Friday, 23 December 2016

Come and worship

I've always loved carol services. I love lots of things about Christmas, but carol services are one of the very best bits. In recent years, however, I've found myself so exhausted with December and all the Christmas preparations that by the time the carol services come round I've been tempted to skip it or trudged there with only a sense of duty. I remember with fondness the days when it was something to look forward to, not just another thing to cram into the pre-Christmas madness.

The other night I walked down the road in the rain to church and on the way I asked God if he'd please come with me. I was so weary that if I hadn't been reading one of the lessons I'd probably have run a bath and climbed into my PJs instead. It went something like this:

'Lord, I've been to countless carol services, and while they're nice and everything, I am so tired that this feels a bit like a chore. Same songs, same readings, same mince pies. I know what there is to know about the nativity - is there something new you want to say to me?'


And there was. 


Continued over at The Association of Christian Writers' Blog, which is called More Than Writers. Come over and have a look around.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas. It's Jesus' birthday, you know. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Work in progress....

'...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.'
Philippians 1:6 NIV
I have been musing about this.

My youngest daughter and I tidied her bedroom some weeks ago.  Well, I tidied her room and she followed me around complaining, removing items that I put in a black bin bag and disagreeing with my definition of 'rubbish'. The room was dreadful. It was a mess, and needed work. About an hour into the job, it looked much, much worse than it did to start with. You know that bit where Macbeth says, 'I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er.'? 

Too late to change my mind; no choice but to push on. Can't leave it like this.

My life is in such a state at the moment. A while ago God started tidying up, making a few changes; can't stop now.

I am a work in progress.
I'm over at The Association of Christian Writers' blog today, as I am on the 23rd of each month. Click here to read more. 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Anecdote: Pine Cone

Sometimes, God does things for no other reason than to make us smile. Don't you think so?

Take the other day, for instance. God knows that I love pine cones. He knows that I can't walk past a pine cone without picking it up, and if it's in good condition I can't help but bring it home.  As a result, we have a pile of pinecones in the rockery, more on the bookshelves and still more hanging about on various window sills.

There's something about a pine cone. Long ones, thin ones, fat ones, big round ones - they're just lovely. The shape of them, the shadows, the texture, the fragrance. Some of them remind me of the place I picked them up; sentimental value. Yes, I have a thing for pine cones. 

Let me tell you a little story.

I was small, maybe six or seven, and I was on holiday with my family. Where, I don't remember. We were walking along a path and there were pine-cone-trees right and left. There was dappled sunlight and lots of pine cones on the floor, and as I skipped along I remarked,

'Wouldn't it be strange if  a pine cone fell from a tree, right in front of me, right now?'

And do you know what?  One did

Continued over at the Association of Christian Writers' blog, which is called More than Writers.

I post there on the 23rd of every month.

Click here to find out what happens next.





Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Getting out of the boat. Or not.

"'Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It's a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.'  
'Lord, if it's you,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water.'
'Come,' he said. 
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'
Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 
'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'   
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'"
That's from the Matthew 14.

Peter gets out of the boat to walk towards Jesus?  Lord, if you are who you say you are, call me to walk on the water! Lovely, impetuous, impulsive Peter blurts it out and Jesus has a little smile and says, 'Go on then. Come.' 

And he does. At least for a few glorious moments, Peter is walking on water, eyes fixed on his master and friend, Jesus Christ, he doesn't sink beneath the swell, he walks On The Water, which as we know, is impossible. It's not possible, to walk on water. 

But he does. Not because of who he is, but because of who Jesus is. Tell me to come to you, and I will, because you can do amazing things. You can empower me to do amazing things. Me! I trust you so much, that if you ask me to do something, you know it's possible, and I only have to do what you ask me to do. 

That's what Peter was saying. So Jesus said, 'Come,' and Peter came. On the water. 

What happened next is by the way. Much has been written about why Peter started to sink, including my own take on it, which you can catch up on here, if you feel so inclined. 

