Three Traits

Patricia was a thankful person, in all ways and to all people. The day before she was admitted for a brain tumour operation I took her out for a meal at one of our favourite eating places. The following day after I had taken her to Charing Cross Hospital and settled her in ready for the procedure I returned home and in my study I found an envelope with a card in it, that she had carefully put there so I could find it; this is what it said.

“For my beautiful lunch – Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! To my darling M – for your loving kindness, patience, your love and care. You will never know how much I have appreciated all this. My prayers will be for you; that you will just hand it all back to God – He’s always cared and kept me since I was 12. He will keep me now too, so we can enjoy life again.  Love you my darling.”

What more can I say, I’m in tears, unashamedly. I did just that, handed it back to God, and he took it and her, His need was the greatest. My life rang with her thanks. I will treasure that card until I die; it was the last real act of generosity in her life. My memories are of her being so grateful for everything that was done for her. She was selfless and charitable, and was constantly giving away things and my money! If I have to define her main characteristics I must turn to other writers, here are two comments from Clyde Kilby, Professor of English, which describe her very well indeed.

First, I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, ‘fulfill the moment as the moment.’ I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now. She seemed not to be concerned about the future too much but how to live and enjoy the present moment. The morning was never rushed; she dawdled over her newspapers and breakfast — it was the current moment that captivated her. Time was in God’s hand, He knew her well. She was never in haste; everything was planned and perfected in her daily programme – time for everything important. It didn’t matter about other issues, they could wait.

Second, “I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the ‘child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder.’ ” There was a childlike simplicity about her; God was sovereign of her life, what possibly could go wrong! She was His child He her father, He loved her she adored Him, what better. She was safe; therefore if things did apparently go wrong, there was a divine answer. God knew best, she was born into His love, He knew the future, she trusted Him. If only we could enter into that priceless confidence and say with Edward Mote: [1834]

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ the solid rock I stand

And so we do.

Third, we live in a violent rage-filled era, and there is too much sadistic exposure on our TV, in newspapers and comics. We see things now that many of us never dreamt we would witness for news now travels at lightning speed around the world.  Patricia veered off the spectacular and the brutal, gobbled up by so many as a normal diet. Her kindness made her radically different eschewing anything that injured or scarred. She lived in Prov 22:24 “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go,” She guarded her life and character meticulously. The last foster father she had was a war torn soldier who had a vicious temper, and she vowed when she married she would marry a man who did not smoke, did not drink, and was kind and gentle and a Christian – she got me! It seemed to fulfil her specification.

The last women’s prayer meeting she led was against pornography; her thesis was that their husbands, sons and grandsons may be so afflicted: violence against women needed combat in the spiritual realm. She had been collecting information for months that was spread around walls and on bulletin boards to illustrate the growing danger of its filtration into current society; for even the church, which is supposed to be the citadel of holiness, was not immune.

Thus she held a standard high for personal lives in the everyday.  I have chosen but three things, amongst many attributes – she did not rush, she was childlike, she had a high moral tone – she was not weak, but forthright, incisive, clear-thinking, militant for God, never overawed by anyone except God; a challenge to my daily life. I hope to yours also?

 

Consider (Part 1)

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other,” [Eccl 7:14]. This cry is applicable to most Christians, for “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” [Job 5:7]; cares can corrode us, fears dismay us and disappointments confound us. In our relationships there are the seeds of bereavement, in our possessions the elements of danger and in our affections are traces of anxiety and torment. We are tempted, at times, to cry with Lamentations: I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath” [Lam 3:1] and Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow,” [Lam 1:12] which is singularly self-important ignorance and arrogance, for there is No temptation [which] has overtaken you except such as is common to man;” [1 Cor 10:13]. But one does wonder if God is our friend why does he not exempt us from such trial and if he is our father why does he not protect his child. The eternal question is — If I am His why am I thus?

Peter addressing the early church said we are: “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” [1 Pet 1:2] but he also said Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;” [1 Pet 4:12-13]. The first compensates and consoles for the second. Religion does not exempt us from the evil day but it does prepare us for it, and within the host of biblical instructions and examples not the least is our text – “in the day of adversity consider.” Talking to His disciples Jesus said: In the world you will have tribulation;” [John 16:33] and King David inferred: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” [Ps 34:19]. So Old and New Testament confirm the rightness and certainly of trial and tribulation.

