1.4.20

Ponderings while on a walk of solitude near my home

"His name for ever shall endure;
         last like the sun it shall. " (A line from Psalm 72 - Scottish Metrical Version) 

I didn't think I would be able to write much just now. But, after a walk of solitude (one government permitted exercise of the day) a few ponderings came to me. I am avoiding a certain topic on the basis of self preservation as it would only add to anxiety. I'm sure most readers know what I mean.

Anyway there is a huge network of woods near my house. I just went exploring and to make it truly a time of solitude avoided the beaten track for a large part of it.



Briefly I forgot I was in Edinburgh and felt as if I was back where the wild things grow. 


Pondering 1 - The Castle: She stands longer than our mortal flesh, but shorter than our immortal souls.


Pondering 2 - The Legends: They also may stand for generations. But, in time they evolve or pass from memory. 



Pondering 3 - The Car: Our impact both good and bad will have an impact for generations to come. Rust and decay will have it all. (Side note: We need to flatten more than one curve and go from climate distruction to climate sustainability).



Ponderings 4 - Questions to consider:

What do we trust in?
The non - essentials now gone? 
The essentials we now struggle to get? 
Ourselves? 

Or

The sustainer of life and souls? 
Our worship or the one we worship?

"His name for ever shall endure;
         last like the sun it shall. "

30.3.20

5 Positive Thoughts (Positive Thought #5)

OK I'll admit it I have found it hard to post a positive thought everyday. This is a combination of tiredness, busyness and anxiety distractions. This will be my last positive thought post for now. So I decided I would just send out a link from the BBC. The article says "amid all the worrying news, there have also been reasons to find hope." I encourage you not to get dragged into other links on the BBC just now if they are negative. At least for now. Rather let's focus on these 5 Positive Thoughts in this article.

For now I am trying as a person and as a health professional to simply follow the rules. Keep myself and others safe. This is one of the only news articles I will share on this. I will follow some government statistics and NHS advice pages. However, on the whole I am trying to avoid talk of the C_19 word. Especially from media sources and unauthorised rants. This is my own personal choice and an act of self-preservation. I will draw my Positive Thought series to an end here at #5.

And for no reason other than because I love pictures of nature here is one for you to enjoy. I took this years ago on Kilravock Castle grounds. It reminded me of a picture that was used as a cover for a Strings for Barbers Adaigo rendition (and possibly a classical chillout album). Love that tune. Anyway, this is me signing out. Stay Safe and God Bless.


25.3.20

Positive Thought #4

I took a pause from my positive thoughts blogging the other day as my anxiety was in extremes. I just wasn't in the right head or heart space. I'm back today and I'm not going to rammble on. Rather here is my thoughts for today:

God seems to be restoring family time a bit. People are having to pause and find child friendly shows, to do crafts of hope and display them in windows, to talk and eat together. Many are using the one exercise a day rule as an opportunity to exercise as a family.

Though this may be a frightening time for many and a time of sadness also, there are lights of hope in the darkness.

Even if we have to stay home to save lives and the NHS we can still share beautiful pictures from before this strange time in history. 

23.3.20

Positive Thought #3

Of late I have found it hard to stay positive. Those on social media (which is both a wonderful and awful place just now) may have picked up on that if they saw the rant about some things. I'm reserving this space on my blog for something positive. So whilst undeniably it is not all sunshine and rainbows all the time we or at least I need to find at least one positive thing each day.

My light in the darkness for today is this -

Whilst washing hands so much drys the skin (especially for health care professionals with soft skin) and the birthday song is now a song constantly stuck in our heads, there is now lots of times a day we can use to not only get physically clean, but also pray. I had an idea to replace the birthday song with The Lord's prayer (as long as you do it enough times to cover the correct amount of time required).

This prayer is my positive thing for for today. When I know not what to pray or how to pray I say:

Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)

9 After this manner therefore pray ye:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

We who are of the faith have a great opportunity to pray and in so doing reaffirm our faith or calling and also see God move even as the world is engulfed by trial.

Philippians 4:5-7 (ESV)

"Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."


22.3.20

Positive Thought #2

As I mentioned in my previous post I intend to share some positive thoughts in this time of need. In no way is this to say negative or reasonable sadness are wrong, but rather to say that some nuggets of positivity are needed now more than ever. These are little lights sent out into the darkness. My thought for today is that the church has an opportunity to shine.

Where ever two or three gather that is church. No one is taking anyone's pulpit, it's just that church is coming home. The temples built with men's hands are becoming less important. Instead a focus is on the people worshipping in spirit and truth.

Even as crowds swell in shops and some pubs the church has an opportunity to live above the world's ways and support "alternative" church. To set an example.

