Wednesday, 16 December 2015

It Came upon a midnight clear


It came upon a midnight clear. This is a fascinating carol. The first verse reads:

“It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of Gold;
‘Peace on the Earth, Goodwill to men,
From Heaven’s all-gracious king.’
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angel’s sing.”

Sometimes I wonder what it must have been like when the angels sang. Last week I went to see ‘Messiah’ sung by the local choral society, and I think it have me a glimpse, especially in the Hallelujah Chorus!

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if the angels came today, to our society. Now I know it would probably look nothing like this…but just imagine


  
The second and third verses of this Carol give a great truth. The second verse reads:

“But with the woes of sin and strife,
The world has suffered long,
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong,
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring,
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.”

This is a powerful verse. When we look at the news we see stories of countries at war with each other, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Everywhere we look we see homelessness, murder, grief and violence and we can ask,

WHERE IS  THE LOVE OF GOD?

Many people may say that this God caused many of the problems. But in reality it is man’s sin. Today I would say, Religion causes wars, God Does not. Man causes war, God does not!

Today and every day God’s message is ‘Peace on Earth, goodwill to men’ When God looked down 2000 years ago and saw the mess we had of the world he didn’t give us material things – He gave us HIMSELF so that through his death and resurrection we can be free from sin.

Today, as Christians, we are called to be light in the darkness and sing the song of peace and goodwill. That is why at the Salvation Army we work tirelessly, especially in this season, to spread the message of hope.
The third verse speaks about a great hope for the future it states:

“For lo! The days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years,
Comes round the age of gold,
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendour fling,
And the whole world give back the song,
Which now the angels sing”


I have included on this post a piano version of this carol. Maybe today you would like to take some time to pray. Pray for a situation of strife, maybe in your family, o in our world. Pray for peace, Pray for that day when we will all sing the son the angels sang. 


Friday, 4 December 2015

Gabriels Message - God is bigger than your problems

In my consideration of Advent and with Christmas approaching I have been thinking a lot about Mary and the part she played in the Christmas Story. The beautiful hymn 'Gabriel's message' kept running through my mind. Why not take a moment and listen to the song


The words to this song are beautiful. They say:

The angel Gabriel from heaven came, 
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame,
'All hail' said he  'Thous lowly maiden Mary'
Most highly favoured Lady, Gloria!

'For known a blessed mother thou shalt be;
All generations laud and honour thee,
Thy son shall be emmanuel, by seers foretold'
Most highly favoured Lady. Gloria!

The gentle Mary meekly bowed her head;
'To me be as it pleases God,' She said
'My soul shall laud and magnify his Holy name'
Most highly favoured lady. Gloria!

Whilst considering the Christmas story and Mary, I can't help but wonder whether it wasn't quite so neat and perfect as the song suggests. Mary was likely to be 12 or 13 years old when she became pregnant. She was betrothed to Joseph and in Jewish custom it was as good as being married. The only way to break the betrothal would be through divorce. If Joseph would have done this he would have done it one the grounds of adultery and the punishment would have been death! 
I'm sure some of these things may have rushed through her mind. 

As a christian I trust God completely, but some days it is really hard. Some days my problems seem bigger than God's promises. I wonder if on the journey to Bethlehem, Mary may have felt the same. I wonder if the hot days, the cold nights, the endless travelling, the uncomfortableness and fatigue of being heavily pregnant ever felt so much. 

In our community choir we are singing a powerful song that talks of this. It looks at how Mary may have been feeling at the time. For us as a choir, God has spoken to Many of us about our own situations that we face. Let me share some of the words. 

I am waiting, in a silent prayer,
I am frightened by the load I bear,
In a world as cold as stone,
must I walk this path alone? 
Be with me now

Do you wonder, as you watch my face
If a wiser one could have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan,
Help me be strong, 
Help me be
Help me

Breath of heave, hold me together,
Be forever near me, Breath of heaven,
Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven

Maybe today your problem seems bigger then God's promises. Why not take some time to listen to the song and pray




Tuesday, 1 December 2015

O come O come Immanuel

At the Salvation Army in Mold we have a coffee shop and throughout Advent we are pausing on a Wednesday and Saturday morning to consider some of carols we sing at Christmas and what they mean. 

On Saturday we started thinking about advent and the carol O come O come Immanuel. The words are beautiful. 

