Only One

This morning I read in the Bible that God camped in the very middle of the Israelite camp (Numbers 2:1). He loved them and wanted to be with them. He wanted them to know He was there; to teach them how to truly live with Him; to travel with them and guide them.

So I had a little conversation with God, that went a bit like this:

God, I know You are here too, in the middle of my life, in my mess, because you say love me and want to be with me. To guide me and travel through life with me. So Lord, why is it you want to be with me, in my mess?

Because you are my child and I love you. I love to be with you, to walk closely with you and hold your hand.

But why me? when there are thousands and millions of others who are better than me and much cleverer than me. Those who are more important and certainly more worthy than I am. You love them, and walk with them, so why do you want me as well?

Because there is no one else like you, you are unique and I want to be in the centre of your life.
And because there is only one you.

 

 

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My Christmas Message

In the beginning there was nothing but darkness. But God was there, in the darkness. God didn’t like the darkness, so he said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, amazing, incredible, light. Light that lets you see and understand. And God saw that the light was good, very good indeed. Next God created the water, the sky and the land. Plants and trees, sun, moon and stars, fish and animals. Then God created people, just like you and me. And God said it was all good, very, very good. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. So all the people lived in the light, and in understanding with God.

Time passed. People changed and became selfish, wanting their own way. They became unkind, greedy, violent, cruel. And they didn’t like God seeing everything they did. So they turned away from the light of God and their hearts became full of darkness. They did hateful things in the shadows, thinking that the darkness would hide them and that God wouldn’t see.

But God did see. He could see that His wonderful world wasn’t good anymore. And He wanted to do something about it. So He made plans to bring the light back. For a long time He planned. For hundreds of years He planned. And sometimes He let his friends in on the secret, just a little. Isaiah was one of His friends. Isaiah said that one day in the future, “The people walking in darkness and living in shadow would see a great light.”

So hundreds of years later, when the time was just right, the true light, that could give light and understanding to everyone, came into the world. His name was Jesus. He was God’s own son, a part of God himself, come to earth to shine His light into the darkness. When the angels spread light across the hillside, the shepherds hurried to Bethlehem to see the new baby in the manger. When the wise men followed the light of the star, they came and gave gifts to the brand new baby king. Jesus grew up knowing he was the light of the world. He said “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” And, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Another time He said, ” I have come into the world as a light, so that no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

But people still didn’t like the light, because it showed up the bad things they did, so they tried to put out the light, by killing Jesus on the cross. But God’s light could not be turned off, and could not be extinguished. Jesus didn’t stay dead! He came back from the dead, and walked around with his friends, and once he even cooked breakfast for them. Before He went back to heaven to be with Father God, He handed the job of carrying the light on to His followers – and that’s us, you and me! The apostle Paul said, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. So live as children of light.” Another time he said ” We are all sons and daughters of the light, we do not belong to the darkness.” In one of his letters, Peter said, “You are a chosen people, belonging to God, so you can praise Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Now we who are Christians carry that light, because, “God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.” Some of us think we are only little lights, and some of us may think we are bigger lights, but we are not asked to carry the light on our own. Just like a string of fairy lights, we are joined together, you, me, and all who follow Jesus. We need the power of electricity to light each bulb in a string of fairy lights, and if we ask him to, God’s Holy Spirit gives each of us the power to shine out for Jesus in our little bit of the world. Batteries, or a power cable in our string of lights are useless, if we don’t choose to plug in and switch on. And it’s no good if we don’t choose to plug into God, and be switched on by God’s Holy Spirit. Each of us can be a little light for Jesus, and
joined together we can be a big light for Jesus.

