Friday, 9 December 2011


The ink sputters on the white clean parchment. I have re-lit the light, writing in the light from the bending taper. At the close of the year, I think of our Lord's Birth Day. The young mother. Ostracised and alone. Husband beginning to understand. Long journeys from Kings and mothers heavy with child. Roads thick with dust and nailing heat. Aching back from camel or donkey seat. New star. Unearthly guiding light. Shepherds with their smelly sheep suddenly suffused in light, music and glory. Rushing to Bethlehem to see and then rushing away to tell.

But this baby, this God-with-us bundle of joy, Was and Is, before anything else was. With God himself, right when the world was first being made. Making it happen.

So in this Word, this revealer of the truth, this Person by which things happen, by a great mystery, he is a man to us but also light and life and goodness and God Himself. He showed us what God is like. He showed us the way back to him. The path of forgiveness and grace.

He wasn't recognised truly for who he was, not in birth, or life or in death. The empty tomb, the shining angels saying "He is alive", the wounded hands made it plain. And belief in this forgiveness-giver, life-giver, grace-giver and blessing-giver makes us children of Most High God.

And so I begin, this record, so that many will read and believe - I write so they might believe and have the life that is life. I write to add to the many books that will be written. The world is not big enough to contain all the books that could be written about the things our Lord did. I write so that our Lord Jesus might be known.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.
He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.
He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known."

John ch 1 vs 1-18 (NIV)

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.....Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

John ch 20 vs 31 and ch 21 vs 25 (NIV)

Waiting Widow

"When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismissed your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him."

Luke ch 2 vs 22-40 (NIV)

I have pondered the waiting widow of Anna many times. Simeon was also waiting but it is Anna, that I think of.

To be married only seven years, and then widowed and remain after that always alone. This is what stings the eyes. Of course, she was perhaps not always alone. She may of had family who took her in. She may of had sons and daughters. However, she remained unmarried and she was waiting along with Simeon. Maybe with a grief that never really fades. Waiting on God is not like waiting for a delayed aircraft to take off. It is not like waiting in a supermarket queue. It can seem much harder than that, because we worry that what we are waiting for; (a husband? a baby to be concieved? a friend to become a Christian?) might never come to pass.

Simeon, it seems was sure of what was coming. He knew and he trusted God. These things that trouble me, don't have that same certainty about them. But God is the same. God who sustained the widowed Anna, the waiting Simeon, the unbelieving Zechariah, the amazed Elizabeth, the fearful Mary, the bumbling shepherds, the searching Kings, sustains me. My cause is not dis-regarded. His understanding, no-one can fathom. My strength will be renewed. God is far bigger and more powerful than my concerns and worries. Waiting on God is not like a train station waiting room or a delayed appointment. There is nothing static about it. The real question is; how is God making me more like Jesus at this time? What is he teaching me? How can I serve him?

"Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Isaiah 40 vs 21-31 (NIV)

Rachel of Rama

My dear Theophilus,

Thank you for your recent letter. It found me well - but I was sorry to hear of your wife's illness and I hope she recovers speedily.

In recent weeks I have been looking at details of the birth of our Lord. It is hard to find in Nazareth stories of the young Mary and Joseph - although I have spoken with one of the sisters of the Lord Jesus who lives there with her family. We know that Mary and Joseph set out on the long journey to Bethlehem in the later stages of her pregnancy and so it is to Bethlehem that I have travelled. Again it has been hard to find people to talk to who are witnesses of what occurred. I have spoken with Simon who was a young shepherd at the time, and one of the group to whom Angels appeared to. They later went into Bethlehem that night and found the baby Jesus with his parents.

However, I wished also to speak to families who lost sons in the terrible blood letting that followed. King Herod had heard through the Magi and his advisers of the whereabouts of the child but both the Magi and then later Joseph, Mary and the child evaded him. Every boy in the town of Bethlehem under the age of two years was murdered. I was pointed in the direction of a lady called Keziah. Her younger brother was killed. She merely confirmed the little I knew. A bright white light from a new star had shone and then later faded in the days before the massacre. There was no warning, that dreadful night of bloodshed. Out of the night came Roman soldiers. Keziah described terrible screaming that night, and of course others were injured apart from the children. Frantic parents and older siblings trying to protect their young sons. Grief like a cloud descended and took many years to lift. The prophecy did come true.

