Thank you, merci, diolch, gratias tibi.

True friends are rare. In my life they’re a very small and surprisingly varied group. Discounting relatives, there’s… well, not many at all. They’re a little bit like each other but very,  no, really very, unlike me. After 71 years I have very few true friends and that’s fine.  I have many friends and some good friends,  but true all-in-all, right-through-to-the-marrow-friends, trust-them-with-your-soul friends? Just two.

Two people I can ask for help if I’m struggling with something that doesn’t please God, if I’m in sin and can’t haul myself out, if I need prayer (and we all need that), if there’s some aspect of …oh, you know… stuff. Two people I trust.

To trust someone is a massive decision. Trust sparingly. Be wise. Life soon teaches us that trust is precious and to be guarded. Don’t lay your soul bare to just anyone, do not cast your pearls before swine as the book says. But to have a friend with whom you can be totally honest, and know that they won’t trample all over you with the hob-nailed boots of righteousness, but will still care more about your walk with God than your feelings… wow, that’s a proper big shiny gift. It’s confirmation to you that God is in your life. He has brought you these friends, I love the Message version of James 1: 17-18 ‘So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.’

My good friends are a gift from God, and they desire God as I do, or even more. They are  on the same search, a few steps ahead. If you have friends like this, regard their wisdom, patience and their kindness, and be ready to listen and learn. ‘Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.’ That’s Proverbs 27:9  ‘Earnest counsel’ is sometimes quite hard to take, but do yourself a favour – take it! In time you may  find that God gives you wisdom enough to support them in return ‘Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.’ That’s Proverbs 19:20 

Trust only those who pray. Seriously.

I mean, ‘seriously trust only those who pray’ but I also mean ‘trust only those who pray seriously.’   Hah! I like that. I’m glad I thought it.

I’m not saying we should, doormat-brained, accept every scrap of advice, not even those the very dearest and most soulful person gives us.  That loads too heavy a weight on anyone’s back. We can’t jettison responsibility for our soul life onto someone else. Pray and think. If your friend is Godly, the advice will be filtered through the teachings of Christ, the epistles, or the Old Testament, and you’ll know the peace of the Spirit. Pray about it. Pray about everything.

What sort of  relationship pleases God?

1Peter 3:8 ‘… all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.’

A friendship of selflessness, joyful love, deep and unshakeable, deep concern for the state of your soul, that’s a Godly friendship. You may not be close geographically, you may be continents apart, you may live in the same town but rarely see each other… different generations and cultures and histories…. but you pray for them, and you care about them… deeply. Not a dependancy or a familial tie, a romantic friendship or an intrusion, but an  uncomplicated independent friendship. Such a great gift.  It comes from God, this agape love. It’s not a rational thing, you don’t decide to do it or have it. It’s a gift.

But hang on! Like preaching or teaching or music, if friendship is a gift we may indeed all have it, but it’s pretty obvious we don’t all have it in abundance. It’s a bit like generosity – we can all be generous at times but some people are born unthinkingly generous, the right hand not knowing what the left hand is giving,  while others can’t help but count the cost of everything, meting out their gifts as if they come from themselves and not from God. If someone doesn’t have the gift of generosity in all its fullness, that’s OK, they will have other gifts. And just like generosity,  friendship is part of personality, varying from person to person. It may not mean as much to you as does to me. And you know what? The people I consider true friends, for whom I would walk a hundred miles (take your pick – Al Jolson or The Proclaimers)  may not feel the things I feel,  but here’s the thing… that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be equally reciprocated. Friendship is not about me. It’s about them. It’s about love and faithfulness and … I’m going on a bit. I’ll try to rein it in.

Do you have someone you trust?  Would you always, always give them the benefit of the doubt, even though they’re human and they may get things wrong? Do you trust that, although they certainly have quirks and weaknesses like everyone else, they would never intentionally and wilfully do wrong? Then you are blessed. Proper blessed. And I know it sounds churchy, but you are!

