Thursday, 28 February 2013

Walking on the water

'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 towards Jesus. But when he say 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 worshipped him, saying, 'Truly, you are the Son of God.'
Matthew 14:22-33

You're asking me about the walking on water thing? Not many people ask me about that. It's not what I'm most famous for.  Ask me about the time he gave me my new name, or about the of times he took me on one side to teach me something, just me and him, those are times I'm proud of. 

And I know, I know, there's the bit just before he died... people don't ask me about that either, but for an entirely different reason. 

Jesus chose me, you know. 

I was just a fisherman. A good one. I could have made a good living, you know, but Jesus told me I could be so much more. He knew me; somehow he saw me in a way that nobody ever had - he knew what I was like. He knew that I didn't go far in school, that I'm better with my hands than my brain - that I often let my mouth get the better of me, but he saw beyond all that. Where other people saw roughness, he saw potential.

Ah. I let him down over and over again but he never stopped believing in me. I'm not going to let him down now. I have a job to do. 

Me and the boys - we're going to tell the world about our Lord. We're going to build a church. It's going to be big, you know. Nothing can stop us.

The walking on water thing? Oh alright. 

It was back in the early days. It was that day that he'd fed thousands and thousands of people with one little lad's lunch - did you hear about that? Out of all those people only one kid thought to bring a snack? Anyway, Jesus did one of those miracle things that we all loved and we had a real party. It was that night. 

He sent us on ahead in the boat and he stayed and talked with the crowd for a while. I don't know where he got his energy but he always had time for people. Even when he was exhausted, he was never impatient and dismissive as the rest of us were. He stayed and chatted and prayed with them and we could see from out on the lake that the crowd was breaking up as the sun went down. We assumed he was going to go off by himself for a while then meet us round the other side.

We sat and ate leftover bread and talked about the stuff that Jesus had been saying. He never failed to surprise us. It had been a good day. We were excited and inspired. And full. 

I think I fell asleep. Most of us did, I think. I've spent years in boats in all weathers and it's not a problem for me to catch forty winks even when it's a bit choppy out there. Not so for all of us; I remember Matthew looking a bit green - he never was much of a sailor. But I was drowsy and confused when Andrew shook me awake. 

'What in heaven's name is that?' he said, pointing. Actually, it was a bit cruder than that, but I won't repeat exactly what he said in polite company. 

There was something floating, some distance away. Whitish, caught in the faint glow from our lantern, sort of hovering above the water. We couldn't see because it was dark, not even first light yet. I remember squinting into the darkness and realising that we should take a bit more care because the wind was up. The boat was pitching about and one minute I could see this white thing and then the next it was gone as the waves threw us high and sucked us low. The others were all pale and staring. 

It was unnerving. What on earth was this thing? It seemed to be getting closer. The lads were all terrified. I wasn't, of course; not much scares me. But it was a bit weird. 

I can't remember who it was that first spoke, but I remember that pandemonium broke out just afterwards. Someone said, 'It's a ghost!'  Before I could say, 'Oh, pull yourself together, there's no such thing as ghosts! Did your mother teach you nothing?' some of the guys backed away from the nearside of the boat to the other so suddenly that it yawed over that way and threatened to throw us all overboard. Everyone started to shout. Young John tried to hide and there was someone screaming like a girl. I think it was Bartholomew. Good set of lungs on him.

The white thing was closer now and I could see that it was a man. His clothes were blowing in the wind and there was spray everywhere and his hair was across his face, but it was a man, and he was walking on the water. He was coming towards us. 

And then, a voice. A familiar voice. Still too far away to recognise him by sight, and yet I could hear the voice we'd been listening to all day as clear as anything even over the howl of the wind and the flapping of the sails and everything. 

'It's me. Don't panic. It's only me, do you hear? Calm down.'

I have to say that at that moment I was amazed. This was a new thing. Turns out that he didn't fancy the walk to the other side after all. 

It was the Lord. Walking on the water.

I didn't think at all, it was almost involuntary. I heard myself shout, 

'Is it you? Lord, if it's really you, tell me to come out there too!'

Caught up in the moment? Maybe that was it. You had to have been there. 

Afterwards Andrew and James told me that they couldn't believe what I was saying. I don't remember there being any thought process, just this urge to go to him. To go to my Lord. 

Jesus laughed. He held out his hand.

'Come on, then,' he said.

I climbed over the side of the boat and slid down, holding on with my arms. Thomas pulled at my arm saying, 'Don't be so stupid! You're going to drown!' but I shook him off. 

The boat pitched violently, but I honestly don't remember any fear. No, really. Not then. I felt for the water with my feet and I turned my head to look at Jesus. He stood, clothes blowing in the gale, smiling, beckoning. Oh, my God! I would go anywhere the Lord wants me to go! 

I let go of the boat. 

My feet were wet; the waves splashed over the bottom of my clothes. I didn't take my eyes from my Lord, who was laughing with delight. He held out his hands and I took a step. 

I walked on the water. I did! I looked right into his eyes and I saw his pleasure and I knew that there was nothing on earth that could hurt me if I was walking to my Lord. My heart was full of love for him and determination that I wouldn't let him down and there was this strange, flooding confidence that I can't describe but I knew, I knew that I could do all things, not me, but him. 

So long as he was there ahead of me, beckoning to me, smiling at me, I could do all things. I believed it with all my heart.

I walked towards him. I looked right in his eyes and I lifted my hands out wide. Look at this! Look at me!

Oh, it took only a second for it all to go wrong. I glanced around. I darted a triumphant look back at the boat and I saw how low it was sunk in the swell. I saw the glow of the dawn just beginning and silhouetted against the lighter sky I saw the trees of the shore bent and whipping back and forth in the wind. I looked back at Jesus and this time I saw his garments flapping around his legs instead of the steadiness of his outstretched hand.

I looked down - and it was over. I should never have looked down. I started to sink faster than you can imagine and in the moment where it seemed as if I was looking death in the face I screamed.

'Lord, help me!'

He was there. He caught my arm and his grip was solid. His feet did not sink even though the cold spray wet him as the wind picked it up and flung it at us. 

