From treasures – to treasured.

My soul he doth restore again

and me to walk doth make

within the paths of righteousness

e’en for his own name’s sake.

23rd Psalm v 2

Mom died some years ago. After he death there was the responsibility of looking after her affairs. I had lived in that house for the first twenty years of my life, so there were many memories, both good and bad. There was a mountain of paperwork which had been added to for several years. It all had to be gone through and sorted. The furniture had to go and the house put up for sale. There were pictures and cards which she had collected for many years. It brought back so many memories.

Some of the most poignant memories were of my late big brother. She had kept old school reports, as well as the expected school photos, university photos, papers he had written over the years. we opened one dressing table drawer to discover old school books, one from when he had been in his first year at school. There was another couple of chapters on a book dedicated to neurophysiology. It must have been written for first year students. I could actually understand it!

There were one or two one or two special items I kept for old times sake. It brought me back to old memories of my own, Peter’s stories about Copenhagen, Tivoli Gardens and his time living in Denmark. He had brought us back prints of “The Mermaid” add the city. They adorned the walls of our house until the time after so many years that the pictures had faded to such an extent there was little we could do with them and they were sadly relegated to the “throw” pile.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a “things” girl. I rely more on memories and images in my head of the thins which matter to me. They are good enough – or they will be until the memory fades. But in spite of that, there are many people who find comfort in items which link them to the past.

Part of our teatime viewing recently has been a TV programme called “The repair Shop”. Fond memories are attached to some items. They are brought to the repair shop for a restoration job. They are recovered from attics, left by relatives. Their owners bring them in for what is described as a sympathetic restoration – old soft toys, bikes, cars, furniture, clocks and machines. They are taken in by the artisans who use their expertise to clean, repair and to recover some of their old use. The clients tell a little of their stories, some poignant, many full of happy memories of a bygone time. They are a gentle reminder of long past memories. I described them as sympathetic restorations, keeping the scratches and the essence of their old life, past damage incorporated and preserved as part of their charm.

This story relates to the good old Psalm 23. “My soul he doth restore” The Lord my Shepherd who seeks out the lost. He takes us as we are imperfect and scarred. He makes us as new. Cleaned and restored, but still scarred and damaged, offering our imperfect love and asking for the strength to travel on life’s journey. Restoration. But we remain with the memories of who we were, as well as the knowledge of who we are now, and the road we have traveled to get here. We too need to accept our imperfections. Those life scars are a part of our charm. Then we will be given the strength in order to continue in the knowledge that like those retored items we too are loved and have our part to play.

I’m lost. Are you lost too?

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want

He makes me down to lie

In pastures green he leadeth me

The quiet waters by.

Psalm 23

Elizabeth was crying. The family had been on a shopping expedition. Mom and Dad had wanted to go into town to buy household necessities – towels, curtains, kitchen ware and boring stuff like that. The good thing was that at some point while they were shopping they would go into one of those wonderful cheap shops were nothing cost more than sixpence. There were toys and sweets and wonderful things for six year old girls. The house purchases were finally done. It was off to Woolworths -specially for Elizabeth.

The family pushed through the doors at the front. Elizabeth could hardly wait. The adults tended to wander through the store looking at absolutely everything! Where were those wonderful counters which had the lucky dip sweets and the crayons and the colouring books? Mom had stopped to look at cups and saucers and more boring stuff. She might only be small but Elizabeth could travel at the speed of light when she wanted to- when she need to. And she needed to now. Off she went – past the groceries, past the decorating things, past the pretty plants and the pots for the garden. Here we are – lucky dip sweet mixes, tiny little dolls – colouring books. Ooh I’d love one of those – and that over there.

