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Going to the edge

Have you seen the Structures on the Edge on the Lincolnshire coast?  Dave and I have only recently come across them, and we were fascinated.  Because they are very unusual works of art/architecture, they will trigger some strong opinions – as you stand on our shoreline seeing their rather weird outlines against the seascape, you’ll probably be quite excited about them, or maybe you’ll hate them.  They are meant to help us take a whole fresh look at our coastline, and “see” it in a new way, stopping to gaze on its natural beauty.

theedge

Personally I really like looking at their outlines, etched against the open skies, helping us to take a fresh view of our familiar coast – there’s something very special about taking time to look at the place where sea and land meet – the seawater and its wildlife, the sand dunes and mudflats, each  with a different spectrum of creatures and plants – contrasting environments coming together in sight and sound of the ever-moving waves and wind.  This world on the edge feels wonderfully alive, not as predictable as being in the middle of a more settled and still environment. 

I’ve always been attracted to the margins, where different people and things meet, and where there is change and new experiences to encounter.  This fits well with how I think of Jesus Christ, who refused to be boxed in by other people’s narrow social norms, and kept going to the edges of the society he lived in, to “untouchable” people, shunned and isolated by most, and to places where respectable individuals were not supposed to go to.  It was on the edges where he found people who really needed his healing touch and the acceptance and love which he offered to everyone who turned to him.  Marginalised and isolated people and places seemed to capture Jesus’ attention – what most people didn’t stop to notice, he stopped for, seeing clearly the overlooked beauty. I believe his mission to the edges is continuing through you and me if we’re willing.

Veronica           

Revd Veronica Podbury, Pastor of The Vine Community Church

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Sheep and no Shepherd...

As I started writing this article I was unaware that I was about to be confronted by the sad news that my brother had taken his own life. I continue to write this a little over twelve hours later and the words of probably the most famous Psalm in the bible becomes particularly focused to me.  Most people will have heard of Psalm 23, " The Lord is my shepherd,  I will not want, he gives me rest in green pastures...".   It is often read at funerals or printed in cards given to people in loss or at times of need.  For me, knowing Jesus, the giver of peace the words of this Psalm are truth that brings comfort.  Psalm 23 also highlights what I may be feeling if I did not have that relationship with Jesus.  If you take God out of the Psalm the vision of peace and security the words portray is turned on its head.  

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Ethnicity in the Bible - A closer look at Jesus' world

History is strewn with examples of ethnic groups being disregarded, persecuted, or treated as less than human.

I have had the privilage of writing an article for the American Bible Society read how, isolated verses from the Bible have been used to justify such atrocities as the slave trade or anti-Semitism. But throughout the Bible we see God's intention to reach all races and nations with salvation (Genesis 12:2-3, Revelation 7:9). We see this the most clearly in the life of Jesus, who embodied God's love for all people, including the diverse ethnic groups right around him. As we take a closer look into Jesus's cultural milieu we can begin to understand the deep significance of his radical inclusion.

An Article in the American Bible Society by Veronica.

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Veronica

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Destinations

I am just about to set off again to America, to see one of my sons and his family. I’m feeling apprehensive because this time it’s going to be a different kind of journey.  depboardNormally it’s just one hop, no transfers, no lay-overs, no complications.  But this time we are taking a bargain flight involving three separate planes and two airlines, both on the outward and homeward flight.  And as I pack my suitcase I’m wondering, will I ever be reunited with it again, or will it be lost somewhere on that journey from Lincolnshire via Amsterdam then Detroit, then Philadelphia?   I’ve already rung the first airline seeking reassurance, “Will you transfer our luggage for us, making sure it gets to the next plane, especially since one transfer time is only 35 MINUTES ?” The answer was not very helpful – “Just make sure when you get to the first airport you tell them you want everything to go to your final destination.”

So it’s all down to us, we must make sure we do that or risk everything getting lost in a limbo somewhere.   I kept going with my questions, “And that short transfer time – how will we know where to go when we land in the confusion of yet another airport?”

The answer was concise – “Don’t wait till you land, talk to the crew on the way, and they can talk to the tower as you come in to land – the tower can give you priority – you’ll be brought straight in to the right place to go onward.”

You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? This complicated journey we’re going on is similar to all our lives – so many sections, so many things that could go wrong, and you can end up stuck, without things you’ve relied on, never getting where you assumed you’d get to.  And the answers the airline gave me, “Make sure you’re labelled for your final destination, not just the bit immediately in front of you.” 