I've been imagining myself in the boat. Me, in all my hesitant INFJ over-thinking splendour. 

Its still dark; before first light and the wind is getting up. We're all in the boat but the waves are big and it's getting a bit rough out there on the lake. Jesus isn't with us, because he went off doing that Lone Man on a Hill thing that he does now and then and we've learned to give him some space. The boat is getting tossed around a little when suddenly there's this apparition coming towards us. 

'It's a ghost!' someone shouts. That probably wouldn't have been me, I don't think. I wouldn't have been as dramatic as that. I'd have been at the back gripping the side of the boat and staring as the others point. What on earth is that? 

'Calm down, calm down, it's me.' Oh, it's Jesus. 

We all exhale a sigh of relief. It's Jesus. Thank God for that; a ghost indeed! Who said it was a ghost? Numpty.

You're missing the point, though, He's walking on the water. On it. Blimey, this man is something else. We've never seen anyone walk on water before. 

I'd have gazed in awe and wonder. Oh, Lord Jesus. You are amazing, and you're my friend. How can this be? 

I wonder if it would have occurred to me to ask what Peter asked? No, I can't imagine it. I always wait to be asked. I always hang back, afraid to be the one to push myself forward, reluctant to invite attention. Peter wasn't like me at all. 

'Lord if it's you, tell me to come and I'll walk on water too!' 

'Alright. It's a deal' 

Jesus must have been so delighted at Peter's outrageous request. He saw that Peter understood something about who he was. I'd like to think there was a chance I'd have grasped it too, but unlike Peter I'd have needed much more processing tome. 

Much more time. I am not a decisive person. Not known for my spontaneity, my happy-go-lucky attitude, my impulsiveness. Nope, I'm a planner. If Jesus had sent me an email the week before telling me how he saw that evening panning out, I might have been in with a chance. But this one unfolded quickly and unexpectedly.

There I'd be, towards the back of the boat, looking at Jesus with his broad smile full of affection, pride, confidence; at Peter scrambling over the side of the boat and lowering himself towards the water. My heart would have been beating so hard, and yet it would have been hard to breathe.

Oh, me too. 

Can I come? Lord, I want to walk towards you. I believe that if you call me, you'll make sure I don't sink. If you think I can walk on water, I believe that I can - I only have to keep my eyes on you. It's not me, it's you; I can do anything if you are near me. If you are there with your arms outstretched to receive me, if you are here, I am safe, even when doing something strange and impossible like walking on a stormy lake. 

And yet I am afraid. My legs won't move. How did Peter act so quickly on this revelation and yet I am here paralysed into inactivity, even though I want more than anything to do what my reckless friend is doing? 

Should I follow? Shout, 'Me too, Lord!' and hurl myself over the side after him? What if the invitation was only for Peter, because it was his idea? What if Jesus doesn't see me and he doesn't realise I'm there; I won't know what to do. I shall just dangle off the side of the boat until I drop off or someone hauls me in again, exasperated.

Should I ask permission? 'Lord, please can I come, too?' What if he doesn't hear me? Or says no? I'll be so embarrassed. Everyone will think I'm so presumptuous - clearly it's ok for Peter because it's the kind of thing he'd do, but me? Clearly getting too big for my boots, thinking that I can walk on water; ridiculous. What if I try and I can't do it? Can I even get over the side, in this swell, with my dodgy knee? I could easily fall and make a real fool of myself. There I'd be, splashing about fully clothed, ruining Peter's special moment.  What if I try and fail? I need to do something, I so want to be part of this miracle I'm witnessing... Should I go? What if I need rescuing and everyone laughs, or thinks how stupid I am, or worse, gets annoyed that I cause so much trouble? 

