on His promises is questioned and challenged constantly. Perhaps it is about faith, faith and hope; we have so little faith and such little hope in our promised future here on Earth that we simply cannot allow ourselves to trust God just in case He lets us down. Let me encourage you, God will not ever leave us, He does not bless us only to take it away again, He does not build His home in us to then move out , He does not promise something and then change His mind; so we can trust Him completely day after day after day. 

21st November 2020

1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down upon you because you are young but set an example in love, in faith, in conduct and speech.

Working with young people shows me how incredible they are. We tend to think young people are not experienced and don’t really understand and therefore they can be ignored when it comes to making decisions or setting things up. In 1 Timothy it is made clear that we should not look down on anyone just because they are young. There is a realisation that young people can be spiritually and socially mature. My parents have always looked at me as young and therefore not fully understanding the situation and you certainly cannot categorise me as young any more, that is perhaps a parents role, to never see our children as anything other than inexperienced because they have not lived as long as we have. Yet in our righting off of their input we are quite happy as a society to leave millions of them as young carers, not only doing their school work but looking after a parent day in and day out, often with no help and saving the government millions in benefits for those who should really get help. We are quite happy to let young people challenge on the environment which will affect their future more than ours. There is almost a mindset that sees young people as those who can be ignored and set to do the things we do not want to do. Youth actually see things more clearly than we do, they are not yet caught up in all the pros and cons we allow to sway us. Youth also have that enthusiasm and energy while we are relying experience and coffee. From a Biblical perspective some of the champions of the gospel were young, Mary, Timothy, John Mark and in the Old Testament Daniel and David. Their youth allowed them to take on God’s challenges and callings with enthusiasm and excitement. Their youth allows them to offer God the best of their life to do His will. Their friendships and willingness to be straight about things gives them such opportunities for evangelism, for planting those seeds to nurture and grow. When we bring them up correctly, offering them respect for who they are and their experiences of the living God, then they will respect others, respect people for who they are and allow them to grow and be valued. Before God we all have something to offer, something to bring, whether we are young, old or somewhere in between. Young people need to be encouraged and enabled, to be taken seriously as disciples of Christ for they are the ones who will bless the church and take it forward if we let them.

20th November 2020

Ecclesiastes 7:20 Surely there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning.

There is no perfect version of a Christian than Christ, there are some who try to persuade us they are pretty close with their rhetoric and condemnation of others who do not agree with them, but no. We attempt to follow Jesus, we love through Jesus, we pray and live through Jesus, we give ourselves over to Jesus. The book of Ecclesiastes broods over the troubles of life and the desire for answers. Within it and within us lies this tension of hope and futility. The psalmist too often spoke of the hope in God that lies in tension with our fragile lives. Our story will only consist of a certain amount of years and how we live in that timeframe. For most of us it consists of mixed feelings, the anger and rage we feel lies alongside a stubborn desire not to give up. Thankfully, the Bible is full of folk complaining that God is hiding from them while they are hiding from God. Adam and Eve hid from God in their shame and so do we at times. God’s love, compassion and mercy comes to us in many ways, but we have to accept it. There is a marked distance between reality and the ideal in ourselves, so we confess, we admit our faults and frailties and thus give mercy the last word. As we confess we receive forgiveness from God through each other, as we confess in our worship services we do so before each other and all God’s people that our sins have broken this world and then we find forgiveness in the words of the Kyrie. As we suffer grief, anger, life and faith all held in tension, as we feel hurt, loss, injustice and fear is there a place for rejoicing in singing, in words of hope? Within the very mystery of faith lies the place for our heart to sing. As we pray for goodness, for healing, for strengthening of faith, for vision and dignity, as we fight not to give up we find delight and hope in our God. We believe in order to understand, to make sense of the melee around us. When we think we will just give up faith offers us a way to hold futility and hope, grief and consolation, known and unknown, turmoil and peace, sadness and joy all together in tension. God did not bring us this far to leave us, He did not lift us up to let us down, He did not make His home in our hearts to then move away. The road is not an easy one, we will struggle and suffer but we do not do so alone. We walk in faith, God with us, never leaving us. We have come a long way and we still have places to go knowing that He goes with us. 

19th November 2020

Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my saviour; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

There is an image of God as our refuge which is often found in the Psalms. When the storms of life come it is encouraging to know that we can turn to God as our rock, our shelter, our fortress, our protection, and our refuge. The peoples of old sheltered in the caves in the rock, they found protection here from the heat of the sun, the wild animals, the thieves and robbers and soldiers. Thus, a picture of God as this place of protection and safety made sense and could be understood by everyone. Within western Europe most of us are fortunate enough to never need a physical refuge from famine, conflict, or natural disasters. Across the world, of the 65 million people who have had to flee their homes because of violence or conflict, around 40 million are displaced inside their own countries. These internally displaced refugees don’t have the protection and support that comes with legal refugee status and so they are the forgotten refugees. Sadly, at the moment, the support for legal refugees has become sparse and begrudged in the west but surely it doesn’t need to be this way. Many aid organisations began as a response to the post-war refugee crisis of 1945, the knowledge that God called each of us to clothe the naked and feed the hungry challenged the folk of that time to do just that. That vision and challenge has continued into the present because people are still being displaced, forced to flee for their lives and God still calls us to this generosity of spirit, to this vision of peace and refuge for all. Can we answer that call? Can we overcome our fear of the stranger and open our hearts and our borders to those in need? Can we be brave enough to speak out when refugees are demonised? We have the opportunity to change the narrative around refugees; to challenge the negative discriminatory headlines by writing to the relevant newspapers, to our MP’s and news outlets and remind them that our nation is founded on the fair treatment of all refugees with dignity and compassion. May we be willing to stand up and speak out in God’s name for all refugees as they seek a refuge and a safe place to call home.

18th November 2020

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you, protect and guard you from the evil one.

One of the things I am always conscious of is the safety of those I love. Whenever the boys or Gareth leave the house, I always say keep safe. As we brought up the boys, we did everything to protect them form harm although several visits to A&E show we were not always successful. We all protect the most vulnerable parts of our bodies with helmets, hats, pads, gloves and guards, these are obvious visible protection, we avoid being hurt when we can, physically. But we also need protection mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, these are not as obvious but still very necessary. Things that are said to us, relationships, friendships, what we see and feel, these affect us and so we need protection here as well. Protection by being careful in what we watch, see, hear, experience, what we put in our bodies, how we treat them, the anxieties and worries about family, life, future, and prospects. God always intended us and those we love to be kept safe from harm, it is us humans, we are the ones who have exposed ourselves to harm by our selfishness and rebellion. God is faithful, protection and care are freely offered and freely given. Sometimes we can take all the ncessary precautions and things still go wrong but when we take precautions and prepare ourselves well, even when things go wrong, we have a level of protection. Our faith provides us with protection, with help, strength and perseverance. We do not stand alone in our need but with our God and our community around us, supporting us in prayer, in messages of hope, in friendship and in acts of caring. We go through nothing alone, but it is always our choice whether we allow God and others to help or not. We should always take precautions, be sensible, prepare where we can and allow God given support and help from others to protect us from harm and deal with the unexpected that sometimes comes our way.

17th November 2020

Hosea 6:6 For the Lord desires steadfast love and not sacrifices, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

We all live in a world where internet and Wi-Fi have become necessary and everywhere. Our vicarage has to have internet access for all the work we do as clergy and it is an added benefit for keeping in contact and for the gaming activities of our sons as well as study and the ever present Zoom and Teams meetings. In recent weeks we have had many issues with things going offline several times a day or for days on end. This connection, when it is lost, means we are not functioning at our best, unable to communicate effectively, lose our contact with certain information and situations. Lose our access to books, news, comment, and entertainment. If you will pardon the analogy losing our Wi-Fi is a little like losing our connection with God. It is quite easy for our connection to God to be lost, for us to suddenly not be able to communicate with God, not to hear or receive the necessary information. We can miss out on the information we need to help our faith. If the connection fails, then the zoom, emails and website fail, and we feel cut off from God and from others. In order to rectify our problem at home we have put in a new router, designed to get a better, stronger more reliable signal and to beam that throughout the house. We need a router with God, something that channels the signal round us, can reach us wherever we are and can’t be lost by a weak signal, a problem or bad connection. Our router is our relationship with God, we need our Bible, our prayer life, our knowledge of Jesus and His teaching to be in us, round us, above us and below us. We need to be able to reach God and be reached by Him. We need to be completely immersed in God without a break in the signal. To know and love Him all day and every day no matter what.

16th November 2020

Esther 2:8 Esther was taken into the king’s palace and put in the custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women.

One of the Old Testament stories I love is the one about Esther. I grew up with this story of a woman, a strong women who is at first treated as a slave but who saves her people and shows what God can do through anyone if they are willing to listen and act as God shows them. In the second chapter of Esther we are told how the harem of King Ahashuerus, also called Xerxes, was managed. I am not happy that he had a harem, it’s treatment of women was appalling, and it was of its time. The second chapter is an account of the immorality and cruelty which often accompanies such dominating power. This is not uncommon in history or even today. Esther, our heroine, represents a purity and humility which saves her from the humiliation of lust and the poor triviality which underpinned the rota for the king’s attention. She becomes, in her seemingly small way, an agent of love and transformation in a very difficult situation. The story may seem almost too good to be true, but if we are sceptical then we do not believe that the God’s love can penetrate and restore even in the most awful of situations. Esther’s interaction with an all-powerful king was to save her people from destruction and it did Ahashuerus some good too. It is good for us to take a little time to learn about the conditions of cruelty and immorality under which many are still forced to live. We have modern slavery around us, but it is not easy to see. We have people coerced into servitude, those whose debt has forced them into forms of prostitution. We must not turn away, must not give up. Being a Christian means we can support those who work to find and help these people. The work of The Children’s Society, Christian Aid and The Salvation Army are always purposeful and every one of us is here for a purpose. We may not be able to do the work ourselves, but we can support those who do in prayer and financially if we are able. I encourage you to help where you can and allow your choices and actions to be an agent for God’s work in our world just as Esther was. 

15th November 2020

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved: let every person be quick to hear and slow to speak.

How good are you at listening? Most of us like to think of ourselves as good listeners but research would suggest that we actually spend much of our listening time thinking up a reply or comment to make to the other person. In other words, we do not really listen. If we are truly listening then we are not looking for a point to jump in, we do not interrupt them and we certainly don’t close our eyes or turn away to do something else…..or do we? Often people who talk a lot think they are good listeners; I am sorry to say that is not usually the case. Those who like to talk, want to talk, and therefore listening to anyone else for any period of time is both difficult and unrewarding for them, so it becomes about offering stock answers and suggesting solutions without really hearing what the need is. I am sure that many of you, as I have, finally found the courage to share something painful with someone else only to find that they were not really listening and just fobbed us off. That terrible experience means we become far less likely to trust someone to listen to us and really hear us in the future. Listening does not mean giving answers, although sometimes a little advice can be helpful. Listening is not about trying to jump in and tell someone how you have been through the same as them and how you coped. Listening is often silence, allowing space and time for thoughts and ideas to come out. Listening is giving our full and complete attention to a person as they open themselves up to us and make themselves vulnerable. Listening is offering a safe space to speak out thoughts and feelings without judgement or ridicule. When I talk to children about listening and speaking, I use the old adage that God gave us two ears and one mouth, in other words we should do twice as much listening as we do talking; simple it might be, but it is nevertheless truth. One of the most important and blessed things we can ever do for someone is to give our time to really listen to them.

14th November 2020

Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

I have always liked to think that the church is welcoming and have tried to make every church I have been part of welcoming, but I am very aware, especially since lockdown, how many people have not felt welcomed by the church and that some have even been painfully rejected because they don’t quite fit in. Our churches should be safe spaces, it is historical that churches are places of sanctuary and once within the walls a person can claim sanctuary and not be arrested or deported. The holier than thou attitude we have seen in churches in the past is still there but over different things. Once we would not have accepted single mothers now, we want them to come into family services and messy church, once we would have shunned divorcees but now, we welcome them, well in most places anyway. Currently the bone of contention is whether we accept those who feel they are trapped in the wrong gender, those who wish to love and marry those of the same sex, those who think women should be treated far better in the church than they are, those who have suffered abuse mentally and physically. You only need to look at Jesus in the Gospels and how He constantly shared with societies lowest. He spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, He healed the demon possessed and the leper, he ate with those who were considered unclean and he fed the poor and hungry. Once you really see that for what it is, Jesus was making it clear that it is not for us to judge another’s ways, it is for us to love and care for everyone and to provide a safe place for all who need it no matter their circumstances. We may struggle with the way someone else leads their life as opposed to us, but I can assure that there are plenty of people who struggle with how each one of us lives our lives. How can I speak about helping the outcast if I do not assist in some way, how can I speak about feeding the hungry if I am not prepared to do my part? How can I follow Jesus teaching about loving my neighbour if I put constraints on who my neighbour can be? I long for us to welcome everyone into the church, no matter their creed, colour, sexual orientation, gender, disability, status………. Everyone. That complete welcome starts with me, with you, with each one of us before our God.

13th November 2020

Job 8:4 Your children must have sinned against him, so their punishment was well deserved.

I find some of the book of Job difficult, it is heart-warming that Job’s friends come when he is in desperate need, they sit with him for days in silence as they mourn together then they open their mouths and the problems begin. The term Job’s comforter is used to indicate those whose offer of comfort is far from that. People whose view is that you must have done something wrong, that everything we receive in life is of our own making. Imagine how Job felt when his so-called friend and comforter Bildad says to him, about the children he had lost, that they and Job got what they deserved. I am almost surprised Job didn’t swing for him. Job’s friends are trying to comfort him in his suffering. They are sort of listening to him, but they do not seem to fully engage with has happened to him and the huge amount of emotional and physical pain he is in. What they say are mainly true words about God, but they are out of context and not understood in this situation. At the end of the day these comforters and friends completely fail to represent the true, loving and faithful God? So we need to ask ourselves how often do those who suffer hear people or society saying, ‘You are only getting what you deserve’? If we listen out around us right now, we will hear the very loud voices of people who unfairly presume that these people are responsible for their own suffering. It may be comments about refugees and migrants, families in such poverty they cannot feed their children, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly and lots of other forms of suffering. We must take the opportunity to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. To remind others of compassion, empathy and true love for our fellow humans. It is really easy to play the blame game, to justify our seemingly secure position against those who have been hit the hardest. It is really easy to open our mouths as a friend and comforter and make the situation worse by spouting the comments we have seen in the papers or on social media. Of course, we should always go to help and comfort our friends but we also must refrain from putting our opinions and ideas out there. We are called to comfort one another in love, to support and care for each other’s needs and not to condemn. We are called not to be Job’s comforters but God’s comforters always speaking words of comfort, love and peace.

12th November 2020

Psalm 119:11 I have stored your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

How is your storage situation? I like to keep to things; I am terrible at throwing stuff away and so sometimes I am thinking where can put things out of the way. I have, over the years, used several storage ideas and accessories, usually finding they don’t quite do what they are advertised to. One of the things that does help is organisation, a place for certain things and when something has been used, putting it away again, not leaving it out to deal with later. The same principles apply to our Christian lives. We are constantly learning and picking up information from the Bible and the church and we need to store it away. As a youngster I was encouraged to learn Bible verses and that has been an incredible blessing to me all my life. Organisation is once again the key. Putting things into the right places, returning them to storage once they have been used and not leaving them lying around. One of the visual examples used to explain how the human brain works is that of a filing system. Certain drawers or boxes with labelled files in them, linked by topics and ideas that we refer to as and when we need them. In the Bible we are told about writing and storing the word of God in our hearts and minds, in this filing system, so we do not sin against Him. If we have all the things we learn about God and His love for us stored in our hearts and minds then when life throws difficulties at us, when we are being tempted, when we are unsure about the path in front of us we have God’s assurance, God’s words and actions of the past, our experiences of His provision for us up to now and these all enable us to have confidence and to move forward in the best of ways. So how is your storage? Have you stored God’s words in your heart and mind so can you recall them and use them when you need to? If not, why not try to get yourself more organised, to learn God’s word and to store it in your heart and mind.

11th November 2020

Proverbs 15:30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.

A lot of my interaction with people is through smiling, as I was around school today I realised that under my mask no one knows if I am smiling or not, I am still smiling underneath the piece of cloth but they cannot see it. Yes, maybe my eyes sparkle a little or the area around my eyes has those laughter lines, but it is not obvious. Masks have become everyday wear but now the facial expressions we use so much to convey our empathy, our joy, out annoyance even, are no longer available to us. As a young teacher I had the reputation of being able to deal with challenging children just by a look, I inherited that from my father who could make me squirm just by a look. God’s creation of us gave us these faces with the ability to smile, laugh, cry, show anger, empathy, compassion, but the moment we cover them up we lose this. It is not by accident that covering the face became associated with crime and activity we did not want others to know about, now it is much more to do with facial recognition and identifying people. This then presents us with a problem, how do we communicate our facial responses if they cannot be seen. The danger is we stop responding with our faces. Perhaps for the moment we need to have the expressions there but convey the feeling with a vocal response. The smile of acknowledgement now perhaps needs a “hi” or “hello” added to it. The expression of compassion and empathy perhaps need an “’I’m so sorry” added to it, the look of curiosity perhaps needs a “can you expand on that please” added to it. As regards anger perhaps this is an opportunity for anger to not be noisily expressed and thus not hurt as it otherwise might. The other thing we all need to learn is to look more closely at people’s faces, see the tiredness round the eyes, see the frustration, the lines on the forehead, and begin to become a little more expert in what the upper part of the face does when someone laughs or smiles, or cries, or is frustrated. Faces can be a real indicator into someone’s need or blessing and at this time we all need to look a little more closely, so we do not forget how to read the signs.

10th November 2020

Matthew 7:7 Seek and you shall find

I hate losing things, particularly things which are precious to me. In various house moves I have lost some things which I have never found and still wonder where they have ended up. I am very much a touchstone person, things given to me for special reasons, kept and stored where I can refer to them, get them out and look at them, they hold memories and blessings for me. When something is lost we can just accept it, leave it, move on and forget about it, or we can search for it, turn the place upside down just as in the parable of the lost coin or the lost sheep. I have to look for things and I get very frustrated when they do not turn up and even when I cannot find them, I still hope that one day they will be found. This looking for the lost is God’s nature, He never gives up looking for the lost, never accepts that they cannot be found again. God looks in every nook and cranny, under every rock and stone, round every corner, in every valley and on every mountain. He desires that no one is lost, and Jesus came to make sure everyone of us could be found and brought home. We are told to seek and that when we do, we shall find, we are told that if we seek God first everything else will fall into place. We seek because we long to find the best, the right way, the way of most blessing, God seeks us because He longs for us to have the best, to be in the right way and to receive all the blessing that He wants to bestow on us. 

9th November 2020

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I have spent several hours today cleaning, not the usual but taking all my glass down, cleaning shelves and cleaning the glass. There is nothing more satisfying than glass that has been out on a shelf for a while suddenly being beautifully clean and clear again, sparkling in the sunlight. I have always loved glass, the way it can be shaped and blown, then the patterns and reflections, but a clean sparkling piece of glass is just wonderful. In the Old Testament glass is referred to as something expensive and precious similar to gold and silver. In the New Testament it is referred to either as a mirror or as something we look through; it is about clarity and purity. In Revelation particularly, glass is referred to because of its transparent properties and its ability to shine like precious stones. Glass revolutionised living, bringing light into homes without exposing the inside to the elements of outside. Of course, for this to work glass must be kept clean. The dirt that collects on both the inside and outside needs cleaning away regularly so the glass can do its job. Conservatories or garden rooms made mainly of glass are so popular because we can effectively sit in the garden with the protection of the glass, but if it is not clean then we cannot see clearly and the light and warmth cannot come in. Our lives need to have this transparency; God sees both the inside and outside, we often project one image on the outside but try to keep the inside hidden away. The Bible reminds us that whatever we are truly like on the inside will be exposed. But it is the keeping of it clean that is the most important, a dirty, grimy window does not allow the light in or anyone to see out. A dirty grimy life does not light the light in or out. We need a good clean on a regular basis, I was always taught as a young Christian to have a clear out every day if possible, to clean away the grime beginning to collect in my life each day so it does not build up. The daily grime of temper, frustration, bad words and deeds, anger, lies, jealousy, selfishness, attitude….. all need to be confessed and forgiven, that way the light keeps shining in and out. 

8th November 2020

Isaiah 49:16 I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.

Currently we are in the time of remembrance, we have had All Souls and remembered those we love but see no longer. On Remembrance Sunday and the 11th of the month we remember those who have given their lives in wars and conflicts. But why do we remember? Often people talk of learning the lessons of the past, remembering what went wrong and not repeating the same mistakes again but somehow it doesn’t always work! We remember those important dates in lives when we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, we mark the passing of loved ones and of time. We remember things we learn and our life choices are often made by what we learn and the interests and skills that are forefront of our memory. We use all sorts of things to help us remember, diaries, date books, pictures, computers, even knots in hankies for some. Memory is so crucial to who we are, we are made up of our memories and what we learn in life, it is why illness like dementia is so devastating to people’s lives and those they love. From a Biblical perspective God constantly talks about remembering us, never forgetting His people, knowing us so intimately that He knows the number of hairs on our heads. The most powerful image of God not forgetting us is this one where we are told we are inscribed on the palms of His hands. This is a clear and poignant reference to Jesus death on the cross, the hands that were outstretched in death for us that we might live forever with Him. God does not forget us, even if we don’t visit for a while, even if we seem to forget Him, even if we turn our back on Him, He will never turn from us and never forget us. We are forever in God’s memory, we are blessed with wonderful memories given to us by God and we are created with memory to allow us to be who we are.

