How wilt thou transform me into Love? Would you send your Holy Living Dove? To burn with fire, bad thoughts from my brain? I wish you would. And then would you remain? On me please rest, bring peace unto my heart. With each new day, together we’ll restart to live anew, a life of selflessness, put others first, to turn to them and bless. Though they may fail, and all alone leave me Still then, a friend to them I'll be. Dig out, Gardner, my roots of bitterness, No more I’ll judge, I’ll be one who’ll bless. Wouldst thou fill the lonely ache inside, and help me - in You always abide? Help me daily - daily - to forgive, O helper, wilt thou show me how to live? Might I show love, again yea and again, and in your love, please may I remain? Have mercy, Mercy from above, and Lord help me, transform me into love.
The Faithful Ones
Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?’ Proverbs 20:6
They were the faithful. There were banners over their heads, like rainbows, and on the banners, written in gold, the words ‘My Faithful Ones’, words dictated by the Father and scribed by the Spirit.
There were others who were faithful too, of course, but the Father had no need to highlight them to anybody, for they were well known. Their books were on shop shelves, their faces familiar, their sermons on youtube, their songs sung in churches across the nations. Their churches were global phenomenons, their websites had a trail of followers miles long. Nothing wrong in any of that. They worked hard, travelled far and prayed much. They tried to avoid the ministry traps of pride and fame – not dissimilar to the celebrity worship in the world, but perhaps more subtle, coached in Christian jargon as it was. Or perhaps they were just well known and respected in their local community or corner of the world. In those places, there would be no need to point them out, for everybody knew them.
But these ones, His Faithful Ones, with the banners over their heads ,were largely unseen, since the banners were not visible to earthly eyes. Sometimes they were derided or mocked. Wearing a habit or dog collar seemed to make them fair game for the world’s comedians and critics. Yet they turned the other cheek, continuing to pray and offer help to all – grateful or not – even to the same people who had been their harshest critics.
Many were not ordained or obviously ‘religious-looking’. Some were tongue-tied, but quick to step in when there was a need. Willing to miss being in the centre of things, in order to look out for those who were not. Acting like doorkeepers and missing the party inside, but with no bitterness or resentment in doing so. Just happy to help, even if it meant doing the unglamorous jobs. Doing them wholeheartedly and well.
Others led small, waning congregations. Pouring their lives into families. Nurturing the children, training them in His ways, loving them through awkward teenage years, being a shoulder to cry on in their difficult days. Counselling and helping them through the minefields of life. Conducting their weddings, rejoicing with their joys and weeping with their pain. After all this investment, having to let go when the same families decided to move away, or worse, move church. Letting them go with a blessing as inward tears remained publicly unshed. After all this, not giving up, but turning to the next family, to offer them love, perhaps to go through the same cycle again, at the very least to risk it. How hard to lead a church that is not obviously flourishing. Churches forgotten, with older people no less in need of a shepherd. Many of His Faithful Ones were found there, quietly serving, making a difference.
Some were secret givers. just being part of a congregation week in week out. Not apparently doing much or very involved. But hearing the prompts from heaven whispering ‘give it away, give it away’, and doing so, often anonymously.
Others apparently did little. Many were single, disabled, elderly or infirm. Some were socially inept, or damaged and struggling to overcome their internal pain in order to love. What did these people achieve? What did they do? Perhaps little, but they came. In prayer, in worship, forgiving those who had no time for them. Not complaining of the ache of their loneliness or pain, but turning to the Good Shepherd in any way they were able. Quietly helping in any way they could, even while to others they seemed ineffective. Their good deeds and silent sacrifices were as inconspicuous as the widow’s mite that was given. Yes, that same widow was counted as one of them by He who sees all.
All of these Faithful Ones made a difference. Perhaps not to hundreds, perhaps only to one or two, and perhaps some only made a difference in prayer, locked away in their prisons of injustice or pain, where they made a difference to no one except God Himself. Which was enough to earn them the banner of His, entitled ‘My Faithful Ones’.
And none of them gave up, even though at times, all of them had moments when they wanted to.
These are ‘The Faithful Ones’.
For since when has the Kingdom of Heaven been about ‘achievements’ or ‘numbers’ or ‘success’, rather than about Sacrifice? And people? And love?
Whatever you did for the least of these you do it for me Matthew 25:40
The call lands on many ears. Some shake their heads – what is this irritating buzzing in their ears? They shake their heads and the call is lost.
Others hear the call but their legs cannot move. They are stuck in activities and busy-ness and have many places to go. They shake their heads and the call is lost.