I am frozen, watching the spectacle unfold. What if I follow Peter, and then everyone does? What if Jesus was just taking a short cut to the boat in a low-key sort of way and then all because of me, everyone jumps out of the boat and we're all there skipping around on the water and Jesus is rolling his eyes and saying, 'Come on, guys, get back in the boat, it's been a long day.' What if we all leap out enthusiastically and we all go under? Jesus has to spend half an hour fishing us out when all he wants is a rest and a bite to eat? 

Look! Peter's actually doing it! Look at that! Jesus can walk on water, because he's God, but Peter?! He trusted Jesus and he's now actually defying gravity! It's impossible! Oh, this is amazing. Oh, Peter, Peter! No wonder Jesus says that you're going to be the foundation of his church. Look what you've done! I am in awe. Oh look at this; think what you're witnessing; this is huge. 

You missed your opportunity, didn't you? That could have been you, but it's too late now. 

You blew it. 

Your part in the story is as the one who stood and gaped and didn't do anything; in fact you're not in this story, at all, are you?  Look at the Lord's face. He's so proud of Peter - wouldn't you just love to have Jesus look at you like that?  You want that more than anything, don't you? Well, Peter got there first, while you were still wondering and faffing and debating with yourself. Sometimes you've just got to act, to step out in faith; that's what Peter did, isn't it?  Right in front of your eyes. While you were still thinking what to do, weighing up the pros and cons, he just got on with it. And now look. He's made the Lord happy. 

You so wish you were Peter right now, don't you? This wonderful thing has just happened and you're feeling all churned up inside. 

That would have been me. 

And yet, a friend told me the other day that she thinks that the Lord wants me to know that although I doubt the depth of my faith, he doesn't.  That despite my convictions that I'd hang back in the boat, fearful and filled with confusion, in her picture I was climbing over the side with a big smile. 

Lord Jesus, let it be true. Give me the chance? 

**

I was going to leave this blog post right here, but I find myself wondering if that is a sensible prayer to be praying. What if God does indeed give me the chance to step out of the boat, whatever that means? It certainly won't be a physical boat in the centre of Queen's Park Boating Lake, but some significant boat in my spiritual journey. I often feel stifled, stalled - as if I'm revving in neutral, if the metaphor can stand both of those at the same time. 

Getting out of the boat sounds scary. Maybe you need to be a Peter kind of person to do it. Maybe I should just stay where I'm safe a bit longer. Maybe if I say, 'Lord, call me and I'll come,' he'll say, 'Alright then, come!' and then... and then, I'd have to... get out of the boat...

Maybe there is a boat, and perhaps I should get out of it, with my eyes fixed on Jesus. 

Maybe it's time. 

I'll let you know. 



Friday, 30 September 2016

Home...


I am at home today. No need to go out until the school run. My kind of day. 

Home is a shoes off, slippers on kind of place. A ‘put the kettle on and have a biscuit’ kind of place.  A ‘there’s a knack to flushing the downstairs loo’ kind of place.

Continued...

I am so pleased to be over at Amy Boucher Pye's lovely blog, AmyBoucherPye.com today. Click here to read the rest of my post and others in her excellent series all about home and what it means to us. 

Better still, get yourself a copy of Amy's delightful book in which she takes a humorous and poignant look at life on both sides of the Atlantic. It's well worth a read.  






Friday, 23 September 2016

Joy, sister

Here's a little anecdote. A true story. 

New York city, nineteen ninety something. Backpacking with a friend. The Empire State building, the Twin Towers, the Staten Island Ferry and the Statue of Liberty in one weekend and then, before we caught a train somewhere else, Sunday worship at a cavernous New York church.

It was held in a huge theatre right in the heart of Manhattan. There were thousands of people swaying to music and and the service hadn’t even begun.  A vast gospel choir in red and purple robes with big white collars straight out of the Blues Brothers had a band with guitars, keyboards, a five piece rhythm section and more brass than you could shake a stick at. Swirling spotlights played on the congregation as the music got louder.