This life, like any long haul journey, has a destination of one sort or another, and we need to be sure that our final destination is God himself. We need to be ‘labelled’, not just assume we’ll end up there.  To make sure, we need to talk to the tower – there’s someone there who’s able to control the air traffic, and send us help to bring us in to the right place at the right time. In my life I have no doubt who’s in the tower, watching over my journey – Jesus, the Counsellor, Friend, Redeemer.

  Veronica                                                  

Revd Veronica Podbury, Pastor of The Vine Community Church

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Climbing Volcanoes

If I say the words “holiday break”, what image comes to mind?  Lying on a beach?  Reading a book on a sun lounger? Clinging on to the side of a volcano? Strangely, it was the third of these which describes what my husband and I ended up doing recently.  It wasn’t in the plan at all – we’d booked a brief dose of winter sun, really for health reasons, anticipating some relaxation in the Canary Islands for a few days.  But as we strolled around the holiday resort, what caught our attention was the skyline – the dark jagged shapes of volcanoes rising up into the sky all around us. We were surrounded by them, and we just had to try climbing them.  

We set off cheerfully from the resort, bottles of water in a rucksack and hats to keep off the sun.  As we neared the steep slopes we saw what you couldn’t see from a distance – they were completely covered with a loose layer of rocks.  As we started to climb, our feet constantly slipped, and as you went higher you felt at every moment you were about to slide down, hurtling down the rock-strewn sides, unable to stop, the sharp volcanic rock cutting into your unprotected skin as you descended (shorts and teeshirt remember!)

Did I pray as I struggled up the rockface? (I’ve noticed how prayer is often forgotten when we  need it most!) You bet!  I prayed quite desperately, including all the scriptures about our feet not slipping, and angels being sent to look after us.  I “reminded” myself and God (I bet he loves that!) about these as my knees trembled and I grabbed hold of any rock which looked like it might actually be attached to the side of the volcano.  It’s at scary times like this that your faith gets a reality check, and you realise your belief that God is with you in your struggle is all you have to hang on to.

I inched my way upward, not daring to look down, until at last Dave announced we’d reached the top.  The wind was gusting powerfully from the Atlantic (my hat had long ago been removed). I sat down quickly, frightened that I may be blown off.  Be careful! I shouted to Dave as he stood taking photographs. Then something embarrassing happened; an old man and his wife arrived on the top.  He was at least eighty years old, white hair, spindly legs etc, and she wasn’t much younger.  Each had a long walking stick and seemed unperturbed by what they’d just done, standing confidently on the summit. They gazed across to the high narrow ridge that connected this volcano to another one.  The wind continued to howl around us.  I think we’ll try that too, the old man murmured. I was horrified – surely, they’d be blown straight off, but then I watched as they dug their tall walking sticks in.  Words from the Good Shepherd psalm Thy rod and staff comfort me...no evil will I fear crossed my mind.  Leaning on their staff, they could go safely where others couldn’t.  A picture of faith in God, the Shepherd who goes with us wherever we go.                                        

   

Veronica       

"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Isaiah 2:3    

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Suffering from January Blues?

Suffering from January Blues?  Some timely advice about it from God’s Word

1. Switch your focus.

At the beginning of another year of work and responsibility, when the festive season is long gone, the bright lights packed away, we tend to concentrate on all the hard stuff that lies in front of us – months of it stretching out into the year ahead. We may be deeply concerned at the world around us, and some of the trends we see.

But God’s Word says, focus on a whole different set of things – “... whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy  – think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8 NIV

So instead of looking of all the grind, and the possible disappointments (and disappointing people!)  we should look towards the things and people showing themselves to be pure, noble, standing for what is right... and it will change our way of thinking.

 

2.  No need to be fearful about the future.

In January we can look ahead at possible difficulties which may occur in the year – health problems for us or someone close to us, job insecurity or family problems.  We can see ourselves as vulnerable, even alone, with problems too big for us to cope with.

But the Bible assures us the reality is different – “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you: he will never leave you or forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deut 31:8 NIV

We’re not on our own facing things that are about to come at us – our Lord is going in front of us and he’s not going to go away and leave us on own – doesn’t that make you feel better?

 

3.  God has a new song for you, and he will lift you up again.

Singing may be the last thing on your mind if you’re feeling low, but there’s a powerful prescription in God’s Word to change the chemicals in your body and lift you up again – it’s praise.

