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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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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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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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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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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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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