The joy of photographs!

Light and space!

Lockdown seems to be lasting a long time- what an understatement this is! We know it is needed, to get the rates of virus transmission down, but it seems a bit endless, well actually completely endless.

It is a time of hibernation- when we are in a dormant state, everything seems slowed down, and going out to walk in the cold and rain can lose its appeal. It would be easy to feel a little down.

I am so impressed by people who have taken up knitting, done an on line course and learned a new language in lockdown! Such amazing self discipline and focus are needed.

One thing that can be remarkably beneficial, is to open up some old photo albums. Electronically stored photos are good too, but don’t quite have the same feel. Everytime you turn the page, you find a plethora of experiences, journeys and memories. They are mixed of course, sometimes people look a bit grumpy, and other times a moment of pure joy is captured- a night out with friends, a family holiday, an unexpected fun day out. Looking through photos, I am reminded of birthday meals, talking with dolphins, that trip to Moscow, swimming at Florida beaches, sunsets in Cyprus. I am reminded of all the ways that I am blessed.

I would encourage everyone to look at old photos. They remind us of family and friends, times of being together. They remind us of places we have traveled too, and the experience of different cultures and landscapes. They remind us of the richness of the lives that we have led.

God has blessed us, He watches over us in days of heartache,  He gives us days of song, He inspires us with His word, He reminds us of beauty  even out of ashes. We just need a little reminding at times.                                

     ‘I will praise you, O Lord, with all of my heart’   Psalm 9:1    

Dear God, in lockdown, we often live much of our life within four walls, which can seem pretty claustrophobic. We cry to You to help us, when we feel hemmed in, and ask that You remind us of the freedom of your holy spirit. Lord Jesus, forgive us that we have short memories of the joys of past days. Give us patience, thankful hearts, and a desire to connect and bless others in safe but thoughtful ways. Thankyou that your love is never restricted, but is unlimited at reaching each one of us, wherever we are, Amen.

Unexpected angels in our midst, even Gabriel!

A Christmassy Gabriel!

Everyone has their own favourite film at Christmas, from Elf, Love Actually and It’s a wonderful life. There are many films to choose from, and it seems important to enjoy them, especially with the latest locdown restrictions announced today. People are so worried about the virus, disappointed about their plans to see loved ones have now been cancelled, concerned about loved ones unwell or having the virus. We need some escapism, to help us to cope.

It’s a wonderful life, is particularly popular, as it reminds us that when we are questioning what our life is all about, that maybe God has used us to accomplish more than we know. Clarence the angel, is maybe not what we imagine angels to be like, but he appears just at the right time to save a life.

There are so many angelic appearances in the bible, and in the Christmas story, Gabriel the angel speaking to Zechariah in the temple, to Mary in the house, to Joseph in a dream. Angels are described as heavenly messangers, that stand in the very presence of God. They do the bidding of God, answering prayer, intervening in situations, revealing God’s will.

Especially in these days of difficult death statistics, restrictions and isolation, we pray for God to send His angels into this world- to remind the lonely person that they are not alone, to visit the despairing person in a hospital bed or prison cell, to remind that bereaved person or traumatised child that God wants to comfort them.

On the hillside, the angels praised God amongst the shepherds, and brought news of great joy for all people, for a Saviour was born to bring glory to God, and peace on earth. The purity of angels praising God must have been inspirational.

I believe that God still sends divine messengers to this earth, to encourage, to guide the lost, to be with the dying. Sometimes God might choose the most unlikely people to fulfil His purposes, unexpected angels are all around. And this brings us hope.

We know that in the new year, the various vaccines will be rolled out, and that this will make a difference. We know that these restrictions will not last forever. We know that the number of people ill with the virus will gradually lessen. There is much to be hopeful about.

Right now, as we look at the dark nights, and the rain drops rolling down the window pane, it is easy to feel down. May we know that God has not deserted His people, and that the angels still sing. May we notice the angels in our midst, the prayers said, the acts of kindness around, and may this strengthen us, and remind us that there are better days to come.

May we pray. Eternal Father, news of a new more spreadable variant of the virus, is hard to hear, and the new restrictions have curtailed so many plans to meet up at Christmas. Help us to remember that the first Christmas was tough too, a long journey, a birth of a child in less than ideal circumstances. Yet God provided for the holy family, and He provides for us today. Holy spirit, help us notice the angels in our midst, the heavenly singing, the prayer, the acts of kindness. And may we find peace, trusting in You, Amen 🙏

The significance of doors

Doors opening and closing.

Our beautiful dog Gabriel is so clever that he can work the door handle to the kitchen, so he could get into the fridge- his favourite place! He looks so very pleased when he manages this.

A great strategy to deal with this, was to replace the handle with a door knob, so the dog can’t work it. This is an excellent solution, except sometimes I can’t turn it either, and then we are both locked out of the kitchen!

This started me reflecting on the importance of doors. Sometimes we try a door, and it just won’t open. It might lead to a geographical location, but sometimes to a new experience or spiritual journey. We pray, we bargain, we plead, but the door will not budge.

At other times, doors open that we hadn’t even known existed, and we are amazed and bemused. Is this a door we are meant to be going through? We pray for the guidance of God to show us. A door might open easily, but this doesn’t mean it is the right one.

We know from Ecclesiastes that there is a season for everything under the sun, but the transition between seasons can often be messy and poorly defined. Knowing the direction of our calling, and our life is not easy to discern.

There is a song by the band ‘King and Country’ called ‘Pushing on a pull door’ . It is such a relatable song, because it is all about making plans, and thinking you know what might happen, and then everything goes upside down, and you realise that you have been pushing on a door that won’t open in the way you thought. All that energy, until you learn to see things through God’s eyes, and that you need to change your approach.

