Friday, 11 May 2018

SEND THE RAIN


I wrote in my last blog about the terrible drought in South Africa. Would God hear and answer the cries of his people? And what were the chances of me even hearing about it?
The God who had wakened me in the small hours to turn on my radio to hear of the drought, now made sure that I was tuned into The Bible Network (Freeview 65) when Angus Buchan was giving his report of God’s wonderful answer to prayer.
Yes, the people had gathered in their thousands to pray, and yes, they had responded to God’s call to repentance. He had challenged the gang leaders to surrender and they came and laid down their weapons as they turned to Christ.
Then we saw pictures of the deluge that fell as the drought was at last broken. Halelujah!
Maybe you have seen the film, ‘Faith like Potatoes’? It is the story of the conversion of Angus Buchan, as a young SA farmer, and how he dared to believe God and answer his call. It is well worth seeing.
But what of us? We may have water in our pipes, but surely we have a terrible spiritual drought in our nation. Where is a man whose faith is great enough to dare to call us back to God?
God had his Peter, and Paul in the early days of the church, but he had many other faithful men and women who were fellow labourers. Elijah had thought he was the only one, but God assured him  that he yet had 7,000 who were true to him. God does raise up great leaders, but they would not be great if there were no faithful followers.
I have never been a good runner. My one aim in a race was not to be last. It was so humiliating, when leaders were choosing people to be in their team, to be either left out or taken unwillingly as a last resource. But there is no such humiliation in Christ. He said, ‘you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.’ He delights in each one of us.
Yes, there was a day when I made a decision, as I thought, to follow Jesus, but it was he who had first called and drew me. Now he is assuring me, and wants to assure you too, that we are called and chosen, specially selected to be in his team and so happy to have  us. And now, together with him, nothing is impossible.
So let us pray for God to call us as a nation back to him, and believe that he will pour out water on our thirsty land. We don’t have to worry any more about being first, or not being last. It is enough to know that we are on God’s side and he has chosen us.


Monday, 16 April 2018

THIRST


The tiger was thirsty. There was no doubt of that. Bas, our wildlife artist, had captured this magnificent creature, his tongue stretched out, about to slake his thirst.
As I was looking for a suitable card to send to friends, dealing with a long spell of ill health, where it seems the doctors can find no solution, I felt maybe this copy of a wonderful painting, might meet a need.
The Apostle John prayed for his friends, that they might ‘prosper and be in health,’ as their souls prospered.
Somehow thirst and health go together. While my husband and I waited expectantly for him to recover from the viral infection that had laid us both low, I could not get him to drink. Looking back, it seems as if his body knew that his time here on earth was drawing to a close, so it refused the life giving sustenance.
I had to go to Africa to learn to enjoy water; yes, life giving, unadulterated water. I was not interested in tea, iced or not, or pop. If I was thirsty, I wanted water, and I still prefer cold water to drink.
While climbing a mountain in Papua New Guinea, my guide pointed out some green leaves that indicated a source of good drinking water pouring into the river. And sometimes, spiritually, we need to be directed to where we will find water. We also need to be planted beside God’s rivers so that our roots are actually in the river. Then we will never be affected by times of drought. Best of all, we can drink of that living water that springs up in the inner beings of those who believe in Jesus, so that we will never, ever thirst again.
Was it a sleepless night, or was it the Holy Spirit who prompted me to switch on the radio in the small hours of the morning? I was horrified to hear of the drought in Cape Town; of how, after five years without rain, and many warnings and pleas for economy, the water supply has had to be switched off and the residents are having to queue at the stand pipes with their buckets and bottles.
I recalled the misery of having our supply cut off, though I don’t think it was caused by drought but because they had run out of chemicals to ensure the safety of the town supply. On rare occasions of need in New Guinea we could resort to the river, but here in Ghana I was warned I must on no account use river water, even for washing clothes, as it might cause river blindness.
My heart goes out to the people of South Africa, but recently I heard Angus Buchan, the South African farmer, but also Evangelist. He believes this is all in the purposes of God, for he had already booked an area, the size of several football fields, to hold a rally calling the people back to God.
When he heard the supplies had been switched off, he said something to the effect that when they   want the cattle to gather together, they cut off their water supplies. Surely God is now calling his people to turn to him in repentance.
Yes, we need to pray for the suffering people on the African continent.
And what is it going to take to turn us as a nation back to God? But meanwhile, may we learn to drink deeply of the water that Jesus came to bring us, to make sure that we are planted by the river of God; and that there is no hindrance in our own lives but that always that well of living water will be springing up in us.
‘Drink deeply of the fountain of salvation.’

