Random Ramblings

Reflections on my walk with God


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A new day

I’ve always loved the Sabbath. Time to stop and be with my family. Time to appreciate God’s goodness to us and remember His promises.

The Sabbath of Passover week is always especially a time of joy. We have remembered the escape from Egypt, we thank Yahweh for his deliverance and look forward to the coming of Messiah.

Yesterday was not like any other Sabbath. The day was empty of all meaning. Between the numbness I could not get the sights, the sounds, and the smells of Friday out of my head. How could my Lord be dead?

On Thursday when we heard that He had been taken by the temple guard, we went as quickly as we could to the temple courts, we watched people come and go. Peter was there as were other disciples, mostly keeping a low profile. Peter of course got noticed, how could he not? Big and burly, he stood out among those in the courtyard. I have never seen a man cry like that, at first it was noisy and anguished as he called curses onto his head. As the hours went on the tears did not stop, as if they could wash away the pain of betrayal. No-one could comfort him, there were no words that could bring comfort to any of us.

We felt so sure that Pilate would dismiss the scheming of the Sanhedrin, that he would see through their manipulation and not be a part of it. He chose to do just that, washing his hands of the matter very publicly. I heard that his wife advised him to let Jesus go, that she had been warned in a dream. But he just turned his back.

That night we sat and followed the ritual of the Sabbath, the candles were lit and the little food that we had prepared was eaten. The words which normally brought comfort were empty and without meaning, the food without flavour.

Yesterday I just keep looking at the sky, willing the sun to move faster for the day to be over so that I could prepare for today.

We would go to the tomb. We would wash the Lord’s body and anoint him with oils and herbs. Our last act of love for Him would be to leave Him wrapped in clean linen and anointed with the precious oils that his mother had given to us. Mary told us between tears of the Myrrh and Frankincense, brought by wise men as gifts when Jesus was a small child. Signs of death and priesthood; she had treasured them for more than 30 years, knowing in her heart that the time would come to use them.

The sun went down, and we met briefly to plan and make sure that we were ready to go to the tomb as soon as it was light.

Another night goes by, there is little sleep for any of us. I wonder if I will ever feel peace again?  I have not felt like this since Jesus freed me of the demons – part of me hopes that the demons have come back, that this is a nightmare and that I will wake up and Jesus will still be here. The peace that He poured into my shattered life that day has kept me going when times were tough. Knowing that He was always there and that I could bring my troubles to Him, that He would fill me with peace and joy just by being in His presence.

But now He is gone.

We were so sure that He was the Messiah. As they taunted Him on the cross we were so sure that He would give us the last and greatest miracle and defy death itself. We were wrong. We were so very wrong…. I will never forget the anguish of those last moments as He called out “It is finished”.

What does it all mean, what should we do now? Can we just go back to our lives as if nothing had happened?

As soon as it is light we hurry the tomb, carrying our precious loads. Who will move the stone? Maybe the Roman guards will help – or maybe they will chase us away and not let us near.

The stone has been moved; the tomb is empty.

maryatemptytomb

Where is my Lord?

I had thought that my despair could not be greater.

Inside the tomb there are two white-robed men built like warriors. We fall down at their feet, we are in the presence of Angels. One is sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. One of them speaks, “Dear woman, why are you crying?”.

“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again?”  

I remember Jesus saying those words – we hurry back into the city and tell the disciples. They think that we have gone mad with grief; they do not believe us. But Peter gets up and runs to the tomb, I follow as quickly as I can. Peter looks inside and leaves shaking his head in disbelief and dismay.

As I turn to leave I see someone standing there. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” “Who are you looking for?”

“Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

He says my name “Mary!”. I look at him properly and realise that this is no stranger, this is my Jesus, “Rabboni!”. In my joy I try to hold onto Him but He stops me with a smile, “Don’t cling to me, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

This time I run to the city and to find the brethren – if anyone has seen me this morning they will think that the demons have truly repossessed me!

