You're round and about today, I can tell. It's nice to have you here. I know that you're always here, but what I mean is that it's nice to feel you here. Nice to feel you close.
Why is it that sometimes I don't realise how I'm feeling until I come into church? It's as if the Holy Spirit sees beyond the front that I put up, the 'How are you?' 'Oh I'm fine, thanks!' thing that we all do and says, 'No, I'm not having that. That's not how you are.'
Today I was fine. A bit mithered, perhaps, this morning having been allowed a small lie-in (I never refuse a lie-in, being chronically sleep deprived; any hour to catch up and I'm in) and so getting ready for church was a bit of a rush. For one reason and another by the time I arrived at church I had a head full of things and I was doing the prayers this morning too, which always makes me a bit preoccupied. So it wasn't until the first song that I stopped and thought and that was when I choked up.
Here I am to worship. It's as if I finally look away from the things I'm juggling, or away from the detail of my anxiety and preoccupation and I lift my eyes to you, and when I do, I'm overwhelmed by you. Just lifting my words and my voice to you, just saying 'Here I am' was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Even when I hadn't realised that I was feeling tearful.
It stands to reason that I should be a bit wobbly, I suppose. Tomorrow Katy goes in to hospital for her operation and I know that deep down I am dreading it. I've had a taste of what it's like to leave the child that you love defenceless in the hands of someone else and I didn't like it. I bet you didn't, either, did you, Lord? You knew what we were going to do to your beloved son and it was for our good, not his, that you sent him. For me, here I am trusting my lovely little girl to an experienced surgeon, and it's for her own good. Clearly the analogy breaks down here, but you know what I mean. I'm not keen on doing this again and the stakes are higher this time. So I come into church this morning thinking I'm fine, thankyou, and I'm not fine.
Good talk, this morning. All about being rooted in Christ.
'So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.'
It reminded me of a picture I had long, long ago in a period of spiritual joy and celebration, maybe as far back as April this year, or roundabout then. Certainly before things started to go wrong. I saw myself as a tree. A big, solid oak tree with spreading branches. Sturdy and strong. With deep roots. I read somewhere that a tree's roots are as big as the branches and the tips of the roots reach out further than the canopy of the tree so that they can soak up rain as it falls. If the roots were shorter, they wouldn't reach out far enough and the tree's own canopy would stop them from getting any moisture. So roots have to reach a long way. They have to anchor the tree so that it doesn't blow over, no matter how big and heavy the tree or how strong the wind.
How I want to be that big tree. I want to be eternal, secure, reliable, standing tall and reaching wide. Always the same, yet ever-changing. Growing. Living. Flourishing. How easily I am knocked over when the wind blows. I am rooted in you but quite often my roots aren't hanging on tightly enough. They don't go deep enough to stop me from swaying dangerously. I look for other people to hold me up instead of reaching into you and letting you plant me firmly. I am fed by what I surround myself with, by what I read and what I do and some of these things are good, worthy, and they keep me going but they don't nourish me as you would, if only I reached my roots out beyond the canopy to suck up your moisture.
I was singing and I found myself praising you and saying, 'You can do this, Lord. You can do this for me, can't you?' And the tears came because I know that it's true. You'll help me through the next few days. You'll take care of my little girl and you'll take care of me. Because you're faithful. You never fail.
Faithful one, so unchanging
Ageless one, you're my rock of peace
Lord of all I depend on you
I call out to you, again and again
I call out to you, again and again
You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is the anchor
My hope is in you alone.
So then you spoke to me in this song, as you tend to do, presumably because you can't get me to hear in many other ways, but you know that I like to sing, so I'd probably be paying attention.
You are my rock, Father God. In times of trouble indeed; and in any other time. I'm holding onto you in these times when life is difficult and I'm feeling overwhelmed and you don't move. You're steady. You don't change. Without you as an anchor I'd be swept right out to sea and I'd sink beneath the waves. My hope is in you, Lord God.
I managed the prayers with only a few wavery moments and I got myself back together in time to smile brightly and leave without a meltdown. I was moved that you had met me and spoken to me.
My hope is in you. You can do this for me.
On the way out of church a wise friend caught me and said that the Lord had given her a word; Psalm 91 was for me. She didn't know why, but that you wanted me to read Psalm 91. I said thankyou, a little bewildered, and carried on home.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.'
Well, I did. I do. You are my Rock. My hope is in you. I know that you can do this for me.
Surely he will save you
from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
I love the idea that I can hide under your wings like a baby duck. I love the image that it gives of safety and comfort and trust. I want to wriggle under your feathers and snuggle up close to the warmth and safety of your body so that I can feel your heartbeat. I can shut out the world and know that I am protected.
You will not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
Why would I fear anything if I am protected by you? You only can make promises like this. I feel that ill health is all around me at the moment - I'm going to be spending the better part of this week in hospital with my little girl and we've been fighting the illness that's troubling her for nearly six months. I know that there are so many people who are much more seriously ill but I am drawn to the idea that we need not fear illness. I don't know if I'm reading too much into this but, hey, I feel better because of it.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
Ah. Not sure what to say about this bit. I just like the 'It won't come near you' bit.
If you say, 'The Lord is my refuge,'
and you make the most high your dwelling,
no harm with overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
Oh my Lord I say 'You are my refuge'. Where will I go if not to you? I want to live in you, and I want you to live in me. I want you to make me into a place fit for a King to live. I want to be part of you.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Amen. Thankyou Lord. Thankyou for your loving care and your protection. I've been fighting battles for ages, it seems, and I can carry on because I know that you stand with me. Thankyou.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample on the great lion and the serpent.
'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
I do love you. You are the Lord. The Holy One. You are the Creator of Heaven and Earth. You are my God.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver and honour him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.'
I called on you and you did answer me. I can't do anything but you can. You hold my days in your hand, and those of my four year old daughter. I can't tell you how much this has comforted me and shored me up today. Well, I don't suppose that really matters, because you already know.
You meant that for me? You are speaking those words to me? I am amazed. To say that I read those words and was blown away is a bit of an understatement. Lord God, you'd do that for me? I can understand that you spoke like that to David or Moses, or whoever wrote this powerful psalm, and that these Heroes of the Bible were probably used to hearing you like this. But me? I'm a Mum and I do the school run and I can't hang a picture and I talk too much and I struggle with my quiet time and I like church but I have family politics and a short temper and I'm very bad at being consistent and prayerful. Yet you would bless me with huge words like these?
I am humbled indeed.
You are my refuge and I want to dwell in you. I'm just not good at staying there; I keep running to you and hiding under your wings and then when the rain stops and the weather clears I creep off out again and think I can manage on my own, just me. Then it starts again and there I am, clamouring for help. And sometimes I turn to you only after I've looked everywhere else, and yet still you are loving and forgiving enough to send a message to me to say 'Don't be afraid, you're safe. I'll keep you safe.'
I am humbled indeed.