Sunday, 31 December 2017


What's in a story?
Throughout history, stories have been used by people to entertain, to teach, to record events and express the whole gamut of emotions that define us as human. Every culture has its unique stories, handed from generation to generation, either through oral traditions or written down. There is something profound and wonderful about reading words that were written centuries ago in lands far away.
It's no wonder then that Jesus used stories to share with people when He was alive in this world. His audience could relate to the situations that He described, ordinary situations which demonstrated principles of God's love and the way that we should live. We call these stories parables and these tales are often short but frequently deeply meaningful. The physical situations in them are often symbolic of spiritual truths.
What better way to begin a year than by looking at the first parable recorded in Matthew's gospel. Although not necessarily captioned as a parable as other stories in the gospels are, I deem the few verses describing the wise and foolish builders to be a parable, considering the Latin root of the word to be parabola, meaning "comparison".
Matthew 7: 24-27:
A wise man built his house on rock. When the storms came, the house stood firm. Another man foolishly built his house on sand. The storms came and the house was destroyed.
As in many other examples, Jesus explains the meaning of this comparison. The people who hear the words of God and put them into practice are like the wise man. They have a foundation on which their lives are built that is strong and secure. When the storms of life, which symbolise troubles, misfortune, fears and attacks come, they will stand firm.
The foolish man who builds his house on sand is symbolic of those who hear the word of God and disregard it. There foundation is not a relationship with God upon which everything else rests. It could be a variety of many other things- power, prestige, wealth, success, health,  friends, popularity, for example, but without God being Lord of all these, they can all be lost when hardships come.
What is the foundation for your life?
We've just celebrated Christmas Day 2017. What was your state of mind at the end of that day.? Were you drunk? Were you jaded about the money spent on presents? Did you find yourself thinking that an emphasis on food and things had not really brought any lasting happiness? Were you exhausted from the frenzy of preparations for just one day? Or was the day filled with a wonderful sense of God's presence and an appreciation for the gift that we celebrate at Christmas- the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ? Was your heart filled with love and gratitude for the blessings that He pours out on us every single day?
When you build a house, it's important to have solid foundations- ones that are strong and stable, waterproof and termite proof. If the foundations are good the building above will be secure. If the foundations are shoddy the most magnificent structure above them is in peril. There can be no stronger or more trustworthy foundation for life than to build it on the love of God and His ways.

The beginning of a new year is a very appropriate time to take stock of life and make a commitment to God, if you've never done so. Let it be the foundation of this year, a solid rock on which your life will be the best you will ever have.
My husband built the stairs and retaining walls in our garden- built on concrete foundations in 2006 and still standing strong eleven years later.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Merry Christmas 2017

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas as we celebrate the miracle of God's great love.

A baby born in a stable in Bethlehem was the Saviour of the world, God incarnate, that we might be reconciled to our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, His Son.

No greater gift has ever been given.
No greater life has ever been lived.
No greater love was ever shown.

He is the Wonderful Counsellor, mighty God,
Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace,
King of all kings forever more.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The Dream Dog- a short story to read over the Christmas holidays.

Crash! The side gate slammed on its hinges as Michael shut it fiercely behind him. Now I’ll be in for it, he thought to himself. Any minute now I’ll be hearing Mum’s voice telling me not to wake the baby.
“Michael, is that you?” She stuck her head out of the back door as he drew level. “Please keep the noise down, Vicky’s just gone off to sleep.” She looked closely at his face. “I didn’t expect you back so soon. Is everything OK?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine Mum.” He walked straight past her into the courtyard at the back of the townhouse and sat down on a plastic chair.
“All right, well come in and have something to eat if you want to.” she called after him and closed the door.

Michael sat alone on the small stretch of lawn, kicking at the sandy grass beneath his feet with the toe of his shoe. Everything should be fine. when you’re just a kid of ten years old. But everything wasn’t all right. He felt like crying sometimes but he was too old to cry. To stop himself from crying he just got angry. He got angry all the time.