Still others hear the call and start to run towards it but before long they are exhausted. They stop to pause and catch their breath. Other things catch their attention whilst they rest and the call is forgotten. It is lost.
Still the call goes out, echoing across the planet. More hear it and are strangely moved deep in their hearts. They don’t feel worthy to come but they are drawn. Some are rich, some poor, some strong, some weak. The rejected, the broken – the call is for everyone. So they come. Some run, some walk, some are so weak that all they can do is crawl towards the call. Once they have run, walked or crawled a few steps, they become terribly aware of the huge distance they need to travel to reach the distant call. Just as they are wondering how on earth they will ever manage to find the strength or direction to answer the call, the ground beneath their feet starts to tremble. At first it is the smallest vibration, but it grows, getting stronger all the time. The ground shakes – it becomes like an earthquake yet nothing is destroyed. There is a pounding on the earth. It is the pounding of feet running. The call grows louder and the Father comes into sight. He is calling and He is coming. It is his feet that rock the ground as He comes running. His hands reach out to catch the hands of those who are reaching out to the call even as they come.
Each of them finds their hands caught up in His. His big warm hands catch every outstretched pair. He holds each one of the many – strangely there is time enough and hands enough to do this, though He is one and they are many. Some have manicured, smooth hands, others are dry with bitten or cracked fingernails. Others have fingers missing. He catches every hand and draws it to Himself. Each is healed, restored. He never lets go.
He looks around at all the people he has caught. Each one of them seems like a piece of a picture of a different jigsaw puzzle. They don’t seem to match. They are different shapes and sizes. Some are big, some small, some curved and some are pliable. Some have sharp edges and you could wonder how they would ever fit beside any other piece.
The Father loves them all. The spirit blows on them and gradually the colours on each piece of the jigsaw start to take on a similarity. Each becomes transformed to look a little bit more like a part of Christ. Alone, they aren’t very impressive but the Father looks down at all the pieces worldwide and says “This is my body” as He sees, in His mind’s eye, all the pieces joined together. Securely holding each other tight, together they take on the image of Christ. This is what the Father sees. It will take time and a bit of work before the vision becomes reality.
Some will need training or building up. Some will initially feel panic at the thought of being tightly locked in amongst the others. Some are scared of losing their individuality yet each piece remains uniquely different and beautiful. Each reflects a different aspect of the beautiful Christ. They are not called to change the pieces next to them but just hold them secure and when they are together they will create a picture and release a fragrance – the face and wonderful fragrance of Jesus who loves.
The Father looks and sees the vision of the completed jigsaw. There are no edges or corner pieces and there is always room for more. His heart swells with loving pride as He declares “This is my family whom I love” and He prepares a feast to welcome them home.
As terror ploughs through marketplaces
Suspicion and fear stalk the halls of high government
Refugees like Joseph and Mary before them seek a place to lay their head
And my heart is broken.
Heaven on earth was not a promise
Though on days we might catch glimpses.
Glory is wound together in suffering
The babe grew and was murdered
Yet – miracle – the tomb is empty
Heaven in Heaven is waiting and those I love are there. Meanwhile
The promise of ‘God with us’.
Even through the darkness of my soul, my spirit whispers
Really the Christ is here.
The place of ‘tears no more’ is our future.
Love will triumph.
Suffering cannot be separated from Glory.
Turn away from the glitz that this world says is Christmas
But hold on to Love.
Hold on to the babe who grows to be a man, a lamb, a saviour.
HIS PRESENCE IS HERE WITH US
Truly cause to celebrate.
Sitting here, watching Watching the most beautiful leaves Leaves that were verdant green Now sun bleached. Salmon pink, golden yellow Tenaciously clinging by slender stems. Slowly drooping Drained of strength Falling Watching you, beautiful sister Your life has been fruitful and rich Sun kissed Fragrant pink, smiling in weakness Tenaciously staying with slender breaths Slowly failing Drained of strength Falling Watching Him, beautiful saviour His life was abundant and full Son He was Streaked blood red, forgiving in death Tenaciously hanging With painful gasps Slowly dying Drained of strength Falling I am watching and knowing That Spring does come New leaves will appear He has risen And so will you United in glory In the arms of the son.
You cast a shadow of light
Where my shadow is dark
Would you shine not just on my head, but out of my heart.
It’s not enough to see you from afar
I need you in me
Dispelling my darkness from within
You must increase and I must decrease.
I must become lost in YOU IN ME
March 2016 – Easter
We are told your last words on this earth.