He held me, and I found my feet again as if on solid ground. I was afraid and out of breath and shivering and there were tears on my face, I'm not ashamed to say. I was a different man from the fearless one who gazed into the eyes of the Lord and strode towards him on top of the waves. 

Jesus looked deep inside me. He could do that, you know. Never met anyone else who could.

His eyes locked into mine. 

'Oh - you of little faith!'  he scolded. He didn't sound angry. His eyes were searching, looking at my soul.

Then, quietly,  'Why did you doubt?'

I had no words to answer him, but that moment is fixed in my mind like no other. I stood, soaked, on top of the churning, heaving water with the Lord Jesus himself holding me up, and I realised why it went wrong. I realised that I sank because I took my eyes from him. 

You see - you can do anything when you look to him. He will make it possible. He just wants you to make sure that you're looking at him. Me? I can't walk on water - of course I can't - he gave me the power, but only when I was totally focused on him. I started letting all the other stuff in and it distracted me and then it was game over. 

It wasn't about the wind or the waves or the water. It was about my total trust in him. When I trusted him completely, I was fine. When I started to doubt, I started to sink. Simple as that. I stopped believing.

But he saved me. 

A moment passed. 

'Why did you doubt?' 

It stayed in my head. He meant it to. 

He saved me.

We climbed into the boat and it would not have mattered to me if the lads had ridiculed me for my adventure, but they were all silent. 

Mouths hung open as they watched us climb into the boat, first me, then Jesus. 

The minute he stood inside the boat by the pile of nets, pulling a blanket around him, the wind dropped. The howling and whistling ceased and the sails hung quiet. The waves no longer had white tops and the icy spray stopped lashing us.  

I fell to my knees, and the others did as well. Jesus leaned back against the boat side and smiled. 

'My Lord...' was all I could manage. 

Someone behind me said it, just stated it baldly.

'You're the Son of God, alright.' 

And he was. 

He is, you know.

He's the Son of God. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The place where beauty comes from

Hello, God. 
It's the wonderful CS Lewis again.  Really, I must read more of his stuff, and not just 'The Screwtape Letters' and Narnia. The way he seems to drop wonderful gems of wisdom and insight so effortlessly  into his letters and musings makes my day. What about this one:

"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

— C.S. Lewis (Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold)

What did you think when you heard him say that, Father?  I bet you smiled.  And now this exceptional man is with you; he's home.  I wonder if it's just as he thought it would be. 

I love this picture.  'The place where all the beauty came from...the longing for home.'

There are days when I really understand what he means; CS Lewis just sums it up for me. The days where things are too hard, require too much effort; when failure seems inevitable, and the simplest task is daunting.  Days like that make me long for a world where the struggling stops.  I don't mean that I have a desperately hard life - I know that I don't.  I know that there are many millions of people in this world who'd swap with me in an instant and I wouldn't want to swap with them.   What I'm talking about is the hamster-wheel feeling that I get occasionally where I feel that I'm running to stand still, and most of the stuff that I'm struggling with is trivia that's getting in the way of the important stuff.  

John Keats said in his poem, 'Ode to a Grecian Urn':

'Beauty is truth, truth, beauty - that is all

ye know on earth, and all ye need to know'

He's right.  Because you are Beauty, you are Truth, and you are all we need to know.  You are the source of all that is good, lovely, beautiful, awesome, impressive, true. I should look up more, instead of looking down.  Instead of watching my feet in case I trip or step in something, I should look up towards your beauty.  Instead of concentrating on where I am, or where I've been, I should concentrate on where I'm going. I spend so much time looking over my shoulder, down at the ground, or in at myself that I sometimes don't see what CS Lewis saw.  I get an occasional glimpse; those moments when I'm tired, despairing, defeated - sometimes you show me something that stops me in my tracks; those are the times when I am immensely comforted that this is not all there is.  But to live in this world, patiently, while knowing that I'm not at home here, that home is somewhere else, where one day I'll be; that's amazing.  

I'm not there yet.

I hang onto the things of this world too much.  I like being here.  I like being snuggled with my family in front of the fire with a glass of wine on a cold evening. When Spring has at last arrived and the sun is shining and the plants are growing and the sky is blue - when the children are playing and I'm getting dinner ready and there's music on...  in my world things are generally alright.  

When all is well, I think I can cope.  I think I can do it on my own, and that's where I come unstuck.  

That's where I forget CS Lewis' vision of Home entirely and actually it turns out that I've made myself pretty comfy here, living my little life with only occasional reference to you. I have so much that I rate so highly and yet in your eyes it amounts to nothing. I surround myself with things and people and opinions and ways of passing my time and yet there's a much much bigger picture that CS Lewis saw that I only glimpse occasionally. All my 'stuff' isn't worth anything in comparison. 

And then there are times when it all goes wrong and I turn to you, anxiously searching for you like a toddler who looks up to realise that the legs next to her are not her Mummy's legs after all. 

I can't handle it because I am not equipped; all the 'stuff' isn't worth anything when I need real help. Only you will do, and I run to you from whichever distant outpost of my life I've been exploring.  I dash back home out of the rain. I find my shelter in you and wonder why I ever left, only to set out again without a backward glance when the sun comes out next time.   

I am such a Rainy Weather Friend. 

There's a place, isn't there.  A physical place, the Bible says, where I'll be one day and I'll stay.  I will be there with you. I imagine it might be like holding a baby in your arms for the very first time after giving birth - this little miracle held close, smeary and slippery and screaming and screwed up; we meet for that momentous first time, never held in my arms before - in any arms but yours, God -  never heard, never seen, but this little creature is oddly familiar.  She feels familiar, she smells familiar; it's as if I've known her all my life even though we've only just met.  

I reckon that might be how it is in Heaven.  When I get there I'll look about and recognise it from the glimpses; from the precious moments that you left the door open a crack so I could see in, just for a second.  I'll know it, because I was made for it. There's a special spot that's waiting just for me, because you prepared it yourself, and you've been waiting for me. 