Where’s Mom and Dad? It was Saturday, and it was crowded. When you are little and you move at the speed of light to find what you really really want, then you tend to leave the adults behind. That’s what had happened. Elizabeth was surrounded by shopping bags, by handbags and by skirts and hips and trousers. What were her Mom and Dad wearing? Grey trousers and a green pleated skirt. All the men were wearing grey trousers. Her gaze rose as she tilted her head upwards. No one seemed to be wearing the same jacket as her Dad. There were red skirts, blue skirts, pretty floral print dresses – but no Mom. Black leather handbags- brown leather handbags, but not her Mom’s handbag. Elizabeth wasn’t thinking about the colouring books or the toys or the sweets any more. She couldn’t find Mom and Dad.

She pushed her way through the sea of handbags and skirts and trousers. Back to the grocery aisle. No – not there. Back to the gardening department – no – not there either. What was she going to do? By this time she was fighting back the tears. She was frightened and she had no idea what to do. People were looking at her as she struggled to squeeze past. Just ahead was a man in grey trousers and a jacket. He looked like her Dad. Thank goodness! But when she got closer she could see that he wasn’t. Not her Dad.

The tears had started now. She was lost and she was frightened. She was running through the grocery department yet again. In the distance were the doors to the store. If she could get there, perhaps she would see them. So a sobbing six year old little girl ran towards the exit. She was more alone than she had ever been in her life. Why had she been so impatient? Why hadn’t she waited? Two pairs of open arms greeted her on the way out. How relieved she was to see the welcoming smiles and the familiar faces. She’d wait till she was a bit taller before she went into big stores to find her shopping again.

Adults can get lost too. There’s a story about Elijah who was an important man. He was an early prophet. That meant he was a man of God and a leader of hi people. There were arguments in the land about which god the people should follow. Elijah believed that the people should follow his God, so he organised a competition to see which God would answer prayer. The God who could make fire was the one which the people should follow. Elijah’s God was the real God. He was the one who had the power to light the fire. Elijah and his God were victorious.

Elijah doesn’t sound like he was lost does he? Here’s the thing. When God had made the fire on the altar that he had built to God, it made the other people look a bit silly. They thought they’d been made to look like fools so they were angry. They were so angry that Elijah ran for his life. He ran into the mountains were he lived on very little water and very little food. He was hungry. He was thirsty and he was alone. He was lost. He had lost all the people who had supported him. A was alone in the mountains and he needed help. He had changed from being and important and respected man to a man who was afraid for his life.

He felt he had been deserted by all the people who had supported him. He didn’t know what God wanted him to do next. So he prayed. God didn’t come in the earthquake. God didn’t come in the whirling wind. When it was very quiet, Elijah heard God’s voice. Gods voice was in the still small voice of calm. When Elijah heard that still small voice he stopped being afraid. He stopped being alone because he was strong enough to return to the people who had been following him. He was not lost. He was found.

Like Elizabeth. And he could return to doing the work which God had planned for him. Sometimes – do we lose our way? Do we feel lost? When we are lost do we feel alone? And we become frightened. Those are the times when we need to stop and think. The times when we need to find our still waters – or our still small voice. Because in the stillness and the calm – that is when we sense peace – and find the strength to travel our own life journey.

Walking through the wilderness – dry land.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought “I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up. When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said “Here I am” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Then he said, “I am the Lord God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this Moses his his face because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt……. “So now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I. that I should go to pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that it is I who have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt you will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 3 1-7a 10-12

We know that Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. He prayed and he fasted, seeking to find the path his ministry would follow. He learned that he was not to give in to personal need, even when fasting in the wilderness. He should not give in to the emotional needs of being cared for and kept safe. Nor should he crave power and fame. That was not the way of his fathers plans – for him- for the world. His personal needs came last. His fathers wishes came before anything else, even when it was hard.E

Jesus was to be the fulfillment of many prophecies. Some were from the Old Testament prophets, others from those who recognised his role from before his birth. Stories told him by his parents about how he was to become wonderful, counsellor, a light to light the way for the Gentiles and bring glory to the people of Israel.

Moses was struck by the unexpectedness of seeing God in the harshness of his environment. His people the Israelites found themselves as slaves, suffering and struggling under the cruel Egyptian regime. Remember the story of Moses being rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. He had a keen understanding of the contrast between the luxury of a pharaoh’s palace and the cruel regime his people endured during their time of slavery under Egyptian rule.