Friday, 16 March 2018

Mothering Sunday > Mothers’ Day > Ladies Day



Never having given birth, I had thought that Mother’s Day had nothing to do with me. But then I became part of a church plant in Porthcawl, ‘Grace Community Church,’ and here we have a Ladies Day, where all of us ‘Ladies’ are loved and honoured. Having said that, am I sure that I am a lady?
Asked to represent the older generation of ladies, I recalled a story which continues to amuse me.
Still a very young teacher, I had kept a child behind to make sure he was buttoned up. His little cousin, come to meet him, was calling to me from the door, in broad cockney accent, ‘Lady! Lady!’ ‘Be quiet!’ my pupil rebuked him. ‘She aint a lady, she’s a teacher.’ Then apologetically to me, ‘Calling you a lady.’
Well, I may or may not qualify as a lady, or even a mother, but I am confident in telling people that in ‘Grace’ I am ‘Everybody’s grandmother.’ And I recall this story because it is from the time that I first remember hearing God speak to me. Trying to cope with a class of 45 under fives, I told God, ‘Lord, I cannot teach these children.’ God said, ‘Can you love them for me?’  He still fills me with his love for the children.
As a young woman I longed to be married and to have six children, yet here I am, well on in my eighties, never having given birth yet deeply satisfied with God’s goodness. The Bible says, ‘Godliness  with contentment is great gain.’
And there is another verse that says, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ I often speak that out to the Lord when perhaps I am finding life as a rather ancient widow a bit hard, and then I realise that God  is giving me his very best.
I loved teaching my little East-End kids, and when God asked me to be willing to go anywhere for him, I ended up in the highlands of New Guinea. At first the local women would threaten their little ones that the White woman would eat them if they weren’t good, but when I heard them referring to me as ‘the Little Children’s Mother’ I had a deep contentment.
I had wanted to live and die in New Guinea, but God had asked me to be willing to go anywhere for him, and later I had a few fruitful years in Ghana too, where again I was the Sunday School  mother. I was fifty when I returned to  UK, where I became Welsh by marriage, -  too old now to start a family,  and Joel and his first wife had had no children.
But Joel was already a writer and it was then God called me too to write. Having friends who were busy grandparents, I  used to tell Joel, ‘If we were grandparents, we would not be able to do our writing.’ God was giving us the desires of our heart.’
Once we retired from the ministry, the children’s books I was writing became a key for me to visit the local Primary schools, where I continue to teach ‘Bible’ to this day.
  So here I am, representing the Older Ladies in Grace. I am blessed that God taught me, as a young woman, to ask him into my heart, to walk with him and to listen to his voice, but we are never too young, or too old to come to Jesus, and whatever our disappointments or losses in life, he wants to satisfy us all deeply with his goodness.
As I have inscribed on my husband’s tombstone, ‘In the presence of Jesus is fullness of joy.’ And if you haven’t yet proved this to be true, may I add, ‘Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your heart.’


Friday, 16 February 2018

HOW LONG IS AN HOUR?