Many will be gathering in new ways today for worship:

Some will perhaps stand the correct distance apart outside in an open space.

Some may sit in their cars in a car park and listen to a sermon at a distance.

Others may separate into small house groups of two or three (most likely housemates or family members).

Some will be online with zoom so everyone can see each other.

Other churches are online by livestream.

There are also lots of sermons to listen to in the form of videos, recordings and on Christian channels.

Some may gather just as family units as the father of each household is already ordained by God to minister in family worship.

This is a great opportunity for church to stop worshipping their worship (buildings, bands, styles etc) and start worshiping God.

My glass half full for today -

It is time for the church to come home and that has perhaps begun. An opportunity is set before us. There is hope for the church and the land:

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)





21.3.20

Anti-War Poster Competition

* The competition is now closed, but you can download all 88 entries here. *

Here is my entry to the Anti-War Poster contest. To join in see this link.


* I didn't win the poster contest, but came 8th with an honourable mention. *




Positive Thought #1

Is the glass half full or half empty?

At this time the media and social media has lots of negative stuff. You can imagine why. Whilst there is actually nothing wrong with negative feelings or well informed sadness, still there needs to be a level of positive thought also. Admittedly I swing from "there is no cup" to "my cup runneth over" at times.

I was trying to think of something positive today and it actually wasn't as hard as I initially thought. I wish to start sharing some positive thoughts. This is not in any way to make light of tragedy, but rather sending a light out into the darkness.

Here is one positive thing, one glass half full-

As some may know I care for the environment. Reducing climate impact is now happening on some level amid the chaos of what's going on in the world. Whilst it may be sad for people who pilot planes or cruises, these vessels are grounded in lots of places. This means they are neither pumping fumes into the air or sea for the time being. In some places the roads are also silent and the birds can be heard singing in the trees again.


8.3.20

The Sunrise of His Grace

Behold the Sunrise of God's infinite Grace.
In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness, a child was born.
In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness a boy stunned the religious elite.
In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness a man preaches love and performs miracles.
In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness he is humiliated, mocked, tortured and killed, his body on display.
In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness he is buried by followers, crushed, forsaken.
In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness HE RISES AND DEFEATS DEATH!
In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness he forgives the followers who abandoned and denied him.
In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness he is still forgiving.
In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness HE IS COMING AGAIN!
Behold the sunrise of God's infinite Grace!

This piece won a prize at All Poetry.


7.3.20

Darkness has not overcome


John 1:5 (ESV)
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Some much needed perspective: Even if there is darkness there is also light. Recently I shared a sense of loss of faith in humanity in light of the Vanier scandal and life in general. Yet at the same time I have also shared thoughts on original goodness, the divine image. Effectively that of God within us and around us. In truth we need only open our eyes.

I recently watched the New Amsterdam season 1 finale (warning: graphic accident and spoiler in video). The monologue actually spoke into some of my downcast feelings of late.


A song from years ago also came to mind, Outrageous Grace by Robin Mark. The words are powerful.


If you feel your faith in humanity fail, put your faith in God. His light never goes out.

5.3.20

Culloden

(A piece of historical fiction from the point of view of a victim of war who finds the whole idea of war abhorrent).

Culloden, Scotland, April 1746

All around was the awful sound of moaning. It was not just mournful, but the sound of immense suffering, the cries of dying men. The battle had waged on, and the day was far spent. In dirt and blood, the soldiers waded on. Horizontal rain, snow, and wind made the normal battle conditions much worse.
Near the edge of the field I stood holding a gun, pointing it at the lad who had once been my best friend. He was dressed in the red coat of a government soldier; I was not.
“You won’t do it!” he yelled.
“What makes you so sure?”
“You don’t believe in violence.”
I felt the anger rising within me. “How could you?”
“It was orders. I had no choice.”
“So that makes it all right? We took you in, and you betrayed us!”
“I didn’t know what the redcoats were planning. I swear I didn’t.”
“They are not liberators as they claim. They attacked our village and killed everyone!”
With a growl my friend retorted, “We need to stop the rebels at any cost!”
“No remorse! You think they can police the world by force, that might is somehow right? You claim God is on your side. Don’t you think he knows what you have done? Did he tell you to help those who killed my family and friends? We aren’t even part of the rebellion!”
The images of my whole family flashed before me as the words burst from my mouth. I recalled Mother helping me up after I had fallen down when I was a little boy, playing in the trees with the other village children; Father showing me how to ride a horse for the first time; the kind pastor who had taught me many Bible stories—and my beloved.
“I didn’t know this would happen . . . I’m sorry. Please . . . put the gun away and we can talk. Please!” he cried as I advanced with the gun still pointed at him.
“I’m through talking!”
“Please . . .”
“Get on your knees!”
Trembling, he dropped to his knees.
“Please . . .” 
“It doesn’t feel, good does it? No power. Helplessness.”
“No!” he began to cry.
“Close your eyes and pray for forgiveness.”
Still shaking all over, he closed his eyes and began to mumble.
“I can’t hear you!”
“Father, forgive . . .”
“Good-bye!”
I paused. Could I do it? This was another child of God, no matter how far he had fallen. Who had made me judge, jury, and executioner? Suddenly, I joined the chorus of crying. I couldn’t do it. He looked so cold and helpless kneeling in the dirt like a sinner such as he was, and such as I was. His hands were clasped tight; his fingers had turned red, and his lips were curved with fear and dread. What good would it do to kill him? Across the fields, the howling continued as the slaughter of the wounded commenced.
“You were right, I can’t do it. I, unlike you, have a conscience!”
I threw the gun away in utter disgust that I had come so close to using it, and then I fell to my knees and embraced my prodigal friend.
“I’m sorry,” he whimpered.
“I know . . . as am I.”