The good news that came out of my meeting with Keziah is to know that she herself is a believer. She travelled to hear our Lord teach and heard much of his sermon on the mount. Later she heard of the crucifixion and resurrection and she too believed. Her heart has mended and had let the burden of grief down and knows promise of a place where all the tears will be dried.

It has been sobering though, to hear of the suffering that has taken place in this town of Bethlehem. I trust this letter will find you well. My investigations continue apace.

In Our Lord,


And Mary said:

My soul glorifies the Lord

I set out on my journey some weeks ago now. The roads have been very dry and dusty and the journey has been tiring because of this sickness. I hold my secret close like a precious thing. "Do not be afraid" echoes through my mind and so I concentrate on this. Elizabeth is a faithful friend and she will believe me. We had heard that she and Zechariah have their own miracle to treasure. Although it seems less complicated than my own situation. There is nothing to be mis-understood. They are married after all. I have decided though, to not worry about Joseph. I cannot help but think that for something so miraculous and wondrous, that the Almighty can reassure a man's heart and given him peace and purpose.

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

Now almost 2 months ago, I was at home cleaning. Waiting to go visit Joseph's family. It was an ordinary day, ordinary tasks and little things to do. Dusty Nazareth on a an ordinary hot and dusty day, and one of the smallest houses in the town. No-one important. Not the place of kings and no palaces to be seen. Quietly out of the mid-day heat came, this great being with great news. Of great joy. For everyone. And for me out of the amazement and fear, peace and a settled-ness, that God will care for me, as he saw me, that village girl. I have pondered this more than anything. The humility of it all. Not for me, but for God to be humble, to choose a person of no importance and no grandeur. It makes me wonder as to the kind of man, this Son of God will be. A humble king. A king not born in a palace.

From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.

I am with Elizabeth now. It has indeed been a wonderful thing to come here. She knew immediately. Without even being told, she exclaimed that her own baby had moved within her. "But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?.....Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished."

Another blessing. I was thinking that I would at the very least, have to tell Elizabeth my news and that she would hopefully believe me but I arrive, and she knew. She knew. I had not cried. But I cried with relief, then, because another person was filled with wonder and belief. The Mighty One is mighty indeed and he is doing great things for me. And how I am blessed!

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

To think that the Messiah is coming. The long awaited King. I look back and think of promises made. Isaiah the prophet. Ezekiel telling of a time to come. My people. My waiting people, wayward but praying for deliverance now, and waiting, so much waiting. And it is here! I want to cry out from the rooftops. Burning deep seated excitement and joy. There is a strangeness though to it all, that perhaps in this humble Son of God, born to this girl of no consequence, that there is something coming that we don't expect in a Messiah. Or might not want. "He will save his people from their sins", the angel said. No great over-turning of the Romans, but forgiveness of sins. So it is strange and mysterious.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

Saved. A Saviour. "You will call him Yeshua. Jesus." Joshua. He Saves. He saved us from the Egyptians. He carried us in the wilderness. He brought down the walls of Jericho. He raised up a man after his own heart. Even after the disobedience of my people, He preserved a remnant. Mighty deeds with a mighty and loving arm. "For He will save his people from their sins".

he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

This humble Son of God. Born in humility. My thoughts turn back to this, that God did not choose the great to bring his Son into the world. Not even the daughter of a Rabbi. Or a great and wealthy Jew. So much to ponder and treasure in this wondrous thing. I cannot comprehend it. I have to trust Him though. Trust in his power and his goodness. Trust that the God who can bring rulers down, will care for me and care for the baby to be born.

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

My people. My waiting people. Oh that they will see, when this time comes. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.." Oh that they will see the great light that is dawning. Meanwhile, I wait myself. Wait for this baby to be born. I am safe with Elizabeth now but I will soon return home and my heart can fret. But I will not fret and God will care and provide.