1. O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

2. O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o'er the grave. 


3. O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight!


4. O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery. 


5. O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe. 


When thinking about advent I considered. What does Advent mean? Whilst researching I found it meant:
1) The arrival of a notable of thing
2) 'To Come

For many advent is a time of waiting. A time of patiently waiting for Christmas to come. As a child the countdown to Christmas seemed to go on for so long! There was a real sense of waiting. Waiting for chocolate, turkey, Santa and Christmas day. But now, as a Christian I share in the waiting for Christ's arrival.

The first Christmas was a real time of waiting for a savior to come. As the first verse of the carol says:
 "O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear."


The world was waiting in what was known as the 400 years silence. Throughout the Old testament God had been in relationship with his people, the coming savior had been prophesied, spoken of and longed for, but silence then fell....

400 Years of silence

The Lowly birth of Jesus brought an end to this silence and ushered in the fulfillment of ALL the prophecies about the savior.

I don't know if you of you like pinterest on the internet but I loses many an hour on that website! Whilst on it recently I found a beautiful advent tradition called the Jesse tree. This is where, throughout advent, every day, an ornament is hung on a tree to represent on of the fulfilled prophesies of Christ. A devotion is read and as advent continues, a greater understanding is found of the lineage of Christ and the part Christmas plays in the greater story of God.

I love the word Emmanuel in this carol

Emmanuel = God with us

After 400 years of silence - God with us

After his death and resurrection - God with us

Despite our shortcomings and failures - God with us

Here today, in this place, - God with us

Listen to the song and think about the arrival of Jesus. Think about Emmanuel, God with us, in our midst, Today




Thursday, 29 October 2015

Why Halloween is grim!

A couple of weeks ago Paul and I went to the cinema. Whilst we sat and watched the trailers, (incidentally the film was  a 12A certificate) I was appalled at the content of the films. All were about evil, the occult, contacting the dead and monsters. It only then occurred to me that Halloween is nearly upon us.
I hate Halloween! I really can’t stand it!
It grieves me that people think there is nothing nothing wrong with it and that there is no harm in teaching children to dabble in the occult and open them to a very dangerous world.

When I was a child my mum always said “The devil makes his wares inviting” and it’s true, but there is so much more to it too! The whole idea of Halloween perfectly illustrates the slippery slope of sin. It makes me think of a fly landing on a venus fly trap. It seems alright at first, and the further in the fly gets, the more danger they walk into.

It may start with dressing up as a witch and carving a pumpkin, but soon turns into telling your child it is acceptable to knock on strangers doors and ask for sweets. Then comes watching scary films and programmes which introduce people to very dangerous concepts and ideas. It can also lead to going to scare parks where people actually rejoice in seeing horrific things and being terrified by people yielding chainsaws and knives!
Furthermore it can, and often does soon lead to young na├»ve people entering into things they see in films like summoning ghosts and doing the ouiji board. Only the other day a 12 year old was asking me about exorcisms! Who knows where this innocent start of celebrating Halloween can take people.  It’s a slippery slope!

Sin is a slippery slope!

Throughout the bible we see examples of people who fall easily down the slippery slope of sin. Look at David. First it was pride, then coveting another man’s wife. It soon became lust, adultery and murder. It starts out pretty innocently, but soon you are the fly in the venus fly trap!
This morning as I was pondering on the Salvation Army Songbook, I came across a song by Luther with amazing words. It says:


“And though the world, with demons filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him,
His rage we can endure,
For Lo! His doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.”

The Prince of darkness grim – What a great summary! He is grim, Halloween is grim, Sin is grim!
But what a powerful truth.
“We will not fear for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.”

So Today I declare that the truth will triumph through me. I will be a light in the darkness. I will stand against the slippery slope of sin!



 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Matthew 5:14-15

Monday, 19 October 2015

When Cloud covers our view

A few weeks ago Paul and I climbed a hills called Moel Fenlli near where we live. It is a stunning walk and it was a beautiful day. At the top you could see for miles and miles

The view was an awesome patchwork of fields and valleys with the odd village and town dotted around. You could see the pinpricks of cattle and sheep and the lush green of many different trees lining fields and lanes. This scene was framed against the breathtaking Snowdon range and set against a vibrant blue sky. It was a view that made my heart sing to God to thank him for the wonders of creation. I spent some time there just watching the World and asking God to show me new things about him. It reminded me of these verses from Job: 



“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 
In his hand is the life of every creature
    and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:7-10)





Today we climbed the same hill again but the weather wasn't as fine, in fact it was more typically Welsh! It wasn't long into our ascent that we entered the cloud and as we sat at the top a short while later I was interested to see that the view was somewhat different. There was a little bit of familiar landscape around, enough to know where I was, but the stunning view was swallowed up by the whisps of cloud swirling around me engulfing the surroundings and obscuring my vision. 