In Psalm 40 we read about God turning to us in response to our cry – and what does he do next?

The psalmist answers that question, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:2-3 NIV

We think about praise as something we give to God, but actually we find especially if we praise him even when we don’t feel like it, we actually begin to feel better.  It’s not God’s will for us to be down and depressed – he wants to lift us up again.  He’ll even give us a new song to sing.

 

Veronica  Podbury

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Telling Stories

I spend a lot of time telling stories.  As you may know, I’m a writer, and I love to go into schools to read to young people from my books, then draw out of them their ideas, encouraging them to love words and stories and the truths about life hidden within them.

Of course most of my time is devoted to the church, but in a way it’s more of the same thing, but this time telling stories with a single central theme – about how God breathed life into us, how our lives are destined to be interweaved with his greater eternal purposes, that each life is a journey  with a hidden goal of finding our way back to God. It’s a wonderful story of life extending eternally, not ending in death, but with God reaching out to us in Jesus Christ, to overcome the limits of time and the troubles of this present world.

This Christmastime, I’ll be at my usual business of stories.  You’ll find me in the library session in the Vine Centre near the shops on Saturday 10th  December from 10.30am with a team of readers, telling Christmas stories of many types and from many places.  It’s principally aimed at children, but as we know, a good story is for everyone who has ears to listen.

Story Telling

 

Also on Saturday the 10th at 3:00pm, come and join us for carols and mince pies

 

singalong carols

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Keep it Simple Stupid

KISS is an acronym for "Keep it simple stupid" as a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960. The KISS principle states that most things work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

We live in an increasingly complex world, where we are bombarded by information, are constantly multi-tasking and required to ‘spin plates’ in terms of managing all the things we need to remember and do.Simple

We seem to extend this complexity to the relationships we have with the people around us.  Some are fiends, some colleagues, some acquaintances, some live near us, some are our peers, some are poor or disadvantaged, some locals and others foreigners.  We form options and treat them all differently.

When I read Matthew 22: 37-40, I wonder if Jesus had the KISS principal in mind when he was asked what the greatest commandment was. Rather than picking from the tens of thousands of words in the Old testament law or arguing over keeping all ten of the ‘Ten Commandments’.  Jesus kept it simple, replying,

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Condensing the rules for life down to two tenants, that are as applicable to harmonious life today as they were then, Jesus brought simplicity to how our relationships with God and our fellow humans should be. 

How about taking a 24 hour Kiss Challenge? 

For 24 hours - Love God with all you heart, mind and soul AND love the people around you as yourself, no matter who they are, what their background, race, or any other characteristic is. 

You never know this may change the world. After all, things work best if they are kept simple.

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Fear or Love - you choose.

This weekend is Halloween.  Halloween means Holy evening, the day before all Saints day.  Whatever the background and thoughts on its place in modern society, it is and always has been a day that people focus on all that is scary. Did you know that there are hundreds of things to be afraid of?  For example, some people have what is called Acerophobia, which is the fear of foods being sour.  – slice of lemon, anyone?

Still others are afraid of chopsticks, numbers, and certain fabrics.  These may sound like silly fears to us, but to some people, these fears are real!

Others have Catoptrophobia, which is not the fear of cats, but the fear of mirrors.  To be fair sometimes when I look in the mirror first thing in the morning, it is scary!

 

Last week we went away for a few days.  We went to Northumberland.  We had a fantastic time as we visited, the Angel of the North, Hardrian’s Wall, the Northumbrian coast with it’s castle ruins and seaweed munching cows. 

It was all lovely and relaxing, that is until we decided to go to “Go Ape”. always stay attached sm

If you have not heard of ‘Go Ape’, It entails climbing up and walking between trees by moving along wire bridges, tarzan swings, hanging ropes and Zip Wires.  All the time you are clipped in with a climbing harness. We went around with huge smiles on our faces. We had a great time fuelled by adrenalin and secure that we were safe. That is until I stepped off a platform some fifty feet above the ground.  Just at that moment I had a flickering doubt, I did clip onto the safety wire, didn’t I?

The fact I am typing this suggests that I did, although the feeling of my stomach knotting and the photos of my panic stricken face reveal that this was a genuine fear.  My fear was real as I lost trust in the equipment provided to save me.

 

Some psychologists suggest that the human brain expresses only two fundamental emotions,  love and fear and from these two, all other emotions are experienced. 