It will be the source of all beauty; how could it be other, since it is where you are? 

And as CS Lewis said, it'll be like coming home.

Amen, Lord Jesus. 

From the archive:  edited and re-posted from April 2011. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A work in progress

I am a work in progress.
I am not finished yet.
I am, so far, incomplete.
There are still bits missing.

Problems persist.
The manufacturer is aware 
and has promised to fix them
but it might take time.

Thorough testing is taking place
but some bugs remain.
Certain functions are not yet available
but the upgrade is coming soon.

Some parts are already worn out
and a few have never worked well
 the chief engineer has promised
that all will soon run smoothly.

 The manufacturer's instructions 
have not been followed to the letter.
But this does not seem 
to have invalidated the guarantee.

I am better than I was
and not as good as I will be.
Many more tweaks are planned
and it isn't always easy.

The creator has infinite patience.
and it's a good job,
because sometimes I choose to malfunction
and sabotage the repairs.

I am a top quality piece of equipment
and at full capacity no other model
can perform as well as I.
He keeps on making improvements.

I need to keep coming for a service
and listening carefully.
 Being open to modification
and not thinking I know better.

Despite my faults and breakdowns
my creator loves me.
He knows me inside and out.
He knows what will go wrong next.

He knows when I'm coming back
and he welcomes me.
Even when I don't want to be worked on
he handles me with care.

He sees that I am broken
but still finds me beautiful.
He loves me as I am
but wants the best that I can be.

There will come a day 
when he doesn't send me out again
but polishes me for the last time.
 I will shine like never before.

That will be my last visit to the workshop.
I will finally be fixed.
No more repairs.
All will be as it should be.

Edited and reposted from March 2011
Running smoothly sometimes, grinding to a halt at others. 
No stranger to the workshop.

by click.
From, used with permission.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Teacher

'At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. 
They made her stand before the group and they said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. 
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' 
Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 
Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you?' 
'No one, sir,' she said. 
'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.' 
John 8:2-11

Listen to me. I'll tell my side of the story. 

I find I am torn, sometimes, because part of me still wants to hide that whole sorry part of my life, and yet I ought to tell it; I need to tell it. I can't keep it to myself. These days I care so much less what people think. I am not the woman I was then.

I have thought how I might tell this story without looking bad, but it can't be done. That's the whole point - I made some bad decisions, one on top of another, and I knew they were bad. I knew what I was doing; I wanted something and I took it. I suppose I thought naively that nobody need ever know, but I was wrong.  This was the day that it all came crashing down. 

Don't judge me. I loved him. He loved me - I'm sure he did. From when we were children, we wanted to be together, but it was not to be. He married someone else to please his parents and although he saw my anguish, he would not stand against the way things were done. I would have followed him to the ends of the earth, but he chose her, for an easy life. When the time came for me to marry, I did as I was told; I didn't much care who my husband might be if it couldn't be him. There are many secrets in a woman's heart, and I learned to keep my own counsel. My husband never knew that I loved another man. 

My husband's business was doing well. He began to travel further afield to sell his wares. I did not miss him. Mine was a solitary life, whether he was there or not, for I was resigned to a life of loneliness even when surrounded by crowds of people. I saw the one I loved laughing with his friends, his plain and dutiful wife in tow and I was bitter and resentful. Little by little my heart froze into a cold, cold thing. 

It began with a long look in the market place as we stood one day. The next day I saw him somewhere else, and he caught my eye. His smile transported me back to the days when we were innocent children playing together in the fields, and yet there was something else too. His gaze was a heavy thing, drinking me in, seeing inside, uncovering the longing that I tried so hard to bury. To begin with I lowered my eyes demurely and turned away but it was too much to ask of me. Remember, I've always loved him. Did he want me still? Was it possible? One day I looked straight back into his eyes. Brazen? Oh yes, it was. It was laden with meaning. I intended it to be.

Inevitably, there was a tap at my door that evening after dark. I knew there would be. I was in my best clothes, bathed and perfumed. I won't tell you the details, but I opened the door, as I'd always known I would.

And so a pattern developed. My husband went away on business, I would change the sheets on my bed and late at night I would answer the knock at the door. We were so careful. We thought that we had been so clever. We only cared about right now, about passion. We knew what we were doing and we knew that it was wrong, but it didn't matter. We were greedy for each other. We used to say, 'Until next time...until next time...'

And then it happened. 

It was early. The sky was beginning to lighten and he was still asleep next to me. It was his habit to sneak out before first light to go home while there were still shadows for concealment. I was about to wake him, but first in that faint glow of pink in the sky I could see his profile and I lay on my side and admired him. A noble forehead, beautiful eyelashes that would be the envy of a woman, a strong, straight nose. His chin was a little weak, but I didn't notice that until much later. 

I turned to wake him with a kiss. And hell broke loose in my house. 

We were betrayed. To this day I don't know if it was his wife, or a neighbour, but the religious people burst into my house. What a tableau of sin we must have made. I, poised above my lover in bed, my hair tumbling over bare shoulders. There was no talking my way out of this.

They dragged me away from him. Wearing only the gown that I sleep in, they picked me up screaming and writhing and conveyed me out of the front door and down the street as the first rays of day broke in the market square. I shouted for him to come to my rescue, to think of something, to offer them money, to fight for me, but he did not come.  I knew the penalty for my crime, and I was terrified. 

He never came. 

There I was, helpless between two big men whose grip on my arms was hurting me. My feet were bare, my hair unbraided, my thin nightgown gaping at the neck. I'm sure that my eyes were wild. I had no idea where they were taking me but I thought I was about to die. I thought that they were manhandling me outside the town where they could carry out their sentence. People were emerging from houses to find breakfast or start work and womenfolk were fetching water. They all saw me in my humiliation. Some stared, some jeered, some followed, someone spat at me. 

I stopped struggling and hung my head. I let them drag me.

We didn't go to the edge of town. We came to the temple. I should have known that these religious people would want my sentence to be carried out publicly. They threw me to the ground and stood around me like guards. 