Luke 1:46-55

Saturday, 3 December 2011


The ache had all but gone. I had passed it off as unreasonable hope many years ago. This deferred hope and longing. But it was no longer deferred as much as unreachable and impossible. King Solomon himself said :- "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." And my heart had been sick with it, but had healed, without the longing immediately fulfilled. Now we are visited in our relative dotage with this "tree of life" indeed, surprised by hope and joy.

It has been a strange few months and of course Zechariah cannot speak, so the joy is pressed down and is truly "unspeakable". A consequence of unbelief. How guilty I had been of that myself. Doubts and un-met needs. Other people's children swirled around me in life and in my dreams. Chattering. Unfettered smiles and hearts. How fettered my heart had been with envy and grief. For childlessness is a grieving. A loss. We imagine them. A little girl, like me. Like I was, with a cheeky smile, and drifting soft brown curls. We give them names. Our children that never live have names. Hannah. Of course I would of named her Hannah. My alter ego of tears and grief and barrenness.

This is our story though of "How blessed am I..." Zechariah had been chosen on that day to go into the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Never before, but on this day, his name had come up, drawn by lot. They had tied the rope around his ankle in case he was struck dead in that terrible Holy of Holies. I had stood outside unsuspecting of what was going to come. He took longer that he ought and a secret dread and fear had crept into my heart. Would we hauling him out? My thoughts drifted to my own fear of God, the fear of not being struck dead, but a lack of goodness. Of with-holding. "No good thing does he with-hold..." And yet had I not had "good" things with-held from me...specifically running around, little, smiling, chattering "good" things.

I did not have much longer to wait for he emerged, pale and tired looking....and struck entirely dumb. Others around concluded he had seen some sort of vision. He had more duties for a period of time at the Temple and so could not immediately come home. I am still uncertain as to what actually took place and all that was said, and more importantly, it's significance. But it is significant. A much deeper purpose than our desire for children.

And so in the this new season, I am waiting. Suprised by new life, surprised by sickness in the morning. Surprised by the answer to this old-new begging aching pleading prayer. We are to call him John. Zechariah has told me this through writing it down. John who will be a joy, a delight, for whom many will rejoice. John who will turn people's hearts back to the Lord, who will prepare a way. In our hearts we sence preparation for Someone and Something else. Mary is coming to visit also from Nazareth. My deeply contained building excitment and wonder can be shared with this dearest cousin. God's goodness is a mysterious thing, hidden and not always obvious in it's purposes. I cannot peel back the cover but it is real. Real and sure. So I wait. Wait for family to visit, wait for this life to grow, wait for this Tree of Life, wait for a Coming.
1. Proverbs 13:12
2. Psalm 84:11
3. Luke ch 1:1-38

Friday, 2 December 2011


My Lord, I did not choose You,
For that could never be;
My heart would still refuse You,
Had You not chosen me.
You took the sin that stained me,
You cleansed me, made me new;
Of old You have ordained me,
That I should live in You.

Unless Your grace had called me
And taught my op’ning mind,
The world would have enthralled me,
To heav’nly glories blind.
My heart knows none above You;
For Your rich grace I thirst;
I know that if I love You,
You must have loved me first.

Josiah Conder (1789-1855)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Of Etsy rings, old books and a thousand thanks in the making.

13. Newly minted in the morning autumn colours.

14. Feeling the sun's warmth on a November day.
15. Walks and talks with a good friend and pizza.

16. Beautiful etsy ring in the post.

17. Even more beautiful old book from a dear friend's online antique bookstore.

18. Excitement about the Old Testament after a theology class.

19. How theology leaves to hunger for more and praise.

20. Rushing rushing river and elusive far away (surprised by) joy.

21. Hope and comfort for the grieving.

22. News from a far off land like a drink of cold water.

23. Red pink petals of a rose.

24. "Brown paper packages tied up with string....these are a few of my favourite things" and thanksgiving things too.

25. Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, 4 November 2011

One Thousand Gifts: Beginning the Count.