As Christians we are called to live in God's love and not to live in fear.  When we live in fear we react to it, instead of acting against our fear.

When we live with love we have excitement, generosity, trust and courage.

Love strengthens and empowers, whereas fear weakens and disables.  God’s love is a perfect love and we are told that perfect love, like a light dispelling darkness, casts out all fear.  We read in the bible,

“Fear not for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand"

For me ‘Go Ape’ -  was hard work, it was scary but also exhilarating and the rewards were great, but you have to trust in your equipment. 

Life with God is similar, it can be hard work, it can be scary but it is exhilarating and the rewards are great, but you have to trust in God, a God who is for us and desperate to step in and catch us should we fall.

Mark Twain wrote. 

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity. 

If this is true, what more do we have, what greater things can we achieve when this courage is provided because of God’s love.

So which will you choose to live by?  Fear or love? 

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What will you do with your “dash”?

dahs trnThe above question was asked just recently in a discussion group I was part of, and everyone present felt very challenged by it.  Why? you may ask, What does it even mean?  It’s all about your life, or to be precise, your lifespan.  You know how in an obituary, or on a gravestone,  the number of years of a person’s life is written down like this, for example,  Harriet  Smith  1945 — 2015.  The actual years are represented by that —.   It’s strange, isn’t it, your whole life represented by a dash, and only you can decide what you will do it.

I’m  more than half-way through my dash, that is, I’ve used up more years than I’ve got ahead.  I hope that doesn’t sound miserable, because actually I feel really good about the years I’ve got left.  The reason?  I know what my priorities are, and I’m aiming to focus my remaining time on these things, on what really matters to me. 

So what are my priorities? Here’s a big one – to focus on eternal things – that’s why I work for the Church – I seriously believe that human beings live on after this brief earthly life is over, and we need to know we have a place with God after we die, (we don’t get it automatically, it’s a matter of choice and will) and that the life beyond this life is much more wonderful than what we experience here.  Does that sound weird? It’s actually mainstream Christianity but it doesn’t always get expressed as bluntly as that. So I spend time sharing that truth,  that we can only have the life we were designed for if we are fully connected to God through Jesus.

Another priority – to focus on people who are marginalised, left out, not given a fair chance.  How fantastic that we have the chance to radically alter the path of a person’s life by giving them a chance to develop their potential.  I’ve just signed an agreement to sponsor a little girl called Katteryn – she’s 8 years old and lives thousands of miles away in Guatemala in a hut with a dirt floor and tin roof, and lives with an aunt so probably doesn’t have parents.  The area she lives in is very poor indeed.  Dave and I have decided we will learn to speak Spanish so that we’ll be able to go and visit her to show we care about her.  Isn’t that exciting?  I didn’t even know where Guatemala was - I had to look it up on a map- but now I know there’s a young girl there whose life is going to be better because our lives are linked together. One day we’ll give each other a hug and introduce ourselves properly.

Life can be so exciting – what are you doing with your “dash”?

Veronica

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Get into the spirit of it! (or The miserable bridesmaid in the yellow dress)

 

11ca503745054bf71db508125a708228I remember standing there in my bright yellow bridesmaid’s dress with the ruffles down the front, alone in the crowd.  All around me the room was full of excited family members – cousins, aunties, uncles – everyone in the large extended family was there, and they were having a ball.  Everyone, it seemed, except for me.  I was 100% miserable.  It’s so long ago now that I can’t even remember why I was so desperately unhappy.  But to this day I still can recall the feeling of embarrassment and even shame at not being able to join in the merriment.  It seemed the more my mother told me to “just join in!”, the more I was unable to.  She wanted, even expected, me to dance along with the others, and I just couldn’t.  So I stood there and bawled while everyone else danced and had a great time.

How old was I?  you may be wondering.  Oh, I can’t really remember, probably about six or seven.  It was towards the end of a long hot day at the wedding of a cousin, and telling a tired earlier version of me to “Just get into the spirit of it!” only made it worse.