I don't remember much about this. I remember curling up in a ball on the stony ground, hands covering my head, expecting blows, waiting for it to start. It was cold, but I was damp with perspiration. I was shaking.  

I heard one of the men who stood over me speak. I looked up, dust and hair sticking to the tears on my face. 

There was a large crowd that was growing rapidly as more onlookers came to see the pathetic creature snivelling on the floor. People were standing around as if they'd been there a while, and a teacher was sitting in his seat.

I had not seen this man before, but I thought I knew who he was. I had heard about a man who came with a new message and spoke with authority. My neighbours had spoken of him and his intriguing teaching, and I had heard that he was attracting attention - both the positive and the negative kind. Of course, I hadn't sought him out myself. It had been years since I had been near the temple. I had eyes only for one man, and he was conspicuous in his absence right now, when I needed him. I had no time for religious teaching. The life I was living, I didn't want to think too deeply about sin.

The Pharisee to my left spoke in a loud voice.

'This woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. In the law, Moses tells us to stone such women. What do you say, teacher?'

He spat the last word. He kicked dust in my face as I looked desperately up at him. Wild thoughts went through my mind. How did they find out? Where was my lover? What would my husband say when he learned I was dead, and why they had taken me? 

All eyes were on the teacher, including mine. He was staring at the floor, forearms resting on his knees. A long moment passed.  The men standing either side of me became annoyed. One of them shifted position. With an almost imperceptible shake of his head, the teacher stood and turned his back on the Pharisees. The crowd were surprised. People looked at each other in astonishment. Who was this man who insulted the elders by showing them his back? 

The teacher bent down to a squat and began to draw in the dust on the floor. One of the Pharisees cleared his throat. They would not be ignored.

'Did you not hear? This woman has disgraced her husband, her family and God himself. Moses told us to put her to death. What do you say?'

Still he wrote on the ground and did not reply. It came to me. This man's name was Jesus. There were some who said he was special. 

Another man, behind me, spoke up with a sneer in his voice. 

'So, teacher - should she die, according to the holy law, or are you as they say, a 'friend of sinners'?'

The crowd began to grow in confidence. There was a murmur of confusion. A couple of people shouted that I was disgusting, that I should die. There were a few who held rocks in their hands already, as if impatient to start.  I saw people I knew in that crowd, people who knew my parents. I covered my face with my hands. 

I was aware of sharp stones beneath my knees, my ragged breath, my shame. Oh, the shame; it was crushing, suffocating. I hoped that death would come quickly. 

What was this delay? Were they playing with me? 

The teacher straightened up and turned around. He looked straight at me. No, more than that. He looked into me. He saw past my shameful loose hair and my red eyes. He saw beyond my nightgown and my bare legs. He saw my very soul. Until that point I had never believed that I had one. 

I could not look away. I so wanted to, because in that moment I was more aware of all I had done and the wrongness of it than I have ever been. This man, he saw my pride, my selfishness, my lust, my resentment, my anger. He saw my fear and my loneliness and my emptiness. I stared into his eyes and for a moment I thought I saw deep inside him too. What did I see?

To this day I'm not sure what it was. I can't put words to it. I saw pain, compassion, justice. I saw that he was different, as they said he was, but more than that. Perhaps a more educated woman would know how to describe him. It was... it was...righteousness. No, something else too. He was as different from me as gold is from mud.

He was holy. 

Jesus turned his gaze to the men who accused me. The silence was palpable. I held my breath. He raised his finger to point at them in turn and he spoke slowly, deliberately, powerfully. 

'If there is one among you who has never done anything wrong - he should throw the first stone.'

He turned away and stooped down again. With his finger he wrote on the ground. 

All was still. The silence was so complete that all I could hear was the thud of my heart. Nobody was looking at me any more; nobody moved. They stared at the man whose finger scratched in the dust. I dare not move a muscle in case I attracted their attention again. 

And then a strange thing happened. An elderly man on the periphery of the crowd turned slowly and walked away. He just left. It was as if a spell was broken; another man followed him. After a moment a third and fourth walked away down the steps of the temple. The crowd just began to disperse. A man close to me wordlessly dropped the stone he was holding and walked away. 

They all disappeared. The two that had wrenched me from my bed were among the last to leave, but leave they did. I felt as if the whole time as the crowd dispersed I had stopped breathing, until at last only the teacher and I remained in the temple court. 

I let out a shuddering gasp. He turned. Straightened. Walked towards me. 

'Where are they?' He said. He held his hands wide and gestured. 'Your accusers. Where did they go?'

I shook my head. I didn't trust myself to speak. Who was this man? I had been ready to die, and yet now my executioners had gone. 

'Did no-one condemn you?

Jesus looked at me. 

'No, sir. No-one.' It was a whisper. 

He held out his hand. I took it. It was warm and strong and dusty. He helped me to my feet; I staggered a little. My knees were shaking. I looked at the floor, keenly aware that I was half dressed.

The teacher held onto my hand in his. With two fingers of other hand he gently lifted my chin until my eyes met his. Once again I saw him. This was no ordinary teacher. No ordinary man. The things they said about him are true. No-one has ever understood me like he did in that moment in the temple. Me, caught deep in sin, rightfully condemned, despised, shamed, looking into the eyes of God.

'Then I don't condemn you either,' he said, and then, 'Go home. Your sinful life is over. Do you understand?' 

I understood. I took his hand in mine and pressed it to my face. He smiled as I whispered my thank you. I just kept saying thank you. The tears began to flow again. I thought they would never stop. 

You see, he changed me. I never thought that my life could be anything but bitterness. I thought that any chance of happiness and fulfilment had passed me by long ago. I had been cold and closed for so long, and here was a man who was telling me that another way was possible. That forgiveness was possible; I had been forgiven, so must I not forgive? 

I had a chance that I didn't deserve. A second chance. He saved me; physically, emotionally and spiritually. In all these ways he brought me back from the brink of death.

I thought that morning that I was lost and yet this man Jesus found me and set me free; something inside me grew and blossomed that day. The following days and weeks were far from easy - what I had done had consequences, of course - but I found courage to face those hurt by my wickedness. When their harsh words crushed me and made me feel worthless I remembered the love in his eyes. He thought me worthwhile, even in my sin.