This afternoon had started out like most Fridays. After school he’d come home to change and take his football down to the park to play with his mates, Aron Smith and Andrew Beecham. For some reason they both hadn’t been there. Who should be there but Perry Wilson who was also in his class. He thought Perry was alright but they didn’t often play together. Perry’s dad was with him and they were playing cricket, Perry batting while his dad bowled.

Perry’s little sister was there, too, all bright and pink in overalls with bows in her fair hair, swinging vigorously backwards and forwards on the swings. Tied to a fence close by, held safely by a leather leash, excitedly straining to join in the play was Perry’s big black and white border collie dog.
“Hi fella,” Michael patted its warm, thick fur.
“Mike, come and play cricket” called Perry.
“Naw, it’s O.K.” Michael continued patting the dog. It licked his nose.
“Come on Michael,” sang out Perry’s dad. “It’s easier with a fielder. You bat and Perry can field.”
“Aw Dad,” Perry complained.
Michael watched the way that they laughed at one another and felt jealous. Mr Wilson took charge and organized everyone. Michael batted for a while, then bowled and fielded. All the time Mr Wilson praised him and Perry when they played well and just joked when they didn’t.

“I better be getting home now, Mr Wilson. Thanks for the game.” Michael handed the cricket bat back to Perry.”
“See you on Monday,” said Perry.
“’Bye son.” said Mr Wilson.

As Michael left the park he turned and glanced back. Mr Wilson was picking up the little girl in his arms and swinging her high above his head; Perry was holding on to the dog’s lead as he ran off in the other direction. That was when Michael started to feel funny - so sad and then so angry.

Son. That’s what Perry’s dad had called him. But of course he wasn’t Michael’s father. Michael didn’t know where his father was or what he was doing. He had three letters from him, kept in an old biscuit tin in the back of his wardrobe. The last one was posted from Darwin nearly a year ago. They never said very much, just that he hoped Michael was happy and doing well at school. As if he cared. He left them all when Victoria was just a baby. Mum said she and Dad weren’t able to stop fighting and they were just making everyone unhappy. Michael didn’t have a dad to take him to the park and play cricket with him. He sometimes wondered if he would ever even receive another letter.

Michael got up from the chair and went to sit on the ground by the fence. It was such a little garden. Vicky’s swing set took up nearly all the space there was. That was another thing that happened when Dad went away. They had to leave their house to come to live in this little townhouse without a proper garden. If things had been different, he’d still be living in their old house and have a garden to play in and a dog.
Michael wanted a dog of his own so much. A big, friendly furry dog that would love him and always be with him.
“You know we’re not allowed dogs here.” Mum would answer whenever he brought the matter up. “Besides, it would be cruel, keeping a dog in a courtyard like ours. Dogs need room to run around.”

“Here, King.” Michael sat with his back against the high wooden fence that surrounded the courtyard and called out softly. If he couldn’t have a real dog, he might as well have the next best thing. “Here boy. That’s a good dog.”
In his imagination the dream dog appeared, as it often did, black and white and long-haired, nuzzling his nose into Michael’s hand. It sat at his feet and looked lovingly into his eyes.
“Come on boy, let’s go for a run.”  In his imagination they were running as swiftly and lightly as the wind across a wild grassy hillside.

A loud scraping sound from the other side of the fence interrupted his daydream. Oh, no, thought Michael, I hope Mr Krupps didn’t hear me or he’ll think I’m nuts. Why does he always have to be around anyway? Always pottering around in his vegie patch over there and watching to see what’s going on. It’s not fair, here we are stuck in this little unit and he’s next door in his big old house and great big garden. Peering through the fence Michael could see the stout old man just a few feet away, turning over a patch of earth with his spade. Michael quickly ran into the house.

Vicky was in her high chair messily feeding herself mashed banana with a plastic spoon. Mum looked at Michael and started to say something then stopped and took down a glass from the cupboard, pouring him some freshly squeezed orange juice.
“There’s some strawberries if you’d like some,” she said, putting a bowl on the table. Michael reached for a red, juicy strawberry and then hesitated.
“Where did these come from?” he demanded, suspiciously.
“Mr Krupps brought them in this morning.” she replied. “Michael you don’t have to be like that, “she said as Michael pushed the bowl away.
“Why does he have to be coming over here all the time, giving us things?” said Michael.
“Michael, he’s a kind man. He’s very lonely since his wife died and he’s got no children nearby. It makes him happy to share the things that he grows.”
“Well he doesn’t have to hang around here, does he?”
“Michael, he’s a nice old man really. It’s just that the two of you got off to a bad start.”