So what’s the relevance of this to the June version of the Cherry News?  It’s this – we’ve just had a Christian feast day called Pentecost – something that most of us will have been unaware of.  It’s referred to as the birthday of the Church – a time to celebrate the beginning of the group of people who came to be called Christians 2,000 years ago. What kick-started it all was an astonishing event which Jesus had foretold before he died – he told his followers that after he rose from death and returned to heaven, they should wait in Jerusalem until they received “power from on high”.  So they waited.  They wouldn’t have known exactly what they were waiting for, but then...suddenly the spirit of God arrived in the place where they had gathered, with the sound of a rushing wind, and then flames of fire appeared on each of them, and these believers were changed.  Filled with God’s Spirit, now they were able to do what Jesus had done – miracles, healings etc and they started a movement which swept the whole world.  This is something I’m happy to write about because I’m on the inside of the experience of sensing God’s Spirit in my life –I’ve seen many wonderful things happen which can’t be otherwise explained.  I’m so grateful that I’m not in the same situation as when I was a six-year-old bridesmaid, left on the edge, unable to join in the joy.  God’s Spirit brings so many good things to the people he created.  Enjoy! (Get into the Spirit!)

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Recognising what’s right in front of you.

reconiseThe theme of recognition just won’t go away!  It started sometime around Palm Sunday, with the whole issue of whether any of the people around Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem that day really recognised him for who he was.  

Even Jesus’ mother, who’d  had  revelations from heaven both before he was born (Angel Gabriel appearing in person to tell her) and later, for instance, the two extraordinary prophetic interventions at the Temple when Jesus was eight days old,  by Simeon and Anna .  On seeing the infant Jesus, Simeon, called into the Temple that day by the Holy Spirit, called out to God, “My eyes have seen your salvation!.. a light for revelation to the Gentiles...”, affirming he was now ready to die.  Despite hearing this, Mary reacted just like the mother of any ordinary child when Jesus was “lost” for a whole day.  Travelling  away from the city after celebrating Passover they turned back in alarm when they realised they didn’t have Jesus, aged 12, with them.  There was no sign that she was bearing in mind his unique identity when they found him in the Temple speaking with great wisdom to the learned teachers.  She says bluntly, “Child, why have you treated us like this?  Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”  (Luke 2:48  NRSV)

His calm reply, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  is commented on in Luke’s Gospel  ‘But they did not understand what he said to them.’ Not much recognition at that moment, certainly. 

Then, quite shockingly,  the account in Mark 3:21 of how, when Jesus was surrounded by pressing crowds and couldn’t get a chance to eat – “When his family heard it, they went to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ “ It’s worth noting that this followed some wonderful healings which Jesus had just done.  Where was the recognition of what actually was going on ?

It should make us feel much more compassionate to one another when we fail to recognise Jesus in our lives – fail to see his hand guiding us, his Spirit leading us, and the destiny which he is calling us into.  We either forget or get distracted by everything else.

The truth is, Jesus is right in front of us, present and active in our lives. God open our eyes to recognise Him.

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Are you concerned?

This last week I rushed back from working in Nottingham to go and give blood. This was my sixty-first donation and so was nothing out of the ordinary.

Having drank my large glass of water, filled out my health screening questionnaire and had my finger pricked to check I was OK to donate, I sat back in the reclining chair and relaxed as the donor technician prepared to take my blood. As she cleaned my arm and was just about to insert the needle I casually remarked, “that’s the bit I hate most, the cleaning swab really makes my skin itch”.  The lady who had just been about to stab me givingblood(I mean carefully and professionally insert the needle) looked at me and apologetically announced, she would have to report this, and speak to the doctor on duty.   She kept apologising but she had to follow protocol. From the way she kept saying sorry and noting that “I bet you wish you hadn’t said anything” it was clear that she was not worried but the rule book had to be followed and the rule book stated she should be concerned, and duly she was.   Eventually I was judged to be OK to donate, my arm was not going to drop off, just as it hadn’t on the last sixty donations.  She deftly inserted the needle, took the vials of blood for testing and left me to it.  After a short while I was done, the needle removed, the plaster applied and I was off to have the obligatory cup of coffee and a biscuit.

kenco branded 7oz paper cupThere I sat cupping my coffee in my hand, my mind on other things, or maybe on weighing up if taking a second mint flavoured Club biscuit was allowed when somebody dropped something behind me, I didn’t react to the clattering and I didn’t react to the donation assistant calling, “are you alright?” from across the room, she was obviously speaking to the person who had dropped something.  The next moment she comes rushing across clearly to help whoever had dropped their belongings. But no, she stopped squarely in front of the obviously unresponsive gentleman who was not responding to sudden loud noises or to her calls of concern… Me!

In a very concerned voice asked again “are you alright?”