7th November 2020

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.

I often listen to the Radio 2 slot What Makes us Human. Many people, often in the public eye, speak about things in their lives and the affect it has on them. Some are incredibly moving, and many are very thought provoking. The human condition, what makes us who we are, is different for all of us, yes, we have common areas but because we are individuals, we have individual experiences and outcomes. One thing we can have in common is the detachment that occurs when we become overloaded, or we begin to sink and latch onto a safety protocol of going through the motions so we can hopefully find some self-repair. If we allow ourselves to stop and examine who we are as humans, allowing ourselves the knowledge that we are not perfect, neither is anyone else, we can begin to put things into perspective. We can see if we are working too hard, under too much stress, not spending time with family or friends, and neglecting ourselves thinking that if we just keep going no matter what, we will eventually get there; wherever there actually is? Society colludes with this idea of living to work, of success only being achieved by endless hard work and that failure to do so is not an option. We are human, we make mistakes, we can be unpleasant, argumentative, hurtful, entrenched and selfish; but we can also be kind, loving, caring, empathetic, compassionate and selfless. We are God’s creation and we have so much going for us and there are perhaps three things we can do to help ourselves be more like we were created to be. We need to avoid harm, in other words look after ourselves physically and mentally, by caring for our bodies in rest, food, exercise and caring for our minds through prayer, talking, reading, sharing. We also need to do good, to care for relationships, to care for others needs as well as our own, to offer help where it is needed. We need to stay in love with God, remembering who we are and whose we are as children of God, caring for our relationship with Him on a daily basis. Yes, we are humans with all our faults, but we are also God’s beloved humans with all our joys and blessings. What makes us truly human is God!

6th November 2020

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

One of the fundamentals of the church is the Eucharist, or Communion. It is a celebration of the last meal Jesus had with His disciples before His death on the cross. It is a reminder of the sacrifice made and teachings He left for us to follow. Not only is it a memory it is a re-enactment, an anamnesis, a recollection of the past through repeating the action. It uses all our senses, and thus has the greatest effect on us. In Communion we remember the shedding of Christ’s blood and the breaking of His body so that we could be brought back into communion with God. This simple meal re-enacts our journey from death to life made possible in Jesus. As such it is a vital part of our worship and so very hard when it cannot be celebrated together. In the taking of Communion we have the opportunity to make room for others at the table, to invite and extend this meal to others, sometimes we need to make ourselves smaller to do this. As I grew up if visitors came for tea, we were told FHB, it meant family hold back, let everyone who is a guest choose and eat first and we had what was left. It was to make sure there was enough to go round and guests were first in the queue. If anything, these days we have so much on our tables that no one has to hold back but the principle is the same. When we bring others in and share this celebration, we must make room for the other, hold back in our own exuberance and practice so that others feel welcome. We may have to show them the way, by gentle example or quiet words, but not so it is embarrassing or obvious. The church has always been a place of sanctuary, a safe haven for those who need it, our sharing of our family meal allows the guest, the outsider, to become part of the family, to be loved and accepted for who they are. May there always be space at our table for another.

5th November 2020

Ephesians 2:14 For Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made all into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

Do we really believe that Jesus reconciled us to God and to one another? As Christians we are, by the very nature of our Saviour, accepting of all humans no matter their culture, background, status, tradition, country of origin or colour of their skin. In the early church the gentiles were treated very poorly to begin with, they were excluded from citizenship, considered foreigners to the covenant promise, they were living in a world devoid of hope and without God but yet Christ on the cross had solved the problem of all our relationships with God and with each other. Prior to the acceptance of gentiles into the church and even for a while after, in some cases, they were considered aliens, foreigners and not allowed to partake in the practices of the early church, they were considered outsiders with no rights and separated from Christ. As I write this, I am conscious of exactly the same practices going on worldwide and within our own nation. Treating others as outsiders, foreigners and excluding them from citizenship and thus any rights as a human. Why do we allow this? In doing so we live not as part of the very kingdom we say we are defending and preserving. Why do we live with indifference to those who are not the same colour as us, or the same culture or background than us, or were born in a different place to us? I suggest that much of this comes from misunderstanding and fear. It is easy to manipulate people by praying on their worries and fears, to deflect from key issues and dishonesty by using inflammatory and emotive language to point people to a made-up cause. We have seen it in our own elections, we currently see it so clearly in the American elections. Not long ago we were moaning about the absurdity of political correctness and yet politics is currently full of lies, manipulation, fraud and dishonesty. The very rules put in place to supposedly stop us offending and treating others unfairly are being used for just that purpose. How compliant are we with these events? If we do nothing, say nothing in fear of upsetting someone, or out of fear of the consequences we have been told will happen, with no proof, we are not doing what God commanded of us. We were reconciled to God through Jesus; we must also be reconciled to each other and stand up for each other no matter who we are or where we come from. Every person of every nation is invited into God’s family and we have no right to turn anyone away we think does not belong.

4th November 2020

Philippians 4:1 My brothers and sisters, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of the most encouraging in the Bible and yet it was written at the most difficult of times for Paul as he writes from prison, his freedom has been taken away, he is under great physical threat and he cannot visit and encourage the early church as he had planned. Instead Paul writes letters full of the teaching and articles of faith he would have passed on in person. For Paul life is to be lived to its fullest, no matter the circumstances, and in light of current events, is perhaps a great help and encouragement to us. Our current situation is not as brutal as Paul’s was but for some of us it may feel like being in prison or at least like being under house arrest, unable to go out, unable to be free to live as we would wish. So, what does Paul do? He goes back to basics. He looks to hope, to being grateful for what we do have and foremost the presence of Christ Jesus with us in every moment of every situation providing peace and security. Times are very uncertain and change almost on a daily basis, we are not sure what the future may hold for us and we wonder if we can return to the “normal” we had. We are all finding our own ways of dealing with things, some better than others, but I dare to suggest we can learn from Paul and go back to basics and focus on what is most important. Hope is key, we have a definite hope in God, in our faith and in our eternal life, so as earthly living becomes uncertain we can rest in that surety, that hope of eternity; but also we can rely on the certainty and hope of having Jesus alongside us every step of the way. Next we have gratitude, we may not feel like being grateful but just look at the blessings we do have, our homes, food, family, books, internet, letters and cards, phones, friends….. endless blessings to be thankful for and the very act of being grateful makes us feel better and more understanding of our blessings and thus more grateful and round it goes, raising our mood and encouraging us. Most importantly we have the ever present and unfailing presence of Jesus and along with that His peace. Nothing that is going to happen or not happen is faced alone. Everything that comes our way will be handled by God and us together. So, as we face another lockdown, may we go back to the basics of our faith and know God’s blessing, hope and presence each and every day.

3rd November 2020

John 1:4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

The Bible is full of metaphor and similes, using images and daily understanding to explain what God is up to in ways we can relate to and understand. Light is used to show good, from the beginning of the world light is separated from the darkness and we understand it as the opposite of darkness. Light illuminates, it allows us to see so we can do things, it also shows up the things we want to hide away. Light also brings life, without light plants and crops will not grow, we as humans need light to keep us alive and healthy. It is hard to speak of light without using the words shining and brightness, but we also use goodness. Light and goodness come from God, they are blessings from God that make sense of things and bring out truth. Light reveals the hidden away for all to see and in John’s prologue we have that lovely phrase that says life is the light of God to all human beings, it is reflecting God’s glory and as such as we let our light shine before others, we are reflecting God’s glory for others to see through us. In this important way we need to ask ourselves is out light shining before others, are we a reflection of God’s glory in all we say and do, are we allowing God’s goodness to be worked out through our goodness, our good deeds, are people able to see God through us? Within the Old Testament there is also a link to the Tabernacle, the place where God’s glory was enthroned and within the tent was a lamp on a stand that gave light to that space around it, we can enlighten the space around us, illumine that space to show others the way to God. We are the light of Christ going into the dark places of the world. The danger is we try to hard, we try to be a torch and become an unbending blinding beam which turns peoples faces away because it hurts their eyes and quickly flattens the batteries. May we rejoice in reflecting God’s light into the space around us, into the darkness and shine as a light to guide people home to God.

2nd November 2020

Joshua 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped.

I wonder how the change of hour affects you? I really struggle for a while after the time changes as my body clock wakes me at the normal time I would get up for work, it takes a good week before I adjust and I do struggle with less light in the evening. This change in timing does affect us, we have an internal clock that allows our bodies to know when to sleep and wake, when to eat, when to go to work and so on, time is important, marking days, weeks, months, years etc and time and seasons were created by God for us, to organise our living. In the Bible time crops up many times but I wonder if you know about not just a one hour change but a whole 12 hours where God made the sun stand still in the sky, keeping it light while a battle ensued. I know people ignore this and say it is just metaphor and cannot be real, but what you probably don’t know that in NASA, in their numerical calculations about the earth and the sun etc have a 12 hour discrepancy that they cannot account for. They justify it by space anomalies, time changes in calendars and all sorts of possible reasons. There are also historical accounts of an extra-long day in Chinese, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Aztec, Inca and Babylonian records so I would just throw this in as another possible reason. God is the creator of time, of the universe, the sun and our earth so why can’t He control a situation if necessary. Our vision of God can be far too small. Joshua knew if He asked God for help God would do whatever was necessary and He did. I happily admit I would like to see some amazing things like this happen, but if I am honest we see amazing things happen on a daily basis but we happily give the credit to everyone else but God. Miracles are still happening, but we explain them away with science, even when the science doesn’t quite fit. Our picture of God needs to be a bit bigger, we need to give glory to God for more of the daily miracles and blessings we see and we need to remember that as creator and ruler of the Heavens God is in control.

1st November 2020

Matthew 8:24 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we will drown!”

I loved and still love children’s books. I have the complete set of Arthur Ransom’s Swallows and Amazons and all the books about where and why they were written. I have visited many of the places from the books and I confess that the Lake District is one of my favourite places, I would describe it as a thin place, a place where the gap between Heaven and earth seems thin and God almost seems easier to reach. I am not sure exactly what drew me to this set of books but the idea of children being allowed to sail on the lake and camp on an island with no adult supervision was very appealing. These children, as of its time, had their roles to play with the two eldest children being surrogate parent to the two younger ones. It is their fathers telegram giving the children permission to do these activities that always sticks in my mind; “Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won’t drown”. This seems rather ambiguous, curious and under today’s circumstances would get a visit from child protection. My view of what this means is; I have taught you everything you need to know, I have given you the tools and abilities you need to cope, have confidence in yourself and we are here if need help. Telegrams had to be short, they were expensive, so a short cryptic message held a great deal more beneath the surface. This is where I see God at work, His messages to us are far more detailed but they say the same thing, I have given you what you need, I have and am teaching you all you need, have confidence in yourself and I am always here for you when you need that extra help. God allowed us to stand on our own two feet, to make our own choices and it has to be said that at times we have all been duffers and it’s pretty much a surety that we will be duffers in the future. The great news for us is that even when we are duffers God will not let us drown, He will always have a lifebelt to throw to us or another boat to pick us up. Of course, we have to actually take the life belt or accept the offer from the other boat, but God will always be there. It is also good to remember that although sometimes we are duffers, there are also many times when we are not, when we do the right thing and allow God to work in us for the good of all. Duffers we may be at times, but we are also, ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven duffers.

31st October 2020

Revelation 21:5 Behold I am making all things new.

I am a great fan of the TV programme The Repair Shop. Skilled craftspeople take people’s treasured and broken items and restore them to working order. We have become a throw away society and so much of our heritage has just become landfill. This programme gives hope, joy, an understanding that in the right hands things that seem even beyond repair can be given a new lease of life. That new life comes with incredible patience from the experts and often with the replacement of broken parts and the joining back together and strengthening of the old with support. I dare to suggest that this is a practical image of how God works within us. He is the skilled craftsman, the creator, the one who understands how we work and how we are affected by life. God is the one who can the broken pieces and slowly bring them back together into a whole. God is the one that can take the weakened parts and build in new support and strength so they can return to use. God is the one who can take the broken, the damaged, the falling apart and make them new. The Bible is full of stories and teaching on God taking the downtrodden, the weak, the broken and transforming them into new and strong people. Jesus own story is one of being physically broken into death and then completely restored to life, defeating death in the process. The creator, God, will always repair the damage if we ask Him, if we are willing to come to Him. It will need patience, it will take time, but just like the joy it brings to folk on The Repair Shop when the broken is restored, how much more the joy of repair and restoration for us as we are made new.

30th October 2020

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a light to my feet and a lamp to my path.

How are you with machinery and cars? Do you know vaguely what is needed to keep them running smoothly or do you just let someone else deal with that? I am not a mechanic but I learnt the basics about keeping my car running when I was younger and we all need to make sure we can keep computers, phones, copiers and printers working as best we can these days. For anything with working parts there will be instructions how to fix basic problems and there will always be things which keep the moving parts lubricated and functioning well. I was taught how to check the oil in my car, but it wasn’t until later I understood why this was so vital and needed to be monitored. The oil moves around the engine making sure all the moving parts move without friction and to stop them rubbing against each other and causing damage, no oil or oil so old it is full of bits and pieces means the engine will seize up and stop functioning. Now, I am not suggesting we have oil in our lives, but we do need lubrication, we need something that will help things run smoothly, that isn’t full of rubbish that clogs things up. For us, as Christians, I would suggest that we have these lubricants in the form of prayer and God’s word. The Bible is our instruction manual, it offers us help with the problem’s life throws at us, it is a guiding light to our feet and shows us how others have dealt with life’s issues and encourages us in our faith. In its pages we find history, poetry, teaching, rules, personal testimony, songs, and the eternal plan God has for us. Prayer allows us to bring these lessons into the context of the day, allows us to ask and hear from God how we can deal affectively with the daily issues and life we are living. Without the prayer and the Bible our lives are just cogs and wheels grinding against each other, causing friction, rubbing together, hurting, damaging and eventually causing us to seize up and not function anymore. God will never force anything upon us, but He offers us constant support, love, care, encouragement and help through His word and through His conversations with us. Everything we need is there we just have to be willing to read the manual and talk to the maker to keep everything in good working order.

29th October 2020

Isaiah 41: 13 For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand and say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”

As a teenager I remember we would get heavy fog sometimes, it would come down in early afternoon and if at school we would be sent home early because of the dangers of not being seen or able to see cars etc. It was not as bad as the smog of the years before, but it was heavy and hard to see right in front of you. It was difficult to breathe and very damp, even roads and paths you knew well were suddenly not as you remembered them, and it could be a little unnerving in the stillness this weather environment created. From confident knowledge of your way home you began to doubt yourself, the things around you seemed different, you were influenced into making judgements differently and under pressure. Our Christian lives can be just like this. We can be going along as normal, know where we are, confident, in control and then a fog comes, outside influences encroach in on us, suddenly we can no longer see clearly, things look different, we become unsure and our confidence takes a hit. At this point all we know of God and His love for us is called into question and we can experience doubts and insecurities. When we were in a fog there were things to help us; light, touch, company and signs to follow; in our Christian lives there is always help, light in the darkness from our relationship with God, our knowledge of the Bible, our past experiences of God not letting us down, prayer, relationships with other Christians, our worship and the signs of God’s love and word around us, we have the knowledge that God has led us clearly through difficulty before and He will again. These are the times when our faith is really at work and also being tested, because when the way forward is shrouded and unclear sometimes all we can do is put our hand into God’s hand and trust Him to lead us home. Even in the fogs of life God is with us and will not leave us, all we have to do is reach out.

28th October 2020

Proverbs 18:24 A true friend will be more loyal than a brother and is a treasure.

What do you count as treasures in your life? We all have things we keep safe and close, handed down, given by a family member, something we purchased for a special occasion, we all have special and treasured possessions. Proverbs has a message for us about friends and friendship, alongside a Jewish proverb it clearly tells us that true friends are treasures. Have a think for a moment of the true friends in your life, do you regard them as a treasure? If not does that need a rethink? We all know we cannot chose our family and relationships in families will not always be wonderful or helpful, but we do chose our friends, the folk we like to chat to, ask about things, have a coffee with and whose shoulder we like to cry on. Notice the word true, we all have friends but not all friends are true friends, not all friends will be there no matter what. That is why a true friend is a treasure, a treasure given by God. A true friend will stick with you no matter what happens, they will help in any situation, you know you could ring them at 3am in the morning and they would not only answer but come straight round if you needed them. Friendship is to be treasured, particularly at the moment, when so many are alone and not seeing people on a regular basis. Having a true friend is a blessing, a treasure but being a true friend is also a treasure. We do need to ask ourselves, look and see if we are being a true friend. Are we stepping up to the plate and being there when we are needed? Relationships are reciprocal, if we desire a true friend then we must be a true friend, willing to be there at 3am if it is needed. As God given blessings and treasures true friends deserve to know how special they are. Perhaps a note, a card, a little gift or just the words to let them know you appreciate them. A true friend is a real treasure, guard them just as you would a treasured possession, keep them close, keep them safe and appreciate them.

27th October 2020

John 2:5 Mary his mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

When Jesus began His ministry, it is very much his mother Mary who encourages Him and the situation. It is Mary who notices the need, even in the midst of this busy, loud and joyful wedding, she sees there is an issue and brings it to Jesus. Not only that, her faith in her son is complete, do whatever He tells you she says. For us the lesson is that we need to look and see the need, even when it is busy, loud and exciting and when it is quiet, sad and slow. Once we identify the need, we then must turn to God and ask Him, what do I need to do here, how will this situation be best served, by me or by someone else? Once we ask God then we must listen for the answer, not pre-empt what we think is needed. Just as Mary had complete faith in what Jesus was going to do, we need complete faith in what God is going to do through us or through others. God will ask us to listen and that means giving our time, but then we need to hear what He is saying and that means giving our mind and then we are asked to act in care for others, and that means giving our heart. Mary fully supported her son and believed in Him, we must fully support each other and believe in each other. Jesus stepped into this domestic situation of a wedding without decent wine, a shameful condition for the family, He not only provides in a miraculous way He provides the best and lots of it. When God gives, He gives abundantly and generously to us all. Mary’s complete faith in Jesus is validated, He goes above and beyond, and His first recorded miracle happens. From here Jesus steps into ministry. If we can have that faith in what God can do, if we are willing to let Him go above and beyond in abundance, then miracles will happen, and lives will be changed.

26th October 2020

2 Timothy 3:2&3 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

Does this sound like people you know? It does me. In fairness I also recognise myself a little at times, I think we all do. Timothy seems to be very understanding of the human condition here, how those, particularly those who have a great deal of power, wealth and high status, seem to be lovers of self and of money, proud and arrogant and so on. I do struggle with why? Why are those whose job it is to protect others and make sure society is fair for all seem to be easily swayed into selfishness and ingratitude. If we are brought up to appreciate what we have and how our parents have worked hard to provide for us how can we be so dismissive of others, particularly those less well off than us? Perhaps that is it, so many of those in senior positions are there because of background, they were not brought up to appreciate what they have but rather to see it as entitlement. Once we believe we are entitled we lose all understanding of other’s needs, wellbeing and suffering and can only see the need for ourselves to be have everything. The entitled love self, love money, are proud and arrogant, are ungrateful and unholy and they treat others with contempt, unforgiving, conceited and have no time for good or God. I am not saying that all are like this, some have come from backgrounds which make them more understanding, sadly the majority of our political leaders and business leaders have a sense of entitlement which seems to switch off their compassion and empathy. The Bible is very clear that none of us are entitled, that everything we have has been freely given to us by God for the good of all, and that in all things, at all times, we should be grateful for what we have and share it with those in need. May we be compassionate, empathetic and love others before self, treating everyone with respect.

25th October 2020

Amos 2:6 They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.

It always amazes me that clergy are told to keep out of politics and do their day job. I wonder what they think my day job is. For any Christian and any member of clergy our belief in God means we are very much involved in politics and socialism because we follow the gospel and the example of Christ and the challenges of the prophets. The Christian faith is about turning lives to the way of God, becoming the people God created us to be and that means we challenge those who sell the innocent, those who trample on the poor and deny justice to the oppressed. Whenever we witness the vulnerable being treated poorly, we must speak up, whenever we see children going hungry in our own country as well as round the world, we must speak up. Whenever we witness power being abused and money used to bribe, line pockets and create weapons we must speak up. If anyone tells me to keep my nose out of politics I point them to Jesus who healed the sick, challenged the religious leaders and the political leaders, fed the hungry, forgave sinners, cared for ordinary people and treated everyone with respect and love. I point them to a God who constantly spoke through the Prophets about dishonesty, lying, cheating, using power for selfish reasons, treating the poor and vulnerable as treasures, respecting the alien, supporting the widows, orphans and poor, freeing the oppressed……… so much about people being treated with justice and fairness. We have both a duty and calling to serve God through our lives, through what we do personally but also with what we do about challenging those in authority about their behaviour. We are called by God to hold ourselves to account but also to hold leaders, politicians, business owners, local councillors and MP’s, organisations, friends and neighbours. If we witness dishonesty, injustice, unfairness, poverty, lies, manipulation, anything that is against God’s way than we should speak up and challenge it. That will not be easy and we might be insulted and ignored, even threatened in some way but I would much rather stand before them than before God asking me why I did not do something to help the innocents, the needy, the poor and the oppressed.

