Category Archives: life

Longing For Dry Land

This is the transcript of my Going Deeper devotions for today. If you want to see the video it is here:

10+ Free Noah Ark & Noah Illustrations - Pixabay

God had not forgotten Noah and all the animals with him in the boat; he caused a wind to blow, and the water started going down. The outlets of the water beneath the earth and the floodgates of the sky were closed. The rain stopped, and the water gradually went down for 150 days. On the seventeenth day of the seventh month the boat came to rest on a mountain in the Ararat range. The water kept going down, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains appeared.

After forty days Noah opened a window and sent out a raven. It did not come back, but kept flying around until the water was completely gone. Meanwhile, Noah sent out a dove to see if the water had gone down, but since the water still covered all the land, the dove did not find a place to light. It flew back to the boat, and Noah reached out and took it in. 10 He waited another seven days and sent out the dove again. 11 It returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. So Noah knew that the water had gone down. 12 Then he waited another seven days and sent out the dove once more; this time it did not come back.

13 When Noah was 601 years old, on the first day of the first month, the water was gone. Noah removed the covering of the boat, looked around, and saw that the ground was getting dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

15 God said to Noah, 16 “Go out of the boat with your wife, your sons, and their wives. 17 Take all the birds and animals out with you, so that they may reproduce and spread over all the earth.” 18 So Noah went out of the boat with his wife, his sons, and their wives. 19 All the animals and birds went out of the boat in groups of their own kind.

Noah Offers a Sacrifice

20 Noah built an altar to the Lord; he took one of each kind of ritually clean animal and bird, and burned them whole as a sacrifice on the altar. 21 The odor of the sacrifice pleased the Lord, and he said to himself, “Never again will I put the earth under a curse because of what people do; I know that from the time they are young their thoughts are evil. Never again will I destroy all living beings, as I have done this time. 22 As long as the world exists, there will be a time for planting and a time for harvest. There will always be cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

Genesis 8:1-22

In theory I love boat trips.  I love any kind of water, and who wouldn’t want to be on it?.  The problem is I do not like rough water – and by rough water I include taking a ferry across the Mersey, the car ferry to the Isle of White or the short hop from Dover to Calais…  The Channel Tunnel was built especially for me so that I no longer had to brave the boat trip.  I can just about survive a harbour trip if it doesn’t go outside the harbour wall but much prefer a river or canal trip. 

We will not even speak of the night ferry to the Isle of Man in 1970 – it still haunts me to this day. And least said soonest mended about the time I made my family drive the entire length of the North France coast, past the port that we had a return crossing booked and paid for from, to the Channel Tunnel to pay the exorbitant drive-up price for a single ticket, and then drive back through Kent – because the outward trip was more than enough and I had seen the weather forecast for the journey home and was having none of it.

So, I think I would not have done well in the ark with Noah and his family.  I would have been desperate for journey’s end.  I would have been begging, “are we nearly there yet?”, please can I get off, or is there a non-boat alternative.

As I read this passage it occurred to me how much it could be a metaphor for where we are today, there are many parallels.  We are confined, if not physically at the moment as we were in the full lock down – and who knows when that might happen for anyone of us again? – then certainly by rules and restriction.  Where we can go, who with, and what we can do.  With my lungs I have made a personal choice to go to as few places as possible and mix with as few people as I can get away with.  Within reason, I am choosing to keep my risk to as low as possible. I am in a pretty small boat bobbing by itself.

We might feel that we are each confined in our own space – and we do not know when it will end.  Neither can we know what the landscape will be like when we eventually return to dry land.

So, some thoughts from this passage:

God had not forgotten them.  Noah, his family and the collection of animals – those in whom the future of the earth is held, may have been floating on the waters, confined in a boat, not able to get off – BUT they were not forgotten by God.  He sees them.  He is still with them.

The water didn’t stop going down until long after the rain had stopped. This feels so much the case.  Just as we thought life might be returning to some kind of normal, restrictions are tightened again.  The threat is not over.  It may take a very long time for the waters to go down.

