Give Me a Hug

Touch is important. Even simple fingertip contact can often convey far more than many words. I like to touch, but don’t do it enough, perhaps because I don’t want to offend or give the wrong impression. A neighbour of ours had recently lost his wife. I could see he was crying inside and I felt like crying with him – perhaps I should have? After a few words, I touched him on the shoulder, didn’t know what else to do, but I hope it conveyed what I felt.

I like to be touched, but in the right way. I am a six-footer, but there are several larger people I can think of, who can make me flinch. There’s a real beefy he-man who sometimes squeezes the living daylights out of me and a large well-endowed woman who held me so tight, I felt smothered and gasped for breath.

It’s a warming thing to share a brotherly or sisterly embrace, but we need to be sensitive to the other and their needs. Sometimes, it’s seems like a ritual and can give people the impression that unless you hug you are not a real Christian.

Some years ago in our little village church, the minister decided to introduce a slot in the service where we could greet one another and share the love of Christ. I welcomed this and remember holding out my hand to the church steward. He froze on the spot, as if to say “Shake hands in church? What next?” To the other extreme, we have been in churches when, at the appropriate time, all mayhem is let loose as people clamber over chairs to anyone and everyone.

We can learn from Father. His touch is always just right. He knows what we need. There have been times, when I’ve have felt in need and have said “Father just hold me” He has done so with such a light touch. Rather like a child sitting on Father’s knee. His arm ever-so-lightly around the shoulders, giving the freedom to linger or go.

Lets be bold and sensitive. Perhaps there is just one person waiting for the right Jesus-touch today?

“Greet one another with a holy embrace.” 2 Corinthians 13:12


Getting Connected

I had a list of phone calls to make this morning: car service station, insurance company, power company and the photo processing firm to ask if they had lost my photos, just to mention a few. All in all it took over an hour and wasn’t very productive.

One of the calls went something like this: dial and followed instructions – press star key – listen – press 2 – listen – press 1 – “I’m sorry but our advisors are very busy today” – and even later, “we really value your call” and “thank you for your patience”and “why not use the internet?” and finally, after 16 minutes, just as I was about to give up, I got through to a human.

I was so overwhelmed that I struggled to answer her opening question. I tried to put my case, but had difficulty getting answers to my two questions. The operator was very much on the defensive, very efficient in an assertive way. She had all the facts on her screen, but the trouble was that her agenda was different to mine. We were just not compatible, we weren’t in tune. She doggedly seemed to refuse to get my point, although did agree to get someone to look into something for me. I chalked it up as half-solved. After all it wasn’t all her fault, as I was left with just a niggle, that I could have handled it better?

Now we have a God, whose not a call centre operator, but the CEO who is always on the line, always available and gives us His full attention. He is never too busy and will never hang up on us. We don’t have to wait for a connection as we have a hot line straight through. He is just longing to hear what we have to say. In fact He knows what we are going to say before we speak. He looks right into our heart and knows our thoughts and what is going on in there, but He waits for us to express those heart desires in words. The trouble is, he often has to wait a long time, so it’s a good thing his patience is endless.

So how do I score? Do I stay connected throughout the day and include Him in everything, or do I trot out my shopping list of prayers and requests and then get on with my life, the way I want to. Do I listen, really listen to my Father? If I really care how my Father feels and thinks, I will give time to connect, heart to Heart. Now there’s real powerful connecting!

From his palace he hears my call; my cry brings me right into his presence — a private audience!” Psalm 18:6 The Message Bible

From a Brass-bound Stump

Because of her disability, my wife ‘brings her garden inside’ and is a dab hand with house plants. I never cease to marvel how she can grow beautiful plants from just a piece of leaf. One of her pride and joys is a magnificent maidenhair. With it’s feathery green fronds, it has centre stage in our living room.

That is, until we returned home from a few days away, to find that some of it’s leaves were turning brown. She realised if it continued like that, it could whither away and die, so drastic action was called for. She had to be cruel to be kind.

The stems were cut down to within an inch of the pot and the whole thing repotted in new soil. It must have been very uncomfortable for that plant to start with, as nothing seemed to be happening. I wondered if it was dead, but my wife knew better. Several weeks later, a tiny green shoot appeared and now we have the makings of a brand new maidenhair, looking fresher, greener and livelier than ever.

When we experience loss, we can be catapulted into a potentially painful scenario. Whether the loss of employment or health, bereavement, an accident, financial difficulty or whatever, it can leave us bewildered, even devastated. We may feel the whole situation is out of our control and that part of us is dying. Initially we may be in disbelief and want to escape from the situation and get back to what was. But as we adjust to the different ‘soil’ and yield to God and allow the Gardener to gently tend us, we begin to see the opportunities for growth and new life.

We may not be like King Nebuchadnezzar who suffered a period of mental anguish, before God restored him, but we may feel we have been cut back to a ‘brass-bound stump.’ We may be in the biggest challenge of our life, but we can be assured that as we look to God and put our whole trust in Him , we will come through. Things won’t be the same, part of our life may have died, but there will be a new flow of God’s life in us.

“Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.” Daniel 4:14-15 New International Version

Being an Example

I’ve never seen myself as a preacher or a teacher, although I have tried both. One thing I discovered, from the limited feedback I received, was that the things listeners often picked up on and remembered, were not what I intended. Or could be something I had slipped in as an afterthought or even totally unrelated..

