Daily Reflections

A series of daily reflections around our physically isolated lives at this unique time in the modern world. Check back here every day for updates, find a quiet, comfortable, place in your home and go through today's reflection. Take it slowly and enjoy time spent with God.

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Right place, right time, right person

I was cupbearer to the King.

It reads a bit like a throwaway line seemingly unconnected with all that’s gone before, coming as it does at the end of a passionate, heartfelt prayer.

WineSo what, we might say - Nehemiah, now you tell us that you’re the wine waiter in the Kings Palace. A nice clean job for a slave in exile, at least you don’t get your hands dirty and there are certain fringe benefits with the quality of the dinner menu.

There’s much more to this statement – and to the position it describes – than meets the eye. It’s a position of responsibility (you’re tasting the King’s food and drink) and it provides intimate access to the corridors of power where the movers move and the shakers shake. It is also a position of trust, one that it is neither won easily nor awarded lightly.

Getting ready

We’re now into the 4th week of lockdown and, apart from daily media speculation, there’s no definitive idea of when we might be able to move around more freely. I nearly wrote, “…return to normal” but I don’t think we can go back to where we were, even if we wanted to.

StressThe time we are spending apart from our tried and settled routines has meant that we have had to look things in a very different way. Those things we have put off for a rainy day can now be addressed.

In one sense, that rainy day (or, rather the time we need to do the work), has arrived. I think the length of the online queue for a certain well know home improvement website, where I was waiting at number 23175, proves that particular point.

Living to please God

There is no work better than to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a cobbler, or an apostle, all are one; to wash dishes and to preach are all one, as touching the deed, to please God.
(William Tyndale 1494 – 1536)

What does it take to please God? How can we go beyond faithful devotion to develop a way of living (discipleship) which embraces the practical values of God’s Kingdom?

Church in actionA bible passage I return to time and again is Romans 12. I have long been challenged by the opening words which seem to me to be a blueprint for radical discipleship.

As believers living counter culturally, expressing the grace and generosity of Christ, we will see people change and communities transformed. This is a personal call to a committed relationship with God and others:

With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. (Romans 12: 1 -2)

Great Expectations

Grey, cloud filled skies. A few lonely souls sitting under raincoats on wind driven beaches eating paste sandwiches liberally sprinkled with sand whipped down the prom.

BeachAn accurate description of a British Bank Holiday? Well, I may have stretched it a bit but I can assure you that one year, at Hunstanton, it snowed. In May. On another occasion at Great Yarmouth it rained so heavily that the coach party (of which I was not one), stayed on the ‘bus all day leaving only to run to a nearby Café for lunch.

We expect our bank holiday weather to be like this even when we hope that it won’t be. Since we want to make the most of the day – something ingrained in our British way of life since it was first passed by Act of Parliament in the 1870’s – we will get out and get on with it, whatever the weather. Hence the windbreak and sand dune sandwiches.

Heaven is never silent

waitingWaiting is never easy, especially when we do not know what the eventual outcome will be. We may assume that it's all over - finished, done, complete - but our experience tells us that is often not true. The next steps we expect may not be what actually happens as events roll on and as people respond in ways we cannot predict. 

We wait now for Corvid19 to end and for life to begin to be "normal" again. It won't be the old "normal" as we will have the opportunity of writing a new chapter in human history. There is nothing "normal" about our times but, then again, there's nothing "normal" about Easter. Then, as now, there would be a new start: now, as then, we have to embrace it to realise the opportunities it brings for a new way of living.

Journeying on

As the Easter weekend approaches, it will be a very different experience this year for all of us. The plans we may have had for a holiday beak, tidying the garden or visiting family and friends are on hold. How will we fill the space?
ReflectionOver the last few days we have been sharing bible readings which detail the last week of Jesus' life. For our reflection time today, I'm including two of these; each involves a bible reading, a short commentary and a suggestion for reflection.

I've included today's reading as it brings us up to date with the Easter story alongside the reading from last Sunday.

Carrying a cross is never a simple nor an easy task and that cross feels heavier today than perhaps ever before. Let's enter into the narrative, remembering that we are all involved and let's find our peace in Christ today.

Where do we find God?

A journey on foot across the desert takes a lot of guts and application. It’s not something you do on a whim – it’s an act borne out of a well thought plan, of necessity perhaps even desperation. When it takes you 41 days to complete the journey, it pushes everything to extremes: plans, purposes and personal resilience..

Desert
No one in their right mind contemplates such a journey without back up or a support team. (Even with such a team, one ex Prime Minister’s son got lost very quickly).

