The Law is an Ass

ass

This proverbial expression is of English origin and the ass being referred to here is the English colloquial name for a donkey, not the American ‘ass’, which we will leave behind us at this point. Donkeys have a, somewhat unjustified, reputation for obstinance and stupidity that has given us the adjective ‘asinine’. It is the stupidly rigid application of the law that this phrase calls into question.

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-law-is-an-ass.html

Common sense seems seriously lacking in Western society and especially within the Laws of this land. Criminality is not punished appropriately, with lenient sentencing handed out from liberal minded judges that do not reflect the seriousness of the crime or the suffering or pain of those innocently involved, who have had their lives wrecked. Firstly by the act committed against them and secondly by the punishment not fitting the crime which both devastate the victims and their families live’s. Their sentence really is life; they carry the heartbreak and loss to their own graves.

Every day, through the media,  disappointing verdicts are pronounced and reported which leave the majority of decent law-abiding people thinking, why does the punishment not fit the crime?

Take the news headlines for this morning which is being reported by the BBC.

“Melanie Road murder: Man jailed for life 32 years after killing.”

_89638269_melanie

She was murdered, aged 17 in 1984, and her mother has suffered for 32 years. The sentence of ‘life’ given to the murderer of 22 years minimum is, to be honest, absolutely ridiculous!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-36245888

Why should he be kept at the taxpayers expense in prison, he is a convicted brutal murderer, “a monster!” who has lived his life as he pleased all these years, whilst the innocent victim’s mother has spent 32 years of her life waiting to hear this judgment. Is it justice?

Is it justice? Should the law be changed? what would you say is a fairer punishment to fit this crime?

The debate on the death penalty should be re-opened and let the people decide what is appropriate, it is time for a serious reconsideration and review of the death penalty to deter this from constantly happening to women, children and men  too. It is not the only case recently, how long do the innocent  have to suffer at the hands of cruel,brutal murderers?

Trying to understand this awful dichotomy, i am reading the following book,

how long oh Lord

https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Long-Lord-Reflections-Suffering/dp/0851109500/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1462868172&sr=1-2&keywords=how+long+of+lord

Is it now time to stand up for the victim’s, and for true justice to be seen to be done, for the penalty to really fit the crime, what do you think?

death_penalty

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The Man with the Withered Hand

A Contemporary Paraphrase on Mark 3:1-6

It is the year A.D.32 and life here in Judea has been difficult for many years, what with the Romans on the one hand (forgive the pun here!) and on the other Herod Antipas and his Herodian dynasty and added to that the ruling pious Pharisees. They are Judaism’s’ thought police, always making the Law more difficult to keep, always saying it means something more, more than Moses ever wrote or taught. Sure keeps the Scribes busy!

As for me, I want to tell you about an amazing incident that took place involving Sherebiah my friend and co-worker whom I have known since we were children; he had always had one hand that was small and twisted, useless to him. We had grown up together in the small village not far from the lakeside of Capernaum. We worked together at the lakeside hauling and selling fish. People shunned him because he was different and would not talk to him, saying he was unclean. So much for loving their neighbour!

yeshua_talit

We had heard of a young Rabbi named, Yeshua, who was also from around here, and who people were talking a lot about these past few months. This Rabbi was doing some weird, unexplainable stuff, some of which was attracting the wrong sort of attention from the authorities; that is if he wants to stay alive that is!

Only just recently, last Shabbat there was such a commotion, as Rabbi Yeshua was apprehended and questioned by the Pharisees about what his disciples were doing plucking grains of wheat in the fields. That news went viral I can tell you, everyone was talking about it. Now here we are, another Shabbat and as Sherebiah and I take our positions at the back of the synagogue, we watch as Rabbi Yeshua enters. We are in a shady spot, so he will probably not even notice us; we can’t help but talk in hushed low whispers about him, wondering what might happen today. The Pharisees are arriving, and they move straight to the front, by the Bimah and the Torah Ark. The synagogue is filling up, with lots of men from the Galil attending, and it is busier than usual. An air of anticipation is evident, and there is a hushed buzz in the room as we wait to begin.

The young Rabbi is squatting down, with his disciples near him, and then suddenly he stands up. He is tall, with his tallit over his head and draped around him. The room hushes ready for the teacher to begin expounding on the Shabbat parashah from the scroll. The Pharisees look rather nervous; to be fair no one ever can tell what might happen next when Yeshua is around and he is aware of being watched by them, by all in the room. Suddenly, we freeze and stare back in his direction, Sherebiah grips my arm with his good hand, and we turn to look at each other, our hearts pounding, we’re discovered! because Sherebiah is suddenly called forth, “Come here!” Yeshua tells Sherebiah. We look at Yeshua and I nudge Sherebiah, urging him to move forward. Suddenly all eyes are upon him as she shuffles towards the Rabbi. He glances down away  from Yeshua’s intent gaze, at the floor. Oh! my heart goes out to my friend, yet something is about to happen!

pharisees

Yeshua speaks next to the Pharisees, and asks them this question “Is it lawful on the Shabbat to do good, or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” All eyes turn to watch the Pharisees, who were silent, not a single word did anyone of them have to give in answer to the Rabbi’s question. Sherebiah didn’t dare move, in fact, nobody moved; it seemed as if every person the synagogue that day held their breath, waiting to see what would happen. The look on Yeshua’s face was thunder! His eyes glaringly bore into them from one side to the other of this group of trembling, pale-faced Pharisees; “Oi va voi!!” this Rabbi was furious. It was as if Yeshua could see right into their hardened hearts.  You could cut the air in the synagogue with a knife such was the tension there that Shabbat morning.

