Saturday, December 31, 2011

Compassion and restoration

When John the Baptist's disciples come to Jesus to ask if he is the one who was to come, he tells them to watch and report back what they see:
'And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.'
All the things Jesus tells them to report on are restorations: the blind have their sight restored, the deaf have their hearing restored, the dead have their life restored and in the same sentence, the poor have the good news preached to them. Because this is a type of restoration as well, the poor in spirit have the life-giving good news of the gospel spoken to them. Their spiritual needs are ministered to, as much as the physical blind, deaf and dead. As Jesus meets their physical needs, he also goes on to meet their spiritual needs. Jesus knows what they truly need, but also that the physical is comfort for us. In the previous chapter we read that Jesus had compassion on a widow whose son had died and brought him back to life. This wasn't just a show of power, this was compassion. This section in Luke paints us part of a picture of who Jesus is; compassionate, knowing our needs and seeking to meet them as they truly are.


Friday, November 11, 2011

The old and new of Flanders fields

The old and new of Flanders fields
Many men stood up to stand no more,
Walked out knowing what lay in store
Drew courage deep from
wells they did not know they had
to walk the path that lay before
the path through Flanders fields.

And souls awake to life
so much more than some will ever feel
refused to bow and yield
but set their sight beyond their strife
and took their footing true and firm
to walk the path through Flanders fields.

As many fell, their brothers marched
more fiercely, sternly quickening on
the hour they lived in, come upon,
determination set and starched
to see their solemn duty through
and master Flanders fields.

Now present men and women serve
to pledge their lives to us protect,
let us in our memory not neglect
the price from which they did not swerve,
and say that we shall not forget
the men of Flanders fields.

A poppy worn, the past retold,
Those men and women, bravely fought,
and through their giving, peace have brought,
that sacrifice does not grow old
our lives are bought through those who give and gave,
who lived and died,
to make us free,
the old and new of Flanders fields.


Monday, October 24, 2011

My name

Enjoying worship on Sunday morning I had this reflection.

My name
My name is not Weary
It is not Shamed
Nor failure
My name is not Reject
It is not Forgotten
Nor Abandoned
My name is not Too far away
Neither is it Dirty
Nor Pain
It is not Enemy, Traitor or Insignificant,
Not Illegitimate,
Nor Estranged or Unwelcome.

My name is Loved,
And it is Son,
or it is Daughter.
My name is Unconditionally forgiven,
It is Grace-covered,
And it is Redeemed.
My name is Welcome,
It is Pure and Clean,
And it is Heir and Prince.
My name is White as snow,
It is New,
And it is His.

My name is Christian
And my only board is Christ.

I am eternally grateful that my identity isn't found in me. It's found in Jesus.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Not made to be lone rangers

At the end of the school day yesterday I was a little frustrated at how parts of the school day had gone. The difference came when I chatted to 2 of my colleagues after school and shared how the day had gone. How I'd tried to make it challenging and fun. How I'd got myself in a right tizz. How the children had not seemed to get on with what I'd asked them to do, being more interested in talking about Pirates of the Caribbean or playing 'it' at break time. Talking and listening to them made me realize that I'd given them something much too hard. And I'm not the world-fixing, all-child-teaching machine that I sometimes delude myself into thinking I am. I will get things right, and I will get things wrong. That's why I'm not made to be a lone ranger.

Thinking about this in the shower this morning I was reminded that if we were all lone rangers in our jobs, relationships, lives, we'd not be reaching the best in each situation. For example with Cat and I, who have been happily married for 5 and a half months now (:D), if we both just did our own thing, didn't ask each other for help, or leaned on each other at times we wouldn't be enjoying marriage anywhere near as much. There's a blending that's occurring where both she and I are learning to share what we both do best, learning how to support the other and finding that the more we do blend our lives together, the better life is.

At home, Cat listening to how much day had gone made a world of difference. In school, having Leigh and Viki listen to my rantings on the day and share their thoughts at the end of the day was a massive help, and I know that there are skills that we all bring to the table to make our school a better place. If we all just did our job without raising our heads out of the sand and looking around for how else we can use what we've been given, our school would not be the family it is.

