I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 3 Bible studies which we have held via Zoom. The teaching has followed on and built upon each previous week and I was particularly encouraged by this week’s study on ‘What does it mean to be called?’. I particularly enjoyed the discussion around the question ‘Is there a difference between God’s call and what we think of as a career or specific ministry?’ My first thought was a huge sense of gratitude to God that he called me at such a young age and that I have known his leading and guiding at every stage of my life. I then reflected on his specific call and thought that this is a reflection of the temperaments that he has given us and the specific talents and abilities which he has gifted us with. To fulfil the specific call he has put on our lives will require us to use all of who we are and the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit which we talked about last week as we seek his guidance. Our call to a specific career or ministry is rooted in our temperaments.
For myself, what has under-girded everything I've done, and which I believe has been, and is, God's specific call on my life, is a love for people and also for information, and a desire to provide the information and resources that enables people to better fulfil their potential and calling. That is what has motivated both the secular work I've done and within church life, although I don't see a distinction between the two, other than practically. It's been expressed in promoting children's literacy, teaching family learning, working on a library counter, ghost-writing and building the church website. I recognised that calling in my mid-teens, though couldn't have articulated in the same way then, and looking back can see it running through everything I've done. As I approach the age that I would have expected to retire when I first started work, I feel so blessed to see that thread of God's call running right through my life and even in this current situation of lock-down. I obviously have no intention of retiring now, rather my work within Suffolk libraries is developing and I am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow and develop in whatever God calls me to in the future.
I have just received the following link from a friend and it is SO brilliant I wanted to share it with everyone. I thought this was the most efficient way of not missing anyone out. Be blessed as you listen - it is SO encouraging that right across our nation God has worshippers everywhere. Please see https://youtu.be/PUtll3mNj5U
Ash and I watched the National Theatre’s streaming of Frankenstein this weekend – not a play for the faint hearted!! It is a display of fantastic acting, but dark, thrilling and unnerving. I didn’t actually know the story of Frankenstein before watching it – I thought Frankenstein was the name of the creature, not the scientist who created him. I was gripped and at the same time, wanted to turn it off. It has stuck with me, and strangely came to mind this morning when I was reading Hebrews..
My reading was Hebrews 10v19-25. In particular, the phrase in v19 ‘draw near to God’ stood out to me. My reading notes commented on the fact that this has two meanings – the ‘once-for-ever step’ that we can make because ‘we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (v10). And the other meaning is the lifetime process of drawing near to God as we get to know and love him more.
As usual (!) I read the same verse in the Message which says:
‘So, friends, we can now – without hesitation – walk right up to God..’ ‘..full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out.’ (v19, continuing in v22)
I thought how amazing that is! And also wondered how often I feel like that in daily life.. do I walk into a room, confident that I’m presentable both inside and out..? Not often! But I can – because I’m made in the image of God. This is where I started to think about Frankenstein. It doesn’t take long for the creature to realise that he is ‘hideous’, and he lives his life in the shadows, avoiding the shrieks and assaults from humans. He seeks out Frankenstein (his creator) and when he finally finds him, even his creator calls him a ‘monstrous thing’. Initially Frankenstein is amazed at his movement, balance, the fact that he can speak and read – but that is nothing to do with who the creature is, it’s marvel at his own achievement. He calls him ‘a monster, a brute, a filthy mess of nothing’. It is one thing for the creature to know that all men find him repulsive, but another entirely to hear that from his creator. It’s not a pretty story, but at the end there is an interesting line – the creature says to Frankenstein ‘all I wanted was your love’. Thankfully, our situation is different! We are not hideous, we are made in the image of God – and he loves us, so much that he sent his son as our sacrifice. We don’t need to do anything to earn this love, it is given freely. We can draw near to him – both in the ‘once-for-ever step’ and in the lifetime of walking with him.
I just wanted to explain what the flower was in the picture you click on this month to go to Thoughts and reading section, in case you were wondering. Its a dandelion seedhead after the rain! Maybe you already knew, but believe it or not in all my many years, I had never noticed the dandelion clock looking like a spikey hairdo before, it was a delightful discovery, partly like a little gift - see, there are still things you've never noticed before. It got me thinking about Elijah hiding away in a cave and hearing God's whisper. He'd seen God's power at Carmel consuming a sodden sacrifice with heavenly fire, but now here he was in the cave, depressed and running for his life. This time Elijah didn't experience him in the hurricane, or storm, but in a little whisper to his heart, enquiring how he felt and reassuring him that he wasn't forgotten. I've felt that these little things like soggy dandelion heads are one of the ways the Lord speaks to our hearts, he knows us, loves us and is there for us every step of the way.
Who would have thought all this would have happened?