That was true. It all happened the first week that they arrived in the townhouse. Michael was out in the garden while Mum set up Vicky’s swing set and he was supposed to be helping but wasn’t being much use really. He hated the new place right from the start. There were some rocks on the lawn and she asked him to move them so he picked up one in each hand and just chucked them over the fence. There was the sound of glass breaking and a few minutes later Mr Krupps was round at side gate, puffing and red in the face. It seemed Michael had broken one of  the cold frames he used to put tomato seedlings in.
When Michael had been made to apologise and offer to pay for the broken glass out of his pocket money, Mr Krupps seemed to calm down and looked a little sheepish.
“It’s okay.” he said. “It was an old frame. I have some more. But please be careful in future.”
After that Mr Krupps often dropped by to bring them some home grown fruit or vegetables and talk to Mum. She sometimes made him a cake or sewed buttons onto clothes for him. Vicky loved him and always gurgled and held out her arms when she saw him but Michael had never managed to even like him.

It had rained all week and twice Michael had been in trouble at school for staring out of the window instead of paying attention in class. He couldn’t wait for lessons to finish on Friday afternoon. It was a week since he had been at the park with Perry. He wouldn’t go again this week. He might go home and watch a DVD.
He hadn’t been at home for long when the front doorbell rang. He could hear voices outside, then Mum came to where he was watching television.
“Michael, Mr Krupps is at the door.”
“Well, why doesn’t he come in then?”
“He particularly wants to see you.”
“Oh, Mum, do I have to?”
“Michael, he wants to see you. You can watch the movie later.”

Michael went reluctantly to the door and swung it wide open. Mr Krupps was standing outside with a beaming smile on his face. In his hand he held a shiny red leash, and on the end of the leash was a smooth-haired, large black dog, of uncertain breed, its long tongue lolling from its mouth as it sniffed at Michael’s legs.  Instinctively Michael patted its head and the dog’s tail wagged enthusiastically.
“Michael, I have a little favour to ask you,” Mr Krupps began.
“What’s that, Mr Krupps?”
“Well, there have been some attempts at breaking into houses around here lately and I am on my own, you know, so I decided to get myself a dog from the animal shelter for protection,” he paused, “and for company.”
“But,” he continued, “I am an old man now and not as fit as I once was. Walking home from the shelter I wondered if I had made a mistake, choosing a big dog like this. Perhaps I should have to take it back. But this dog I like. So I wondered, would it be very impertinent of me to ask you, would you be willing to take the dog for walks for me – to the park perhaps?”
“Mr Krupps” Michael almost shouted for joy. “Why of course I would love to help look after the dog.”
“I am very grateful to you.” Mr Krupps bowed. “I was also thinking that I must now build a fence around my vegetable garden to keep the dog out. Perhaps, if you would like to, you could help me with some of the cutting and nailing.”
“I’ve never tried anything like that before” replied Michael, “but I’d love to try.”
“I’m sure you will learn very fast” smiled Mr Krupps. “We start tomorrow. Oh, Michael, there’s just one other thing. My old brain is not so good any more, when it comes to names. What do you think would be a good name for our dog here?”
Our dog. He had said our dog.
“I know just the name” said Michael happily, “King.” 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Christmas catalogue families are totally fictitious

In Christmas catalogues the families
are  totally well-groomed, beautifully dressed and smiling
gathering around an immaculate, perfectly decorated table.
An abundance of sumptuous food appears,  prepared and served with ease
in a house that is spotless and filled with designer furniture,
The centrepiece a Canadian spruce, so tastefully bedecked with colour-coordinated ornaments,
Beneath lie the gifts, each expensive present
So perfect for the recipient.