Then, without warning, a small, bald man with an impossibly shiny head trotted out from the wings, bowed to the assembly and began to convulse. 


Read the rest over at the Association of Christian Writers' Blog, which is called More Than Writers, and can be found here.  I post on the 23rd of each month. Come and have a look around! 



Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Keeping the dream alive...

I had no idea how tired I was until I got to Scargill this year.

It’s a short drive to Scargill from Skipton, which looks a lovely town, but I pass by the inviting cafes and intriguing independent shops because I know that real treasure is just around the bend. And the other bends. And over the hills, and across the valley. 

Scargill is a place to breathe. I think I stopped breathing a while ago; maybe as long as two years. I’ve become busier and busier; aware that my jokes about living on a hamster-wheel are no longer funny, but the extent of my suffocation was only evident this weekend.

I have dreams that have been shelved, because there’s just no room for them. 

I’ve told myself that I’ve put them aside just for now, that life won’t always be so frantic, that there are seasons for everything, and this season is one of constant motion, clock-watching, going, doing, coming back. That might just be it.  Around that distant bend might be a time when there are fewer demands on me, physically and emotionally. 

But where is the bend?  Will I ever get there?  Isn’t life for living right now? 


Continued over at the Association of Christian Writers' blog, More than Writers. Come over and say hello?




Saturday, 23 July 2016

How to be a small, inadequate, mighty warrior

Gideon had a word with me the other day.
I'm sure you've met Gideon. His story can be found in the Book of Judges in the Bible. 

I am drawn to Gideon. He felt small and inadequate, and I know that feeling.

Judges 6:12.  God sent an angel to chat with Gideon and the first thing the angel said was, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'

At this point I imagine Gideon looked behind him, because clearly there must be a mighty warrior nearby that he hadn't noticed. He wasn't feeling very mighty, or warrior-like; he was feeling defeated and weak and insignificant. What's more, he didn't feel particularly that God was on his side, but he rallies and very politely comes over all cynical:
'If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders...?'

********** 

Continued over at the Association of Christian Writers' blog, which is called More than Writers, where I contribute some profound wisdom on the 23rd of each month.
Come and have a look round.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Me and the moon: a conceit

I am the moon.

I look down on the world from on high - but all my light comes from you. I glow only because the you shine on me. When I was younger I thought that I was all the light that I needed, just me, shining brightly, but as I've grown older I realise that I have none of my own at all.  I depend on you.

You are the only light.

Sometimes, occasionally, people see and comment on my unique beauty - but that too comes from you; it's all because of you. Most often I am not bright enough for people to notice me at all. Without you to illuminate me I'd be completely dark; the world wouldn't know that I was there. Now and then when there's nothing between you and me to get in the way, that's when I'm best; reflecting your light. On those occasions I shine. Your light bounces from me - I am occasionally a source of inspiration, but always I fade and give way at sunrise.

Continued......


Read the rest, should you so wish, over at the Association of Christian Writers' blog, which is called More Than Writers. I'm there on 23rd of each month, so do come and say hello.


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

A black eye and a taste of heaven

This is an old post; I wrote it when Lizzy was eight, and it's only needed a little updating now that she's eleven. Yesterday was her birthday and it all came back to me once again.



Yesterday was my little girl's eleventh birthday and she was more excited than an excited thing. We did all the stuff; we did presents, we did birthday-tea-full-of-treats-with-little-nutritional value, we did balloons, we did singing, we did blowing out candles. We did hugs and we did great big smiles. We did reminiscing, Daddy and me.

I gave birth to Elizabeth after a rapid labour that confounded the midwives. I had a single paracetamol for pain relief at about half past eight because the midwife who examined me thought I had a very long way to go and assumed I was a bit of a wuss to be asking about it so early in the game. When I got hold of the gas and air I left teeth-marks in the mouthpiece and nail marks where I had it clenched in my fist. Daddy arrived at half past nine fresh off a train from London and walked in nonchalantly just in time for the punchline. 

