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Archive for March, 2011

Lent Theme

'Mother and Child.
ASH WEDNESDAY.The Prophet Joel says ‘rend your hearts and not your garments’ Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; … The opening verse can simply mean: ‘tear at your hearts and not your clothes.’ At the beginning of Lent,we have to begin at the core of the problem-The human heart. It is interesting to note that the word ‘core’ originates from the Latin word meaning ‘heart’. Let’s start at the beginning- the heart of the matter!
Thursday 10th
An urgent gardening task in the last few days has been to prune the the roses. We’re told that for the best results we should prune them hard.
Jesus himself uses the illustration of pruning when he speaks of himself being ‘the vine’, and those who follow him being ‘the branches.’ The question is this: are we willing to be pruned back in order to be more productive for the kingdom of God?
Friday 11th
We need to be ‘detoxed’ . Just as toxins need to be removed from the body, so ’spiritually’ we need to be cleansed from those things that affect our personalities and prevent us from being the kind of people that God wants us to be. It can be an endless variety of things that need ‘ clearing out of our systems’, or something quite simple – like an attitude of mind that prevents anything good from happening in our lives!
(see shortblog for today – Japanese earthquake and tsunami.)
Saturday 12th March.
Another starting point for the confession of our failures is the prayer of General Confession which used to be used quite regularly in Anglican and sometimes in Methodist churches- ‘. We have done those things which we ought not to have done. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and there is no health in us. ‘ There is a saying- ‘Confession is good for the soul!’
Sunday, 13 March
A common feeling during wilderness times is weariness. This kind of tiredness can leave us in a state powerlessness and inaction. The Prophet Isaiah speaks to some wonderful words that can help in times like this. he says. ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, and mount upon wings like the eagle.’
Sunday is The Day of Resurrection- when we wait upon God in prayer and adoration. As we wait, our strength is renewed.
Monday 14th March.
Earthquake and tsunami pictures from Japan horrify us, and fill us with sadness. We feel a sense of helplessness at seeing such a loss of life. It reminds us of how fragile an uncertain life can be in extreme situations. Human life is valuable and precious. We must all do our best to help all in dire need- to pray for them, and give generously towards the causes that help them. We are all ‘frail children of dust.’
This terrible situation however does take us away from just thinking about ourselves-one of the greatest temptations of all.
Tuesday 15th of March.
‘Human nature’ is fragile. In contrast, the ‘power of nature’ can sometimes be frightening and crushingly destructive in its effect. The question ‘Where is God in all this,’ is a very natural cry amongst a grief-stricken people- and those of us who sadly watch on.
Every kind of compassionate person will feel for the grief and loss of people in Japan-and although God is the creator of the natural world and ‘sees’ so much that is intrinsically good within it, God shares in the grief of those who suffer. Our belief in a Creator who feels for human suffering, is central to the Christian understanding of God-because Christ himself suffered in this world too.
Wednesday, 16 March.
The book of Genesis looks at temptation in a very different way. It portrays Eve being tempted by the serpent to ‘eat of the tree that will make you like God,’ and then you will know ‘what is good and what is bad.’
Mankind’s knowledge of the universe has increased tremendously in the last century and ‘science’ is often used wisely, but he still faces moral dilemmas in deciding ‘what is good and what is evil.’The use of nuclear power however, reminds us of the extreme care that has to be taken in the way in which knowledge is applied. We pray especially for the situation which Japan faces at the present time.
Thursday, 17 March.
Frail people need a hospice, a refuge, a hospital , or a restful home. Our faith also reminds us that we all need a ‘spiritual refuge’ provided by God. Let us remember especially today the half million homeless in Japan who are also facing the extremes of winter weather shortages of food, water and clothing, and fearing the effects of nuclear radiation.
Friday,18th. March.
Frail people can get very resentful because they are not able to do all the things that they would like to do. Sometimes they are wrongly judged as being idle or even unduly miserable. Jesus reminds us in his teaching to avoid making judgements about others. How easily we are all tempted to make rash judgements-and then discover we have often made very foolish mistakes!
Saturday, 19 March.
One of the moving things about people coping with disaster in Japan, is the way that they have said a heart -felt ‘thank you’ when someone has helped them or rescued them. A ‘thank you’ can mean such a lot to someone who has done their best to help another human being in great need. We have to learn how to ‘give thanks with a grateful heart,’ in ‘the common things of life.’
In Lent, can we practice more the art of saying ‘thank you’ and mean it?
We also need to learn how to thank God for what he has given.
Sunday, 20 March.
What risks love will take!

