Monday, 19 December 2011

Joe's story

I was 12 and it was just another day. I was doing my paper round in the rain and I was soaking wet when one of the doors opened. A man asked me if I’d like to come in and have a cup of tea. I was glad of a warm. I didn’t think anything about the bits in the cup at the end. It wasn’t until I was walking home and the lamp-posts started trying to bite me that I knew I’d had mushroom tea.
Then I tried the bong and it was like nothing I’d done before. By the time I was 15 my mum and dad couldn’t take any more of me and I lived on the streets for a while, taking all sorts. I moved back home and got work. I was earning more money than I was used to and I really hit the drugs and drink and was fighting all the time. I got cut up bad one day and when my mum called the doctor I lost it with him. I ended up in a mental hospital for 6 months.
I came out of there to a hostel and met my first partner. We lost a baby and I couldn’t stop feeling it was down to me because of all the drugs. I talked to my dad and we grew close like never before but then he died and my world fell apart. I hit the drugs again bad.
Then my partner had a little girl. She was my world. When we had a little boy my partner gave me an ultimatum: us or the drugs and fighting. I ignored her and kept doing what I was doing then I got home one day and she’d left me. My mum begged me to stop too but I loved the drugs and the fighting.
I was out of control and when one of my dealers asked me to do a job for him I didn’t think nothing of it. All I had to do was ram someone off the road. I did it. 500 pills. Lovely.
Next day my kids’ mum phoned me asking me about my car. Turned out it was her cousin I’d put in hospital. I lied. Told her it wasn’t me. I told her I’d sold my car. I had to sell it quickly but when the police traced the car to the boy I’d sold it to I had to shut him up. I beat him up. That got me 6 months in jail. That’s when I started to smoke the brown (heroin).
When I got out I moved into a flat with a new partner. We had a baby and for a while I gave up most of the drugs but we needed money so I went back to work on the doors. I was soon as bad as I’d been before. I thought I had it hidden but my partner found out and made me choose between her and the baby and my work. I loved my job and the drugs too much so I moved out.
Then one night my head went like never before. I was out for blood. I went to see my mate and he started laughing at me. Bang, bang, I had to knock him out. Bang, bang. I broke his nose and jaw. He started coming back for more. I wasn’t taking any risks. Bang, bang, I couldn’t stop.
I put him in a coma.
I got 5 years IPP.
I was in prison and in a mess.
Then I met Lionel and started going to church. A man called Steve came in to speak and he told us what his life had been like and how he’d let the Lord into it. One of the church group prayed for me and it was like the best high I ever had. I asked Jesus into my life and my life turned round for the better.
My mum died last year before she had seen me beat the drugs but I know my mum and dad are looking down on me. I never told my dad I loved him. Last week I phoned my sister and told her I loved her. She was suspicious, ‘What you up to, Joe?’ but I understand now how much they mean to me. I know what’s important. It was all about money before.
It’s been a hard journey. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. Soul-searching. I didn’t do emotions but I love myself now. Out of a really bad situation some good has come. I get laughed at on the wings but I don’t care. I’d rather talk to someone now than fight them.
I’m hoping I’ll get into Teen Challenge when I get out. I’ve got so many plans. I want to help others meet Jesus. He’s my best mate, the one who’s always there for me and who really does answer prayers.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

For my little almost-English boy

May you grow strong in body and mind.
May you abound in energy and enthusiasm.
May you sleep at peace with the world and may your dreams be limited only by your imagination.
May you stretch out your hand and reach for the trees and the sky, for rainbows and shooting stars.
May you walk the path God has laid before you, your eyes fixed on him.

May you relish challenge and find the strength and resources to face difficulties, resolve dilemmas and may you come through smiling and in good spirit.
May you see the miraculous in the mundane, wonder in the workaday.
May you seek truth, the truth that frees and enriches.

May your heart be for others; may you be an instrument for change.
May you experience passion and peace.
May you know the exhilaration of success and the refreshing of solitude.
May you have friends who support, love and admonish you.
May laughter be always near your eyes and a loving heart your constant companion.

And know this:
Wherever you go,
Whatever you do,
You are loved without condition
By your mum and dad,
And by your grandparents.
But great as our love for you is
It is nothing in comparison to the love the King of the universe has for you.
May you become the man God has created you to be, a man fulfilled, who knows what true wealth is and who can consider himself the richest man in the world.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The parable of the builder

A builder was told to go to Swansea and build a new church. He was to spare no expense as it was to be a special church, the best church he could build. To start him off on his task his boss gave him a foundation stone made of pure gold.