 

Bible references (some slightly paraphrased!):  Genesis 1:1-3, Isaiah 9:2, John 1:9, John 8:12, John 9:5, John 12:46, 2 Corinthians 4:6, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John:5

Musings from a winter afternoon

I stand at the window looking out into a cold and blustery winter afternoon. My mind is still. I wait, expectantly, but for what? I see the wind rifling through the dead leaves in the gutter, worrying at them, tossing them high into the air with abandon, as if by the hand of an exuberant child. The clouds zip by, their shape and colour constantly shifting. Now, as I see the light begin to fail, I wonder at how the days slip by so quickly; we are half way through January, and February is already on the horizon. As the forever changing seasons move inexorably on, I realise that spring is a mere heart-beat away. I marvel at how the sun comes up each morning, although at times it is obscured by cloud; and how the moon waxes and wanes, and the tides ebb and fall. I consider how rain waters the earth, and how the sun warms it and brings forth life. And I have questions about myself; how I can be here by sheer chance, and what is the purpose of my own existence? I weigh-up the possibilities. Is all this intricate detail some great cosmic mistake, a huge coincidence or confluence of separate events? But surely not! Surely there is a creative designer and all-powerful hand behind the astounding complexity I see around me, and in me.

Then, as I wait, I sense a voice in the deep recesses of my mind. “I am here my child. I created all the wonder you see around you, and I created you. I created your inmost being, and I knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are not a mistake, you are my beautiful child. There is a purpose in your existence. Wait and see what wonderful things I will accomplish through you.”

 

 

How oak trees lift the spirit

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I awoke this morning feeling sorry for myself – not a good way to wake up! I’d slept badly, and tatters of disjointed dream images still clouded the back of my mind. I opened the curtains, the sky was as overcast and grey as I felt. I went downstairs, let the dog out and made myself a cup of tea. Then I slipped back into the warmth of my bed to do my daily Bible reading – today it was Psalm 62, maybe this would cheer me up. It starts, ‘My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.’ “Well Lord,” I grumbled, still feeling sorry for myself. “I don’t feel very rested!” I sipped my tea, and stared out of the window; and the colours of next doors oak tree took my breath away. Oak trees are amongst the last to lose their leaves, and now the colours were finally changing and the leaves fluttering to the ground. The colours are simply glorious. With a quick glance from a distance, you might consider the leaves to be merely brown, but when you look more closely, the various intermingled shades of green, yellow and brown are amazing. My day has been lifted, not only by Psalm 62, but also by the unveiling of God’s beautiful creation.

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Hidden Hydrangea

Walking back from the beach to my friend’s house in Littlehampton last week, I spotted this hydrangea growing in a front garden. I only noticed it when I was right up close, and then I realised that it was growing completely inside the hedge. The flower heads were perfectly formed and not stunted in any way through lack of light, and the colours were truly glorious. A bible text popped into my head: ‘Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick;’ (Matthew 5:15 AV). I have adapted it a little: ‘Do not grow your hydrangea inside a hedge where no one can see its beauty!’

Hydrangea in a hedge

Bubbles – fragile yet so strong

I was sitting in bed this morning with my cup of tea as I often do. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and a light breeze was brushing through the new green leaves of the old oak tree next door. It’s been grey and miserable most of the week, and a bit of sun really does lift the spirit!
Half of my mind was reading my bible, and the other half was just enjoying the scene outside the window, when some bubbles floated by! Beautiful bubbles, small and shiny rising on the air; reflecting the squares of my window, and iridescent with the soft green of the trees, the blue of the sky, and edged with sparkling gold from the sun. As the bubbles drifted on by, their delicate shapes gently undulated, now short and fat, now elongating, as desperate to exist a little longer they ebbed and flowed to meet the changes in the breeze. How fragile, and yet how strong!
I didn’t see the demise of the bubbles, they just drifted on out of sight. And when they had gone, I thought about how our lives ebb and flow as the breezes and storms of life take us. And I thought that like the bubbles, how strong our lives can be, and yet so fragile.
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The Power of Positive Thinking

It is so much easier to be negative than positive, easier to remember harsh words and thoughtless actions, than kind and encouraging ones. And the more we notice the negative, the worse we can feel. It’s so easy to be negative that we do it without even thinking, and often it takes a conscious effort to be positive.

How many children say, “I’m rubbish,” when they can’t do something?  I spend much of my teaching time encouraging children, showing them, and building on what they can do, rather than telling them what they can’t do. And when they focus on their achievements, however small, they find the tricky things become easier.

In the Bible it says  ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things’ (Philippians 4 verse 8).

So if we focus on the good things rather than the bad, fill our minds with the positives rather than the negatives, I’m sure the difficult things in life can run a little more easily. And if we smile at other people the chances are that they will smile back.