Tears in a bottle

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”  Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

When I was about six or seven, I came home from school to proudly present Mum with a string bag. It was made of a loose-weave cloth that I had carefully “decorated” with stitched patterns. I didn’t think much about it, except when I needed string and that’s where it was kept, hanging up in a cupboard.

Mum still had that bag when I was in my late 40’s.

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Mum valued that old bag much more than it was worth. But she was strangely proud of all her family- her heart was big enough for kids, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She loved us all and had a store of “treasures.”

There was a bigger store of treasures that she she kept in her heart. Memories of triumphs, tragedies, laughter and tears. Mum carried them all, offering support, a listening ear, and cake when we came home.

The verse from Psalm 56 first came to my attention at a “Mainstream” conference where about 300 pastors and church workers gathered to worship and be encouraged. Early January in Derbyshire… exhausted by the Christmas workloads… wanting to hear from God and in some cases desperately needing to know God loved and accepted us.

We were praying at the end of an evening session. Words of encouragement, challenge and comfort were being shared as the Spirit prompted us. Words came into my mind: “God cares for you, every tear is precious, and He collects them in a bottle.” I didn’t realise they were from the Bible- but they made an impact on me, reflecting my spiritual need at that quite difficult time in my ministry. The words spoke to my heart, and maybe to others as well.  I couldn’t forget them, and later tried to find if anything like that was in Scripture. Computers have uses- and my Bible program obligingly pointed out Psalm 56.

Lamenting his sufferings, the psalmist cries to God for mercy and justice- and finds comfort and restored hope in discovering that the Lord cares deeply- He stores our tears as precious as jewels. We bring our “stringbag” best efforts, and Almighty God KEEPS them as things of huge value.

Wolf lamb 012whipsnade1212Quite a number of family and friends have been having rough times. Two have been brought to my attention today, several last week, and still others recently. I am finding hope in this psalm-verse: God IS with us and cares for us. Sufferings are not a cause for shame or despair. Even though we may not understand why pain comes, or why some prayers don’t get answered in the way we hope, our heavenly Father treats those tears as precious. Jesus knew the pain of loss- He wept. The Spirit within us groans- Romans 8 v26-27 tells us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Think on this- God loves us MORE THAN a parent loves a child. OUR Father in heaven stores up treasures. Remember- diamonds are basically carbon that has been put under intense pressure. Maybe our sufferings produce valuables too. I think that Father has lots of stringbags and bottles stored in His House- because He is Love, ultimate Love. Some are yours, and some are mine. I’m glad.

Wolf offers peace…

Wolves have a fearsome reputation. This one was “safe” although not tame. He was part of a small pack at the zoo, and in the large enclosure it wasn’t hard to see the hunter in his genes. We leave wolves alone, and don’t provoke them. In the right setting they are magnificent. In the wrong one they are deadly.

I selected this photo to celebrate the better news from Korea. Two national leaders have met, negotiated, and offered hope of a reduction of the nuclear threat.

Wolf lamb 012whipsnade1212Pray that this new state of political agreement will last, and become stronger. Isaiah, that great spokesman of hope, foretold the day when the predators would be at peace with their normal prey. Part of the purpose of God is to bring reconciliation through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God and Prince of Peace.

Naturally enough, we worry and pray when international tensions are high. We should also pray with thanksgiving at every small step towards peace and the dawn of the Kingdom of God.

There is more hope today than there was yesterday. Give thanks and commit to being a peacemaker. Our prayers make a difference!

A Dream of New Beginnings

I had a dream last night- one of those slightly strange mixtures of people from the past combined with a feeling of something that needed to be done. I’m sure psychologists could draw meaning out of that… but no need for their expertise. This dream resolved, just as I began to wake up.

The dream involved inventing a game to help employees understand their role in the business. It was quite a good game, wish I could remember the details! But behind the scenes was a bloke I used to work for- nice chap, but Frank liked things done his way, and could be very obstinate about introducing any change he hadn’t decided on himself. (He was the boss, so he could do that! Fair enough.)

It was quite a frustrating job, doing the same things in the same way, when I was reaching an age where I wanted to stretch my wings. So the dream became a little bit annoying because my ideas were being frustrated.

Then it struck me. I DON’T WORK FOR HIM ANY LONGER. He has no authority to spoil MY dream. My dream suddenly became much more fun, and Frank slipped out of the picture. Then I woke up.

0029bluebellSpring14 editI remembered the photo I took last year of new leaves and shoots sprouting from an old tree trunk. Fresh and delicate, they boldly pushed their way out into the world. The tree gave a strong foundation to the new life; and they expressed a joyful new life as they celebrated Spring by growing swiftly.

New beginnings, new ideas, new opportunities. This dream has encouraged me as I think about being “me” in a new stage of life. The past gives strength and influences me now- but I can also stretch my wings. Sounds fun!

Very appropriate for Easter, too. Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus spoke about new life springing out of the old. Today is Easter Saturday- the “waiting room” of the whole narrative. Yesterday was the crucifixion. Tomorrow will bring joy and celebration in Resurrection. New life will emerge, unshackled by the past. Lessons are learnt from the past: and life goes in a new and even better direction. That sounds quite exciting…

Isaiah 11:1-2 (NLT)
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.