Today it would mean Land Rovers, Sat Nav and a team of people helping you adjust to conditions, treating your physical ailments on the way alongside nutritionists to ensure the right balance of food and carb intake to keep you going.

Facing the future

Job in piecesJob is one of those books in the bible where hope, at least initially, seems in very short supply. In short order, Job loses everything - family, home and all sources of income.

His wife and his friends arrive on the scene to comfort Job who, at this point – to compound misery with disaster – is sitting on an ash heap, scraping the sores on his body with a piece of broken pot.

On teaching a pig to sing (*)

I’m not looking for Handel’s “Messiah”, Meatloaf’s “I’ll do anything for love but …” or even Manfred Mann’s" Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do." [Mind you, the latter might be helpful in interpreting some of the things I’ve heard over the years].

pig
Because I like pigs – I think they’re cool, friendly and intelligent animals – I don’t want to make it too stressful.

I’m content to set my goals rather lower, at least to start with. To be honest if I got to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in a few weeks, I’d be really happy and feel I’ve achieved something.


Rebuilding broken dreams

What do you do when you are faced by a task that’s so big that you don’t even know where to start? To make it even worse, you’re relying on second hand stories, perhaps based on fake news with a political agenda, when you really need first hand information.

Light bulb 2It’s a familiar story and one with implications for us all right now. We may not see ourselves as trail blazers, problem solvers or fixers but we are all involved to one degree or another.

If we are part of what’s going on and going wrong, then we have a contribution to make in addressing the issues.

I’ll be dipping into one of my favourite books of the bible over the course of the next couple of weeks. Whilst the particular circumstances are different – it all happened some 2500 years ago – human need and human nature have not changed. When faced by difficulty we respond best when we work together and where we each understand our responsibilities and the part we have to play. Some will take the lead; others will support but the contribution of all is vital.

He's not here!

Please read Luke 24

RisenAn empty cross, a vacant tomb and folded grave clothes. On their own they may mean little but taken with the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, for us and for a world in need, they speak of a risen, living Saviour.

He walked, talked and ate with His friends – this was not the mark of a ghost, a spirit or of wishful thinking: He was real; He is real. He was dead, was resurrected and is alive today! Hallelujah!

Completed not defeated

Ever wondered why today is called “Good Friday?” Why can we speak of an act so dreadful in such a positive way?

Jesus paid it allWe should never play down the awfulness of crucifixion. It’s one of the cruellest and most painful forms of punishment. The pain is relentless and the humiliation total, the penalty reserved for the worst kind of criminals.

Through this terrible act, the salvation of believers becomes a reality. That’s what makes it so good for us. In Jesus’ forgiveness for someone being crucified alongside Him, we see His love and His grace at its most powerful: all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. When Jesus cried out “It is finished” it was not a desperate cry of defeat, it is a powerful shout of victory. His work was completed.

God's still here

A few years ago I needed to be in Cambridge for an early morning meeting. Allowing time for travel and finding my parking space – which I had pre booked in someone’s front garden – I arrived early. Very early. So early, in fact, that the cafes and coffee shops had yet to open.

Kings College
I took the opportunity for an early morning stroll along familiar streets that I’d walked along to study, ran along to the river to row or pedalled furiously down to work.

Of course, things had changed in the intervening 35 years since I’d last been there: the Red Lion had gone (that’s a statue not a pub) and my old office had moved away from the bus station to the pedestrian precinct.

Tough Talk

It’s been a long hard slog but finally you’ve got there. What they said couldn’t be done, had been done. The end result was testament to team effort, hard slog and a community spirit like no other, driven by the understanding that this was God’s work.

BricksBut, it’s not over until it’s really over. Throughout the 52 days it had taken to complete the work, everyone must have been longing for the day when the last brick had been laid and the last door hung on its new hinges.

One very important thing remained to do: it was vital that they committed the future to God, just as they had committed to the rebuilding of their city. In fact, they had come to realise that they were not just rebuilding their city, they were refashioning faith, community and relationships at the same time. 

Taken over

Had it been reported a day later, I would have dismissed it as being a worthy example of an April fools’ tradition. Since I read it on the 31st March, in that reputable recorder of online news that is the Guardian, I have to accept that it’s true: the goats are taking over Llandudno.

GoatsThere’s been a herd of wild goats on the Great Orme (the hill overlooking the town), for many years. Finding things quieter in this eerie time of lockdown, the goats have ventured into the town where they congregate at road junctions and forage in gardens after dark.

I wonder whether the new powers granted to Police now include ASBO’s for goats who seemed to be helping themselves to late night snacks from local hedges. Mind you, I did notice from the accompanying video clip, that they were exercising appropriate social distancing as they walked almost 2 metres apart down the street.