1. Audio book lifting the heart, drying the tears.
2. Starting to plot Christmas presents.
3. A new haircut.
4. Dank and damp night, but clouds blown across the shining moon.
5. Grocery shopping and planning a week of meals.
6. Antibiotics that kill the earache.
7. The plumber fixing the toilet flush for nothing.
8. Finding happiness and hope in the midst of disappointment.
9. Jaffa cakes and tea drunk at the desk at work.
10. Finding that I can write, that I can find the words.
11. Finding joy in meeting a friend's need and so moving away from self-pity.
12. A hot bath.

So I start to thank and count my thanks. For God is good, and I remember that, when I thank him for the gifts.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The tale of two lost rings and grace.

One ring has a pale blue stone with twisted cross-over type setting. It is pale gold (nine carat). The other ring is silver with etchings around the rim. One is from a Fair Trade shop and the other from a Jewellers.

I wore the aqua ring to work about a month ago, and took it off briefly and put it in my pocket. It must of fallen out. It was one of those days where I had tramped through the hospital (next to the medical school) to buy bits and pieces from the hospital shop. So without speaking to anyone in the department, I frantically re-traced my steps and in the end spoke to hospital security and reported it missing. By this point I had given up on finding it. Rather down-hearted I returned to the Medical School, and thought on the spur of the moment to check with one of the secretaries that no-one had found it. I should of done this at the beginning of my quest to find my ring because it turned out that someone had found it, handed it in and an email had been sent around reporting that a ring had been found. So I got my ring back. It was lost but then later found.

You would think I would of learnt my lesson, but a few weeks later, I wore the silver ring except this time to the GP practice where I work. I had a busy day and was one of the last to leave at 7:30 pm. Before leaving I was running around tidying up and packing up my doctor's bag. In the car driving home, I suddenly realised that my ring was no longer on the my finger. Not as expensive as the other one but with more sentimental value I felt the disappointment. I emailed the practice the next day who looked in the places where I thought it might of fallen off and put up notices. But no-one had found it. The following week, I was duty doctor and visiting a patient at home and pulling equipment out of my doctor's bag. Buried under everything right at the bottom of the bag, I spotted a silver ring. I had found it! What a feeling of sudden relief and happiness.

So I have lost two rings in the space of about 4 weeks and found both of them. I was pondering how "lost" I can become, because of sin, weariness and distractions and how persistent God is at finding me and setting me back on the right track. Or when I see my "lostness" and run home in tears how wide are the open arms and how willing to draw me back. And how are innumerable are the fresh new starts that are to be had.

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me
I was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see"
John Newton

"Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

" So he got up and went to his Father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him....
'My son', the father said, 'you are always with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead but now is alive, he was lost but now is found.'"
Luke 15: 3-10, 20, 31

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Writing and studying routines: CS Lewis

"I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better.

As step or two out of doors for a pint of beer would not do quite so well; for a man does not want to drink alone and if you meet a friend in the taproom the break is likely to be extended beyond its ten minutes.

At one precisely lunch should be on the table; and by two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.

The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude, …for eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading. It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table. What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere…

At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven."

Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis.

I first read Surprised by Joy when I was a teenager and this was one of my favourite passages. The comfort of routine and the pleasure of reading, writing, walking in the countryside and tea drinking. But he also later makes the point that there is a selfishness to such a routine that excludes others. However, there is a security in regularly doing something in a disciplined way but our lives need to be shaped by other priorities at the same time. Priorities that involve making time for people.

Friday, 28 October 2011

A Passion for Friendship..... and Spinsterishness.

Written for YLCF "A Peek into your Passion with a Purpose" Carnival. (

I do think "passion" and "passionate" are strange words. They are words I never use in real life. Perhaps it is English reserve and under-statedness- a wish to not exaggerate an interest or a reflection of a more sanguine personality. So I won't be using the word over much. I am "passionate" about different things; good books, old books, chalet school books, Radio 4, old fashioned General Practice (read The Citadel by A.J. Cronin), good films, costume dramas, primary care research, teaching. I know that I ought to be more "passionate" (oh- one more time) about following Jesus, studying my Bible and serving him. But these good things and interests, that I have mentioned are not separate from following Him, but all woven in and precious gifts from a loving Father, because all of our lives, the mundane and the fascinating is "in Christ" if we are "in Him".