At 10.16pm, Elizabeth Lucy took everyone by surprise and was born on a plinth in an examination room on the hottest day of the year 2005, and all the fans were in use elsewhere. It was warm work.

I held my little girl in my arms and I was filled with wonder. Long fingers, a mass of light brown hair, button nose, little chin just like her Daddy's and a big black eye. She was brand new, moments old,  with a lusty cry before she was even fully born. 

Red and bruised, head slightly elongated, one eye bloodshot and swollen shut, little rosebud lips giving us glimpses of a little pointy tongue, the sharpest of tiny fingernails. Beautiful? Well, yes and no. Or more accurately, no - and yes, breathtakingly beautiful. A whole person made up of half me and half Daddy. Two of everything down the sides and one of everything down the middle. Breathing, crying, suckling, waving, kicking, snuggling. Fragile and yet so strong. Miraculous. 

I can't explain it, that thing that happened that night. The way that I went in to the hospital someone's wife and someone's daughter and came out still those things but now someone's mother too. Everything changed that night. The world tilted slightly and never righted itself; it's strange that nobody ever noticed but me. 

Even after the midwife cut the cord, Elizabeth was attached to me. She always will be. I tell her that she's my baby girl and sometimes she snuggles closer when I say that and other times she stiffens and tells me in no uncertain terms that she's not a baby, she's a grown up girl. She has a little sister, also my baby girl, and Lizzy sometimes feels the weight of older sister responsibility very keenly. Lizzy is my oldest, my firstborn, my worrier. She's my vibrant, energetic, imaginative, complicated, softhearted, fearless dynamo of a daughter.  

Things weigh heavily on my Lizzy, her self-esteem sometimes is tissue-paper fragile and we work and we work to build her up. 

I know it's not the way to bring up a brave, strong woman, but I'd spare her every second of pain and hurt if I could, for the whole of her life. I'd rather the rough stuff happens dot me than her. From complicated and painful orthodontics to disaster in the final of the 100m butterfly to the boy who asked her to a party and then told her he'd been joking when she said yes.

And since I'm no stoic myself, it's nothing short of a miracle that I'd do that, and do it in an instant. But a miracle did happen that night when I had my baby. I became someone different when I became a mummy. I'm still growing into that person; I suspect it might take me the rest of my life. It's not easy.

Not easy at all, but often wonderful. I sat on the side of her bed last night at 10.16pm and I stroked her hair and kissed her forehead and inhaled the fragrance of her as she slept.

When she was a baby I used to carry her with her head on my chest and I would breathe in her baby smell and I remember offering her to another family member to sniff because she smelled so beautiful. They smiled politely but they didn't get it. I wonder if it's just for me - some primal thing, some deeply profound connection just for mother and daughter? I don't know. I do know that from the moment I took my first breath as a mummy, it's my favourite fragrance in the world, matched only by that of her little sister. 

They say that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory - then maybe that's why. Last night I remembered like yesterday that night in the tiny room on the hard, high, narrow examination table, hot and exhausted and dazed, with my baby girl on my chest. 

Inelegant, undignified, undone. 

Nobody tells you these things about having a baby. Nobody tells you the true horror of the sleep deprivation that makes you feel as if life is not worth living. Nobody tells you about the dilemmas of high temperatures and endless crying and inoculations and school selection. No-one teaches you how to untangle baby-fine hair or comb for nits or how to use hair straighteners because that's what all the girls at school do. No-one tells you what to do when your baby girl is bullied, or bullies, or doesn't get on with a teacher. Nobody tells you how to prepare your daughter for senior school, or puberty, or ready her for success and failure.

You play it by ear, and sometimes the notes are all muddled up. 

It's a good job you don't get a glimpse of the soul searching that goes on when your baby girl has no confidence, or loses sleep to anxiety, or cries too easily when things go wrong. Was it me? My inadequacy complex was genetic? Or have I criticised too much, encouraged too little, corrected too forcibly? Crushed when I should have coaxed? Demolished when I should have built up?