Then, seeing his God present in those searing flames bursting from the bush, he understood the role he was to play in leading his struggling people. He was to lead them to a land of freedom, a plentiful land – flowing with milk and honey.

John the Baptist had emerged from the wilderness to call the people to repentance and to be baptised. Jesus had spent time in the wilderness to think about the plans his Father had for him. None of them were alone. God was with John, with Jesus and with Moses too.

Do we hear the call? And when we hear the call do we find the challenge impossible and walk away? remember the words God gave to Moses when he Said to God ” I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? God answered “I will be with you”

So when we next have that awesome moment, instead of continuing our journey will we hear the Father God calling us and saying, “Bring justice to your land” Whe we turn our backs and say “this is impossible,” perhaps we can hear his words as he says to us “I will be with you”

Our prayer for today

Father God,

we seek to find you

in those awesome moments.

Those moments when we

find you in beauty,

in glory,

in the racing clouds,

in the glorious sun,

in peace

and in joy,

in the pain and the struggle.

Lord I want to stay with you

in the harshness

in the cruelty

in the ravages

of the world

in which we live.

Before I turn away and say “I can’t”

remind me that you are the all in all,

that when I attempt

to answer your call,

remind me that I am not alone.

Remind me that you are with me

as you were with Moses,

the prophets,

with John

and with our Lord Jesus Christ.

You are with all those you call,

that we might respond

with glad hearts,

with grateful hearts

and a determined spirit,

that in all things

Your will might be done.

Amen

Walking through the Wilderness

 

2. “No man is an island” – John Donne

“Then they came into Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd,were leaving the city, a blind man Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), was sitting at the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more. “Son of David, have mercy on me”. Jesus stopped and said “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man. “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “Your faith has healed you.”

Mark 11 v 46-52

What would he say? What could he do? How would they cope – with the mortgage – with his job – or lack of it? How would they cope with everything?

A deep frown settled Doug’s face as he recovered his key and opened the door. Fiona had been cooking. He could tell from the mouthwatering aroma coming from the kitchen. Great if you have an appetite. Doug didn’t. he hung his coat on the peg, doffed his shoes and prepared to face his wife with the news.

The kettle was on. Tea was brewing. Looking at the set muscles in Doug’s face, Fiona quietly prepared herself for what clearly was bad news.

“What’s up, Sweetheart? Cummon, have a cuppa and tell me what is wrong.”

“Optician – I’ve been to the optician. …. I new my eyes were getting worse but …..”

Doug took a sip from the steaming mug.

“Fi, it’s bad news. he says,- he told me, that I have …I’ve been diagnosed with macular degeneration … the bad kind. It’s only a matter of time …and I’ll not be able to see.”

” O sweetheart that’s awful news… but we’ll cope. Look when… no …. if your job goes then we can still cope. Look … the kids are growing up now. They’re all at college. I can increase my hours at work – if and we can always downsize if we need to. We will support you….”

“Oh Fi you’re so good to me. How can I hold on to my job? I’m an engineer. I need my eyes. But what about the modelling … my hobby? I need my eyes. I won’t be able to drive. I can’t ask you to be my taxi all the time. Every part of the world I have built for myself … it’s falling apart. There’s no hope for me now…”

Every time he thought about the situation Doug thought of himself as a failure. He was a burden to his family. He would no longer be able to provide for them. There would be so many things that he would not be able to do. He’d be reliant on everyone else. He wan’t old. Not yet. He was not ready for this. He didn’t want to get old before his time. That’s what he believed was happening. He became bad tempered and depressed, complaining at every opportunity. He made life miserable for both himself and his family. Doug felt as if he was standing at the edge of a cliff top, staring into a dark stormy sea of despair. How long would it be before he fell….? Doug had already lost sight in one eye – and the other eye was now beginning to fail too. He’d lost his job now. He could no longer drive. His hobby no longer gave him any pleasure. It was time to decide whether to give it up completely. He couldn’t work on his models. They were simply sitting on a shelf gathering dust. No pleasure in that.

