Latest Entries »

Nails And Wood

18 years of Jesus’ life are summarised in 13 words, by Luke in his Gospel:

“Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them”.

Here’s a moving perspective I found in my readings the other day:

NAZARETH – Joseph & Jesus

At key moments he would sense the call of something more

His greatness would be felt in further realms than this.

Strange choice of fosterage for a future king,

to be a trusted, patient elder brother

and learn this happy and hard working, hidden life.

And Joseph taught him all he knew:

to give his best, do small things with great love,

seen or unseen, complete each task, say, ‘it is finished’.

Still, it seemed strange apprenticing for a Messiah

to have familiarity with nails and wood !!


‘From The places of the house that John built readings by Andy Raine
in Celtic Daily Prayer Book 2: Farther Up and Farther In published by Collins. Used with permission.’

Rain Break

My early morning ‘reflections’ were disturbed today by the sound of heavy rain on the lounge window, prompting me to re-locate into our large conservatory, where I sat and simply listened for over an hour, as the torrential downpour beat upon the polycarbonate roof – what a noise and stark reminder of the power of natural forces.


This unexpected distraction (?) provoked a series of thoughts about rain and spiritual outpourings – the subject of much debate and discussion in churches and at conferences during my time in church leadership. 


My starting point has to be what actually happened this morning.  The interruption to my devotions brought awareness of how much I’d gotten into a routine (not necessarily a bad thing) of sitting in quiet reflection on God and on Scripture . It then occurred how often natural rainfall does disrupt our human plans and programmes. As a cricket lover I’m conscious how “rain stopped play” heralds the weather’s unwelcome interference in a game’s flow. Again, our British summer frequently brings a catalogue of planned events (e.g. galas, fêtes, barbecues, picnics etc.) which have to be cancelled due to inclement weather conditions. One thing all this highlights, for me, is our love of being in control, and the frustration we experience at being incapable of controlling the elements.

Is there not a similarity here that applies to ‘spiritual’ outpouring ? Does not the history of Christian ‘revival’ suggest this is the case, with ‘divine interventions’ tending to interfere with normal human plans and activities, and proving quite unwelcome in some quarters, even to the extent of producing strong resistance and opposition (remember the physical attacks made on persons and properties in the early days of Methodism). It is no less true in ecclesiastical life today, as so much time, energy and finance is directed towards controlling plans, programmes, and, sadly, even people. Frankly such a state of affairs does need disturbing by divine interventions, methinks.


A second strand of thought then took shape – how the rain invigorates both the earth (bringing refreshment, enlivening and enriching the soil and the existing plants with its nutriments, and so facilitating growth) AND the environment as a whole (e.g. high humidity or pollen counts may sharply reduce as an after-effect of a quick shower) in a kind of ‘cleansing’ process.

I’ve found that a ‘stifling’ atmosphere can develop within some ‘church’ groups, which is most discomforting and incompatible with a genuine worship experience and with kingdom living. Some congregations suffer from high doses of legalism, professionalism and dogmatism, in which the human spirit finds it hard to breathe, let alone flourish. Here there is desperate need of fresh outpourings of the Spirit of God, to purify the environment, to restore creativity, to bring the nutriments and gifts which together promote healthy life.


A third line of thought emerged concerning how our Scriptures are replete with this beautiful metaphor. Parallels between natural and spiritual ‘outpourings’ are very evident. Rain is usually indicative of divine blessing. A great Harvest Psalm proclaims: “You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it … You water its ridges abundantly … You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth“. There’s also a rich promise made to the Jewish nation, for instance, that “if you walk in My commandments … then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce …

The link is frequently made in the prophetic writings between natural and spiritual rain, none more so than in Joel’s inspired vision of “the age of the Spirit”. Foretelling a change in fortune for his beleaguered people, Joel announces that God “will cause the rain to come down to you – the former rain and the latter rain (i.e. seasonal rains) …” In the next breath the prophet goes on to speak of a universal down-pour of the Holy Spirit, announcing: “… I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh …” Centuries later these words are taken up by Peter, the apostle, in defining events in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Peter affirms: “THIS is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…” and goes on to explain: “…being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, HE (Jesus Christ) poured out THIS which you now see and hear“.

So, Pentecost was an opening of Heaven’s Windows, and we’re left in no doubt that the ‘gift’ (or outpouring) of the Holy Spirit is available to all, as Peter continues: “…the Promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Now, although we cannot control spiritual seasons any more than we can natural seasons, we can at least ‘position ourselves’ in heart and attitude by seeking God and by asking Him for rain – “Ask the LORD for rain in the time of latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give showers of rain …

Friends, it’s raining hard across the world … and now is not the time for umbrellas !






At times like this I want to be:


Rooted firmly

drinking deeply

nourished daily

life-giving flow

seasonally fructiferous

vigorously foliate

endlessly flourishing

A Referendum Ramble

The ill-conceived and deeply divisive UK Referendum on the European Union will soon be over, bar the shouting of a triumphant team, be it Leave or Remain.

Close followers of the media-driven ‘debates’ may be forgiven for  thinking that these have generated far more heat than light.

I’m reminded how a Hebrew prophet, named Isaiah, once complained of his generation: “…truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found … ”

Likewise, in the frenzied search for sound bites, catchy slogans, sensational headlines and knock-out blows it’s often appeared to me that the greatest casualty in the entire circus has been truth. Indeed it has been virtually impossible to find the needle of truth in the haystacks of distortion, exaggeration, misrepresentation, and blatant deception characterising so much of the farce that’s been called ‘debate’.


Consequently, as in the prophet’s day, there are many among us who may feel that, “… justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight …”

BUT … one bright & shining light was cruelly snatched from us in the midst of all the shenanigans, in the person of the much-loved and admired MP, Jo Cox. The values of tolerance, inclusiveness, justice, co-operation, generosity and love which Jo stood for, transcend all boundaries – whether political or otherwise – and point us in the direction of a better world.

In the name of humanity may we all listen and learn


A Meditation
(I am indebted to the Northumbria Community for this gem)
Many a ship has sailed from port to port
with no interference from Me,
because Strong Will has been at the wheel.
Multitudes of pleasure cruises
go merrily on their ways,
untouched by the power of My hand.
But you have put your life into My keeping,
and because you are
depending on Me for guidance and direction,
I shall give it.
Move on steadily,
and know that the waters that carry you
are the waters of My love and My kindness,
and I will keep you on the right course.
Frances J. Roberts (1918-2009)