Breathless I rush into the room “I have seen the Lord!”

This is a new day; this is the day that the Lord is risen. I will rejoice and be glad!

 

 

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Follow me

When Jesus called his disciples they got up and followed Him:

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-22 NASB)

I’m reminded that when we make a commitment to Jesus we too are called follow Him, often this calling may require that we leave our comfort zone, it may mean that we leave jobs, family, friends … Everything that we hold onto in this world. Can we “up sticks” and move to where God sends us?

Ruth leaves everything to follow Naomi. Her family, her people, her gods. She is faithful to Naomi and trusts in her God.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17 NASB)

When Saul hears about the threats from the Ammonites, he is seized with anger and cuts up the oxen that he is ploughing with. He sends the pieces to the rest of Israel as a rallying call to follow him.
He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen.” Then the dread of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out as one man. (1 Samuel 11:7 NASB)

Elisha stops ploughing, sacrifices his oxen and uses the yokes to cook the meat. Completely giving up everything to follow Elijah.
So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him. (1 Kings 19:21 NASB)

When Jesus calls His first disciples they literally get up and leave everything behind. They don’t even know Jesus but are drawn by Him to follow. In Luke’s gospel the fishermen are described as having caught the biggest catch of their lives, but still they leave it. They leave family, friends and a small fortune in fish – security for them and their loved ones.
When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:11 NASB)

Later in the same chapter Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector and therefore a rich and hated man. Levi does not hesitate.
After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. (Luke 5:27-28 NASB)

Peter was able to say “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” (Mark 10:28 NASB) 

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”  Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57‭-‬62 NASB)

Can I give up everything that I rely on to follow Jesus? Can I let go and let God today?


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Trust, Wait, Rest, Work

10 years ago I walked into a church for the first time in many, many years. At this time I had never “read” the Bible. Being brought up as a good Catholic girl, I was familiar with the new testament – well maybe not all the letters or revelation – and had a passing acquaintance with the main OT stories, but had not read most of the Pentateuch or Psalms, or Proverbs, etc

It was daunting to say the least. With my pastor’s support (massive thanks to him) and a “Read the Bible in a year” guide (given to me by my church) I got started. Took me over 3 years ….. (more on that later).

Certain words grabbed my attention as I started to read. The first of these was “Trust“…..

Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

In the amplified Bible this verse conveys anticipation:
Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

But I struggled with this – what did it mean to trust in God? I am a scientist by nature and I trust that which I can see materially or have empirical evidence for. By nature God is unknown and unknowable.

I contemplated trust whilst I ploughed through the Deuteronomy, Numbers, Leviticus – trying not to fall asleep over my Bible.

My next “instruction” was to wait exemplified by one of my favourite Bible verses, Isaiah 40:31.

Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

The amplified Bible again conveys the idea of anticipation and also that waiting is not passive:
But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.

While I was still trying to get my head around trusting and waiting my next word was given – Rest.  This seemed like a great idea – lean back against the Lord and just chill out, or maybe not. Another favourite verse comes to mind many, many times when I feel in need of rest, Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

However, Matthew 11:29-30 goes on ..

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The Amplified Bible does not suggest stopping all activity, we are to take up the “yoke” that Jesus gives us, in the knowledge that He will enable us to carry it.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

In other contexts a resting place is very much envisaged as a place of reward from righteous labour.

Isaiah 11:10:
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

Isaiah 30:15:
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

My final word in the sequence was Work. at this point it started to make sense. Before I could work for the Lord I needed to understand what He wanted me to work at. This required being still, listening to Him, resting in His presence and trusting Him to lead me on the right path.

Work is something that we are all called to do. In Genesis 2:15 God “put him [Adam] into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”  We are made Imago Deo – in God’s image – our work is thus a reflection of His work as is our rest.

5 years ago I had a period of prolonged illness which forced me to do nothing for most of the day (rest) – that was when I finished “the Bible in a year”. I learned that resting in God was truly not passive, it was a time of enormous growth in my Faith.