Fiona and the children, despite his bad humour and his negative outlook had rallied round and supported him in any way they could. In spite ofthe fact that his eyesight was deteriorating even further, he’d stepped back a little way from the stroming sea of despair.

Fiona was working full time now. The children were completing college, looking for jobs and preparing to leave the family home. If they could downsize now they would be able to manage financially. There were practical problems to overcome too. he’d been in contact with the RNIB and Beacon, both institutions for the blind. Not only had they helped him to cope with moving around and remaining independent as far as possible, they had also invited him to volunteer by offering help and advice to others who found themselves in a similar position. So many unexpected opportunities had come his way. They helped Doug to become more positive and happier about his situation.

Obviously Doug would never have chosen to become blind. However his experiences had helped him to look for the positive things in life. He learned that he was not the only one. There were others who struggled with many types of problems, and somehow there was a learning process which came through experience. He learned that to be totally independent did not open your eyes to the people in life who opened their hearts no only to those they loved, but also to the unlovable. He now had the humility to recognise his need for other people, not only for physical help but the emotional help he needed to adapt to his new style of living. Through his impending blindness he learned humility, a sense of community, .and that however difficult your situation there can always be hope.

Jesus can heal blindness. Yes, of course He can. we read that at the beginning of this passage. But how many ways are there that we cannot see? There are so may ways that we blind ourselves to the hope and the love we find in our every day lives.

Lord Jesus,

we come to you

because we are blind,

because we are helpless

and because we feel alone.

We come to you asking you to heal us,

to open our eyes

to your love.

Open our eyes

to the love

which we find among one another,

which is all around us.

Open our eyes to the hope we find in your eyes,

in your touch and in your love.

Lord Jesus we are blind.

we come to asking

that you will heal us

from our pride,

from our selfishness,

from our greed

and our despair

when things do not go our way.

Heal us we pray.

May we

however we are,

whoever we are

come to you to be filled with your love.

In your hope may we live,

Amen

Salads? or oak trees?

“The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which a man took   and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all  our seeds, it is the  largest of garden plants and  becomes a tree, so the birds of the air come and perch in its . branches.”

Matthew 13 v 31-32

I like the idea of growing things. The house we have moved to has a very small garden. At some point I will organise a small herb garden and grow a small selection of rosemary and mint, but for now I want to add extra flavour to my salads. So I’ve arranged a saucer at the kitchen window lined with wet kitchen paper and sprinkled with mustard and cress. I will water it regularly. It will seek the summer sun and sleep in the darkness. The tiny green leaves will add heat to spice up my salad.

Science tells us that plants need air, warmth, moisture and light to let them grow, whether it be a seedling to flavour the salad or a tree in which the birds can rest.

I’m only talking about a leaf to add flavour. Jesus was talking about —-

Lord, you are speaking

of something much greater

than my tiny seed.

You speak of tiny seeds

which grow into trees.

Like acorns into oak trees.

So here I am

with my tiny seeds

in their tiny tray,

wet with water

from the tap

turning towards

the light from the window.

Yet your word

is like those tiny seeds.

Your words fall

upon my heart

gently

silently

without my knowing.

Like all seeds,

there is the need

for space,

for light

for warmth to surround it.

Conditions

where the seed

might grow.

where your word might grow.

Your light will feed my seed.

the warmth

that will radiate.

The light

towards which

my seed might grow.

You give me free choice

the space

in which to make

my choices,

be they good or bad,

and when the sun

is blocked by shadows

and my seed is

shrouded in darkness,

then the seed is watered by

the tears of pain

the sorrows of this world

then my seed can grow.

It can face towards the light

and face you,

growing up strong and true.

May the seeds we grow

grow in your light,

fed by your love,

watered by our tears of anguish,

that your world may be filled

with the seeds

and the leaves

and the trees

which forest the earth

with the fruits of your love.

Amen