The people I’m thinking of, my true friends, are the greatest gifts.  I do, I really do, thank God for them every day. They consistently point me thataway, to God, nudging me back from the edge of the cliff, and when I ignore their warnings and dodge their hands, they care enough to speak the truth – hard truth –  in love. And they don’t make a song and a dance about it, and they don’t refer to it again, and they make me laugh, which always helps. (a sideways memory: Ken Dodd, a British comedian, told the story of coming out of his dressing room after an afternoon show, when two middle aged women were walking past, chatting. One said “What did you think of it?” and the other replied “It was alright…. if you like laughing.” I like laughing)

So, my friends give me so much. What can I do in return? I can thank them. But that gets a bit wearisome after a bit. I suppose I could ring the changes by saying it in Welsh, Latin, French…. and maybe I could learn a few more languages, but even so…..   But here’s what I can do; I can pray for them. That’s my job. And it’s your job too, for those you love. Purposeful, thoughtful, examined, directed, constant, tearful prayer. ‘Earnest’, like the man said. That’s what makes you a true friend, whether they know it or not. Prayer for each other is what makes the church.

Oooh. That’s a new thought. When we pray for each other we are helping God to create the church. The prayer becomes the church. Oh, I dunno.  Something.  (It’s 3.02am and I should go to bed but I want to get to my last thought so I’m ploughing on, no time for these segways.) I’ll think about that tomorrow.

In the songs we regularly sing there are quite a few calling God our friend. They catch me short. The first time I saw the words,  I felt distinctly uncomfortable. Was it OK to call God my friend? Can I really state with certainty ‘I am a friend of God. He is a friend of mine. I belong to Him and He belongs to me’ ?

The bottom line is that I trust Him. Things are tough at the moment in some aspects of life, but I discover that I trust Him. Without wavering. He is to be trusted absolutely. I know that the heart of this Divine Friend is good and faithful, unwavering. He can be relied upon as we can rely on nothing else, His word is flawless, living and true. He was there when I was a child and He’s there now and for eternity.

Your word, Lord, is eternal;
    it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
    you established the earth, and it endures.  Psalm 119:89-90

I know that He is my friend not because of the circumstances of today,  but because of His nature. Every good thing  about friendship is true about my relationship with God. He understands me, accepts me, cares about me, He guides and corrects, He is wise, forgiving, patient, He hears me and answers me, my heart lightens when I think of Him, He reaches down when I can’t reach up. He is wonderful.

My God, my Saviour, my Lord, my Friend. Wow.

Amazing.

Amazing God.

Selah. Pause and think.

Three weeks ago I blogged about the bitter sweet nature of Christmas for Christians and it was all tied up (in the mish-mash of my mind) with the sweetness and sharpness of lemon drizzle cake.

I’m not a great baker – there are just two things I do really well, muffins and plain cake. But I do them SO well that Frankie (16 and often hungry) feels obliged to give me a huge hug every time I produce them. So I produce them often. She’s a great hugger. Sort of envelops you in her arms and leans in, so that you’re helpless and gently pressed into the earth…. it’s better than it sounds.

Tomorrow I’m talking to a small group of elderly people in a Care Home and I’ve recycled my blog, rewritten it but using it as a jumping off point, and to illustrate the talk I’m taking along two large lemon drizzle cakes. I made one and it was too brown. Not burnt but just too brown to be a good visual aid. So, we are having to eat that one (Frankie says “Result!”)  and I’ve just taken cake number three out of the oven. As I’ve baked we’ve had Eartha Kitt’s ‘Santa Baby’ belting out, and Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home For Christmas’, and Macca warbling about his Wonderful Christmas Time…. and then there’s ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ and ‘Mary, Did you know?’ and   ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ .

We’ve had a great afternoon, Frankie has new eyebrows (!) and huge eyelashes, we’ve finished wrapping Secret Santa gifts, the crossword is done (cheated only once) and cake aroma wafts through the house. So much to be thankful for.

