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Showing posts from July, 2006
The Ark of St. Laurence ~ A Place of the Past, Present and Future

I climbed the steep path that borders one side of the village green in Alvechurch, leading to the churchyard of St. Laurence church. Glancing back at the village hall and the post office with the red pillar-box outside, I was engulfed in a wave of memories. This view has hardly changed since 1969, when I left for Canada, having grown up in the village.

I was looking forward to meeting Pat Spreckley, who'd be mowing the grass in the churchyard that morning. As I walked further up the hill, past the old house called The Shrubbery, near the churchyard I met John Sidwell. He was busy cutting the long grass on the banks below the high hedges there. On his head he wore a protective visor and as he raised it to greet me, while still holding the long "strimmer," he looked for all the world like a medieval knight, lance in hand. He paused in his work to walk with me to meet Pat, who was hard at work riding the lawnmo…
Gifts and Invitations

Exodus 20:8-10a (New International Version)

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.

Sabbath: Did God really mean it when he included this commandment with the other nine, along with not coveting, committing murder, or idolatry? And what does it mean to keep it as God intended?

To some Sabbath is interpreted as a day of abstinence from certain activities, while others are considered acceptable - my maternal grandmother grew up in the south of Holland at the turn of the nineteenth century, and remembered knitting endless pairs of socks on Sundays, the only thing she was allowed to do (whenever we don't understand principles, we tend towards prescriptions) - to others it's a day of rest.

Luke 4:16 tells us what it was the habit for Jesus to do on the Sabbath, for it says that on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, "as was his custom." He t…
The Language of Love

Exodus 19:3b-5 (New International Version)

The Lord called to him from the mountain and said...
"You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."

God speaks here in the language of love, like a devoted father or a lover.

In the same chapter of Exodus we read that God descended to Mount Sinai. The sights and sounds that accompanied his physical presence were terrifying. There was thunder, lightening, a thick cloud, a loud trumpet blast and a violently trembling mountain. Not surprisingly, everyone who witnessed this trembled too.

In Revelation chapter 16, John the apostle describes the vision he saw of the seven bowls of God's wrath being…
Belonging

John 1:10-11 (New International Version)
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

A few days ago I wrote, "I know that it's his (God's) longing to reach every life, through those of us who know him," and that I was struggling to understand how to "cross the great divide, the gulf that separates me (I should have said, "God") from the souls of the people whose paths cross mine."

John 1:10-11 (above) came to mind as I continued to think and pray about that. Imagine what lies below the surface of those words.

Most of us have a circle of people to whom we're connected by certain ties. With them we are accepted, we belong, simply because of the bonds of family, friendship and shared history or experience.

Imagine arriving at an airport. Your eyes scan the faces of the waiting crowd in the arrivals lounge. You spot faces of…
So That You May Believe

On July 11th, in the post entitled, "The Never Ending Story," I wrote:

"The part of the book known as the Old Testament is filled with references to One who was to come, who we recognize as Jesus.

God gave specific clues, prophesies, about parts of his life, things that would happen to him, so that when we saw that they happened, we would recognize him and say, "Ah, he's the One!"

In Exodus 12:46 God gave instructions to Moses about the Passover Lamb, "Do not break any of the bones." There was no explanation, simply an instruction, but a thread was started there that leads the searching reader to Jesus, the One of whom John the Baptist said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)

The thread continues in Psalm 34:20:
"He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." This verse was quoted by the apostle John, who was an eye witness to the crucifixion of Jesus and …
Morning Chorus

8.50 a.m. and for the past hour the village of Alvechurch has been steadily rousing itself to a great morning bustle!

An hour ago the morning chorus was being led by twittering and chirping birds, with the occasional "caw, caw, caw," and the gently soothing calling of doves, all of whom had been busily about their business since much earlier this morning.

Like the rising crescendo of a great symphony the sounds of the day have been added, layer upon layer, the background soft hum of distant traffic increasing to a more urgent roar, overlaid by the calls and chatter of the children and grown-up passers by. The path they travel lies just beyond the tiny stream that edges the lawns like a silver necklace, and is bordered by trees and bushes that create only visual semi-privacy.

