Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Tidings

Happy Christmas!

Those who know us well, will be well aware that 2012 could easily be called our Annus Horribilis,
And other rude words which I won't mention here.

This Christmas we will be aware of those who are absent for the first time,
Chris's Mum and Dad, Charles and Irene.
My Grandad Fred.
And my Dad, John.
We miss, and will miss them dreadfully
But we will remember them with love and thanks
Not only for the people they were
But for the way they loved us so well.

So bearing all that in mind
I asked Chris and the boys for one positive thing that had happened in 2012.

Chris - West Ham got back into the Premiership and recently beat Chelsea.
Ryan - His first lads' holiday in Malia
Joel   - Grew 5 inches in 2 months
Nathan - Got his grade 1 piano

And me?
I abseiled 70ft off Black Rock in Derbyshire. I know!

We also had a good holiday in Tenerife.
Wall-to-wall sunshine was just what the Dr ordered.
And it gave us some much-needed rest and recuperation.

We hope you've had a better year than we have.
But we are still standing as a family unit.
Together we know that God will not fail us.
We trust Him.

Thank you for your love and prayers.
Happy Christmas!
May Immanuel be a reality for you
And may you know the peace and joy of Christ in 2013.


Me and my boys



On Mount Teide


Thursday, 20 December 2012

In search of joy.

I set out at the end of November with clenched teeth, and a face set towards my destination
I was determined.
I was going to find it, no matter what.

It would be easy, after all I love this time of year.
But decoration after decoration
Christmas card after Christmas card
Ornament after ornament
Nativity scene after nativity scene
Light after light
Seemed to make no difference.

I was in search of joy.
But candle after candle still left me floundering in the darkness.

Tears sprang to my eyes as I told one of my dearest friends,
"I'm looking for joy. But I can't find it in any of the usual places."

She held me close and said
Maybe I just need to go with the flow.
Stop trying so hard.
Let God surprise you.

So I did.

And He has.

Kind of.....

I'm not rolling in the aisles but I have found blessings.

In the two nights in the row where we've sat as a family
and laughed and sang as we watched Christmas films.

In the Carol Service at the church we left in 1991 to enter full-time ministry.
In a strange way it felt like we'd gone home.

In the Garden of Lights at a local National Trust Property.
And afterwards, giggling in McDonald's with my friend,her daughter, and my son
over nothing in particular.

In friends who have dropped in unannounced because they've missed us around the place.

In a lovely dinner of Roast Lamb with rosemary that my sons pronounced to be 'banging'
(That means good....)

And finally in a verse of scripture that I've read a hundred times but never really seen.

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
Those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way,
one foot at a time,
down the path of peace

Luke 1:78-79

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Broken Nativity

Today I opened one of our Nativity Sets to discover that Joseph had lost his head.
One of our other sets has a king with a repaired head.
Our eldest son was a bit over-enthusiastic about helping me put it out when he was two....

When I mentioned my headless Joseph on facebook this afternoon,
I discovered friends had a headless shepherd, and an earless donkey.
Oh and an armless Jesus.

Which brings me to a point that is very relevant to me at the moment.
We come to God as people who long to be made whole.
In our humanity we are broken.
But that's ok because God loves broken things.

Each individual involved in the Nativity was broken.
Some were more aware of it than others.
But God used them in their brokenness.

This Advent season may be different to past ones.
But God meets us in our brokenness.
He loves us back to healing and wholeness.
Grace is everything.

Check out the song 'Broken Hallelujah' by Mandisa
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=QuuJDs2X4GE

With my love and my sadness
I come before You Lord
My heart's in a thousand pieces
Maybe even more
Yet I trust in this moment
You're with me somehow
And You've always been faithful
So Lord even now

When all that I can sing
Is a broken hallelujah
When my only offering
Is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration
Will rise up from these ruins
I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise
Is a broken hallelujah

Oh Father, You have given
Much more than I deserve
And I have felt Your hand of blessing
On me at every turn
How could I doubt Your goodness
Your wisdom, Your grace
So Lord hear my heart
In this painful place

Allelujah
I lift my voice
Your Spirit moves
I raise my hands
I reach for You

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Elizabeth

We've just got back from a friend's.
We went there for lunch.
Roast lamb with all the trimmings
followed by sticky toffee pudding.
It was hard to resist the invitation.
She's a great cook.
But more than that she's a great friend.

You know the type of person who always makes you smile?
When you spend time with them you know there'll be
fun
laughter
debate
more laughter.

But for me, it goes deeper than that.
She asks how I am and the tears spring to my eyes
Because she knows....

She knows that life is tough.
She knows the isolation I feel.
She knows that in loving me, she is bringing a little bit of heaven to earth.

In Luke 1, Mary finds out she's pregnant and goes straight to her cousin Elizabeth.
Was it to escape the clamour?
To make sense of it in her head?
To get used to the idea?

Or did she go because she knew that in Elizabeth she had
A friend
A confidante
A kindred spirit?

I like to think God led her to a place of safety where she would be loved and understood.

General John Gowans died yesterday.
He left behind a treasury of poetry.
One poem says

'Do you sometimes feel that no one truly knows you,
And that no one understands or really cares?
Through his people, God himself is close beside you,
And through them he plans to answer all your prayers.


Someone cares, someone cares,
Someone knows your deepest need, your burden shares;
Someone cares, someone cares,
God himself will hear the whisper of your prayers.


Ours is not a distant God, remote, unfeeling,
Who is careless of our loneliness and pain,
Through the ministry of men he gives his healing,
In their dedicated hands brings hope again.'


God places people in our lives to be for us what Elizabeth was for Mary.
He knows...

Sometimes we can be the 'Elizabeth' for others in their times of need too.
A place of safety that provides love and understanding.
A little bit of heaven on earth.

Friday, 7 December 2012

STOP! Look and listen.

I helped at Nathan's Christmas Fair yesterday.
It was packed with excited children and exhausted parents,
so pretty much business as usual.

Do you ever want to scream STOP at this time of year?
Enough.
Too much already.

Mum, my sister and I sorted out Dad's things on Tuesday.
As we filled the car with bags for the charity shop
it felt so final.
A person's life contained in a car-load.

STOP.
Enough.
Too much already.

Today has been a better day.
The sun has shone.
The sky turned a brilliant blue after the snow showers.
And I had a lovely coffee with Chris at the Garden Centre.

As we were driving back I remembered the Advent challenge I gave our congregation a few years back.
It came from the carol, 'It came upon the midnight clear',
And the challenge was to

'Hush the noise, ye men (and women) of strife
And hear the angels sing.'

Or, STOP.
Look for the reality of His presence in the madness of Christmas.
Listen for Him.
His angels may come from unexpected places.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Nothing will ever be the same again

It's been a Christmassy few days.
Saturday night was the Golf Club Dinner and Dance.
We go every year with a group of friends.
It's always a good night.

Yesterday we went to the Dickens Christmas Fayre in Rochester.
And today we walked along the South Bank from London Bridge.
It was lovely to see the sights and sounds of the Christmas Market Stalls.


Photo
Our purchase from The Christmas Market!

The trouble is it all feels different.
In my mind I hear the words 'Nothing will be the same again.'
Of course it won't.
Our family looks very different this Christmas to last.
But does different have to mean worse?
Can we still know Christmas Joy in our grief?

Graham Kendrick wrote about the birth of Jesus.
'And nothing will ever be the same again
This night has changed everything.'

The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.
John 1:9

Jesus' birth changed the world.
He can change our darkness into light.