In this moment God spoke to me. 

You see my experience in the hills was a bit like life. Sometimes we are in a season where we can see for miles, we may feel like the sun is shining down on us and we can clearly see where we are going. God may have given you a vision of the future and at that time the way to it may seem so clear. It is a time when we may sit and marvel at God's work at our life. 

But sometimes we enter a season in which things may become cloudy. Our view is obscured and we cannot see where we are headed. We know where we are, but we simply cannot see how to get to where we want to be. God, however, says do not fear we just need to:  

Cling on to what is good around you. Cling to the scriptures, that familiar landscape of truth. Keep that recognisable connection with Christ through prayer and recognise you are in a place known to God

Persevere! Press on. trust in God. 

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;[c] then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin."  (Hebrews 12: 1-2)

You see, after a while, the clouds clear, the vision extends and once again, God asks you to take in the view. 



Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Make Space for peace

It has been an incredibly busy three months as Paul and I have stepped into full time ministry with the Salvation Army. It has been full of excitement and adventure along with trepidation and some fear. In coming months I plan to share some of the exciting things God has been talking to us about, but the past week I have been thinking about peace.

Last week Paul and I went on Holiday to the borders of Scotland. On our way home we stopped in one of our favorite towns, Grasmere, and visited a beautiful place called Allan Bank. Whilst I was there God gave me these words:


"Drop thy still dews of quietness, 
till all our strivings cease,
Take from our lives the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess 
the beauty of thy peace"

Today, peace looks like a battered old leather chair with plumped up cushions and a whippet curled up beside me, my husband reading a book and a steaming cup of early grey tea. 

Peace looks like looking out of the window and seeing the many tones of green, reds oranges and browns as the trees take on their autumnal glory. The lake so still it takes on a mirror like appearence, reflecting the hillside with it's unique array of autumnal pallets. I see the view that inspired poets, encouraged artists and made many contemplate our creator God. 

I can hear the hustle and bustle but I feel....PEACE. I can sense the dews of quietness and I know the beauty of thy peace.

Thank you Jesus




We need to make space for peace, not just quiet, but that reviving, spirit altering, God encountering peace. We must savor each precious moment. I am reminded of one of my favourite songs. 

"Mid all the traffic of the ways,
Turmoils without, within,
Make in my heart a quiet place,
And come and dwell therein.


A little shrine of quietness,
All sacred to Thyself,
Where Thou shalt all my soul possess,
And I may find myself.


A little place of mystic grace,
Of self and sin swept bare,
Where I may look upon Thy face,
And talk with Thee in prayer.


Come occupy my silent place,
and make thy dwelling there!
More grace is wrought in quietness
than any is aware."

Jesus wants us to find peace in him. He says "  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I pray today you will make space for peace x

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The trailing plant of prayer

Recently we have taken up appointment as Corp Officers at the Salvation Army in Mold, North Wales. It has been a big change so last week we took some time to explore the surroundings and the beautiful countryside. We went to a place called loggerheads with the dogs.




Whilst we were there my husband pointed out something that got my mind whirring. He showed me a tree that was leaning over rather precariously. It looked like it had either fallen or was close to it. It’s not anything special, in fact it is quite common in the ancient woodland we were wandering in. However, this tree was covered in trailing plants that were alive and well. In fact it was thriving. It looked almost as if it was holding the tree up.




As I walked along God spoke to me in this picture. He said that the log is us sometimes. We are leaning over, close to breaking point. He showed me how the vines are the the support that we are given by God through prayer.

What a powerful thing prayer is!

It supports, it upholds it is beautiful and it helps us flourish. As I write I am reminded of this song:

‘He giveth more Grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labours increase,
To added afflictions, he addeth his mercy,
To multiplied trials, he multiplies peace.

When we has exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our father’s full giving has only begun.

