Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Blue Monday gives way to Wonderful Wednesday!

In this season of grim days and dim days it is so good to have a reason to celebrate! Today is my wonderful wife's birthday and what a different one it is proving to be from the last 21. The past year has seen a remarkable transformation in our lives as amazing space-age surgery has set me free from chronic and recurring acute pancreatitis and everything that belongs to it. Diane has had to be my carer for most of that time, trudging the grimy streets of London alone scores of times while I was in hospital again. We have said 'goodbye' to each other more times than I want to recall when we have been warned that there was a '1 in 3' chance I would not survive this procedure or surgery. Her faithfulness has mirrored to me the character of the God we both love and serve. She has been 'Christ' to me in so many ways. I am glad that she has her voice back after a recent cold stole her joy in singing. In better weather Diane spends time in her shed, reading the Bible in several versions - even in French - and singing hymns and songs. I hesitate to tell her that everyone in the neighbourhood can hear her, but that would not stop her, nor would I want it to. God is glorified in this touching simplicity of love and faith together with its open heart and honest questions. What is there not to love?

We read together this morning from Psalm 13 in the Message version of the Bible. It says:
1  Long enough, GOD—you’ve ignored me long enough. I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough.
2  Long enough I’ve carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain. Long enough my arrogant enemies have looked down their noses at me.
3  Take a good look at me, GOD, my God; I want to look life in the eye,
4  So no enemy can get the best of me or laugh when I fall on my face.
I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—I’m celebrating your rescue.
6  I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers.

Well that just about sums up this day. Happy Birthday my glorious wife - and many, many happy returns!

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Jaded by New Year Resolutions? Try this for size!

I don't want to be too hard on you or myself by blowing a trumpet for New Year's resolutions. All well and good as they are, I can recall some spectacular non-starters from my own past. "Going to lose a stone" - "Going to the gym and the pool regularly" - "Pray more" - "Eat less". They're all present and correct in the roll call of erstwhile good intentions. Is it the Chinese who say that the roadway to hell is paved with good intentions? If so, is there any point in this annual outbreak of self-bashing guilt-fest?

Well maybe it's not a bad thing to take a mild kind of self-test at the start of a new year (with the emphasis on the word 'kind'). Perhaps we should content ourselves with aspirations such as - to smile more and scowl less: to listen more and speak less: to err on the side of love if given a choice between that and harsh judgement: to be present in the moment rather than regretting yesteryear or day-dreaming about an unreal future.

But I have been struck anew by a prayer written over 500 years ago by a Christian leader and mystic, Ignatius of Loyola. It sets out before God and my heart what I would really want for my life in 2018, especially since I have been so graciously set free from pain and disease in the last year...

Teach us, Good Lord, to serve you as you deserve;
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not to heed the wounds;
To toil and not to seek for rest;
To labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.
Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.

I remember being deeply affected by hearing this prayer being said at college assemblies before I even became a committed Christian. It is so much more than a temporary resolution that may fade by February. I want to make it my prayer as we enter 2018, and I hope you might think it worthwhile to do so too. If not, remember God loves you anyway, and at least be grateful and kind. Happy New Year!