All of this reminds me how we are all individuals. We have a unique blend of skills and abilities. We have unique personalities. We are in the places we are meant to be. However, I firmly believe we get the best out of life when we share the best that we are with the people around us. Life is in relationships. Friends, family, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, sons, daughters and children (in class or your own!)

We're not made to be lone rangers. We're made to be part of the great party riding out into the un-known. We're made for relationships. Sharing yourself can be hard, but it brings vitality to your life.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why can't the English weather just make sense?

Over the recent Summer holidays, Cat and I joined a team for the Bournemouth International Outreach. The International students commented time and time again how they were amazed that the English weather could be sunny in the morning and thundering down with rain by lunch time. This song is dedicated to the bemused International students who visited over the summer.

Why can't the English weather just make sense?

Oh why is it in England
that the sun is never here?
The rainclouds and the thunder
seem to leave the sun in fear
I'd give my two front teeth
and maybe two more from the rear
just to have a single nice hot sunny day!

For the rain is always raining
and the sleet it loves to sleet
our summer thunder showers
are decidedly un-neat
and prickling hail stones
just get under your feet
oh why can't the English weather just, make, sense?


You go out for a walk
in one of those rare sunny spells
but when you leave your door step
there open up all hell!
your umbrella turns inside-out
and before you've reached halfway
you're soaked right to the skin
and wish you could restart your day


And when it comes to holidays
you never can choose right
hiking's just a no-no
camping can be a fright
to hold out in a hotel
just makes you feel like a fraud
and the sun only really comes out
when you head off abroad.


This curious weather system
can leave you in a spin
a hot and sunny day
can quickly change to snow and wind
those shorts you picked out for the beach
now give you chilly skin!
and wishing that it were another
country you lived in

Ch (final)
So throw out your cold weather clothes
get your hot weather dosh
sell off your welly boots
and give away your macintosh
abandon this weird weather that
leaves us in such a state
pick our that house in Haiti
let's pack up and emigrate.

(Post a comment if you'd like the chords :) )


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Autumn leaves

A wee reflection on the way to and after school today about the changing colours of autumn.

Autumn leaves
Autumn leaves drift by my windowsill
each with their own story to tell
colours share their own history
preferring more to share than tell

Red reminds of rosy apples
juicy from their summer growth
weighing leafy boughs to bend
until they fall with Newton's grace.

Orange shares the burnished sunset's
golden glow across the sky
shading clouds so very high
stop a moment, wonder why.

Yellow spots remind of polka dots
on summer dresses waving in the breeze
chilling hidden knobbly knees
some wearers wish we wouldn't spot!

Green holds onto nature's one last stand
before the chilling of the ageing land.
Snows will beckon soon but not before
the autumn leaves show their last colour in store.

Brown breathes in the earthly depths below
sod and soil mingle with leaves, slow
like winter's passing into spring
old leaves die that new ones soon might grow.

Autumn leaves drift pass my windowsill
each with their own story here to tell
colours hinting at their secret history
preferring to rather show, than tell.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Two days

Two days

Two days til the ties can be hung up and the shirts put away
Two days til we watch the Railway Children play
Two days til the door closes and the holiday begins
Two days til my class moves onwards on the upwards spin
Two days til a friend ups sticks and moves away
Two days til the start of their shining new day
Two days til tears are shed, many and true
Two days til friends move on from me and from you
Two days til this old term comes to an end
Two days til holidays resting, we'll spend
Two days til a lie-in can be realised
Two days til a special person will wake up surprised
Two days til the end of a year's work, well spent,
Two days to show them the care that you've kept
Two days to wrap up the hours of the year
and only 40 days til September which soon will be here!


Monday, April 04, 2011

Poem: Figures of eight

Above one of the houses at the back of our garden there is a man who keeps homing pigeons, which he's trained to fly in figures of eight. Stunning and beautiful to watch. But you have to wonder, do they not feel a little dizzy after a while?

