I am late in posting this week but I have the excuse of having spent much of the week in remote Pembrokeshire with a variable signal and a dodgy phone.
I’ve never been west of Swansea before and I have to say it is a beautiful area. Well worth a visit (even if the weather was mixed)!
I was staying at the Ffald y Brenin retreat centre where some amazing things have happened over the years. As the Irish would say, it’s a “thin place”. It was good to spend some time seeking God and meeting some lovely people. I know that I need times out like this to re-connect with what’s truly important.
The cross is an interesting symbol. Why do we make an instrument of execution into an item of jewellery? After all, it would look strange to wear an electric chair or a hangman’s noose round our necks! The cross sets out what sacrificial love is about; of Jesus’s blood being shed so that I may be free. One sunset brought this out for me, the red of the sky the blood shed because he loved me. Love comes not with power but self-giving.
Back to work on Monday; ah well. But good things to remember.
Let’s keep remembering and praying for those in Ukraine 🇺🇦. So many lives lost or traumatised. Real people, real lives. Tragic. And remember those in forgotten conflicts like Myanmar where over third of a million are displaced in the North of the country by the armies actions.
What is normal? What does secure mean? I did a quiz on attachment styles in relationships following a recommendation from a colleague. It would have been great to be secure but I came back as anxious detached. Oh dear! I am glad that I am going on a healing retreat in a fortnight. And I shall have to do some digging too as it’s important to get to the core of why I am as I am. It’s awful to think my relational style hurts others and me as well. But change is possible!
But having said that, and owning it, I am more than a label. Do you ever feel like you are labelled and that’s only part of who you are? I’m reminded that Jesus was a specialist in changing the labels attached to people and He’s still doing it.
Persecuted Christians around the world often carry painful labels. Traitor; infidel; reject; enemy. Labels that hurt, that cause them huge problems. And unlike me, often not true. They are much more than that. But they know that Jesus is worth it and thats the case even if there situation doesn’t change.
I have been blessed by my washing machine lasting over 11 years and my parents TV which I’ve had for 6 years has lasted 20 years. Both broke down at the same time. The TV may be fixable; the washing machine had to be replaced. And it’s car service, tax and insurance month. Ever had everything happen at once?! The good news was that God was good enough to give me a small refund on my house purchase and some interest on an investment which have helped. These came earlier in the month and as lovely as they were, I suspected they were meant for something. So, life brings good things and challenges. As someone said, life has parallel tracks of blessings and problems.
Yesterday there was a lovely sunrise and a very overcast sunset. Another illustration of light and dark existing in one time period.
For persecuted Christians there is a constant experience of light and dark. The darkness and challenge are the dominant part of the symphony but the light of faith does shine through. Good things and difficulties come along at unexpected times.
I was reading a passage in the Bible about a chap called Isaac recently. A refugee in a land not his own. He was having a few problems with his neighbours because he was successful and they didn’t like it.
To water his flocks he starting trying to dig out old wells excavated by his Father, Abraham, but this was opposed. So he dug new wells and this was opposed too. Finally, on the third well he was successful and he was able to live successfully and expand where he lived. He then built an altar of thanks after he experienced the reality of God promising to be with Him.
I was struck by a number of things. There are some things we can’t survive without physically, especially water. Jesus called himself the living water. What is essential to you?
Secondly, Isaac was opposed at every turn and his success seen as a threat. Often, success doesn’t come easy and we have to try different routes to progress. But he didn’t give up.
Thirdly, remembrance is powerful. It points us to when something important happened and also helps us look ahead. For Isaac it memorialised that the God who had been faithful to his Father had been so to him also and it gave him an anchor to move forward.
Afghanistan 🇦🇫 is Number 1 on the Open Doors World Watch list. Zabi and her family have faced terrible opposition. She is now a refugee. She needs us to stand with her.
A couple of things today have made me feel a bit vulnerable. Exposed. We each have parts of our lives where suddenly something crops us and we feel it, and go ouch, I thought that was dealt with. But like Shrek talks about ogres having layers of onions that need addressing I guess there is a challenge to dig deeper.
Talking of digging deeper I now have a new post for the washing line. It’s concreted about 1 foot underground. This compares to the old one which fell over and had a base about two inches underground. I guess that shows once again the importance of good foundations. This is a tower at Hadleigh Castle that has 800 year old foundations.
So, I will continue digging deeper and hopefully get down to bedrock in my life.
Finally, another video of places where it’s important to have good foundations.As Jesus taught, we will all have storms but it’s the house built on the rock that’s stands.
It’s only one month since Christmas but it seems like ages. Over the last few days I have unravelled a bit and found it challenging to cope with some situations in my life. At times like this it’s hard at times to manage my emotions. And out they come, messily. Things like flailing my arms and doing a sudden sprint when running. Trying to get rid of the nervous energy.
I’m a cracked pot. Broken in places. Don’t have it all together. I can keep functioning but imperfectly. Times like this happen to me every now and then. Yes, always a reminder to look under the surface as there is something deeper going on. A d to look up.