I see these words as a cycle in my growth. At any time I may be in a place where I really need to just trust even though I can’t see where I’m being lead! I may need to wait for instruction or to rest and learn in His presence (like Mary), or to get to work (like Martha).


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Shoebox Prayers

Tomorrow we will start checking boxes in the Wirral Warehouse. These are some thoughts that I plan to share with the other volunteers followed by a brief time of prayer. Please take a little time today to pray for all of those who will be involved in the Operation Christmas Child campaign this year.

As we start checking boxes today I thought it would be lovely to share a poem that is more usually read out after Christmas.

The work of Christmas by Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among the people,

To make music in the heart.

Each box that is wrapped, packed, checked and eventually shipped, will be received by a child who may be lost, broken, hungry, or have parents or siblings who are prisoners.

They may live in a war-torn nation or a refugee camp.

They may have never experienced peace.

They may have forgotten the joy of music.

A shoe-box filled with gifts is not going to make all of the horrors in their live go away but for just a short time they will experience the pure joy of knowing that somewhere someone cares.

For perhaps the first time in their lives they will have “things” that belong to them alone.

For those of us who have been collecting, sewing, knitting, crafting and so many other good works all year it may seem that we never stop thinking of Christmas. But the next few weeks are probably the hardest work that many of us do all year!

This Poem reminds us that the work of Christmas is just beginning. Right now.


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The Woman at the Well

5-jesus-and-samaritan-woman-well4

It is too hot to go to the well.

Day after day as I walk my memories haunt me.

I remember happy times when I joined the other women collecting water in the cool of the day.

Now I avoid them, and they avoid me. I see them looking sometimes when I have to go to the market; looking through me, or staring with disdain, and some who want to smile but fear the consequences of mixing with a fallen woman…

The days were happy, my husband a young man not much older than me, well loved by all. Some of those who eye me with disdain now were jealous then. His death was catastrophic, a widow before I was 30, and no hope of re-marrying. I had nothing and no one to help me.

I came from another place and could not go back. The people of Sychar thought that I had brought a curse on my husband; I had given him no son and he had died in the prime of life. To them I was to blame and must be shunned.

I did what I could, I was still young and attractive, I found a lover who gave me enough to keep body and soul together. When he left there were others…… Every day I hate myself for what I have become, but what else could I do?

There is a man at the well, this stops me in my tracks. Why is there a man at Jacob’s well at the 6th hour? As I draw nearer I am even more shocked, he is a stranger, a Jew.

Seeing me there alone in the heat of the day he must know that I am a disgraced woman but he speaks to me:
“Please give me a drink.”
“You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
( I have never heard of a Jew speaking to a Samaritan)

“If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

I am so confused, maybe he has been in the sun for too long, so I ask But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket, and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?

Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.

Either he is mad or a great prophet, I ask “Please, sir, give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water..”
“Go and get your husband.”

For a moment I just stare at him. His eyes seem to look into my soul, I see mixture of judgement and mercy. He cannot be much older than me, but his face tells of experience and wisdom far beyond his years. Quickly dropping my gaze, I noticed his hands, they are not the soft hands of a Rabbi, they are hands that have worked. I am trying to understand what this means. The words “I don’t have a husband Spill out of my mouth and I am lost, damned,  the Jews always stone adulterers…..

He is speaking again You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!

How does he know? And if he knows, why did he even speak to me? Emboldened I say Sir, you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?.”

The prophet continues Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

I am filled with awe, who IS this man? “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

His answer stuns me I Am the Messiah!.”

A group of men are walking towards us, carrying food. They have come from the town – a Jewish prophet who sends his disciples into a Samaritan town? They are a rag tag bunch, most look more like they should be working the land or fishing, rather than following a prophet, but then I think He too was a working man. They are surprised to see him talking to me but none of them questioned me, one or two even smiled.