Slowly the tops of the mountains appeared, but it was not time to get out of the boat.  Whatever their impatience, they had to wait until the land was completely dry. Even if we think we might be safe, others may not be.  It is our Christian call to love others, to be mindful of their care, and wait for them.  Just because me might be able to fly and sit in the tree or are ok with walking through the squelchy mud, not everyone is.  We have a collective responsibility.

Then, and only then, were they charged with leaving the boat and creating a new life – not recreating the old one, for that is what had got them in this situation – but trusted with a whole new world, and called to live in it with and for God.  That is where God is leading and calling.  We need to listen carefully to what that call is and will be.

Reminded me of that old hymn, Glad That I Live am I,  “after the rain the sun”.  However we feel, it will stop raining, the boat will come to rest and the earth will dry out – and for that day we wait and pray, whilst living faithfully on the boat.

Thank you Lord
that you are with us
in this storm,
in our vessel.

Thank you
that you have not forgotten us
but are here.

Thank you
that there will be a time to leave the boat,
that we will know.
That it will stop raining
and the sun will shine again.
That then
you will put us
on dry ground,
renewed by you.

That you will task us
to live there
for
and with you.
That you trust us
and call us
to find your way,
to be new.

We pray for that day Lord
as we continue to live
where we are now.

“It’s Not Church Without The Singing”

This is meant to be an encouraging post for all those who are worried about worship without no singing, or feel that it just is not church without some element of singing. After all, Methodists especially are known to be ‘Born in Song‘. As churches start to go back to the buildings, at least in part, but without being able to sing – how can that be worship?

Music, and particularly singing, have always been a big part of my life. Indeed my mum’s pearl of wisdom to my husband when we got married was, “If she’s not singing within a couple of seconds of putting her feet on the floor in a morning, you are in trouble! She’s either grumpy or ill”.

Music has always been a major element I used in leading worship. So often a song can say what you have been struggling to. Picking hymns/songs always took the longest part of preparing a service, to ensure that they carried and enhanced what was being said and offered to God.

So, I can understand the feeling of people who cannot comprehend worship without music, and cannot imagine what it will be like, and how it can be true worship at all. But, we are having to find new, meaningful ways of doing so many things – and different does not always mean worse, we can find a new worth and value.

When my illness first took hold fifteen years ago, and probably the thing that initially immediately stopped my ministry of preaching and leading worship, I lost all power to my voice. As anyone who has heard me speak will know, my voice goes hoarse very quickly when I start talking, especially at any volume, and my struggle with breathing makes it very difficult to regulate even talking. If I need to talk for any length of time, even in conversation, my throat aches so much for days afterwards. Pre-recording at my pace, with lots of gaps no one else sees has become an opportunity for me to do some small parts of worship again, but it is not something I could do live, or frequently. Singing therefore is impossible.

Hence why this is, I hope, encouragement to those who are struggling with worship with no singing. At first I hated not being able to sing. It wasn’t me. Singing was how I expressed everything in my life (if we could have Pamsperambulation – the Musical, we would!), including my worship of God, and I was bereft without it. But I am here to tell you that it is possible, you can get used to it, we can find other ways to share our worship with God. It may take time and effort, but the new ways that we discover may offer a different slant to our worship, a new facet to our relationship to God.

One of the things I have found is that the less noise I can make, the more I can listen and hear God. God get’s a chance to speak, because I am quiet!

I am certain there are other people for whom singing is difficult, or uncomfortable for varying reasons, or actually it is just not their thing.

So, please don’t despair, don’t think this is the end of worship – we may yet discover a richer seam and a new encounter with God – because after all, worship is about God and not the method.

Basically, what Matt Redman says:

Be a Blessing

This is the transcript for my post for today on our circuit ‘Going Deeper’ daily posts.

I’m just going to go straight in to the reading today.  It is ‘one of those’ passages in the bible.  You might have a knee jerk reaction to it, but we need to look further than that, beyond the first sentence.  Anyway, here goes.

