Thanksgiving for February.

Despite the gloom of devastating news around the world, people are still praying and are seeing answers to prayer.

In extra-ordinary circumstances, we see extra-ordinary kindness and supernatural grace.

I am so grateful for each act of kindness shown to a person in need, at this time and always.

Acts of kindness are signs of hope, which generate gratitude in others.

Gratitude recognises hope and is simultaneously a beacon of hope.

The more grateful we are, the more abundance we recognise we have to be grateful for.

A grateful heart makes me conscious of the present, helps me to be mindful, helps me to lift my focus away from problems and to look for solutions.

Gratitude makes me smile, gives me contentment and peace and joy and it gives me the compassion to be generous to others and to become an answer to their prayers.

On a daily basis, personally, I need a lot of time and space alone, to recharge my batteries. Having company challenges this, but the benefits always far out-way any inconvenience!

That said, my life is about relationships – my relationship with God and my relationships with all the beautiful people I have had the honour of getting to know. I am so thankful for all of the people in my life.

The gratitude in this blog is specifically for the month of February.

Though my life is full of people, February was an extra-sociable month for me.

My first-born son, whom I’ve not seen for 18 months, came home from Vienna for a fortnight’s break. Not only did I enjoy some precious time with him, but also many of his friends dropped in to see him – an added blessing for me.

My sister also had made a trip South from Orkney and she came to spend a few days with me, which was also precious.

In between, an old school friend, visiting Nottingham, also had an evening and morning to spare with me.

I am so grateful for these beloved people, who no longer live close by – for who they are and for those opportunities to spend more quality time with them.

In other special intentions, I am so thankful for God for the following answered prayers:

That J.’s travel home to the UK was smooth and easy.

For some great family gatherings, meals in and out.

That D. and J. are now both on sober journeys.

That L. has been given leave to be a stay-at-home mum until T’s 3rd birthday.

That S. has sailed through a bout of Corona.

That A.’s neck-brace is now removed, the family reunited and God glorified in this.

That a positive connection was made with D. and R.

For F.’s beautiful spirit and that You took him suddenly and without any suffering.

For healing and restoring L. (and sustaining her with Psalm 23) and bringing her back to fellowship.

For the opportunities of zoom to allow T. and G. to lead home-group.

For all the families we could bless with half-term lunch-club and for C. and the team serving.

That D. got to see R. in the nursing home, despite all the regulations.

That an old friend was re-acquainted with S. through my book.

That Z got the job he applied and worked hard for.

That R. Got the job she went for and loves it.

For re-connection with R. and that she is writing, healing and growing closer to You.

For the blessings of donations from local stores for our Kilos of Kindness to bless our communities.

As always, I thank God for all the requests and cares that I have entrusted to Him and for the knowledge that throughout February, although I may yet see no results, I trust that He has already answered in His great mercy and compassion.

I am also grateful for all those who are praying for me and for all their loved ones.

If you want to pray, but don’t know where to start, pray for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Speak to your heavenly father as you would to your closest friend and pour out your concerns however they come out, knowing that He listens, understands and cares more passionately than you do.

Then thank God for hearing you.

What are you thankful for today?

Who is thankful for what you said or did today?

Simple Peace or Distraction?

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

One of the most difficult challenges of our times, I believe, is the volume and all-pervasive seduction of distraction. Amidst the News, TV, smart phone beeps, buzzes and pings, social media, blogs, radio, newspapers, online articles, You Tube, advertisements… I remember the days when folk would put a notice on their letter-box, politely prohibiting junk-mail – but how do we do that now, when it comes into our homes through so many channels – invited and uninvited? I’m not advocating that all this access to information is a bad thing, indeed, in theory it makes communication and connection with others easier than ever before, but I believe that it overwhelms our limited human capacity. It certainly overwhelms this pea-brained human! Like all good things and neutral things, it is potentially good in moderation! But the mobility and centrality of technology has made it far from moderate in the world I observe.

