Oh! Oh! Oh! Listen!

Yesterday I went to England, and I remembered what I’d forgotten, or forgotten to remember;  how green that lovely country is, how the hills fold and dip, how the hedgerows are different from Welsh hedgerows, bigger, older, the trees fatter somehow. Remembered that there are places where hares still dance, where farmers leave land unseeded around every field for flowers to grow and wildlife to thrive, remembered lark song (why are there no larks here in West Wales? Do the kites and buzzards get them all?) Man,  it was good being back there, even so briefly. Early as usual, I parked the car and sat in the gateway to a wheat field….

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Does that seem no big shakes to you? Probably not. But now I live where the hillsides are pasture for sheep and cows, and there are very few fields full of barley or corn or wheat,  shimmering in sunshine, dancing in the breeze. And no hares. Positively no hares! I sat there for a long long time, just thanking God for that day, for that special hour, the sunshine and the healing warmth.

This morning, back in Wales, the dogs are still in kennels so early routine is different, and I have a holiday feeling! No demanding furry creatures desperate to get down to the beach… so I made a second cup of coffee, and padded bare-footed to the table to open my Bible. Nowt odd in that. All over the world thousands of people are doing the same thing, but now the idea grabbed me, thrilled me, the image of a thousand people doing that very same thing, maybe more… a million? Too much? The consciousness of people all over the world doing the very same thing at the very same time, turning to God in praise and expectation  filled my senses with delight, brought tears prickling to my eyes. Tears of gratitude.  Two thousand years after Christ,  half a world away … a world that’s hardly recognisable to the one He lived in… and yet here we are. Here we are, ready and listening, and drinking in His every word.

And then I opened the book, and look where the ribbon was:

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TWO whole pages of red letter words. Two pages of Jesus Christ talking to me down all the centuries across the lands and seas and rivers, mountain and cities and every culture…. a journey of immense distance, unimaginable time…. and here He is. His word. To little old me, bare footed, scruffy,  once lost and now found, sipping coffee, lost in wonder, awe and praise.

The words of God! Savoured, recorded, translated, guarded, remembered, passed down, to nourish and instruct, guide and comfort, govern and delight.

I mean COME ONNNNNN! If that doesn’t excite you and challenge you…. pinch yourself. Check you’re still alive.

So exciting!

There’s one word in the Bible that no one is absolutely sure how to interpret. ‘Selah’. It’s found in the Psalms and it’s generally taken to mean ‘Pause and think’ or ‘Reflect on this.’ I love that word. That command. Every time I come across it, it’s as if a dear and trusted friend, maybe God Himself , is saying ‘Hang on, Luce. Slow down. Think on this.’ And I’m learning how to do just that.

But sometimes words explode into my life, and fill my whole day with delight, so that I can’t slow down. So that my mind is racing. Have you ever read a couple of sentences and been really really excited by them? It might be something to do with the frame of mind you were in at the time, or a question you’d been brewing that was suddenly answered, or maybe the words were so beautiful, so poetic that they grabbed your heart? My heart was grabbed today. Really really GRABBED. The words I read aren’t unusual, each one quite everyday-ordinary, and the sentiment isn’t poetic, and it’s certainly not a word of wisdom the world has never heard before, but today, in a busy church, as people took their places and friends were greeted, and there was laughter… I read these words and my heart just sang.

On the back of our church diary, which is handed out every month, there’s a piece of writing, usually from our Pastor, an encouragement, something to think about, take to heart and remember. Today I looked at the diary and my heart went ‘zing!’. Oh, yes, Zing!  ZING and WOWSER and YEAH!!!!!

If I could have clambered onto the pew and shouted everyone to shut up while I read it aloud to them, I would have. I had to send an email to three people, right there and then, in all the noise and chatter, saying ‘Look! Listen!”

“The most important thing about your life is that you love the Father. Let that sink in.”

I don’t know what I loved most about those two sentences – their truth, simplicity, certainty or that command…. ‘Let that sink in’.

I LOVE commands. I do. Weird, eh? Not all commands, obviously. This is me and I’m a raggedy difficult soul at the best of times. I don’t like commands about speed (20 miles an hour? Can a car go that slow?) or paperwork (I don’t do numbers) or diet (a cream cake a day keeps the doctor away) or… well, just about any man-made order really. But if we’re talking about eternal things, oh, boy, I love commands. Commands and verbs.

Love one another. Submit to one another. Be still and know that I am God. Love the Lord your God with your whole heart. Pray without ceasing. Be steadfast.