As the severe weather beat against us, we continued to cry, holding each other. The battle had waged on, and the day was far spent.

Free Download! More short stories coming soon!




26.2.20

Ash Wednesday: Original Goodness

Today I started reading Tearfund's lent devotional, Alive. The first message speaks into the heart of a sadness I have over humanity being so broken. The message speaks of original goodness, of being made in divine image and the need to reconnect with the divine vision. Two verses are shared that express much needed hope for humanity.

Genesis 1:27 (ESV)
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

John 1:5 (ESV)
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Amen and Amen.



25.2.20

L'arche and Vanier

L’Arche International inquiry into historic sexual abuse by Jean Vanier

L'arche will always hold a special place in my journey. I am impressed they have responded and had the allegations investigated. It truly grieves my soul that one of the founders may have fallen so far. The summary report states that the findings of the inquiry are “based on a ‘balance of probabilities’, and not ‘beyond any doubt’ standard of proof”. Even the possibility of it being true has compounded my recent general loss of faith in humanity. Can we truly trust anyone in leadership, but the Lord? Putting anyone on a pedistal is grave error, and the caste system of "Saints" and supposed non-saint followers of Jesus is so flawed. The only advice I can give is look to Jesus not to man.


19.2.20

The Fruit of Love

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (New Testament Community Bible Experience (2011) NIV p26)

In Luke it says a teacher asked how to get eternal life. The answer is put forth: Love God and Love others. Jesus says “do this and you will live”. John says elsewhere “whosoever believeth in Him shall have everlasting life.” So it seems trusting in Jesus and loving Him (and others) are joined to each other. You can’t love Him without true faith in Him and you can’t have true faith in Him without loving Him (and inevitably others and even yourself – all made in His image). Without faith you can’t see God and faith (as James says) without works is dead. If one has true faith there must be evidence. There will be fruit and that fruit is primarily love. We are not saved by works (writes Paul). It is all of Grace through faith but we are saved to do good and demonstrate our love for God. 1 John 4 speaks of the importance of love and how without loving others one can’t say they love God.  So not only is faith and love to God connected, but love to God and others is connected also. Love is so important to our faith, indeed  all the fruits of the spirit are important….

(Gal 5:22,23 NIV UK)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

So let us draw nigh to God in faith and live life full of love!



14.2.20

Happy Valentines!

You (a Valentines Day poem for my beautiful wife Sarah)


Nature, gentle wild things and you. The things that I love so true.
Walk with me through the woods of life. Hand in hand we will take the strife.
Across the valley to the babbling brooks. I will admire your kind looks.
Into the wild lands where nature is king. Our love will make us sing.
My angelic beloved, you are beautiful forever. Intertwined I will leave you never.
Nature, gentle wild things and you. The one that I love so true is you!

- DTH

The history of Valentine's Day:

Judas, Peter or Jesus? The Kiss, the Sword or the Cup?



Based on an article I wrote for the LCW in 2010.

13.2.20

Jesus Washes Our Feet


Alone

Though the phrase alone gives images of a lonely saviour on a tree,
being alone can also be good.

Jesus often was alone in prayer:

“At once the Spirit sent [Jesus] out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days,
being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”
(Mark 1:12-13)

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off
to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
(Mark 1:35)

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
(Luke 5:16)

“Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them.”
(Luke 6:12-13)

George Fox the founder of the Society of Friends is an example from history of a man
who spent alone time. “I fasted much,” Fox says, “walked about in solitary places many days,
and often took my Bible, and sat in hollow trees and lonesome places till night came on;
and frequently in the night walked mournfully about by myself; for I was a man of sorrows in
the time of the first workings of the Lord in me…
Though my exercises and troubles were very great… I was sometimes brought into such
a heavenly joy that I thought I had been in Abraham’s bosom…”

For instance, one day when he was walking in solitary prayer he writes,
“I was taken up in the love of God… it was opened to me by the eternal light and power
and I… clearly saw that all was done and to be done in and by Christ, and how He conquers
and destroys this tempter the devil, and all his works…
and that all these troubles were good for me.”