But real life is a little different-
Full of messes of all kinds
Not enough time to clean up and sort them out
Food spills and burns,
Families come in all shapes and sizes,
dispositions and conditions,
And the Christmas tree is covered in
last year's souvenirs and kindergarten projects from long ago

And that's okay because

The first Christmas was a little different too,
No silent night
Just the noisy din of a crowded town,
No snowy winter wonderland
In the stony mountain paths of Judea
A couple newly wed, (rumours abounded)
No welcome here, no family
No room in the inn, a smelly, dusty stable
Plain food if they were lucky
and a bed of straw for a baby

The birth of a baby
A star shining brightly
Shepherds gazing in wonder
Cattle lowing,
The sky filled with angels rejoicing:
Salvation for mankind has come
And heaven and nature sing.

No Christmas tree in Bethlehem
only God's precious gift of love
So perfect for every recipient.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

God is the same

The church community that I belong to has been studying the Biblical book of Exodus, and in his sermon yesterday our founding pastor, Rev. Peter Sweetman reminded us of what an awesome God we believe in, and how he demonstrated His greatness in delivering His people from bondage to freedom:

God delivered baby Moses from the genocide of Israelite babies and placed him in a position of favour and influence in Pharoah's court.

When it was time for Moses to appeal to Pharaoh to let the people go free, God demonstrated His power over every authority that opposed Him through plagues. When the sorcerers of Pharaoh's court demonstrated their demonically-inspired trickery, God demonstrated His sovereignty  over every demonic force that was unleashed.

God led the people out of Egypt, from bondage to freedom. He made a safe crossing through the waters of  the Red Sea, for hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more people.

Once the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, God destroyed the pursuing Egyptian army, one of the mightiest forces in the ancient world.

God guided the Israelites through the wilderness giving clear direction with a pillar of cloud by day and a  pillar of fire by night.

God gave them food (manna and quail) and drink, all that they needed to sustain their bodily needs.

God protected them and gave them victory when the Amalekites attacked them.

Every single promise and assurance that God gave to the people, He kept.

Over three thousand years later, God is the same. He is as involved with His people as much as He always has been and always will be. He is the same mighty deliverer, leader, counsellor, provider, defender and protector. He is our Saviour and redeemer through Jesus Christ. He is our comforter and counsellor through the Holy Spirit.
In a world which seems to be increasingly troubled by violence and crime, in which social constructs and ethical values are changing and in which Christian beliefs can be derided and falsely portrayed we know beyond doubt that God is still very much at work and with His people. We know the joy and blessings that a life of belief in God brings.

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God  who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,"

Psalms 119:90  Your  faithfulness endures to all generations;  you have established the earth, and it  stands fast.

Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Life Star

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
        Hath had elsewhere its setting,

          And cometh from afar:

        Not in entire forgetfulness,

        And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come
        From God, who is our home:

William Wordsworth “ Ode : Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.
My mother always said that babies know a lot more than we think they do. When you consider the reasonably similar appearance of most babies, it is quite amazing how differently they all turn out. Every person soon demonstrates their own unique personality, preferences, disposition, talents and weaknesses, as well as physical characteristics. Is this simply the product of a comingling of genes and environment?

To me, the lines above written by William Wordsworth, are some of the profoundest sentiments written in the English language. We are not born without prior consideration by God. The Bible tells us that we were thought about before God even created this physical world:
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4

And that God created us with our birth and extent of our lives planned by Him:

For you created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”  (Psalm 139:13-16)
We may not remember our life in the womb, but God assures us that He knew us then and was with us from our conception. He has implanted in us a soul, that deepest expression of our humanity and link to the eternal. We are birthed from the thoughts of God, created in His image, and if we are committed to Him through Jesus Christ, return to our Heavenly home.
For the past two years, I have worked with people who are severely disabled, both physically and intellectually. Some ill-informed folk would argue that they have no reason or purpose to be alive. Yet I can attest unequivocally that working with them has been the greatest privilege. Each one is a unique personality and has their own way of interacting with others. Each has a range of likes and interests and has ways of enjoying life, even with all its challenges. Each has a soul. They are inspiring and make their community and this world a richer place for their being in it. God does not make “useless” humans.
Our conviction of the existence of the soul inherent in every human is the reason that Christians strongly oppose abortion and euthanasia, trusting God to decide the span of our lives and caring deeply for others during this lifespan.