“Stretch out your hand.” He spoke commandingly to Sherebiah; I caught a glimpse of the Rabbi’s face  and  his eyes softened towards my friend, whose knees were shaking like a fig leaf in the wind. I saw Sherebiah slowly raise his weak hand forward towards the Rabbi. He hated being the centre of attention, having been taunted for his disability all his life. But, what happened next, well, I can hardly take it in myself, we all saw it happen before our very own eyes. First, Sherebiah’s hand flexed, and then it straightened and finally became whole, just exactly as his other hand. Well, his eyes were popping out of his head at this miracle. His face lit up with joy and he was praising God, over and over again. He shouted for joy, “Thank you Yeshua!” and then he ran outside to proclaim this wonder to any and all who he met; that he had been restored. The Pharisees didn’t look very pleased in witnessing this healing or at Sherebiah’s merry outburst, straight-faced they filed out of the synagogue and I heard they went immediately to the Herodians, to plot Rabbi Yeshua’s downfall.

Jesus heals

I simply cannot understand, what was so bad about this miracle? my friend is overjoyed and can work as any other man, he is suddenly popular as everyone wants to see his hand now, and he is more than happy to show it off, I am so pleased for him. We still work together along by the shore hauling and selling the fish and Sherebiah is as strong a man as any other there, happily able to work, no longer different. Talk of this has not stopped for days and many are leaving all to follow this Rabbi who heals and restores. On many lips is the question, “Who is this Rabbi Yeshua?”

As for Rabbi Yeshua, he left the synagogue and went off to sea, his disciples with him and they travelled all over the region followed by huge crowds all needing healing, or deliverance. I heard that he restored them all; and as for the authorities, they still can’t see any good in him and are pursuing him to bring him down, but as for my friend Sherebiah and me we can’t wait to hear of the next amazing miracle he does. There is something special about this Rabbi who does healing miracles, just like the prophets of old in the Holy Scriptures.

The Storyteller Man

telling-a-story

There is a familiar sound, approaching from the footsteps of the storyteller man, who spins tales, weaving his stories, making folklore come alive! He is walking down the street of my memories; of my childhood days, by-gone days; gone by. Here is a man who told a tale or two, dressed as a poor beggar wearing a pair of odd shoes, his work rewarded in cups of hot rosy-lee. I wonder what happened to the storyteller man, since that time when I heard the last story told. For he left me and many others both young and old alike delighting in those fables as with eyes that twinkled with such merriment; dancing with joy as he made those characters come alive , making us laugh, making us cry.

Who was he? We were really never quite sure; some say a veteran from some far off war. For under his lapel was a medal, shiny, bright which was a story he did not tell, or choose to enlighten upon. Did he save some lost soul from drowning on the seas; was he someone’s saviour for heroic gallantry? Maybe his life was a dream now gone by, no one really knew for certain, no one ever thought to ask or reason why. He wandered here and there with his wonderful tales, then moving along again,  leaving memories in his wake. His sac in hand, his footsteps left no trail, of the storyteller man who told folklore’s legends of olde for a cup of rosy-lee.

Our storyteller man ah! He knew a thing or two, things of how queer folks are, and the hard times these folks lived through. He spoke as one educated and so eloquently of great adventures far beyond the sea, in lands so strange, and the tales he wove I am sure included me. As I sat, small and still, on the sawdust floor with my little fellow comrades, enthralled! We entered into his world for just so short a time; we too were heroes, valiant and brave as the story of the solider that walked one thousand miles. We were caught up in the world of his words, his heart song, as though lost words of a book tumbled out and catching them he voiced aloud to where they surely belonged in a listener’s ear.

Grown up’s were drawn, stopping by just to hear, and which stirred in them memories stretched now over time so long, weary, and dry of their own childhood days, hearing  once more those tales that, were lives they once thought they too would live. Now far past that age, standing at the back of the silent, listening crowd they appear to be somewhat, sad. No adventures on high seas, no riches vast or finding the land of the free. Silently they listened as the tale is told, then back they wander wearily away back to their lives now old.

But as for the children eager-eyed they keenly watched, was there another tale to be told? Soon though all has been said and done; soon though to take his leave he’ll be gone, now he picks up his sac, and on walks the storyteller man watched by small eyes, hoping that soon he will return once more to tell another folklore tale from of olde.

When, you just cannot concentrate on your writing.

What stops or distracts you most from your writing? Could it be those external noises such as the neighbours chatting in the garden (maybe I should shut the window? but it is so nice outside), or your own internally driven conversations, or having no new ideas? The sun shining outside is only one of a few mega distractions for me; maybe it is one or all of these for you? Not  unduly concerned now about my progress in writing for the past day or two, yet feeling an awareness to keep on producing the work and writing for as the days slip by, the pressure begins to increase.

sunshine

Right at the moment I can hear the ‘noise’ from my daughter watching a movie on her iPhone. I know the sun will tempt me into the garden if I do not concentrate, or to the kitchen for another cup of tea. I want to write but seem unsure of how to proceed. Eventually, I wander downstairs as I predicted and put the kettle on. Absent minded, I ponder whether tea has the properties to release creativity as I slowly sip it.

# Takes time out to drink the tea, and hoping the warmth (and any healing properties) of it will melt my unmoving thoughts. Writing through the recent cold, wintery months was a cosy occupation, one of being huddled in the study with the heating on and, relatively few distractions as those I am encountering this morning. As time passes I really cannot tell if I will even complete anything worthy of spending the time typing it. I have no actual deadline to push me along except that from myself. I, therefore, decide, as I have done before, to just make a start and to see where things will end up. One last ditch attempt to stop productivity clamours to be heard from my mind, “As its voting day today remember to go, then probably get some groceries and check  e-mails before lunch just in case there is anything interesting. Now all that has been listened to and duly listed down, it is high time to get back to the desk. Yet, I still cannot think clearly. Muddle mindedness is maddening and the obvious, not obvious at all.

butterfly

Slowly a question arises to the surface which emerges from my chaotic thought processes, rather like a lazy butterfly emergent from a tight cocoon. Did I pray this morning, hmm no not really? This is more than likely to have impacted my mindless chaotic thoughts. It is like literary constipation; my mind is blocked and needs to be cleared of the crap inside, stopping me from clearly articulating what I am aiming to write.