This blog doesn’t have a huge readership but so far it’s reached 35 countries, and I often wonder what you all make of life here in West Wales, and if my descriptions make any sense at all.  Can you, in Hong Kong or California, the UAE or Malaysia, imagine this septuagenarian and her granddaughter, two sleeping dogs, a Christmas tree, and the rain lashing down as darkness falls?  Here are a couple of images to help;

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And here’s where I write these words

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But tomorrow I will be in that council home, talking to elderly people (many not much older than me) who have had to leave their homes and most of their treasures behind, people who went to live among strangers and who now are vulnerable and frail. If the thought of that, looking around at your own lives, at the freedoms you have, doesn’t make you pause and think and give thanks, I don’t know what will.

And if you have a partner, a husband, a wife, Oh, give thanks. Seriously. Even if you’re furious with him, fed up with her, slamming kitchen doors to make your displeasure known, taking the dog for a walk just to get a break……  give thanks. Bend a bit. It won’t kill you. Be kind. Remember why you love him, remember why you fancy her. And that will please your God. It will.

Sorry. Got carried away. To return to the old people:

Once upon a time, in what feels like a faraway land, families lived close together, and the child who moved away was the exception and not the rule. Now, in relatively remote areas like this, where there’s no industry and greatly reduced farm employment, most children move away. Some return to bring up their families where the air is pure and traffic is light, where crime is rare and community still exists, but many never come back, or return only for holidays. Often,  when a spouse dies,  the surviving partner becomes, overnight, more vulnerable, needing a greater degree of care and oversight, shaken after maybe a lifetime of marriage, a lifetime of another beating heart beside them, the breath of another person, maybe unheeded, but always there. The world changes, the horizon tilts, when death comes.

My husband died when I was 43. I remember lying in bed that night with our daughter beside me, and hearing a strange chink-chink sound, through the pillow. I held my breath, listened, there it was. When I moved it seemed to stop. When I lay still, it returned. And then I realised,  we were both as rigid as wood, deep in shock, ice cold and trembling, and the bed was trembling with us. That week I developed shingles. Bereavement is an emotional, spiritual and physical thing.

At 43 I had time, strength and the resources to adapt. But lose your husband or your wife when you’re already old, frail, already struggling, already isolated from your family, already fearful, and it’s a disorienting, bewildering, emotionally catastrophic loss.  No wonder so many move to Care Homes.

These then are the people I’ll be talking to tomorrow. Some will be struggling with dementia and depression while some will be content with the kindness of the carers and the security of their sheltered lives. Some have known Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour and some haven’t. For some, the days drag and they are ready to slip away, but some long for yet more days, for another go on the merry-go-round. Some are, quite simply, homesick and heartsick. How to talk to them? How to avoid being patronising and yet keep it simple? How to give them encouragement and something to think about, to get their teeth into, without boring them rigid? How to meet them on the road we all walk along and link arms and recognise in each other’s eyes, ourselves? Ourselves in a few years maybe. How to say the truth in love?

How to say ” You matter. You are important. You are loved. You are a part of God’s plan”, how to say that? How to say that when they must sometimes feel irrelevant and disheartened ? How?

I have no flipping idea how to do that.

So, I turn to the one who walks beside me. The Paraclete, the God of all creation, “Lord, look at your children, these tired, aching children, with whole lifetimes behind them, wisdom and folly, great things and foolish, tears and laughter. Lives I can’t even start to imagine. What can I show them that life hasn’t already shown them?”

And God whispers “You can show them nothing. But I can show them everything.”

So I’m leaving it up to Him. And the Christmas story. And some cake.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Want To Be A Little Ship

My Dad would sometimes scream in the middle of the night. It was a short sound, quickly muffled, and followed by the murmur of my stepmother’s voice… a distant  cough, feet shuffling on the bedroom floor, and then the house would settle back into silent darkness.

In the second World War Dad was a foot soldier in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, an Infantry Regiment with a great history stretching back to the Battle of Waterloo. But Dad didn’t fight in any victorious battles, and the only advance he ever made into another country was turned back in defeat. His night-time screams, years later, were echoes of that defeat.