“Me?  Yes! Oh, sorry I thought you were asking someone else” I embarrassingly replied.  As I sat now trying to hide behind my cup of NHS coffee, I reflected on how twice I had seen people really concerned about me but how different the source of their concern was.  One concern was driven by following the example laid down by a set of ‘standard operating procedures’, the other’s concern driven by their response to, what to them, was perceived as an unfolding crisis’.  No matter what the driver for the concern, the concern was real and the actions the concern caused were both compassionate and effective.

As a Christian, the Bible tells me to be concerned for my neighbour.  The Bible in many ways can be considered a Christian’s standard operating procedure. Sometimes we glimpse an unfolding crisis on the television, in our families or neighbourhoods and the Holy Spirt compels us to act. Other times it it is difficult to know how to respond.  In a world where there are so many competing pressures it is not always easy to follow the example of Jesus and love those around us (no matter who they are), it is not always clear how we should act through compassion to be effective. The key thought is that we never stop being concerned by the plight of others, that we never do nothing just because the task is big or we aren’t sure what to do.

As we come into Lent, a time of giving things up and sacrifice, why not give up some of your time or resources and spend some time being concerned.  Help a neighbour, volunteer to help the needy, give time or money to those who need more than you, click for more ideas.

Or maybe just go and have a nice relax while a caring, compassionate and thoroughly professional member of the NHS Blood Donor service relieves you of some blood.  You even get a drink and biscuit for your troubles, not to mention the feeling you have done something good. 

1 John 3:17-18New Living Translation (NLT)

17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

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Predictions for 2016

Heard what various experts have been predicting will happen in 2016?

They include: doctors prescribing computer role-playing games to relieve anxiety and depression,  the biggest supermarket chains losing out as we change our shopping habits to smaller providers, and that we’ll get into monitoring our own body’s health by means of wearing personal trackers, and we’ll use the information to demand better individual medical provision.  Interesting.

More chilling predictions were made too:  the rise of the far right in Europe, and continuing chaos in the Middle East...

The trouble with predictions is that no matter how “expert” anyone is in their field, the biggest changes and challenges are generally not foreseen.  Nobody predicted the appalling rise of brutal terrorism in 2015, with shameless medieval violence being paraded on the internet.  After everything we’ve seen, we have no illusions about what may happen.  But knowing this, how should we live in 2016?  The answer lies in the Bible –

Live in peace with each other... Encourage the people who are afraid. Help those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.Be sure that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to do what is good for each other and for all people.

Always be joyful.Pray continually,and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not hold back the work of the Holy Spirit. Do not treat prophecy as if it were unimportant.But test everything. Keep what is good,  and stay away from everything that is evil.

Now may God himself, the God of peace, make you pure, belonging only to him. May your whole self—spirit, soul, and body—be kept safe and without fault when our Lord Jesus Christ comes.                                            1 Thessalonians 5 

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Standing alone on the Motorway (in the dark...)

mway

It happened in a couple of seconds.  One moment I was driving along in the warmth of my car, listening to Radio 4, heading towards home.  I’d just joined the M180.  Now it was 6pm and the traffic was moving fast, people wanting to get home from work as quickly as possible.  I was either in the middle or outside lane when I saw a large piece of metal tubing lying on the motorway in front of me.  I immediately took avoiding action, but swerving or emergency stops are not possible when surrounded by speeding motorway traffic.  I felt the metal object strike my front wheel and the immediate deflation.  A second later I was on the hard shoulder.

Shakily, I flicked on the hazard warning lights, turned off the engine and reached for my phone to call the RAC.  They said they’d come as soon as possible.  I rang Dave next – he said, get out of the car and on to the bank.  I said, there’s no bank – the land falls away on the other side of the barrier.  Anyway, I got out, hitched up my skirt and climbed over the barrier in my heels to stand in the few inches of long grass before the land dipped away steeply.  And there I stood, as the lorries thundered past and darkness fell... I prayed for protection from the danger of the traffic, and from any drivers of ill intention.  Waiting in the dark I got colder, watching the lights flash past me.   Strange how everything can change so quickly, from comfort to vulnerability, sunshine to blackness, all in a moment.

The RAC arrived and removed the wheel which had a section of tyre torn away from it, and got the spare from the boot.  I didn’t relish the thought of driving home, but was grateful to have escaped unharmed.