However- to get to the point - what is my "passion"? There is a back story....

Five years ago I moved into my current accommodation which is a two bedroom flat in a block of flats. Upstairs from me, lived an Algerian lady married to a Scottish man with there two girls. They are Muslims. Gradually over the next two years I became friends with Fatiha, babysat Leena and Noor, started the Matilda club. In the month of Ramadan, three years ago now, she introduced me to her friends; Khadija, another Khadija, Reem, Cheharazed, Faiza, Aida, Wouroud. I read books, thinking about my friendship with these ladies (who are mostly from North Africa) and how I might be a better friend. And I share my life. We talk, and laugh, drink mint tea, and I have tryed sporadically to learn Arabic.

The other aspect of this, that I have pondered, is there is one particular thing in my situation that allows and affords time for friendships. I am single. Something that can seem invigorating, full of opportunities to be devoted to God and full of interests and time to pursue them. I appreciate the "spinsterishness" of Jane Austen and Miss Potter. I admire single missionaries ladies with all my heart.

The other side of this is, of course, that I also long to get married and have a family of my own. And sometimes (especially this past weekend when over-tired and recovering from illness) this can weigh so heavy that it can blot out the good things and blessings of singleness.

So this thought has begun to crystallise in my mind these past months that time is short and precious. I need to enjoy God and the life he has given me. Right now. I pray for a godly husband almost daily but I must also must remember to pray, that I will not waste any of the blessings God has given me.

I read a new Christian book on the topic of singleness this past summer. Carolyn Leutwiler (aspiring Opera singer and administrative coordinator for Children's Ministries at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) has written a book published in 2008 called Singleness Redefined: Living Life to the Fullest. This is an excellent book, but one quotation within it struck me particularly.

"Sometimes life is very hard to understand and I don't believe we are meant to understand all of it or there would be no call for faith....[But] seize every moment you have and use every gift you have to love God and love your family, neighbours and friends while you can. There is no guarantee of tomorrow. Yet it is so easy to let the little,urgent yet petty details of our lives take over. We are lulled into a false sense of security that everyone and everything will be there tomorrow...Once I heard it said that life is what happens while we are making other plans. Please don't let the really important people, priorities and relationships wait in your life. Enjoy every beautiful moment that God blesses you with and praise him for it."
(letter from Phyllis Golden) page 125 Singleness Redefined:Living Life to the Fullest by Carolyn Leutwiler (2008).

Much treasure is found in "enjoying God and worshipping him forever" whether in spinsterish circumstances or not. God is full of surprising blessings and blessed surprises. May we thank him for them all.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Do the next thing and the best next thing too.

From an old English parsonage down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the doors, the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration, “Do the next thing.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
Trust that with Jesus; do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
Do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings; do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing;
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

author unknown, quoted by Elisabeth Elliot

Thank you Gretchen for this (found at but as well I was pondering the most important "next things". And that in fact "few things are needed" and these can be found at rest, (cup of tea, quiet spot) at Jesus' feet (bible, notebook and pen) listening to what he has to say.

"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke ch 10 vs 38-42

Monday, 19 September 2011

Autumn leaves, new beginnings and improved thoughts.

The air has a snap now. No more balmy days. The rain and wind was tearing around on Friday shaking the windows and battering on the panes. I have taken out my brown duffel, too heavy for summer and too light for winter but just right for now, for these 2 months (or just one) of not-so-warm, not-so-cold weather. I am not a fan of snowy weather, the darkness and endless cold presses down and I sit inside almost afraid of the weather outside.

Autumn has a different flavour though - a new beginning unlike the lightening of spring but more like the start of new school year. New notebooks. New ways of thinking and for me a new job. But more of that another time. I have started reading a Bible in a Year, and started in September because starting in January nine months late is too depressing for words. So I started where I am suppose to be and have been reading Isaiah. From about ch 40.

I like Isaiah very much because it tells me that :-

God is Big.
God is Powerful.
That He Saves to the Uttermost.
That He has Plans. And He carries them through.
That we are small.
But He is Big and Awesome and Righteous.
That we are sinful.
But that He Loves and Forgives and Saves.

