Blessings

A spider busily weaves his web over the glass as the sun shines through the pane, lighting up the windowsill. The crackled, peeling paint doesn’t look shabby in the sunlight. It looks somehow blessed – as if the light shining on it gives it new character; makes it beautiful. In the distance I can see dark clouds. Rain is probably moving our way, but right now the sun is shining.

Sometimes folk say, “aren’t I lucky?” and their Christian brother or sister nods sagely and says, “ah, but are you lucky? Or are you blessed?”. I know what they mean, and I know they mean well by pointing out that God is the giver of all things, but aren’t we blessed in the good times and in the bad times? Do we really believe that the bad times are because God withholds His blessing? Should we go around during the good times praising God for His blessings, but not in the bad times? Doesn’t that make it seem as if God favours some (i.e. those He has ‘blessed’) more than others? Isn’t that the same lie that underpins the prosperity gospel? Isn’t that the same lie that says I can earn my way into God’s favour?

The world is good. The world is bad. Life is good. Life is bad. I don’t understand why some suffer so much more than others. I do know that in suffering we can learn more about God, and more about our dear Jesus and His Passion, than we ever could without suffering. We’ll never know the whys and wherefores in this life. Ecclesiastes tells us:

For everything there is a season,

and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance…

Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,4 (NRSVA)

I am thankful for all the seasons of my life. I am thankful that when I desperately needed help, the hands and hearts of my brothers and sisters in Christ were there for me, especially those in Celebrate Recovery. Without Celebrate Recovery I wouldn’t be here now.

Carry each other’s burdens and so live out the law of Christ. ….

Galatians 6:2 (NRSVA)

Thank you.

I don’t know why I continue to be so surprised at all the good things that we have been granted in the past few years. Why am I surprised to not be suffering for the first time in decades (I don’t consider this illness as suffering – far from it)? God is good. God is always good. But when life is good we must never become complacent. We must love our suffering neighbour all the more, all the more. As Ann Voskamp says, all is grace.

This song is not written about God, but it’s the one that makes the most sense to me today. It also serves a dual purpose of saying thank you to God, and thank you to my beloved husband, who has shown me God’s love with such generosity and patience through the good times and the bad. I hope you like it, too.

 

Sparrows

“By night, we hasten, in darkness, to search for living water, only our thirst leads us onward, only our thirst leads us onward.” ~ Teresa of Avila

It has been a surreal year or two. First my great auntie died. Then my dad’s best friend. Next was my dad’s cousin. Then my father-in-law, followed a few months later by my dear granny**. Now this morning my dad rings me, sounding rather desperate, and with a catch in his throat gives me the news that his sister-in-law, my auntie, died unexpectedly in the night. My poor uncle. It seems worse when it’s unexpected. My dad’s on his way to see his brother.

“…when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where [the king sits] at dinner on a winter’s day… In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came…”

Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England

8th Century AD

Life seems so solid, so certain when we’re young. In adulthood it can overnight seem as fragile and as fleeting as a butterfly. What can we do – those of us who are left? What can we do to offer comfort to those in grief? In the famous sermon on the mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4, NRSVA

Or, as The Message puts it: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

But what does this mean, in reality? Doesn’t it sound rather harsh to tell someone who is grieving that it’s all ok because now you can get closer to God? For those of us who have a strong faith, we do reach out to God and we do find comfort in our sorrow. But for those outside the flock a bible verse on its own is not much practical use and may well sound like platitudes, or an excuse to not do something ourselves.

I believe that the verses above are made true in us. I believe that God’s promises are made true in us. We are the body of Christ, you and me. Don’t worry – none of us are any better at it than anyone else. We’re all a bunch of muppets, as my old pastor used to say o_O But that is where grace comes in; when we allow God to work in us and through us, we can truly be God’s hands and feet. Through our thoughts and words and actions our friends and family, indeed everyone around us, can know the Living God.

Jesus said “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31 (NRSVA)

Dear Lord, thank you for your words of hope and comfort.

Thank you for your gift of peace.

May we bring your presence to those who mourn.

Give us the courage to say what needs to be said,

to do what you need us to do.

We are nothing without you.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen 

**Addendum (23/10/14) I forgot to mention that in the past few months, my mother’s cousin also died and my husband’s aunt and uncle. The latter two were well into their 90s and very frail, so that was not unexpected. With my mother’s cousin, however, I was the only one on our side of the family who knew he was very ill, apparently. It came as a shock to my parents. I just assumed they knew. What a year.

Autumn

I love the way the leaves change from green to gold to red. I love how the wind plays with the leaves, making them skip and flutter. I love watching the silver birches at the end of the garden as they bend and shake in the wind. Autumn is well and truly here.

Maybe it’s the blustery weather, but today I am reminded of one of my all-time favourite pieces of music: Wagner’s overture to Tannhauser. I know Tannhauser is an opera, but I’d love to see ballet performed to this particular piece. It is so bold and vivid, from the timid to the grand – just like autumn I suppose.

The Best Story of All

‘… the bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.’

from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

I love stories. I gobble them up. Lately I have even been writing my own stories. Writing makes me smile. I hope my creativity reflects the image of my Creator. How wonderful to be part of God’s great story.

How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory!
    How plainly it shows what he has done!
Each day announces it to the following day;
    each night repeats it to the next.
Psalm 19:1-2 (GNT)

Help Save Mohammad from Execution

Mohammad, an Edinburgh grandfather on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan, is in a critical condition. He was shot by a prison guard and remains at risk of further violence. Mohammad has a documented history of mental illness and has been charged with blasphemy after becoming delusional. It is a tragic case. Tomorrow, Jasmine, Mohammad’s daughter is taking a petition to Downing Street (please see the link below).

According to 38 Degrees (a non-party-aligned political action group), a Downing Street spokeswoman said yesterday that “the PM has been following the case closely.” More than 70,000 people have signed the petition to save Mohammad. Please would you consider signing it too?

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/bringmohammadhome

Please would you also pray for Mohammad and for his family here in the UK. They must be feeling desperate right now.

Reblog: Knowing When To Switch Sides

sandyfaithking:

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When I think I know who’s ‘in’ and who’s ‘out’ is when I have to question the mechanics of my faith. Jesus was always rather cagey on who exactly is ‘in’ and who’s ‘out’. He always refused to answer questions like that, always turning such questions back around to the questioner. He continually pointed out those assumed to be ‘out’ as being those whom He valued.

Originally posted on Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another:

Did you hear about the Brandon High School quarterback who switched sides at halftime last week?

He’d led his team to 3 touchdowns in the first half, while the other team’s quarterback left the game injured. The opponents had no backup quarterback and struggled through offensive plays (really struggled, as you can see in the video linked above) as they finished the half scoreless.

Brandon’s coach asked his starting quarterback to play for the other team. In a show of great sportsmanship, both teams played hard in the second half and the game ended 46-14.

Quarterback Mason Mathieu said of the other team, “They’re a great group of guys, I mean I loved it. It was great.”

Barrier Breakdown

Being in God’s family is great too, and from what I’ve read in the Bible you’re either in or you’re out. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who falls into which category, though.

Jesus’ friends…

View original 480 more words

There is No Other

I keep humming this beautiful hymn. I hope we can visit Holy Island one day (not that that has anything to do with this hymn, or St. Patrick).

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my vision, Lord. Be Thou my all.

Know, recognise, and understand therefore this day and turn your [mind and] heart to it that the Lord is God in the heavens above and upon the earth beneath; there is no other.

Deuteronomy 4:39 (AMP)