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Carried

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)

Yet Another Day

As glowing orb falls graciously

beyond line of greening trees

casting golden archway to a distant world

yet another day draws to its close …

~~~

And freshly arrived swallows

skim surface of verdant pasture-land

dipping and diving in extravagant dance,

delighted to have made their return.

Gentle breeze kisses branches

laden with newly-sprung leaves,

then meanders across closely-cut lawn

rippling through daffodils & tulips, which

bob their heads in secretive assent, while

blackbirds sing their final paeans of praise

~~~

And I sit in stillness – apart,

though very much a part,

reflecting on yet another day

lived in One, Who’s mindfulness

astounds and elicits awe

from this unworthy heart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Write-Off

Thinking about a set of painful and relationally fraught circumstances in our locality has provoked this outpouring. I so hope that compassion and common sense may prevail here, eventually, but …

… how quick we can be in passing judgement on others, affixing labels, which tend to stick, colouring future thoughts and inter-actions, thus locking people into our self-opinionated prisons, and cutting them off from meaningful relationship. When we do ‘write off’ someone in such a way we actually take on the various roles of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, acting as only God has a right to do and, in effect, making ourselves into little gods. A lesson we fail to learn repeatedly is that it’s not for us to judge another person, or the path he/she decides to take simply because it differs from ours or from what we think is right or appropriate.

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A reprehensible feature of our fallen human condition is this tendency to demean others, at the same time making ourselves look good, or better, without giving a second thought about the pain or misery we may inflict. Meanwhile, of course, we deeply resent any ‘discrimination’ against ourselves, and protest vehemently if we’re pigeon-holed or categorised – as though victims of major injustice. It’s a fact, no-one thrives by being locked down in the negative judgements of others.

Sadly, when we write others off we deny, and may even  prevent, the possibility of change, failing to take account of redeeming grace – that godly dynamic which is capable of transforming a Jacob (twister) into an Israel (prince with God) OR a Simon (reed) into a Peter (rock) OR a Saul (Christ-hater) into a Paul (apostle) OR (in modern times) a Nelson Mandela (from terrorist into State President)

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The wonderful reality is that divine grace sees beyond what we are at present, to what we may become, and even goes to work to fulfil that potential – so, for example, the previously-mentioned, Saul of Tarsus testified later in life: “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy … so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience …” This beautifully reflects how all of us have been treated in the goodness of God, Who rather than writing us off, has written off the heavy debt of our sins, blotting them out, and choosing to bury them in the unfathomable ocean of His deliberate forgetfulness –  so that where our sin overflows grace overflows even more.

Indeed, if God chose to remember and mark our misdemeanours we would be finished – or, in insurance parlance: A COMPLETE WRITE-OFF. Instead God can take the wreckage of human disaster and transform it into something beautiful, something worthwhile, something that actually honours Him – I find this simply astounding, and concur with the words of popular Christian song-writer, Bill Gaither, when he writes:

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As those who embrace the Good News of free grace, we should find a fundamentally different attitude prevailing in our treatment of others – especially those who may not measure up, those who may differ from us, those who may fail miserably and so on – evidenced by deep compassion and understanding, rather than harsh and terminal write-offs ! We need to remember that at the very core of our Family Prayer we ask, “Forgive us our debts (trespasses) as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us)”.

May we allow that grace, which is making something beautiful of our broken lives, to flow out through us, reaching those we’re inclined to write off and so enabling miraculous healing and transformation to occur where needed, mainly within us, methinks  …

Whole-hearted

During our 2015 Brigg Lent Course we decided to explore some of the prayer traditions of our Christian heritage. My good friend, Fr. Dominic O’Connor, then priest of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, expounded on the use of the Psalms as a Prayer Book, advocating the reading of 5 Psalms each day. Being inspired and challenged, I have for the last year kept up this ‘habit’ – my 5-a-day – working systematically through the entire Book of Psalms 12 times. To help keep it fresh, I have used a number of different translations. In doing so my devotional life has been greatly enriched, as I’ve used these inspiring words over and over again in expressing both the highs (in Your presence is fulness of joy) and lows (My God, why have You abandoned me) of my own heart.

In some respects this reached a ‘crescendo of understanding‘ on the morning of 24th March 2016, as I interacted with that long 119th Psalm. The second verse reads: “Happy are they who obey His instructions, who set their heart on finding Him” (New English Bible). What struck me as I continued to read was the heart spirituality here, akin to that of the Beatitudes, in particular and the New Testament, in general – the deep interiority of these prayers. So I proceeded to underline references to ‘heart’ in the text – bearing in mind that when the psalmist refers to commandments, precepts, ordinances and promises we are to understand the whole counsel of God, revealed in the Scriptures – the written Word. ALSO, remembering how Jesus definitively condensed all the commandments into two, when asked about the greatest commandment, and how He responded with: “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength … Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark’s Gospel)

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Reading this great psalm, I was impressed by the frequent use of two phrases: “with all my heart” or “with my whole heart” which I’ve underscored in this little study, hoping it brings blessing your way:

v. 7 “I will praise Thee in sincerity of heart”

v. 10With all my heart I strive to find Thee”

v. 11 “I treasure Thy promise in my heart”

          v. 20 “My heart pines with longing, day and night, for Thy decrees” – (See Wesley’s hymn appended at the end)

v. 32 “I will run the course  (i.e. the way described by St Paul as “a more excellent way” in his prelude to 1 Corinthian 13 – that great anthem of love) set out in Thy commandments (i.e. Love God … Love Your neighbour) for they gladden my heart”

v. 34 “Give me the insight (discernment) to obey Thy law and to keep it with all my heart

v. 36 “Dispose (or incline) my heart towards instruction and not toward ill-gotten gain”

v. 47 “In Thy commandments I find continuing delight; I love them with all my heart

v. 58With all my heart I have tried to please Thee; fulfil Thy promise and be gracious to me”

v. 69 “…I follow Thy precepts with all my heart

v. 80 “Let me give my whole heart to Thy statutes (Word) so that I am not put to shame”

v. 81 “I long with all my heart for Thy deliverance, hoping for the fulfilment of Thy word”

v. 111 “Thy instruction is my everlasting inheritance; it is the joy of my heart”

v. 145 “I call with my whole heart; answer me Lord”

v. 161 “…my heart thrills at Thy word.”

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Here is no dull, mechanical, legalistic or slavish adherence to religion, and no mere cerebral assent to theological propositions, but a burning, whole-hearted commitment to a living, loving, listening God, Who will talk to us if we only open our hearts to listen, with the intent to gladly follow the path of love. Perhaps this little known hymn of Charles Wesley might inspire a greater longing for this reality:

O love divine, how sweet Thou art
When shall I find my longing heart
All taken up by Thee
I thirst, I faint, I die to prove
The greatness of redeeming love
The love of Christ to me

Stronger His love than death and hell
Its riches are unsearchable
The first-born sons of light
Desire in vain its depths to see
They cannot reach the mystery
The length, and breadth, and height.

God only knows the love of God,
O that it now were shed abroad
In this poor stony heart
For love I sigh, for love I pine
This only portion, Lord, be mine
Be mine this better part

On Easter Day as we remember the passion of Christ and His triumphant resurrection, I’ll be praying that wonderful Anglican prayer, used at the start of each day:

“As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever. Amen.”

God bless you richly

Invitation

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