And when I am mired in disappointment or weariness or just plain old sin and petty-mindedness, it wakes me up, opens my eyes, renews my mind, and gives me hope. So I am enjoying these autumn days, with the need to stay warm again, and wear my brown duffel, drink hot chocolate, re-watch Little Dorrit, savour the new Jane Eyre and think of God as He actually Is.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Remember to say Thank You.

They are trailing in happy profusion on my dining room table. White. Purple. Green. Small and pretty. Striking out. Dancing fronds. Glass vase holding them all together with water to keep them happy.

Together they say thank you. Together they make me say: "Thank you Lord- I did it. But only because you were with me helping me".

My goodbye-to-being-a-GP registrar-hello-to-being-a-GP flowers. I am on holiday at the moment but worked my last day at my training practice on Tuesday. In about 10 days, I start my new job as an Academic GP Fellow working for Aberdeen University- which consists of 4 days research and one day of GP in each week. And I am happy about it.

And I am thankful. Hopeful of the future but not because of some great success or ability on my part but because God was with me and is still with me. With me, when I complained to him that he wasn't with me, with me when I failed exams, with me when I was sick, with me when things were going well.

So these beautiful flowers say to me "Remember to say thank you".

Thursday, 15 September 2011

"Howards End is on the Landing" by Susan Hill.

I found "Howards End is on the Landing" by Susan Hill in Waterstones yesterday and what a find it is - "I decided to spend a year reading only books already on my shelves for several reasons..I sometimes wonder if the books came into this house or if the house grew around them. Either way, they feel as organic a part of it as the beams, the Aga in the kitchen, the wood burner in the sitting room, or the old pine wardrobe that arrived in half a dozen sections and had to be assembled once it was in the right bedroom."

Books are indeed the decor of my flat- I decorate with bookshelves, and adorn with second hand copies or with a beautiful-with-etching new copy. The good ones are each a little world, taking you back to where you were when you first read it (rattling through India by train to Agra reading all of Jane Austen) or taking you forward providing some new insight.

On the internet :-
"The start of my journey also coincided with my decision to curtail my use of the internet, which can have an insidious. corrosive effect. Too much internet usage fragments the brain and dissipates concentration so that after a while one's ability to spend long focussed hours immersed in a single subject becomes blunted....The internet can have a pernicious influence on reading because it is full of book-related gossip and chatter on which it is fatally easy to waste time that should be spent paying close careful attention to the books themselves, whether writing them or reading them."

She never said a truer word- and here I am writing this on Facebook. And on my blog. But some fasting needs to take place with my internet use. My powers of concentration were greater as a teenager and I do think it was the lack of television and computer use.

Susan Hill explains further:-
"Rationing it strictly gave me back more than time. Within a few days, my attention span increased again, my butter-fly brain settled down and I was able to spend longer periods concentrating on single topics, difficult long books, subjects requiring my full focus. It was like diving into a deep cool Ocean after flitting about in the shallows, Slow Reading as against Gobbling Up."

However that is only the first few gems. Our reaction to individual books is so personal - and it is heart-warming, like sitting by a fire in winter with cocoa to read of her personal and extremely well-read history and thoughts on different literature. Harry Potter and Dickens. PG Wodehouse and Enid Blyton. Poetry and Pop-Up books. She is not snobbish about literature. The only thing it needs (boring, I know) is an index and then you could look up what she thinks about every individual (and there are many) book that she mentions.

I have only just started it- but it is splendid and soothing at the same time. A September Holiday leaves-turning- brown rainy afternoon, Read, if ever there was one.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Prime of a Charity Shop Owner

Miss Rhoda Mackensie was a lady who prided herself on the quality of her goods. They had to be neat and clean and if they were particularly old they required the air of an "antique". China was always welcome, but must be truly fine, no chips and no old pieces from the supermarket. The literature had to be good quality too, no trashy novels and she prized old dusty hardbacks. The only things that she liked dusty were the old books but she dusted them thoroughly anyway.