Gerard Gannon was one of the thousands of soldiers who had marched through France and Belgium in an attempt to hold back the fearsome advancing German Army.  War had been declared in September 1939 and barely 8 months later Germany had consolidated its grab of Poland and now was invading Belgium, heading to France.  Britain wasn’t in the same war-fit state as the Nazi regime, which had been militarising for years, and our soldiers slogging through the lanes of Northern France were no match for the tanks and planes of the German nation. The armies of Britain, Belgium and France (America looking the other way, fingers in ears, la-la-la) were beaten back to the port of Dunkirk; Thousands and thousands of men were stranded for days on the beach and in the harbour, strafed by German war planes, the bombardment of tanks coming ever nearer. Dunkirk harbour could take only one warship, and the beach was too shallow and sloping to allow large ships to anchor, so the remnants of three armies, three hundred and thirty eight thousand men, were pinned down, helpless. That’s when Churchill broadcast a plea for help, from anyone who had a boat, and that’s when terrible defeat turned into a valiant defiant miracle;

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This is a photo from Dunkirk. Imagine the smell of the smoke and the fires, the noise of the stukkas as they screamed out of the grey skies to deliver death, imagine the cries of the dying, the shouts of confusion, the desperate prayers…. imagine.

My Dad had two days of that. Nowhere to hide, no shelter to be had, as the German planes made run after run along the beach, guns blazing, sand, bone, blood and flesh exploding … no wonder that sometimes, in the middle of the night, years later, he was back there.  He returned from Dunkirk with a hole through his battledress trousers – a bullet hole – but physically unharmed. His generation didn’t talk about PTSD. How could they? They had a country to rebuild, families to support, this nation of men who had seen things that should not be seen, done things that should not be done. If PTSD had been acknowledged and treated we would have had a nation of invalids, dependants, broken men. So, they pretended that they weren’t broken. Blanked it out. Carried on, regardless. Such pretence and such damage, to them and to the next generation.

But that’s not what I’m thinking about today – today I’ve been thinking about the small ships, some of them barely more than rowing boats with tiny outboards, river launches better suited to a day at the regatta, day boats and yachts…. men and women who had no part in the war, often too old to be called into military service, who took their boats out across the channel, heading into hell on earth, seeing the confusion and clamour of war up ahead and pressing on into it, to save souls. Sorry, to save lives. Imagine the sight as they neared the beach….. today I’m thinking of their bravery.

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And I’m thinking about my Dad too…. did he pray? He had been educated at a seminary, trained for the priesthood, in these awful days of fear and exhaustion, did he turn to God? A young father, with a five month old son back home…. surely he prayed? I was born years after Dunkirk, and the Dad I knew didn’t speak of God, and certainly didn’t pray. But maybe, back then, in the heat of battle…

As I grew up, he didn’t talk about the war at all but when something came on the TV or radio about the small ships, he would say some thoughtful thing about the bravery of those rescuers. He was so mindful of their courage and so appreciative.

I wish that I’d spoken to him about bravery. He was a man’s man, and he could have talked  about that in a way that he could never talk about love. But bravery sometimes is love and we could have shared an unspoken code. I wish that I had said to him “Dad, those men and women were wonderful risking their lives to rescue you, but there’s someone who did more than risk His life. He gave His life. He walked into His death, into pain and shame and fear and horror, knowingly, willingly, because you needed rescuing and you couldn’t save yourself. He was born to die for you.”

I wish that I had said that. He would have understood that. I think he would have let even me talk about bravery, and he might, just might, have listened.

Dunkirk was a great lesson to Britain. When all seems lost, there is hope. And hope may come from the most unexpected quarters. It may come from shabby little boats and old weak people. Today’s defeat may be the next best step towards victory. When those thousands of men returned home there was a renewed sense of unity and determination in Britain. The bully boys might be bigger and stronger and more brutal, but they will never win. Even when they are celebrating victory, they are in the middle of defeat.