This is part of lifes shaping. I love the references in the Bible to the master Potter. He doesn’t destroy the misshapen pot but reshapes the clay to make it into something more beautiful. It may be uncomfortable but worth it. May something beautiful be formed in me and the bits in you that you struggle with too.
Pakistan is number 8 in the Open Doors Top 10 for countries where Christians are most persecuted. Many work in menial jobs, including as indebted labourers (essentially slaves) in the brick factories. Even young children work long hours in horrible conditions. Please remember them.
It’s amazing how quickly that January is going and I’m already tired! But I got past “Blue Monday” this week which is supposed to be the most miserable day of the year. It was good to hear of a birth of a baby boy last week and of a friends new relationship. Sobering though to hear of the death of someone I knew fairly well from my Uni days. We take life so much for granted and often get bogged down in the minutae. But life is so precious.
Two lovely sunsets last weekend make me ponder about wonder and beauty; we need these to see our lifes in perspective. There may be a scientific explanation for the colours and we may be just cells and electronic impulses…Or are we each someone unique and special, created on purpose, for purpose?
Tonight I randomly played a CD from 2017 where the singer, Lauren Daigle, talks about trusting in God despite things falling apart around her. I really like her singing but the words certainly made me think about trusting God in hard circumstances.
Today was the launch of the Open Doors 2022 World Watch list. 360 million Christians around the world suffer from high or extreme levels of persecution. Afghanistan 🇦🇫 has become the worst country in the world for persecution, overtaking North Korea, even though things have got worse there too. Discovery as a Christian in Afghanistan can mean death for men and trafficking and abuse for women.
Religious freedom is so important, not just because they are brothers and sisters but for everyone. Freedom of faith is often a touchstone for broader human rights as well. 90 Members of Parliament attended the World Watch launch; I pray they would be able to make a difference. And the Lord would be with believers as they trust in Him. Please do take the time to watch the attached-it is very informative.
My brother bought me a soup maker for Christmas. It was going to be a subscription to the National Trust to get me into stately homes and castles but I already have that. So a soup maker it was!
Well, I have tried making soup with a blender before which worked but had it challenges. But this thing..I cut up two leeks, about 5 potatoes 🥔, some margarine, milk and herbs and in 21 minutes I had smooth soup. And it hardly made any noise; there were 2 or 3 short sessions of blending near the end and that was it. Almost instant soup!
Reflecting as I do, it made me think of how sometimes, I mash and bash things to try and get something to work. In the soups case the key to the machine’s success was heating and softening the vegetables first before the blending took place. Forcing something to happen is often needless hard work; a progressive and gentle approach often works better with both people and projects.
Tuesday 18th is the annual launch of the Open Doors World Watch list in Parliament. This lists the 50 worst countries in the world for persecution of Christians. I have attended the launch in person twice and its always a special event. Around 130 MP’s will be represented, largely because people wrote to them. We can influence our politicians. To find out more and pray see the link below.
Happy New Year! I hope that you have had a good break. It was a wonderful sunrise on New Years Day here. As we set sail into 2022 I wonder where it will take us?
It has been a while since I posted. I have decided that this year I will do so approximately once a week. Thanks to those of you who replied and said that you enjoyed the the posts.
This Christmas, Natalie bought me a “Painting by numbers” as I’m always saying that I’m not artistic. It is very intricate and takes lots of time to do. It’s essential that you put the right paint in the right number; even the very small areas, to make the correct picture. I am trying to do a few minutes regularly but it’s going to be a marathon not a sprint.
2022 will probably need sticking at. There will be times when it seems full of small, mundane details; when the big picture seems to be a long way from coming together. And you are forever painting no.2 blue! But all the little numbers, bit by bit, come together to make the masterpiece that the original creator envisaged. There is a reason why it is as it is.I know that God has a plan for me this year that will gradually get filled in; may you find yours too. And, (this especially applies to us men!), for best results, follow the makers instructions!
For many, especially persecuted Christians, life can seem like so many shades of grey. But I have seen many paint 🎨 sweeps of colour when their only seems to be black available. Yet it remains tough to keep going and in this new year they still need our support.
Looking back is good. As someone wisely said “Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it mistakes”. Or paraphrasing another person “Foolishness is repeatedly doing the same thing and hoping for different results”. We need to take time to reflect on where we have been in order to better consider where we may go.
I spent much of yesterday cleaning the kitchen and sorting the cupboards. There was quite a bit in there that past its “Best before” date, in some cases by years. Oh dear! So, a big clean out occurred. I wonder in my life, and yours, what was previously good is no longer at it’s best? Sometimes we need to throw out the old to make room for the new. As Jesus said, you can’t sew new fabric on old clothes without it tearing or put new wine in old wineskins without them bursting.
So, where does the path into 2022 lead? One thing personally I’ve been thinking about is the future of these blogs. They were originally done to chronicle 60@60 and raise awareness of the persecuted church. As I’m now 61 the original purpose is past so it would be really helpful if you’ve got a couple of minutes to inform my thinking for 2022 on whether and how to continue.
*Do you find these blogs interesting or not?
*If so, what content do you appreciate/would like to see more (or less) of?
*What’s a good level of frequency?
Thanks very much for taking the time to read and respond and may your own reflection back on 2021 be helpful.