# Takes time out to pray…..

‘Dear Lord….release creativity…. thank you… stir up the gifts; pour into me with streams of living water…. halleluyah ….amen!’ Or something to this effect!!

Focusing on God takes my eyes off myself and realigns me, to the bigger picture of life. If I am to let God write through me, to influence the words and the control their flow then, I surely must be still and  listen to Him, and not the cows mooing in the distance or the crow roosting on the rooftop making quite a commotion! Mentally I say a stern word to ‘self’ to stop wandering away from the task ahead!

What does God want to say today, to me, to those who might consider reading this?

# Takes time out to listen

In silencing my mind, I request, “I need your peace Lord. Help me to hear what you are saying right now, thank you.” The house falls silent, even the annoying iPhone (very thankful). I move away from the distractions and breathe… I see in my mind’s eye a picture of what looks like a horse, oh no, it is ‘Gerry the Giraffe’; Jumping to my first conclusion I react and too quickly think, “Oh! Perhaps this is a hint to write a children’s story?” Not so fast I tell myself ,as I hear, He (referring to Gerry) so desired more of all things in life, seeing what others had, that he kept reaching up and up to take all  he could until his neck grew longer than his legs, (maybe you have experienced God’s sense of humour to get your attention too).

giraffe

“Disproportionate desires will unbalance you.”

Oh! I do not think that it is a children’s story! I stop and begin to reflect upon this statement and any unhealthy motives I may be collecting as a writer. What am I reaching out for, that I desire, yet is affecting my capacity to stay balanced? Who, or what, do I let influence my writing and desires, and more poignantly, why?

Rather like being in a boat when all the ballast is starboard and someone stand’s up to reach out to grasp something, and the whole thing tilts alarmingly, with the threat of the boat sinking, I must be careful what I take in. Self-comparison to another’s writing style, of their gifts as a writer, or their personal walk and path in life, is a dangerous place to peek into; or move towards. Nothing could damage your own inimitable style, flow or sense of confidence more. The influence of others, some even offered and well meaning, can interrupt and distort your message, the one that God and you are working on together.

# Takes time out to consider what has just happened! … 

God does not always say what you expect or want to hear, sometimes you need to hear His truth in a way you will understand, or else there is a  risk of falling overboard and sinking in the complexity of mish-mashing your creativity with someone else’s influence. You need His Fatherly approval, not the praises of man (no gender exclusion intended, for I mean all humanity).

How we write and communicate, in using our gifting’s are unique and one that no one else ever can duplicate. So, there it is, in a proverbial ‘nut-shell’.
key to success trinitarian

“Originality is the key to success.”

So, let’s all relax and stop striving, stop the fuss, which  only drives up stress levels by trying just a bit too hard to be wanted, and accepted. Remember we already have all this in God the Father, through Christ the Son, by His indwelling Holy Spirit. And, actually, we can be more content than we have been for a long time if we let Him take control and lead the way. The view is always so much more beautiful from His perspective.

# Takes time for a reflection: Selah*.

*selah; perhaps an indication of a pause

 

“If all the world were paper…

 

Water

…what would we do for drink!”

I wonder if you recognize the first lines of this poem written by an anonymous author

“If all the world were paper
And all the sea were ink,
If all the trees were bread and cheese
What would we do for drink?

The first (of the two) May Spring Bank holiday is here in the U.K., and having waited for this official day off work (not for all, but most of us) we wonder, “What is the weather going to be like?” The statistics point to the fact it is quite likely to rain at some point in the day. Oh! how that ‘wet stuff’ spoils our plans and picnics!

To be honest, I didn’t actually start off to write on any particular theme, I was actually (and I am still) pondering, as I read my Bible, about the Transfiguration of Jesus in Luke 17, but do bear with me.

My thoughts meandered and I have found, having read that Moses and Elijah were discussing Jesus’ departure, which my curiosity about this whole scenario keeps on growing. There is a footnote at the bottom of my bible’s page in reference to this particular word, and I see that it also means exodus.

Having just observed my Jewish neighbourhood celebrating Pesach, or Passover, this past week, I turned to the Book of Exodus and begin to compare the two paths of the one story; of Moses, Elijah and Jesus. These are bound together as Jesus himself declared that he came to fulfill both the Law and the Prophets. Moses represents the Law and Elijah presents the Prophets (Matthew 5:17), and here they are all standing together! How fascinating.

Passover is a high feast and festival perpetually remembered throughout all generations of Jewish people, of their past historical exodus, deliverance, liberation, out of slavery led by Moses. Israel is chosen as God’s son and saved by the blood of a lamb spread over their doorposts from the ‘death of the firstborn’ plague in Egypt.

pesach

Death passed over them and they were saved. Therefore, Passover is celebrated with the sacrifice of a pure and unblemished lamb and by eating only unleavened bread in remembrance of how fast they fled slavery in Egypt. As they were led out of slavery Moses parted the Red Sea; he led all Israel towards the promise from the LORD of having their own Land. This sets the scene from one side of this pathway. Along the way, the Israelite peoples grumbled (Ex 17) and wanted water.

Jesus exodus

The water came, as Moses struck the rock, as God had said it would (Ex 17:6)

“You shall strike the rock

and water shall come out of it,

and the people will drink.”

If you cast your mind back to the point where I was reading about the Transfiguration of Jesus, with Moses and Elijah both present, we again pick up the thread of the other side of the path. There are mysterious and mystical events which lay hidden on the pages, like diamonds hidden in the darkness. Firstly, we can learn from the biblical narrative (Deut 32:50; 34:5) that Moses never made it to the Land promised Israel; he dies before as God said he would. Mysteriously the text explains that God buried Moses. Stranger still, if we skip ahead to 2 Kings 2:11, Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. His cloak was dropped and Elisha received it, and the double portion he requested. With the cloak, Elisha, like Moses, parted water!

elisha

As the pathways merging the Bible tells us that Jesus is The Rock, and here we see ahead to his exodus, towards Jerusalem and the cross of crucifixion; his death and resurrection. When Jesus was nailed and hung upon that cross for our salvation, deliverance, liberation and freedom from slavery to sin, his side was pierced, the Rock once more poured forth water, and also blood. He was the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29) slain (Rev 13:8). Jesus was struck as was the rock in the wilderness.