In this season leading up to Advent, we had plans for Christmas, and what this time might look like, but our plans have had to change dramatically. In these days of trying to keep everyone safe from the virus, we seem to be revising all our decisions daily, and it is exhausting. Do we see that person, can we travel there, should we self isolate, just in case? How do we keep people safe, but also help them to know they are remembered and loved?

Whatever our decisions, about Christmas arrangements, or our path through life, may God guide us on His path, and may we be quiet enough to listen to hear His voice speaking to us. May Jesus show is the right door to go through, and his Holy spirit guide our steps.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your path straight. ‘ Proverbs 3: 5-6

May we pray: Gracious God, we start of on our journey, thinking we know the doors to open, but finding that the door will not budge, and we get frustrated and bewildered. We do not know where to turn. Lord Jesus, on the road to the cross, the path was often difficult, with unexpected turns. Help us to know this can be true for us too. Please travel with us, give us courage, and through your holy spirit guide our footsteps, and bring us to the place of your choosing, to a place of healing love, obedience and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Honouring a legacy?

This week, one of our very long standing church members died, and had a funeral that celebrated her long and incredibly full life. It was very moving, to reflect on all that she did, and she was described as a pioneer of her time. One of our challenges as a church, is how we live up to her legacy.

This started me thinking about what we leave behind us. None of us knows the number of our days, so how do we make them count?

I found a quotation from the 4th century Greek statesman Pericles:   

          ‘what you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the life of others.’

I started writing because I wanted to honour my late husband’s life. Somehow, telling his story, helps us as a family, to find meaning in what has taken place, and to honour his legacy.

Part of this is shaped by a desire to raise the profile of the need for more effective care for veterans. The damaging nature of the long term emotional, spiritual and physical injuries after serving in armed conflucts, cannot be over estimated. And the impact on relationships and families can be immensely destructive.

It also feels important to raise awareness of the need for more research into epilepsy, and the exploration of possible new treatments. If some one’s seizures are well controlled by medication that is great, but if their epilepsy is intractable, life is challenging.

To honour Colin’s legacy, in the midst of these two strands, I also want to give thanks for people who have supported and prayed with us. God gave us kind people around us, guided our path, and sustained us on the darkest days, granting us all we needed.

And so Colin’s legacy is that even in the midst of trauma and disability, we are not to give up, that God gives us strength each day, leads us to helpful people, enables us to laugh, helps us find an internal resilience that we did not know we had. Every day of life is precious. God gives our lives a quality of love and grace that is life changing.

At times, I question writing about all this, because it makes you so vulnerable. But this feel like our purpose to try to encourage others,, and the best way I can honour Colin, so I pray for strength to do so, especially in these days leading up to Remembrance.

In Ephesians chapter 5, verse 2 it says:    ‘ live a life of love, love others as Christ loved us’                                         The legacy of Christ, is indeed love, and so sharing that love, truth and grace with others, is our greatest calling, let us pray.

Gracious God, forgive us that we often don’t think what our spiritual legacy is to the next generation. Lord Jesus, may we be inspired by generations of Christian people, who have faithfully and creatively followed you. May our life’s purpose be to honour the legacy of all who have gone before, and may your holy spirit guide us as to what to do, as we seek to pass on your life changing and transformative love and truth to others, Amen.

Finding freedom!

Flying in the light.

At this time of coronovirus and lockdown restrictions, life can seem a bit heavy. In the west of Scotland, we are not to leave our houses unless it is necessary, and it can feel a bit as if we are in prison, unable to do the things we would normally do, to meet up with friends, or go to the theatre.

In comparison with many, we are so fortunate. We are not in a refugee camp in Kenya, or in prison for our faith. We have so many things to be grateful for.

I suppose this is where perspective comes in. It is so easy to focus on the things that we cannot do, and be downcast. However God calls us to focus on what is possible, and the choices we can make.

For people who are carers though, I think this is a particularly tough season. Many support services have been cut, day centres and respite opportunities are often closed or limited. Caring for a loved one with mental health issue, a chronic condition or a disability, can be exhausting at the best of times, a 24 hour a day job. Listening in the night to meet the needs of some one who is ill, or might wander, means that feeling of never being able to relax for a second.

When I was looking after Colin, I could never anticipate his needs, or when I should be involved. He was proud and independent- he often didn’t want help. He resented it. Yet on occasion, intervention seemed the lesser of two evils. So hard, as a spouse, to deliver person centred care, and to ensure his dignity. For many carers, your anticipation of risk, means you can’t rest, because you are seeking to keep everyone safe.

If we are feeling trapped, whether because of personal circumstances or covid restrictions, the Christian faith can make such a difference. There is a beautiful verse: ‘ where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ 2 Corinthians 3: 17

We are reminded that God releases us from our chains, He heals the broken hearted, He puts the lonely in families, He lifts up those who are down. He gives strength, insight and patience when it is needed. God is so tender hearted towards His children- He sees our struggles, and comes alongside us, to release us from what binds us, and to set us free. Our spirits can dance and soar, even in the midst of burdens and cares.

And so, dear friend, whatever might be weighing on your spirit, I pray that you can find freedom in the Holy spirit of God, who cleanses and heals us, and inspires us and brings life.

Let us pray, Lord God, at times our burdens are so heavy, we feel weighed down and trapped. But Lord Jesus, You shine your light into our darkness. You forgive our shortcomings, You open our eyes to the beautiful, the small acts of kindness. Holy spirit of God, bring us to a place of freedom, where we can soar like the eagle, and enjoy the exhilaration of the fresh air and the warmth of the sunshine. May we always know an inner freedom, that enables us to be, and to have space and identity. Help us to appreciate and explore this freedom, Amen.