Don't get me started. I'm eleven years in to this motherhood thing and the truth is that I don't know what I'm doing any more than I did that night in June eleven years ago. There's no instruction booklet and no map. I just feel my way; every year I have fewer answers. Sometimes we skip along at a lovely pace, everyone smiling, and the scenery is wonderful. I take lots of pictures and get very sentimental with souvenirs. Other times I get completely lost. I hit dead ends and unexpected detours and I have to crawl my way back. I ask a lot of questions and cry a lot of tears, inwardly and outwardly. 

 Nobody tells you how to do it. I think that's pretty normal, isn't it? 

But the most breathtakingly powerful thing that nobody ever tells you is that the whole world changes. 

The whole world changes. So much that I'll never forget a single detail of 10.16pm on that evening eight years ago and when I look down at the long, lean frame of my beautiful sleeping girl, arms flung out in her birthday pyjamas, my head fills with memories of first breaths, first smiles, first steps - and my heart swells.

Nobody tells you how much you'll love them. 

It's a little taste of heaven.




Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Alive

This is a thing that happened in my head while during a one-to-one prayer session a while ago. I don't really know what you might call it - a vision? A picture? A prayer-journey? All I know is that it was real in my head; I watched it as if I were watching a film. Some of it was from my perspective, and other parts were from a camera overhead kind of filming the action. Close-ups and panoramas. 

Just my imagination? Well, yes and no. When someone asked Joan of Arc if the interactions with God were just her imagination she said, 'Of course. How else would he talk to me?' I had driven past a reservoir on the way to this prayer meeting so perhaps it came from there, but I am convinced that God used the tools in my head to tell me something that I needed to hear. 

I had just said, 'My word for this year is 'Alive' and I am anything but.'  The lady praying with me suggested we asked Jesus why I don't feel alive.

This is his answer:


I am cold. I don't know why I'm cold, but I am cold. I don't feel properly alive, and I say so. I feel stifled, suffocated. I long to breathe deeply but I can't. 

I ask Jesus why I am so cold. 

I realise I'm at the bottom of a lake. Not drowning, just sitting. The water is cold and murky, and the lake-bed is sandy and stony. There are a few wisps of weed and particles floating but there isn't much to see. Everything is grey and brown, bare and barren. Only a little light penetrates to where I'm sitting, knees drawn up to my chest. I sit. My feet are covered in sand.

I'm not afraid, just inert. I am not awake, not asleep. It's a half-life.

I realise that Jesus is there with me. I discern a light near me and I realise that it's him. He tells me that I can move if I want to. I show him that my feet and ankles are buried and I say that I can't. 
Jesus gently replies that I can, but I am afraid to push off. 

Jesus sits down next to me until I'm ready to try to move. He is patient and does not hurry me. In time, with his encouragement, I make a big effort and I push off from the stony bottom of the lake and swim through the grey murk to the daylight above. 

As my head breaks the surface I take in huge lungfuls of air. I gasp and cough and laugh with the exhilaration of breathing again after so long underwater. I breathe deeply, sculling with my arms and kicking my legs to keep afloat. Looking round I realise that I am in the middle of a large lake high up in some mountains. The lake is surrounded by hills covered in heather and bracken. The sun is not shining; there are heavy clouds, although it's not raining. There is little to see, barely any colours other than grey, brown, dark purply undergrowth. The only sounds are the splashes I make. 

I become aware that I am still cold. The water is cold and the air is cold. A wind blows. I move to float on my back and I laugh again as I breathe the fresh air but my laughter is a little forced. I look at Jesus, treading water next to me, and he smiles at me. He understands my confusion. I am happy to be able to breathe but I am still not at ease. I smile and turn away and look up at the grey sky. 

Is this all there is? 

Jesus quietly tells me that when I'm ready, there's more to see. 