These are my anchors. And when a simple, clean, honest, Godly command hits my ears, it’s all I can do not to chortle aloud, so the lead-in to this month’s diary piece just twanged the strings of my heart and my soul leapt in response. ‘The most important thing about your life is that you love the Father. Let that sink in.’

Maybe I’d have slid over the first sentence, hardly noticing it, but for the second, ‘Let that sink in.’ and it will. I know that it will. I’m already thinking about the most important thing in my life, examining and questioning it, and just jolly well revelling in it.

You know what I’ve thought so far (it’s not been long)? I think that if loving God really is the most important thing in my life, all other considerations and anxieties are tiny by comparison. If loving God is my priority and my over-riding desire, I won’t take my eyes off Him, I will be guided by Him, and I will live with and for Him. When you’re in love with someone, you just can’t get enough of them.

Thank you, Lord, thank you, thank you for these moments of clarity and delight.

And then, blow me down with a feather, the very last words of the diary piece did the same bloomin’ thing!   “God loves you. Tell Him today that you love Him too.”

So I have. I’ve told Him. I’m telling Him now. And I’m telling you.

Sometimes a simple word of truth is all we need to touch the edge of eternity.

 

When Peter popped up at Poppit

Can you bear to hear about another morning of paddling? If not, look away now.

Some things are just perfect. I’m at my scruffy old desk in a silent house, and by my right hand is a large mug of coffee. The mug is fine bone china, and the coffee is strong, my favourite blend, but today as a treat (it’s Saturday!) there’s also a generous dollop of hot milk. The foam is creamy and golden, oh, here – see for yourself.

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And, yes, that’s Captain Kirk keeping guard.

This is a perfect moment, in the middle of a perfect morning, at the start of what is going to be a really really challenging day. (Come onnn! This is me! You knew it couldn’t last) But the day so far has made me think of perfection, or maybe peace, or it could be joy, or happiness, or all of the above.

I’ve just returned from two fabulous hours on the beach, the dogs are fed and already dozing, and now I have a half hour to talk to you, my chitterlings. A fabulous start to any day.

The sky was cloudy but the air was warm and on the shore the world seemed wrapped in calm.   After some time paddling with only the sighing sea and the distant cry of gulls to break the silence, as Percy chased the foam and Pip careened off after a flock of sandpipers, I listened to David Suchet reading Philippians. I’ve heard it so often in the last couple of months that you’d really expect me to know it off by heart by now, but I don’t. Then we sploshed along the beach to the estuary, where we sat on a log, in the hopes that the dogs would dry and the wet sand would fall off. Some hope!

That’s when I met with Peter, the apostle. I love Peter! I think he’s the sort of bloke you could have a good amble with, chatting and discussing and arguing. I think he’d enjoy paddling and then a milky coffee and maybe even a piece of bara brith and a laugh. I think if you sat next to him in church you might both get the giggles (you reading this, Lisa?) So, I like Peter. I went to the church website and clicked on a sermon on John 21, and there he was, talking to Jesus. Or to be more accurate, Jesus was talking to him. And I sat on a log in 2019 in West Wales and really, really, there he was, Peter, and there He was, Jesus, and the morning was PERFECT.

In that sermon we were invited to imagine… how was Peter feeling… what he had experienced… what he knew about Jesus after his three years with him… what did he remember….. And I always love being invited to imagine. Being ‘given permission’ to let the imagination roll out. I love that the sparse details we have of Peter are so revealing, that we know him so well even after 2000 years, that we feel we understand him, that we see ourselves in him, and that through him we meet Jesus. I love that, in hearing how Jesus spoke to Peter, we learn more about Jesus.

The Bible, what can I say about the Bible without gushing? I can’t. I really can’t. Whenever I talk about the Bible I feel a gush coming on! In the Bible we meet them all. Lovely Peter, knowledgeable instructive Paul (I don’t ever want to be stuck in a lift with Paul), loving John, poor lost Judas….Moses, and my fave Isaiah …. Oh, and Job (he’s another great person to meet) … a cast of thousands. And the Man Himself, Jesus. To sit on the beach, on my log, and look from Peter to Jesus… like someone at Wimbledon watching the most exciting match in history. Peter… Jesus… Peter… Jesus…. PERFECTION

Ahhh, flip me, folks. My half hour with you is up. The day is transitioning and I have to go.

Thank you for staying with me for these minutes, for being part of my perfect morning.

As I drove home something was nagging at me, about joy, and I had a vague feeling it was from Peter’s writing, so I’ve just looked it up.  “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy….”

Peter, mate! You’re not wrong. An inexpressible and glorious joy.