About two years ago I indicated to Anne I was not feeling that well. Anne being ever pro-active arranged for me to go to the Nuffield in Norwich to have a health check. A number of surprises emerged as a result of my visit; one being my blood pressure was so high they would not let me go on the treadmill for one of the tests!
As a result of the health report I received, there was a clear need to make some changes to my life. At that time, I was one of two Deacons responsible for overseeing Pastoral Care at Colchester Road Baptist Church in Ipswich. I decided to resign as a Deacon at the next AGM partly on health grounds but also to allow younger people to consider being Deacons.
Early in 2019 I also resigned as a Small Group Leader. By early Summer, we knew our future was not at CRBC. On Pentecost Sunday we happened to visit Halesworth Community Church as we were dog-sitting in Dennington. From this ‘one off’ visit, what we experienced led us to return.
Later we placed our bungalow on the market and started to plan a move nearer HCC. We had a number of abortive purchasers that, at the time, were concerning. We moved out of our bungalow in Ipswich in November 2019 as we wanted to preserve the sale. This necessitated a hasty move into temporary rented accommodation, which has proved a God-send.
Since then I have made several changes. To mention just a few, I have sold our motorhome, left Rushmere Golf Club and I will cease to be a Trustee of Inspire Counselling and Training in Ipswich at the end of August.
We have no TV where we are living currently but the property is situated in a very rural idyllic setting – perfect for a lockdown situation. As a result of the lockdown we have had a cruise to the Baltic cancelled, and we are unable to move into a property we have purchased in Halesworth. I have also become a Grandfather of twin girls, which at my age, is quite delightful.
In spite of all this change, amazingly I feel freer and more relaxed than I have felt for years. I believe God has well and truly shaken my ‘comfortable nest’. Looking back, I can already see His handiwork on this transition. If we had purchased any of the aborted properties each one would have been wrong. Trying to sell the motorhome now would be very different to selling it when we did. I could go on and give other illustrations of how God’s timing has been in all of the journey so far.
More than ever, I believe there is no place to put our trust other than in Father God. Who else would we put our trust in, especially currently? I am not quite sure when we will move into Halesworth but I am happy for Father God to continue to influence our timeline! For somebody who is not overly change orientated, the last two years have been ‘interesting’ but the great thing is peace has never left me. At times, I have felt this is very different to my usual risk adverse approach to life developed over many years in financial services.
John has prompted us recently to remember the words of the song, “Songs in the Night” by Matt Redman. If you are going through change currently, which is causing you discomfort, ponder on the words of this song. Within the lyrics the song invites us to “Be still, stand, wait and not be afraid” because Father God is, “God in it all.” There is a wonderful line that I find so helpful, “And so when I am in the storm Lord, the storm is not in me”.
The journey continues amidst a world experiencing unprecedented uncertainty but the truth is God is the same yesterday, today and for ever. What a privilege to be one of His children?
I just wanted to share a small practical challenge from a talk I listened to that Rachel sent me (from the ‘ladies night’ at her church). The challenge was to do one thing at a time.
Usually our world is so busy that we turn to multi-tasking to manage everything, but actually it gets in the way of so much. They talked about several practical examples. The first was taking our phone to the toilet (!), the second was just enjoying a cup of tea – not feeling like we need to do anything else at the same time, but being able to sit down and the only thing we are ‘doing’ is enjoying that cup of tea. They talked about being with other people – not also trying to reply to a text message, or read the news at the same time. It sounds obvious, but I actually find it really hard to put my phone down sometimes when Ash is trying to talk to me (sorry Ash!). I thought of a few more, like scrolling through things on my phone while we are watching TV. Ironically, while I was listening to the talk - I was also baking some muffins in the kitchen! I know that there are bits of the talk I missed because I was reading the recipe or looking for something in the cupboard. If I’m walking somewhere, doing the washing up, or driving, I usually count those times as ‘dead space’ and try to ring someone for a chat. Sometimes that is fine and good, but if I do it all the time then I am not giving myself time to slow down, and actually – the other person is short changed because they don’t have my full attention in the phone call. Recently I have realised that I seem to have quite a lot of my ‘thoughts’ while washing up. If I always feel the need to ring someone and fill that time, then I don’t have the space for those thoughts. It also makes it hard for God to get a word in edgeways..!
I also thought about the challenge to do one thing at a time mentally, with our thoughts. How many of us will be thinking about one thing, and then another thought pops in about what to have for dinner – and suddenly we’re writing a full shopping list in our heads, and have lost what we were thinking about originally. I find that particularly hard when trying to pray. I also find a physical conversation can be completely hijacked by the thoughts going on in my head, and once again, the other person doesn’t have my full attention – but this time because I am trying to do more than one thing in my head. I have often felt there is nothing I can do about how quickly my thoughts wander, but it links with the Bible study last week and really trying to discipline the mind.
