Walking on thin ice?

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Watching the ducks waddling across the thin layer of ice I thought how like this coming year. So much of the world seems to be walking on very thin ice indeed. Last year brought impending change, Brexit, the US elections, the worsening Middle East situation etc. etc.. Even my normally stable, cozy little island (UK) stands on the brink of flux.

Then I got to thinking. If the ice did brake its no big deal for the ducks. They can swim and they have warm greased feathers. It might be momentarily scary, but no big problem. So I thought are we like ducks? Can we swim?

Then I remembered we know the one who could walk upon the water and my apprehension vanished.

Abundant life? (Christmas/ New Year thoughts).

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As focus drifts from Christmas to resolutions a misleading conception saddens me – “abundant life”. It’s preached as being God’s promise of abundant supply, riches, a prospering business, a new car etc. etc. Some even measure others by their prosperity. How odd to think that a God who chose to be born in a stable and wander the land as an itinerant preacher, sleeping rough with his followers, would be interested in such things.

Sure He cares for His children and supplies their needs as promised, but this gift of “abundant life” is so much more than that! Like the old picture of a child dropping her doll to receive a snow white dove, abundant life is so much more!

John says “in Him was life” the life, creative power to heal and mend hearts, minds and bodies. It says, “He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly”. That this power of life can live in us to such a degree that it bursts forth on others, bringing life, healing, and peace. “Abundant life” is authority to access the power of the spiritual realm and perform miracles through that “life spirit” bringing forth fruit, not of sordid material possessions, but miracles of healing, redemption and changed lives. The former pales in comparison to the latter.

Just a thought when setting goals and resolutions.

Christmas Illumination.

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I’d heard this song many times, but this morning it spoke to my heart.

“Cast out our sin”… those secret sins hidden in the heart, pride, selfishness, arrogance, the ones we hide from all but Him.

“Enter in”… the habitation of Christ – the only way we can love the way He loves, His spirit in us. This may seem scary, to give free entrance to another, our will giving way to theirs (visions of “The exorcist”). But not with Christ, for “God is love”. His spirit is love, pure love bringing joy, peace and compassion for our fellow man.  It’s like having the one you are totally in love with, and whom you trust utterly, live within you, knowing you can never be parted and that He’ll defend and care for you, not only in this life but forever.

“Be born in us today.” We celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas, yet He can be born in our hearts every day, the Christmas miracle replayed many times over. I’ve long believed that was what He meant when He said, “greater things shall ye do because I go to the Father.” His power and love manifest in millions of hearts around the world. Only in this way can peace on earth truly come. Though we may be well meaning, our hearts are not pure enough without his spirit ( the hidden sins remain) and without His power we cannot defeat the evils of this world.

I rejoiced in the realisation that the miracle of Christmas can live in my heart every day – Christ with man.

Shepherd. (Christmas flash fiction)