On television recently we saw a woman in Japan who managed to get her children to a safe building just before she was carried away by the tsunami and drowned. What bravery she showed in saving her children! How strong the protective instinct was towards her children that she loved! Can any one find a greater love that this?
St John’s Gospel records Jesus saying: ‘greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’
Monday the 21st.
‘Lent,’ in the early stages, has to begin at the bottom-‘the low ‘, before we can start to reach up wards ‘the high’. John Bunyan said: ‘ he that is down need fear no fall, he that his low no pride, he that his humble ever shall have God to be his guide.’
Tuesday 22nd of March.
The Astro- scientists will tell us that the range of conditions in the universe under which life of any kind can exist is very narrow. Human life exists in a very limited ‘band’. We should be thankful for that alone; but it does remind us that in a very literal way human beings are ‘frail children of dust.’ If the conditions under which we live are very fragile, we need also to remind ourselves that human relationships are very fragile, too. Lent is a time for repairing human relationships, and looking at ways in which we can live more cohesively with our fellow human beings-thanking God for all that he has given.
Wednesday23rd March.
We often think of Lent as a time of restraint, and the avoidance of self indulgence.
Let us pray that the whole of humanity will practice restraint in the use of the world’s resources, and not waste or squander them on excessive and unneeded luxuries.
Thursday 24 March.
Jesus was tempted by being offered ‘all the kingdoms of the world’ if he would kneel and worship Satan. His reply was: ‘Scripture says, worship the Lord your God and only worship him.’
We may not be tempted to worship ‘Satan’, but we are very easily tempted to want even more from the ‘kingdoms of this world’, and overlook the fact that ‘God is the true giver of every good and perfect gift.’ ‘The giver’ is The One to be worshipped, thanked, and adored.
Friday 25th March.
Is’ trying to do too much’ a form of greediness? We sometimes mistakenly think that we serve God by ‘being busy’. This can be a very long way from the truth. ‘Busy-ness’ can sometimes be a form of avoiding the things we ought to be giving higher priority-things that need quiet thought prayer and reflection. Just keeping the mind busy and occupied, can be the means of preventing us from becoming ‘better people! ‘ Are we willing to allow our prayer time simply to be a time when we are ‘still’ before God?
Saturday 26th of March.
I’ve done a little bit of gardening today. One of the most difficult plants to get rid of is ground elder. The trouble with ground elder is that it seems to grow very near to the roots of other plants that you ‘want’ to have in your garden- in fact it intertwines with them. Our sins and faults are often like that, they grow alongside our virtues. A well-known prayer might help us a little bit here. It reads:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference
Sunday, 27 March.
‘Love always looks for the best.’ Quote from ‘The Message,’ (1 Corinthians 13) ‘Lord help us always to desire the best.’
Monday, 28 March.
Last week my ‘speech recognition’ Dragon, which I sometimes use for dictation made a mistake. Instead of typing in the word ‘sinners’ it typed in the word ‘slippers’!
This is a very accurate description of what we sinners are but we carry on climbing seeking forgiveness at all times and reaching out towards our high calling in Christ.
Tuesday, 29th of March.
We spent a great deal of time yesterday in the garden. Sometimes in despair, people say that their gardens look like a ‘ wilderness.’ Strictly speaking, we think of a wilderness being the very opposite of what a garden is!
The Bible’s account of creation says that’ in the beginning when God created the universe the Earth was formless and desolate.’ Formlessness and desolation are also the characteristics of a wilderness!
Gardening reminds us of our role within God’s natural world. In that ‘narrow band of conditions’ where human life is possible in the universe, we are to practice good husbandry and co-operate with God- in other words, to bring some shape and order into the things that we do.
If we are really ‘good gardeners’ we will tenderly care for all the good things that God has given.
Wednesday, 30 March.
Jesus wasn’t just turning over the tables of the money changers in the Temple. He was turning people’s ideas of God upside down (Rev Ruth Orton29-Mar-11.)
Is Jesus the radical changing force within our lives?
Thursday, 31 March.
‘Spirit of love within me-possess my hands and heart;
Breaking through the bonds of self concern, that seeks to stand apart.’

( Hymns & Psalms number 294 verse 3. Timothy Dudley-Smith)
Friday, 1 April.
Grant me the love that suffers long-that hopes, believes and bears.
The love fulfilled in sacrifice, that cares as Jesus cares.(ibid)
Saturday, 2 April.
Lent isn’t just about denying ourselves ‘ pleasures’, it’s about sharing and ‘bearing one another’s burdens.’ There are weak ‘sides’ to all of us. We are so fragile that we can only survive by supporting each other
Sunday 3rd.April.
Mothering Sunday.

