Today I feel like a tortoise. All I want to do is pull my head in and hibernate. With a nice thick shell, and a bundle of warm hay to snuggle into, I think I’ll feel safe from everyone that wants to have a piece of me.
But no. I must get up and face the day. I cannot remain hidden away, isolated and alone. So as I go out into this new and scary day, I ask God to be my shield and defender. With Him I am safe, and with Him I can face whatever the world throws at me.
I have a number of friends going through tough times, uncertain times and incredibly sad times. And this morning I heard a song in my head, the tune and words singing inside me, so intense that I couldn’t keep them in, and the song just bubbled out. So if you too are going through hard times, uncertain times or sad times, I offer you the words of this song straight from the heart of God. I don’t remember if fully, and you will have to imagine the tune, but it went something like this:
My peace I give you, a peace beyond understanding. I give it to you freely, but you must reach out and take it. Then I will hold you safe despite the all-encompassing confusion and tumult. The world around may still be a furious tempest, but do not be afraid, you can be secure within the calm of the eye of the storm. So just reach out and take my peace, then although the turmoil and whirlwind still rage, you will be kept safe from harm.
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.”
This year is quickly slipping away. The sands of time sliding
through the final hour-glass of 2017. We can’t rewind, can’t
live it again. It will be gone forever.
I think of things lost, and things gained. All the missed opportunities. Words I’ve said, and wished I hadn’t. The ideas for blog posts I’ve never got round to writing. All the ‘I wish I hads’, gone for ever. But I can remember good things too, treasured reminiscences. The triumphs, however great or small. The races run and won. The long lazy days of summer and the warm cosy evenings of winter, enshrined in memory.
So 2017 is on the brink of history, and for some it’s already gone and the New Year begun. (Thanks Sister Sue for New Year pictures from Down Under!)
So what hopes do I have for 2018? Peace and good will to all men ………. now where have I heard that before?
And my prayer for 2018 is almost the same as for last year – I’m still working on it!
Please God help me to use this new year better than I did the last. Help me to waste less, and live more. Help me think of others before myself, and be the good friend/parent/sister/grandma/auntie that I would like myself. Help me to be your hands, your feet and your voice to those around me. Amen
Yesterday I was given a lovely apricot coloured patio rose and a ceramic pot to put it in. So this afternoon I planted it. I thought it would be straightforward, just planting a small rose in a pot, but it wasn’t. First of all I couldn’t get the rose out of the plastic pot. It should have come out easily, but it didn’t. I poked around with a trowel, pulled gently, gave it a good shaking, and finally it came out. I put the rose into the pot, and back filled with compost. Then I stood back ready to take a photo to send to the person who gave it to me, and with disappointment I realised the rose was not standing up straight, but had gone in with a rather pronounced tilt. I now had a choice; I could leave it as it was and hope it would straighten as it grew; or I could do something about it. I decided to try to straighten it, so I put a small stake in the pot, but when I stood back I could see the rose was still pulling to the side, and the stake made it look messy. So I removed the stake, and dug up the rose and started again. This time I took more care, making sure I held the rose straight while I slowly put compost in bit by bit. Finally I stood back, and could see that all my effort was worth it – the rose was now standing up straight. I gave it a good watering, took a photo and sent it to my friend.
Forgive the analogy, but I think there are times in our lives when God wants to do a similar thing in us. We may suddenly become aware there is something wrong deep inside us, and we realise we have been growing crookedly in our pots for a long time. It maybe that terrible things have happened to us in the past, or maybe not so terrible things that have still marred and marked us, and caused our growth to be stunted or somehow askew. Over the years we have probably found ways of coping, but there can come a time when God can re-plant us and help us to grow straight. It won’t be comfortable, being uprooted, shaken free of what holds us, our roots bare, and we will probably want some good, experienced friends to help us get through it. But God is a careful gardener, and He will do it as gently as He can. And from my own experience I can tell you it will be well worth the effort.
I watch as Big Ben solemnly chimes out the old year.
Boom! – so 2016 is finally slipping away.
Boom! – twelve whole months over, never to be recovered.
Boom! – fifty-two weeks expired.
Boom! – days of sun and pleasure relegated to memory.
Boom! – sleepless nights of darkness forgotten.
Boom! – all the hours, minutes and seconds used up.
Boom! – big events relegated to history books,
Boom! – small events stored in my memory.
Boom! – how many births? To me a wonderful Grandson!
Boom! – and how many deaths? Too many.
Boom! – more birthdays come and gone.
Boom! – how much was valuable? How much wasted?
One extra second, gone in less than a breath.
Then, out of the ashes of the old year rises the phoenix of the new year, a clean slate, but full of colour, full of promise and expectation.
Please God help me use this new year better than I did the last. Help me waste less, and live more. Help me think more of others, and be the friend I would like myself. Help me be your hands and feet and voice to those around me.
Advent 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.