24th October 2020

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.

As a Chaplain and Priest, I deal with people at the happiest and worst moments of life, as well as everywhere in between. One of things I say to encourage people at the sharp end of life is to be kind to yourself. As humans we have a tendency to blame ourselves for things, especially when we are under stress or normality is lost. Being kind to ourselves allows us to keep our minds and hearts healthy and functioning well even in the midst of difficult, stressful times. Being kind to ourselves means many things such as sleeping and resting when we need to and for longer; treating ourselves to things we enjoy; eating things which we like and make us feel better; taking time out from activities that stress us or put pressure on us and letting ourselves cry and laugh about the silliest of things and nothing. The kindest thing we can do for ourselves is talk, talk to someone about our feelings and thoughts. We can talk to friends or family, We can always talk to God, but there are also friends, counsellors, chaplains, helplines and many organisations who offer help and advice. People are there ready and willing to listen, to help us explore how we feel and why, to offer techniques and ideas to help us through. Admitting we need help is not giving in, it is a strength of character that allows that which is overwhelming us to be explored and helped. I am writing here of us and our, not because it is a helpful way to write, but because this applies to me as much as it does to you. In my role I have someone to talk to, to offload to, so that I do not become weighed down or overwhelmed with all the things I deal with. That goes for everyone involved in any role where they help people with their difficulties. This allows all of us from you through me, through those who help us and those who help them to share the load. We were created by God as relational beings; we were never meant to cope alone but to share the load of work and life together. We all have good days and bad days, and we are all capable of helping each other to cope, to help shoulder the burdens, to offer a hand to help each other up when we fall and share the load. God is always there offering help and support from Himself but also through others. Let me encourage you to be kind to yourself, to seek the help when you need it and to do those things which lighten your spirit, that make you feel better and please do let others share the load when you need to because we all need a helping hand sometimes.

23rd October 2020

Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.

Do you see yourself as creative? Do you see yourself as enlightened? We all like to think of ourselves as forward thinking, open minded, progressive, but are we? Being creative means having new and imaginative ideas, being able to perceive the world in new and different ways, it is what we are all having to do in the present situation. The creative is able to find hidden paths and patterns, make connections and find solutions. We all have a level of creativity within us but some shine more than others and of course we can be creative in many different ways. The 18th century has become known as the Age of Enlightenment, a time when people began to question traditional authority, a realisation that all humanity could be improved through rational change. It was a time of huge scientific discovery, new laws, revolutions and wars. People began to recognise that they were important, they had things to offer and were entitled to be listened to. The creativity of the ordinary person was encouraged, and books, art and music flourished. Sadly, one of the things that actively discouraged this creativity and enlightenment was religion and the church. Ordinary people could not read the Bible for themselves and relied on those who lead them to be told the truth. Sadly, we all know that truth can be manipulated to maintain the status quo. This is the time when Martin Luther had challenged the church and from this new beliefs and groups were created and God began to be seen very differently and much more personally. Questioning is crucial to learning and developing. Asking why and how is vital to our development and as much as answers can be factual, they can also be possible and probable and of their time. People who hold back this creativity, this enlightenment often do so out of fear, fear that change might mean loss, for others it is about selfishness and control. This verse shows us that God wants us to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that He desires our eyes and hearts to be opened and to discover things. We have a brain which is so wonderful and complex, we don’t use or even access all the areas of our brain, we have incredible potential and that should not be wasted. God has given us the means and ability to do wonderful things, He has given the science, the medicine, the physics and chemistry, the art, music, sport, language, the creativity and enlightenment to make this world a better place. Are we ready to listen, learn and use our enlightenment for the good of all or are we only interested in ourselves? I challenge us all to be realistic dreamers, proud but also modest, traditionalist and rebellious, passionate and objective, sensitive, open, happy and joyful, not held back by stereotypes, creative and enlightened. God given gifts and talents are given for the good of all humankind but how we use them is our choice. Let me encourage you to use all you have to make this world a better and safer place for all. 

22nd October 2020

Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

I have a nickname, given to me as a teenager when a group of us became bears for a holiday entertainment evening. I was known as Huggy bear, not because I resembled the character form Starsky and Hutch but because I loved to hug people. Giving hugs or cuddles is amazing medicine, it helps people feel comforted, assured, encouraged, loved and just held physically. We have a need to experience physical contact and a hug is the perfect way to do this. Those who have looked into the area of hugging, yes there are folk who do, have concluded that hugging someone transfers energy and offers the person being hugged an emotional lift. Science also suggests that hugging is a form of communication because it can express things that we just don’t have the words for. Of course, if you give a hug to someone you automatically get a hug in return, that’s not the reason we do it, but it certainly is a bonus. There are those who would suggest we need a minimum of four hugs a day just to survive, so currently I think we are probably missing out quite a bit with social distancing. We may think hugs are a modern thing, but they have been there as long as there have been people. St. Hildegard talked of us being encircled in the arms of God, the father in the Lost Son parable wraps his arms around his returning son, John speaks of God opening His arms to all, and the verse for today speaks of God’s loving arms underneath and round us. Back when I was called Huggy and we wrote to each other, letters and cards through the post, we would send hugs by God mail, in other words we would send each other love and hugs through God as our common companion. I still send hugs to friends via God mail, even today. The importance of physical contact cannot be understated, we need to feel another presence, holding and supporting us when life is difficult, when we need encouragement and just to show someone, we love them and care about them. The Bible is very clear that God surrounds us, supports us, holds us and as much as we can, we should do that for each other, for our loved ones, our children and for anyone who needs it.

21st October 2020

1 Samuel 16:7 Do not look at appearance or stature, the Lord sees not as humans see: we look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

Those who know me will know I live in trousers. It is a standing joke in the vicarage that I rarely wear a dress or skirt, but this is me; it is who I am. I had my reasons as a young person for wearing trousers and I am not comfortable in dresses or skirts or high heels and so very rarely wear them. I have had to come to terms with who I am. I have never been a small person, head and shoulders taller than everyone in primary school with large feet. I was very fit and sporty in younger years and as often happens my physique has remained large. It has not always been easy to be who I am, I still struggle with those who would criticise my choice of clothes, my size, my looks and those things said, even in jest, can hurt deeply. Coming to terms with who we are can happen at any age but for many of us it comes more with age and experience. God made us who we are, as individuals, unique, special and with gifts and talents only we have. God does not look at us with judgement and criticism, but with love and compassion. God does not want us to look upon ourselves in judgement and criticism and He certainly does not want us to hurt each other by using punitive judgements and measures to decide if we look and wear what others have decided is correct. How you and I are comfortable in our own skins, clothes, attitudes etc really matters. We are who we are, a product of our nature and our nurture, a product of God’s love in us and we should be proud of who we are. We naturally want to fit in, to be what society says we should be, wanting to be cool and have status, but these very ideas have been set up by those who have no right to decide how we live but have given themselves that responsibility through journalism, power, celebrity status, magazine articles and personal designs. Only God has that right, and He wants us to be who we were created to be, to be content, happy, and confident with who we are and to celebrate that with confidence in Him.

20th October 2020

1 Samuel 20:14 But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live.

A few years ago, there was an internet sensation around random acts of kindness. People were doing things for others for no other reason than it was a good thing to do, these acts were then filmed and put onto YouTube or Facebook for people to see. Although the sensation of this has passed it is still incredibly important in our world and for our mental health. Being kind is a natural part of humanity and very much encouraged in Christianity and other religions, being friendly, generous and considerate, seeing how we can help another and striving for human flourishing. Kindness is also key in wellbeing, how we treat others and ourselves. Kindness should be a lifestyle, a daily practice and although it is within our human nature the practice of it is a choice we make. As Christians we are called to grow in the fruit of the spirit, of which kindness is a part, and growth can take time. A seed does not become a plant or flower overnight, but needs care, water, sun and patience. It is the same with kindness. We need to practice it daily to bear the good fruit. Kindness also has emotional and physical benefits. When we are kind it releases within us the chemicals that make us feel better and that lift our mood; then as we are kind to others it also allows them to gain those feelings too, to have their spirits lifted and encouraged. Kindness does require intention; we do need to make the move; do the action, not just think about it, and when we are having a difficult time ourselves it can be hard to follow through on kindness. Acts of kindness can be random, on the spot events, but they are more often actions that are planned. Kindness requires each of us to look out for the needs of others. Jesus was a clear example of this as He spent His ministry seeing and treating the needs of others, never turning them away. Jesus could be counted upon for every act of kindness even in His worst times. We need to ask ourselves how often we miss the opportunities to show kindness to others because we are too busy? And how often we are not kind to ourselves because we are too busy? We also need to ask ourselves if we are kind because of what we will get in return, because this is not the way of Jesus. It is always easier to do things out of desire for reward, but true kindness does not expect anything but to improve and bless the life of another. To be kinder people perhaps we need to slow down and open our eyes; just as Jesus took the time, so should we. 

19th October 2020

Deuteronomy 32:7 Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations. Ask your elders, and they will tell you.

How are you at story telling? Personally, I love telling stories and loved story time in school when I was teaching. Our lives are stories, they tell our personal life story but also intertwine with the stories of others, the stories of our society and of our place in the world. If you sat down and wrote the key parts of your life story so far what would be in it? Our memories are quite selective, and some things will jump to the fore while others will pale into insignificance. We also do not remember things the same as others do, the stories my Mum tells about me often bear no resemblance to what I remember and are often far more embarrassing the way she tells them. There are those who say that what gets structured in narrative, in story, is what we remember clearly, the rest tends to get lost and forgotten. Our life is structured in a pattern, and we need to structure our memories in the same way. Being ourselves is very much bound up in telling our own story. Philosophers tell us that memory anchors identity, we are not just lots of individual snapshots bundled together and because memory is prone to loss and damage it needs pattern, form and shape, memory needs story. In the Old Testament Israel figured out who it was by remembering its story, even today with the festivals like Passover, Seder and the Sabbath they remember through their story. I often comment on the structure of the word History, which is made up of two words, His and story. History is the story of God’s world, is the story of Jesus coming to bring salvation and the story of our constant rebellion and fight against His love for us. Our story has a place in His story, what makes us who we are, our life experiences, our personality have all been formed as part of our place in His story. Let me encourage you, when you have some time do sit with your story, identify those things which have impacted your life, made you who you are and see the story around those as they intertwine with others and with God.

18th October 2020

Matthew 21:13 He said to them, It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.

Amongst everything else at this present time, I am particularly struggling with societal attitudes and the politics being played with people’s lives and livelihoods. Throughout history the church has been very good at calling out the sins of individuals, of hurting those who speak out and challenge the norm, as I read the Gospels I do not see Jesus doing this, I see Jesus forgiving the individuals but condemning the societies, the politicians and religious leaders. Jesus challenges these leaders on poverty, on unnecessary rules and practices, on their treatment of the poor and their selfish hoarding and provision for themselves. I cannot help but see a parallel with current society. When did public office become about self-gratification and gain instead of about service? Many would say it has always been like that, though I believe there have been those whose vision has been for a better society it does seem that more and more we see supposed public servants line their own pockets to the detriment of society in both the example they set and the mismanagement of provision. Society reasons that If those in leadership can lie and cheat and squander others hard earned money then so can we. In the Gospels Jesus does not accept or live by the standards of the leaders of His time, He does not enter into the ways which have trapped people, instead He lives simply and encourages others to do the same. It is only when He challenges those norms, those punitive practices in the Temple that He is taken and killed within a week. We see others who really challenge society and it’s leaders also get removed because they make a stand, the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King and although she survived, the attempted murder of Malala Yousef because she dared challenge the norm of her leaders that girls are entitled to be educated. Making a stand is costly. It is hard work and it often seems to be pointless when nothing appears to change, but as long as some of us are shining a light in the darkness, challenging the norm and holding people to account then there is always hope. Friends may I encourage you to not give up writing to your MP, challenging your local councillors, speaking up about injustice and poverty and exposing those who would deliberately take from others to line their own pockets. Shine your light and be a beacon of hope. 

17th October 2020

Isaiah 30:15 In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

I have always wondered why humans do not have the ability to hibernate. As the nights draw in and winter comes, I could happily eat lots then cocoon myself into sleep for a good long while, sounds wonderful. Of course, it is not practical, so many of us could not afford to do it, we are not built to be inactive for long periods of time, our world needs our input, our work to keep it working, daily life is a necessity, the sick need care, the dying need help and care, the economy needs input and so it goes on. The more complex life has become the more dependent it is on our daily activity. I am a great believer that our bodies indicate a lot to us, when we need to sleep, rest, eat, etc. I fully believe God created us that way, with these instincts, so I do not think it is any accident that we feel the need to rest more in winter months, that we desire the warmth and cosiness of our homes more and that we desire comfort foods. Perhaps the winter months can encourage us to a simpler life, to spend more time with family in comfort and warmth, to not feel the need to rush from one thing to another to another. God’s creation follows a pattern of activity and production followed by rest and recuperation; we need this as well. Whether we use our weekends for this, or our days off from work, or if we use our evenings, however we do it we need that hibernation time, not completely of course, but in part. We need to have a fallow field for a while, a time to recoup strength and energy, to build up the reserves to be able to start again. Jesus did this, took time to go into the hills or quiet places to pray, to rest, to be with God. Being with God is about church and worship but it also about quiet time, time to be at rest and just let God wash over us. In our desire to get everything done, said, right……. We lose ourselves in the activity and not in God. May we find time to just be and do a little hibernating in God.

16th October 2020

2 Corinthians 11: 13-14 For such are false apostles, deceitful, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

I am a fan of the author CS Lewis, I particularly love his children’s stories but after those I read the Screwtape Letters, these are letters and advice given by a senior devil to a junior one, ways in which this young devil might trip up the Christians and have them doing the opposite of what they want to be doing. One of these key ways to trip up Christians is to have them believe that evil is actually good, to disguise the evil within a coat or covering of goodness. You only need to look at history to realise this is exactly what happens. In Jesus own story He is constantly ridiculed and punished by the religious leaders, those people would be expected to know the truth and so people believed them, the Popes gave decrees to establish the Christian kingdom worldwide and in doing so made other countries and their people’s inferior fit only for occupation and subjugation. Kings took their power to rule as a divine right and thus could murder and imprison anyone who stood against them in the name of God. Even today some politicians wave bibles around and have photos taken of them praying with religious leaders to give religious credence to their corrupt and selfish policies and to justify their position. I have read many stories of wealthy and powerful folk who have started out believing that once they have money and influence they will use it for good, for God, but once there, the lure of what they have is quickly overtaken by a desire for more, to give away less and less and to justify this by believing the more they have the more good they can do, sadly the doing good gets so easily lost. Most of us do not set out to do evil, to hurt others but we get caught in the lie that a better, richer, more powerful life for me means a better world for others. Good verses evil is a battle where good by it’s very nature will be honest and truthful and fair in battle, evil will use every trick to persuade us that it is good and honest and fair, it will lie to us, cheat us and persuade us that actually it is good and that we can use it to help others. The Star Wars story is very much in this vain, as Anakin is persuaded that evil, in disguise as good, is the only way to help and so he spurns good and becomes Darth Vader. The good news is that even he finds redemption in the end. The Devil tried to use these very tactics on Jesus when he tempted Him with power to do good in the world if He would bow and worship him, the devil. Evil can be made to look attractive, to be a desirable way forward but it is in disguise and the more we are sucked in the harder it is to find the way out. 

15th October 2020

John 6:5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”

Over the years I have discovered that the secret to so much of life is food. From young people meeting on a Sunday afternoon eating toast, Jam, chocolate spread and noodles. To family life catching up as we eat together. There are many cultures that must offer food as a hospitable gesture for guests and family. Eating together is central to our faith, we do it every time we celebrate Holy Communion together as Jesus commanded us. In the feeding of the 5000 the people who come to Jesus are the poor, those whose access to food is determined by their rulers. Inequalities around food existed then and exist now. More people are accessing food banks, Breakfast clubs and free school meals than ever before. Without food people are more prone to sickness and disease. The people of Jesus time would know the promise of God that the hungry will be fed. They would know that their leaders had failed in this task and had taken the best and most for themselves, leaving the people on and below the breadline. In Exodus God had given manna in the desert to His hungry people, Isaiah had spoken of the sharing of bread. God had promised to provide and do so abundantly. As Jesus feeds the 5000 He fulfils all these promises. He provides for their spiritual needs but also their physical needs and does so abundantly with 12 baskets of leftovers. Our God is a God of abundance. Our God is a God who wants the hungry fed and poor looked after. We are the hands and feet of God here on Earth, so it is up to us to make sure everyone has enough food, not just to survive but to enjoy and share with each other. Food is a staple of life and a key to fellowship and family life. Our challenge is whether we want to help those who lack food or not.    

14th October 2020

Job 2:13 They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

When something bad happens how do you react? It is quite common for people to be sympathetic when someone experiences illness, diagnosis or bereavement but often people want to get way or not go and visit because they do not know what to say and rather than say the wrong thing they stay away. In Job’s story his friends come to support him after all his tragedy and to begin with they are quiet and just sit with him, the problems actually come when they start to speak and offer their idea of what has caused the terrible events. They look for excuses and reasons and in doing so their comforting presence becomes an issue and no longer a comfort. What we learn here is that what matters is presence, just being with people when they are in need. We are so worried about we might say that rather than just be there, we don’t go. What anyone in difficult and sad circumstances actually needs is presence. Someone to be there, to listen, to be a shoulder to cry on. To be a good friend or support we do not need to have all or any of the answers, we don’t have to know the reasons why and in fact it is better not to try and explain something. These days we no longer just sit with people, it used to be common to just sit with folk, without conversation, just being together, being a support, now we think we have to fill the silence with conversation, we don’t! All we need is to be present, be there, offering whatever is needed from practical tea making, or errand running, to just being there to hold a hand, to be talked at and to listen. Job’s friends, although wanting to help, ended up making Job feel like it was his fault, they and we do like to offer our opinions and try to explain things away; but we are not called to do that, we are called to just be there, to be a friend and support without judgement, without reason. We must never be worried about just being there, we must not turn away because we think we might put our foot in it; instead we must just be there, a supportive, loving presence for as long as we are needed.

13th October 2020

Zechariah 4:6 Not by might, nor by power but by spirit says the Lord.

Throughout History the belief has been that might and power is what establishes and protects kingdoms. From this comes the need for war, to fight others for what is perceived to be ours and not theirs. Our own British Empire came out of a belief that we were superior, more intelligent, more powerful, and thus were entitled to just take that which belonged to others. This idea has not gone away, we are still bombarded in the press and through news stories and social media that we have certain rights and others don’t. There is still an empire mentality among many of our so-called leaders, a hankering after the wealth and power of the past, provided by those seen as lesser than us. These words from Zechariah are about this very thing, that in God’s kingdom it is not about might or power, it is not about the forceful taking of what belongs to others, it is not about treating others as less than us by lording over them; it is about God’s Spirit working in the world, in our lives, in each situation. In Zechariah God was showing His people that He wanted to restore His relationship with them, that He wanted to rebuild the city and the people but He was not going to force them, He was not going to make the people do His will by might or power, instead by the working of His Spirit within them. His Spirit, there at Creation, resting on His people throughout the Bible and coming down on the disciples in Acts 2, His Holy Spirit. For us, God will never force Himself on us, He will not use His might and power to help us hurt others or lord it over them, or to give us superiority over others. When we pray for His help, His work in any situation, He is working through His Spirit, things happen, prayers are answered by the work of His Spirit. May this be our attitude, our approach in life, our daily prayer….. not by might, nor by power but by thy Spirit please Lord.

12th October 2020

2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is toward Him.

On my way back and fore to school I pass a house on a stretch of road with a look out stationed by the garden fence. Not a real human, I discovered, but a statue of a person who appears to be looking out over the road and I think it makes several people slow down when they first see it. I am not sure why it is there, perhaps the owner of the house wants people to slow down on this stretch of road or to think they are being watched. We all get that feeling of being watched sometimes, that our every move at work or at home is being watched to see if we are really doing what we should. In the middle ages the idea of God watching you and seeing what you were up to was something the church taught people. The idea that everything hidden and secret was evil and though you could hide it from other humans you could not hide it from God. Many poor people were forced into doing the bidding of their Lords and even their clergy by fear. Sadly, it is still an idea used today in some forms of extreme evangelism where pressured fear of judgement, of hell, of others, tries to force someone to give up certain parts of their life as wrong. Whilst it is true that God sees everything we do, knows the thoughts of our hearts and minds He does not follow us round condemning and pressuring us every moment of the day. God brings about change bit by bit in our lives. He deals with something within us and as we change and adapt then something else comes into view. This is why we should not judge others or force them into our version of faith, we only do things by our own standards and just because God has challenged or changed something in us does not mean He is doing that in everyone else. God’s watching over us is out of love and compassion, it is the watching as parents do of their little children, steering around dangers, comforting in sorrow and hurt, providing the necessary love and concern for growth and protection. God is with us not to force us to behave in a certain way but to love us and care for us as we find the right way for ourselves in our faith.