My water-pot forgotten, not even thinking of what will happen to me I go as quickly as I can to the city. The men are shocked to see me but before they can say a word I tell them, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” Curious they follow me back to the well. When we get there his disciples are urging Him to eat. But he seems to be waiting for us. I hear the disciples speaking amongst themselves, pointing at us as we near the well. They don’t look surprised, one of them is saying that Jesus always draws those who are thirsty for truth.

Jesus and His disciples are being invited to stayed in Sychar. The whole town will hear him and will believe. The men are saying to me, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Saviour of the world”

Walking back to the town behind the men, I am met by the women who used to be my friends; the men do not stop them. They have heard the news, they ply me with questions. These women whom I love and thought I would never speak with again are holding my hands, tears of joy are falling from my eyes as I tell them all that Jesus said to me.

I know that from this time forward my life will be different. I have met the Messiah, my sins have been forgiven, my life renewed.

A story based on John 4:4-42 (quoted text from NLT)


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Fearfully and Wonderfully made

I started this post a while ago. The recent conversations about the sale of foetal tissue have brought all of my thoughts into sharper focus.

Advances in technology mean that we can take more and more control of the reproductive process. Embryos can be created in vitro using eggs and sperm harvested from people who may or may not be a couple. 

Embryos can be tested by pre-implantation diagnosis for the absence or presence of life-limiting genetic disorders. Just one cell removed from the bundle of cells which makes up the early embryo, can be processed to reveal the genetic make-up of all of the cells. Each cell is genetically identical and at this stage is pluripotent – capable of developing into any tissue.

To overcome motility or low sperm counts, sperm nuclei can be directly injected into eggs

I have wondered for some time how long it would be before “advances” made it possible for same sex couples to be enabled to be the biological parents of a child. The ability to manipulate the pro-nuclei of gametes makes this prospect something that is very possible, as discussed in detail in this article: Are babies from same-sex couples really possible?

But let us take a step back, how does sexual reproduction ensure that each new individual is genetically distinct?

Gametes (eggs and sperm) are produced by a type of cell division known as meiosis, or reduction division. Every cell (except the gametes) in our bodies contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. One of each pair came from our mother and one from our father.

These chromosomes contain the 20,500 genes that control our appearance and physiology. Between the genes lies non-coding segments which form the bulk of the DNA and used to be thought of as mostly “junk”. However, it is now known that these non-coding segments often have essential controlling roles – the fingerprints of the creator.

Meiosis separates the chromosome pairs – one from each is allocated to an “intermediate cell” (primary oocytes and spermatocytes), but not before pieces of information have been swapped between the pairs. The intermediate cells contain a mix of chromosomes from our mother and father divide again (though not until fertilization in the case of the ovum).  The result is that each gamete is has half the genetic information found in the parent cells (23 chromosomes) and this set of information is different from other gametes, no two sperm are identical, neither are any two ova.

Simplified diagram showing production of sperm and ova. Notice the “swapping” of pieces of the chromosomes between the pairs. Only 2 pairs of chromosomes shown – there are 23 in humans making the process much more complicated than shown.

Fertilization, whether natural or assisted, produces a fertilized egg (zygote) in which the genetic composition is truly unique. The chances of two individuals have the same genome are infinitesimally small – small enough to ignore. Only identical twins share the same set of genetic information – because they arise from the same zygote.

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
 


I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,


When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;


And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139:13-16

As a biologist I am fascinated by the advances in reproductive research; as a Christian I find myself questioning the means by which these advances are wrought. Perfecting techniques so that they can be safely used in vivo, means that embryos must be produced in vitro and destroyed by the analytical processes or discarded as surplus to requirements.

Understanding that from the moment of conception the zygote holds the potential to form all of the tissues and organs of a unique individual, at what point is this organism human?

At what point can we justify destruction of this “one of a kind” either as collateral damage in the advancement of reproductive science or abortion? Obviously the manipulations involved in same sex reproduction will of necessity involve production of embryos which will fall into these categories.

