A Bit Special

I met someone a bit special today.  Not in person, but through the blogasphere.  I don’t know how many people read my blog, but to some of you this might be old news, because the person I met seems to be very popular!


Her name is Veg.  That’s not her real name, but it’s a good nickname.  She’s from Scotland and wanted to show us her healthy(?) school dinners, so she went into her primary school (yes, you did read that right; she’s 9 years old), with a camera, and took photos.  She was criticised by some commenters for complaining about her food when other children went without, but instead of letting that deter her, she started using the blog to help those children.  I really admire her parents too for sharing the project with her.  It sounds like they have fun and she’s learning a lot.


After about a month or so, the council tried to ban her photography, but with over 2,000,000 readers from all over the world, that wasn’t going to last long!  She’s a great blogger, and I’ve enjoyed seeing the tremendous support she’s getting.  Why not have a read for yourself, and post a comment to encourage her?


Well done Veg!

My New Motto

I heard a story this morning about two men in a museum.  They stopped to look at a painting of a chess match.  The painting was called “Checkmate”.  One of them stared at it for a long time.  His friend looked round the museum, and when he came back, he was still staring.  “We have to find the man who painted this picture!  He’s either got to change the painting or change the title, because I’m a national chess champion, and I have determined the king has one more move.”


Take that into those days when you feel like giving up:  The King has one more move!

Ancient Paths

It was a Monday in the run-up to Easter 2011.  Over the next 4 weeks, I would hear a friend of mine do a series of Lent talks.  She must have felt overwhelmed at being asked to address people from every church in town.  This particular night, we chatted over plastic cups of tea until it was time to start.  She spoke about the beginnings of the NHS, intertwining it with verses from the Bible and a plea for us to act justly and treat others with compassion.  Near the end, she read a verse I’d never noticed before:


“This is what the Lord says:  ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’” – Jeremiah 6:16.  It didn’t seem to tie up with anything she’d said, but it stood out a mile for me.  I knew it was a God-moment, but I didn’t know what it meant.  It’s not a verse you hear often, but I’ve heard it 2 or 3 times since then, and every time I’ve wondered:  What are these ancient paths?


Well, today I got my answer.  I had the radio on, and Jarrod Cooper was talking about the times when God’s met with us in the past.  He said to think of those encounters with God not just as memories, but as wells of water we can drink from.  “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” – Isaiah 12:3.  I did as Jarrod suggested and thought of a time when I felt very close to God, and as I thought back to it, I felt such peace.  He encouraged us that on those days when we feel dry and stale, we don’t have to be thirsty because there are wells within us that we can go to for refreshment.  These are the ancient paths.


There may be people who struggle with the concept of looking back to the past for our sustenance.  Shouldn’t we focus on the future?  I asked that question too, but I’m discovering it’s all through the Bible.  A verse Jarrod quoted was Psalm 42:6:  “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You”, and I thought of Habakkuk’s prayer to God:  “I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.  Renew them in our day, in our time make them known” – Habakkuk 3:2.  He wanted God to do something new, but he never forgot what God had done in the past.


If you’re reading this, are you nodding your head in agreement, or shaking it in confusion?  Maybe you’ve never had a time when you’ve felt that connection between you and God.  If that’s the case, I would really encourage you to let Jesus into your life – Jesus who died to make that connection possible.


I’ve just read the words of a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook.  She was buying a house and she wrote:  “there’s the usual question of whether it’s Miss or Mrs – it’s Dr., thank you! ;-)”  In the comments, she went on to say:  “Why is it that people need to know whether I’m married or not, that doesn’t really define me as a person (where as having a PhD does”.


What do you think about her statement?  I read it and thought how sad it was – sad because letters after a person’s name, or their vocation in life, do command respect.  But if you don’t have a PHD, if you’re made redundant, if you become paralysed in an accident and can’t do all that you used to, does that make you less of a person?  I don’t think so.  “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb” – Psalm 139:13 (New Living Translation).  God loves us for who we are, not for what we do, and I say this to myself as much as anyone.  It can be hard to grasp that God loved us before we could do anything.


I respect people with a PHD.  It’s a reward for 7 years or so of hard work, but I respect people with strong marriages too.  They have a willingness to spend a lifetime with another person whose feelings they’ve got no control over, to work through problems, to put the other’s needs before their own, and sometimes to miss out on things they could have done, had they stayed single.  I think being married does define you as a person of loyalty, perseverance and great strength.  “Marriage should be honoured by all” – Hebrews 13:4.


Nowadays in wedding ceremonies, the congregation promise to support the couple.  Is there a married couple you could show support to today?

When God Says No

I was reading about Paul this morning, in a letter he wrote to God’s people in Rome.  He told them:  “I am on my way to Jerusalem …  Pray that I may be rescued   from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service   in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints   there, so that by God’s will   I may come to you   with joy and together with you be refreshed” – Romans 15:25, 31-32.


I read that, and straightaway I thought:  God didn’t answer that prayer, because I knew about that trip Paul made to Jerusalem.  He wasn’t rescued; he was arrested, and instead of coming to Rome with joy, he arrived as a prisoner.


If I was to guess when Paul’s letter to the Romans had been written, I would slot it in after Acts 20, and before the incident in chapter 21 where God prepared Paul for what was to come. “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus   came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says,”In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind  the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”’  When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?  I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die   in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up  and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done’” (Acts 21:10-14).


I love Paul’s response.  He didn’t once complain:  “That wasn’t what I prayed for”; he didn’t look at the circumstances and take them as a sign that God must have stopped loving him …  Instead, he took courage and declared himself ready to die for his Lord.  I was reminded of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  “The God we serve is able to save   us … But even if He does not” (Daniel 3:16-18).  Following God isn’t about what we can get from Him; it’s about being ready to serve Him anyway, even when He says no.


Are you following God at the moment?  Have you had experience of Him saying no?  I’d love to hear your stories.

The 2nd Jubilee

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I live in the UK.  I’m from a town where I would say the majority are royalists so, as you might expect, this weekend has been one of celebration.  Yesterday, one of the usually-quiet streets was crowded with stalls as the food festival came to town; ciders, chutneys, sponge puddings, fudge, hot dogs, and maybe one of the only places in England you would have found fresh, home-made Welsh cakes.  The mayor led a procession of vehicles through the town in a Jubilee parade, sadly minus horses, and tomorrow should see more celebrations – a 1950s-style street party, and a beacon (one of several across the nation) to be lit.


Queen Elizabeth II joins her great great grandmother, Queen Victoria, as someone who celebrates a diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the throne.  I think it’s right to honour the queen, and I’ve been enjoying all the fun, but in a town called Weybridge in Surrey, there’s another, lesser known Jubilee going on.


It was also in 1952 that an American missionary called Everett Swanson went to South Korea.  Seeing the war-ravaged country, and 35 children orphaned as a result, he reached out.  Like Jesus’ disciples with the 5 loaves and 2 fish, he started small and it multiplied!  Today, over 1,000,000 children in 26 countries benefit from the ministry God brought about through him.


So, will you join me in saying a very happy diamond Jubilee to the amazing Compassion International?


Perhaps you could even celebrate by sponsoring a child.  Just a thought.