Scripture says “Be still and know that I am God.”
(Psalm 46:10)

Let us withdraw at times to pray alone,
and remember to be still, and know Him as God.

(Also appeared as a guest post on Reflections Online).





12.2.20

The Peace Testimony (Part 4)

- Part 4 - 

Ancient Roots:
The Christian Peace Testimony has its roots in the early church and is therefore the oldest tradition and in my opinion the best. Ringma writes of how there was a dangerous memory among the early church of how the Prince of Peace came proclaiming the kingdom of God and did much good before suffering a cruel death at the hands of the establishment. Also that He never tried to justify Himself or use force to protect Himself in retaliation. Ringma further points out that Christians have found it difficult to follow such an example and not justify, defend or retaliate. The pages of Church history are full of this retaliation. He writes, ‘It is the history of the sword wielded in the name of religion much more than the history of the peaceful dove.’ He goes on to quote the French Sociologist, Political activist and Theologian, Jacques Ellul, who says ‘violence seems to be the great temptation in the Church and among Christians.’ Ringma also reflects that, ‘To be a peacemaker requires more certainty and courage than to be a warmonger.’ Dymond argues that after Jesus’ death His followers did not believe in war, as they believed He had forbidden it. This is why so many of the early Christians chose to die and suffer persecution in the name of non – violence. This was not a minority view among the first followers, but a majority view. Marcellus, a centurion in the Trajana legion, on being converted threw off his belt (that no doubt had his sword on it) and declared himself to be a Christian and no longer able to be involved in war. He was sent to jail for this uncompromising act, at which he stated that it was not lawful for Christians to bear arms. Such a witness is likely to have prompted Cassian from his own legion to also abandon the legion and face the death penalty. Another example of such dedication to Peace Testimony is that Sulpicius Severus spoke of a man called Martin who was taught in the ways of War, but on conversion to Christ gave it all up. He gave it up saying that he was a Christian and therefore could not fight. These are just a few examples of the roots of the Peace Testimony in early Christianity. The question for us today is will we be faithful to the early roots of our faith? Will we follow the Prince of Peace? Will we consider the implications of applying the idea of peace to 21st Century earth? Jesus was betrayed with a kiss and in a way to this day is being betrayed, sometimes with swords too and in a sense he is being crucified afresh. Yet the Prince of Peace takes the cup of suffering, loving even enemies. It is time for us also to choose – The Kiss, The Sword or the Cup!


(This series of posts were originally taken from an article I wrote in my University days and had published in Ploughshares Christian CND Journal)

References used and other useful resources:Acta Martyrum (Ratisborn, 1859)Cadoux, The Early Christian Attitude to War: A Contribution to the History of Christian Ethics (Headley Bros: London 1919)Constitution of the Oberlin Non – Resistance Society (www.nonresitance.org 17/01/09)Dresser The Bible Against War (Oberlin: Ohio, 2006)Dymond ‘The Early Christians on the subject of war’ (1821) An Inquiry into the Accordancy of War with the Principles of ChristianityGillman A Light that is Shining: an introduction to the Quakers (Quaker Books: London, 2003)Kurlansky Nonviolence (Jonathan Cape: London, 2006)Lock ‘Transcribers’ notes’, Pacificus A Solemn Review of the Customs of War (Oberlin: Ohio, 2007)Meyer The Pacifist Conscience (Rupert Hart – Davis Ltd: London, 1966)Molnar A study of Peter Chelcick├Ż’s Life and Translation of from Czech of part one of his Net of Faith (Berkeley: California, 1947)Pacificus A Solemn Review of the Customs of War (Oberlin: Ohio, 2007)Penn Address to the American Indians (1682) cited in Meyer The Pacifist Conscience (Rupert Hart – Davis Ltd: London, 1966)Ringma Resist the Powers (Albatross, 1995)Vanier Finding Peace (Continuum: London, 2003)Water Moral Choices Made Simple (Hunt Ltd, 2002)Whelpley Letters addressed to Caleb Strong ESQ (The Elm Street Printing Company, 1870)

11.2.20

The Peace Testimony (Part 3)

The debate is far more complex than it seems at first glance. There are more than three views and there are differences even within each of these schools. One example of this is that the pacifist school of thought has some who say war is never a resort, whilst people like Martin Luther King and Bonhoffer suggested that in the case of people and situations like Hitler, war was the final inevitable resort. However, these complexities aside, Waters summarizes the beliefs of the Christian Pacifists in this way: “The Christian Pacifist says: To hate those who love us is the devil’s way; To love those who love us and hate those who hate us is the way of the world; To love those who hate us is the way of Jesus.”