These two paths like streams flow and continually mix together. Here we see that there is hidden within the Old Testament a shadow of Christ (or Messiah) as the New Testament eventually reveals. As Israel was fed manna in the wilderness, Jesus now declares, “I am the Bread of Life!” (Jn 6:41) This bread was broken for our deliverance, and as the blood of the lamb was to cover the doorframes of the Israelites, we are covered by the precious blood of Jesus which atones for our sins.

Upon-This-Rock

Jesus renamed his disciple and Apostle Peter, Cephas or rock (Jn 1:42) and he declared over him, just prior to taking him up the mountain (with James and John) to witness his Transfiguration, saying to him that “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). This is where Christian’s fit into the river of life offered, where they too are chosen and adopted as sons, welcomed into the story God has always intended to tell. For Christian’s they are welcomed in, to partake of the Eucharist which is as Stibbe describes as “a liturgy of liberation.”[1] He writes of how we are adopted and included, to know God as our loving heavenly Father.

God has always intended that these two paths; these two streams would join and flow as one. This very water of life, as Jesus was mysteriously, and mystically, ‘taken up’ into heaven following his resurrection from the dead, promised the release of the Holy Spirit, that He would be poured out for our spiritual thirst. There is no life without water. Jesus promised streams of living water would flow from him.

streams of living waters

From the very beginning of God’s story (Gen 1:2) to the end (Revelation 22:1) not only was living water promised, but also that there would be a new heaven and earth, a new Jerusalem, new life and that God would dwell with all His people forever and give them eternal life. In fact, creation re-created with all God’s children together again.

We are birthed by maternal waters, and born again by the Father’s Holy Spirit who gives life with spiritual water; we are cleansed in it and surrounded by it. In Christian baptism, it signifies God’s internal grace at work in our lives. We imbibe it, we thirst for it; it slakes our deepest known cravings. It drenches and soaks the needy both physical and spiritual.

Water: something so familiar to us all and also something which we cannot live without; literally, or spiritually. God speaks revealing through his creation to us from the imagery of water. Water is a metaphor, allegory, in the writer’s toolbox. For the sailor and fisherman, it is his livelihood. It is paramount in all our work, rest, and play, for all ages; in all our leisure and hobbies and games. We can swim and relax and float in it. It costs yet it is free, we pay a water bill and we can collect water for nothing from the garden. It cost God everything and yet we receive this freely from his gracious hand. Water is humanities necessity, for we cannot go too long without any to drink before seriously harming our wellbeing. Eventually, it will appear as an illusion in our mind, like a mirage in the desert for the desperate or confused. Without a fresh supply of clean water, we would die for it regulates our body temperature. and keeps us hydrated.

Water is all around us, in us and washes over us to our delight to feel clean and refreshed. Water forms the misty dew of the early morning; it falls to create puddles, streams, lakes, rivers, seas and vast oceans. It is pulled up from the earth to make cumulus high clouds which eventually drop it down again. The great waters separate our world’s continents and lands, tribes and peoples, cultures and languages.

oceans_encyclopaedia_15

Sadly humanity continues in poisoning its water supplies, it ravages the earth and millions of people still in the 21st century have no access to clean drinking water. Water gives life to us and yet paradoxically can cause our death. It is dangerous, can drown the unwary and carries diseases in poor countries where clean water cannot be found. This madness threatens all life and it is a wake-up call to everyone.

dirty water

Compassion is needed for the poorest

Jesus spoke saying, “and even if you give

a cup of cold water to one of these little ones

you will surely be rewarded.”

Scientists are ever searching for it on the barrenness of another solar system’s planet like Mars in the hope of finding ‘life’. Once spilt on the dry Earth it is gone, it can never be recovered. It goes down to the seeds and sprouts life in another way. It is a simple chemical compound of hydrogen and oxygen that gives and sustains life in all its varieties. It is so familiar to us that we do not always see its deepest significance.

Water naturally comes in three states of solid, liquid and gas; it is freezing cold, lukewarm tepid or boiling hot. It is one substance and yet three at the same time; God is described by theologians as Trinity; as one God and at the same time three persons. This is a physical revelation and representation of a wonderful internal spiritual reality.

So as you can see there is no excuse for not being thankful to God for it, using it well and that all may have access to clean supplies. There can be no excuse for causing harm to another due to our greed and selfish use of it. It is a vital commodity that ensures our human survival; it is profoundly reflective of our human need before God to have both physical and spiritual water to drink. Our beautiful world is deeply saturated with its blue hues, with its wonderful mysteries of sea creatures and is an enormous reserve. However, consider that if this ever were not so, the poem I began with would, if true, become our worst nightmare! “What would we do for drink?”

[1] Stibbe, M, ‘From Orphans to Heirs’, 2005.

Stop Striving for Perfection

 

We are as a human race forever striving and looking for perfection and nowhere more so than in anything we ourselves create. Be it through, the arts; sciences; drama or modern technology; or indeed anything from dog-breeding to baking. In fact in any subject that we are working toward we search to attain the highest level in that given field of expertise. What pleases the human eye; mind or ego drives us to craft and mould our passions so that we measure up to others ideas and standards of what perfection entails.

ego

For me, I write, and in doing so I need to test my motives, especially when I feel that I am not getting anywhere and feel a failure. My personal plumb line to measure my motives is the straight truth of the scriptures of the Holy Bible. Here I can test and see if I am aligned to what God says about me and if I am working out of grace compared to my own standards or strivings. Being caught up in the praises of fickle people can destroy any confidence you might have in offering what, as you create, becomes a part of you and something dear to you. Critics who are blunt and tear down your offering are cruel and perhaps a little insecure to attack another’s valiant efforts.

blue faced smilie sad

We may chase perfection until we are literally blue in the face, we will never attain that desired and longed for flawlessness no matter how hard we try. The subjectivity of others remarks can cut like a knife and damage our creativity, we must not seek our praise or acceptance from others who are in their frail humanity broken and damaged people. No others point of view is truly whole and reliable.

