On why I blog

I was listening to my Dad’s sermon from last week (listen to it here) on Jesus’ voice being like the roar of many waters and he said this:

‘In Revelation ch 14, you hear the roar of many waters…. which turns out to be a multitude of the redeemed… Those who, though powerless themselves, have been rescued and established by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s almost as though the voices of the redeemed get caught up in the mighty history-shaping voice of the Lord Jesus Christ when they sing His praise as the Slain Lamb. So, if you feel like you haven’t got a voice and you’d like to be part of the roar of many waters voice then the best thing you can do is sing a new song of praise to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. And as you sing a new song of praise to the Lamb who is worthy then your voice will become part of a multitude voice joined with Jesus’ which sounds like the roar of many waters. And since Jesus’ is a history shaping voice, maybe your little water droplet in His many-waters, glorious voice will be that contribution to taking the universe to where it’s meant to be.’

That sentence, in that paragraph, struck me as amazing. And then I remembered that a couple of years ago I named my blog One Little Drop. At the time I just thought that it was a nice thing to call my little drop in the ocean of the internet (I know, I know, really not profound), but now I realise that this tiny slice of web-space, this particular song of this particular redeemed, Jesus-serving person, is part of my contribution, part of my little water droplet in Jesus’ many-waters, glorious voice.

Because: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’

Amen and amen.

On battles

When ill people die the phrase that often gets thrown around is that the ill person has ‘lost their battle with their disease’. And I find that such a sad way of putting it. I know that’s often how it feels but it’s not the reality.

I think about death a lot. I suppose that’s pretty reasonable in my situation. After all, it’s coming soon. There’s no way out. 
All people die but Christians shouldn’t be scared of death. Death for us is not a sad ending. I love the way the Salvation Army put it. ‘Death is a promotion to Glory.’ For the soldiers of King Jesus, death is a great and wonderful promotion, death is winning the battle not losing it and death is the beginning of a party that will last forever.
I tell you this: I will not lose my battle. I will leave this earth having fought my battle and won it. I will not enter my Lord’s presence as a failure or a loser, but as a victor standing proudly alongside my King. The ultimate battle is fought and won. We just have to follow our King and he will help us win our small battles. And a victor’s crown is waiting for those who do.

The Standard

It scares me sometimes. The responsibility I have. Sometimes celebrating Life seems hard. I strain to glimpse Glory and it seems as if nothing’s there. Sometimes I wake up and the world seems dark and the air chills me. And I want to stay in the warm burrow of my bed. When I’m there, no one expects things of me.

But the absence of expectation itself is dark and cold. My soul desires expectation. Nature and nurture gave me my standards and I have to live by them. Or feel empty and useless. And I try. I really do. We’re taught by the world that trying is enough. But the more I see of the world, the less I believe it. Aside from the fact that I believe in Grace, of course.

I find it amazing that people believe that trying is enough. ‘Trying doesn’t work,’ I want to cry, ‘Don’t you see all the people who have tried and failed?’ All the sad people, the ill people, the destitute people. They tried. It goes without saying that trying is good. But it’s simply not good enough.

And that’s why Grace is there. If we could have peace and fellowship with the Creator by trying, if we could truly celebrate Life without him, would he have sacrificed his Son? He has his standards too. They’re so much greater than mine that I can hardly even begin to grasp them. But I know they’re there. And I give thanks to God for his standards. I thank him because he is The Standard. And the more I look to The Standard, the more I see Grace.

The joining of worlds

It feels like a clash of worlds.

It’s a beautiful day. One that sings the song of Life so loudly. It’s a day where the Creator’s love for us is perfectly clear. 
‘Look,’ He says, ‘See the happy children playing in paddling pools, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, hear the birds having the time of their lives, smell the heady scent of the flowers in bloom. Here is my Love for you. Here is a piece of Glory for you. Here is Beauty in abundance. Here I Am.’
But inside my body, the consequences of sin make themselves known. I am ill. Even on such a day as this. My Life song stumbles out of my mouth with halting breaths, quietly and slowly. And the Creator’s love feels so far away. He created this body, this frail, weak thing. Why? What was the point? And in the silence, in the confusion and in the questions, the answer comes.
‘Look,’ He says, ‘My power is made perfect in weakness. Here is my Love for you. Here is a piece of Glory for you. Here is Beauty in abundance. Just for you. Here I Am.’
For all the joy of a summer’s day, I can bring a greater smile to my Father’s face. For all my weakness, I have a great task. I am loved. I am made glorious. I am made beautiful. And I will strive to see the Glory in my weakness. As easily as I can see the Glory in the beautiful day. Because it is given to me and asked of me.
It feels like a joining of worlds. The glorious day and the glorious task. Made one through the Creator who calls all things to glorify his Name.