I have really taken the challenge to slow down and do one thing at a time, both physically and mentally – for the sake of my relationships with other people, for the sake of my relationship with God, and for myself.
Having short hair, which is no longer that short and being unable to cope with those at the back peeping out just below my ears, I searched for the very old hair shearers, my father used to clip around the back of his neck. Making all the seemingly appropriate preparations to try and make sure I sheared away at the right ones, off I went and after a certain amount of clipping and tugging, job done. Perhaps fortunately I won't have to see the result from the back. However when I had swept up the clippings there was a pile of soft, wispy, curls and I suddenly thought of the verse ...And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows Matt 10;30 So touching eh?
I woke this morning thinking about a recent conversation I’d had with a neighbour who I met while taking a walk around the village for my daily exercise. After the usual comments about the weather, enquiries after the wellbeing of our family members, the conversation inevitably turned to the coronavirus pandemic and the Prime Minister’s recent guidance about starting to ease the lockdown restrictions. I admitted that as much as I longed for life to go back to normal, that in a way full lockdown was simpler: just ‘stay at home’ and obey the rules. We agreed that working out how businesses and schools could safely implement the latest guidance might throw up all sorts of challenges, and how to apply the new advice regarding travel and possibly seeing loved ones in a socially distanced way might be open to misinterpretation. We pondered whether people might look for loopholes in the regulations and that the situation might become less black and white and more grey. I admitted that I quite like black and white; I know where I am. My neighbour to my surprise disagreed. She said she liked grey. She said it gave her more scope . . scope for what I didn’t ask!
My thoughts this morning led me to apply this to how I feel about being in God’s love. There’s security in the black and white fact that God loves each of us unconditionally. No grey area there. But do I keep things black and white? When doubts creep in, when a lack of confidence makes decision making difficult, when life gets ‘noisy’ does the ability to hear God’s whisper get lost in ‘the grey’? A new set of restrictions of my own making can come in and cloud my view. The black and white fact that we are loved by God isn’t restrictive, but our view of ourselves can be. If we sharpen our vision we find the scope to enjoy His love, to express it freely, to revel in it without limitations, and to share the freedom of it in our relationships with one another. I was reminded of the song written by Stuart Townend ‘In every day that dawns’ which is a lovely song thanking God for His favour, His mercies and blessings and His grace that changes us. The words reminded me that because I walk with Jesus He enables me to be free to give Him praise, for in everything I know that He loves me. The song finishes with the lines,
‘There are no shadows in your faithfulness,
There are no limits to your love.’
That sounds pretty black and white to me!
What better assurance do we need as we go forward with our loving God through this period of uncertainty?
I’ve been taking my elderly Mum out for a walk in her wheelchair most days. She loves being outside and enjoys the countryside and birdsong. I usually try to think of something ‘to go and see’ - a patch of bluebells I’ve spotted, a field of alpacas we can watch for a while, a pretty tree in full blossom or a horse that I might persuade to come over and lean over a gate. Mum often points out something pretty that catches her eye as we go along and it’s been amusing to note that these are often weeds! From her lower position in the wheelchair she’s closer to the verge as we make our way along the lane, so sometimes in amongst the grass and nettles she notices a patch of blue speedwell, some chickweed or pink herb robert, all plants that I’d be tempted to call ‘weeds’ if I found them in my garden! She’s always so pleased and remarks on how pretty they are.
It made me think. What things do we notice and appreciate now that life has slowed down? Has lockdown given us a new perspective so that we now value something that we didn’t before? Are there things we would’ve previously overlooked or dismissed as just ‘weeds’ in our busy lives that God has brought to our attention? Sometimes God shows us something new about who He is, about how He thinks and how He wants us to respond to His love - and sometimes through something ordinary right under our noses!
I was enjoying seeing a foxglove in flower and noticing afresh the bumble bee footprints to guide it into the flower and nectar. I thought 'now is the time of the foxgloves' which reminded me of the words from Ecclesiastes 3;1-8 about there being a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven'. We're certainly being much more aware of time during lockdown how we have more of it, how we can choose how we're going to spend it, how we have time to contemplate what's happening to us and much more depending on our circumstances. This has entailed a whole raft of responses, from myself from anger, resentment to the deepest satisfaction and gratitude, that through the whole experience there is a loving heavenly father teaching his child about herself, those around her, the wonder and beauty of creation and Himself and his desires for a needy world.
I found the 'Verse of the day' on my phone very encouraging yesterday and thought it worth sharing: "For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13) In the midst of feelings of uncertainty as lock-down starts to ease, some children and teachers return to school next week and shops and other workplaces are looking at how to reopen safely, it is so reassuring to know that God takes our hand and will lead us each step of the way and we do not need to fear.
Halesworth Community Church