In turning to God as our Father who in character is consistent and is always for us, we can be secure in our skills and gifting’s, accepted and loved not for what we produce, or strive to create, but truly know that our offerings, when given for His praise and glory, is all we will need as we encounter love; true and pure. No hint of jealousy or rejection, not cutting remarks; no pass or fail marks. To God, all that we achieve is beautiful whether it is ascetically or lavishly wrought, He looks at the heart and whispers, “I love you” and that before we have earned any right to hear it.

God's perfect love

Let us then let go of that streak of perfectionist driven living and rejoice in the truth, that God as a loving Father says, well done to us. Let us be free from those opinions from others and run with joy in our souls at the glorious, spacious place we can inhabit and abide in, when no one can say anything to harm or destroy our fragile beauty.

Soar high upon imaginations wings, and breath in the peace and serenity that envelops your soul. There is no more blessed and perfect place from which to create. So I will pick up my pen, turn to a new page and let the flow wash over me as I capture the words and when I am done, let God my Father, judge how well or perfectly I have done. I know He is smiling over me anyway and I have no anxieties, no retributive fear casting a gloomy shadow over me. This is because I know who I write for and that I am loved beyond all measure.

writing with God

 

 

MY Church Seat

Isn’t it funny the things we wake up thinking about! As I awoke this morning, rather earlier than I expected thanks to my cat jumping on me (this has nothing to do with today’s blog actually) I was thinking about My seat in church. I could even picture it. So I started a mental mind-map and listened to what I might hear. I am sure that my lovely counselling friends could give me a more accurate and detailed explanation of this ‘problem’, but this is my offering of church and our seats.

So, to start with, for all of you out there that know exactly what I mean, and you have your preferred spot then perhaps this lighthearted view will resonate with you. For those that do not ‘get it’ then be thankful you are either in total denial or blessed not to have this issue! It might, for the ones of you that often feel your need to enlighten your vicar, might start off with something like this

Dear Vicar,

I should like to bring to your attention the fact that, having been a parishioner and stalwart member of this congregation for many years that I arrived at church this morning for the Morning Service, only to find that someone was sitting in MY seat!…. and I should like to know what you propose to do about this matter… because, YOU are the Vicar, YOU are!!

Sincerely,

Miss Mona Lott.*

*Any person who feels I have used their name, this is entirely coincidental.

Now you have to feel terribly sorry for the poor Vicar, who is at once, alerted to the incoming flack of a ‘Parishioners Complaint Series 101 to the Vicar, Re: MY seat syndrome.’ And there he, or she, sits pondering the pastoral possibilities of how to tackle this particular parishioner upset.

A Very Short Ecclesial History of Pews

Traditionally, and I quote, ”Until the early/mid twentieth century, it was common practice in Anglican, Catholic, and Presbyterian churches to rent pews in churches to families or individuals as a principal means of raising income. This was especially common in the United States where churches lacked government support through mandatory tithing. This, by nature, enforced a sort of social status in church seating within a parish.”[1] And that it would seem is just a part of the problem for the vicar to understand for, I have a sneaky suspicion of this being a much deeper behavioural issue.

A Dysfunctional Childhood?

I can distinctly recall my eldest child, gleefully racing to the chair as a game to exclaim to me,

“I sit here!”

What have I taught her!! We played this game relentlessly for a while in her tender impressional years of a 2-year-old.Then there is from childhood, right from the start this dysfunctional possessive trait bought on in my own experience by Winne Ther Pooh, yes I am sad to say that Christopher Robin influenced me at a vulnerable time in my developmental infancy.And that song (for we all know, that anything learnt in song sticks to a child’s head like glue) went like this,

“Halfway up the stairs is the stair where I sit…”

 This persistent nursery reinforcement continues unabated with bedtime stories of, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” It would seem that this traditional solid staple of childhood nighttime routine has forever influenced the problem; as generation after generation hear those immortal spoken words of,

“Someone’s sitting in MY chair!”

And to cap it all, this goes unchecked by parents every car trip, as sibling rivalry bursts upon the scene with the front seat being the prize and many a younger sibling being literally squeezed out and relegated to the rear seat with yells of

“It’s My turn to sit there!”

This does not go down well with the loser, as this is where the dog has to sit too. The big hairy mutt of a dog who drools and pants and wriggles and tries to stand upon you for a better view, especially if you have opened the window for some fresh air from that doggy breath!

But I digress, back to the church and the seating conundrum. As you may now realize there arises a dormant problem just waiting to spring to life that is so ingrained into the psyche. Now, you may think that this is just a childish view and adults do not really act like this. I beg to differ. I feel this infectious trait every time I walk into the church Sanctuary. My internal dialogue goes, “Where shall I sit (as I have arrived very early and the whole place is empty save one or two people, and that is another subject best not to get into right now), and I nearly, 99.9%, choose to sit in the same place week after week.

Many of us laugh at the antics of Sheldon Cooper, in the TV sitcom ‘Big Bang Theory’ with His over the top reactions of the sofa seat, as he declares,

sheldon

“That’s MY spot.”

As he stares at the poor person who might dare try to sit on it. Can you see what I mean? Then there is,

The Art of Saving Seats 

Delegated to the one who arrives early (oh me again) there are a variety of objects useful for hogging a whole row of seats. Most likely to be found on an empty seat, items vary from coats and scarfs, and umbrellas (obviously wintertime items) to the use of Bibles and handbags. Not perhaps the best use of your Bible, but at least you remembered it. Then, if you are in the know, you can use those wonderful RESERVED labels, especially useful for conferences or those church seasons when ‘other’ people join you, such as Easter or Christmas; more on this before I finish.

seat

I wonder if this seating obsession extends to other areas, both in church and out of it. For example, with the church car parking place; the favourite seat post-service in the coffee area for that all important fellowshipping that evangelicals love to engage in. Or in any place we regularly claim and sit, the office; the bus; the train.