For Claire

I believe in life. I believe in hope. I believe in joy. And yet there are days when believing is hard. When the reality of sin and its consequences hit home in sad ways. Having an illness makes you feel the pinpricks of life often. There isn’t a day when I’m not reminded of illness and sadness, of pain and discomfort. And sometimes, some days I feel those pinpricks harder and bigger than before.

Today I learned of the death of a friend with Cystic Fibrosis. I didn’t know her very well but I knew enough to be amazed at her life, at her hope and at her joy. She fought for over 30 years, she ran the race and crossed the finish line into the arms of the Saviour she loved. She will have a new body one day, a body made perfect, a body with lungs that can breathe long and deep breaths, a body with energy enough to run marathons.

And I weep. Not for Claire. She has found Glory. But for her family and friends. For the fight they will have to believe in life and hope and joy. For my own struggles yet to come. And for my own fight to believe.

But in the sadness, the Life Giver is there. He knows the pinpricks. And he knows the nail wounds. And he tells me that life is eternal, that hope is here and that joy can be found. It’s our job to trust.

The School of Pain

I used to go to a bright school
Where Youth and Frolic taught in turn;
But idle scholar that I was,
I liked to play, I would not learn;
So the Great Teacher did ordain
That I should try the School of Pain.
One of the infant class I am
With little, easy lessons, set
In a great book; the higher class
Have harder ones than I, and yet
I find mine hard, and can’t restrain
My tears while studying thus with Pain.
There are two Teachers in the school,
One has a gentle voice and low,
And smiles upon her scholars, as
She softly passes to and fro.
Her name is Love; tis very plain
She shuns the sharper teacher, Pain.
Or so I sometimes think; and then,
At other times, they meet and kiss,
And look so strangely like, that I
Am puzzled to tell how it is,
Or whence the change which makes it vain
To guess if it be Love or Pain.
They tell me if I study well,
And learn my lessons, I shall be
Moved upward to that higher class
Where dear Love teaches constantly;
And I work hard, in hopes to gain
Reward, and get away from Pain.
Yet Pain is sometimes kind, and helps
Me on when I am very dull;
I thank him often in my heart;
But Love is far more beautiful;
Under her tender, gentle reign
I must learn faster than of Pain.
So I will do my very best,
Nor chide the clock, nor call it slow
That when the Teacher calls me up
To see if I am fit to go,
I may to Love’s high class attain,
And bid a sweet good-bye to Pain.
~ Susan Coolidge
When I was little, I used to love the What Katy Did books where the above poem can be found. As with so many things, I’ve wanted to adapt it slightly so that it becomes more grace filled than reward based but there’s still a whole host of things that have been helpful to me and that I’m grateful for.
I love metaphors. I love pictures. I love different ways of understanding reality. And I love the idea of a School of Pain and Love. Because life is about learning. And I just can’t stop learning, even if I wanted to. The Great Teacher is everywhere. His lessons are all around. I can learn in the quietness and stillness of a sleepless night. I can learn in the hustle and bustle of a tube train. I can learn in the laughter and joy on my nephew’s face. And I can even learn in Hospital Room 16.
And that’s where I’ve been. On my own little intensive course. The Teacher sent me off. Away from the comfort of my home and my husband and into a new environment with new and harder lessons. I know I haven’t learned the lessons that He has for me. But I’ve made a start. My handwriting’s still messy. I still can’t walk in a straight line. And you should see the way I mispronounce words. But over the course of 16 days in Room 16, I’ve begun learning lessons that last.
I’ve learned that a hospital room doesn’t have to be a place of spiritual barrenness. I’ve struggled with that in the past. They are some of the places that I’ve felt most alone. But it isn’t good for people to be alone. And so God showed himself to me in Room 16 and I knew I was truly loved. I’m not a very emotional person, the emotional capacity of a teaspoon is the way my family often describe it. But I cried more than once because I knew that my Father was with me right there in Room 16. 
I’ve learned to give thanks for small blessings. They’re always there, these small blessings. Even if they come in the form of having an IV line in my left arm instead of my right. Or being able to bless people in little ways – nurses like to be smiled at, cleaners like to be chatted to, catering staff like to be thanked.
I’ve learned the power of prayer. I had an inbox full of emails from people saying that they were praying. Some of the things we were praying for got answered with a no. But the power of prayer isn’t just about getting a yes. It’s about being able to ask in the first place. It’s about the joining of hearts and minds asking that God’s will be done. It’s about the encouragement that knowing people are praying can bring. And it’s about the privilege of talking to the King.
I’ve learned to say thank you. My thank you prayers are often hollow. But I thanked God for the suffering and meant it. I’m learning the joy that comes with saying, ‘Your will be done.’ Joy can be found in the strangest and hardest of places. But it’s worth it. 
I’m not perfect. Far from it. So far from it that God sent me to Room 16. I’m grumpy. I’m ungrateful. My refrain is often, ‘It’s not fair.’ I’m short-sighted. Don’t be fooled into thinking anything else. God is love. And I’m the loved. Wonderful, crazy love.
I need to keep learning these lessons. I know I have many intensive courses in my future. It may not be Room 16 but it’ll be somewhere. And right here, right now that scares me. But the lessons I began to learn in Room 16 are true. They are hard. They are big. But they are the lessons that my God has for me. And I’m here, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face, learning them.