Let us thank God-
‘Who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love and still is ours today'(Martin Rinkart).
As we give thanks for mothers today let us also remember those who have been deprived of human affection.
Monday 4th.
Lord, help us along through difficult ‘wilderness days’- when the going is hard, dry and often chaotic. May we not give way to the temptation of despair but allow ourselves to live inspired by the hope we have, in Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.
Tuesday 5th.
A contemporary thought: Are we on God’s ‘Facebook?’
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!
Wednesday 6th.
“Unhappiness wrinkles the soul.”(Quote from a Nottinghamshire Police civilian worker)
Lent might be a good time to rid ourselves of some of our’ wrinkles!’
Thursday 7th.
Words from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah which say, ‘ Strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees’ could describe a frail person whose hands and knees are shaking with infirmity. It needn’t necessarily be frail person however, but someone who is facing a difficult situation and trembles at the thought of it.
Another verse in the book of Isaiah says ‘I will trust in the Lord and not be afraid.’
May we take these words to heart when we feel ‘very shaky.’
Friday 8th
Lord may we never be afraid to go back to the drawing board and start again!
Saturday 9th.
This ‘Holy Season’ is a time to remember the needs and temptations of others as well as our own. There are those, for instance, who never seem to come out of ‘the wilderness.’ There are always things that ‘bewilder’ them. Let us remember them in our prayers
Sunday 10th April
Let us pray that people facing uncertainty will learn how to put their trust in God.
Tuesday 12th April
We must all enter into the experience of ‘wilderness’ if we are to serve God and our fellow men and women.
May the ‘desert place’ experience, help us to ‘blossom like the rose’(Isaiah ch.35.v1
Wednesday 13th.
Albert Camus the French Algerian philosopher, a key philosopher of the 20th-century wrote. ‘What the world requires of the Christians is that they should continue to be Christians’. And although an atheist himself he also said ‘And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us do this?’
Thursday 14th.
Just as people are frail, so also are the communities in which we live frail. There are times when fellowships are strong and supportive, but there are other occasions when we need to put a label above them saying ‘fragile, handle with care’
Friday 15th.
Building up relationships is never a waste of time. Even if people reject us, despise us and sometimes misuse us, it doesn’t really matter. We will in some way have influenced their lives, and they will have influenced ours. We are all in this world together. Jesus calls us in a multi racial society to share him with others. He gave his ‘all’ for the sake of the whole world.
Saturday 16th.
Lord, grant us healing and help us to see all things in the light of your loving purposes, through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen
Sunday 17th – Palm Sunday
All glory Laud and honour, to thee redeemer King!
Monday18th April
Obedience means following through what our conscience requires us to do. Jesus does not waiver from the course he had to follow. Let us pray that we may respond positively to the roles that we are called to fulfil.
Tuesday 19th
Who is Jesus? This question concerned both the secular leaders of his day, as well the religious. As we journey through this week we need to answer the same question.
Wednesday the 20th
Jesus must have felt very much on his own when he faced his accusers.
When we know that people are ‘facing things on their own’-just to say that we are thinking about them can make the world a difference. Better still let us tell them we will say a prayer for them too!
Thursday 20th April
The Last Supper was a time when Jesus had fellowship for ‘the last time’ before his crucifixion.However, it was more than a fellowship meal, it was more than a passover meal. It was a reminder that his life was to be ‘given as an offering’ for us all. Bread and wine here take on a new significance. Jesus sees them as ‘ his body and his blood’ They have had this sacramental meaning for Christians ever since.
Good Friday.
Jesus cried from the Cross. ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ ‘Frail human beings’ do not always realise the consequencies of their actions. This cry for the forgiveness of humanity rings down through the ages, His prayer was heard.
Holy Saturday
Secular society finds it difficult to believe in heaven – even harder to believe in ‘hell.’ To say that Jesus descended into hell certainly means that he entered into the deepest depths of despair and desolation. It reminds us that there is nothing that Jesus has not experienced ‘for our sakes.’
EASTER DAY
Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed.
(See also short blog.)

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March letter

March letter 2011.

Dear everyone,

Dark winter nights, dull days, the snow, the extremely cold weather, often accompanied by colds and ‘flues, soon make many people feel very miserable and frustrated.

In situations of this kind it is difficult for people to keep ‘on top’ of things. It’s very easy to get things out of proportion, and experience a sense of exasperation because we are unable to do that we would like to do.

Often in times like this words from hymns help us to get our priorities right. Recently I found the following words from the well-known hymn. ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ saying something to me in this time of ‘seasonal frustrations!’

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Saviour, still our refuge-take it to the Lord in prayer!

Sometimes the very fact that we do not ‘put into words’ what we are worrying about, prevents us from fully trusting in God. How important it is that we ‘take it to the Lord in prayer!’

May the season of Lent be a time of fruitful reflection, and self examination for us all, as we continue to pray for all who need our prayers in very testing and rapidly changing situations in the world.

Every blessing, David

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