Pooh Sticks

A couple of weeks ago, I took my three-year old grandson to the park, and on the way back we crossed a small stream. So, of course we stopped to play Pooh Sticks. You know the game – drop a stick over one side of the bridge, dash to the other side before the stick floats through. Sometimes the stick appeared very quickly, and sometimes it took a little longer. Once we thought we’d lost the stick altogether, but we waited, and at last it broke free of the brambles or whatever had entangled it, and off it drifted down the stream.

I shared this picture with my church on Sunday morning; how sometimes our lives get caught up, just like that stick got caught up under the bridge, and we must shake off what has grabbed hold of us; or maybe we just need a ‘whoosh’ of the Holy Spirit to set us free. It got me thinking a bit more. There we are, sailing along that river we call life. Most of the time it seems, life just takes us, and we bob along quite happily with the current. Sometimes we dance crazily along on the crest of little waves, other times we drift aimlessly, meandering round life’s bends as if we have all the time in the world. Often (or so I’ve found) we get caught up on things out to get us, or rubbish that other people throw into our lives, just like the little stick entangled by brambles and creepers. When we realise this, we need to make a conscious effort to push on through, or ask God to help us. As we sail on down this river we call life, there are also currents to negotiate, and rocks to avoid, where the best we can do is just stay afloat. But we are always moving onward, we can never go back, only move on. And as I travel on this river we call life, I am very glad I don’t have to do it on my own. I am very glad I have my friends and family around me, and I am very glad I have God, who is ever-present, and willing to help as soon as I ask.

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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.

 

 

In Memory

 

 

One hundred years ago today, five days before the end of the Great War to end all wars, my Great-Uncle, Private Charles Henry Nicholls died, fighting in France. He was a soldier in the 4th (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers), and took part in the One Hundred Days Offensive, the final campaign of the war before the Armistice on 11th November 1918.

I obviously never knew him, but I honour him now, and all the other men who gave up their lives in the fight for peace.

They hoped then it was the War to end all wars, but many wars have been fought since, and many more lives lost. Will we never learn?

 

 

 

Getting closer

Christmas preparations have stepped up a gear, the day is fast approaching. The presents are wrapped, the cards written, most of the food tightly packed in the fridge, and the ham is gently steaming on the hob. Family are on their way through the festive traffic jams, so there are still beds to make, and a mountain of other chores to do before they arrive.

 

Mary and Joseph are getting ready for their journey to Bethlehem. The donkey is saddled, some food packed, and a few simple baby clothes carefully stowed away, just in case.

 

 

Far away some oriental gentlemen are looking excitedly at the new star in the night sky. After checking their ancient writings, they have decided to saddle up their camels and follow the star in search of the new king it proclaims.

 

 

 

In remembrance

If yesterday was a day stuck between dark and light, for me today is a day stuck between death and life. We are in Advent, and yesterday I was looking forward to Christmas 2017, but today I am looking back to a very different Christmas in 2006. Eleven years ago today, after a short illness, my husband Geoff at the age of 51, passed from this life to the next, and I felt as though the world had ended. But the world didn’t end, I got used to a new normal, and here I am, eleven years on. My old plans and expectations were changed, I have changed. I have a wonderful daughter and son-in-law, a wonderful son and daughter-in-law, and also now a very wonderful grandson. I miss Geoff of course, even now, but life goes on, albeit different to what I had expected, and life is still good; very good. And as I look forward to this Christmas, I can see in the birth of Jesus that God is still good; very good.

 

 

 

Advent my way – or a better way?

adventAdvent for Christians is the season leading up to Christmas, starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This year Advent began on 29th November, the earliest date possible. It’s a time when many traditional churches light candles, and Christians wait expectantly for Christmas Day when we remember the birth of Jesus, and look forwards to his promised return.

So what are we doing this Advent? Is it a special time? or are we absorbed in planning and logistics? Who to invite, who to ignore, and why? How much to spend, and who to buy presents for? What parties to host, and which parties to attend? What to eat and drink, and have we got enough? And above all, how do we get what we want, eat and drink what we want, and get to do what we want?

As a result, what should have been a blessed time for peace and reflection, we have made into a stressed time of soaking ourselves in materialism and over-indulgence. What began in a poor humble shelter has been commercialised and become all about money and corporate or personal gain. And what was a simple birth has become an excuse for gluttony and excess.

So what can we do about this, if indeed we want to do anything at all? How do we bring Advent and Christmas back to basics within all the busyness and responsibilities of modern life?

Well, I suppose I could try to take some time out of my frenetic preparations. Impossible you might say! But time-out doesn’t have to be hours and hours, just a couple of minutes of space and mindful thought can bring focus and rejuvenation. Perhaps I can think outside the box, and every time I go up the stairs, I can ask for His help in what I am doing. When I have that peaceful moment alone in the loo, I can ask God for patience in the turbulence of life. When I’m standing by the kettle, making yet another cup of tea or coffee, I can praise Him for the gift of friends and family. I can begin the habit of looking at things positively and endeavour to bring Jesus right into my busy life by my attitudes and the way I treat others. I can seek out the good, and stop thinking and behaving as if I am the most important person in the universe.

 

Farewell Brinny, faithful friend and companion

I’ve put off writing this for too long, but now the time is right…..

Brinny, my faithful, loyal dog for nearly fifteen years, was a Staffie/Jack Russell cross-breed, strong and stocky, and pulled like a train! She was mainly white, with large brindled patches of black and brown, a deep ‘staffie’ chest, and back legs that I’m sure contained springs! Like a ‘bull in a china shop’, she knocked me over several times. Whilst she was with me during the good times, she also saw me through many trials and tribulations. With a wagging tail and a cold wet nose, she was always eager to see me, even when she was old and arthritic and her strength was failing.

She was always my dog. The moment I stood up she was there, eager to get to where I was going before I did!  She lay in the doorway to the office when I worked; by the side of my chair when I relaxed, and in her bed under the stairs at night, so that I couldn’t leave without her knowing! And she spoke with eyes that followed me wherever I went.

She came to us as an eager young rescue dog of one or maybe two years old. We never knew her background, except that her obvious dislike for travelling in the car led us to believe she had been taken somewhere by car and then abandoned. Initially she was always car-sick, but over the years, travelling became a little easier. But she still could never relax in the car, shivering and panting continuously; however, we knew she would always rather come with us than be left behind. Even when we travelled to the park, or out into the country, she didn’t like leaving the car, but just wanted to get back in and go home again. We got round that by mostly walking her locally.

The years went by, the children grew up, moved out and started their own lives. Brinny was my constant companion. Through sudden bereavement she was a warm body to stroke, and would always listen attentively – and never once disagreed with me! Brinny got older, white face turned to grey, her joints became painful with arthritis, and her hearing deteriorated. Sadly, her anxiety when I left her increased, even when she stayed with family members. This is a video my daughter Jo took when I went away for the weekend:

Finally, when Brinny was about sixteen, (one is never exactly sure with a rescue dog), it became clear that I couldn’t put off the inevitable for much longer. So in November last year I took her to the vet, and he agreed with me. I put it off for one more week, and then returned, and Brinny’s life gently slipped away in my arms. I now have another rescue dog, a very different dog, (more about him in another post), but Brinny will always have a special place in my memory and in my heart.

Brinny April 2015