On this particular September morning, she arose early, made tea and surveyed the quantity of bin liners that had arrived yesterday following a family leaving town. She was resigned to sorting through the detritus of people's lives, sifting out the rubbish and the unsellable. There was nothing so unlikeable as the notion that a Charity shop was a dumping ground for the clutter of the masses. However, there was enormous satisfaction in un-earthing a treasure, that could be cleaned and polished if necessary and then displayed to best advantage. Just last week, a lady had left half a dozen bin liners and buried in the depths of one, was a beautiful antique mirror that only required some dusting and polishing. It sold that very day.

Glancing at the display cabinet towards the back of the shop, she sighed. Yesterday the set of Wedgewood had so nearly sold, except for the fact that Mrs Smith, a volunteer in her 70s had dropped the teapot of the set behind the counter smashing it just before the customer paid. The lady had flounced out the shop highly indignant and Mrs Smith had succombed to hysterics, calming down only after multiple cups of tea had been made and consumed. Charity shop volunteers of course were never sacked. Perhaps the set should be separated out, and someone might choose to buy only the plates. Or perhaps I might buy the tea-cups myself, Miss Mackensie thought to herself. She finished her cup of tea taking careful sips.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Some re-writing of history.

Since writing a first Travels with Luke letter I have discovered after doing some reading that my dating of when Luke was written, as after Paul's death is not accurate at all! Particularly in view of the fact that Paul was still in prison at the end of Acts, and this would probably therefore indicate that Luke and Acts were written before his death and also before the great persecution under Nero had broken out. So I am going to re-write it, unsurprisingly! More research is certainly needed but I like the basic idea.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Travels with Luke : Beginnings of an Idea

My dear Theophilus,

I was so thankful to receive your recent letter. You were right to assume that I am still in Rome. I have been here these 6 years now. As you mentioned in your letter it is now almost 4 years since our brother Paul was executed. I have remained in the city but it has at times been most dangerous for Christians and so I have often stayed in various places because of the persecution. And so I am especially pleased that your letter reached me, via your friends who kindly carried it to me. It has been a great pleasure to be re-united with Salome and Marcus, and news of you has lightened my heart.

My medical work continues to give me plenty to do - I mostly visit various patients who hear of me by word of mouth, but also, people come to me where ever I am staying and I can administer various treatments. However as you mention in your letter I have considered the possibility of moving partly because it has been on my heart to commence the research which I have discussed with you before. I would very much like to hear from you the particular questions that you have regarding the life and work of our Lord but also questions regarding what happened after the Resurrection and the travels of our brother Paul. I wish also to discuss this endeavour with brothers and sisters here in the city. I do believe in order to carry out my research properly and well I would have to travel. I send this letter back to you with great affection. May you remain steadfastly in Him.

Your brother, Luke

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Out of Moab

There is a new family in town. Mother says they are refugees from Israel. There is a famine there at the moment, and so they have come here to find food. But Mother says they have done the wrong thing in coming here. Their God would not be happy about them living here with us in Moab. I am not sure why though.

There are two boys, one the same age as me and another who is younger. They are terribly thin little things. And Naomi their mother looks unhappy, mouth twisted with bitterness and discontent. Elkanah seems the most alive - choosing a house here to rent and trying to dig in the dusty garden. He is working as a labourer already in the fields, just gleaning at the moment. Naomi has been at the well drawing water.

Ishvi, my Uncle says nothing breaks people down like famine. Counting each mouthful and wondering where the next will come from. I canot imagine it. I must go to the well, myself.
Yours truly, Ruthi.


The evening cool comes on, dust settling at last. Suddenly dusk will come like a blanket, soon after the sun has disappeared. The girl waits her turn. Ahead there is boy holding the pitcher awkwardly under one arm. He walks up to the edge of the well and lowers his pitcher, attached to the twine. It swings back and forth on the way back up spashing half it's contents back into the well. He sighs, and trys again. The twine swings erratically again. The girl moves forward hesitantly.
"You need to hold it steady".
He turns and looks at her, face strained and weary.
"Here, I'll show you." He lets her lower it again, and they slowely raise it together - nearly full to overflowing. Without speaking they lower her pitcher and bring it back to the surface. He sighs with relief and smiles briefly.