You were dying of sin yet wholly sinless
Hated but overflowing with love
Alone with heavens myriad eyes and the Father’s broken heart looking on
At last it was over
Freedoms triumphant cry
‘It is finished’
Or was it a quiet whisper yielding life? It is finished.
Either way, the cry
Sin paid for
The way to God open forever
It is finished. Job done.
We don’t know your first words in the tomb
Deep silence and darkness of the still cave
Was it gradual?
A soft glow infusing, warming,
whispers of breathing anew, gaining strength
Light growing and brightening as Angels came
Unwrapping the grave clothes
Moving the earth
And the stone
To reveal you
Or was it sudden?
A burst of nuclear whiteness
Bright joy making even the stone pulsate
A shout of triumph
As your body gasped in and out new breaths
The earth rocking on its axis
As the dead rose up
And LIFE, everlasting LIFE was now on earth
Did you step out of the grave slowly
Bending down, brushing the dewy grass with scarred hands?
Raising your face with a smile to the Suns first rays
Or did you run out and leap and shout to the heavens
‘Alive alive alive!’?
Did you laugh in delight
Anticipating the reactions of those you loved?
Were you weeping for joy?
Seeing the children you love
Marching through the centuries ahead
Boldly to the throne
Adopted children coming home
Made possible by you.
Did a fragrance sweet, infuse and transform the cave’s stagnant air?
Or did a rushing wind announce your return like a tornado?
Did exultant songs of praise rock the redundant tomb
As life burst forth?
Did the Angels in the dawn fill the earth with worship?
Or was there profound silence
As all creation with baited breath saw the son of man revealed as God
One thing for sure.
You did not cry ‘it is finished’ anymore, for now it was only just beginning.
Conquerer……..conquer my heart.
Lay siege to this fortress
It’s walls of mistrust
Build to hide the pain and disappointment within.
You surround me
With a mighty angelic army
Never breaching the walls but waiting
Singing your love songs.
The siege waits
For this starved heart
To admit it’s need.
Then does the Lover come
To claim the throne
You woo me, your gentle voice urging me
‘lower the drawbridge my love’
Never forcing your way in
But you come…
Love knocks on the door urging me to trust.
And as you enter and take your place on the throne
Now I sit at your feet
Self protection falls away
You will surround me and protect me.
So the fortress fills with light
And the pressure of having to maintain these walls
My eyes are opened to see the poor and unloved outside
My heart is stirred to give without counting the cost.
And I pray
Never let me steal this throne again.
Here we are.
No more lost
No more chaos,
now there is peace.
Love is our bedrock.
Love that would not be distant
but flesh and blood love
who came and lived with us.
And when he had to go,breathed his spirit within us.
Replacing anger with Love – so much healing love.
No more orphans
now we have a Father.
No more helpless
for the helper is within us.
Everlasting Hope, steady and sure is laid out before us as a feast.
And the joy of the Lord is our strength.
We will come in praise and worship before our King.
What else is there to do?
You come for me. You catch me red-handed in all my failure and call my name.
You come for me! Me – so desperate for healing. Disappointed. Having tried everything. None of it works. So hopeless, I dare not even ask out loud for your help, but you hear the silent cry. When I think your back is turned, I whimper. You spin around, you call me out and release your power all over me.
You come as I sit alone. Too weary to join the circles of friends. No one speaks to me. But you do. You speak to my heart- fresh water pouring over my soul.
You don’t just reach out a ministry hand in passing, nor does your glance run over me and past to the next in the queue. You look at me – you see me. You take my hand, talk with me, sit down and eat with me. Unbelievably you enjoy my company. Your love spills over me as we fellowship. My heart softens and melts.
You don’t wait for me to respond in faith or raise my hand or come forward. I know – o how I know – I need a saviour and I am so glad you have come. Yo do not need my outward expressions for you read my heart.
You do not say ‘let me counsel you’, though you are a counsellor.
You do not ask ‘what are your wounds?’, though you are a healer.
You do not make an appointment to sort me out, though you change everything about me.
You do not impose the law on me, though you wrote it.
You make me your friend. You call me to follow. You talk with me and sit with me. You come to my house and eat and drink with me.
I feel untouchable but you reach out your arms and pull me into your embrace.
And then I fail you again. Like a lost soul I wander away from your path. But time and again you come for me. You seem to have more faith in me than I do!
Time and again you ignore social rules, boundaries and niceties and wreak havoc on my systems, schedules and pre-conceived ideas. The radical law of Love turns my flawed theology upside down. Or perhaps the right way up.
Your pure Love, Jesus. God-with-skin-on. You do not fix people. You love them, loving them into how they were deigned to be. Just like you.