When the going gets tough.....
endurance, perseverance and the London Marathon!
When the going gets tough......
the tough get going
So sang Eddie Grant in the 1985 adventure film 'Jewel of the Nile' in which Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner had to
overcome tough scrapes, life threatening disasters and a barrel load of villains. But they made it through and there was a happy ending! It was actually a sequel so they'd already had one adventure in Romancing the Stone a year earlier!
Our lives aren't usually anywhere near as dramatic,romantic, or dangerous and on earth we certainly don't get to star in
a sequel (that comes later!) And often when the going gets tough we don't get going. Rather we stay where we are and feel sorry for ourselves, or play the blame game or do everything and anything except get up and start again. We lose sight of the treasure
we are looking for and who it is who has called us on the adventure.
The Israelites weren't very good
at getting going when the going got tough either when they were in the Desert. (Exodus 13 …..) They whinged at the same manna every day and constantly complained to Moses about this that and the other and they didn't all make it to the end of the film
which in their case was 40 years long. They forgot how awful things had been in Egypt. They forgot their amazing and dramatic rescue as the Red Sea parted. They forgot in their troubles, that they were God's chosen people and they forgot God's great promise
of a homeland. Whose to say we wouldn't have also been as unable to endure and persevere amidst the hardships?
It was actually God who endured. God who persevered. Bearing their lack of trust and loyalty and diminishing faith. It was God who supported and strengthened Moses in his role as guide, mediator and leader. Even then it was touch and go. God's anger
was real enough as was Moses frustration. And although it wasn't a happy ending Hollywood style. God's promises were fulfilled as they continue to be.
Look through some magazines and cut out the things that represent treasure to you. Eg a child's smiling face? Make a treasure collage.
the going gets tough....
the tough get praying …..
The films I mentioned yesterday were action packed.
But going and doing aren't the only ways to overcome tough times either for yourself or for others. Prayer can often be the best and most effective way of supporting others through their desert times and through your own. Although to keep on praying when there
seems no response. To keep on praying in the midst of one difficulty after another is as big a challenge as it to keep going when you are physically and emotionally exhausted. To be spiritually exhausted is equally wretched. And to think of prayer as passive
wouldn't be quite right either. Prayer isn't an easy option – it is active, alive, and demanding. It requires every last bit of you in the same way that last every bit of you is needed to run a marathon. It requires guts, determination, grace, trust
and Christ - likeness. If you are going to put yourself along side those going through rough times, it is going to be costly. Standing with and crying out for those who are suffering is draining. It needs heroes like those in the films – men and women
willing to risk everything to bear with and stand with those who need support. And when it is you who are going through your desert time, it needs courage just to keep setting the time aside. Even when it feels nothing is happening. Even when we don't feel
any better and worse still when God seems to have given up on us.
The Israelites – thought life
couldn't get any worse and then it did. Not only did their task masters demand the same amount of bricks (Exodus 5) they demanded that they fetch their own straw to make them with. In their despair they turned on Moses and he in turn called out to God in v
23 'Why have you done nothing at all to deliver your people?' (NRSV) it is a deep cry of the heart and one many people are crying today? Will you stand with them?
Get a piece of paper or card and sellotape and make a simple brick. Write on it names and situations that weigh heavy on your heart and
use it as focus for your quiet time.
Jesus in the Desert Luke 4 v 1- 13
Jesus was driven into the wilderness. It wasn't a place he chose to go. It wasn't an experience he looked for. But it
was a life changing one for him and continues to offer us today tools for battling both our inner demons and to use in our life choices.
Jesus didn't have daily manna. He didn't have anyone else with him to encourage or support him. But what he did have was the Word of God. In his very being. In his heart and his mind and his soul. And it was the Scriptures that he
used to see him through when the going got tough. Very tough. And in speaking out those Scriptures he grew in confidence and trust, in his vocation and in who he truly was. Desert moments like that aren't sought, they are struggled though. They demand everything
we have and yet they can be turning points and have huge implications for us and others. The temptation, to compromise, to take the popular option, the easy option. To look else where other than to God for our adventures and to risk everything for treasure
that is not of the Kingdom are ongoing for each of us. Being a follower of Jesus is not for the fainthearted. It isn't easy, not if we are truly working for the coming of God's Kingdom. But Jesus in the desert shows us and gives us the confidence to believe
and trust that in Scripture and in Jesus himself the Living Word made flesh we have the resources and the power to overcome those things that would drag us so low that we stop trying.