The Specialist Seat Saver

Finally, I come to the last but serious (seriously I say with a wink) part of all the many ways church seating is seized upon, and that is the dear saint (that’d be me again ,but I know I am not alone in this) who has ‘end-of-pew-row-itis’. This problem is easy to spot, but very difficult to cure. This blocks the pew-row causing many a shuffle to find a seat only free right in the middle of a pew row, and the sheep that has blocked the row to have their toes stood upon if they happen to be worshipping (eyes shut of course). This ‘end-of-row-itis’ seems to be rooted in a certain personality type, namely ‘The Introvert Worshipper’. This is part of an introverts key plan A  (and their only plan actually) to have a quick escape… just in case. In time, they may learn the ‘side-step’ out of the pew aisle to allow another access.

Possible Solutions

Why we get hung up on this is quite enlightening ( and entertaining), for many a week in church, the front row or even two, are completely vacant, with only the poor Vicar sitting there. So, how is this to be solved? What came to my mind was (rather all this being very tongue-in-cheek) might be for

  1.  An altar call; just as everyone has settled into their seats to distract the flock from reinforcing this entire subject.
  2.  An invitation to have prayer ministry; for this is not the free abundant life we all talk of, and to ask the Lord to intervene and heal those said ones afflicted by the curse of ‘MY seat’ syndrome.

3. And if all else fails one might consider removing or rearranging the seating plan so that no one has the chance to get too settled each week.

This certainly is a way to mobilize your church, but I guess care must be taken not to scatter the flock in a mad version of musical chairs during the worship session!

musical

Seriously though

There is a seriousness (this time I mean it) to this long-standing behavioural issue in churches and, of what all this looks like to say a visitor, or what welcome a new believer has or seeker sees going on. How can they feel welcome, if we cling to our seat (literally) and refuse to move (Physically) or do not include them in our congregational services of worship? Do they really have to navigate our unwritten, unspoken selfish protocol to fit in? Can we blame them if they copy our behaviour thinking this is normal?

Surely, the ‘I’ in this is, of where ‘I’ sit, only reflects the ‘I’ found in sin. So let’s try our best and be all inclusive, and give the poor Vicar a break for once, instead of running to him with our petty little moans of, “Someone’s sitting in MY seat.” Let us make room; you never know you might be entertaining an angel! Hebrews 13:2. Amen.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pew

Welcome to the gate of the year; Open the gate and pass through.

countryside

Can you imagine that there is a way open to whatever it is that you have longed for, yearned for? But what exactly is the ‘gate of the year’ and what is on the other side? These and many other questions are raised from pondering this and  because we all know that nothing stands still or stays the same Our experience of life is meant to be fluid, although we maybe tend to try to avoid this fact,  moment by moment life is forever changing whether we like it or not!

We are all travelling on what seem to be disjointed and fractured paths, but the journey is always to call us further along. We sense this because yesterday is far gone and, we are not even who we were. Time is a challenging and elusive concept and we have to play be its rules. That is the way it is!

As we have asked what is ‘the gate of the year’, I turn to a poet to express this phrase. Her name is Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957) and she wrote this poem God Knows in 1908. I quote the following from it,

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.

 That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

 So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God,

trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards

 the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.” 

 

These words speak volumes to us and sound as if they might be found within the Scriptures such as God’s prophets Ezekiel or Daniel. Royalty has been endeared to the words, from King George VI and also read out at the funeral of Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in 2002. To read more about Minnie Haskins please follow this link,  http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsehistory/2013/12/10/the-gate-of-the-year-minnie-louise-haskins-1875-1957/

May these words speak to all  who encounter them, they are reassuring that we do not walk alone, but that we can reach out to God and he will be there to help and guide us. And so it is that this morning I am aware of there being for all of us gates that we have walked through and gates still to come. Once you start noticing them, gates are everywhere! However, it is to the one’s unseen that I now turn my focus.

The Gates of our Mind

Having recently read, and reread, the book by DR. Caroline Leaf, “Switch on your Brain: The key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health. As the blurb on the back cover tells us, she merges science and the Bible. This book gives a fascinating insight into how we can change our thinking and be transformed. Just as in opening or closing gates, just as the Bible in the Book of Romans, chapter 12 has said for 2,000 years!

dr caroline leaf

We can be renewed in our minds, and alter our responses, which I find will give us healing, and a way out of negative thoughts to more healthy ones. If you ‘think’ that the past and life has you stuck or trapped, then literally, ‘think again’. No matter what gate, (or call it a door or portal or whatever you will), things can change and you can be set free from what has stopped you living your life to the fullest.

Our Spiritual Gates

These are found through experiencing an altered state of consciousness; a part of which we were created to discover and the reason why we can seek and find God Almighty through a subjective and personal encounter. This is well attested to and written by many past Christian Saints throughout history and, also through believer’s testimonies today. This is the way we, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” Psalm 100:4.

His-Gates-with-Thanksgiving

How amazing is it that we have a spiritual side to our humanity. We are all on a Spiritual journey, and God reveals to us how to follow the spiritual path, through believing in Jesus who was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven.

The Bible speaks of God being, “Acquainted with all our ways.” And with the Psalmist, we can say, “You hem me in, behind and before.” Psalm 139:5. This is the security we can have and yet paradoxically, we also can know that as our shepherd He “Leads us in paths of Righteousness.”

Psalm 23:3. We can surely have complete confidence in God to help us, as we approach the threshold of the gate to pass through.

All gates are exit or entry points and we can choose to exit the past and walk into a spacious place where joy resides, we can enter that place as yet unknown because our choices are powerful and we can carry with us His promises in our hearts.

If we let fear of the future or the unknown paralyze our thoughts and freeze us to the spot with trepidation we are like stagnant water, so we need to have a brilliant thought. Our mind’s not our situations control our progress, our brains control our bodies (not the other way around as has previously been taught). In getting to the root of the reasons why will heal us ready to walk through to the destiny and purpose preordained for us since before time began.