They walk away from the well together towards home.
"We are new here", he says.
"I know." She pauses; "do you like the end house?"
"Its alright. Much smaller than our house in Bethlehem. But at least there is food here." He speaks with a strange accent.

They reach her home and pause briefly.
"What's your name"?


"Goodnight Ruth. Thanks for your help". He starts to walk away.

What is your name"?, she calls after him.

He turns and looks back. "Mahlon, my name is Mahlon." They both smile, and he walks away, carefully balancing his pitcherful.

Friday, 26 August 2011



Yes I will rise
Out of these ashes rise
From this trouble I have found
And this rubble on the ground
I will rise

Yes I will rise
Out of these ashes rise
From this trouble I have found
And this rubble on the ground
I will rise

Cause He Who is in me
Is greater than I will ever be
And I will rise

Sometimes my heart is on the ground
And hope is nowhere to be found
Love is a figment I once knew
And yet I hold on to what I know is true

Yes I will rise
Out of these ashes rise
From this trouble I have found
And this rubble on the ground
I will rise

Cause He Who is in me
Is greater than I will ever be
And I will rise

Well I keep on coming to this place
That I don't know quite how to face
So I lay down my life in hopes to die
That somehow I might rise

Yes I will rise
Out of these ashes rise
From this trouble I have found
And this rubble on the ground
I will rise

Cause He Who is in me
Is greater than I will ever be
And I will rise

Shawn Mcdonald from the album Closer.

Fantastic tune as well- find it as an MP3 on

The taste of dates and friendship.

Today I had dinner with friends. Friends who had not eaten all day. (I had eaten though).
They were breaking their fast, because they are Muslim friends who are fasting during Ramadan.

A few years ago I made friends with my neighbour and her family. She introduced me to her friends and here I am several years later, meeting old friends and making yet more new ones.
I come in and they are talking with great clamour - the conversation continues until it is time to break their fast.

It is broken as dictated by tradition with dates and milk. Very sweet. Followed by samosas, soup, flat bread and then cous cous, lamb and vegetables. More conversation, news of friends in Libya, what it is like to live in Abu Dhabi. Two children race about jumping on and off furniture. Some washing up ensues - ending with tea or coffee and chocolate cake.

The party starts to break up - time to go home, the children need their bed (and the adults do too). I kiss a friend from Bosnia goodbye and they laugh at me for being so "Arab".

I climb in my car and drive home, with a full heart, remembering laughter and conversation. Arabic flying around the room and brightly coloured head scarves.

How I love my friends.

Answered and hidden

I have been pondering in recent months answered prayers that suddenly fall into place. Circumstances that give hope. In May and June of this year, I prepared for an exam, sat the exam, applied for a job, was short-listed, went for the interview, got the job I really wanted, finished all the "official" hurdles for GP training, and then found I had passed the exam. All in the space of 4 weeks.

Which has really left me thinking how kind God is. And how caring. To have helped me finish something difficult and given me a job I think I will love, at the end of it.

I prayed another prayer at the beginning of the year and then was reminded of the prayer at the beginning of May through the comments of others. A few happen-stances have occured in the past few weeks that have made me think that perhaps even this prayer is being answered. But it is still hidden from view, and I am only wondering. It is a slowely lightening dawn. However even if the prayer is not answered in the way I perhaps hope, the few months past have showed me again how faithful God is. And how I must remember this, answered prayers or not. God's kindness is there whether we feel and see it very evident and when it feels most hidden.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

New Blog

I am starting a new blog. In keeping with starting a new job in a few weeks time that will be quite different to what I have done hitherto, I decided that I also need a new location and new thinking on my blog. CS Lewis writes about quiddity in relation to thoroughly enjoying each moment, howling wind and rain and balmy days alike. I will write on this more in further posts but this is partly the basis of the title of this blog. Each day is to be lived, carpe diem ("seize that moment, it will not come again), but also the "essence" of things must be appreciated. The neighbours singing accapella. In Romanian. A cup of tea. A good book. A new season. Fresh beginnings. Not that I dissect an enjoyable thing because that is impossible but reflecting on it, and giving thanks to Whom It Comes From, is highly possible. Please come and visit and leave your thoughts behind.