What is you favourite verse from Scripture? Bring it to life in a different way by drawing or painting it. What colours would you use?
Last year I came across a news story about a young horse called Benny.
Emaciated, neglected and starved he was left to die. A horse sanctuary heard about his plight and took him in but it appeared that he was beyond help. Too weak and exhausted to go on. For 12 days they helped him by putting him in a sling style harness to keep
him on his feet and kept offering food and water and compassion. Then came the day when they had to find out if he could stand for himself. The video shows Benny rolling and rolling over struggling desperately to get to his feet and then resting his head exhausted
and breathing so heavily that you felt his poor body could take no more.
But when the going gets tough........
Benny didn't give up and I watched with tears
streaming down my face as this little colt tried and tried and tried and then against all the odds he struggled to his feet and his recovery really began. His carers had kept believing and he had kept trying and a life was saved and a wonderful uplifting story
unfolded inspiring and challenging.
Endurance, perseverance, love.
Characteristics our world needs, Characteristics we all need.
And a reminder perhaps that Christ will say to surprising people 'When I was hungry you fed me......
When I was thirsty you gave me something to drink'
Matthew 25 v35
creator, sustainer and lover of all you have made.
Bless our hands with the gift of gentleness.
Our hearts with the gift of compassion
and our eyes with the love to see
you at work in all places,
where broken bodies are healed.
Where hope is restored
and where lives are transformed.
We pray in Jesus name
Go out and take a photo or draw something in nature that represents perseverance. Maybe a birds nest that represents the perseverance of parent birds.
Or a fragile plant that keep flowering against all the odds........
If reading the psalms was an Olympic sport then Psalm 117 would be the 100m sprint while Psalm 119 would definitely be the marathon! It is rarely read in its entirety and yet... are we missing something special?
Does the fact that it is so long allow it to teach us something none of the others psalms can? Maybe more than any other of the psalms, it tells us how to live and flourish as God’s people. Martin Luther called it the gospel in a nutshell and said
that he wouldn’t trade one page of it for the entire world.
It’s the longest chapter in the Bible at 176 verses and it’s said that the Scottish reformer George Wishart, when
he was about to be executed for heresy, was asked what passage of scripture he would like read before he was hanged. He was expecting a pardon, but it hadn’t yet arrived and there he was standing on the gallows with the noose around his neck, so he requested
Psalm 119 Just as the priest was finishing the psalm, a rider arrived carrying Wishart’s pardon. (It’s a good thing his favourite verse wasn’t “Jesus wept”!)
The psalm is an acrostic poem. Each stanza is made up of eight lines and in each stanza those eight lines all begin with the same letter of the alphabet. Every line in the first stanza begins with aleph, the first
letter in the Hebrew alphabet Then in the second stanza each line begins with the second letter, beth, and so on through the whole Hebrew alphabet, which gives us twenty-two stanza.
It’s literally an ABC’s, of the life and experience of the Christian, rooting us in and drawing us back again and again to the living word where we will find riches and treasure and be brought back time and time again to a God who forgives, blesses
a go at writing your own psalm and express something of what God's word means to you and how it has helped (or not) Be honest and speak out from where you are today. Eg
Lord you word is both precious and profound, sometimes like treasure , sometimes disturbing........
Luke 18 vv 1-8
I have always struggled with this little parable. It does speak to me at a
deep level but I get tied up in knots with it as well and I can never quite sit comfortably with it. Today I was pondering on how maybe we could turn it around. We are the judge- God is the widow. He lays things on our hearts to do or to give up doing!. Niggling
little things that won't go away or big life decisions that we want to put off. He keeps coming to us and unsettling us with the promptings and in the end we just have to give in for a quiet life! So we go and voice our sense of call to ministry. Or we go
and offer a couple of hours a week in a charity shop or we get Mr Jones' shopping in each weekend even though he's ungrateful and hides his loneliness behind rudeness. Or we stop rushing around and set aside some quiet time. Or we let go of a grudge. Or we
get help with a habit that has become an addiction.