11th October 2020

Mark 6:34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus acts of compassion include healing and almsgiving to the needy. We, as Christians, will be judged by our provision for the sick and to the needy. If people are going hungry and we have enough then surely, we can share out of our abundance. We can buy some and share some with the foodbank, using the supermarket contribution points they now have. We can make sure those who need medical help receive it. We can have a vision that no one goes hungry if we can help it. We can challenge the appalling treatment of refugees and not take part in the blame culture. We can be a people of abundant sharing and compassion in all things. That compassion of Jesus is also part of us. The Vagus nerve runs from our Brain to our abdomen and secrets oxytocin, a hormone linked to care, empathy and compassion. It prompts us to go and help others. Humans were created as relational beings, to share and help each other. Sadly, research shows that the more we have materially, the more we suppress this empathetic and compassionate reaction that would prompt us to act and help. We can lose our empathy and compassion because of our desire for more for ourselves and our selfish behaviour and attitude. Jesus disciples had to learn that being a follower of Jesus meant not just feeding people spiritually but physically as well. They and we need to learn that telling a sick person Jesus loves them will do nothing for them but offering compassion and help can change their lives. We have to learn that same lesson, to feed people spiritually but also physically. To have the compassion and desire to help those who need it, the sick, the poor, the refugee, the migrant. Jesus compassion is our compassion, we can choose to let it prompt us into action or to ignore it and become more and more selfish.  

10th October 2020

Proverbs 31:8/9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

In recent weeks there has been condemnation of do gooders, of those who stand up for human rights, for those who argue for fairness and justice, this condemnation has come about because those in authority do not like to be questioned or challenged because it exposes their selfishness and their lack of humanity. Radio 2 runs a regular slot called what makes us human, exploring our humanity and what that means for our behaviour and lifestyles. Our humanity has shaped our nations, our goals and achievements, often for the good but also for the bad in events like the Holocaust. Our twisting and turning existence can be very testing and very straight forward, it seeks to strive for goodness, for the best for everyone, not just the select few, and it proclaims the equality of all no matter their background, race, gender, colour, religion, culture and so on. The things that distinguish us, that make us human are Knowledge: the ability to reason, to work out the best and right way. Freedom: to make choices for ourselves but in doing so not restrict the freedoms of others and Love: being human is relational, we find partners and families, societies who care for each other. These are things given to us by God as He created us. If you look at where the selfish and greedy have taken power these are the very things which are suppressed, no education, curbed freedoms and the breaking and dividing of society so one small section of humanity dictates to the rest and in so doing achieve their own believed personal superiority. True God given humanity always seeks for the common good and flourishing of all. We maybe condemned for doing good and for standing up for human rights but as children of God that is what we, as humans, are called to do.

9th October 2020

Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Do you ever feel like you live in a fish tank with all you do and say on display for everyone to see? I know I do. I sometimes wonder if God sends a battalion of angels to follow me around and clear up the mess I make and run interference and damage limitation. This idea comes from a fear that God might not love us, that we might be just too unlovable, well we need to hear and accept that God does love us, completely and utterly. We might feel unworthy but as long as we try to live a life that is worthy all is as it should be. We are where God has placed us, in our home, job, family, church etc He has put us there for a reason, He will support us as we serve Him and He will open the doors when it is time to move on. God is never wrong footed. In all our situations it is worth remembering that each of us are not perfect yet, we all still get angry, argue, treat one another poorly, cheat and lie a little, we are not perfect, neither is anyone else so therefore we need to be tolerant of each other just as God is tolerant of us. Sadly, there will be folk who will look all sweet but behind our backs will gossip, there will be folk who speak ill of us for no reason. In a fish tank you can put anti stress fluid to help fish cope, in our lives we have the anti-stress fluid of the Holy Spirit, pouring oil on troubled waters. We also need to find space, time to ourselves, a place where we can pull down the blinds and be out of public view for a while. If we are constantly in the limelight, we easily develop a mask, a look and type of behaviour that makes people think we are okay and doing well in our Christian life. God is our constant companion, He is totally in love with us, He wants the absolute best for us so as long as we talk to him, pray, look for the best way forward and try our best all will be well.

8th October 2020

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

From the beginning, the fall in Genesis, we have been set about with sin. Life is not easy and things around us and about us lead us astray. We are all called to repent and that means not just apologising, not just saying sorry but completely changing direction, it is a new mindset, a new way of doing things, a new way of thinking. We need to let God switch us on to this new way. The serenity prayer sums this up asking God for the serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can change and the wisdom to know the difference. There are things we cannot change but there are so many things we can change, particularly about ourselves and we need the courage to change them, God given courage. The Lord’s prayer says Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, if we are praying this and meaning it then change will happen in us and around us. We will become the catalyst for changed lives and changed people. As always, we cannot do this alone or in our own strength, we must allow God to energise us, to send His power on us and through us. God’s light will shine from us and through us, unlike any bulb we will not pop or shatter but be a constant bright light to others and the world. Turning away from sin, repenting, changing our life is not doom and gloom it is about being lit up and switched on to a new way of living.

7th October 2020

Hebrews 11:13 All of these heroes died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and believed in them.

If I asked who was your hero or heroine, who would you say? We all have a number of people we look up to but as Christians our ultimate hero should be Jesus. Have you and I decided to make Jesus our hero, our superhero even? When we have hero’s, we tend to imitate them, so what do we emulate in Jesus? Probably not the way He dressed but certainly the fact that He followed His father’s will, we may not be preachers like Him, but we can strive to be the best in what we do, to be good workers and leaders, to always look for the best in others, to give second chances. Jesus was a healer, we may not be medics but we can offer healing words and healing love and we can certainly pray for healing in people’s lives knowing that He will do what is right in every situation. Jesus was a fisher of men and called the disciples and us to do the same, to share the gospel openly and honestly to all, in who we are and how we live. Jesus was a carpenter, most of us do not have that skill but we are given the words and actions to shape people’s lives, to carve out the love of God in them. None of this can be achieved on our own, Jesus was baptised and needed the strength and power of the holy Spirit, so how much more do we need this. Life is such that we can easily forget our hero’s when times are difficult, we can forget that just as Jesus needed God’s presence every day so do we. The destiny of every person is to be a child of God, a brother or sister of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit. We were each born by God for God, to be heroes of faith ourselves, we may have good days and bad days, but we have God on our side every day. May we fulfil all that God has called us to be.

6th October 2020

Exodus 24: 17 To the eyes of the people of Israel the appearance of the Shekinah glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.

I have often spoken of the God shaped hole in our heart, the missing piece for which we are all searching, people often turn to everything but God in order to try and fill this God shaped hole. For those of us who have found God we have, deep within us, an inner sanctuary, a holy place, a Godly Centre, which permeates through us and to which we can continually return for blessing, strength and encouragement. This God shaped hole, once discovered, becomes God’s eternity within our hearts, breaking into everything we are, warming us with God’s love, calling us home unto God Himself. This is often called the light within, or the eternal light that burns within us, not unlike the eternal light which burns in our churches and holy places as a symbol of God’s presence. If we choose to give over our body, mind and soul to this light within, then we discover a new and complete life which opens us to a glimpse of our Heavenly future. This “Godness” within is dynamic, creative, life giving, and it emanates through everything we are and do. People see us differently and witness that presence, that light within. It is a brightness within us that illuminates the face of God and shines it out to others. In the Old Testament it is called the Shekinah glory, God’s presence in the midst of things making them shine with beauty, authority and holiness. When we know God, this light, this glory, is right there inside us, but it is also easily suppressed by our human nature, by our unwillingness to speak out our faith, by an embarrassment to speak of God in our lives. If we do not hide it then our response is one of internal joy, thanksgiving and worship, we offer ourselves in self-surrender and listening to God in our heart and mind and this bubbles over into our daily lives. The secret places of our heart become a holy sanctuary of our relationship with God where we find His perfect peace and love, where we become our Lords perfect creation of us and we shine His light into the world.

5th October 2020

Hebrews 12:1 Let us strip off every weight of rubbish that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.

On a weekly basis we put out the rubbish to be collected, every so often we have a bigger clear out and we may go to the tip. We get rid of all the stuff we do not need so that our homes do not become stuffed full of things we just don’t need. How often do we have a clear out and get rid of the rubbish in us? Just as we collect waste in our homes we also collect waste in our lives and this waste needs to be got rid of, as the verse says it becomes a weight on us that drags us down and it can also trip us up as we become embroiled in it. So a regular life spring clean is a good idea. We need to get rid of the anger, unresolved anger ends up hurting people and medical science has proved that angry people are at greater risk for health problems. Get rid of the guilt which reminds us and condemns us of our sins and what we have failed to do. Get rid of the resentment holding us prisoner, preventing us from having freedom. Get rid of the grumbling because it’s hard to grumble when you’re thankful, and it’s hard to be thankful when you’re grumbling. Get rid of the anxiety and worry which choke us and strangle our ability to live life to the full, get rid of the envy which causes us to focus on what we don’t have so that we miss seeing the blessing and taking pleasure in what we do have. Get rid of the lies and dishonesty which make us untrustworthy and not nice people to know. We need to get rid of anything and everything that drags us down and makes us lose the joy and blessing of being a Christian and being part of God’s family. Just like we have to actually put the rubbish out for collection each week, we also have to actively put out the rubbish in our lives, recognise the problems and cast them out to be got rid of. We can do that with God’s help, through prayer and Bible reading, through changing our attitudes and being willing to listen to God and learning how to be better people.

4th October 2020

Isaiah 26:3 You keep them in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because they trust in you.

How is your mental health? That may seem a strange question, but actually it is very important. Our happiness and wellbeing, our feelings and emotions need as much care as our physical needs, perhaps even more in light of the pandemic and months of lockdown and restrictions. All of us live on a continuum that runs from healthy to unwell passing through coping and struggling. We tend to only speak of Mental Health when we finally admit a need, but, Mental Health is vital to our ability to function, to cope with daily life. In much of life’s situations and issues, especially if we are under pressure, we cannot always see a way through, but, actually all we need to see is the next step; as the old song says “One day at a time sweet Jesus is all I’m asking of you”. Our resilience, our ability to cope is given to us by God as we need it at each step, and with Him right there with us, taking each step with us, supporting us as we need it. A step at a time is how we need to go, one foot in front of the other. Admitting we are in need of help is really difficult, we are fearful of stigma, of what others might think but there are plenty of avenues of help, friends and family or church leaders, also meditation and mindfulness. We cannot function properly when things are not right, it affects work, relationships, family life and we worry and become anxious. Experience gives us resilience, God’s love gives us resilience, keeping our mind on God and trusting Him gives us resilience, looking at what God’s people have done and their experiences of God’s faithfulness gives us resilience. It is why stories are told in Judaism, stories of God’s provision and blessing, reminding and encouraging of God’s faithfulness and care, of God’s constant accompaniment through difficult times and the work of the God’s people in helping and supporting each other. We can use our past to enable us to cope with our future, but we also need to recognise our own need of help so that we are ready and able to help others in their time of need.

3rd October 2020

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

The Bible and other religious literature make it clear that humans are made in the image of their creator. This can be both physically and mentally. We can physically resemble God but also resemble Him in our abilities to think, act, do and be. As a baby, toddler, and child all of us learn and develop by imitating those around us, our parents, siblings, friends and family. Just as we pick up how to walk, talk, eat, make, and play, we also pick up wrong things too. We learn, very early on, the naughty things that provoke a reaction from parents and adults and we use them to get attention. St Paul reminds us to imitate our best role model, to imitate Jesus and therefore our creator God. We are told to rid ourselves of the bad things we have picked up; the anger, the lies, slander, malice, bitterness and rather to put on compassion, kindness, forgiveness, living a life of love, a life like Jesus. Pauls words translate to putting on Christ, in the Greek it means like an actor taking on a role, they become the person, inhabit the role, living and acting as the role demands. In that way we are called to put on Jesus and to live, act, speak and be like Him and so like our creator God. We need, then, to look at ourselves, get rid of the bad habits and take on the good ones, to become more loving, caring, honest, truthful, patient, kind, humble, forgiving, and compassionate. We are made in the image of God so let us, through Jesus, become more like Him.

2nd October 2020

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

How have you been tempted? Perhaps to blame someone else for your mistake, the blame game is popular amongst politicians and law breakers. Think back to Genesis and the story of creation and the fall, Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent and the serpent doesn’t have a leg to stand on! As a result of their falling into temptation life becomes much harder for Adam and Eve and their descendants. We often use the phrase “That is really tempting” when looking at food or a good deal, or even if we should retaliate or play a joke. That temptation presents us with a battle, honesty and truth verses dishonesty and lies. Hopefully you will have noticed that as we lie, the lies tend to get bigger to cover the lie before and before we know it we become accomplished liars who cannot escape our elaborate construction of lies. As His ministry begins Jesus is tempted and He manages to stand against it, not just because of who He is, remember He has become like us, human, open to temptation as we are; but He uses the Bible to stand against that temptation. He uses his knowledge of the 10 Commandments, of the Jewish law to make it clear what was right and wrong. That example is a key for us as Christians. If Jesus could stand against temptation using His knowledge of the Bible as He knew it, then surely, we can also stand against temptation using our knowledge of the Bible as we know it. Do we know what the Bible says about lying, cheating, paying tax, how we should treat our bodies and creation? Do we know the promises God has made about prayer, strength, help, support and love? Knowing what the Bible says, in context, means we have a constant defence against things that try to tempt us, try to lead us into trouble, try to make us follow the easy path instead of the right path. Being tempted is a daily occurrence, let’s hope our knowledge of the Bible will help us to stand against temptation and if we are not too sure, it is never too late to start reading it.

1st October 2020

Exodus 34:6/7 ‘The LORD is a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty.

Alexander Pope said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. Quite simply we all, as human beings, make mistakes and get it wrong. Some do choose to deliberately to break laws and rules, take from others in order to make money. For the majority of us the mistakes we make are not intentional but perhaps are careless. If we did not have the divine quality of forgiveness we would be very, very lonely people. God’s attributes of compassion, grace, love, faithfulness and forgiveness are also available to us, God’s ability to forgive is endless, ours can be stretched to the limit but it is still ours to give. Forgiveness is a change of feelings and attitude toward another person, to let go of the negative emotions of retribution and revenge. To condemn the actions and words as wrong but to recognise the humanness and weakness of the person behind the actions and words and to attempt to restore the relationship. It has been scientifically proven that those who forgive are happier, healthier people, more optimistic, who do not live with resentment, depression, aggression, and sadness. When we recognise that none of us are perfect, that we all need forgiveness, and that God has and is forgiving us on a daily basis, we can find it in ourselves to forgive. Martin Luther King Jr said “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love," We do need to recognise our own imperfections and our own need for forgiveness before we can forgive others as we are forgiven. It is not easy, there can be scars, memories which make forgiveness very difficult, but we need to try, even if it takes a long time. When we try it does slowly happen, slowly become easier and life will be better for us both physically and mentally.

30th September 2020

2 Samuel 23:1 Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favourite of the Strong One of Israel.

Some years back, as part of a group exercise, I was asked to write an epitaph for myself, what I hoped people might say about me when I die. Once we had all done this we each read them out and discussed the ideas and content. It was quite revealing and challenging. We can all read people’s epitaphs and even their last words and these can be used as helpful quotes found all over the internet. In this part of 2 Samuel King David is reaching the end of His life and the 23rd chapter pays tribute to his mighty soldiers; stories of chivalry and bravery just like ones passed down from the Middle Ages, where valiant knights did daring deeds in insurmountable circumstances and became our heroes; but first of all it has an epitaph declaring that it was God who made David a great king, It was God who chose him, and David had written and sung beautiful songs that we now call the Psalms. As David offers his last words, he reiterates his relationship with God, his attempt to live his life for God and his hope for the future. David was being honest, he had completely messed up at times and been a terrible sinner, but he had also recognised the terrible things he had done and turned his life around before God. It Is characters such as David who give hope to the rest of us. When we reach the end of our lives, what will our 'last words' be? What will our epitaph say? We won’t all achieve great things in the eyes of the world. We won’t all be remembered in the public square, but, and it is a big but, we are all unique and precious, we all have our own songs to sing, we have all been chosen by God to do the things that only we can do and it was God who made us who we are. Reading these words can encourage us to look back at our lives so far, and perhaps open our eyes as to what we can do to change things and make sure the opportunities given are taken. As Christians we know that death is a stepping-stone to our wonderful future and how we live now is how we prepare for that heavenly kingdom.

29th September 2020

Joshua 24:15 Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.

I used to work with a Head Teacher who would walk around the school saying to students: Will you please take your responsibilities seriously. It took me a while to see what he was driving at but what we do, how we act, how we behave is a choice. We are responsible for ourselves and our impact on others and we have collective responsibility for others around us. We have a responsibility for the world we live in, the communities around us and it is when people ignore that responsibility and chose to live for themselves that communities become unsafe and not good places to live or work. All through our lives we make choices and as we do so we learn that those choices have consequences. As long as we are doing fine and not suffering, we seem happy, but what about others. If I choose to drop my litter it causes a mess, others think it is okay to do the same and now our parks and rivers, seas and oceans are full of plastic and rubbish, I choose to travel without paying because others do it and fares go up for everyone to recuperate the losses. I choose to drive without insurance and the cost rises for others and anyone I hurt or damage is left to pay for something I did. I choose to ignore the cries for help from my neighbour and someone can end up terribly hurt, starving to death or abused…….. but hey, I am okay!!! All of life is based around choices and we don’t always make the right ones. Becoming a Christian is a choice, serving God is a choice, praying each day is a choice, all choices we are free to make, all choices have consequences. Our choices affect us, yes, but they also affect others and so seeking to choose wisely, seeking to do the right thing is immensely important. Joshua told his people to choose this day who they would serve, our choice, every day, is either self-service or service of others and of God. If everyone of us thought about the impact our choices will make on others before we make them, our world would be a more compassionate and caring place for us all.

28th September 2020

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

Some years ago, there was song in the charts with the line: What have you done today to make you feel proud? It is a phrase I use in school, on posters, to make people think about what they can achieve each day and what they have achieved. I ask them to think onto their future and ask themselves what they want for themselves and their families. The replies can be anything from fame, money, good job, travel to having a family, staying healthy and getting married. We all want different things and what we are actually striving for is fulfilment. We all want to find our place, our purpose, what makes us tick, what we are passionate about and what excites us. Sometimes being fulfilled can come from the oddest of places such as sharing in others grief and sadness, being the voice of reason, being a good neighbour or a shoulder to cry on. In a book I read recently the main character was found on her knees in church asking God for her reason, why was she where she was when it all seemed so hopeless; through the words and support of her family, friends and her faith she realises that it is her family and friends and those she has worked to help and save who are her reason, she has changed people’s lives for the better, brought closure and support, this is her reason and she finds her fulfilment. Most of ask God at some point in our lives why we are here, what is our reason? We might not know right now what it is, we might not yet feel completely fulfilled but there will be reasons we have found fulfilling, things we are good at, people we are a blessing to by who we are and what we do. The road to fulfilment, to finding our reason, comes from looking for the best in ourselves and in others. It comes from doing nothing out of selfish ambition and being a blessing to others as we go about our daily life. A good way to help us in this endeavour is to look back at the end of each day and ask ourselves what have I done today to make me feel proud?

27th September 2020

Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart safe, for from it flows the springs of life.

We often use the term heartbreak when we experience some of life’s testing and hurtful times. We don’t mean that our physical heart actually breaks but those feelings we experience with our heart, feelings of love, grief, pain and hurt, they make us feel broken and physically and mentally distraught. Having our hearts broken is part of life because we open ourselves to others and in doing so allow ourselves to be hurt if things go wrong. I often talk to people about grief being the price we pay for love, if we did not open ourselves up to loving people it would not hurt when we lose them and I think through most of life we would all agree it is price worth paying. Here in proverbs we are reminded to take care of our heart, to keep it safe because it is the source of life. That is physically the case, we talk a lot these days about heart health, because it keeps our body living and it seems even this long ago, they understood that. But this is also referring to keeping our heart safe from breaking over the unnecessary hurt caused by others. Keeping ourselves grounded in truth and not in rumour or lies. Being aware that not everyone has our best interests at heart when they befriend us. God gave us hearts to literally keep our bodies living but also to experience the emotions we need to be compassionate and empathetic people. There is always a risk, if we are willing to care for others and open ourselves to others we risk, as God did in sending Jesus, being rejected and having our hearts broken. I think the risk is well worth taking, as I hope you do, but we can put in place precautions, remind ourselves to check and be sure and know that anyone who treats us with anything other than respect, fairness and compassion is someone we should keep our heart safe from.

26th September 2020

Proverbs 14:30 A joyful heart and mind is good medicine.