Even today, maybe even more so today, evil can be oppressive and disheartening, but it will never win. There are thousands, countless thousands, of souls to be saved. Individually we are small battered craft, unfit for purpose, buffeted by the tides and sometimes daunted by the sights up ahead, but we’re on a rescue mission. God is the wind in our sails and the fuel in our engines, God is our Commander-in-Chief, the battle is His, right is His,  and the victory is His. All we have to do is listen and obey.

Keep a straight course, never mind how small and shabby we are, how high the waves, how fierce the enemy, how hopeless the task ahead, it’s not us who will win the battle, it’s God.

Psalm 44:5- 8 (it’s taken me ages to find this, it was lurking at the back of my brain and google was no help, so do please read it! The bold print is mine)

Through you we push back our enemies;
    through your name we trample our foes.
 I put no trust in my bow,
    my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
    you put our adversaries to shame.
 In God we make our boast all day long,
    and we will praise your name for ever.

Our brave God, our courageous Jesus, walking into the jaws of death for me.

 

Perfidious Albion

I’ve been thinking about names. There are new ones springing up every day, Chenise and Shyla and, well, just about any sound you can make…..  there are some funny ones and some that are a little bit unfortunate. When I was pregnant I was discussing names with  another woman in the clinic. Her little girl, she told me, was going to be called Perfidia. I was a bit stunned, asking why she had chosen that one. “It’s a song” she explained “And I love it.” In fact, it’s a song I knew really well, a Glenn Miller classic, all about infidelity. I started tentatively, something like “The French call Britain ‘Perfidious Albion’, don’t they?” She didn’t know so I enlarged “They call us that because they say we’re treacherous.” She wasn’t concerned. Finally I came out with it, straight and unvarnished “Perfidious means lying, deceitful, unfaithful. When someone’s caught in a betrayal, they can be called Perfidia, like in the song.” She shrugged… made no difference… she liked the name. I gave up. So there’s some poor woman in Derby, about 42 years old now, and I bet she feels sympathy every time she hears Johnny Cash sing ‘My name is Sue, how do you do? Now you’re gonna die!”

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Here’s Perfidious Albion with his left hand in the pocket of the dying poor.

I was named after my Mum’s sister. Aunty Lucy spent most of her adult life in Winwick  Asylum (yes, we really did call it that) coming out for maybe a couple of months every year when her condition was less disruptive, but after a few weeks the euphoria and delusions would start to emerge and before too long the ambulance would turn up and off she’d go again, waving happily as if she was off to Blackpool in a charabanc. My brother Peter and me just loved her. She was the one person in the family we could relax with. Her parents had left her their tiny cottage in Mundy Street, a two minute walk from where we lived, so although committed for all her adult life she was the only house owner in the whole family! Her mental illness was wild and wonderful, really it was. She was a happy soul, very rarely upset, always looking forward to something, crazily generous (although she owned nothing) and she loved the communal society of the hospital, the nurses and the routines. And they loved her. She was a woman content with her lot. She had pink cheeks and wild hair, and when she was free of the hospital uniform (sacks, really, communal and shapeless) she wore pretty and ridiculous clothes found in jumble sales, dresses better suited to a five year old, ribbons in her hair, huge handbags with clanking golden handles and clasps. A colourful character in the drab 50’s.

One year she was home at Christmas and when Peter and I went to see her she produced a bottle of Advocaat (egg nog, a mix of cream, brandy and honey, a sort of very very potent custard). It was, she told us, really good for us, full of good stuff, and indeed we loved it. It was like melted ice cream. I have very vague memories of singing and laughing and being a bit dazzled. Peter was 12 and I was 7. We had tumblers of the stuff so the singing and laughing was probably quite short-lived. On the way home I was horribly sick in someone’s front hedge and Peter vomited violently on a Royal Mail letter box. The yellow advocaat on the scarlet metal made a startling image, seared into my brain even now.  The people we lived with were all heavy drinkers, but I’m sure that the sight of a drunken 7 year old, reeling through the door, reeking of booze, covered in custard, dishevelled and confused,  was a bit shocking even for them. We were ill for days.