I also realised that it’s not always the words, important as they may be, that make the difference. It’s more the spirit in which we speak. If we are talking out of heaviness or bitterness or anger, then that is most likely what is received; not the message we chose. On the other hand if we are so full of joy and love, that’s what will come over.

It’s the same with children, my wife and I soon discovered that they didn’t always do what we said, but what we did! In their early childhood they copied us. They have children of their own now and we are proud of them.

We live in a small village where we are seen everyday and news travels fast. It’s a bit like living in a goldfish bowl. I may have a Christian fish symbol on the car, I may even speak of my God, but it’s noted whether we live up to what we say we believe. People want to see the fruit on the tree. You don’t think anyone is really listening or cares what we believe, but then suddenly one day, you are asked a pressing question, because they know who to come to.

When I decided to write on the verse below I was challenged. It’s a very sobering thought that it’s our attitude and the way we are, that shows the difference. On the other hand it’s also a comfort. God is in the changing business. All we have to do is be ourselves and allow God into every area of our lives to change us. And then He works through us to change others. It’s all God.

“- be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 Good News Bible

Whose in Charge

Our four-year old grandson is a real boy with lots of energy which needs directing and guiding. He needs to be shown what his boundaries are, without dampening his adventurous spirit. He knows I love him and he respects me, but he will often try to see what he can get away with.

His latest tactic, when I ask him to do something is to taunt, “You’re not in charge!” I have to deal with that of course, at the same time as trying to keep a straight face. I know that if he gets his own way too much he may get hurt. Like the time he steadfastly refused to wear his sandals and marched out into the garden. He was back within minutes crying, with a bleeding toe. We hugged him, dried his eyes and dressed his ‘wound.’ He then put his sandals on and went out to play.

Are we like this sometimes? Do we ignore our heavenly Father’s instructions and do things our way, perhaps with just a hint of rebellion? Do we then get hurt as a consequence of our actions? God sees this of course and loves us too much to leave us as we are, so we shouldn’t be surprised, when He allows circumstances in our lives, that have the potential to correct any destructive traits. It may seem hard, but if we embrace these circumstances and see them as God-opportunities, we grow in the knowledge of God loving us.

“- the Lord disciplines those he loves,” Hebrews 12:6 New International Version

Daddy, I’m Scared!

I had the afternoon out with one of our grandaughters. It was to be just the two of us and I was really looking forward to it. As it was hot and sunny we started with large ice creams. She reached up to the counter on tiptoe, and studiously considered each flavour. Next, the play park and a ride on the ‘train.’ We were the only ‘passengers,’ so she sat in front and rang the bell. The owner could see the joy on her face, so gave us extra time.

As a special treat, I thought we would visit the “Dome.” This is a sort of living museum, vividly illustrating over 400 years of local history. Each scene is faithfully replicated, complete with sounds and smells, leaving nothing to the imagination. It’s so realistic, that you feel part of the scene. What I hadn’t reckoned on, was it’s suitability for a six-year old.

As we started the trail I noticed it was darker than expected and before long I felt a tug at my jacket. Her large brown eyes looked up to me; “Grandad!” I wondered what was coming. “I’m frightened!” My heart went out to her as I took her hand. We returned to reception, where it was suggested we go the opposite way round.

It was brighter the other end. She was fascinated by the exhibits and asked lots of questions. At a mock-up of a prison cell she held my hand tighter, asking, “Why is that man wearing chains round his legs?” Eventually we came to the ‘scarier’ scenes and she decided that was enough adventure for the day.

I was so proud of her.

Even at my age there have been times when I have felt fearful and have needed extra assurance that God was ‘there’ for me. Like the time when my wife was rushed to hospital, seemingly near to death. I held Father’s hand as tight as I could, in what ever way came to me. Step by step he led me – us – through the following weeks and months, as His loving healing was worked out. Just another opprtunity for me to grow in the knowledge of His love.

Fear is part of our lives, it’s how we handle it that counts. I’m sure God doesn’t want us to keep it inside to fester, but longs to hear the words, “Daddy I’m scared!” I can imagine His answer, “Are you son. Let’s talk about it.”

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you;” Isaiah 43:5 New International Version

Keeping Focused

I’ve always been a keen photographer, but thought I would have a go at digital photography and bought a simple compact to give it a try. I was amazed at what it could do. The colour rendering was brilliant and the images consistently sharp. There was one problem however, the photos were sharp all over. I wanted more control over the focusing.

For my very special birthday last year, I was given a new digital SLR, to replace my very old and trusty 35mm Olympus. Now I can choose between fully automatic or complete control over everything.

I specialise in portraiture. Some like to include lots of background interest, like mountains or historic buildings. Now the scenery may be beautiful and the architecture astounding, but I like to fill the frame with the person, preferably just head and shoulders. I then focus on the eyes, so that the background is well out of focus. That way our attention is taken straight to the subject, without diversion. It isn’t always easy to get to get it right. Photography isn’t just about ‘pressing the button,’ but about looking and looking until you know you’ve got it.

Jesus is our source of life, love and hope and our relationship with Him sustains us. If we want to live life to the full we must focus on Him and keep Him in our sights. It takes perseverance to maintain this sometimes, because of all our involvements. There may be many good and beautiful things around us, but if these became our prime focus, Jesus may become blurred. We may even be in danger of losing our way and it can be hard to get back into focus.

Keep focused and live.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Song: Helen Howarth Lemmel 1922

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith -“ Hebrews 12:2 New International Version