10.2.20

The Peace Testimony (Part 2)

- Part 2 - 

The Three Main Views: 

The Peace Testimony is not the only view adopted by Christians. It is useful to know there are three main views that have existed and continue to exist within the Church at large.

1. The Just War Theory: This theory predates Christianity and was adapted by Augustine in the 4th Century. Later Thomas Aquinas developed it as a systematic theology in the 13th Century. He suggested that in order for a war to be just three things were needful: The authority of the sovereign, a just cause and a rightful intention. This idea was then developed further by Francisco Vitoria in the 16th Century and then accepted by many (though not all) of the Reformers. It continues to be a popular idea among both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches (though again not all). The criteria given for a just war are: a) it starts with an official declaration of war b) is a last resort c) is just and with good intentions d) is defensive, its aim is justice e) must be free of revenge or hate f) targets should only be military g) it should when all is done have saved more lives than it killed h) only be fought if a clear victory and product of a just outcome can be met. Therefore, most wars have not even lived up to this standard, let alone to the standard of any Peace Testimony.

2. Relative Pacifism: This theory suggests that in some cases governments may choose war. However, Christians of such a state would not take up arms. They can work in weapons factories, but never use weapons. Those who hold to this theory also tend to believe that the use of Atomic or Biological weapons is sinful, but possessing them is needful in order to make nation states feel unthreatened by other nations.

3. Absolute Pacifism: The term pacifist is misleading in a way, as it seems to indicate not taking action. However, many who hold to this Peace Testimony are active in politics and religion. This absolutist view teaches that all war is evil even ones said to be defensive. Verses where Jesus tells His followers to ‘Turn the other cheek’ or ‘Love your enemy’ are often taken to be applied not just to the individual, but also to nation states. Jesus is viewed as the perfect example of Peace in that He was led like a lamb to the slaughter without violent protest (Isa 53:7). The path of non – violence and non – resistance are seen in the life of Christ and sought to be imitated in the life of followers.


9.2.20

The Peace Testimony (Part 1)

- Part 1 - 

On the 12th of March 295 in Thevesta, North Africa a man called Maximilainus stood before a Roman proconsul for refusing to be a conscript in the army. He was ordered to be put under the foot rule as he was in fact fit for service in the army. However, he boldly proclaimed that because of his faith in Christ he could not be a soldier. After continued efforts by the proconsul to make him reconsider he was warned that the punishment for not joining up was death. His response to this displeased the proconsul as he proclaimed that they could behead him if they liked, but he would never choose to be a soldier of this world for he was a soldier of the Christ. The proconsul even attempted to get the young man’s father to convince him of his duty to take up arms, but his father pointed out that he was old enough to make his own decisions. Even after the proconsul pointed out that others who claimed to follow Jesus had joined the army, the young man stood firm on his convictions. After threats of a cruel death he pointed out that as a follower of Christ he would not truly die but go to be with Christ the Lord. Finally he was ordered to be led away to die by the sword at which he said ‘God be praised!’

The above story is one of the first ever recorded accounts of a conscientious objector being martyred from the Christian tradition. Throughout the long history of Christianity there has always been a Peace Testimony, the testimony of those who have denounced war and embraced non – violence.


4.2.20

The Challenging Subject of Suffering in Our World


Free Will and The Light:

It seems to me in our attempt to worship God, we sometimes think of Him as Sovereign in a twisted way, almost like a dictator with absolute power, micro managing everything and every detail of the world. But that would be a world without free will, a world we humans didn't choose (humans, angels, demons, creatures have varied degrees of free will). This means troubles will come for not all use free will for good or in a way that doesn't have lasting negative consequences. There is a world of variables. There are good things and bad things. There is a war between light and darkness.


In a general sense the troubles of the world can be traced directly to our fallen nature. Freely and willfully humans have time and again chosen the darkness over the light plunging the world deeper and deeper into dispair, driving us further and further east of Eden. However, this does not mean every single suffering is somehow an act of divine judgment. In the gospel of John Jesus's disciples ask Him why a man was blind: 


"And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3 ESV)


Rather than the suffering being a symbol of judgement it was to be a symbol of redemption. Jesus goes on in that passage to speak of how He was the light of the world. He also miraculously heals the man. It reminds me of that line in the hymn Amazing Grace that says "I was blind, but now I see." Perhaps it wasn't just the blind man he was healing that day because that whole passage itself is an eye opener.