But we loved her, in a time and place when there wasn’t a lot of love to give or to receive. she gave us just enough to keep us going.

I’m glad I have her name. It means “bringer of light” and Lucifer was the brightest angel of them all before his terrible fall from grace, that’s why matches, way back in the first world war, were called Lucifers. Here’s a steal from Dr Dan Rhodes: ‘Lucifer became so impressed with his own beauty, intelligence, power, and position that he began to desire for himself the honour and glory that belonged to God alone. This pride represents the actual beginning of sin in the universe—preceding the fall of the human Adam by an indeterminate time.

If Dr Rhodes is right…. and he might be….. my name commemorates the origins of sin in the whole blinking universe….. so you know that woman called Perfidia?  She’s got it dead easy.

There was another Lucy, Saint Lucy, an early martyr. It’s her feast day on 13th.

 

 

Prayer hurts. Sometimes.

Here’s something that I have just this minute realised. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say here’s something that has –  just this minute – been made real to me: the best gift, sometimes the most expensive and sacrificial gift, and yes, sometimes the easiest and most accessible gift, that I can give to anyone is a prayer. Or many prayers. My prayers. My heart.

Thoughts that flit into your mind without any preparation are pretty amazing. Today I’ve been a bit pre-occupied and distracted by prayer, in amongst all the ordinary stuff of life. I was super glueing ‘no parking ‘signs  (my days are full of zany what-the-hell stuff like that) and being really careful not to stick myself to the table, when it just came to me “The cost of prayer is the gift you give, day in and day out, for the people you love.”

Prayers aren’t the gift. The gift is the cost of those prayers. I can stand on the edge of the sea and burble a great long shopping list of prayers every morning, babbling like the heathen. Loadsa words. Some quite long ones. I can dot them with thees and thous and Bible verses. Easy. That’s not a gift to anyone. The cost of prayer, that’s the gift. The meaning and the heart break of prayer. The desperation.

It’s the gift I can give to those I love, the gift I can offer to God, but most of all it’s the gift He gives to me. Prayer is His gift to us. It’s our time beyond the curtain, in His presence, intimate, honest, real. Our private audience – what a stonking gift that is!

Prayer costs. It can bring us to tears, sometimes tears of joy, praise  and wonder, yes, of course,  but sometimes we weep in desperate earnestness, caring, sorrow, contrition. Bloody hell, the world we live in, the world from which we launch our prayers – how can we not weep? When our vision clears in quiet committed moments of prayer, and we see the world for what it is…. Flip me! Lord, look at us! Look at the state of us! No wonder we can’t always come before you in calm and logical reason. Look what we’ve done to the world, the perfect creation of God, the milieu You called ‘good’.

Look at how we fail Him. Over and over. How then can anyone always come before our God in perfect peace?

So, just like you, I don’t. Sometimes, yes, but not always. It’s a hushed and sacred prayer when we come before God in peace and calm and joy. Unspeakably wonderful. But man, when the experience of prayer is different, when it’s amazing and heart breaking and sharply real and dazzlingly shocking …. when we look up and see Him in all His glory and love, and recognise in those moments, our own utter dependance and vulnerability, and – of ourselves – our inadequacy. The poor witness we give, the slap-dash service, our tepid love. That’s a stunner.

I have several friends, blog readers, who like to put things right, to level stuff out, fill in the potholes of my reasoning. Comforters who always comfort, teachers who always teach, correctors who correct. I love you all. I do. Mostly. But listen, it’s OK to be brought to tears by prayers, it’s OK to be heart broken when we look on our God and then on the world, it’s more than OK to be moved by a sense of our own inadequacy, to be distressed by our half hearted commitment, our lack of devotion and woolliness of purpose. Don’t misunderstand me: I do not despair. I don’t.

Despair has no place in the life of Christ.