Figures of eight
Figure of eight,
Figure of eight.
All that you fly in are
Figure of eight!
By rights you'd get dizzy
And hit chimney pots,
Or get lost and land on
A crane by the docks,
or even fall into
Someone's pegged up socks
But somehow you make it home safe, never late,
After flying your figures of eight.


Poem: Buzzing bee

Sitting on the step down from my kitchen you get a great view of the back garden. Spring having recently arrived, we now have buzzing visitors. This poem's written about one such visitor.

Buzzing bee
What must it be like
To roam round my garden all day
Noisily making your way.
Visiting flowers
Like stops on the bus
Why don't you come visit us?
Buzzing your way through
The hedges and grass
Adding a flavour of class
To the yellow and purple
That grows on my lawn
Working to sunset from dawn
always the worker
You don't seem to stop
Except when the rain comes down,
plip, plop,
And away to your hive
You are gone in a buzz
Orange and black,
All covered in fuzz
Buzzing bee,
Why don't you come visit us?


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Song: One through your mercy

Reading through 1 Corinthians over the past 3 months has reminded me of a number of things as a Christian.
1. I am a dirty, rotten sinner. I've grieved God's heart, and deserve to die.
2. I am amazingly, scandalously forgiven because of what Jesus did for me. This is totally undeserved. Nothing I do can change either that I am forgiven, or that I deserve this.
3. My identity is now in Jesus - not in my job, skills, status, state of mind/heart or future prospects. And that is unchangeable. I am now one with God. Amazing.

This song came out of thinking on that this evening. We're not lone rangers any more as Christians. We're one, but one with God.

The score for the song is downloadable at the bottom

One through the mercy (you've offered to me)

Cut from your presence,
denied on just grounds,
a life in your goodness,
a sinner, but now found;
Welcomed entirely,
forgotten, my sin,
covered entirely
you welcome me in.

One in your body,
one in your love,
one in the sancified
state of your son
one now I'm ransomed
one now I'm free
one through the mercy
you've offered to me.

Compassionate eyes and
wide open arms
welcome me to you, with
nail-scarred palms,
cost fully paid out,
justice complete
you beckon me nearer
to pierce'ed feet.

Life now unlocked to
the fulness in you,
you beckon me onwards
to imitate you,
to shoulder your burden
and walk the hard path
but knowing that future joy's
mine through your love.


Winter's tree

Walking back from town today after a lovely cup with Cat, I took a detour through Freedom Fields Park, nearby where I live at the moment. I love trees in the winter. They look like the bad guys out of a comic book about nature. This poem came out of enjoying time out with them in the park.

Winter's tree

As I walk home, there you stand;
my park companion.
Time and elements pass you by,
What's it like to live your life?
Twisted legs reaching deep,
Toes probing the darkness.
What secrets do you know?
Gnarly fingers stretching towards the sky
Can you reach?
Could you use a boost?
Light warms your arms,
swinging to the breeze,
Turning sunlight to shadow
Casting haunting shadows on the ground
Yet children play beneath you,
Couples carve their hopes in your bark,
Old men dream their lives away beside you.
Not so scary after all,
My winter's tree.


Thursday, February 17, 2011


I've begun taking time out at the end of each day just to stop. To turn off everything electronic, go somewhere quiet, and just be. What a blessing it's been just to stop and 'be'! Lighting a candle last night before heading to bed, this poem started forming in my head.

My flame burns quietly,
But you know I'm there
Keeping you warm
Showing you hidden things
Dispelling the dark.
I don't need to shout
Or light up in a roaring inferno,
That's not my light.
I am small, but significant
My light casts shadows
And dispels them
It burns away the darkness
Replacing it with dancing light;
I dance for you.
Surely you see this?
My light is for you
I give it to you
Come closer
Feel my warmth
Let me light up your smile
Show you how much I care
Only don't put me out
Anything but that
Care for me
Nurture me
Help me grow strong and bright
Let me light you up more clearly
Don't be afraid
I love you as you are
My light only reminds you
What you already know
Nothing new
But my flame
Burning the darkness
Replacing it with dancing light.