Paul's Lot in Life:


No one gets away with having no suffering at all. Even the Apostle Paul had his thorn in the flesh among his many other sufferings (2 Cor 12:7-10). He was a man of great revelations who was kept humble by this trial in his life. This experience, specific to Paul, was what he called a "messenger of Satan to harass" him. That is all we actually know about it. No one knows for sure what this thorn was.


Those who suggest that lack of faith in prayer is the reason some are not healed seem unaware of God's amazing grace within the darkness. Three times Paul prayed the thorn would be removed from him. This was a faithful Apostle and the answer seems to have effectively been "no." It is then that Paul begins to see that His grace is sufficient even in our weakness. The dynamics of Grace and God can often be found in the place of trial and weakness.


Weakness forces us to rely more on God. It pushes us to come to the end of our self and the start of Him. It is unlikely that we will ever put our weight on Him as our sufficiency without some measure of hardship in life.


Amazingly Paul starts to boast in his sufferings and even become content in trials. In that place of suffering God gives great strength rather than direct healing.


"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."


Incarnational Love:


We often forget the child in a stable and poor man on a cross bit. The suffering saviour suffers with our world.


There are no easy answers to suffering, and pat answers won’t do. But, what if God was suffering with us incarnationally in a crucified world.


"Where is God now?"


And I heard a voice within me answer him:


"Where is He? He is--He is hanging here on this


gallows..."


Wiesel wrote that about a boy with an angelic face hung by the Nazis. Wiesel's story is a reminder of the cross.


"God lets himself be pushed out of the world onto the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is

precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matt. 8:17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue
of his weakness and suffering." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Matt 8:17)


Listening to Him:


Voices in the world may be like Jobs "
friends". They may be entirely unhelpful in our times of need. Some may say, "You just haven't got enough faith!" Others may say, "You need to suffer, you need to learn by it." Still others may say, "Where is your God now?" Rest assured there is nothing new under the sun. Sometimes even well meaning people can be entirely unhelpful about our troubles in life. People want a quick fix. A blanket answer to deal with or answer the problem of suffering in the world. Something they can apply to all situations without regard. Such a blanket doesn't exist.


Like Paul in his suffering and Jesus in His one thing that shines through is listening to God. It was no doubt in conversation with God that Paul discovered the reason and meaning behind his sufferings. In Christ's suffering He said "nevertheless thy will be done." Before listening to the world's voices listen to God's.


Oppression and The Big Picture:


Often people suffer at the hands of others. This is a sad reality in this fallen world. One story that speaks volumes is the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. In the end it gave him strength and he became what was effectively the Pime Minister of Egypt. He told his brothers "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." God was with him during the proverbial floods and fires of a hard life and turned the evil actions against him for good.


Hebrews 11 verse 35 onwards talks of terrible persecution against God's people during the Old Testament age, but indicates a bigger picture. This suffering and faithfulness was the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things yet unseen. Things fulfilled in Christ. Jesus suffered and indicated that if they persecuted the master then surely they will persecute the disciples. Sometimes we struggle to see the entire narrative that God surely can see. It can fill us with dread at times, and trusting in His mysterious purposes can be hard for such as we are, but fear not he has overcome the world. 


"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Ro 8:28)


Creation itself is Suffering:


It can be so hard watching the news or even just hearing about awful things happening around the world. As us who are environmentally conscious will tell you things on earth are not OK. This does not mean we should give up hope, nor does it mean we should just not bother. We must accept "...that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now"(Ro 8:22). A birthing is underway. "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5b).


Our Part:


So what can we do, what is our role in a suffering and broken world? It is to be His hands and feet in this world.


To be His and His agents of love.


Here are 17 injunctions for embodied faith:



“True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love;


it dies to flesh and blood (1);


it destroys all lusts and forbidden desires (2);


it seeks, serves and fears God in its inmost soul (3);


it clothes the naked (4);


it feeds the hungry (5);


it comforts the sorrowful (6);


it shelters the destitute (7);


it aids and consoles the sad (8);


it does good to those who do it harm (9);


it serves those that harm it (10);


it prays for those who persecute it (11);


it teaches, admonishes and judges us with the Word of the Lord (12);


it seeks those who are lost (13);


it binds up what is wounded (14);


it heals the sick (15);


it saves what is strong (sound) (16);


it becomes all things to all people (17).


The persecution, suffering and anguish that come to it for the sake of the Lord’s truth have become a glorious joy and comfort to it.” (Menno Simons) 


If we can even help a suffering world a little then we should, in whatever way we can, even if only by helping one person at a time and little by little.