However, our calling is “reasonable service” [Rom 12:1], not unjust and callous but destined for glory, for God is the author of every good thing, and our pilgrimage to Him is by our own effort for  we are not carried but we are guided. He works within us to form His majesty enabling us to walk worthy. It is therefore realistic for us to consider that our religion is sensible, and like saints of old we can say “I thought on my ways and turned my feet to His testimonies”  [Ps 119:59]. This word extends to all parts of religion, thus in the midst of adversity we can say confidently, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” [Rom 18:31]. His testimonies are sure and shot through with divine love and affection. Thus we should consider Him in all aspects and especially His ways in our life. The Bible says “Consider Him” [Heb 12:3] and so we will. His design for us must be perfect.

O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee:
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be

Let us consider our duty – our text says “God has appointed the one as well as the other.”  It is God’s sovereign will, Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” [1 Peter 5:6-7]. Samuel knew about this, “And Samuel told him [Eli] every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good[1 Sam 3:18].

The lessons of adversity are fourfold, correction, prevention, examination and usefulness. The last one was prominent amongst Puritan writers; life must always be useful or effective! The purpose of our life here must be productivity and in that fruitfulness we must consider men of old and how they fared with God. We may be under grace but Jesus came to fulfil the law! His basic dealing with men does not change from generation to generation. Abraham committed sin in taking Hagar and now we have the Middle East crisis because of Ishmael. God forgave the transgression but did not remove the problem.

Fireworks

It’s New Year’s Day and I am awake; its 8:01 and I’m amazed, I normally wake between 4:00/5:00am and wonder why I didn’t today. I had watched the world fireworks until 12:10am, wished myself a happy new year and went to sleep. Australia had the best pyrotechnics, New Zealand the worst and Britain halfway between.

Will the New Year bring fireworks in the humdrum of life or not, we shall see as time unfolds,  but does one want fireworks at nearly 80, isn’t being alive just enough? Again, we shall see. If fireworks are on the agenda then I would like to see them in our church, with God’s amazing possibilities firing everywhere with a multitudinous range of colours and noises – bringing forth cries of awe and amazement over His faultless and exciting design. Catherine wheels, rockets, bangers, sparklers and pinwheels, all jumbled into a riot of colour giving glory to God in the highest. Church is exciting, life can be also.

We are not sure how life will unfold this year, but one thing is almost sure, if God does not intervene in my dear wife’s life she will soon be in heaven, and free from pain and disability. We face death daily but as Christians we know we have an assured future. Parting is never easy, but with God we can have confidence and peace at prospects ahead, and sing “Because He lives I can face tomorrow,” with certainty and hope.

We have agreed to meet at the south gate, but in reality we will probably sing and worship for the first 1,000 years before we think of joining up! Her life has been a pageant of worship and service and a miracle of longevity, in spite of a crippling muscular disease. Her indomitable spirit has taken her through to higher ground in all aspects of living. She has no time for self-pity but looks heavenward constantly from whence commeth her help; a paean and pillar of ascending incense to God.

We would do well to remember the fireworks and the dying embers of a life soon to be spent and exhausted, and pray that that life will have a more lasting impact than the million pounds spectacular witnessed on New Year’s Eve, soon to fade from memory and swept into dust. Our bodies too, fall into the soil and become dust, but our spirit walks onward to destiny leaving a legacy of witness and testimony that challenges the generations. Hopefully we are not just fizzle and pop, but more like faith and purpose; true fireworks indeed.

If we “seek first the kingdom and His righteousness,” we will indeed have a lasting heritage.  King David said “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, your power to everyone who is to come.” [Ps 71:18]. It is difficult to seek first the kingdom, for too many intervening projects vie for our attention and win our interest, and rather than seeing those “things” added we find they are subtracted. Too many Christians splutter like fireworks and soon fade; a big burst of light and they are no more. It is best not to be a firework but a work of grace that fires, like Moses’ bush in the backside of the desert — it was not consumed.

Those who do seek first, will find that God reciprocates with fire that does not fail, a steady burning in their hearts, for remember the Emmaus Road where Jesus walked “did not our heart burn within us” [Luke 24:32]. Jesus is the centre of God’s Kingdom and manifests His character within its sphere and reign. Those who really seek Him will find a companionship that transfers life and transforms living. He is the epicentre of all that God desires in mankind and is the answer to the needs of all who pursue Him.  Although the scriptures state that “these things” will be “added” I believe they could be multiplied! Let’s see what happens in 2014.