I'm not ready. This is so much better than the place in the darkness under the water.  There's air to breathe and I can lie back and see the sky and so perhaps I should stay here. Better than before is enough, isn't it?  I splash about in the lake and Jesus stays with me, waiting. After a while he begins to swim towards the head of the lake, beckoning me to follow. 

I am reluctant to leave my spot in the middle of the expanse of water, even though I'm cold. I don't want to be rude, so I swim slowly after him, wishing he would stop. 

We get to the top of the lake. There's a gap between the bottom of two mountains rising above us and water is flowing down into our lake over a cascade of boulders from a source higher up. Jesus holds onto one of the rocks and turns to me. 

He wants me to follow him up the waterfall. 

It's only a trickle, not a torrent of water. There are plenty of rocks to hold onto and easy footholds, but I shake my head. I don't want to leave the lake. I know this lake. It might be cold and murky and dull but now that I have come up from the depths and I can breathe, it's so much better than what I had before that my impulse is to stay here. It feels safe. 

Jesus says there's another lake at the top of the waterfall, and it's so much better. 

I look doubtful. He says there's no hurry. 

Jesus takes a few steps up the waterfall and turns to me. Follow me, he says. 

I really do not want to. I am familiar with the lake I'm in and afraid to leave it behind for the unknown. I do trust Jesus but.. but... 

I climb after him. It's not a difficult climb, although I'm trembling. He does not get too far ahead and he is encouraging me step by step. I am slow and anxious but he is patient. 

Jesus gets to the top of the waterfall and he is standing on the last rock, which is broad and level. As I approach, tiny step by step, he crouches down to take my hand. One more step, he says, and I will be able to peer over the top of the waterfall. I take another faltering step, clinging onto the rock with my right hand and Jesus with my left. My eyes are level with the water and as I straighten, I see a beautiful scene in front of me. 

It's another lake, but so, so different from the one behind me. This lake is clear and reflecting the blue of the sky ahead. The sun is shining and the water is full of silver sparkles. Around this lake are still mountains but instead of the featureless brush and bracken there are flowers of all colours and meadows of lush grass. There are birds and butterflies. A warm breeze stirs the leaves of trees and carries a wonderful fragrance that makes me inhale deeply. 

I am astonished. Jesus laughs at my wonder and pulls me to stand on the rock with him. We gaze around for a time and then he asks me if I'd like to swim. He puts his toe in the water and then he is swimming for the middle of the lake on his back, telling me to come on in. I want to catch up with him.

I dive into this new lake without hesitating. The water is pleasant and as clear as crystal; I can see all the way to pretty pebbles on the bottom.  It tastes sweet and pure, not like the brackish water of the lake that I have left. As I surface in a mass of sparkling bubbles I feel the sun warm on my head and back.  Out in the middle of the lake we stop and float, enjoying the sunshine, the beautiful blue sky, the sound of birds singing, the fragrance of blossom. I don't ever want to go back to the other lake. 

And yet I'd have been happy to stay. I didn't want to be left under the water, but breathing again was so much better than before that I'd have settled for staying the first lake. I was content with greyness, coldness, colourlessness. I was reluctant to follow Jesus even though I knew he could be trusted. I resisted and hung back. 

Jesus tells me that this is what trust is, sometimes. It might not be dramatic and daring or even decisive. It might be incremental, cautious, even fearful. I did climb the waterfall, step by step, without knowing what lay at the top. I may have been hesitant and doubtful but eventually I did follow him. it's not always easy, and he doesn't expect me to be enthusiastic all the time. He is patient. He will hold my hand.

I was stuck in sand, blind and lost deep, deep down under the water, dark and cold.  Jesus came to find me, brought me light and helped me to surface, but he had so much more for me than that. I would have missed out on so much if I'd stayed in the lower lake. I would have lived and breathed but that was all. I would not have experienced the beauty and vibrancy of the upper lake.