When he arrived in Swansea the builder began to gather materials to build the church but instead of going to the usual merchants he trawled scrapyards, junk heaps and rubbish tips for damaged bricks, cracked glass and rotted wood. Other builders in Swansea who’d heard rumours about this new special church laughed at him but he just smiled and kept on collecting the bricks rejected by everyone else.

Then he began to build the church. First he put in place the foundation stone his boss had given him. Then he carefully laid down bricks cementing them together with patience; he glued the glass back together with care; and he repaired the wood with love.

As the church took on its shape the other builders laughed even more because from the outside it looked shabby and marred. But anyone who ventured inside found it to be more magnificent than the cathedrals of old, full of precious stones, diamonds and rubies, emeralds and sapphires, that sparkled and shone in the glow of the foundation stone.

The parable of the black sheep and the shepherd

There was a flock of sheep. Most of them enjoyed life but not all of them were happy.

There was a black sheep. All the other sheep made fun of him because he was different.
An ugly sheep was fed up of being told by the other sheep that he was useless and good for nothing.
A sheep who’d spent most of his life in a pen struggled to fit in with the others. None of them trusted him and wouldn’t let him play with them.
A sheep who had been wounded couldn’t keep up with the other sheep and was always being left behind.
One of the sheep liked to travel from place to place. The other sheep thought he was mad and turned their backs on him whenever he turned up.

The shepherd didn’t give a monkeys about the sad sheep and the rejected sheep; he only cared about the size of his flock.

But one day another shepherd appeared and he knew the black sheep, the ugly sheep, the one who couldn’t fit in, the one who’d been hurt and the one who was only there sometimes and he called them by name.

And they left the flock and followed him to a place where the ground was level and all sheep were accepted.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Zac's psalm of gratitude

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.

His love endures forever.

His grace is more than we need.

He has saved us and promises us life eternal.

His love for us is unconditional, undeserving though we are.

He doesn’t ask or expect us to measure up to his standards

but with patience and understanding

he helps us through the struggles on our daily journey.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord

for Jesus, his son;

for the inspiration of John Smith and the ministry of Sean Stillman

through whom the community of Zac’s Place came into being;

for us, the ragamuffins, walking miracles testifying to the goodness of God.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord

for today, for the miracle of each new day,

for sunshine and for rain,

for the food we are going to eat,

for tea and biscuits,

for the wonder of new life,

for the best smile in Swansea,

for this our family and for on-going friendship.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord

who has chosen us and shown us his vision,

whose promises can be trusted,

who gives us our talents and the calling in which to use them,

who has provided us with a courageous spirit

that helps us to be open to new experiences,

who grants us peace during the hard times,

who makes his will known to us,

and who gives us the strength to accept that will.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord, the bringer of peace.

We are new creations, new once and for always.

We are recovering and recovered

and one day our recovery will be complete.

For this we thank you, Lord.

His love endures forever.

We eagerly anticipate the rest of the exciting journey

that will see your promises and plans for us fulfilled.

For freedom of choice, for individuality,

for a reason to go on living, we thank you, Lord,

His love endures forever.

Because you won’t take a day off from caring, we give you thanks.

Because you will blow away the smoke and all that blurs our senses,

we thank you Lord.

His love endures forever.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Prayer for the funeral

If you want to see God you have only to look at Jesus. Standing at the graveside of his friend, Jesus wept. He understands what it is to experience the pain of loss. But in the words of Bruce Springsteen, love is a power greater than death. I'd like to pray using some of the words and ideas from the 23rd psalm that we've just heard.

To the Good Shepherd, you who promise to be close to the broken-hearted, I pray for the family here today for whom an irreplaceable person has gone.

God of love, who knows what it is to grieve, grant peace in the midst of pain and comfort in a time of need.

For Pop, when the emptiness becomes too hard to bear, I pray that you surround him with those who will support and encourage him, who will love him and hold him tight.

For Mike, Lynne and Angie, who've borne a heavy burden over the last months, I pray that the Good Shepherd will lead you to still waters, to green pastures, where you can find space to mourn and to heal, to remember your mother as she used to be before she became so ill.