On that note this song I rediscovered recently is so relevant:







This article has been a work in progress over a number of years. A shorter version of the article was kindly published a number of years ago in The Scottish Baptist Lay Preachers Association Digest. I'm also grateful to Pastor Gordon Wright of Centrepoint Church who recently preached on 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. This sermon had an influence on a number of changes I have made to the article. Listen or download here
Soli Deo Gloria. 

31.1.20

Allotment 5B: We live and learn.

Today I got some supplies for the allotment. I decided to drop them off. Unfortunately I arrived to find the garden house Ezra and I had put up had blown over. Not only over, but in fact bits of metal had some how snapped. I had not expected the thing to be so flimsy. We live and learn. I presume it was the wind that decimated it and spread everything across the entire allotment. A bird table at work had similarly smashed as a result of the winds of late. It has been one of those days.


20.1.20

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction....
The chain reaction of evil --
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars --
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength To Love, 1963



Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.
Longevity has its place.
But I'm not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God's will.
And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.
And I've looked over.
And I've seen the promised land.
I may not get there with you.
But I want you to know tonight,
that we, as a people will get to the promised land.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
I've Been To The Mountaintop, April 3, 1968

(Image Source: mlkonline.net) 

18.1.20

The 2020 Writers Happiness Challenge Day 13: Three Little Birds

My three little good things of the day were:


  1. A drive to our favourite wee town, North Berwick, with the kids.
  2. Lunch in our favourite quirky coffee shop by the fire. 
  3. A copy of the complete Winnie the Pooh collection out of a charity shop. 
 

17.1.20

Allotment 5B: The Fun Begins

Still no idea what I'm doing, but today I took my wee boy to the allotment and put up the garden house.




15.1.20

The 2020 Writers Happiness Challenge Day 10: As If!

The hero I am thinking about in this exercise is Martin Luther King. The feeling it creates is the Prophetic or Righteous. I'm not sure if that is a feeling as such, but it is the only way I can describe it.

Here is the link for today's Happiness Challenge.


14.1.20

The 2020 Writers Happiness Challenge Day 9: Count Your Kindness

Day 9 already!

Another challenge has arrived that initially made me think, "I can't boast though." Which is correct.

However, someone recently wrote a message on the board at work:
"Know your worth and know you're valued in all you do."

I'm beginning to see the difference between acknowledgement and boasting. Also sometimes people are quick to consider effectively counting their sins, but neglect to count their kindnesses (which are a gift from God).

So here is a list of 7 opportunities God has given me to express kindness recently (I chose 7 as it is my favourite number and said to be the perfect number):


  1. The opportunity to be a listening ear for someone struggling with mixed emotions. 
  2. The opportunity to be a word of comfort and listening ear to someone in bereavement. 
  3. The opportunity to try and help someone with spiritual matters and signpost other help available. 
  4. The opportunity to have a job in the care sector that is all about kindness.
  5. Kisses and cuddles with my babies. 
  6. Being hospitable to visitors. 
  7. Acknowledging others with my wee phrase "You are appreciated."

Soli Deo Gloria. 



11.1.20

The 2020 Writers Happiness Challenge Day 6: Do a Happiness Replay

I love today's challenge. My positive moment in time was an autumn day when I was sweeping leaves on Kilravock Castle grounds.

These are some feelings in that moment:

Contentment. The gentle breeze touched my cold red cheeks. The leaves rustled as I walked and swept the drive way up to the Scottish Castle, my home and job of those years. A crisp beautiful sound comes from the leaves. It reminds of childhood and a simpler time. I could do this job forever. Not only because I suspected a gust of wind would mess up what I started (and frankly didn't mind), but also I found something I enjoyed. Hard work outside. It was a job of solitude suited to a contemplative introvert such as I. One of many tasks. But, a special one that made me feel useful and one with the wild wooded Highlands of autumn around me. I felt at home, though I always knew the Castle was not my home, but the home of an ancient clan. Though I simply worked there I found home, not in Castle walls, but in the beauty of nature. I found a moment of contentment.

What is your happiness replay?


10.1.20

The 2020 Writers Happiness Challenge Day 5: Amplify Your Strengths

As a Highlander I am often inclined less to talk about or even admit to having any strengths. This makes today's happiness exercise a bit of a challenge.

As a follower of Jesus I am also, like St Paul, not interested in boasting in anything, but the love Christ has for us. However, on balance I reflect on Jesus' own golden rule, "Love thy neighbour as thy self." The implication is not only that we love neighbours, but love ourselves. If we love ourselves we will acknowledge His blessings on our lives. After all are we not created in His image?