Friday, January 28, 2011

To burning, walk (not lukewarm, stand)

A poem that came out of meditating on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane where he told his father, "not my will, but yours". This poem is one man's choice to live it out, and its consequences.

To burning, walk, not lukewarm, stand

"Have your way," I heard him say
though half-heartedly at first.
Then gradually, increasingly,
he began to realise and see
that saying "have your way" was not
a solemn walk of drudgery,
but rather better that he'd panned,
to burning, walk, not lukewarm, stand.

His older ways now faded past,
their appeal lost to new desire
to kindle flames of dangerous fire,
to follow close the narrow trail
and down this pathway, oft' unmanned
to burning, walk, not lukewarm, stand.

Growing to live in sacrifice,
your way became his better best
and slings and arrows mattered not,
a simpler life, he would attest,
and choosing first your greatest good,
he burning walked, not lukewarm, stood.

And at the end, he turned to me and shared
"A life better lived, I can't compare.
I thought I knew, but his way was better
free from all my self-made fetters.
He taught me to walk, and now I'll run,
his arms are waiting, my journey's done."

With that, he left me there beside his bed
all he'd been no longer stayed.
Simpler trust to live out "have your way"
I've not seen to this very day.
A life lived fearless, bright as sunlit sand,
a man who chose to burning, walk, not lukewarm, stand.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New song: Entirely by your grace

Entirely by your grace

Beautiful grace,
what can compare to the risen son
to your holy one, Jesus?
Marvellous grace,
more than I ever can comprehend
the depth of your love is without end, Jesus.
Freely yours to give
and joyfully we receive!

Jesus, all of creation is by your making,
Jesus, powers and authorities you are shaking.
All of us, forgiven and welcomed to your fold.
Captives no more, we stand before you, entirely by your grace.

Scandelous grace,
you make this filthy sinner clean
at the greatest cost there could ever be, Jesus.
Perfect grace,
enough for my past and present sin,
even my future's been forgiven, Jesus.
Freely yours to give
and joyfully we receive.


And oh, I once was lost but now am found by you,
no more a slave, but now your own,
and nothing that I do can change the fact
that I'm accepted through your chosen one.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Better is one day

A reflection that came out of the worship this morning at Waterfront. There really is no better place that I can be, than in God's courts, God's house, God's presence - and that is perfectly possible through Jesus.

Better is one day

Better is one day in your courts,
better is one day in your house,
than a thousand elsewhere,
away from your love.

Better the crumbs from your table
or the echo of your voice,
than the choicest of meals
or the world's 'wisest' choice.

Better the shelter of your shadow
or the peace of your touch,
than the greatest of wealth
or a lover's touch.

Better the love of the Father,
better the freedom of grace
than the closest of brothers
or a loved one's embrace.

Lord, I count it all nothing,
all the world bids me count dear,
next to living and knowing
your grace now and here.

'Better is one day in your courts
Better is one day in your house
than a thousand elsewhere.'


Monday, January 17, 2011

Passion in performance

Stumbling across this picture today, I was reminded about an article I read a while ago about a computer program that was created to play piano music. More than just play it note for note though, it was designed to play like a pianist. It was programmed to 'feel' the piece, judge the tempo, read the notes and attempt to read between the lines of the music. More than that, it was also programmed to compose its own musical scores.

They brought in a music critic to listen to a piece of music the software had composed and played, without telling him it was composed and played by a computer. The critic made a very poignant comment afterwards. He noted that the piece was complex, had wide variations in tempo (speed), harmonies and running themes, but that the piece had been played by someone who must have read it literally note for note. He said that the performance he'd just heard had been played immaculately, not a note out of place, every dynamic played to the letter, but the piece itself had no feeling, no soul.