Help to step over the threshold

All very easy to suggest as I am sure you are aware, but this is possible with prayer and support, God wants what is very good for you, He opens the gate on the cage and we must be open to going through it into freedom. Perhaps life is only a series of gates which lead us along towards God Himself.

child going through the gate

If like me you are ready and are searching for the gate to pass through and out of your present circumstances, eager to move on towards the future promises you hold dear, then let us begin by asking God into the situation. It is written that if we, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7: 7-8.

Now as we are more aware of these gates and what state they may be in whether mental or spiritual or in the physical they all have significance and impact more than we might have at first thought. If it is true that the seen reflects something of the unseen, then take a look around you at what gates you notice. I did this once just out walking and there is a variety of styles and shapes and state of repair they are in.This last illustration depicts an icon which shows the resurrected Jesus grasping those in need by the wrist.

This final  illustration depicts an icon which shows the resurrected Jesus grasping those in need by the wrist. We are not dependent upon holding on to Him, so we cannot let go and fall. He holds us secure in His grasp. As it is written, “No one shall snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28

the-icon-for-holy-saturday

The Harrowing of Hell Icon

To draw this all together, and to finish, be open to what gates are coming, and be confident to pass through, for you will only pass this way on the journey once, make good choices and let God guide you, There are gates of healing and, He will if you ask, take secure hold of you and bring you the closure you need. As for me, I would rather God hold onto me than go it alone any day.

Now where is that gate I am seeking….

 

 

 

Decisions, decisions.

 

cats like introverts

7.32am

There is, this morning thundering around my head an internal introvert’s noisy dialogue. This eventually, as I am lying on my bed still, spills out and I start a vocal conversation that is a mixture between myself, the cat and the Lord. And these three come in no particular order. There is, this morning a lovely cobalt sky which beckons me to do ‘something’ with the day ahead. Somewhere in the recess of my mind, I ponder a little scenario built around ‘runner beans’ and ‘garden centre’.

Mentally I mind map the options and have decided that there is this morning indecisiveness in my thoughts. I have tackled the get washed or have breakfast issue rather well and achieved both. But what sort of day do I choose, in or out? When I suddenly have an internal thought break the surface of my preponderances and ‘sound a holy convocation’ springs to the front of my mind. Hmm, interesting!

This is shortly followed by ‘Go off to a quiet place.” But as to where to go, I know not. At this rate,I shall be here still writing about it, instead of actually doing it! And after all, there is actually no quieter place than where I am right now, typing away (except perhaps for the tapping of the keyboard).

What exactly would a day of holy convocation look like for me today I wonder? And I consider prayer a key motif and motive. Only just last night I had a very fast answer to a, well I cannot really say it was a prayer as such even, but more an exasperated and tired remark as I was driving along. It went like this, “Lord I want to help with…, but Lord I don’t think I can keep this up much longer; I need peace!” Maybe you know this prayer plea and can fill in your own words into the gap.

I think this was spoken aloud by me more as an internal vocal outburst for I had been keeping it swirling around in my mind for a while. Suddenly, low and behold as I spoke within minutes the answer was given and I was released from that commitment. You might think as I initially did, that was the end of it, move on. Not so simple, though, for I am aware this morning that it was not peace as such that I was desperate for. I was feeling trapped and I need to work out why that was. I had chosen to help so why was I experiencing such trauma. I have come to realize that my natural introvert self, was kicking me and telling me I need space, solitude, and silence.

P1120254 rsz

Even this morning, I am feeling that my personality’s inclination to be introvert rather than the opposite extreme of extrovert, (as most of the world seems to be), affect how my day will turn out. Thankful for the answer I had to prayer and I assume I do hear correctly, then I had best listen to the call to my soul for this holy convocation. I am very aware of my lack in having any gift of vision, so I need to consider for a while what this will look like today.

9.10am

Trying to rush my brain is like trying to pour set concrete and so I sit, with it and let my thoughts form and listen to what the Lord might be saying to help me in my quiet time.

“Release, release yourself from the moment and stop trying so hard to do anything. Just be, let the flow of life and that solitude you crave so intensely wash over you like a refreshing rain.”

“Let that internal knot go, and cease to fret over anything, in particular, there is no pressure on you, except that which you yourself exert.”

“I know you inside and out, both internal of those thought patterns which drive you and those external ones which take you physically though life along the path set before you.”

“I want you to stop what you are doing, and rest.”

Oh! I find that so difficult to do. So at this point I feel I must let this writing go and sit, hands in my lap and breathe and wait.

10.22am

I stop writing and wait. I hear, “Go off and do something other now before this morning and day slip away and is gone.”

lake

 

So off I go…..and return a few hours later.

14.03pm

On return, I have arrived home to an awful racket caused by a tree shredding company across the road. God sure does know all things, I would have predicted the usual silent neighbourhood and been mightily distracted by the gardeners machinery. I am thankful for the time outside in the soothing warmth of the late spring day, freely wandering along empty lanes as trees and hedgerows are coming back into leaf, with only the sound of birds twitter and the breeze now and then swooshing the tree tops up on the brow of a hill I valiantly climbed. The view was gorgeous, set out before me like a painting of rolling countryside with bluest sky and fluffy cotton wool clouds. The drive back was equally lovely, with the gentle refrain of instrumental music I blissfully enjoyed the moving scenery seeing the springtime flowers and just a hint of the cherry blossom trees every now and then waiting to open from their buds. I do love cherry blossom, it is my favourite but then I also love pink so there is nothing sweeter to view on a day like today.

cherry blossom branches

Exactly how this has been a ‘convocation’ (holy or not) perplexed me initially because I didn’t meet up with lots of people (no large group of ramblers crossed my path), but I can begin to understand that I have been meeting with God’s holy creation, not people. I can only smile for that is just what I needed to be out but in solitude.