I see people differently now. I see people in the light of what the teacher said. He who is without sin... and every man turned away, even the priests and Pharisees. I was humbled that day; yes, brought low and yet lifted up from the mess of my life, all at once. We are all broken, and all he wants is to heal us.

I hear that I'm not the only one transformed by Jesus. I've been told stories of the way he touches lives and heals people. I hope they are telling their tales too, for people need to hear. The whole world needs to hear. Those who are lost, like I was - I will tell my story so that they too can turn and be restored. I can't do anything else.

You know, the one who has been forgiven much loves much - I can vouch for this. I would do anything for him. I have followed my Lord from village to village, and I sit at his feet when I can. His friends accept me even though they know my story; they have seen stranger things than this! I will never tire of hearing of the things he has done.

Jesus has the key to heaven, I believe that. I saw it in his face on the day that I stood before him, empty and hopeless. I am alive again.

They're calling him the Messiah, and he is. He really is.

He saved me.

'He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.'
Psalm 40:2-3

Image credits:
DSCF1047.JPG by pete12958
IMG_5760firstflower.jpg by gladtobeout
Used from with permission.

Thursday, 14 February 2013


So, God.

Something occurred to me the other day and made me smile. 

It was such an obvious analogy that I thought you must be having a bit of a joke.

I went to visit a friend who has recently moved house and I don't really know the way to her new place yet, even though I've been once before. So, being the technologically-minded person I am, I used my phone to direct me. I fed in her address, pressed a button labelled, 'Start from current location' and pressed 'Go'.

I went. 

I followed all the instructions until a junction where the man on the phone told me to turn left, but I thought I remembered it from last time and I was sure I should turn right.

I turned right. 

I was wrong.

The road I chose took me through an industrial estate, some strange and claustrophobic backstreets and onto a one-way system that took me way out of my way. 

The man on the phone stayed calm. He wasn't annoyed.

The screen said, 'Recalibrating'.

He recalibrated remarkably quickly, because he started directing me through the maze of streets and roads that I shouldn't have needed to negotiate at all. Eventually I realised we were working our way to my friend's house via a different route. This time I took his gentle advice and turned left when he told me to. 

A short time later I pulled up outside her house. I explained why I was a little late and she asked where I'd gone wrong. When I told her she frowned and said, 'Oh, you'd have had no end of trouble if you'd gone that way'. 

Tell me about it. 

So, the (glaringly obvious) moral of this story is: Follow The Instructions. 

The man on the phone had the map. He knew. I didn't, but I thought I was right. Famous last words. 

You've given me instructions, too. Sometimes, I follow them. Then, I get to a junction and you calmly tell me to go left, but no! Right looks familiar. Right looks interesting. Right it is then. And then down the Right/Wrong road I find myself confused and lost. Lonely. Out on a limb. On a complicated one-way system without a map. Meeting dead-ends and road works and 'not suitable for vehicles' signs. So what do I do then? I pick up the instructions.

What do you do? Do you shut down and let me sort it out myself? I made my own mess, now I should clear it up? No. You're still there. Watching, waiting, ready to help. Even though it was my own fault.


Finding a new route, because I turned away from the old one. 

The man on the phone doesn't always take me where I need to by the most direct route because he factors in traffic, road works and any other considerations I ask him to take into account. You, too; you don't always take me on the most direct route, but I can trust you to get me there. 'There' is the destination that you choose - not me. If I chose where to go as well as how to get there I'd either be driving forever or I'd run out of road before I got there and I'd end up in the sea. We are an island, you know. 

So. Your route might not be the prettiest, the longest, the shortest, the most interesting, convoluted or exhilarating, but it'll be the right one. Even if it doesn't look like the right way to me, I've found that it's best to trust and keep going. I know that even when it looks as if you're leading me down a dead end, there'll be a way through that I didn't see, and at that darkest and scariest corner where the road is bumpy and there's a steep drop nearby - that's when there's often beautiful treasure that I never would have found if I'd turned off onto the well-lit road with plenty of lay-bys when I wanted to.

Whether it's a huge motorway or a dual carriageway or a narrow country lane, I know that you'll get me where you want me to go. Even if I keep taking short cuts that turn out disastrous and you need to keep recalibrating. 

Thank you, Lord, for your patience and gentleness. Thank you that, like the man on the phone, you didn't make me pull over so that you could shout, 'Where do you think you're going, you halfwit?' You didn't draw my attention to the price of petrol, or the road sign that I missed, or the fact that I just plain did the opposite to the instruction.

You recalibrate. You don't abandon me. When I'm lost and I admit that I need you once again, you still get me back to where I should be. It might be that the route I take after my diversion misses some of the spectacular views you wanted to show me, but that's down to me. 

Thank you. Whatever road you want me to drive down, Lord, I want you to navigate.

I'll never get there on my own.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Being in the moment. Or not.

Hello, God.

You know that there's so much about at the moment about stopping and being 'in the moment' and slowing down to 'just be' and to notice and savour life's fleeting moments and blessings?  Well, I fully support the premise but sometimes I don't want to dawdle and linger, I feel a pressing need to get on.  

I've read these books and articles and blogs and tweets and I've thought to myself, yes. This is it. I've thought this so much that I've actually written some stuff to the same effect myself, but the other day it dawned on me that much as I love the idea of slowing down and getting off the hamster wheel to 'stop' and 'be' and 'be in the moment', I like the idea of 'getting there' more. 

I like getting things done. I want to cut to the chase. I like it when I can cross something off my To Do list because it's Done. I have, if I'm honest, resorted to adding Done things to my To Do lists so that I get a sense of achievement when I can see the Dones next to the remaining To Dos. Actually, I've had to stop making To Do lists because the sheer volume of things that needed doing became too much for me. This came about because my To Do lists had to be complete, not works in progress and so every task had to be included. The effect of this was to discourage me so much that I scrapped the idea. 