On housewives, birds and life

A housewife’s work is never done, so they say. I would like to tell them that that isn’t the end of the story. A quick, smart sentence summing things up. Or so they think. But surely they’ve missed the second part of the sentence: ‘And that’s what makes it beautiful.’
I get so many chances at life. One pink wash makes me better, one wrongly bleached surface makes me better, one burnt meal makes me better. And I get to wash and clean and cook again. I get to work hard at beautiful things and I don’t even have to leave the house to do it.
Sure, it feels small. And, sure, in one way it is small. But doesn’t God himself tell us that if we are faithful in the small things we will be entrusted with big things? Every time I wash, every time I clean, every time I cook, I make baby steps forward, I cover tiny pieces of ground. And those baby steps, those tiny bits of ground matter. They are the building blocks for bigger things.

A tiny, brown bird hops along the wall outside my window. His head is tilted, his gleaming black eyes watching. I stay as still as I can and stare at him. He stops hopping and stares back. Here we are, two creatures observing each other. With a flick of his tail and a flutter of wings, he disappears. Where to? I don’t know. It’s Spring. Perhaps he has a nest to feather, a worm to take back to his family. He has his song to sing. So different and yet so similar to mine.
Experts estimate that there are 100 billion birds on this planet. All singing their songs. And 7 billion people. All singing theirs.

And so it continues. Life, with its seemingly random pattern. Twisting, jumping, flying, diving, soaring. You can’t predict the ups and downs. You know they’re coming but, like a rollercoaster, your stomach still does roly polys in both the steep climbs and the sheer drops. Patterns, colours, textures, noises all whiz by. You strain your ears to hear, stretch out your hand to touch, open your eyes to see but only manage to hear, touch and see a tiny part of the Glory that has gone before. And it’s gone. At the speed of light. Or perhaps even faster. And all you’re left with is the lingering last moment before the light goes out.

But that seems defeatist. And no one wants to be defeatist. At least, not anyone who truly wants to live. Life tastes good. Life sounds good. Life looks good. Life feels good. There are flowers and cakes, cups of tea and comfy armchairs, good books and clever sitcoms, people to talk to and children to play with, beds to fall into when you’re tired and beds to fall into when you’re in love, the smell of roast beef and the taste of roast potatoes, snowflakes and sunshine. And the list goes on. You have your list and I have mine. Our lists might have the same things on them. They might be different. But they are both celebrations of Life, glimpses of Glory, lyrics of the Song, brush strokes on the Picture. And for that I’m grateful.

On colds, worlds and Glory

I’m sitting on a chair in the living room. I’ve just got dressed. It was a huge effort, much bigger than it should have been. I can’t speak. At least, when I try to nothing more than a croak comes out. My ears are misbehaving so that sounds seem more distant than I know they really are. I feel like I’m in a different world. My own private world. It’s lonely and it’s me-centred.

I don’t imagine that anyone likes being unwell. No, me neither. For one thing, it’s so annoying. Doesn’t my body know that I have things to do? Surely worlds will stop when I’m not there doing my bit. I am very important. Or perhaps not. Perhaps everything will carry on without me. It seems to be doing fine while I’m here sitting on my chair.
Well, ok. Maybe life doesn’t stop. But what about my opinions? I can’t speak, can’t enter conversations. I have things to say, worlds to change by my words, people to influence. But maybe they’re better off without my words. Maybe more of my words tear down than build up.

Being ill comes as a sharp reality check. Even though I know that my plans for myself aren’t guaranteed, it’s always a bit of a shock when God’s plans are different. When I have to cancel those dinner plans. Miss seeing those people. Keep those thoughts to myself.
Being ill tears down the wall of pride and self-importance that I like to build. Oh, I’m pretty quick at building it but God breathes and it crumbles beneath his glorious plans. I don’t like to see it crumble. In fact, I get pretty cross about the whole affair. Sure, I know what I’m supposed to do. I know the thank you prayers I’m supposed to pray. But seeing my wall fall down hurts. Every time.
Being ill pushes me along the path to Glory. It’s not a gentle push. It’s more like a poke with a cattle prod. I often try to resist it but, God be praised, he’s a lot stronger than I am.

I say this stuff. I believe this stuff. But I’m not sure that before I’m made new and perfect, before I meet Jesus I’ll even begin to really understand this. But as I sit here on my chair, I don’t have to understand it. I know that Glory is coming, and I’m getting a preview right now.