His love has no limits, his grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men,
For out of his infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.’


Will you be the trailing plant of prayer for someone today?

Friday, 3 July 2015

Technology for Jesus


I love technology! I love the way it enhances our life and allows us to stay connected to the people around us. I am a big fan of social media.

 I love following the lives of friends and family on facebook and staying up to date on both happy and not so joyful times. I love seeing the pictures of the interesting things people are doing on instagram and I have recently re-ignited my love of twitter. I started this blog because of the inspiration and encouragement I have received through other people in their own blogs.

This week thousands of members of the Salvation Army from all over the world have descended on the O2 arena in London for the boundless 2015 congress 


Thanks to the wonders of technology I have been able to watch the live stream of the main sessions along with the pre and post shows in my pjs with a cup of tea in my living room! Whilst sharing with my brothers and sisters worldwide, God had been challenging me in a massive way! 

On one of the pre-shows they were discussing some of the work that the army does with social media. The American Salvation Army Vision network  do absolutely fantastic work and they even have social media Chaplains who support and pray for people on social media who need someone to talk to. For some people the platform of Social media may be the only one in which they feel they can be themselves or confide in others. These chaplains encourage others to connect with the people around them and make a difference

WOW!

Watching the celebrations on founders day on the founding of the Salvation Army, I was reminded that William Booth made a difference in the world using the tools around him. Be it the Music hall songs or the simple cup of tea. 

Over recent months I have felt challenged about what CAN I do? and what can I USE to do it?  In this mornings session at the congress Commissioner Janet Poane explained that we are only accountable to God, This life is not about 'me' and 'my' culture but we need to have a kingdom of God culture. 

In the bible God calls us to 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' For many of us today our neighbours aren't only the people physically around us, but is also the network of people connected to us in the cyber world. 

So what am I going to do? How can I love my neighbour on facebook/instagram/twitter? 

Today I make a promise to pray. To pray for those on social media who may be struggling. Not only that I promise to make that step to tell that person that I am praying and that I know someone who can help, and that his name is Jesus Christ.

Today I will take up the call to be a streetlight and shine out on the social media highway.....Will you? 



Sunday, 28 June 2015

Seasons

Today it has been hot and sunny and I have heard many people talk about summer being here. Today we had the obligatory ice cream, purchased a paddling pool and had a bbq!

Today I have been thinking about seasons

The other week after one glorious day of sunshine followed by a day of rain, I heard people declare that summer is over! It made me think that some seasons tend to be much longer than others. Sometimes winter never seems to end and summer is so short loved. Some years we have a bumper crop of one plant and a shortage of another all because of the length of the seasons. 

Seasons are very biblical and play an important part in God's economy. In our christian walk we go through seasons or times that are clearly distinct. In Ecclesiastes it talks about there being a season for everything and that is certainly the case, but I have been becoming increasingly aware that every season is a great opportunity for learning. It is an opportunity for wisdom, an opportunity for to prepare for future adventures with Christ, an opportunity to discover God's destiny and to train for battle.



The TV series The game of thrones has a phrase "Winter is Coming" but for a long time I felt I was stuck in a really long winter. I have been in a season where every day seemed to bring another bleak forecast, where the chill never seemed to leave the bones, where the the wind was always howling and where winter never seemed to end. 

Through it all, however, there were glimpses of joy. There was an occasional frosty morning with gleaming sunshine, or the odd snowball fight that leaves your hands stinging and your breath short from laughter.

In the past month something wonderful has happened. SPRING HAS SPRUNG!

 Looking back on my 'winter' I can see the Lord clearly guiding my steps and can start to see just how much he has taught me through this time. I have learnt the value of a loving and caring family, I have seen my marriage grow stronger and stronger and I have seen God's providence in every part of my life

Saying goodbye to my friends and colleagues as the Salvation Army in Ashton-in-Makerfield, where I work as the corps assistant, to pursue my call to full time ministry, has been a really strange experience. I am so grateful for all the Lord has taught me in this time, The people have truly been a ray of sunshine in my long winter,  I am overwhelmed to see how God's hand has been guiding me and how much I have learnt in preparation for my future adventures. 

So as I hear people in coming days debate whether summer is over for another year, I am gladly declaring Spring is here and the earth is once again starting to bloom!

But Thank you Jesus for winter.