An hour can pass in a flash if am watching an interesting programme; reading, doing a jigsaw maybe, or even chatting on the phone, but ask me to pray for an hour? That is a different story.
In our fellowship we begin the year with a special week of prayer. Monday we met as ladies, Tuesday was our usual church prayer meeting. Wednesday we were asked to meet up with a friend. Thursday was a special service of prayer and praise, but  Friday over Saturday was supposed to be a very special 24 hours of continuous prayer, when we individually signed up to pray for a specific hour.
Some wonderful people signed up for an hour in the small hours of the morning, but I thought I was choosing an easy option. 6 o’clock in the morning. I am usually awake before then.
Then of course, my habits changed. Now I was afraid of over sleeping, and also daunted by the prospect of a lonely hour just praying.
It is many years ago that we were challenged to commit to an hour of prayer each day. I felt as if I was the only one among the thousand or so present, who did not stand; but I was not prepared to put myself under condemnation if I failed, even one day. I knew that this is no easy commitment.
I explained to my heavenly Father that I really wanted to spend an hour with him, but I could only do it if he helped me. 
After that I found a quiet hour passed easily, filled with my daily Bible Study and my ‘wave offerings’ as I call  the various prayer letters and photos which remind me of special needs. Sometimes I felt the Holy Spirit coming on me in special times of intercession, but I never had that experience when I found that I had forgotten time. I had a friend who would sit all morning in the presence of the Lord until a neighbour might come to remind her it was time to fetch her son from school. Somehow I was always conscious of the clock.
I asked the Lord, ‘How is it I never get lost in prayer in this way?’ As my heavenly Father, he answered me – ‘Because I have called you to write.’ His answer was such a comfort to me. I have joy in my writing, even as I do in prayer.
But still I was anxious about this special hour, for it was not for Bible Study, or even my ‘Wave Offerings’ but for special intercession for our local church, community and reaching out to our nation.
Five am came and I seemed to have already been awake for ages. I might as well get up. Showered and dressed I staggered about, in no way feeling fit for this special hour.
‘I’ll have to tell our pastor that this is too much for me.’ I grumbled.
Of course it was too much for me. Prayer is a battle field. I remember C.S. Lewis wrote in his book on prayer, ‘Letters to Malcolm,’ something to the effect that however much blessing we have had the last time, that there is always a battle to come to God because we are engaging in spiritual warfare.
Yes! I think we all had a special blessing as we filled our own hour. The Holy Spirit was there. The person filling the previous hour had prayed for me and I was  blessed and amazed at how swiftly the hour passed. Yes, sweet hour of prayer indeed, but not because we are good pray-ers, but because the Comforter had come to enable and pray through us.     


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

A NEW YEAR

‘Cast off everything that hinders,’ says the writer to the Hebrews, talking about running the race of life.
I think most of us have given up making those big bold resolutions that we fail to keep, but maybe there are some little things we need to deal with if this is going to be a prosperous New Year.
Having enjoyed our trip, cream tea included, on the Gwili railway, we were looking across to the car park. The morning of real Welsh rain had at last given way to the sunshine, and we noticed a woman struggling out of her sensible waterproof over- trousers which had protected her from the deluge which had lasted most of that morning.
A few minutes later we saw she was still struggling. Evidently some friends, recognising them, had gathered round to chat. No problem with the trousers, - she had wriggled them as far down as her ankles, even as she was chatting. She would soon be out of them. Oh no, not without one moment, or maybe two, of concentration.
But we had to concentrate on finding our own bus for the journey home. I was left with this picture of this resourceful young woman, still struggling, and of course, still impeded, entangled with her waterproofs even though the sun was shining.
 If only! If only what? Had an emergency arisen she might have fallen on her nose. She had needed to change her point of concentration for a brief  minute to reach down her hand to pull off her unwanted garment, which was no longer of any use to keep her dry but now definitely a hindrance to future progress.
Is there anything which I need to shake off before stepping into this New Year? – something perhaps which at one time was necessary for my journey, but now is an encumbrance?  I think the picture of that young woman at Gwili station is a warning to me that it isn’t so easy to cast off those unwanted entanglements without some help. And help is at hand, but we do have to ask for it.
Any of her friends would have momentarily taken her hand while she stood on one leg to shake off the garment. Or if only she could have stopped chatting,- again, only for a moment, she could have   bent down to free herself.
Do you know how the verse goes on?

‘Cast off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles …….(and) fix your eyes on Jesus.’
He is holding out his hand to help us. We only have to ask – but we do have to ask. 
A prosperous New Year to us all.