Later, Dave said a front tyre being wrecked like that could have been really bad. I believe I had been protected – I had not been completely alone on the motorway, in spite of appearances.  The danger had been there, but the Angel of the Lord had been there too.  I’m thankful. I know the truth of this verse -  Psalm 34:7  “The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Veronica

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Have you been “Turned”?

turn around

Not “turned off” or “turned on” but completely, radically turned forever.  Sounds like an odd question, doesn’t it?  Like something from the spy series Spooks, when a spy working for one side is convinced, by whatever means, to change sides.  He or she may look the same, but in fact they have changed – they now have a different motivation, and obey a different authority

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Decisions which Change our World

I’m writing this on the morning of Election Day here in Britain, aware that whatever individual people decide to do will influence our future for years to come and will even affect the lives of people living far beyond our own nation. Decisions about whether to engage in wars or whether to extend compassion to desperate people, decisions about law and punishment and what kind of society we choose to be will be influenced by which box you and I put a cross in when our moment of decision comes.

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Why is it so hard to “get” what happened the first Easter Sunday?

We read how it happened – how the Romans, experts in execution, made absolutely sure Jesus really was dead, piercing his body as it hung on the cross, letting out his separated blood, and how his body lay sealed in the tomb until the third day. Then, as he had predicted, he lived again.  And we just can’t take it in – the disciples struggled to believe it even when the risen Jesus walked into the room.

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Palm Sunday – An object lesson in inconsistency

Palm Sunday Pictures sm

We live in an age when faith, long-term, constant, reliable faith is unfashionable.  People think it’s a virtue to avoid commitment.... “Don’t count on me!” they say - “I may, but also.. I may not.  But that’s all right, isn’t it?”  And we all say, “Well ....yes, ok”, not wanting to appear to be heavy or demanding.  We all surf around, we channel-hop, we swap where we shop, we mean to call again, but don’t get round to it, we click to join an internet wave of response to a You Tube video, but we don’t want to be counted on for more  than that.  The first Palm Sunday shows it’s not just us today in 2015 . Being unreliable, not committing ourselves is human nature. Follow the crowd. If it’s the trend, we want it. If it’s not, forget it , dump it.

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Why do we hesitate so much before starting new things?

the vine logo onlyJust recently I found myself reflecting back over 2014 and some of the good things that had happenedin the Vine Community Church – it had been a very full year, not only the usual Sunday morning services at Cherry Willingham and Fiskerton but other things – the events for young people, the schools work, the community choir, the book club, and several of us supporting vulnerable members of our community through “Assist” or the Journeyman Project.

But now we’re two months into the 2015, so I’m asking the above question. What I mean is, how’s the first part of 2015 been for you?

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LIFE’S A JOURNEY – But what do we mean by that?

It’s quite common to hear life described as a journey.  The image which springs to mind may be heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man – a poignant but depressing description of decline:

 “.....one man in his time plays many parts,signpost1

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.

Then, the whining schoolboy....” 

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INFLUENCE – You have much more than you think.

Pastor’s Message - New Year 2015 – INFLUENCE – You have much more than you think.

How much influence do you think you have?  Your answer is likely to be something like “Not very much”.  Ever felt ignored, overlooked, unnoticed or insignificant? We may think it’s famous people
who have the most influence over our lives but that’s not actually true!  It’s those closer to us who have the most effect – our mothers, friends, fathers and neighbours – they have the power to lighten up our lives, or make our lives miserable.

Jesus said that we can be a powerful influence for good in this world by being “salt” and “light”.

Why salt? Because it keeps things from going bad (and also adds flavour!)

And light?  Because only light can overcome darkness.

 

Influence

Did Jesus say how we could become this powerful influence for good?  He said we couldn’t do it on our own, but if we opened ourselves up to him, his light would flow through us to everyone we are connected to.

“.. you are living with evil people all around you, who have lost their sense of what is right. Among those people you shine like lights in a dark world”    Philippians 2:15 (ERV)

 

 

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    We are a member of the Evangelical Alliance, the largest body serving evangelical Christians in the UK: working for a united Church, confident in voice and inspired for mission, www.eauk.org. We subscribe to the Evangelical Alliance basis of faith.

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    The Vine Community Church is a church in the Ground Level network of churches, Ground Level network belongs to Churches Together in the UK.
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    As part of the body of Christ, it is our privilege to stand alongside our courageous brothers and sisters who are persecuted around the world. That means letting them know they’re not forgotten. Strengthening them by our prayers and support.
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