Wives and Husbands

In the same way you wives must submit yourselves to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe God’s word, your conduct will win them over to believe. It will not be necessary for you to say a word, because they will see how pure and reverent your conduct is. You should not use outward aids to make yourselves beautiful, such as the way you fix your hair, or the jewelry you put on, or the dresses you wear. Instead, your beauty should consist of your true inner self, the ageless beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of the greatest value in God’s sight. For the devout women of the past who placed their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful by submitting themselves to their husbands. Sarah was like that; she obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are now her daughters if you do good and are not afraid of anything.

In the same way you husbands must live with your wives with the proper understanding that they are more delicate than you. Treat them with respect, because they also will receive, together with you, God’s gift of life. Do this so that nothing will interfere with your prayers.

Suffering for Doing Right

To conclude: you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another, and be kind and humble with one another. Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you. 10 As the scripture says,

“If you want to enjoy life
    and wish to see good times,
    you must keep from speaking evil
    and stop telling lies.
11 You must turn away from evil and do good;
    you must strive for peace with all your heart.
12 For the Lord watches over the righteous
    and listens to their prayers;
    but he opposes those who do evil.”

1 Peter 3:1-12

“Use today’s set reading from the Prayer Handbook” the Superintendents said.

Nothing controversial to see here – at all!  When I had stopped laughing, I did look more closely.

Perhaps the most important part are the first four words, “in the same way”.  Before we get our chunter on, we ought to find out to what Peter is alluding.  This is not the start of the letter, but part way through.  We are not reading this passage in isolation; it follows on from the chapter before.  He has been giving instructions to different people about how to live out their Christian faith.  This is new to all of them, they are all working it out, and so Peter is sharing some helpful reflections on how that might be, based on how Jesus lived, and died.

So, in the same way as what?  He is pointing to Christ’s suffering, all that he gave for us, and that being our model for Christian living, especially amongst those that do not have that faith.

It would probably surprise most people to know that when Paul and I married 35 years ago, I opted to have the “honour and obey” vows in the service.  It was an option, but I deliberately chose to do that.  I think I shocked most people at the time doing that!  Perhaps it is especially because I am, and always have been known to be  a ‘Strong Yorkshire Woman’ that it seemed important to me to make that point, that we were in this together, it was not, and is not my show.

The rationale Peter gives behind this instruction is that it is about your conduct, how you live.  This passage is actually written in the context of a believing woman being married to a non-Christian husband.  She is not to use her faith as an excuse to pull against the marriage or her husband, but by quietly getting on with it, working together, she will bear testimony to that faith.  Living in the kind of way that makes someone else ask questions about why you behave as you do and seeing God in that, is a powerful lifestyle.

The next part becomes is equally as contentious – don’t use adornments to make yourself beautiful.  I do not live in the world of false everything and the latest high fashions, but I do like to look nice.  Something we have all stressed about during lockdown is our hair, and I have certainly been glad to get mine mowed and back into some sort of tidiness, if different.

I take this advice to pertain to not wasting time, energy and resources on all manner of ‘improvements’ when your life is not right.  We know the saying that true beauty comes from within, and I think this is what Peter is getting at.  True beauty comes from doing the right thing, living a good way – God’s way, sharing, loving, and seeking to bless others.

The advice does eventually turn to men, and how they should live as husbands.  In the time it was written, this would have been quite revolutionary news to men.  They would have been used to treating women as possessions, required to do their bidding.  But if a woman is being asked to obey her husband, he has to be acting the right way for that to be safe and sensible. 

So man are asked to treat their wives with respect.  Life is a joint effort with God.

The whole premise of this is then widened out much further – love one another, be kind and humble, don’t pay back evil with evil, but with a blessing.  All a very sound sensible way to live for all of society – essential if you are a Christian.

So from anger, frustration, despair at how outdated this advice is, perhaps we have managed to glean some important things for human, Christ based, living for today.  And that can never do us any harm!

Lord,
you ask us to love,
to live beautiful lives,
to live your way.
To live together
in mutual respect.

Teach me
to learn to live your ways,
to be a blessing
with those I live amongst,
may my behaviour point
always
to you.

Today’s song suggestion: Love God Love People by Danny Gokey