Alistair Roberts has discussed this from a theological and philosophical point of view in his blog post  Abortion and Personhood. He makes the point that the difference between pro-choice and pro-life is one of relationships. If I do not want to keep my offspring then I will tend to think in terms of “it” “embryo” or “foetus”; if I am delighted to be pregnant I will think in terms of baby, from conception.

I remember the thrill of seeing the heat-beat on the 8 week ultrasound – confirming that the “embryo” was alive. At 12 weeks some break-through bleeding sent me scurrying to the maternity unit. The scan was a pure delight – not only was my baby alive and well, she (I “knew” she was a girl from very early on) was waving her arms and whooshing around like a baby in a bath-tub. Very much like this lovely video:

At 12 weeks abortion is legal and accepted as “normal”. In a wanted pregnancy this 12 week foetus is seen as a dancing baby; in an unwanted pregnancy it not seen.


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Being content without cake

A few days ago, while shopping, I had an overwhelming urge to rip off a piece of the French loaf that I was holding.

When my daughter was little, trips to the supermarket usually included her happily her tucking into the end of a french loaf, my bread craving brought back this happy memory. I bought some gluten (and everything else-free) chocolate brownies ……..( which are pretty good actually).

I have IBS, it flared up before Christmas and has not really gone away. My doctor suggested I try the FODMAP diet as I have never been able to pin-point what causes flares -ups. Basically I have to exclude anything that may cause my IBS to flare up for 6-8 weeks and then slowly re-introduce foods, one at a time.

No gluten, no lactose, no fructose, no soya……… The “no” list is long (including such staples as onions and apples…) and the “yes” list much shorter.

I am on week 8. Some symptoms are better, some have not changed, and I have new ones. Overall I was having more good days i.e. pain-free, but I am still not “right” and recently I have been feeling unwell again. I am frightened of reintroducing foods, I’m frightened that it will all prove inconclusive and I’ll be back to square one. I am bored of not be able to eat normally. My really supportive husband is fed-up with me not being able to eat “nromally”. I want to eat proper cake!

In the great scheme of things, IBS not a major medical issue; it does not shorten life, it is not usually disabling (though some days it is hard to function), but it does affect quality of life. People can and do suffer depression brought on by the almost constant nagging pain, discomfort and tiredness that accompanies flare-ups.

I have had some really black days over the last few years, days when I could do nothing but take the pain-killers and go to bed with my hot water bottle. Alternating putting the soothing heat on my back and stomach.

So often it is only when I am at the end of my own strength that I call on God. He has pulled me through so many times. Before I knew the Lord I suffered a few bouts of depression, proper “I can’t get up of the sofa to phone my dying Mum” type of depression. Since I have come to know God I have never been that low. When I feel the clouds of depression wrapping themselves around me and obscuring the outside world, I look to Him and He is always the light in my darkness.

Paul wrote:

Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 HCSB)

Whilst I am not trying to compare myself with Paul, I am trying to remember that the Lord uses these times of trouble to refine us and to make us turn to Him for the strength that we lack. I am really trying to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself in.


I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 HCSB)


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Christmas List

A Christmas list with difference, not things I want but things I would love to give away.

This is not all my own work but has been collated over the last 9 years of my shoebox obsession. My sources are SPI/OCC – websites and FB pages, fellow volunteers, and also the many boxes that I have checked with joy. It is really such a privilege to share the joy of these boxes filled with love and to know that each one will make a difference to a child who may have never received a gift or even love.

Enjoy and happy shoeboxing.

Love,
Tricia ♥

What should go in a shoe-box?

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Crumbs for the Dogs

My beautiful daughter was being pulled apart.

Gifts were given to the healers and sacrifices to the gods.
The healers could do nothing.
My gods were deaf to my pleas.