I don’t like grabbing a verse out of context and brandishing it at you, but here I go… it’s my go-to book, Isaiah 22:4

Turn away from me;
    let me weep bitterly.
Do not try to console me
    over the destruction of my people.

Here’s the thing, I want to pray on the edge. I’ve been embarrassed recently because  I sometimes weep when we pray. I’ve struggled in prayer meetings and worship because of that. But no more. If I cry, tough. Get over it. I’m happy to weep. It’s not a big noisy thing, a few snotty sniffles… the odd escaping snort…. shouldn’t disturb the world too much.

I don’t enjoy crying. It’s messy and tiring, but it’s honest. And I think it comes from God. The old Luce wouldn’t weep. What, tough, grizzled old walnut-heart Luce? She wouldn’t shed a tear. No way. But now, with Christ in the centre of her heart, sometimes she does. Sometimes.

God wept. As man He wept. We have our emotions and we have our small heart-breaks and we weep. Even as we weep, we hand all our cares to Him, asking only to love Him more, serve Him better, know Him deeper….. asking for more and more and more, and if knowing more of God’s heart brings tears…  well, there you go! Bring ’em on!

You know what? They won’t last for ever:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  Revelation 21:4

 

 

 

 

 

Two moments.

At the end of the gospel written by John, jam packed with the words and miracles of Christ,  John writes ‘ Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.’

There are so many paradoxes, wonderful paradoxes in Christianity, and this is one of them.. that the four Gospels, amounting to just over 100 small pages in my Bible, should keep the whole church, all over the world, and through all of history, nourished and encouraged and guided for as long as we all draw breath. Every culture and language and age. And yet, John says, there’s more! There’s loads of other stuff that Jesus did, things that weren’t recorded.

Imagine poor  John, the last of the Apostles, an old old man, remembering and sifting and praying about what he should record, which of the many miracles the Holy Spirit was guiding him to write down, imagine his desire and passion to share with the world the wonder of His friend and Master, his longing to do justice to the greatest story ever told. Imagine how he prayed for guidance, for the Spirit of God to be in his words. What a job he had, that old man.

And the job was perfect, wonderful, better than perfect, miraculous. The inspired words of four men in four Gospels, by the grace of God, changed the world forever. One hundred and ten small pages in my little book.

No life can be recorded fully. Jesus lived over 30 years, and to record every moment would take another thirty, and to read them all would take another thirty, and so the world would grind to a halt, pages rustling, heads bowed, forever reading and never pausing. But the  moments we have, by God’s grace, are enough; amazing miraculous moments, the transfiguration on an ancient mountainside, the small poignancies when Jesus wept, tiny telling gestures ‘Let the children come to me’, a look full of love at the rich young man, patience and gentleness with the adulterer, compassion with the woman who touched his robe, deep affection for Lazarus and his sisters, and we can dream about all the ordinary moments of life that were never written down….  a foot stepping on a dusty road, a fig torn and eaten, eyes shielded against the sun, a laugh, a hug, a hand held out, the smoothing of his beard, a cough as dawn breaks, a sigh as night falls… so many moments we don’t know about. His lifetime in a fallen world. For us.

But I’m thinking tonight of two moments in the story of Jesus, separated by over 30 years, two fundamental, indivisible moments of pure love. I’ve been searching for the word that captures the essence of  unity and I can’t find it.  Surely there’s a word for this? A word that ties together two moments of love and sacrifice so pure that they shattered history and offered eternity to mankind. Two moments,  together powerful enough to rend the heavens, to spin a new star, to darken the sun, to split rocks, to open graves. To save my sinful soul.

Maybe I need an image.. .wine and water once mixed, indivisible… no, that won’t do either.

Words are so useless, when a heart is full. The moment when Jesus was born, and the moment He died, those two moments are breathtaking, heart-breaking, full of joy and sadness and praise. Full of tears. Beautiful.  The nativity and the crucifixion. One truth. Two moments. Our story.

And then the Resurrection.

OK, three moments.