What might God be coming to you day after day about?
Perseverance in Prayer Luke 2 25 -38
who did persevere in prayer and who never gave up on their vocations and went on believing that God would fulfill his promise to them were Anna and Simeon Both we are told were of a great age. Anna fasted and prayed never leaving the temple and Simeon waited
and waited and waited for the Messiah God had promised he would see before he died. And he did! Speaking out the most wonderful words of the Nunc Dimittis bringing with it them the hope and revelation that Christ was both a light to lighten the Gentiles and
the glory of God's people Israel. Speaking too the the chilling words to Mary 'a sword will pierce your soul'
The cost. The pain. The reality. Agony amidst glory. Suffering before fulfillment.
Light a candle and pray for those waiting today
For those waiting for peace in their hearts ….
For those waiting for peace in their families....
For those waiting for
peace in their communities …..
For those waiting for peace in their nation …..
Perseverance , Prayer and Jigsaw puzzles
I find myself happily doing a 1000 piece jigsaw- in spite of my cat
Eliza who insists on curling up and going to sleep in the box and takes great exception every time I try to extract a new piece! The disappointment comes when you find that, after all your efforts only there are only 999 pieces, leaving a ‘hole’
in your magnificent picture, thus robbing you of any sense of satisfaction or achievement. Eventually having searched high and low, you just have to accept that it’s missing. Either someone else has 1001 pieces, or it’s in the Hoover, or worse
in the cat!
Prayer can be a bit like that – a chance to lay out all the different colours and
shapes of our life and to allow the Holy Spirit to work with us, making us more fully the beautiful picture that we are in God. Amidst that, there is the seemingly endless task of finding all the outside pieces, then the excitement of allowing the colours
and features to draw us into their depths. Only then does the picture start to take real shape. Of course we do the easy bits first and then grumble when we are left with all the sea and sky bits that look exactly the same. And we want to give up because it’s
no fun any more, and then there’s always a piece we can’t find, just when we were beginning to feel rather pleased with our efforts.
Perhaps if life has become cluttered, or is tinged with a sense of if we had more time we’d be more holy. How about having a go at a jigsaw. Offering the time you spend on it to God and receiving it back
as gift. Let’s allow our ‘jigsaw’ time to be our special time. Enjoy feeling the pieces, enjoy seeing the picture take shape, enjoy who you are. Enjoy each moment. Amidst all the pain of life, amidst all the anxieties of a world in turmoil,
amidst all the worries and fears that continually drain our energy, hope, self esteem and strength. Amidst all our restlessness and inability to pray articulately, or at all, and all our groping at trying to feel God’s presence with us. Amidst all the
complexities of our lives, we need a ‘jigsaw time’ And if there’s a piece or two missing, well that doesn’t diminish what we’ve done, so don’t kick the cat, but rest in the fullness of God.
: What might be your jigsaw time ? What are your hopes today? Are there pieces missing in your life’s jigsaw that you need to find?
The Enduring Power of Love
Many waters cannot quench love – neither can the floods drown it. Words from the beautiful biblical poem Song of Songs which enrich St Pauls later words in 1
Corinthians that Love is tough, bears all, overcomes all and is enduring. But what is love?
What is the truth about love for us in our relationships- with family, friends, with God? It is a word that is very easy to say but much harder to actually live What is it that couples are doing when they join hands and exchange rings? What do they
teach us about love and what does Christ teach us. Four words come to mind. Commitment, vulnerability, durability and ordinariness.
Whenever a couple publicly declare their love for one another, their commitment to one another, their cherishing of one another, it is a risk. It is a risk that makes them vulnerable both to one another
and to us. They are opening their hearts to us and in front of us and they are opening their lives most fully to one another. There is no hiding in love, no pretence. There is reality, frailty, honesty and of course joy. And there is ordinariness. There are
wonderful occasions like a wedding day which will always be part of their life together but there is also the mundane things that make our lives what they are – putting the dustbins out in the rain, clearing up when the cat's been sick.They are intertwined
and it is love that intertwines them.