Her clothes ripped to shreds, her filthy body half naked covered in bruises and scratches. Curses and foul language spewed constantly from her mouth.
I would not let them take her away.

I was despised – all said that I had brought this curse upon my family.

Sometimes when she slept I could see the child that I had given birth to, sometimes then I could gently wipe her face and even hold her….
Sometimes when she woke up I saw my child in her eyes, terrified of what she had become, pleading to me to make it better… and then the demon would awake, and my child was gone.

There was a rumour that a great healer had come to our area. A Jew named Jesus – I had heard of Him. Some said that he is the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for, he spoke with great wisdom and healed the sick.

Could he heal my child?
Would he heal my child?

My kind are despised by the Jews. We are seen as little better than dogs … so why would he come here? Has he come to mock us or to heal us? I must go to see him, I will ask him to heal my child, I believe that he can cure her, he is my last hope.

Entering the house where he was speaking I could feel the spirit of God in that place. The words that he spoke were like nothing that I had ever heard before, none of our teachers or priests spoke such words. I forced my way through the crowd and cried.

“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”
Jesus said nothing. His disciples urged him to send me away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Then Jesus looked at me and said, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” Prostrating myself at his feet I begged him again to heal my child, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

He looked at me, really looked into my eyes as he lifted me up to my feet and said “Dear woman, your faith is great. Your request is granted.” His hands were rough, a carpenter’s hands, but his face was that of the Lord. As I stood there time seemed to stop, his smile and the warmth of his eyes engulfed me. The moment was broken by a voice shouting at the door, “Come quickly, your daughter is healed, she is here with me asking for you.” She squeezed her way through as only young children can do through the legs of adults.

She threw herself at me all smiles and hugs and tears. How could I ever thank Jesus for this gift of my child?

I will follow him all of my days.

Jesus heals bleeding woman

Matthew 15:22-28 (NLT)

 


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Simply, Simon; Redux

Thoughts on the blankness of Holy Saturday from Sy at The Book of Works

The Book of Works

It is Holy Week, and I would like to repost something that I put up on Holy Saturday last year.

Holy Saturday is the day in-between. Very little is written about what happened on that day, but we can imagine.  We can imagine a man, much like us. A man defeated, alone, miserable and afraid. This man, who was once called a rock, today thinks of himself as simply – Simon. Imagine him sitting in a strange house in a city not his own, staring out the window, seeing nothing but his own failure, and the loss of all of his hopes and dreams. I have felt this way at times, and perhaps you have also.

He thinks of the glorious promise that he has witnessed the past months, the miraculous and wonderful things he has seen and heard. He thinks of the Man who showed so much faith in him…

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Love

My thoughts on 1 Corinthians 11-13 for Valentine’s Day.

All quotes are from the NASB translation unless otherwise noted

When I teach I always try to get my students to see the big picture before looking at the details. The big picture here is that Paul very much wants the Corinthians to understand that although they no longer have to follow strict rules and laws about food, behaviour, dress etc., they should act in ways that demonstrate their salvation. If we bear this in mind and, as always, remember that this is a letter (no chapter or verse divisions) perhaps some of the more troubling sections make more sense.

The beginning of Chapter 11 is one of those sections of scripture that we shy away from. It seems on the surface to be undeniably misogynistic. Paul lays down the law about the behaviour of women in church. I leave delving deeply into that to the theologians. However the HCSB study Bible points out that many behaviours (for all believers) were required to avoid alienating the Jews and/or avoiding doing anything which seemed to align them with pagan practises or rituals. If I may quote an example from my Pastor. He recently told us that whilst there is nothing in scripture to prohibit him preaching to us in his pyjamas, it would be inappropriate and would certainly upset many of the congregation. It would also give the wrong message to outsiders. A trivial example perhaps, but one which helps us to see why it is so important to not only do what is right, but be seen to do what is right.