When we see someone, we often ask how they are, we might say are you well? Or how are you? We usually don’t expect to get much of an answer other than fine or okay. We tend to associate being well with physical traits because we are created with a physical body, but we also have a mind and a spirit or soul. Being well applies to all parts of us. Just as we might take some medicine for a physical ailment, we also need medicine for our mental and spiritual ailments too. Although we do sometimes need actual physical medicine most of the time mental and spiritual medicine is actually provided by each other. We have the ability to help one another, to encourage, strengthen, bring joy and offer hope to one another as we spend time with each other, talk and share experiences. There is a flip side to this, just as we can be each other’s comfort and help we can also be each other’s hurt and harm through what we say and do. A careless word, which we often excuse as a joke or banter, can cause real harm to another just as if we actually physically hit them. The Bible speaks a lot about being careful with our words and actions, about not leading people astray or harming them with our words. The way we live our lives can help or hinder others. Every human deserves dignity and respect and that is achieved by each of us playing our part, treating each other with gentleness, respect, patience and love. When someone struggles with mental health issues, when the soul is hurting, the last thing someone needs is to hear a joke at their expense or to be the object of people’s banter. God has given us the role of each other’s carers, friends, and family and as such we are responsible for helping, for bringing joy to the heart and mind and not for harming each other. 

25th September 2020

Acts 2:11 Each of us hears the wonders of God in our own language.

How do we communicate? Most obviously we talk, but we also communicate through our expressions, body language, our gestures and through our eyes which are often called the window of the soul. We are all affected by what we see, hear, feel. Messages are flying through our bodies, 200 neurons a second connecting to another 1000 neurons which means our brain is moving 20 million, billion bits of information every second….WOW! We are incredible and we are in control. All these messages need to be in a format we can understand, however a message is conveyed others need to understand. In the early church the message of Jesus life, death and resurrection was passed onto every person in their own language so that everyone could hear and clearly understand. We all need to communicate, and we do it naturally but maybe we need to stop and think about the message we are putting across by our body language, our gestures and expressions. It is very easy to say one thing but be thinking another. We are so blessed with ways to communicate, who would have realised how important Zoom would become for actually seeing people we are talking to, our phones offer us many ways of communicating as do our computers. Of course, with this also come the ability to communicate irresponsibly and to hide who we are. When we communicate, we have the responsibility of communicating wisely, honourably and honestly. We need to think seriously about the messages we are sending out, to not allow our mood to hurt others because we speak or act out of turn. We need to put our brain in gear before opening our mouths to avoid putting out foot in it. God gave us ways to communicate with each other and as with all things we need to use these blessings wisely and for the good of all.

24th September 2020

Deuteronomy 15:11 You shall open wide your hands and hearts to each other, to the needy and to the poor.

Do you remember the story of the Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas? These men protected their King at all costs and their motto was All for one and one for all. It meant that each member of the team supported each other member and supported the group as a whole. It would be an excellent motto for the church and us as members of it. As members of the family of God we should be committed to looking out for each other and for the family of God as a whole. A strong symbol of this is that all round our country we find war memorials, covered with the names of those who fought for their country and gave their lives for others to have their freedom. We have information, records and in some cases pictures of these people who have gone before us, thousands upon thousands who gave so the future would be a better one for all. As Christians we need to accept that we must stand up for each other, support one another, we need to be all for one and one for all. At least that is what we should be. The question is, are we? The verse above is very much about being open handed to others, that means keeping an eye out for each other, it and many verses and passages clearly show us we are to bear each other’s burdens, care for each other, do good for others as we also watch our own conduct, taking care of family and not giving up even in the face of difficulty. Within the family of God there are those who are in need physically and mentally and we need to support them. We all have needs and even if right now we don’t need help and support our time will come and the call for each to help each other will offer us the support we need. If we all look after each other then no one will face anything alone and everyone will have a support network on which to rely. As Christians may we look after each other, be open handed to each other, stand up for each other and for the family of God. May we be “All for one and one for all” before our God.

23rd September 2020

Genesis 8:22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.

We now officially enter autumn, the balance of light and dark evens out then tips toward darkness. The mornings become chillier and darker and we begin to go out in the dark and come home in the dark. I find this a difficult time and hanker after the long, warm days of summer. Some years ago, they announced SAD, seasonal affective disorder, whereby some of us find our mood is changed and we struggle with having more darkness than light in our lives. It can make us literally sad. During the months in which we receive less light we can become sleepier, more irritable and crave more carbohydrates. Our body is reacting to the lessening of sunlight and the change of seasons to a time of rest and recuperation. The seasons are a vital part of the earths natural balance, the need for ground to be rested, for seeds to have a time of rest and for rich nutrient gathering within the ground. There is a cycle to our lives, to our crops and to our earth which allows things to rest and recuperate before giving more out. Autumn is when we celebrate Harvest, thank God for the food produced, celebrate the goodness of the earth and then that same earth takes a break, rebalances itself, rebuilds the nutrients, takes back into itself the leaf mulch and water of the autumn and winter so it is ready to start again in the spring. God promised, right back at the start, that we will have seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, seasons, day and night. The balance has always been there, it is us, often in the name of progress, who have fiddled with the balance and striven to maximise production forgetting that every living thing needs time to rest and recuperate. As autumn comes it offers s time for more rest, it offers a time to re balance and it offers a time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation as it moves in season.

22nd September 2020

Numbers 30:2 If we make a vow to the LORD OR swear an oath to bind ourselves to a pledge, we must not break our word.

The playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Liberty means responsibility”. If we want to claim the freedom to choose and decide for ourselves then we must accept the responsibility for what happens as a result of our decision, we must take responsibility. As we grow older, we take on more responsibility, we learn to make decisions, to choose a path and as we journey on we hopefully learn from the mistakes we make. We also learn from those around us, family, friends and those who have gone before in history, how we should act in a way that is best not just for us but for others too. When we make a promise or vow to do something, look after someone, help someone then we have made a commitment before God and people and should honour that. Our love of God and our neighbour should prompt us to take responsibility for promises we make, for decisions we make and keep us honouring those promises and accepting the outcome of those decisions every day. Our love of God permeates through everything we do, gives us a conscience, challenges our motives, helps us see the needs we should address. As we seek to keep those promises we make and take responsibility for our words and actions we look for the best in others and ourselves, making our choices and promises so that the best is served for everyone. We strive, as humans, to make our own decisions, to be free, to make our own choices in life but that freedom comes with responsibility, we are responsible for the consequences of what we do and say, for the promises we break and damage we can do. In all we do we need to weigh up the consequences of our actions and decisions, to take time in making our promises and decisions and to always look out for others as well as ourselves.

21st September 2020

Matthew 7:1 Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.

Be honest, how much do you like judging other people, criticising, shouting someone down, not listening and placing yourself in a superior position? We all do it to a degree, but do we like it when it is done to us? How fair are we in our treatment of others? Do we always assume the worst, accuse people unfairly, decide on someone’s guilt before hearing the evidence? Think of a time when you were falsely accused and how much that hurt and damaged you. As humans we are really good at hypocrisy! We divert attention to others so we are not closely examined ourselves. What our view on the current political situation it is quite obvious that diversionary tactics are being used to take the pressure off and to stop people looking too deeply at other things, things which threaten our freedoms and prevent exposure of the money making operations and behaviour of the elite. There is a phrase from a poem by Mary T Lathrap which reminds us that before we judge anyone, we should walk a mile in their shoes. In other words, you need to experience and understand their life, their issues and problems to see why they act or speak as they do. Our desire for self-preservation often means we accuse others to divert attention from ourselves. Jesus is dealing with issue here in Matthew 7. He is challenging His followers to have a good look at themselves before criticising and challenging others. If we are too blind to see and correct our own faults, we are much too blind to see and correct the faults in others. Our country has always prided itself on justice and fairness but even here the colour of someone’s skin, their gender, their religion, their race can mean they are not treated fairly or justly. Assumptions are made and people are treated as guilty before anything is proven, yet our laws have always been based around innocent until proven guilty. Judging others quickly and unfairly is damaging our country and our standing in the world. We must always look to treat others fairly and with justice, to put ourselves in their shoes, and we must challenge others in society when this is not done because God calls us to this justice, God calls us to allow for others imperfections because none of us are perfect and how we judge others will be how we are judged.

20th September 2020

Ephesians 4:1 Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

How do you define yourself? A wife or husband, a daughter or son, a Christian, a human, kind, spiritual, hardworking, sporty, well educated…… the list is endless. But do we know who we are? Do we understand why we are here, what is our special gift and what can we do to make the world a better place? Have you seen the film Chariots of Fire? The film tells of how Eric Liddell, an incredible sportsman sacrifices his actual event, the 100m, because it is being run on a Sunday. For Eric Liddle and any Christian at this time, one did not work or do sport on a Sunday, it was a day of rest. Eric transfers to the 400m and wins the gold medal. Many of his friends and family cannot understand why this man, destined to be a missionary in China, wanted to run, to race, they could not see God’s work in running. Eric says to them “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Eric Liddell understood that God gives each of us special gifts and talents by which we can help each other and build each other up. Humans are collaborative, we need each other and each other’s talents to flourish together. For example, the farmer grows the food and is able to grow more and better because the engineer designs the machines. Learning who we are and our place in the world allows us to collaborate, to work together and thus make a better world where we can all flourish. In Ephesians 4 we are called to live and act worthily, to be humble, gentle and patient. We are called to make allowances for each other’s imperfections and to build each other up as we help each other using our special gifts and talents. Who are we? We are who God made us to be, called and gifted to use our talents and gifts for the good of all.

19th September 2020

Deuteronomy 20:1 When you see enemies, horses and chariots and armies larger than you, do not be afraid, God is with you!

When we are facing something difficult and seemingly overpowering it is not easy to not be afraid. What’s ahead is daunting and could result in harm or injury, how do we face that? I was thinking of those firefighters and police who went into the twin towers on 9/11 as everyone else was fleeing out. The paramedics who went down into the underground on 7/7. The police who placed themselves between attackers and the public on London Bridge. None of these people knew what they would face, they had little or no contact with those above ground or outside and yet they went to help others, willingly risking their own safety for others. They did and do this because it is their calling, because they have an inner strength that allows them to always look for the good of all not just self. For us, whatever we face, and some things may seem insignificant in comparison, but to us they are major, they seem insurmountable and dangerous; for us we are told that God is with us, He is in front leading us, He is behind encouraging us forward, He is right next to us keeping us going, He surrounds us with His love and care, His protection and strength. We do not face anything, large or small, alone. We may not face such terror as those I mentioned above, but whatever we face it can seem engulfing, shocking, overpowering and we need help. Others may not understand our reactions or feelings, but God does. God knows our innermost feelings and reactions and He is always willing to be our rock, our support, our strength if we will let Him. It is easy to say, don’t be afraid, but not so easy to do, we may still feel afraid but with God we have the ability to cope and deal with those feelings of fear.

18th September 2020

Proverbs 3:6b He will make your paths straight.

Depending on where you live you may or may not be used to bendy roads. As we travel into the country many roads bend back and fore and almost seem to double back on themselves. Depending on your experience you either really enjoy these roads or find them difficult and slow. So many sharp bends with little or no ongoing view and plenty of drivers who drive too slowly because of inexperience and those who drive to fast and take theirs and others lives in their hands as they attempt to overtake on blind corners. Contrast that with motorways and straight dual carriageways, there are still bends but they are so much more subtle, and it is easy to see well ahead. Having a straight path or road offers security, safety and confidence. We can see ahead, beware of difficulties early on, have time to react and stay safe. What we are be told here is that God wants that for our lives. He wants us to be able to see ahead, to be aware of any difficulties easily on so we can prepare, to be able to have time to react and to stay safe. God does not want us to be meeting blind corners, doubling back on ourselves and being slowed down or unsafely overtaken by those who have no care for us or others. The reasons for bends and sharp corners are the way in which humans have divided up land, claimed territory, how areas have been demarcated by planners over years, our experience very much depends on others and their behaviour, so it is in life. We are affected by those around us and we affect them. In looking to God to keep our paths straight we will allow others to have better experiences and allow ourselves to have better lives, safer lives, looking ahead and able to do what is needed to keep things as they should be.

17th September 2020

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you.

This verse has always been known to me as God’s phone number, Jeremiah is the 24th book in the Old Testament so I was taught 24333 was God’s phone number, no code needed. The context of this idea came from the discovery of the telephone and being able to call someone, wherever they were, and have a conversation. Here we are told that we can call on God and have a conversation at any time. Now, of course it is not a literal phone call, we do not need a phone, it is the ability to talk to God at any time, in any situation, about anything and knowing He will hear and will answer. As with any call if all we do is talk then the other person can’t get a word in. When we pray the tradition is to talk, to ask mostly and then say Amen and go about our daily life, job done. Actually, part of prayer is listening, what does God want to say to me? As I am able to tell God about my day, my ideas, my feelings and thoughts, I need to listen as He tells me about His. God can offer us the support and help to deal with daily situations, He can and will offer solutions and ways in which to help but, if we do not listen, we cannot hear. People often say, God did not answer me, to which I reply, did you listen, did you give Him a chance to speak to you? Many of us read our Bibles when we pray, it is often through those words and readings that God offers an answer. Of course, sometimes the answers are not what we want or think they should be so we ignore them. There has been a growth in meditation, actively listening to God, but not all of us can relate to that or work with it. If that works for you brilliant, go for it, but if not know that listening does not have to be done for long periods of time in silence, short times in our prayers where we pause and listen, reading our Bibles prayerfully, listening to God as we move around and go about our lives. Prayer and conversation with God can be going on all the time in our minds and hearts but we have to be willing to listen as we call on God in all and every situation.

16th September 2020

1 Chronicles 16:25 Great is The Lord and greatly to be praised.

This verse and its context are a hymn of praise from the people to their God who has saved them, the people declare God’s mighty and wonderful acts and sing out for all to hear. Apart from our hymn singing we do not recognise and sing out the praises of God in this day and age. We don’t see it as God who works the miracles, who changes things, who provides, instead we see everyone and everything other than God as responsible. The common view is that everything was and is a big, amazing accident and we are responsible, as humans, for the science and technology that now moves us forward. What everyone conveniently forgets is that behind the science is God. It is God who created the incredible motion of events, that gave humans the capacity to think and act, learn and discover. The medicines, the cures, the treatments, the technology, the advancements all given by to us by God who created us with the ability to learn and discover. If you want a miracle, proof of God’s amazing provision for us just look at the human body which heals itself, cuts that will not be seen days later, bones that heal when broken, antibodies that fight off colds and illnesses. Think about the seasons, the oceans and tides, the harvest, the land and sea, fresh and salt water all freely given and working in harmony, but what we do with it is our choice. The results of our selfish choices are the death of species, the changes in eco balance, melting ice caps, extreme weather, poor atmosphere, global warming….. we have been given an amazing body and mind, an incredible planet and instead of praising God and taking care of it we have chosen to set ourselves up as gods whose selfishness has damaged the wonderful provision of God. The best way for us to praise God for His greatness and love is to take care of what He has given to us and be thankful.

15th September 2020

Isaiah 43:18 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!

If we all had to take an exam about life most of us would fail, why? Because most of us are trying to copy others in life instead of realising that each person has different questions to answer. We are all different, we all make mistakes and we look at how others have achieved success and try to imitate it, rather than find our own way. The good news is that even if we failed the exam we can always start again, always begin again. No matter our past, our failings and our achievements we can start again, we have a God of second chances, also of third and fourth and fifth chances. Within all religions there are teachings about how to improve life, how to change, but it is Christianity that offers complete forgiveness and a brand-new start, not just once but whenever it is needed. We can easily become prisoners of our past, held back by events and happenings that stop us from moving on in life. God does not want us to be imprisoned by our past, God wants us to be forgiven and to move on. God will never force that upon us, we have to be willing to let go of our past, not hold onto things just in case, instead we need to realise what is holding us back, seek forgiveness by being sorry, and ask for strength to change and move on. The bad past is something that should be forgotten, unfortunately, a lot of people let it define them. They become miserable, cunning, selfish, greedy, and blame it on the past or people in their past, saying, “I am this way because of how I was treated.” God wants us to know that the past has no power over us and that we can let go of it because we have been renewed by his love, and redeeming grace. So, let us forget the past, not dwell on the former things and allow God to do a new thing in us.

14th September 2020

Proverbs 5:1 Be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding.

One of the amazing things about our life on Earth is that we never reach an age or time when there is nothing left for us to learn. In recent years many universities have developed departments around Lifelong learning, realising that people can study, learn and gain qualifications all their life. The Dalia Lama has said that when we talk, we are only repeating what we already know. But if we listen, we can learn something new. The opinions we express come from our learning and listening. The more we listen to others and learn the facts around issues the more we understand and therefore the more sensible and balanced our opinions are. It is incredibly easy to be opinionated and to not listen to anyone else because we believe we are right and yet even the things around us we take as fact change as we discover more in science and nature. For example, I grew up being told that there were nine planets, fact; today we are told there are eight. We can never know everything, if we did then we would be as God, but God encourages us to keep learning, to keep listening, to hear Him and others as we grow. The word used here is incline, actually turning our ear to listen, it is an action of intent, it means we are looking for wisdom, wanting to learn. For many the older they become the more they think they know it all and do not need to listen to anyone else. We have all met them, perhaps we are them, never willing to hear someone else’s point of view, never willing to change our opinion even in the face of proof. God calls us to be attentive and incline our ear to Him and to others all our lives. The choice is ours, we can be lifelong learners or those stuck in their ways, we can be those who only ever repeat what we know or those who listen and learn something new.

13th September 2020

John 14: 1 Do not be worried and upset, believe in God and also in me.

Would you describe yourself as a worrier? Some of us seem compelled to worry about everything, most of us worry about the usual things and some seem to be completely carefree. We tend to worry about things and people who are important to us. We worry about family, friends, safety, illness and we worry because life has shown us that sometimes bad things happen and our minds and hearts conjure up situations where those we love might be hurt or maltreated. Worrying is a natural part of life the problem is when it takes over life and becomes so obsessive, we can see nothing else but problems and difficulties. Worrying will not stop bad things happening. By worrying we cannot stop illnesses or accidents, pain or suffering, we can not add any time to our lives; what does happen is we stop enjoying the good the things. We become so obsessed with worry we stop appreciating the good in our lives and in doing that we become a self-fulling prophecy. Constant worry and concern takes from us the ability to think clearly, to act rationally and so we place ourselves in the position of being more at risk. Jesus words in John are in response to death, one of our biggest worries, He is clear that when we believe in Him, in God, we have the promise of eternal life, a place in Heaven. We cannot stop worrying, our human nature means we are aware of evil and the affect it can have on us and those around us but Jesus is offering a way to deal with the worry, a way for us to live more peacefully within ourselves by believing in God and His protection of us and His complete and utter love of us. If you are a worrier look to the Lord, His word and His promises, let Him offer you some peace by allowing Him to take the worry, the burden, from your shoulders to His.

12th September 2020

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

In whose name do we do things? Our own? Our religion? Our God? Are we tolerant, respectful? Do we bear with others? Do we forgive others and ourselves? Do we offer the respect to others that they deserve or are we selfish? Being honest is about truth, reaping what you sow and developing trust with others but also about being honest with yourself, every day. To allow us and others to flourish demands honesty. If we are not honest with ourselves, we are not able to recognise and live in reality, in the real world. Dishonesty means we choose only to see what we want to see, ignoring everything else. That means we turn a blind eye to problems and difficulties, allowing others and ourselves to suffer because we don’t speak out about unfairness and injustice, we don’t stand up when someone is being bullied and hurt. A senior army officer speaking out about challenging bad behaviour said “The standard we walk past and ignore is the standard we accept” So when we allow racism, bullying, sexism, aggression, lies, cheating and do not challenge it we are saying that it is okay to treat people like this and by default it is okay for people to treat me like that. If we are honest with ourselves, we should be able to look back at each day, each week and say How did it go? What did I do right? What could I have done better? This reflection, this honesty is not negating or criticising, it is helping us to learn, to grow, to become better people. We need to be honest about the good things and the bad things, acknowledge what needs to change. Ask yourself are you tolerant and respectful? Do you bear with others? Do you forgive and allow yourself to be forgiven? What needs to change? Does my ego get in the way? Being honest about our short comings, about what we don’t know and what needs to change, makes us humble and realistic people.

11th September 2020

Matthew 5:45 God makes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous.

As I write this the sun is shining and it is a beautiful day. People everywhere will enjoy this blessing no matter who they are how they behave. I have a real issue at present with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. I really struggle with the dishonesty of so many politicians and so-called public servants. I am amazed that much of society seems to think that this kind of behaviour is okay. We are told that the sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous, in other words God does not only provide His children with what they need but also everyone else. This is God modelling to us how we love our enemies. This verse is part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is teaching about how we live as followers of God. Within that teaching we are required to care for and love not only those who care for and love us but also those who don’t. That changes our outlook on society, it means treating prisoners with consideration even though they have broken the law, it means making sure justice is done for everyone and not just those we think deserve it. It means treating all people with respect whether rich or poor. It does not stop us from challenging inequality, challenging lies and holding people to account but it does affect the way we do it. If God’s love and fairness extends to all, whether believers or not, then we too must extend our love and fairness to all. Within that love we can still challenge the lies and dishonesty, stand up for the truth, but we do so by copying God’s way and leading by example. God graciously gives good things, even to those who hate Him. He gives the blessing of sun and rain to the just and the unjust alike. God does not withhold blessings until a person comes to Him by faith in Christ. Since God is so generous with His enemies, then we should be as well. 