It's the same in worship when we express
our love for God- there are the highs of wonderful music,in packed churches with vibrant prayers. And there is evening prayer said on a cold dark tuesday with by two or three faithful souls huddled together over a single candle. But the thing is they both
matter. The great moments are wonderful, but it is in the routine that we steadily tune our lives to love and worship. It is in the ordinary that love becomes a way of life.
What ordinary thing can you do for some one today to show love? Send a card. Make a gift?
The Enduring Power of Love (continued)
Jesus in his life and ministry shows us the meaning and power of love in his commitment to the needs of others. He told ordinary parables, ordinary stories about the Kingdom of God, the place and the time where love is most fully itself. It made him
vulnerable and it cost him his life. But it is on the cross where love bleeds, where love suffers that we see the truth about love, and we see that it is costly.
The love of God nailed to the cross by and for the very people who thought they knew all about love but they saw only raindrops not the oceans in the heart of God for each one of us and
for all creation. They limited God's love to those who were religious and kept all the rules of the law – they didn't see or want to acknowledge the love overflowing for the outcasts, the failures, for the ordinary folk. Love isn't limited and it isn't
static. It's a journey- it's our life's work, it's God's gift- it's all those things and more and we are not expected to be able to define it or articulate it, we are invited to be drawn into it and to draw others in and to rejoice that love cannot be defeated.
Love lives on. Love bears the marks of the nails but it doesn't stay crucified. It rises and it lives on. It cannot be destroyed or diminished,for in the words of Sydney Carter it is a dance and the dance goes on.
And now three things remain- faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.
Make a heart shape out of string and place in it photos or items that represent all those you love and all those who
have loved you and quietly spend some time with them.
The London Marathon
For a lot of people running the London
marathon is on their bucket list. It is certainly on mine and I hope that as you read this I might just be crossing the finishing line exhausted, but elated! There is something about the sight of all those runners which moves me to tears. So many stories of
courage. So many people wanting to raise money, wanting to make a difference. Wanting to show themselves they can do it. They can run 26 miles.
Of course it's not just about the day. There is the training. The going out day after day in wind and rain when you ache and would rather have an extra hour in bed. The dark days when you can't run through injury
and the darkest days of all when you lose the belief that you can finish the race and berate yourself for ever believing that you could.
Those thoughts don't just apply to marathon running. We can excitedly start a piece of work for God and there is a great surge of energy and the tiredness kicks in. Things don't go the way we thought and the desire to give up and
to convince ourselves that we have failed that God hasn't called us at all really kick in and unravel us. Perseverance, endurance, faith, belief trust are beyond us.
It's then we need to find cheerleaders- encouragers, those who like the crowds lining the streets of London spot the runners who are really struggling and call to them and wave to them and even run along
side them for a while. To re- energise them. To inspire them to Keep Going.
There can only be one winner of any race. But the Marathon isn't about winning. It is is about courage. It is about taking part. It is about everything that is good about the human spirit. It is about togetherness.
It is tough. Very tough. But when the going gets tough..........
Is there something on your Bucket List you can begin to make happen? Is there someone you know who needs you to run alongside them for a while
The good thing about running the London Marathon
is that you know exactly how many miles it is. So you can pace yourself and train accordingly. We don't know how many miles there are in our life's marathon. Should we work like mad in our younger days and then rest when grey hairs start to appear. Should
we give everything we have now or hold something back in reserve. How fast should we run? One thing we are called to do is to run our race 'with perseverance. Chapter 12 of the letter to the Hebrews is a great encouragement. It is challenging, reassuring and
brings us back to Christ, whose life race was short but a marathon none the less . A marathon with hurdles! This passage is one of my favourites verses 1-5 especially. It is easy to miss the first verse-' lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely'
and yet without doing that we are too burdened to run. It is like trying to run in trainers with stones in. it is like running backwards.
Read this passage slowly and reflect on it and make it your prayer today.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is
set before us looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross. . Disregarding its shame and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such
hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.'
And may God bless our every step, as we sprint, as we jog and as we rest. And may perseverance, endurance and love be gifts we are blessed with and gifts we share in Jesus name