The clock of the ancient St. Laurence Church, on the highest hill above the village, chimes nine over the steady drone of the recycling truck's engine. A few moments ago, bottles and cans …
Connecting

Yesterday (Saturday) I arrived in England! The morning was chilly but bright and sunny and the day soon warmed up to the perfect summer's day.

This morning I find myself suddenly aware of an area in which I need God's power and help. In the past 24 hours I've connected with Mum's new neighbour from the flat upstairs and her daughter, three of Mum's caregivers, and my nephew. The need I'm praying about this morning is to be able to cross the "Great Divide", the gulf that separates me from the souls of the people whose paths cross mine. I long to be able to share Jesus with the people that I meet who don't know him and it seems important to do so because I might be the only believer who they are in contact with, yet to do so seems awkward and contrived.

Well, maybe it is contrived if I'm trying to make it happen. Maybe I just need to care, to listen and be ready if the Holy Spirit opens up the way. Otherwise maybe I should just rel…
This is a last minute post before leaving for England for three weeks. I'm hoping to keep posting from there! Blessings, Belinda

Role Playing or Reality?

Exodus 14:12-14 (New International Version)

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
12 Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!"
13 Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."


Interestingly the next verse indicates:

Exodus 14:15 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
15 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.

There are proba…
A Matter of the Heart

Matthew 23:29-33
New International Version

29"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
33"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?


Wow, Jesus really hated what the Pharisees did. "Snakes! Brood of vipers!" he called them, just as John the Baptist is recorded in Matthew 3 as having done.

The issue that both John and Jesus seemed to focus on was how "lost" the Pharisees were in the outer things. They missed the point that God simply wants our hearts and instead made a system of rules and regulations…
Being in the Right Place

Acts 17:26-27 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

"Is everybody in the right place?" The question was asked by the Chair of the working group I was attending for the first time. Twenty or so people had gathered from the fields of education and developmental services and many of us were meeting the others around the table for the first time.

The Chair explained her question by telling us that her father once went to Miami when he meant to go to New York. The only clue was that he'd thought the plane trip was taking a rather long time!

I understood! I'd once been at another …
Whatever He Says

By Claire Alexander

On June 21, 2006, Belinda described how Jesus’ mother at the wedding in Cana told the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” John 2:5 NIV. I was reading Ezra 7:10 at the time, and suddenly wondered if Mary’s words had an Old Testament link, or Hebrew imperative for her, in the same way that her words give us New Testament authority when hearing a speaker or writer’s words in our hearts.

Sometimes when I read the Psalms, I hear thoughts that are later repeated as echoes on the Cross, and wonder if the Lord Jesus was repeating the Psalms right through from memory, to anchor Him in His agonizing sacrifice.

Now, spending a few days mulling over Ezra, I find his leadership in chapters 7 and 8 pivoting around 7:10, which I memorized years ago in the King James:

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to doit, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Italicized words, like it, in the King James—“do it”—are absent in the or…
The Never-ending Story

John 1:1 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Psalm 119:89 (New International Version)

89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.


Picture this: God, the Source, the Genesis of all life, who is and was and always will be, longs to commune with and be known by, a race of beings he created - known as Humanity. Mankind, a creation with unlimited potential, whom he created in his own image and with the capacity to know him, inexplicably, but evidently, is a particular object of love for him.

Like the incredible energy released during nuclear fission, the splitting of the nucleus of an atom, reversing itself and returning to the tiny particle (if that were possible), is God condensing himself into words in the pages of a book so that he can reveal himself to those who care to find him.

But this…
Seek Him - Find Him

Jeremiah 29:13 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I was sitting in my "green room," my quiet, reflecting, praying, writing space, when through the slats of the white wooden shutters on the french doors, I saw Brenda, my daughter, approaching. I'd already written the title for this morning's reflection, "Seek Him - Find Him," which was to have been a continuation of yesterday's thought, posted on the blog and sent out by email this morning.

I called out to Brenda, "I'm in here!" and she entered, her forest green "The Message/New King James" parallel version of the Bible in hand. Her eyes were bright and her face animated. She obviously had something exciting to share. I gladly switched gears and prepared to listen.