10th September 2020

Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed is the one whose confidence is in the Lord.

How confident are you? Are you confident in your ability, your upbringing, your education, your record? There are many things we can be confident in but are we confident in the right things, is that confidence justified or is it just arrogance? Confidence in the wrong things results in major problems, for example remember the CEO of Lehman Brothers who ignored warnings because of his arrogance, the bank collapsed, and a huge recession followed. The Australian army offers who were so arrogant about their ability that they ended up killing 10,000 of their own soldiers. Over confidence comes from arrogance, a faulty assessment of a situation, unrealistic expectations, hazardous decisions made in haste without weighing up the facts or implications of what we do. People who are arrogant do not deal in details or clear hard facts, they make a fuss and a noise about the easy things. They have a mindset and are unwilling to listen and learn to inform their decision making. It is easy to judge, react and walk away without ever knowing the whole story. Arrogance results in defensive, vengeful and punitive actions. In His letters Paul has a reason for his confidence, his family, education, training and position make him almost untouchable and yet he realises that the more responsibility a person has the more they must be careful, honour the truth, listen to the facts and first and foremost be confident in God. We can often confuse blustering arrogance with genuine ability but that is not the case. Just because someone says they can be believed and trusted does not mean they can. Look for the evidence, look for the proof and always check people’s credentials. Being confident in the right things means we need to listen and learn, look behind the obvious, examine our own track record and that of others, confidence in the right things will be witnessed through how we treat others and how we behave. Confidence in God or arrogance in self, the choice is ours to make.

9th September 2020

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows.

Sometimes I can only describe my presence on earth as detached, like that old phrase Lights on but nobodies’ home. We go through the motions, we appear to be functioning, going to work, cooking and cleaning, watch TV, sending emails but it is all automatic, muscle and mind memory. I am supposed to be here, do this, say that, smile and wave and we become almost robotic. This happens because we are protecting ourselves from a situation or event. In the west, particularly, we are not too good at public affection or grieving. We tend to keep ourselves in the British tradition of the stiff upper lip, do not show weakness, keep going and you will make it through. I find it interesting that research is showing that many of our mental health issues come from not expressing our grief, our anger, our love. So many people have low self esteem and self-worth because no one ever told them they were special, they were loved, they were capable. This is not just in homes where abuse takes place, but in ordinary homes where love was never expressed, where crying was not allowed and seen as weak, where behaviour was driven by fear of punishment and neglect. We need to recognise that it is okay to tell people we love them, to cry when we are upset and hurt, far from being weak it allows the chemicals in our bodies, that we are in need of, to be released. Expressing our grief and our love makes us stronger, it makes us realise how valuable we and others are and how we are worth so much to the world and to God. Telling someone we love them, we miss them, is saying I value you, I hold you in high regard, you matter! Grieving the loss of someone says this person mattered, they were valuable and special, they are a child of God and had a part to play in the world and I will miss them. Far from being weak, allowing our feelings to surface shows we are human, we are created to look after each other and to acknowledge the key to everything in this world, Love. Grief is the price we pay for love, the robotic, detached way we cope is okay for a time but me must allow ourselves the freedom to express our love and our grief outwardly and without fear of embarrassment.

8th September 2020 (I apologise for my lateness. Family funeral)

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

How do you react when things go wrong? If you are anything like me there seems to be a rush of things that happen all at once and each wears the patience a bit thinner. At the worst times of life I have always reached the point where I realise that I am not alone, that even in the midst of the most difficult of times there is a peace, a strength that surrounds me. The psalmist here is recognising that in every situation God is our refuge and strength. That even when trouble lies at our door, we have His help, we are not alone. A refuge is a safe place, a place that provides shelter and protection, therefore God is our shelter, our protection, He provides the necessary protection for us in whatever shape and form it needs to take. When we are in trouble, we need support, someone to offer advice, comfort and help, to reassure us that whatever needs to be done can be done and will be done. That is what God does, makes sure that everything that needs to be done is done. For those who are facing illness, job loss, debt, family divisions, bereavement and the like God provides the refuge, the safe haven, but also the strength, the help to deal with each situation, every condition. He may provide this through other people, situations and encouragements, but what the psalmist knows and what we need to know and remember is that God has it in hand. It may not always seem like it, it may not be happening how we think it should, but God has it in hand. God promises that whatever we go through, whatever happens to us we do not need to face it alone, He is right there, every moment, ever present, every day offering refuge and strength, present in every moment, supporting and caring for us.

7th September 2020

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Enduring pain and hardship, experiencing distress often comes from harm or the threat of harm, it can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual or a combination of any or all of these. As humans we have a selfish human nature, we have a tendency to put self-first and in doing so can actually inflict pain and distress on others without meaning to. Sadly many in our world inflict suffering on others on purpose to promote their own agenda and to increase their authority, power and wealth. For us we may be experiencing suffering but hiding it, the old tradition of suffering in silence, not complaining, not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable or to accept help and yet actually this is so necessary for every human being. Psalm 22 is the Psalmist not suffering in silence, many psalms are like this, a brisk honesty, speaking out about feeling forsaken or fed up or angry. The Bible is quite clear about us expressing our emotions and feelings, about telling out our fears; after all if God created us with emotions and expressions He intended us to use them!! The psalmist, as he expresses his suffering, begins to open himself to see where others have suffered but come through. He opens himself up to help, just as we need to. We cannot always see suffering, hardship and pain in others because we become good at hiding it, but a more careful and prayerful look at others, their reactions, how they behave will show us needs and will indicate to others our needs. We also need to be willing to open up, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable so we can access the help and support we need. As we recognise our own need for help may we also recognise the need of others for help that we might be able to offer or direct them to. Suffering in silence does not make us a better person, in fact it causes us more issues particularly with our mental health. We all need help, there are plenty of people and organisations to help us, we just need to be willing to admit we have needs and that others can help us.

6th September 2020

Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything under Heaven.

This week our children have gone back to school, back to learning after over five months away from the classroom. We have all done various things with our time since March and a danger of returning to a type of normal is that we neglect things we have developed and which have been a blessing to us in the previous months. There is a time for everything under Heaven, that means we need to make time for the things we need in our lives. We must make time to rest both mentally and physically, the desire to catch up on education or work must not be allowed to encroach into our rest time. We must do things for pleasure, things we enjoy, hobbies etc which allow our minds to widen and give us perspective. Although we still have social distancing it is vital we see family and friends, spend time together, eat together and enjoy that social company. The role of sport has been seen as crucial to mental health and exercising our bodies when we have been indoors so much, now it is still vital to exercise and stretch bodies as well as minds. Reading for pleasure is good for imaginations and creativity, it is so easy to be so wrapped up in textbooks and study we lose the joy of reading a book for fun. We need time to just look around us and listen, really listen to the natural world. All these things and many others allow us to be ourselves, to exercise the balance needed in our lives of work, study and pleasure. We all need to be refreshed, not just once a year but regularly, trips, picnics, walks, things which allow us to breath, refocus and energise us. These things bring us joy, make us feel good and appreciate what we have, that in turn allows us to have a better all-round quality of life and makes work and study easier and more effective. God has given us a time for everything under heaven but we are in control of our timekeeping and so we must use our time wisely and sensibly for the good of ourselves and others.

5th September 2020

Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

Do you usually make plans? Do you have plans for the future? After this year’s lockdown we all had plans totally rewritten, cancelled and changed and it is still a real lesson in how we cannot depend on the plans we make. Maybe you are someone who likes to have plans in place, perhaps you are clear about your aims and ambitions, perhaps you have just muddled along and hoping for the best. All those responses are okay. We steer a course of hopes and dreams but also needing to have an open mind to allow these plans to adapt when life changes and when the unexpected happens. Plans are good, it is helpful to know where we are going but life often gets in the way and plans sometimes need to change. Proverbs reminds us to question what the reasons are behind the plans we make. Are we just interested in money, fame, status, power, image etc or are we interested in the best for others as well as ourselves? We are reminded that there are people around us who are there to help us and advise us and we are foolish if we choose to ignore that advice and experience that God has offered to us. The future, the way ahead, is by its very nature an unknown, a variable, but the good news is we don’t have to do it alone. King George VI used part of a poem by Minnie Haskins called “God Knows” in 1939 to speak to a nation at war with a very uncertain future; it’s message was to put our hand into the hand of God which is better than any light or known way. The future was uncertain and unknown but faith in God was a light in the darkness and a known way forward for everyone. We travel nowhere alone when God is with us, we face nothing alone when God is with us. Any plans we have need to be made with God in the centre and in the knowledge that whatever happens, unexpected or not, we have God with us, holding our hand, through it all.

4th September 2020

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it with all your heart as for God.

If we think about all the things we are involved in, do we put the same amount of effort into everything we do? If not, why not? Are certain events, places and people more important to us than others? It is a hard question to ask ourselves because if we are honest we all have preferences and things that we put more effort into. Here we are being asked to do everything with all our heart and as if we are doing them for God. In basic terms it means when we garden we do it with all our heart as for God, when we sing we do it with all our heart as for God, when we go to work we do it with all our heart as for God. Everything we do, say and are involved in should be done to the best and highest standard as for God. So for me I should be the best Chaplain, Vicar, teacher, mother, wife, daughter…….that I can be and do each as if for God. In all we do we are not looking for the praise of others, we should not be desiring the praise of other humans, but we should be looking for what pleases God. This is a real attitude change; I am doing this for God so I give it my everything. I am doing this that God might be praised and worshipped, not me. When we are tired, life is hard, weather is not ideal, it is easy to only be half hearted in what we do, but if we commit each day to God, ask His help, look to always bring Him glory and praise then we will desire to do our best in everything, to do everything with all our heart and as if it is for God.

3rd September 2020

Psalm 145:4 One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.

What would you like to be remembered for? What is our legacy? Perhaps you want to leave a trail of goodness, a legacy in music or publishing, perhaps your family knowing they have had the upbringing that will allow them to make their mark of goodness on society. Many of us grow up seeking our fifteen minutes of fame, the desire to be on YouTube or some reality TV programme to get our face out there and then achieve a status, fame and wealth. Sadly, this does not offer the desire to leave a legacy of goodness. If we look back in our lives, who are the people who have been commended to us from previous generations, who are our heroes? If we look at them what is it that makes them so special? What can we see that prompts our interest? Perhaps it is their genuine honesty, their philanthropy, their constant work for the good of others, their desire to promote the best for all humans wherever they are, whatever their status. These are things we should look to imitate, to follow on with because society is nowhere near perfect and without those who work for the good of others things will never change. Of course there is also the desire to perhaps have the wealth and fame of others thinking that will allow us to do more good, and yes it can, but unfortunately research shows us that once we become comfortable and live well we tend to forget others who we perhaps once longed to help. The desire to leave a legacy of good changes as we begin to have a better life ourselves. The Bible, and history, is full of stories of those who promised to use their power and wealth for others, only to be swallowed up in the club of wealth and power being used to control the masses, to maintain the lifestyle they now had and did not want to relinquish. A desire to help can easily be eroded to a belief that those who struggle do so because of their own laziness or unwillingness to work hard, nothing is further from the truth. So many who struggle do so because they have no access to the necessary education and resources to improve their lot but they still work harder than most just to provide even some of the basics for their families. Our legacy, whether published abroad or not should be as God desires, a fairer, just society where goodness and honesty are promoted, and all human beings are able to flourish.

2nd September 2020

Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

How many of us start things we do not finish? Start cleaning the room then something else catches your attention, start a book then just don’t get round to finishing it, working on something then our phone distracts us, we start writing those cards and letters and never finish and something else needs to be done. Often, we stop things because we become bored, fed up and impatient because we want to see the benefits now and not have to wait. Our society is now so instant that we want things done and dusted in an instant. Not everything is or can be instant, we have to stick at things, persevere, even when they are difficult, and things don’t change straight away. This verse is about persevering in prayer, sticking at it even when we don’t seem to get an answer straight away. Let me tell you a secret about perseverance; when we read about Jesus finding strength to keep going, to persevere he does 2 things. Firstly, He prays, He talks to God, tells Him exactly how He feels, Jesus admits the struggles and difficulties and asks for help. Yes, Jesus Christ is willing to ask for help so if Jesus needs help to stick with it, to persevere, then so do we! Secondly Jesus takes time for Himself, time to be alone, to recharge His batteries and energy, to collect His thoughts. Once again if Jesus needed to do that then so do we, actually we need to do these things even more than Jesus. The secret to perseverance is to ask for help and to take to time for yourself. This allows us to build up our strength, get the rest we need and then we have the strength to face things with renewed vigour. Take time to be yourself, take time to be quiet, to pray and ask for God’s help and from that rest and recuperation in God comes the strength to carry on, to persevere.

1st September 2020

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Have you ever done those trust exercises where you close your eyes and fall back and the person behind will catch you, or allow yourself to be led by someone through obstacles with your eyes covered? It is really hard to trust someone, to believe that they will keep you safe and do right by you. Trust is defined as a firm belief in someone or something and is used to confirm that belief in terms like Trustee or Trust fund. It won’t surprise you to know that I Trust in God, just as the verse says, but that does not mean that I do not question or challenge or want to know why. We are told to not lean or rely on our own understanding, why? Because we cannot and do not know all the answers, so we have to trust in those older and wiser than ourselves. Trust is difficult, it makes us vulnerable and if we are let down, if someone betrays our trust, then it becomes so much harder to trust again. Often we can put our trust in things without even thinking; that the bridge will hold us, the car will stop when we brake, the bus will turn up, there will be food on the table at home, the ambulance will turn up when we dial 999…… To trust, is to believe, to not doubt. In this verse it is trusting in God, believing in Him, not doubting Him but accepting that He knows best. As we acknowledge this trust, He makes our paths straight; it makes life’s easier, clearer because it makes sense, it works. Trusting means we believe in others and are willing to give them the opportunity for trust. Where trust has been broken, we work at rebuilding it, we apologise, we change our attitude and we try to be more trusting and less skeptical. 

31st August 2020

Romans 14:5 One person will consider one day more sacred than another; another will consider every day alike. Each of them is fully convinced in their own mind.

Have you ever asked yourself the question why can’t other people be just like me? If you haven’t then it is likely to happen at some point. If we were all the same, just like me or you, wouldn’t life be easier, better? But no, we are not all the same, we are different, unique and special. Scientifically there are at least 420 billion possible variations in human DNA, from tiniest differences to huge differences and yet we are all human beings. Science also tells us that we are generally attracted to those who are like us. As we grow older we are less likely to listen to or be around those we disagree with or who have different ideas and views to ours. We become “set in our ways” we find safety and security in similarity and are concerned by difference. We are all different because we are sentient beings, we think, we reason, we feel, we experience, we are subjective, we feel both joy and sadness, pleasure and pain. These things affect who we are, our opinions, our ideas. It is these very differences that offer us creativity, gives us new discoveries, enable us to develop treatment for illnesses and invent things which allow everyone a full quality of life. Difference needs to be celebrated and not feared. In this verse we see that even 2000 years ago people argued about how things were to be done, they developed, even in the early church, a sense of my way is the right one and yours is the wrong one and we are still doing that today. But we are clearly reminded that God does not work this way, God made us with our differences, and He celebrates and encourages our differences. God accepts each of us as we are, unique, special, wonderful and we need to be reminded of that sometimes, but we also need to be reminded that those around us are special and unique as well. Let us celebrate difference in whatever shape or form, allowing ourselves and others to be who we are without criticism. May we engage the disengaged, challenge the suspicious and fearful attitudes and always look for the good and not the bad in everyone and recognise that we are not all the same, and thank God.

30th August 2020

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Think about who helps you and who you help each day whether at work or at home or in the community. Doing to others as we would have them do to us, or as my Nan used to say, do as you would be done by, is a key to daily life. This idea, known as the Golden Rule, exists in all major world religions. It is a universal idea, one of those things that all religions agree on and therefore must be hugely important, must be of great value to the human race, as such it needs to be listened to and acted upon. The history of this idea can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, China, Near East, India, Greece, Persia and Rome. This Golden Rule has such a presence in history, in religion, in formulating many modern societies, so it deserves to be listened to and acted upon by everyone. Doing to others as we would want done to ourselves is a moral commitment to both ourselves and others, we see ourselves in others and we see others in ourselves, it sparks empathy, compassion, understanding and flourishing. Many through history have gone as far as to say that this Golden Rule is the glue that keeps society functioning. So, what does this Golden Rule mean for us? It means a realisation that if we don’t like being lied to, joked about, laughed at, pushed around, ignored, maltreated, falsely accused……….. then other people don’t like that either, therefore we do not do it to others. It means taking a moment to think before we speak or act in a situation and asking ourselves if we would like this if someone said or did it to us. We are often confronted with those who appear to get what they want by walking over others but we must recognise that if we all behaved like that there would be no trust, no care, no concern, no empathy, no friendship, no family, no love. God gave us each other to help and look after one another, so we are never alone; the least we can do is treat each other with respect and love and as we would like to be treated ourselves. 

29th August 2020

John 8:36 If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.

When someone talks about freedom what crosses your mind? The freedom to choose perhaps or freedom to do and say what I want. Freedom to think and believe what I choose. Freedom to behave as I see fit or freedom because I am not a slave or in prison or under the rule of some dictator. As human beings we have been given the freedom to think, learn, speak, reason, imagine, dream, set goals, be creative, artistic, develop tools that multiply the power of human energy, change environments, change ourselves, to invent, develop personalities, to love, to worship, to make decisions and choices. Wow, that is just a small list and look how incredible and amazing it is. This freedom offers us incredible potential. It is true that another person or group of people can restrict us, restrain us, even rob us of certain freedoms. People can try to gag us, force us, injure us in a quest for domination, but each of us was born with an incredible mind, the ability to think and act for ourselves. No one can take away our God given freedoms of our human mind. Nelson Mandela, imprisoned unjustly for so long said “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” In pursuing and living our own freedoms we should not damage the freedom of others, rather we should enhance their freedoms. This is called mutual flourishing, where each of us lives in a way that helps and respects each other. Over the years many have given their lives that others may be free, we are free to do and be all we are because God gave every human those freedoms through His Son who sets us free and many have fought to keep and restore those freedoms across the world. Are we willing and able to take the opportunities and freedoms afforded to us and in doing so enhance the freedoms of others? 

28th August 2020

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

You know those days when everything just seems to go wrong, sometimes it can be longer than a day, even weeks, but why and how do respond? Somehow some days just seem bent on going wrong, each event or conversation just goes wrong, our mood deteriorates, we become negative and then everything we touch turns sour, or so it seems. Often it is our family who bears the brunt of our negative mood and we just spiral downwards as things get worse. Firstly, we need to realise we cannot control everything in our life and just because something happens that we do not like, it does not mean everything else will go wrong. Part of the issue is how we deal with things, how we allow our attitude to life and to God be affected by what happens. We have a choice in how we react to things and our very attitude can be what allows a day to get worse or to become better. Our own minds love to play tricks on us, tell us everyone is against us, that we deserve what is happening because we are not good enough. God is quite clear that through Jesus we are good enough, we are loved and cared for , we are forgiven and negative things which sometimes happen are not necessarily our fault and are not a punishment for some obscure event in our past. In simple terms of good verse evil, evil will always try to force us to be negative, will try to persuade us from the right and good path and by using bad experiences when things go wrong, we are much more easily misled down this path away from good and from God. Being a child of God does not promise that things will always be fine, but it does promise strength to cope, God’s love and support as we deal with each situation. In whatever situation we find ourselves God is right there with us, we do not stand alone. Sometimes we need to just accept that life happens and things go wrong but, we do not have to allow these things to cause us into a downward spiral, instead we need to let go and let God take the strain, tell Him how we feel and allow Him to turn the negative into positives and give us all we need to not just cope but to change and live a better more positive life.

27th August 2020

Luke 14: 15 “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

When were you last invited to a wedding or a dinner party or banquet? The current pandemic has affected this year’s weddings and parties but they are still such wonderful occasions. When you are invited to a big event what is your reply? An instant yes, or I must check the diary, or an excuse because we are busy or think it is too far to travel or just don’t want to go. We invite people to share with us for all sorts of things, celebrations, meals, parties, windfalls, family get togethers and we do it because we want to share our joy and good fortune with others. We want folk to feel welcome, to be provided for. In many traditions when you go to someone’s home you must be given some food and drink to welcome you and show you hospitality. To feel welcome, you must receive a welcome, be made to feel at home, that you can use the facilities, join in the celebration and make yourself at home. That means each one of us has a responsibility to make others feel welcome in our churches, our homes, our groups and clubs. As we meet together for whatever reason, it is vital that we care for one another, show welcome, treat people as we would like to be treated and of course to also allow ourselves to be welcomed. This parable is an illustration of how God invites everyone to share in His creation, His love, His eternal kingdom but how we, humans, often make excuses and don’t want to turn up or get involved. God’s welcome goes out to everyone no matter who they are or from where they come, poor and rich, female and male, any culture, race or creed. God has invited us to come to His celebration, to be welcome in His home and to make our own home with Him. We, too, are encouraged to make others welcome, to share all we have with everyone, to be kind, to encourage and help one another as a community, a family together under God. There is also a warning, those who make excuses, who are invited into God’s kingdom and don’t want to come, their invitation will become invalid, it is a time limited invitation and each person has the choice whether to accept or not. I hope you have accepted the welcome invitation and are sharing that welcome with others.