So I'm approaching this not to boast in anything, but the blessing God has given. His love, his divine spark, that of Him. I am acknowledging the gifts he has given. These strengths for me include:

  1. Smiling (a person who works for the same company as me always comments on this). 
  2. Laughter
  3. Compassion 
  4. Empathy
  5. Being an introvert (yes it is also a strength).
  6. Singing 
  7. Pursuit of peace 
  8. An unusual sense of humour 
  9. Love for nature 
  10. Family oriented 




9.1.20

Still Waters

One of my favourite verses of recent years has been "Be Still and Know that I Am God." Although it doesn't specifically mention silence I sense that it is implied. How can we hear from God if we never shut up, if we never close out the noise of life, if we never even Sabbath for a few minutes. Home life is not very silent with one baby and one toddler and the blessing of demands for attention. I would not change that for the world. I love my wee family and they deserve a Father or Husband who gives them good attention. There is also now a demand for TV from our toddler (which as Wilkerson put it can seem like a sewer running through your living room, I wonder what that makes smart phones for us adults). Then my job as a Support Worker is hardly silent and certainly not that of calm solitude. Again I am greatful to God that I have the provision of a job. The church I go to is fairly upbeat. I love lively Christianity, so again I am greatful for the style of church I'm in. However, I also deeply love the still, the calm, the silence, the place where I find God best as both a contemplative and introvert sort. In a fast paced loud world finding time for silence is a worthwhile challenge. I pray God guides me and all who thirst for it to his still waters.


The 2020 Writers Happiness Challenge Day 4: Remember Your Enchantments


  1. Gentle streams. 
  2. Mountains of wonder. 
  3. Trees. 
  4. Wild flowers. 
  5. Butterflies. 
  6. Otters. 
  7. Birds of prey. 
  8. Coral beaches. 
  9. Shells. 
  10. Sunsets and sunrises.


7.1.20

God of Wonders

What is in a name? - God of Wonders

Names in the bible are significant. e.g. David mears, beloved by God and man. And so king David was.
Jesus asks who do you say I am? A question to his disciples, but also all of us? He says the father's name ist o be hallowed (see the Lord's prayer) and that he and
the Father are one. So we should meditate on the holiness of his names. There are hundreds of names for God. They each provide a rich blessing of description.
One such name is: God of Wonders

The hymn says "God of wonders, beyond our galaxy, You are holy."

It is worth thinking on any wonder, no
matter how seemingly small, that we are blessed with in life.

God operates in both the magnificent out of the ordinary (e.g. Acts 2:19) and in the everyday. This God of resurrection wonder (Eph l:20) not only raised Christ, but daily raises up those in need. His blessings
are new every morning. He not only is a creative life giver at the beginning (ls 44:24), but continues to be
now. He promises that all things can be made new (Is42:9) and all creation is groaning like a woman in birth
pains for it. He and His kingdom are coming little by little, wonder, by wonder for he is the God of Wonders and is truly wonderful.


(Also appeared in the Primitive Quaker Journal, The Call).


The 2020 Writers Happiness Challenge Day 2: See Beauty

As I look out the window...

At a glance the phrase "What a miserable day" would be normality. Grey sky, grey buildings, dirty old cars. But, then if one looks closer it is so different. 

In the midst of grey and dirt is beauty. In the distance trees that have lost leaves blow gently in the wind. Then there are pine trees and bushes full of a huge variety of different greens, all thriving on the rainy weather. As they find nourishment so does my pen. 

Closer I see someone has hung purple and pink flowers by their front door. How do they thrive at this time of year? Are they real? I question myself. 

Standing close by a weather beaten shed is consumed by vines and greenery. Nature sometimes takes over where man has been. 

Much closer to the window is a hedge and then a ramp. The fence on the ramp is covered in yellow flowers. Yellow is my favourite colour. So bright, so vibrant. 

If we look hard enough we can see beauty, if we just allow ourselves. 

As I look out the window.

Where do you see beauty? Join the writers happiness challenge.


6.1.20

Allotment 5B: Do I know what I'm doing? Any advice?

Recently we acquired a garden allotment primarily for the growing of food.


It is a fair bit from where we live in Edinburgh. It's in Penicuik, Midlothian to be exact. However, we love Peebles in the Scottish Borders and it is a pit stop on the way. So really it is ideal for us. To be honest I am a complete newbie and have no idea how to go about this. I'm just trying to be optimistic and at least give it a go for the year. It is amazingly cheap as rent goes. Not sure about the rest of things. But, we shall see. It's almost like social media knew because I kept getting adverts for gardening courses. I'm going to try running an allotment as a hobby to start with anyway.

I saw a thing online about collecting seeds for the seasons and filling a tin. As it happens I collect tins. So I got some gardening magazines. All ones giving away a good amount of seeds. One also came with a wall chart.



The adventure begins. Any advice from people is warmly welcome.