I used to draw, when I was younger. I got reasonably good at it, though never good enough to take it any further than sketching while watching the telly in an evening. The thing was, I didn't enjoy it very much. I liked the idea of it, and I liked the finished picture, and I liked giving the pictures to people, but the process of drawing it? Not so much. After the first few strokes of my pencil I became so worried about getting it wrong and ruining the composition that it was no fun. 

It's like this with practically everything I do. I like reading, but when I read I want to finish the book; I want to know how the story unfolds. I stay up much later than is good for me because I can't leave it half-finished. I'm frustrated when life keeps me away from my books. I do cross-stitch pictures and I find that when I start one I am keen to finish. I like the finished thing, not so much the doing. It needs to be perfect, so the work is painstaking, like the artwork; it has to be right, but it has to be finished.

I start something and I'm impatient for the finish. If I diet, I want to be thin tomorrow. If I go on holiday, I want to get there. If I watch a TV programme, I want the next episode. If I hear a joke, I want the punchline. 

I want to know what happens in the end.
There seems such a long way to go

So when I hear that you're not so fussed about the destination, but you're interested in the journey, I sort of slump. No, I'm not very good at this. I want to get there.

I know that you have a Plan for me and for my life. I know that you've given me dreams and gifts to use for your glory. I know that your timing is perfect. 

I do. I know that. 

But I want to get there. I want to be the person you want me to be without having to labour over the stages and life events and challenges and experiences that might make me that person. I want to get to the point where my dreams and your promises for my life are coming to fruition, not have someone suggest that I should savour the process of getting there.

Are we nearly there yet?

Agh. You made me like this, remember. I'm a completer/finisher. I like the 'i' dotted and the 't' crossed and the box ticked. I like it all sewn up neat and tidy. And if the job is too big, too long, I break it down into sections that don't intimidate me as much and so that I can see progress

You see, all my life I've made progress. I've been relatively (not dramatically) good at exams; I've always passed things that needed passing. I've signed up for other qualifications to advance my career (when I had one) or to improve my driving, or to learn something new. It's always been visible, quantifiable, measurable. A task needs doing, I do it, it's done.  

I need to see progress otherwise I get discouraged. I can understand the necessity for the gradual but it's when I can't discern any difference between yesterday and today, last month and this, or between the day the dream was born and two years of trying later that leaves me all at sea. That's when it gets a bit too much. I wonder if I'm actually getting anywhere. I wonder if it's worth it at all; whether I misread the signs early on and this treading water means anything.

Am I on the right track?
I start to doubt that I'm on the right track. I start to feel tired and distracted and unmotivated.

Are we nearly there yet?

I know that these are the times when character is formed; when perseverance teaches me determination and persistence. I know that nothing worth having is handed to us on a plate and I know that you know best. 

I'm just saying, I'm not very good at it. 

Help me change, Father, because this is against my nature, and I'm wondering if this is why I'm giving myself such a hard time at the moment. For weeks now I've been feeling a vague and nebulous sort of discouragement and I think it's because I don't feel that I'm getting anywhere

Am I? Would you let me into the secret, just a little bit? A little glimpse of your plan? A sign that I'm going in the right direction? 

There just seems such a long way to go.

Are we nearly there yet?

Lord, here's all this. I don't know what the answer is - I suspect there isn't one. Actually, no I don't. I suspect that I know it all along and the answer is that you're not so much bothered by the destination as the journey, and I need to stop stamping and muttering on the platform and climb aboard. I need to get a seat by the window and stretch out my legs and look out at the scenery. I need to take off my watch and stop checking the time. Stop looking for affirmation or signs of progress and turn my gaze on you.

Stop running. Stop comparing. Stop grinding my teeth. Stop analysing. Stop striving. 

Look at you. 


Look some more.




.....Are we nearly there yet?

bamagirl_100_0270_jpg by bamagirl
PIC1071098652.jpg by kconnors
From Used with permission.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The tantrum queen

Morning, Lord.

Well, I absolutely haven't got anything helpful or uplifting to say this morning. I haven't got any insights or messages or ideas to communicate. I'm not here to encourage or inspire or any of that today. Just haven't got anything. 

Father, what am I supposed to do about my youngest daughter?  She is beautiful, clever, funny, charming, articulate, affectionate, helpful and loving, and she has the most breathtaking temper. She throws tantrums that would stun you. 

Well, I suppose nothing stuns you. Nothing surprises you, does it?  You know her inside out and you love her very, very much. Lord if I could just sneak a look inside her head for ten minutes sometime, surely it would help me cope with these tantrums, would it? I just don't know what to do. 

I'm following all the advice that I can get. We've tried star charts to earn rewards, we've tried deducting pocket money from £1 in 2p increments (10p for a tantrum; the week's not over and Katy's down to 8p) I've tried taking toys away (she still loses the ones she throws) and I've tried taking her to her room and leaving her there, which is only possible if we are a) at home and b) have lots of time. Nothing has made any difference, and you know how we've tried. Some tantrums I can head off, if I see them coming, but what about the ones that are because she's been told, 'No'? 

The other day she wanted a biscuit at bedtime just after she'd cleaned her teeth. No. I thought she might grumble, or whine, or even (happens occasionally) just shrug as if to say, 'Oh well, I tried'. Nope, this time: light blue touch-paper and retire to a safe distance. 

She screamed, she hit, she kicked, she pulled at me, she pulled the bedclothes off the bed, she threw her pyjamas, slippers and water bottle across the room and she swiped things off the bedside table. I left her on her own and went into the bathroom. She beat on the door, so I turned the lock. She hammered on the door and kicked it so hard that it flew open, hit me on the back of the head and bounced back, trapping her bare toe underneath it. 

Her furious screams changed instantly to howls of pain as her big toe nail had been torn and pulled back by the door. Her toe was sort of scuffed, but the blood was coming from the nail bed. 

Ahh. My anger dissolved, I scooped her up and held her on my lap as she wailed. The injury scared her, but still she was on about the biscuit. Still no. With poorly foot in one hand she thumped the bed and myself until she was worn out. 