Over this last year, more than ever before, even with my own attempts at moderation, I’ve found myself so distracted by a wide diversity of opinions – by theories, viewpoints, philosophies and all manner of interpretations of the truth – and that among those I love! Some folk have a strong, clear mindset – they have ‘made up their mind’ and that’s it. They may be called stubborn, narrow-minded, or a whole host of less savoury things by opponents to their way of thinking, but their belief systems are strengthened and fed by algorithms on the computer, choosing their ‘food for thought’, just as browsing in the same shelves of the bookshop, or reading the same newspapers, did in the past.

But I have found myself desperately seeking wisdom and peace! I’m one of those who hears a well-argued point of view and weighs it and finds it compelling – I suspend judgment, if you like – and then I hear an opposing view and I see that one too – equally compelling… I can, and do, find myself buffeted hither and thither by all manner of theories. Today I saw myself stepping out of the storm tossed boat onto the raging waters, but keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Often that is all I can do, not to drown under the huge waves of opinion. It is a battlefield of the mind, or a storm in the mind – a spiritual battle, not a human struggle , and I see where this person is “coming from”, I understand – but it is a distraction, and I need to keep my eyes on Jesus in order to survive. Solution number one – keep my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. One might argue that I should choose a life of no information – and I do find it appealing – indeed I don’t have TV, radio, newspapers, or smart-phone as it is. But I live in this world and I believe that in order to relate to other persons in this world, I need to share some of the same struggles. It is a balance. We each have a different capacity for this, I believe. Perhaps I have less capacity than most!

I have had a few answers to my prayers of late, one is Isaiah 8:11–14

“This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:

“Do not call conspiracy, everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread. He will be a sanctuary.”

And the other answer is a strong call in my spirit to keep everything simple! Jesus doesn’t just call great theologians and charismatic speakers to follow Him, He calls you and me. The whole message of the gospel is about relationship! Jesus’ death on the cross is the contract that guarantees reconciliation with God, spirit and neighbour. In Him all are reconciled (1 Tim 4:10) – brought into relationship, made ‘at one with’ (atonement with) the Creator and all creation. Reconciliation that brings acceptance, wholeness, love and lasting Peace.

We have so many laws and theories and beliefs and often a local legality of our own making, but Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better way – to sit and listen at the feet of Jesus. The most important laws emanate from this relationship of love – first law is (Matthew 22:36-40)“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Relationships of love – with God, with myself and with my neighbour. And how do I do this? – By staying close to God, in relationship with Him, listening to what He is guiding me to, every moment of every day.

There are many who would like to chain us up with legalism and more instructions on how to live, but the simple message of love acts in love towards all – and against love there is no law. Of God’s love and reconciliation through the cross, I am certain, but of all the trappings, shoulds and shouldn’ts, I do not know how to begin to judge. Often theories and theologies and philosophies cause dissension, division and a breakdown of relationship, but love is an action that is visible and promotes growth – it desires only God’s best for the recipient of that love. Love encourages. Love comes alongside a fellow traveller in support and offers to carry their bag and listen… and then places the other’s burdens at the foot of the cross. Love gives what it can to the one who needs it more… Love forgives, accepts, trusts and inspires the other to forgive and accept and trust themselves…

Love is not a particular way of doing things, for all persons for all time, or a set of rules to bind others to, it is fresh manna every morning, to be used as refreshing dew and nourishing food for the purposes of that day… His mercies are new every morning, His anointing is fresh every morning, His presence is here, now… Enquire of the Lord today, for He has fresh plans for today. Today is a new day that the Lord has made. Listen to Him and walk today’s adventure with Your shepherd and those whom the Lord has placed you beside; walk today’s journey beside Him who guides, protects and fights our battles; walk today’s blessed hours amidst the storm, with abundant, fullness of life and in the Peace and Joy of relationship with Our creator, lover and mighty God. Oh what eternal, adventurous Joy!