He doesn't want me just to be alive.
'The thief comes to only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they might have life, and have it to the full.'
John 10:10 NI
I sense that there is yet more to see, but this is where Jesus has brought me. 

He is here with me still, as I laugh and splash and swim and explore to my heart's content. The sun is warm on my face and I am relaxed and happy. 





Images
Light and water DSCF0268.JPG by Ryudei2442 from Morgefile.com with permission
Sun and sky my own photograph.









Thursday, 9 June 2016

Grubby Harry

Well, this is a bit of a departure for me for several reasons. 

  1. Of late I've only managed to post once a month, and that's the link to the ACW More than Writers post that I still manage to scratch out on the 23rd. There has been so much going on that my writing has been sadly pushed aside. I'm hoping that I can find a way to change this.
  2. This post is a writing exercise that we did at the Scargill Writers' Retreat last weekend (of which more later). It's supposed to be around 300 words (give or take, heh heh) and it could be about pretty much anything. I'm feeling pretty good about the editing, to be honest, as it started out at 950.
  3. Harry is a product of my imagination, inspired by a sad, neglected little house on a road near me. 



I remember Grubby Harry. As I was growing up Harry was a figure of fun, an eccentric behind dirty twitching curtains at no.6. The neighbours grumbled that Harry’s house let down the rest of the street – his fence was rotten, the lawn overgrown, paintwork dull and peeling. 

Years ago, Harry told stories.  The local kids would call in at no.6 on their way home from school and he would give them chocolate and tell stories – spooky stories, sad stories, exciting stories.  Then, as people’s awareness of the evils of the world grew, they stopped the kids from coming.  He was a lonely single man. Wariness developed into suspicion, and suspicion into assumption. 

Harry retreated from a world that rejected him. He drew his curtains one day and didn’t open them again more than a crack.  This was to foil the snipers on the roof of number 7. 

Harry the Hermit sealed up the letterbox with masking tape after local lads put a firecracker through his door.  When the postman came, as he did, once in a while, you might see the door open as far as the short chain would allow, a hand would snatch the envelopes and slam the door with a rattle of deadlocks.

Mad Harry unplugged the telephone in case they were listening. He crept about in the dark in case the lights revealed his location. He sat close by the television, notebook and pencil in hand, determined not to miss the hidden messages.

He’d been dead for a week or so before the postman raised the alarm.  Paramedics broke in through the front window.  Unkempt and emaciated, Smelly Harry sat at the table with a mass of wires and switches in front of him.  The bomb squad was called and the area evacuated, but it turned out Harry had died while dismantling electrical equipment. He had been checking for surveillance devices.

The drama of his demise would have pleased Harry. Many years ago his stories had topped the bestseller list. He’d written thrillers about espionage and counter-terrorism and someone in Hollywood had bought the film rights.

His was an exciting story and a sad one.

Lying in his hallway, unopened, were half a million pounds worth of royalty cheques.




Photo by Melodi2, via Morguefile
Used with permission.


Monday, 23 May 2016

In the night and in the morning

I like sleeping, and I'm good at it.

The secret to my success is practice. I practice often, and for as long as I can. I hope that when the time comes for me to depart this world the end might come while I'm asleep, and then those who know me well will wipe away a tear and say, 'Well, she died doing what she loved doing most...'

The thing is, sleep has not been going well, lately. I've lost my mojo. Most often it goes like this: I wake in the night for no obvious reason and my head is so cram-jam full of things that I can't get back to sleep again. I lie and watch the red digital numbers on my bedside clock as they flick closer and closer to the awfulness of Getting Up Time and try in vain to empty my mind of all the stuff that's clogging it up and stopping the dreams from coming.

Here's a little story from the other night.

2:26am. Desperate shrieks from Katy's room.




Read the rest over at The Association of Christian Writers' More Than Writers blog. I post there on the 23rd of every month. They're a friendly bunch.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...