Back home whilst I have been writing the noise has now stopped and the gardeners are packing up already. Great! I can resume my meanderings on the page with a nice cup of tea to hand and the quiet once more surrounding me. We all need to take time out and get away; it is solace for the soul and beneficial to the writer who needs to be refreshed and inspired. No better way than in creation’s glory, it is a marvellous blessing to live in such a green and pleasant land.

peace

I feel that this particular day has been graced by the hand of the Lord directing my footsteps .It is far from over of course but I think that I have seized the day and benefited from having my mind renewed. The endless mind chatter in my processing has been stilled (temporarily) and I have breathed and lived life for a while forgetting the strain of all that would twist and bind my creativity and joy. I am contemplating from a different angle what in the coming days I shall spend my time doing and most of all where. We can get stuck in a rut and never lift our heads up to see another horizon or opinion on things.

14.45pm

Feeling much more realigned now I must remember to take the time to change the day. No adventures will happen if I do not hit my refresh button in my brain. So I have a rather large notice stuck upon the wall in-line with my eyesight just in case I forget this morning’s lesson which has lifted me higher to see the beauty of the day that I have spent rather well I think. As for the ‘runner beans’ and garden centre’, I guess that is for another day!

 

 

All for an audience of one: The One, who stole my heart away.

 

Why do I write, draw, sing, create or dance? I do it all for Him. The ultimate expression of my creativity is to express who I am in Him and of my love and joy of being with Him.

dancing in the rain

Who is this, you might ask? Well, He is the one, The One who saved me, gave me a new life and in him I live and move and have my very being. I call Him Yeshua, though you may know His name as Jesus, Jesus Christ. He constantly inspires and encourages me, walks with me and protects and provides for me.

I can go nowhere without him and neither would I choose to. However, it was not always like this, once I was a mere shadow, timid and broken with no hope. When we first met I did not recognise Him or know His voice. I was disorientated and my understanding confused. I knew lots of people who knew Him but He was elusive to me and I would cry so easily. I did not understand those were healing, cleansing tears. My soul was being washed, yes I was literally brainwashed! Not in a cultic way of course, but more a gentle coming to perceive that my eyes needed salve to see and He healed me.

“Jesus healed me.”

Often to begin with I would go to Him and complain, or cry or shout at Him. He did not retaliate but continued to love me. No matter what I thought or how far I tried to run away, He was there. Sometimes I was so thankful for that because I felt like I had been sinking in life and now only marginally better I was in a very small boat on a very rough sea. This storm went on for months after month after year. I was caught in between complaining and feeling seasick or pleading for dry land and respite. Still we journeyed along.

boat 2

The first stretch of calm waters and of a clearer view, overjoyed I thought and expressed my delight, “halleluyah!” I have made it and life is going to be okay!! Hmmm, not for long, we set sail again and towards a perfect storm brewing. Those waves rose higher than before and I hid in the small boat for fear of not making it. Here I came to realise I was not alone, other’s had joined in the journey and kept telling me to hang on, it is going to be fine. Keep your eyes up! I tried and after a time, this got easier to do. I had though He had left me, pushed this small boat out to sea and was on the shoreline in the far distance.

After one particularly rough day, I decided I might as well jump out and swim for it. I turned around, took and step towards the edge and I did not move, I seemed to be caught on something. Or more correctly I now know someone! I had walked straight into the safety of His arms. They held me so tight, it took my breath away. Panic and a drumming heart beating wildly, suddenly my legs gave way and I was melting. His gaze was so tender, so deep my only thought was love. I was secure and I think for the first in a long time, I breathed in and felt alive. The storm raged on but I was now not looking at it, but into the very face of God. He was singing, “haha” I started to laugh because I was suddenly so happy, and the joyful embrace went on and on. Something in me changed forever that day.

“I am forever changed, made whole.”

freedom

The journey was still tough, every day was like a roller coaster, of ups and downs but we moved on nonetheless. I started to unravel from the knots of who I had tried to be and started to flow freely in who I was always meant to be. I had from childhood loved to draw and write, read poetry and I was now living, really feeling life in all its amazing colours and glorious lightness. At a certain point, I remember that I suddenly was and had been changed and was trusting in Him. I cannot quite think what shifted in me to be in that place. I knew I now belonged to Him and that whatever stormy trials came, He was there and He promised to never leave me ever.  Now secure and assured I was able to reach out and step by step, on hearing His voice within me I moved along. I overcame and I grew, stronger and bolder and further than I ever imagined.

“My Child I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

When doubts or fear drifted close to my mind threatening me, I would call or reach out and His hand held mine before I even asked Him. I still journey with Him, each day we talk and grow closer together, we at times are as one; Spirit to spirit. I desire to know Him more,  as there is a depth and peace which He brings to my world where I am free to be myself. I can run wild and laugh, I can dance and sing, write or draw. All because I know I am His. This is not something solitary or just my experience alone, He can be found by anyone needing rescue on life’s stormy sea. He reaches out and takes hold of all who are sinking under the waves of hopelessness, despair, doubt and fear. If today you feel like you are drowning under these weights, in anguish and torment of your soul, I urge you cry out and acknowledge Him as Saviour, ‘the One who Saves’. That is what His name means, and why He came. For surely as the sun sets and rises each day, He is waiting for you. Yes, you. Do not discount yourself from rescue by Him. All you have to do is turn towards Him, make a decision to seek Him. He is near, not far. He will come because He loves you. As they say, time is of the essence, do not doubt any longer but believe.

Jesus saves

“In Him is love, Joy, Hope and Peace.”

Let the joy of the Risen Lord lighten your life, He is for you and in love will be a true companion through life. I would rather be in His company than anything else, for He who is true promises this in the Word. This is a lifeline, a lifebelt. Grasp this and you shall have life. The life you always were meant to have on this journey. Please don’t travel alone, He can guide and lead you through, you will see and experience things you only ever dreamed of. God is the love you are craving to fill the hole in your soul. Come taste and see that the Lord of life is good and His love endures forever.

“In Him, I live and move and have my being.”

This is why  I write, draw, sing, create or dance. I do it all for Him who loves me.