This made me reflect on what a critic might see looking in at the Christian life. Do they see a dryly lived, legalistic life filled with rules, regulations and heartless traditions (by which I mean, traditions followed with no heart in them)? Or do they see a life that's made simple by the beauty of grace? So simple in fact, that which our eye not having to be 'on the ball' the whole time with following rules, that we show real joy in serving God - joy that is evident in the smallest of things like fixing a cup of coffee or doing the dishes, to giving up time and what we have for others. And with this joy in our service, our satisfaction in grace through Christ, the performance the critic hears is not one of dry precise notes, but one of colourful expression, sweeping the critic along on the journey of the piece, full of accidentals (incorrect notes) but sounding all the more beautiful because of them, the musician knowing that he has the freedom to make them and to enjoy the piece to its fullest.

When you watch a musician who's played for many years, who's come to know a piece of music by heart, you cannot help but get swept along in the performance. You can see how they feel the music, raise a hand here and there, knowing the lulls in the music. It can take your breath away. As Christians, as we walk closer with God each day, we grow to know his character, and as we know the reality of Jesus' death on the cross and his grace more fully, our lives take on more colour and vibrance. The accidentals of our lives now spur us onward into the piece, where once we would have stopped and maybe tried to backtracked in order to correct them and have the 'perfect' performance in our repertoire.

The glorious truth is this, that the piece we are expected to play has been performed perfectly by Christ. We now have the immense privilege of being able to have that as the crowning glory of our repertoire, and to play the piece we are playing now to the glory of the composer. No longer are we constrained by the rules of the piece, we can play it with joy and a real sense of freedom.

The 3rd movement of Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata is one of my favourite pieces of music. Wilhelm Kempff (20th Century pianist/composer) plays it in this video. Enjoy :)


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Storms and eyes

It's strange to think that the safest place to be in the midst of a roaring storm is in the centre of it. You'd think that the most sensible thing to do would be to distance yourself as far as possible away from it. But powerful storms often move at tremendous speeds, way faster than you or I could move. But instead, pushing into the storm, pushing through it, you reach the eye. An area of total calm. An place where you can watch the crazy swirling madness of the storm moving around you. A place of safety. A place of peace.

I find the beginning of term always feels like a bit of a storm to me. I take one look at my classroom, usually in a semi-abandoned state from the end of last term, and always I can feel the storm brewing. A look at the paperwork that needs to be seen to, and the storm's intensity grows stronger. Throw in the displays that need to be changed and the first day back around the corner and before you know it, the storm reaches critical intensity and you can feel yourself being swept off your feet.

The beginning of term reminds me how easy it is to let yourself get lifted off your feet by what's going on around you. It's so easy to let what needs to be done take your eyes off the goal, isn't it? Our work, a close relationship, preparation or big plans, all can sweep us away into the storm and leave us panicking and without a foundation to hold onto.

But along comes Jesus, who says to me in the midst of the storm, "I am sufficient for you." The storm doesn't lessen, but its hold on me does. I grab hold of the branch of a nearby tree. He takes a step into the storm and says, "I am your shelter and strength." I get both feet on the ground and start to look at him. Finally he steps next to me and says, "I am your shepherd. You lack nothing. Even though you walk through the darkest storm, you don't need to worry. I am with you." In the midst of the wind and rain, I begin to breath more easily. I firmly plant my feet on the ground and cling to him. Then he begins to whisper to me.

The storm rages, but I don't hear it anymore. The more I listen to his words, the less I hear of the storm. My heartbeat slows, and I realise that the ground that I'm standing on is firm. It won't be moved. And I can weather the storm.

So often, this is what goes on in my head when a lot is going on. I tend to get overwhelmed by many things coming together at once, and easily lose sight of Jesus. But stopping and getting my eyes fixed on the cross reminds me that I am his, because he chose me. I am accepted, not by being a teacher, future husband, son or friend, but because of Jesus alone. I am loved 'with an everlasting' love, because he loved me first. And if He put me here in the first place to teach, then he'll make a way to get the job done. He always does.

Bring on the new term!