Vine Words

Vine Words (21)

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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