Brenda has been sailing the somewhat stormy seas of…
Hide and Seek

(God of Mystery and Secrets)

Revelation 2:17 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

In this verse I see the mystery, the hiddenness, even the playfulness, of God. The manna is hidden, the new name known only to him who receives it.

God seems to delight in allowing us to discover him, and to discover ourselves in him.

It isn't that he doesn't want to be found, but he wants us to look for him and to open our minds, hearts, ears, eyes and souls to what he will then reveal to us. There must be some effort on our part if we want to know him.

The verse above speaks to "the churches" (which includes us) of overcoming something. The preceding verses use the exam…
All That Really Matters

Acts 27:18-20; 30-32; 38;42-44 New International Version


18We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. 20When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

30In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved." 32So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.

38When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

42The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Pau…
Giving Up so God can Give


This week our old, faithful, hardworking photocopier, that was already reconditioned when it arrived at our office eleven years ago, was supplanted by a newer model.

I'd read the warning signs. Whenever I'd call the service guy in to get the old lady back on her feet when she faltered or went on strike temporarily, he would inevitably ask, "How long have you had it?" Then would follow a caution that sooner or later, the company we leased the copier from (toner and service calls included), would notice the age and increased likelihood of service calls and the very good deal we were getting. They would probably want to up the lease payment to cover the potential cost, "And besides, " Service Guy said, "Copiers have changed a lot in the past decade and you can get a much improved one these days."

So I met with a pleasant young sales rep. who I liked in spite of my innate resistant to new things. He demonstrated that we would ac…
A Meditation on Peace

Micah 5:4-5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. 5 And he will be their peace.

The passage in Micah 5: 4-5 is speaking prophetically of Jesus. Hundreds of years later the book of Ephesians echoes the message of peace, brought to us through him. How I love the endless weaving together of his word.

Ephesians 2:14-15 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the tw…
More on Lavish Love

2 Peter 1:6-8 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
6 Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. 7Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. 8 The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Right in the middle of a self protective maneuver during a potentially painful conversation last night, God brought to mind the prayer I'd written out that morning: "Will you teach me what it means to love without restraint that I may mirror you?"

The words stopped me in my tracks. Mirroring Jesus was not what I was doing. In fact I couldn't think of one situation where he was self protective; on the contrary, he wa…
The Lavish Love of God

1 John 3:1 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
1 John 3
1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Ever since I first read this verse long ago, I have loved it. It expresses so much about God and the wonder of the privilege he has extended to us.

The word "Lavish" is defined in Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as, "to expend or bestow with profusion: SQUANDER." Inherent in the word (as confirmed by Barbara Ann Kipfer's Flip Dictionary) is more than a hint of excess, waste, overindulgence.

God loves us recklessly, crazily, foolishly even! He dotes upon us in his love. His love is not measured, restrained, conditional, rational or sensible. He loves us wildly!

This verse opens a wide a window for us into God'…
Important Investments

I spent some time today reading past journals and was struck by the ongoing ups and downs of the relationships in my life. One thing's for sure, relationships are hard work. The work can be painful, but the alternative; surface, inauthentic relationships; is unthinkable. Staying connected is essential, as some of my friends remind me when I'm distracted by life. Without it, friendship, or a marriage relationship, withers on the vine. Sometimes you have to fight the forces arrayed against connecting regularly; busy schedules, the tendency to drift into isolation or intense work situations. It's possible to live together in a marriage but never connect below the superficial level; in fact that probably happens a lot.

I see a parallel in the ongoing struggle to "stay connected" as a couple and with friends, with my relationship with God. I can invite him into my day, "spend time with him" in devotions and prayer - yet not really look in…
God's Name Reveals Who He Is

Exodus 6:2-3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)

2 God also said to Moses, "I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty,
but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them."

Exodus 6:12 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)

12 But Moses said to the LORD, "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips ?"

As I read this chapter, my eyes were drawn irresistibly back to verse 3, as to a beautiful item in a store window that I've just walked quickly by. It felt like in that verse, God had something significant to share. What was the difference between the name God revealed himself by to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: God Almighty - and the name by which he was now revealing himself to Moses: the Lord?

My eyes locked on the name, "The Lord". I wanted to know more about the significance of t…