Random Ramblings

Reflections on my walk with God


4 Comments

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!

 

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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?


2 Comments

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).


Leave a comment

What is Christmas about?

I did our  Sunday “discussion” with the YP today (we decided the School should be dropped from the title!).
We started with the Starbucks cups and the symbolism of Christmas and moved on to the Gospels ….

The Christmas story in a nutshell:

Unwed virgin is told she will bear a child by the power of the Holy Spirit
Newly pregnant teenager avoids stoning by Angelic intervention with fiancé
Heavily pregnant girl walks long distance to find nowhere to sleep in her husband’s ancestral home-town
Baby born amidst the noise and smell of a stable
Jesus’ birth announced by warrior angels and welcomed by frightened shepherds
Shepherds return to their fields via the town – announcing the miraculous birth
Temple visit where prophets rejoice
Visit of Magi with incredible gifts followed by escape to Egypt
Innocents killed; Rachael weeps
Refugees finally go home many years later.

Jesus was one of us, He was born in poverty away from His parents home.
He was welcomed by the unimportant but rejected by the powerful.
He became a refugee. Fleeing for his life.
Finally He was taken to the home that His parents had left long before he was born.

Truly God and Truly Man.

Mary did you know?


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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)