What on earth do I do? It's so hard to control my own temper when this happens. I struggle to keep my voice from rising to banshee volume myself and I itch to manhandle her and give her a good smack. How can that possibly help? Katy, you're not allowed to hit, but Mummy is...? And yet I find myself thinking that this is exactly what would have happened to me if I behaved like that. What have I done to my daughter; how have I brought her up that she behaves like this?

And yet I know that it's something that some children do. I know from recent conversations that in this respect Katy's not unique.  From the moment we brought her home from the hospital she had something different about her; sometimes, when she cried, there was a fury in her crying that could frighten her big sister (then 20 months). Elizabeth would recoil in fear and start to cry herself when Katy was angry. Slowly we learned to distinguish Katy's hungry or tired or sad crying from her 'I Am Not Happy' cry. She would go red and scream so loudly that she coughed. Perhaps we should have known that she'd be the tantrum queen. 

So why? She's just made like that? A combo of genes that's so different from Elizabeth's? Both her daddy and I have tempers; and indeed when I'm in a rage I too have the urge to throw things and slam doors. I have been known... so maybe it's not so surprising. Most of the time these days I've got a grip on it. Grown up tantrums just look different, don't they? We might not stamp and sweep the things off the bedside table (though we might...) but we might throw around words that hurt or looks that bruise or hit back with petulant cancellation of nice plans or sweeping generalisations that can crush. I have been guilty of all those things. 

Lord Jesus, I once asked you for patience. You blessed me with two small children so that I could learn it. I don't know that I'm doing very well. I love them so, so much, and yet taking care of them is the hardest thing I have ever, will ever, could ever do. I am so often at a loss. So often so completely out of my depth, and they're only five and seven. How on earth will I cope with the teenage years? With two girls in a world so different from the one in which I grew up?

I feel defeated by it, today. Don't know why - I always blame it on being tired, but I slept well last night. Had a dream that an old man was showing me a book, and it was a commentary on the Bible book of Revelation. Was that a sign from you, Lord? Should I nip over to Amazon right now? 

But I'm off the point. Amazon is enough of a distraction. Talk to me about Revelation later, will you? 

Father, you are a parent. I don't suppose Jesus ever had tantrums, did he? Ever throw his cutlery at Mary? Ever sweep Joseph's tools off the work bench in a temper? No, thought not. What would you do?

Love her. Alright, that's a given. I don't stop loving her. I really don't. I look at her as she drags on my clothes and kicks my leg and beats her hands on my hip and I don't like her very much, but I don't ever, ever stop loving her. 

So if Jesus never threw a wobbly, where does your experience with tantrums come from? 

Ah. Ahh. 

I walked into that. 

You're giving me that look. That look that says, 'Ha. The penny drops.'

Get the log out of my own eye before I try to remove the splinter from Katy's? Is that it? Well it's not fair. Hers is a log too. It is!

Hmm. So here I am, I'm railing at you and accusing you of unfairness or favouritism (just as Katy does to me - see? Nothing changes).

Do you look at me with compassion and pity as I wail and clutch at my injuries when the door I hammered on bounces back to hurt me? Do you quietly help me pick up the pieces when I throw my pride-and-joy Lego model on the floor in a temper and then grieve over the loss of it? 

You don't shout back. You don't hit or scream or cause lightning to strike me dead because you're angry and fed up of me. No, you are peaceful because you are peace. You are calm because you invented the concept. 

You could calm the storm if you wanted, but sometimes you let it rage. You don't intervene, you let me wear myself out with the internal shouting and the static in my head and the inability to rein myself in or the refusal to come and tell you about it. And then, when my angry tears give way to tears of pain, or self-pity, or remorse, there you are with a hanky and a cuddle. 

Is that it? Is that my job? To ride out the tantrums I can't avoid? To be there, just the same, loving, loving, forgiving and loving some more? 

But there are so many practical considerations too. It's not an abstract concept, Lord. She damages things, including people, she makes messes, she hurts herself. It's not only about standing by calmly with a beatific expression of love and unruffledness until she's ready for a reassuring hug, but hey, maybe that's a start. When we need to leave for school, or when we're in a shop, or when big sister can't get far enough away and she's worried by Katy's outbursts, I need another strategy. 

I need that patience that you've had me work on. I'm not there yet. I need to keep my own temper well under control. I need some inner peace that can't be scuffed and crumpled up by small fists that seek to destroy it. I need to keep things in perspective; this thrashing creature yanking my scarf into a noose is the same loving little girl who wrote me a note telling me that I was the bestest Mummy in the world and who stroked my arm when she found me in tears over a sentimental clip on YouTube. I need to remember how much I love her. 

She's looking to me to help her because she's lost control of herself. The last thing that will help is me losing my own control. That will just make things worse on so many levels. I need self-control. I need gentleness and self control. 

Ah. Do you spot a theme?  I do. Reluctantly.
'But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.'
Galations 5:22-23
So here's the thing. I need more of you. I am not up to this. Left to myself I will shout back, be rough and angry, irrational and, yes, even cruel. I will say things I don't mean, hit back, if not with blows, with words. I will threaten and crush and be generally the last thing you had in mind when you said, 
'Let your gentleness be evident to all.'
Philippians 4:5
Lord, I need you. I notice that the next words after this short quote from Philippians are:
'The Lord is near.'
Lord, be near next time Katy throws one. So near that you might nudge me. Hold up a warning finger when I go to shout back, when I reach to jostle her into her coat. When I look at her with coldness and rage in my eyes. Don't, please, don't let me respond in a way that makes things worse, that leaves scars on her little soul. Let me soothe when soothing is possible and necessary, let me heal when she'll let me heal, let me comfort when she needs comfort. I can do those things. And before that, when the storm is raging and I fear for my doors and my shins and my sanity, hold me close and let my gentleness be evident to all like yours is.

Is that possible? 

With me, no. I know it isn't. I'm not built that way. But you - you can do the impossible. 