Monday, 18 December 2017

IT’S PARTY TIME

It may be December, but it is not Christmas parties that I am writing about. Instead I want to tell you about a very special party that we had this October. We called it a Reformation Party.
Reformation. That sounds rather a dusty cause for a party – surely it is to do with history and theology. True, but it has very much to do with our present experience, and though it began 500 years ago, (hence the celebration) it concerns a reformation that needs to be ongoing.
I remember reading a historical novel about an everyday family who lived in Germany in the times of Martin Luther and how their religious experience changed from one of fear and repression to a joyful relationship with Jesus Christ, even though it cost some their lives.
For a party we need guests, and apart from the ever present workers who gave us our invitations, we all were invited. But guess who else arrived? Yes, Martin Luther himself, still bare foot and tonsured. No sign of his wife, Katherine, so obviously not liberated yet. (It was our Richard in disguise.)
But then we had an interview, and there was Martin again, this time with hammer in hand, from where he had nailed his 95 theses to the door of the great church at Wittenburg, to show where the church had wandered from simple faith in the word and gospel of Jesus Christ. (It might have been our pastor, Tom.)  
It was a party, so we had to have some games. I know we had some coffers so that we could throw in our money in order to purchase indulgences which might buy time off our condemnation to purgatory.
There were other games too but sadly I, who used always to be so competitive, felt I was in the way and maybe I should not have come. (Yes, there is an enemy always ready to whisper in our ears.)
But now it was time for food, - German food of course for this special occasion. I found I was given a seat of honour at a table of young people, for there was to be a quiz for each table, and though my legs may not be much good, they hoped my brain, and memory was in good working order. They did not expect me to queue up for my food and, as always in the family of Grace, I was reminded that I am well loved.
And how well loved we all are by God. In the weeks previous to this special party, while we had been reminded of the story of the Reformation, we have been taught of the wonderful truths which Martin Luther had so wonderfully rediscovered through his study of the bible; that we are not working for our salvation, but that we are saved by Christ alone, that truth comes to us through Scripture alone, and that it is by grace alone and through faith alone. And, of course, it must all be for God’s glory alone.
Another fundamental truth of which we have been reminded is that we are not only looking back to the beginning of reformation, but that we are part of this movement. Martin Luther stepped into the glorious liberty of the children of God, but though so greatly used by translating the Bible for the common man, we know even he was far from perfect.
Maybe we are looking back to our special Reformation Party, but we too must live in the spirit of reformation and go on being reformed.


REFORMATION
It’s Christ alone! To him be all the glory,
who paid the price that sinners might go free.
Forgiveness, joy and peace! Redemption’s story!
Through Christ alone God’s love now reaches me.

By faith alone I dare approach the Father.
No works of mine can buy for me his love.
He sent his Son, to die for my salvation.
This price alone secures my place above.

God’s word alone; that speaks of true salvation;
Saints gave their lives to bring to us this word.
Then let us eat and live and share with others,
that they may know that Christ alone is Lord

By grace alone! No works can buy my ransom.
No deed of man can bring me near to God.
God’s gift alone has purchased my forgiveness.
My sins forgiven, I’m saved through Jesus’ blood

To God alone be worship joy and glory.
It is to him we raise our songs of praise.
While angels bow in wonder at the story
we’ll join heaven’s anthem through eternal days 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

NO CONDEMNATION

‘Poor Pauline,’ my sister sympathised, ‘you always have something to worry about.’
That was many years ago, when I was struggling through those awful teen age years, but I am  so very  thankful that I have been able to shake off those chains of self-condemnation, though yet able to feel  deep sympathy for those who still carry the weight of such fetters.
You see, I suffered from depression, and whenever I felt this smothering blanket I would search my heart to try to find out what I had done to cause me to feel condemned, or what I was supposed to be worrying about. And being a teenager it wasn’t long before I thought of something I had or hadn’t done.
Well, today I still am afflicted with physical depression, though infrequently I am thankful to say. I have just returned from a Bible Explorer lesson in the school. I was so conscious of God’s help, and have returned home feeling how privileged I am to be able to do something so enjoyable; but of course, exhausted now, the headache and depression has returned. Oh, how thankful I am that I do not have to search my heart to see how I have sinned.
Yes, of course I have sinned. We have all committed sins of omission as well as commission, but thank God I now know that he sent his Son, Jesus, to carry all my sins to the cross and they are now buried in the depth of the sea. As King David wrote in the psalms, ‘There is forgiveness with you that you might be feared.’ And that is how it is that God can use such as I am to take God’s love into the schools and among my neighbours.
‘Jesus the name to sinners dear, the name to sinners given, It scatters all our guilty fear, it turns our hell to heaven.’
It is our very feelings of condemnation that give us the biggest claim on God, and must never ever be allowed to keep us away from him. But I guess we all need a little revision over this matter of forgiveness.
There was an occasion when, far from home, I had a problem of relationship. I was sure I was the one to blame, but a friend replied, ‘When I have a problem I am always convinced it is the other person who is to blame.’
Of course, the blame is never all on one side. We are all sinners, so no one is ever wholly in the right.
I was deeply comforted when I received a letter in which a friend who, realising the problem, gently implied that he understood and did not blame me. Through his words God gave me the assurance that I was not condemned. He spoke to me through Paul’s words in Romans 8:

‘There is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus …… 
It was not long after that I was dancing around my house, singing out these life affirming words.
It goes on, 'for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.'