In the next section of this chapter, Paul denounces the behaviour of some of the believers with regard to the Lord’s Supper. He has heard that many take it as an opportunity to eat and drink to excess. Perhaps even worse, whilst they are feasting, some of the brethren are eating very little. Such behaviour is wrong on so many levels, they are not sharing their food, they are exhibiting glutony, they are ignoring or even abusing the poor, they are disrepecting the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and in so doing dishonouring Jesus himself. This should be a a time of sharing and fellowship, there should be no distinction between them, certainly not based on wealth.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; (Romans 10:12)

The sharing of the Lord’s Supper should be distinct from general eating and drinking, believers are advised to eat before coming together for the Lord’s supper. We can perhaps assume that if they were celebrating communion as part of general fellowship, they would be expected to share all that they had, so that each received sufficient food. Paul urged them (and us) to make sure that they were worthy; in particular they should confess unforgiven sin and make themselves right with each other before sharing the bread and wine.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself [herself], and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

During fellowship it would be commonplace to talk about how the Lord was working in the lives of the believers. Perhaps Paul had heard that some thought themselves better than others because they had “superior” gifts.

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

As we share in the Lord’s Supper and share fellowship, so we should share the gifts that we have been given.

There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:6-11)

The gifts are given not to glorify the individual but to allow believers all to work together. Just as a healthy body needs all of it parts to function correctly and work together, so a healthy church needs all of it’s members to use their gifts and work together. No member of the church is more important than another, though perhaps it can be argued that some are more essential. Just as the heart and brain are essential for life, so some members of the church may have more important roles, but all members are equal in their relationship with Christ.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:27-28)

Paul finishes this part of his letter (chapter 12) with a series of questions and then goes on to “show us a more excellent way”. Chapter 13 is such a well known passage of scripture. It is a wonderful description of what love should look like. However, if we read it in the original context, i.e. continuing on from chapter 12 with no chapter or verse breaks, it becomes even more wonderful. Paul is clearly telling us that gifts are useless, if they are not used in and with love.

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Roman13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.


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A Christmas Open Letter to His Royal Highness – Prince Charles

Powerful words and wisdom from David Robertson

TheWeeFlea.com

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Your Royal Highness,

I am writing to you to thank you for your Thought for the Day as given on BBC Radio 4 yesterday.  I appreciate what you said and also the manner in which you said it.   I remember the kindness you showed to a woman in my former congregation, Brora Free Church.  Megan Boyd told me how sometimes  you popped in to see her on your way up North – not least because she was the best fly-tyer in the world – but your kindness was largely unknown until the film To Kiss the Water, told the story.  Thanks.

I also appreciate your evident concern for the well being of those who are persecuted because of their faith.  As it happens I had just been reading about the Christians being beheaded in Aleppo and so it was particularly moving to hear your account of meeting the Syrian Orthodox…

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Creation Hymn

​In my Every Day with Jesus devotionals, the focus at present is on the Prophet Amos. 

Most of the book is very much about judgement on the unfaithful people of Israel. Interspersed are these beatiful verses described as Amos’ creation hymn. Amos reminds the people (and us) that as Creator, Gid is in control and has ultimate authority.

For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The Lord God of hosts is His name.

Amos 4:13 NASB

He who made the Pleiades and Orion And changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the surface of the earth, The Lord is His name.

Amos 5:8 NASB

The Lord God of hosts, The One who touches the land so that it melts, And all those who dwell in it mourn, And all of it rises up like the Nile And subsides like the Nile of Egypt; The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens And has founded His vaulted dome over the earth, He who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the face of the earth, The Lord is His name.

Amos 9:5‭-‬6 NASB


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Redesigning life

It seems like every time I switch on the news or read a paper there is a another story about horrific abuse perpetrated on children or other vulnerable individuals. In the latest a mother and her partner murdered her 2 year-old son.

Children are seen as accessories and people feel they have a “right” to have one of their own – biology can be twisted to purpose.