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“Get out of my way scum! Get these beasts off the road!”
He could have said he had as much right on the road as they did, but he held his tongue. He knew better. Instead, nodding in a servile manner, he attempted to clear a path for the merchant and his retinue. The sheep, as always, were not co-operative, milling in confused circles.
“Incompetent imbecile!” the merchant muttered striking him a passing blow with his riding stick as he forced his way through. He said nothing, what was there to say. He was a shepherd, lowest of the low. Shepherds had a bad reputation and it was not altogether unfounded, He, himself, was no innocent, well what else was he meant to do, a man had to eat…
Settling down for the night he pulled the sheepskin cloak around him. It was cold out on the hillside, but the sheep must be guarded. He’d be out here for days seeking winter pasture.
When young he’d dreamed of having his own sheep, but that dream was long passed, as were dreams of a family. No, he’d be out here with the sheep, alone, abandoned till the day he died.
The sheep were restless, perhaps there was a predator? Grabbing his staff he looked around. Nothing! There was an odd stillness, a light wind blew up and the night sky slowly became defused with light. Fascinated he watched. Suddenly a face loomed in the darkness, glowing with power and light.
Terrified he ran cowering among the sheep. God had sent an angel to judge him! Surely an angel of death!
“Don’t be afraid, I bring good news!” a voice like water rang out. Speechless and trembling he cringed, not daring to move. “Good news, to bring joy to all people.” It was somehow the way he emphasised “ALL” that took away the fear. “For you is born today, in David’s city, a saviour, Christ the Lord.” A saviour, for me? The words resounded in his heart “ FOR YOU!”
“This shall be a sign. You shall find the baby swaddled and lying in a manger.” At these last words the sky exploded with light. Hundreds of angelic beings glowed, lending their voices to a chorus of, “ Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace to men of good will.”
His heart burst with joy, joining the heavenly chorus, for he had understood. The saviour was not only for the rich and mighty, for the holy and righteous, but for him also, and he had been chosen, above the merchants, even above princes, to hear the glad tidings and gaze on the messiah.
Grasping his staff, he’d dropped in terror, he left the sheep (surely God would care for them) and strode off towards Bethlehem. He was not alone he noticed, others had seen also. He chuckled, like him they were shepherds, the lowest of the low.
(This story was inspired by learning the view we have of shepherds is very different to that held in the Middle East back then when they were considered little more than dishonest vagabonds. Which makes the choice of shepherds even more meaningful.)

A true Christmas tale.

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It’s a long story how we came to be in the old farmhouse in Ireland realizing our dream. We, little nobodies, had helped stage a Christian camp for youngsters. They’d come, some eager, some confused. and some rebellious. We loved them, pulled our hair out at their antics and prayed (oh how we prayed!) Now it was over. They’d returned, tiny flames of love kindling in their hearts, to their domains, leaving a great joy of satisfaction in their wake.
There was just one problem. It was almost Christmas and while we had food aplenty and a roof over our heads, we had no money left, zilch, nothing, and there were children there, mine included. We explained there’d be no presents that year, no tree or decorations. They were such troopers, not a single complaint.
We made our own décor, holly and fir branches from the forest. Silvery yogurt tops, kept from the camp, were cut into snow flakes and suspended from fallen branches dabbed white with left over emulsion. It looked wonderful!
Christmas Eve was still special. We read old Christmas stories by candle light, and I sang my guys to sleep with childhood carols.
I came down to see the two teenage boys who’d helped with the renovations were gone.
“They went to look for a tree.” My eldest whispered. Due to a lot of boggy ground fallen trees were common in the surrounding forest.
Our Texan builder/handyman was heading out too. It was he who first dreamt up the project. His tiny 5ft 6 frame harboring a personality that somehow gave the impression of a 6 footer.
I joined my daughter and the other teenage girl who’d stayed to help clear up the aftermath of the camp etc. We’d almost done when the boys dragged in an enormous tree. I restrained myself from checking for axe marks (their hearts were surely right and the forest was common ground I reasoned.)
They set it up in a bucket which the girls artfully draped and we went about gleaning all the décor we could find, painted fir cones, odd bits of tinsel yogurt top snowflakes. It looked beautiful even without lights.

I was just drifting off to sleep when I was roughly wakened.
“Come on mum. We need you to help wrap.”
Our Texan angel had been to see a friend who owned a small toy factory. He’d been hoping there might be a few “old line” bits and pieces for the kids. But the Irish heart never gives by half and the little van was crammed with toys, enough for several presents for each child and lots left over to pass on to others, there were even fairy lights for the tree.
Imagine the wonder next morning when the children were awoken by Christmas angels (my daughter and friend had raided the prop box) and brought down to the old living room. There they saw a huge tree blazing with lights and an immense pile of presents.
They didn’t think it was Santa. They knew who to thank, and their happy praises sounded all day long. The presents were special because they knew Jesus had sent them and that made His birthday “magic”.
We adults of course didn’t get presents, or did we? The gifts of joy, love, peace and intense gratitude filled our hearts in a way presents never could. Jesus’ love for these precious children and the hearts that had given so freely of time, goods and sleep were more than enough!