Today I cried about Katy's tantrums. I'm crying about my own inadequacy as a mother too. My own lack of resources to change things, my own flawed responses and mixed messages, my hopes and fears and dreams for the women that my daughters will grow into and the crushing worry that I am not helping and guiding them and setting the example that I should.

I can't do it, but you can. Heal any wounds that I've inflicted, will you? Put right any damage that I've done. Guide them where I fail to. Equip me to be the mother you want me to be - the mother that you thought I could be when you entrusted these two little people into my care. You thought that I was the best mummy for my two girls. Help me hang onto that on the days when I think that the neighbour's cat could do a better job than I do. Help me to learn to live up to your faith in me.

Lord Jesus, help me with this thing that I'm sure is small in the eternal scheme of things but is looming large in our house at the moment, as Katy's pocket money pot looks emptier and emptier and we're all warier and wearier. 

Thank you for calming me down. 
Thank you for being there, always the same, always gentle. 

Draw me closer to you so that some of you rubs off on me, please, Father God.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The prayer of a righteous man

Jesus prayed for me

Yes he did, didn't he?

You remember? Of course you remember. You don't forget. Especially something like this. 

Jesus said a prayer for me. And if you ever answer prayers (which you do) then you will answer his, won't you? The two of you were pretty close, even when he was down here walking and talking and stubbing his toe like the rest of us. 

Alright, maybe not that much like the rest of us. But anyway. 

I've read this bit of scripture before, but it's just come alive for me. 

Thank you. 

I sometimes ask people to pray for me. I might mention it to someone, or send a text, or ask the church to pray on a Sunday in the intercession. I know that prayer is powerful and I know that you answer. 
'The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.'
James 5:16
And there is none more righteous than your Son. 
If Jesus prayed for me, prays for me, then I'm going to be alright. 

Jesus prayed for the disciples and then he said this:
'My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.'
John 17:20-21
So the disciples knew Jesus and they saw him raised from the dead. They knew him. They knew what had happened because they'd seen it, talked with the risen Christ, listened to him and done as he asked. 
They told people about him. 
Those people told people. 
Those people told people too. 
And so did they. 
Eventually one of the people told me. 

Someone told me about you, and I believed them. 

So Jesus prayed for me
'...I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message...'
Jesus prayed that we would all be one. United in our faith. Obviously different, diverse; but one. One with the people who told us the Good News, one with the disciples who first told it, one with the One who started it all - one with God. 

How sad that we fight all the time. How sad that we squabble and bicker and get hung up on words and points of view and trivia. For I am convinced that it is all trivia in the face of the truth. But it isn't trivial when it completely obscures the picture of Jesus that we're supposed to be showing people. It just misses the point. 

Jesus prayed for us. He wants us to be one. 
'Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity.'
John 17:21-23
There's a reason why he wanted us to be united. It's so that people might see us and believe in him. The glory of God shines through me - or at least it should. There are days when any glory in me is deeply buried beneath layers of grumpiness and selfishness and self-indulgent bad temper, but the fact is that I am created to reflect the wonder of God. 'I have given them the glory...' reminds me of:
'Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.' 
Matthew 5:16
I am supposed to live my life in such a way to point people to you, Lord God. I should shine. I should show people your glory, not distract them or indeed put them off.

'The glory of the only begotten shines in all the Sons of God. How great is the majesty of Christians!'
John Wesley.**

It's part of the thing. The disciples told people. Those people told people. One of the people told me - and so I should tell people. And I should do it in such a way that they will listen and understand.

I get it so wrong sometimes; we all do. The church is in disarray. Just look at the state we're in.

In the words of Matthew Henry:

'The more they dispute about lesser things, the more they throw doubts upon Christianity. Let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, praying that all believers may be more and more united in one mind and one judgement.' *

See? I know that greater minds than mine wrestle with this. Whether it's gay marriage or the ordination of women or the liturgy or saints' days, or minor points of interpretation of scripture or language or the sound the church bells make and how often they should ring I wish we could get over it. I know that good and wise people are trying to bring peace and unity and I don't for one little minute envy the job of Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury in trying to unite a church of more than 80 million people who each have an opinion. 

What I am saying is that it's obvious even to those like me who don't know much, don't understand much, don't influence much that we're getting this wrong. 

Does it grieve you, Father? Or does it make you angry? Or do you just look at us with pity because of the sheer waste of it all?

The Lord, Jesus Christ, said:
'...Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.'
John 17:23b
If we are one, we can sing louder. If we're all on the same page of the song, singing in unison, people will hear what we're saying. 

Harmonies are fine, but different words and different tunes from different books sung to a different rhythm at different times and it's just a noise. 

It gets worse when those words are harsh and argumentative and unwelcoming and unforgiving. 

Just saying. 

Here's the amazing thing. Jesus prayed this prayer:
'Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.'
John 17:24
Lord God, you saw the end from the beginning. Nothing surprises you.  You sent your Son to save people who didn't deserve saving and you knew the problems we'd have. You built your church on a group of ordinary people who messed things up on a regular basis. You know the state of our hearts, the confusion of our minds, our struggle to do what is right even though quite often we're not sure what right is.

You love us. In our squabbles and our meannesses as well as in our odd moments of purity and truth. You died for us. You want us to come and live with you for eternity - you actually enjoy our company.

We who let you down so profoundly so often.

You want us to be with you where you are.

Jesus prayed for all of us who would ever turn to him, fall on our knees and say, 'Yes'. Even then, you knew us by name. You knew then all about me and you knew the day and the minute that I would give you my life. You know each of your children inside out.

Jesus prayed for us all.  He asked you to bring us to your heart, to make us safe in you. To allow us to witness the glory of God himself. I'd like this, please. And this is what Jesus prayed for me. It blows my mind.

And there's more. Jesus is still praying for me. Still.
'Christ Jesus who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.' 
Romans 8:34
Even in all my failures, you love me. Your Son is fighting my corner.

He wants me to be with him where he is, one day, when it's time. Me. Me!

So I think that I'm going to be alright.

Amen to that. Oh yes.

*Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Kindle ed. Christian Miracle Foundation Press 2011
** John Wesley, Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, Classic Reprint, Forgotten Books, 2012


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