26th August 2020

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will look after the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

Do we really appreciate what is around us, or has it just become every day and not so worthy of our appreciation? I love the incredible sunrises and sunsets, especially when we are away near the coast, I am still searching for the perfect picture of a sunset and I have taken many. What about those incredible super moons? Or the beginning of new life each spring and the Harvest each autumn? We have those amazing programmes that show us nature and our affect on it through our careless and selfish living. The likes of Blue Planet, Spring Watch, Animals with Cameras, Big Cats, Wonders of the Moon….we cannot miss the incredibleness of the nature, of God’s creation, unless of course we just don’t look, don’t open our eyes to see just how amazing God’s world and universe is. If you need a prompt to remind you how amazing God’s creation is, try looking up the salt flats in Bolivia that act like a mirror, or the waves and beach that glow in the Maldives, or the red sandstone formation like a wave in rock found in Arizona. We swat bees away and call them a nuisance but have found how vital they are to the food chain and our life. Find the films on how Giraffes and Monkey’s grieve their dead and how a dog’s nose print is as unique as a fingerprint. God created an ecosystem which allows all life to coexist, survive and flourish, but that is only if we chose to let it. We need to open our eyes, to look around us and appreciate the amazing wonder of this beautiful world God has given us. We need to watch the programmes, listen to the experts, and as we learn and understand more, change how we live so that every living creature may flourish together as God intended. We were given a role in creation, by God, to be a steward of His creation, to care for it and look after it. We need to do better because change starts with us.

25th August 2020

2 Corinthians 8:9 Our Lord Jesus Christ; rich as He was, made Himself poor for our sake, in order to make us rich by means of His poverty.

I am sure you have heard the expression “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes” or “Before you criticise, walk a mile in their shoes”. What do these mean? This idea exists in the earliest records from the Native Americans, Harper Lee uses it in To Kill A Mockingbird, there are comparative proverbs and phrases in most religions. What they are all saying is to really be like someone, to understand them, to realise what their life is like, we must experience what they experience. This is empathy, to empathise with others because we can put ourselves in their situation and position, in their shoes. In the Jewish tradition of Jesus time disciples followed their teacher or Rabbi literally living as they did, imitating them, becoming like them, actually walking in their footsteps or their shoes. So it is with Jesus, He comes from God to live as we do, to experience what we experience, to walk with us in our shoes. Jesus, God’s son, gives up His heavenly place, His Godhead, His authority, His omnipotence, and omniscience to take on our human nature. Jesus gives up the power and riches of His position to be just as we are. Why? Why would Jesus do this? Because this way He can build a bridge, a way between God and humans that allows us to be loved, treasured, and forgiven by God and thus restore us to eternal life. Jesus living in our shoes means that there is nothing we will go through that God does not understand and therefore help us with every day. So, before we criticise another human being we should walk a mile in their shoes, try to see things from their perspective, be more empathetic, give up some of our comfortable superior attitude and see things from the other side, just as Jesus has done for us.

24th August 2020

James 1:3 For you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to persevere.

Do you remember taking exams? I always wondered why we could not have a setting to enable us to remember exactly what we needed for the exam. I was always told that providing I had studied, listened, read and revised, it was all there to be had in the exam. But somehow it often got lost in the pressure of the exam situation and what that meant for the future. Our recall, in thought, word and action, is often affected by the pressure of a situation. Working in a pressurised environment is difficult and has to be learned, this happens by sticking at it, persevering, and doing it over and over again. We can deal with the pressure by reminding ourselves that we do know our stuff, we have studied and practiced, we have worked for this and to act accordingly. Self confidence is important, knowing that we can do something, we do know how this works, we can step into that situation and do the right thing. We have a friend who is a paramedic in London, he has been in some of the worst situations including being first on scene at the London bombings in 7/7, if you ask him how he coped then and still copes now he says: I am trained for this, I know what to do, sometimes I have to remind myself of that, but I know what to do and don’t doubt my abilities because I have the knowledge, wisdom, training and confidence to do what I am trained to do. James chapter 1 reminds us that life will have it’s ups and downs, but as we stick at it, persevere with it, remind ourselves that we do know what needs to be said and done, that we can ask for help when we need to; then we grow in maturity, in self-confidence and we are able to stand firm in any situation and deal with it accordingly. This verse is part of a passage called faith and wisdom which reminds us to have faith in God, but also in ourselves, as He provides us with the abilities we need, the wisdom and knowledge we need, and stands right beside us in each situation supporting us. God gives us wisdom; we have learned from Him and His word and we need to be confident in ourselves as children of God even in the difficult times. It is good for us to remind ourselves that we have and do work hard, we do have knowledge, experience and wisdom, we do have help if we need it and to be confident in all that God has given and will continue to give us.

23rd August 2020

Lamentations 3:23 His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.

If you are like me then there will have been days when you wish you could just start again. When I used to play a lot of sport and the team were losing, we would just want to start again, do it differently or maybe we would get a different outcome. In exams, interviews, conversations, plans…….. If we could just start again, take the foot from out of our mouths or not say what we just did, or no do what we have just done, please let me start again. I love writing and have books for that purpose, there is nothing like a new clean book, pristine, unmarked, completely clean, very quickly it becomes untidy, dog eared as I carry it round, pages with crossings out and mistakes, can’t I just start again. Some days we are just not ourselves and we upset someone with our attitude which we didn’t realise was not good, our choice of words is careless, nothing goes quite right, we can’t find that document we put in a safe place and it is everyone’s fault but ours, please can we start again. This verse from Lamentations comes from a time in Israel’s history when they really needed to start again. They had made a mess of everything and had begun to realise that God had always been there, ready to help, ready to step in, but they had ignored Him and turned away from Him and in the process everything had just gone completely wrong. God, as always, is just waiting to give them, and us, a fresh start but we have to recognise our need and ask for His help, God never forces Himself on anyone. They begin to realise that God is still there and that His compassion never fails, that it is new every morning. For them and us each and every day offers a new start, a new beginning, and offers the opportunity of a great day full of promise. Each day is ours for the taking, it is what we make it. Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, today is a gift, that is why we call it the present, a gift from God, with all its possibilities and the opportunity to start anew. The question is what will we do with our present?

22nd August 2020

Philippians 4:8 Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable; if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things.

What occupies your thoughts? Wherever you are right now there is something that no one can know about you in this moment, exactly what it is you are thinking. Our body language might betray us a little but we can, and frequently do, act and speak totally differently to our thoughts, it’s hard work and we become accomplished at it the more we do it, but it is our thoughts that reflect the real us. In the verse we are told to think on these things, to focus our minds on wholesome, good, positive things that are noble, true, right, pure, lovely………. Thinking on these things completely changes our lives, we begin to live as we think, put into practice the positive and it becomes a complete whole person response to life, not an act, not measured or taught. If what we think about is positive, good, encouraging and wholesome then that is what will come out in our practical lives, we will not fight to be seen in a certain way but be true to ourselves, to who we are, to who God made us to be. As a society we are beginning to be more active around Mental Health issues, a brilliant and very necessary change. We have begun to realise that the health of our minds is just as important as that of our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings are vital to how we live, act and respond and Paul's words in Philippians are exactly about this. We are being encouraged to fill our minds with the positive, the true, the noble, the praiseworthy and to allow these mindful things to filter through our whole life. Yes, I know it is often easier said than done but we need to be encouraged to think about good things, to dwell on the positive and wholesome things in life. If we need some help then talk to someone, a friend, a priest, a counsellor, someone who may just be able to help us reset our mind set to be someone who thinks on these things.

21st August 2020

Jeremiah 17:10 I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give to each according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds.

We are currently in the process of a selling a car. In doing so we have cleaned it, not just a quick outside clean, but all the places you don’t usually look. We have cleared out all the stuff from the inside, checked the spare tyre and jack etc are all there. Removed the CD from the player, cleaned the footwells and taken out all the car park change. It is cleaner than it has been in ages so we can get a good and fair price for it. It struck me that our lives are like this, we do the quick fix regularly, appear to all intents and purposes that we are clean, ready for life, but on the inside not so good. We have those areas we don’t clean up very often, the little hidden cracks and areas which have been there so long they are sort of comfortable. We have the forgotten Poems, hymns and Bible verses tucked away but not really used much. There are the emergency tools and tyres hidden away and never really used because we don’t like to publicly use them or even remember they are there. There is all the dirt in the footwells, the recesses of our lives, from the places we walk and work which need a good clean up but rarely get it. We leave our change, the little things we need regularly, but pay little credence too, in the cup holders of our minds and hearts. On the outside we are looking good, but on the inside are things we need to clean up, to deal with, but because no one else can see them we just push them to one side and carry on. What we forget is that as people travel with us, they see the inside too, and more importantly, God sees the inside all day, every day. God knows what lies in our hearts and minds and wants us to deal with it in the safety of His love and protection. We cannot be the complete package as a Christian if we are not willing to keep the inside clean, the bit God sees, as well as the outside which most people see. So, when we have a good clean up let’s make sure we deal both with the inside as well as the outside, being willing to look a little deeper and harder at ourselves and make the necessary changes before God.

20th August 2020

Psalm 73:26 "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

We all have those days, even weeks when life seems to drain us, we struggle with the normal of life and we seem to be in a fog that we just can’t get out of. This often happens after bereavement, or illness or big life changing events. Even though we know we are physically fine we feel the mysterious aches and pains, we don’t have the energy to get up and walk to the shops or round the block for exercise, we may have to make ourselves eat even though we do not feel like it. This mental and physical reaction is a coping mechanism, because feelings have been stretched to their limit, emotions overloaded, thoughts all over the place and our bodies and minds go into a sort of safe mode. We baton down the hatches and for a while we don’t allow ourselves to feel, to express emotion because it is all tied into physical and mental pain that we just don’t want to experience again right now, body and mind tell us that we just do not have the strength to cope. In very extreme and difficult times like bereavement we shut down to save ourselves anymore hurt and to allow ourselves to recuperate, to become strong enough again to deal with the emotions of life. There is no “one size fits all” with anything in life and at any point an event or visual image, or aural stimulus can return us to that place and cause the pain and hurt to resurface. This is quite normal but encouragingly, the time taken to recover usually becomes less and less. We never just get over difficult events in our lives, we learn to accommodate them, to live with them in a different normal of life. The words of this Psalm give us hope and blessing that even when our heart and flesh may fail, may go into safe mode, God is still right there, holding us in the everlasting arms, giving us the necessary strength to cope, and caring for us as we recuperate and learn to live our different and new normal. 

19th August 2020

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.

How do you treat others and how do you treat yourself? It is central to our quality of life and of others. I have a friend who worked with street children, she told of how these children had no self-worth or value because people treated them so badly. People were abusive, shouted awful things at them, kicked them, threw things at them so these children came to believe they were worthless. When the helpers came the street children could not understand why these people treated them so well, why they were helping them when they were worthless. No human being should ever be treated like that no matter who they are, their status, creed, culture, colour, gender, or life choice. Every human being is created in the Image of God and has worth and value. We need to treat each other well, just as we would like others to treat us. I am proud of my welsh heritage and love St. David our patron saint. He had a saying “Do the little things in life”. In other words if we do the simple basics like caring for each other, helping each other out, looking out for friends and family, doing a favour, an errand, tidying up after ourselves, all the little things, the normal day to day stuff, do that and all the rest falls into place! Doing to others as ourselves is a clear message about how we treat others, we must treat everyone with respect, enabling them to flourish and achieve just as we would want for ourselves. It is good practice to always think am I helping or hindering? Would I like what I am about to do or say, said or done to me? If the answer is no, then do not do it or say it. 

18th August 2020

Matthew 7: 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

I had the most wonderful Nan and she had many expressions, one of them was , have a bit of common, it was her way of saying use your common sense, think before you do something, weigh up the consequences of your words and actions. To put that in context, common sense says we form an orderly queue to pay at the checkout, or wait our turn to cross the road, those who don’t, who push and shove or step out immediately cause an issue that effects many other people. Those who weight until the last minute to do something or rush rather than use time wisely, they too cause an issue for those around them. It is easy to be distracted from a task by something more fun or more pleasant to do and thus the link in a chain is broken and things are left undone that needed to be done. In the story from which the above verse comes is all about using our common sense, our wisdom, thinking before we act. The man wants a quick fix, cheap, impressive and quick, no long-term planning or thinking, no eye to the future, he wants it now. In building he misses out the important early steps of planning and foundations, he jumps straight to building on a surface no one else was building on, a surface that shifts with the tide and when the storm comes the house comes crashing down. God has given us wisdom, common sense, the ability to think and weigh up our actions for a reason. We are being reminded that everything we do and say has consequences and so, taking time to think and plan and assess the consequences will save so much hurt and pain. God is encouraging us to build on solid and firm foundations for everything we do in life. By using that bit of common, as my Nan put it, we can make our lives and the lives of those around us so much better. We need to be God’s Master Builders and not the world’s rogue traders in all we do and say. 

17th August 2020

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

What happens in your house as regards housework, cooking, washing up etc? Is one person left to do it all or is it spread equally? Most of us know that our children are often unwilling to do their chores and speak in terms of unfairness, in many homes one spouse often does most of the chores, is that fair? When we say that being asked to do something is unfair what we are really saying is I am better than you, it’s your job not mine, we are marking ourselves as more important and better than someone else. At a deeper level this is why we have to have human rights because some of us develop the idea that we are better and more deserving than others because of wealth, status, culture, skin colour, gender, belief, race etc. We only need to look at world history to see just this. In Galatians it is made completely clear that ALL are equal, there are no ifs or buts, no one person is better or more deserving than another. In God’s eyes it is not race, gender or our position in society or our culture or skin colour, or our status and belief that counts but purely the fact that we are God’s created people and we are ALL special, ALL unique. None of us is better than another in God’s eyes! So, if that is the case we have no right to look down upon another person, no right to treat another person differently because they are not the same as us or don’t fit into our view and perception of what people should be. Psalms tells us that ALL human beings are God’s crowning glory, that means you and me and everyone no matter who or what. We are all equal, it doesn’t mean we will all get on with each other, but it does mean we should respect each other and not treat anyone differently because of physical or cultural differences. May we see each other through God’s eyes, recognise we are all equal, all wonderful, valuable and special and treat each other as such, that will make life so much better, farer, easier and happier for everyone.

16th August 2020

John 1:23 A voice crying out in the wilderness, prepare Ye the way of the Lord.

It has been difficult to visit people or have visitors your self recently, but perhaps over the summer holiday you have had family to stay or come for a meal or a day. Visitors mean preparation, getting ready by cleaning, tidying, move the clutter out of sight, get food in, make up beds if people are staying over… there is a lot of preparation to be done and some of us are so much better at it than others. Preparing for things is a necessary part of life, we prepare for visitors but also for interviews, work, exams, lessons, cooking, writing….. if we never bothered to prepare life would not be any good for us or others. At the time of Jesus the people had spent centuries preparing for the Messiah, getting ready for the Lord’s coming but as time moved on and years past it lost it’s appeal, it wasn’t important any more and preparation and readiness had slipped to ambivalence for most. So when Jesus arrives and is born in Bethlehem it doesn’t make the headlines, it is not what was expected anyway, years of waiting were for a king, powerful and strong who would raise the people to be rulers over everyone else. As Jesus grows up and things start to happen the questions are asked, John the Baptist, out and about preaching and baptising, is asked if he is a prophet or is he the long awaited Messiah. John uses the words of Isaiah, words they would understand, to declare that he, John, is preparing the way, he is getting the people ready, opening their eyes to see the Messiah, Jesus. Sadly, most of the people of the time were not ready. Are we ready? Ready for Jesus in our lives? Ready for the changes we need to make so Jesus is seen and heard through us? Are we prepared for the teachings of Jesus to be everyday living experiences that we share with others? Or have we too, lost sight of Jesus, become ambivalent to Jesus presence in the world and our part in that? We need to be ready, to get ready and prepared for Jesus and His work through us. If not we will miss out, we will be left behind; may we be those voices crying out, prepare ye the way of the Lord.

15th August 2020

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice!

How often do you celebrate things? Maybe the usual birthdays, anniversaries each year but here we are told to rejoice, to be joyful everyday and we are told not to be anxious, not to worry, so why is that? It is because God is on our side, constantly with us. As God stands with us nothing can stand against us, God and Us, we are a majority anywhere. How do we rejoice? The most natural thing is to smile. Science tells us that smiling is good for us, it lifts our mood, helps us feel better, it changes our brain chemistry. Even if we force a smile, make ourselves smile, it does us good. Smiling helps us live longer, it boosts our health, it makes us feel happier, happier means less stress, less anxiety and leads to better physical and mental health. Rejoicing can also be expressed in singing, also really good for us, for our heart, our mind and it reduces stress and anxiety. Singing increases the oxygen in our blood, it uses muscles and exercises us aerobically. Studies by Harvard and Yale have shown that singing can prolong life because of its physical and psychological benefits. It also produces endorphins which make us feel better. Even now, when singing together is not allowed, singing at home or in the car, out loud is fine. Now, just try putting singing and smiling together and we can take on the world. We have so much, God has given us so much and blessed us so richly and He wants us to enjoy it, to rejoice and celebrate life. Rejoicing allows us to delight, to celebrate, to be less anxious and so live better, healthier lives. So, let us try to smile more, to enjoy life, to celebrate, sing and rejoice in all the good things God has given us.

14th August 2020

2 Corinthians 8:7 But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Do we excel in giving? Giving of time, money, talents, patience, care, love….out of our abundance do we give? Our example of true and complete giving is that of Jesus who as Son of God, therefore King and Lord, who has it all, the power, wealth, authority, knowledge, ability...... choses to give it up, to become poor so He can give it all to us and help us. Jesus chooses to give it all up so we can thrive and flourish. What an example! Through history some folk have come closer than others in their giving like Christ, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Gladys Aylward, so many of the Saints in what they did and do for us and for others. We are told to excel in giving, in other words be the best in giving. We strive to be the best in knowledge, the best in sport, in music, in the cars we drive and the houses we live in but do we strive to be the best in giving? Are we willing to give up some of our wealth, be it material or physical, our talents, our experience to help others? The context of the verse says we do our giving out of love, out of compassion for others that they too may have a good life and share in the wealth. It astonishes me that in a wealthy country as ours we need food banks, it is a shame on our society and government that these are necessary, it also astonishes and blesses me the reaction and response of so many to these foodbanks. The generosity of people in their giving. I have also witnessed that those who have the least give the most, those closest to the need, who understand and have had help themselves give so much. We can give in so many ways, with time, knowledge, talents, encouragement as well as money and food. But, we need to be willing, to want to excel in giving. We need to think about how we can give out of what we have, how we can use what we have to benefit our families, our friends and neighbours and everyone whether we know them or not. Jesus gave so much for us surely; we can give out of our abundance to help others.

13th August 2020

Exodus 20:15 Thou shall not steal.

One of the 10 commandments, we are told categorically that stealing is wrong, and we must not do it. Most people we talk to would say “I don’t do that!” Stealing comes down to taking what does not belong to us. Every religion is very clear on stealing and from the very earliest of times rules and customs protected someone’s property from being taken from them. We are all aware that these rules have been broken, often in the case of the powerful and wealthy riding rough shod over the poor, sometimes simply for people to feed their families and starving children. Why do people steal? In some cases, it is for attention, a cry for help, often it is about jealousy and wanting more, to have what someone else has. Sometimes it is about an unwillingness to work to live but a desire to take from others hard work to get what we want. Some people just think their lot in life is unfair and so feel justified in taking someone else’s. Whatever the reason stealing is a very selfish act, it causes people to be hurt both physically and mentally, it is disrespectful of others, it oppresses others. We are responsible for ourselves and our families, we work, we earn, we save, we pay our taxes and bills and live within our means, we do not take from others, we do not force others into despair and need by taking what belongs to them. This all seems basic and right, but dig a little deeper, do we always pay our dues? Those things we take from work without thinking, those things we borrow and don’t return. Maybe the things we do not declare on the tax return, the job we do cash in hand. When we start to look deeper it is possible that we can all fall into the trap without realising, because that has become the norm. In simple terms we all need to respect one another, to recognise we are not perfect, to try always to be completely honest and up front in all our dealings and let God do the rest.

12th August 2020

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

How often have you been forgiven? Actually, it will be too many to count and so many times not remembered. Within most families, parents, children, siblings etc forgiveness of some sort happens on a daily basis. It is hard when someone hurts us, particularly over an issue which is very important to us at the time. Meeting people on the edges of life I have found folk holding grudges for 20 or 30 years and they often cannot remember why or what for, they just know that for whatever reason they can’t forgive. They are wiling to live without the love and care of a family member or friend all those years. What the time does is build bitterness, anger, resentment which eats away at us and seeps deep inside until all that matters is the grudge and we become sad, bitter people. Offering forgiveness does not mean someone goes unpunished for what they do, there are always consequences to be lived with, but as we live and move alongside each other our kindness and tender-heartedness should help us to see that we all make mistakes and we need to bear with one another when this happens. So often in life there but for the grace of God go all of us. God accepts us as we are, warts and all, Jesus came and died for our forgiveness and it is through that forgiveness of us by God that we should also forgive. We have a duty to forgive, it is part of being a Christian and, how can God forgive us if we will not forgive others. Forgiveness blesses us and it blesses others. By not holding a grudge, by allowing ourselves to forgive and be forgiven we physically and mentally are more rounded, caring and loving people. Forgiveness can take time, it can be very hard to do but it is as much of a benefit to ourselves, if not more so, than it is to the person we forgive and we always have God’s strength to help us. We all have to live with our mistakes, we all need forgiveness and understanding, and we all need to offer that forgiveness and understanding to each other so our world can be a better, kinder place.