If you are a single woman or a lesbian couple, find a sperm donor.
If you are a single man, find a surrogate.
If you are a gay couple, find a surrogate.
If you are post-menopausal, take hormones and use a donated egg.

Biology does not have to limit your choices you can choice the donors of eggs and sperm to give you the best option of a “prize” child. If you don’t like the result – sue the suppliers! In that article Julie Bindel comments as follows:

With the designer “gayby” boom looking set to expand even further, there are some important questions to ask about the ethics of commercialised reproduction. In London alone there are a number of clinics offering sperm for sale; brokers that arrange wombs-to-rent, often in countries where women are desperately poor and sometimes coerced into being surrogates; and egg donation that can cause significant pain and health risks to the donors. There is also the “mix and match” temptation that comes with choosing eggs and sperm from a catalogue. There is even an introduction agency for those who wish to meet the sperm while it is encased in a body.

Where does this leave the child? What will the parents tell that child about his or her biological inheritance?

We all have a need to have roots. To see where we came from. To relate our current experience of life with that of our forebears. But what if your biological mother or father or both are unknown?

Further choice is around the corner – genetic modification of embryos will be possible in the near future: GM embryos ‘essential’, says report here and here.

It will start with disease genes …but where will it end?
Designer babies – made to order and delivered to your door? Perhaps the last bit is somewhat fanciful, but maybe it is not totally ridiculous to imagine a world where babies can be grown in vitro or in animal surrogates.

At the other extreme we read and hear daily of babies and children subjected to to most horrific atrocities. Babies that were born “by accident”, babies born to women who could not look after them … or just babies born into situations where they were seen as possessions to be treated as one treats anything else, loved or abused.

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East posted the following: “Last year, Islamic State issued a fatwa calling for children with Down syndrome and other congenital disabilities to be killed. Following the decree, 38 children between one week and three months old were murdered by lethal injection or suffocation”. (Caring for disabled children in Kirkuk)

I see these extremes as parts of the same problem, when children are no longer seen as gifts from God, are not the expression of love between a man and a woman, then they become possessions to be bought, sold and disposed of as people wish.


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Speaking in Tongues

I’ve always been a bit bemused about speaking in tongues. I have admittedly only witnessed it once ir twice , though have seen it in video clips. Why would God talk through someone in an incomprehensible stream of sound? There was no interpreter on the occasion that I witnessed this occurrence and it left me pretty baffled and in no way left me feeling as if the Spirit had spoken.

Acts 1 (in various translations of the Bible) indicates different languages or different tongues. The understanding is that the gift is the ability to speak to those from different nations. It does not say that they were babbling.

Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” (Acts 2:3-12 NKJV)

And as Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke in [foreign, unknown] tongues (languages) and prophesied. (Acts 19:6 AMP)

Also in 1Cor 14:6-25 Paul admonishes that the gift of tongues should be used with care to teach and glorify God.  He also says that if there is no interpreter present then the person speaking in tongues should not do so aloud.

But now now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? (1 Corinthians 14:6 NASB)

If I speak in tongues and I do not understand what I am saying, and there is no interpreter available, what is the point? No one is edified by this as none have gained knowledge from my utterances. How can I expect  anyone to say “Amen” if they do not understand? Indeed should we ever say “Amen” if we do not understand and agree with the prayer that has been spoken?

What then is the conclusion, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation. All things must be done for edification. If any person speaks in another language, there should be only two, or at the most three, each in turn, and someone must interpret. But if there is no interpreter, that person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:26-28 HCSB)

Today in our Pentecost service we were reminded that the Holy Spirit came upon all who were gathered in the upper room. Men and women. All heard a sound like a great wind, all received the Holy Spirit and were given the gift of tongues so that they may share the Gospel far and wide. The many visitors to the city heard the good news in their own language and dialect, no translators were needed. The Church was born in power but also in the simplicity of each person’s mother tongue. All could understand the message. All could take Gospel with them back to their own land.

Are we doing likewise?