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. 

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