11th August 2020

Proverbs 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Continuing from Yesterday’s thought on wisdom today I ask what is it to be wise? There are various definitions on offer to us such as the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, common sense and insight. Quite a list but it does not stop there. It is also linked to compassion, self-knowledge, virtue, benevolence, ethics and experience of life. Wisdom is about our perception and judgement, what is the best course of action here and now that will secure the best outcome for all. Phronesis is ancient Greek for intelligence and wisdom and we have the word Philosophy which literally means the love of wisdom and in Ancient Greece wisdom was considered the father of all virtues. Wisdom is considered highly important in all religions, seeing things for what they really are, using mindfulness, noble truths, how we live in the world in the right way. Wisdom is considered to be the way to find good and right living. Within Judaism wisdom is mentioned 222 times in it’s Holy Books and sets it alongside Kindness and Justice as the highest of virtues. Wisdom is also linked to charity, simplicity, humility and restoring balance and is acquired through life’s ups and downs, linked to love and reflection on experiences. This should get the message across to us that Wisdom and being wise is vitally important. It is not just knowledge but the coordination of knowledge with experience, a light that dispels the darkness, a value of life for others and us. It is God that gives wisdom and all we must do is ask Him and learn. It is quite clear that our wisdom is reflected in how we live, act, speak. The wise are virtuous, caring and want to help others. So, are we wise? If not, what can we do? We ask God for wisdom and we learn day by day, we work on our life, we learn from experience and from others and we seek the treasure that is wisdom in our lives. It will take time, but it will be worth it as wisdom grows within us.

Proverbs 4:6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore, get wisdom.

What is wisdom? Who do you think of as wise? People think of Aristotle, or Yoda from Star Wars who says Wise I am, many consider our Queen to be wise and we look on older people as being wise because of their life experience. Proverbs is quite clear that wisdom comes from learning and the idea of older and wiser is because the older we are, the more we have learned, hopefully. Sometimes we use the phrase “wise beyond their years” because some folk just seem to have the ability to weigh up choices, say and do the best things even when they are young. Wisdom offers us protection, guardianship, and exhortation but it takes learning, open mindedness, open heartedness, often learning the hard way BUT it is worth it. Worth it because it allows a better, fuller, safer life as we grow. Learning and wisdom offers us success and opportunities to change, to turn failures into success. The Bible refers to Wisdom as a Treasure that we should search out and gain and that wisdom is better than gold. King Solomon is asked by God whether he desires wealth or wisdom, Solomon chooses wisdom….I wonder what you and I would choose if we were given that choice? So, a word to the wise; learning, experience, reflection, thoughtfulness, these lead to wisdom. We need to weigh things up, when things go wrong, and mistakes are made we must learn from them and move on. We need to learn to grow from life experiences, to be tolerant of others and their mistakes as well as our own. We should never think of ourselves as wise because wisdom will be seen in us by others. Just as Solomon chose wisdom and asked God for it, so can we. The Book of James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God for it and He will give it to us as we seek to serve Him.

9th August 2020

Matthew 24:44 You must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Today is a Sunday, what do you expect? Going to church perhaps, except that is not necessarily the norm anymore. A quiet restful day maybe? Lunch out if you can find somewhere open? There are certain things we expect in our lives, going to work, coming home, family commitments, meetings and yet these have changed over the past months and life took a totally unexpected turn for all of us. None of us started 2020 thinking that we would end up in lockdown, queuing for food, losing people we love to what was, up until last year, an unknown virus. For much of life we expect certain things, patterns, events but there are always things which we do not expect, and these come along throwing our lives into disarray. From this has come the phrase Expect the Unexpected. We need to be aware of things changing suddenly and unexpectedly and to not let that take us by surprise. Some of us love to plan life in detail and it is good to know and be prepared, but life is full of so many variables that we need to learn to cope with things that do not happen according to plan but come completely out of left field. So much of the Bible is God doing the unexpected. People have always tried to put God in a box, control Him, but you cannot. We believe we know everything about the universe and space and then God throws a curve ball. A song a few years ago by Jamie Lawson had the line repeating all the way through….I wasn’t expecting that….things in his life went differently to how he expected and were wonderful. There is so much for us in life and God want us to live our lives to the full. We need to plan and be aware of the future, think ahead and act sensibly but we also need to know that the unexpected is just around the corner, anything, anytime may come our way, we don’t know the day or hour but the unexpected will come and we need to expect it and be ready knowing God is right there in it with us.

8th August 2020

James 2: 8 If you really keep the law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right.

We tend to judge others based on our likes and dislikes, whether they are the same as us or like us. God’s love does not discriminate! God loves all, no matter who or what, where or how, God’s love is for everyone and He asks us to do the same. I really enjoy the series Call The Midwife and in one episode they covered the scandal of the Thalidomide drug, a drug given to pregnant women to help with morning sickness. What no one knew to begin with was it caused damage in the first 12 weeks of development leaving Babies being born disabled with terrible deformities. Because these babies were not perfect but different many were left to die by open windows, left unfed. People could not see beyond the disability, the difference to what was accepted as normal and so made the judgement to allow them to die. God’s love would never and does never treat anyone like that and our love must be the same. We need to care for, to love others, no matter who, in the same way. It is easy to love those who are like us and who love us back but it is hard to love those who make us angry, hurt us, contradict us or are very different to us socially, mentally and physically. We need to love as God loves, to love our neighbour as our self. As we learn to cope with and accept ourselves, so we should accept others, completely, for who they are in God. We are told in 1 Corinthians 13 that Love bears all things, that means it accepts the good and the bad in everyone. Love sees through the imperfect, the differences, the wealth, poverty, gender, race, belief, age, disability. Love sees through it all to the special unique child of God that each and every person is. We are all equal and all loved by God and as we are loved so we love others.

7th August 2020

Exodus 3:8 I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians.

In the book of Exodus, The Israelites are slaves in Egypt, but God has a rescue plan. But there is a problem, the Israelites might be complaining and saying they want God to do something but when He does, they are not very willing to be rescued. We can be so caught up in what we are at this moment, even if it is hard and difficult, that as much as we ask for God’s help we do not really want to be rescued. As God does rescue the Israelites, without much cooperation on their part, they spend far longer in the desert than they need to because they constantly moan and complain and will not let God work for them. God does not take His people into the path of enemies but takes them safely to a new and wonderful land flowing with milk and honey. God’s plan, God’s way, safer, provided for, ready for them and for us, if we are willing. It is not an instant answer, but it can be made a lot longer if we are not willing to let God work in us, in our situation. We must be willing to be rescued and keep being willing each day. God sees the bigger picture, the whole situation, and our place in it, in context. He sees what needs to happen step by step and if we are willing, offers us the grace and strength to cope with each step for the best result for us and those around us. Okay, we say, but can’t God be more obvious so I can see more clearly? Well, in this story God sends a pillar of fire at night and a huge cloud by day to guide them, how much more obvious do we need? In my experience God is very obvious but we become so focused on the hear and now, on our own journey, in our own way, that we don’t look and see His obvious signs, we become blinkered to God and His ways thinking we know so much better. We need to remove the blinkers, look around us, listen, see, and hear God speaking and working, clearly showing us the best way to make our journey. But we need to be willing to be rescued. The question is, are we?

6th August 2020

Lamentations 3: 22&23 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.

Have you ever read the book of Lamentations? It is just that, a book that contains the lamenting of the people, lament means to grieve, to recognise the bad things that have happened, be sad about them and sorry for the part you played in letting them happen. The people of Israel have been moaning and complaining, saying it is not fair, it is all bad. Then they begin lamenting their position, recognising that they have no reason to complain, actually they begin to see that they have had things pretty good. They begin to recognise how good God has been to them, that His love has never ceased, never stopped even as they have rebelled and been ungrateful. Every day God has given a new day, food, water, flowers, grass, sun, rain, homes, families and the recognition of this endless and constant provision for them they know it is time to be thankful for what they have, to count their blessings. So, where do we fit in this? Are we those who have learnt to lament? Have we come to recognise the part we have played in making life difficult and unpleasant? Have we begun to recognise the great and wonderful provision God has given us and been thankful? When we get to this point and life is a little rough or difficult we can remember the good, the blessings and thus feel better about what is going on and know that God has never let us down before and is not going to start now. Are we moaners and complainers? Are we those who accept the new blessings each day as God’s love for us? Are we those who recognise and lament our mistakes and not blame God for everything? God has never failed us, God loves us completely and utterly, God is on our side, may we not forget that.

5th August 2020

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.

What are you good at? What inspires you? What are your gifts? Have you thought seriously about this? For our world to function we all need to play a different and important part, we are all unique and offer unique gifts and perspectives. Yes, we all have many things in common and we will find others with similar gifts and talents but we each bring something unique to what we do, to who we are and our place in the world. So, what are your gifts? Various academic attributes, sport, creativity, arts, leadership, teaching, serving, encouraging, giving, strength, peace, thoughtful……the list goes on and none are more or less important than others, all are necessary for us to work together in a cohesive, caring society and we can be blessed with one or two or many as the need arises. We are warned in todays verse not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. This offers us two insights, firstly that we should have a lot of self-respect and self-worth, we are important it is going beyond that, giving ourselves such self-importance that causes the second issue of belittling others and their gifts in order to champion our own self-importance. Our society can make us think that some gifts, abilities and talents are more important than others. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are better than others because we consider our gifts and abilities are superior to theirs. This is not the case. We all need all sorts to make things happen. We all have a unique offering that only we can make in this world. If we were all mathematicians there would be no authors and novelists. If we were all teachers who would we teach? If we were all doctors who would drive the buses or taxi’s, if we were all nurses who would keep everything clean? if we were all speakers who would listen? If we were all leaders who would follow? If we were all actors who would make the music? Everyone is equally valuable in this world, everyone’s gift is needed but we have been persuaded, usually by those who have money and power and who, to retain it , tell us that their skills and their talents must be more important than ordinary people. That is not the truth, it is a lie we have been sold to maintain the status quo. Please think seriously about your gifts, what is special about you and how you can use them for the benefit of all in our community. God gave you those gifts for a reason, your job is to seek out those talents and use them for the benefit of all God’s children.

4th August 2020

Deuteronomy 6:6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

How do you feel about traditions? Some of us love them, others do all they can to rid them from life considering them to be old fashioned and boring. Let’s put it into some context. Without tradition there would be no birthdays each year, no Christmas with parties and presents, no new year with its celebrations and no anniversaries to celebrate and enjoy. Traditions are handed down to us to enable us to live good lives. They are part of a collective history that puts us into context and gives us a grounding in our place in the world. We are reminded of our personal and collective past and the lessons we can learn from them. We have cause to celebrate and to change where necessary. Tradition is a huge part of life and is very important within religious life. All religions have traditions to enable learning, celebration and to put belief and practice into context. Religion or not, traditions tell us why we do what we do. The celebration of New Year offers us a fresh start, allows us to put past behind and move forward, the tradition of Pancake day taking us into Ash Wednesday and Lent reminds us of our imperfections as people and points us to Easter and forgiveness. The traditions of birthdays and anniversaries allow us to celebrate our lives, our relationships and to contemplate how we live and use our experiences in our lives to come as we get older. The traditions of life are there not to impede us or hold us back but to release us into fullness of life. They allow us to have a basis out of which we flourish and grow, a past which offers us a future, lessons that allow us to be better people and live in a better society. Traditions offer us a collective memory which allow us to have a better and more beautiful future in God’s world.

3rd August 2020

Isaiah 66:13 As a parent comforts their child, so I will comfort you says the Lord.

When did you last cry? We tend to think it is okay for children but as we get older, we become embarrassed, less willing to cry and even see it as weakness. Yet much research has shown that crying is good for us, is necessary for our mental health and the release of pain and hurt both physical and mental. It is also recognised that those who allow their emotions to help them are much more stable and react better in a crisis. God gave us emotions for a reason. Crying allows release, lowers stress, releases chemicals to help us feel better. Crying is good for both our mental and physical health and without experiencing sadness we cannot appreciate joy and happiness. Within the Bible our relationship with God is often described as one of parent and child, that God cares for us as a parent would. When we are upset or hurt a parent will comfort us, wipe away the tears, speak gently and lovingly to us and help us cope and heal. God wants us to know that He will always be there to comfort us in this way. As we grow older we think ourselves capable of dealing with life on our own, we can manage, we know what to do and we push emotion to one side because we believe we are grown up now, we don’t need to cry, we don’t need a helping hand, but we do. God reminds us that we should not, and don’t have to, cope alone. Just as we are given our emotions for a reason, so to are we given families and friends that we might receive and give the care to one another as we need it. Don’t ever be embarrassed to cry, we are not embarrassed to laugh and both emotions are necessary to help us in coping with daily life. Don’t ever let the worlds stereotypes stop you from using the emotions God gave you to help you live well.

2nd August 2020

Luke 3: 14b Be content with what you have.

If I asked you how you are today what would you reply? Fine, okay, happy, busy, sad, fed up. Worried……..so many answers, I wonder if any of you would say content. On face value this seems simple, straight forward, what we have is ours and be content with that, don’t try and take what belongs to others. We find contentment through Honesty, integrity, justice and fairness, not just for ourselves but for everyone. The Dalai Lama says that all humans need to practice contentment, to be thankful and appreciative of What we have instead of continually grasping for more. An old song I grew up with says count your blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. How often do we thank God for a new day, the sun, the rain, the food we have in abundance, our home and family, the money we have for more than our needs but the extras too. How often to we thank God for our talents and abilities, for our friends….the list is endless, we can never name all the blessings God has given us, but just naming a few shows us just how blessed we are. In counselling this technique is used, a person is encouraged to list the things they are thankful for because it has the effect of cheering them, of encouraging them and making them smile. God has given us so much, we are so blessed day after day and yet we are so good at moaning, wanting more, looking at what others have and being envious and jealous. As we live, we lose the magic of our world, the awe of the incredible life we have been given. Just watch small children as they discover what the world offers them and begin to recapture that as we learn to be content in our own blessings and when we do we become more carefree, more expressive, creative and positive people. Why not give it a try, count your blessings, list those things you are thankful for and begin to see just how much God has given you and be thankful.

1st August 2020

Deuteronomy 30: 20 Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and love the LORD your God and hold fast to him.

The choices we make impact on our lives but also on the lives of our families, friends and those around us. When you drop a pebble in the water the ripple radiates outward, in that same way our choices ripple and radiate outwards causing an effect. Good choices bring joy and blessing, poor choices bring regrets and problems, we must be careful in the choices we make, think carefully about our choices, remember that our choices may well have consequences. Being as God is a God of second and third and multiple chances it is also the case that good choices can help to rectify the consequences of poor choices. In Deuteronomy the people are having to face up to the choices they have made, and the consequences of these poor choices and they are told to choose life, life with God. This phrase, choose life, has been used in many add campaigns, you may remember the huge baggy T-shirts of the 80’s with Choose Life in huge letters on the front. You may remember the film Trainspotting with its famous speech about choosing a future and choosing life. It is also used by pro life campaigners and is the title of a book discussing nuclear war and world disarmament. Life is not a dress rehearsal; we get one life in which to make a difference. Life is for living, it has purpose BUT, to live life to the full we need to make the good and wise choices, to weigh up the pros and cons, to think before we act. God has given us the ability to think and reason, He has given us the freedom of choice. Let me encourage you to use your God given freedom to choose wisely and well and to choose life.

31st July 2020

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Who do people say you look like? Perhaps not so much now, but when you were younger saying, you look just like your Mum or Dad, you have your mother’s eyes or Father’s nose. People look for and see a family resemblance. So, what about a Christian family resemblance? Do people see Jesus in us? Do they see the dynamic, full of love and compassion, honest, truthful, child of God who expresses their faith through practical acts? Do we get involved with the poor and hungry, in giving and serving, in working in our community, volunteering, visiting? We are Jesus hands and feet in this world. We don’t preach by words but by our actions and then the words come as answers to our actions when people want to know why we do this? The Holy Spirit comes to us, is with us, enabling us, supporting us as we try to be more like Jesus. We support each other within the Christian family as it can be difficult for us. Meanwhile society challenges us by encouraging selfishness saying keep it for yourself, don’t give it to others they don’t deserve it, they are just taking your hard-earned cash! We cannot and must not ignore that there are millions of refugees worldwide, displaced people threatened with ethnic cleansing, homeless, disabled, poor and vulnerable people who cannot feed their families. What does Jesus want from us? To do what we can do to help. To look after each other. Jesus knows we will annoy each other, challenge each other and argue, we are family, that is what family does. So, Jesus prays for us, intercedes for His brothers and sisters that we will have His love, His humility, His unity, His desire to help. As we do these things, as we become more like Jesus, people see it, they witness God’s love for them through us, they see Jesus in us! All of us bear the image of God, our creator, but not all of us grow into that image, not all of us become the family of God. We chose to become more like Jesus or not, we choose to judge others and hurt people, or we don’t. Jesus final words from the cross were about love, unity, forgiveness and caring for each other. If we are family and we strive to become more like Jesus each day, then people will see the family resemblance. 

30th July 2020

1 Corinthians 15: 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and our faith is useless.

What is your opinion of the Bible? Do you believe in it, accept it as God’s word? Paul challenges us about what we believe, saying if Jesus did not rise from the dead then our belief and faith are futile. Luke speaks of the evidence we are presented with which is put in the gospels to help us with our understanding. We do like proof, something to assure us that what we think or believe is true and right. Many people turn to science for absolute proof but as a scientist I know says “I have worked with electrons for 20 years, I have never actually seen one, but we know they are there”. Science is based on taking what you have and look for the most likely way and go for it. Use the information you have to push things forward. Christianity is the same, take what you have and move forward as it points the way. Not even science can be 100% about everything. As time and research and understanding moves on we find something new and what we accepted as fact originally is now different. It is interesting that about 40% of scientists are Christians, about 15% believe in a creator or higher power and about 12% are actually atheists. The argument that it has to be either science or religion is lost in these figures. We can believe in both. We have changed and adapted as time has gone on in a world designed to function, grow, develop and move on. We need to be aware of the danger of being totally engrossed in science as the beginning and end of everything because, science changes it’s ideas and “facts” regularly. As much as people use Darwin to question God’s existence, they forget that Darwin openly confessed his Christianity until his death. He never intended people to question their faith because of him. We also need to remember that Christianity encouraged study and education and that so many scientists came from Christian backgrounds. Even Dawkins finds himself on shaky ground when he says all science is proved, it is not, science is a work in progress. There is always room and need for change in science, new theories and ideas, new elements and changes in old ideas. Faith in Jesus is not blind, it is based on what we can see, what has been witnessed and talked about, what people have stood up and proclaimed even under threat of death. Faith in Jesus is taking all the evidence we know and moving on to where it points, just like science. 

29th July 2020

Luke 2:15 The shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened”.

We seem to learn something new about the universe every day. Someone like Professor Brian Cox helps us to understand the complexities but they are mind blowing. There are quite a number of things in our life that are mind blowing, including the birth of Jesus on that first Christmas. God, the creator of this massive, amazing universe comes to be with us on earth in the form of His son. In the Christmas story Angels tell the shepherds, the shepherds go immediately to find the baby and then they tell everyone about Him, who He is. It is this new baby that causes them to celebrate, not the Angels visit. We love babies, we ooh and ahh and want to tell people about them, theses shepherds tell everyone they can find that this is no ordinary baby. They worship God because they know the prophecies of old, they know what Isaiah says about this baby as the one who is to come, that this is the year of the lord’s favour. In contrast we have Mary, His mother, she doesn’t tell anyone but stores it all up in her heart, she ponders it, treasures it. Mary realises the importance of all this going on around her. She knows a future is to come that is so vastly different for this, her child. This child is more than just a baby, He is God with us, Emanuel. God is made more real to us by and through Jesus. God is no longer distant, ethereal, He is now real, alive, with us, like us and He fully understands us. Through Him, we can have that relationship with God that we crave, that we need. We need to follow the examples of the shepherds and tell people about this wonderful baby, this wonderful Jesus who loves them and wants to help them, but we also need to ponder and treasure these things in our own hearts, all those things that we learn about Him and know about Him and His love for us.

28th July 2020

Hebrews 12:1a Let us run with determination the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

I was expecting to be watching the Olympics this summer, I love this spectacle of a world coming together through sport and I fulfilled a dream being able to attend the 2012 games in London. But this year has been totally changed in its orientation and the Olympics has been called off, postponed until next year. The preparation these folk had made to be at their best for this event would have been enormous, training and competing just to get a place in the team choice events beforehand, and then to win one of the few places on the actual team. From there