For Becca, Dan, Ellie, Jo, Simon, Anna, Rob and Neil, I pray that, as you remember grandma, you find comfort in the knowledge that you meant everything to her. You and your children were her world.

For the extended family, for all of us who had the privilege of knowing Ivy, I pray that we will find inspiration in her memory.

Father God, I pray that your tender love will be a balm for spirits that are hurting so much now, that your compassion will bring about restoration of our souls.

And in the name of the Father who created us, and of his resurrected son, Jesus Christ who saves us, and of the Holy Spirit, who is with us and comforts us - may the peace of the living God be upon us - each one. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

One Night


Oh Elimelech, what have I done? I have sent the girl to … to prostitute herself. For what else is it if she lies at a man’s feet and asks to share his bed? What would Mahlon say if he were here? But he’s not; like you he’s dead and gone and that is why we have to resort to these measures. How could God take you all from us? Why, God, why did you do it? Was it something I did? So bad that you chose to punish me by taking my husband and my sons? Oh Elimelech, I wish you were here now.

But have I done wrong again? By telling Ruth to go to Boaz have I sinned again? But what was I to do? We have nothing. It is by Boaz’s generosity that we are managing to live. He is a good man, honest and true. Unlike your cousin, who, I know, is our closest kinsman-redeemer. I hear nothing but bad about him in the town. Would you have Ruth tied up in marriage with him? Pah.

She will be all right with Boaz. She will be safe; he is not a man to take advantage of her. I would never forgive myself if I had sent her to your cousin and he had abused her. Every day I thank God for her and I am sorry it has come to this, to begging for help. But is it begging? We are only asking for what is lawful and expected. But it is much to ask of a man, to put his own estate at risk, his own name.

Yet Ruth is a prize worth having. She is a foreigner it’s true, and from Moab at that, but I have seen the way young men watch her as she walks down the road. She keeps her eyes averted and does nothing to draw attention to herself but still they watch and admire her. She will make him a good wife and bear him many children. If he will redeem our land.

Oh, Elimelech, have I done right?


I cannot sleep. How can I when I lie, unbeknownst to him, at the feet of a man? If I did not know that Naomi is a good woman I would question her instructions. But I love her as my own mother. She would not send me into wrongdoing.

But to dress in my best clothes, to wash and perfume my body and then to lie next to a man – who is little more than a stranger to me – is alien to me. It goes against everything I have ever learned. But I trust Naomi. She knows what she is doing.

And Boaz is a good man. He has treated us well; he has been generous and kind. I need not fear him.

But yet, he is a man. Who is to say how a man may behave in any situation? He may wake and be angry. He may forbid me to glean in his fields. Or he may wake and not recognise me; he may think I am a prostitute for his pleasure. Oh Naomi, what have you sent me into?

But Boaz is a good man. I know that. I have heard them in the town talk of him with respect and he has treated me well. I do not need to be afraid.

But he is a man of wealth and position. He can take his choice of women to have as a wife. Why would he agree to marry me, a Moabite, a stranger? Are the laws of this land so binding that he would be obliged? And if he married me because he was forced to, what kind of marriage would that be? A marriage without love would be hard to bear.

And yet if that is what I must do to provide a home and a future for us then so be it. I will do it for Naomi.

And marriage to Boaz would not be too hard I am sure; he has shown himself to be gentle and honest.

I pray that morning comes soon and I will know what the future may hold. Mahlon, if you watch over me, keep close to me tonight.


My God, she is so beautiful. When I woke to find her at my feet my heart raced. Would that morning come quickly so that I may know my fate. I cannot bear to see such a one as this married to that oaf of a cousin of mine; yet I must do what is right. I must choose my words carefully when I approach him.

People have said to me in the past, ‘Boaz, isn’t it time you took a wife? Think of your family name.’ And I’m sure some of the same people will say the same thing to me if God grants my request and I marry this girl.

So young, so loving, so good to Naomi. And so beautiful. What care I if she is from Moab? I have seen her work and humble herself – even to this, to lying at my feet and asking for marriage. How much must that have cost her? Her nobility of spirit becomes her well.

No! I must restrain myself from reaching out to stroke her hair. I can smell her perfume and feel the warmth of her body. I hear her soft breathing. I long to hold her close.

But am I an old fool? Would I be so willing to be Naomi’s kinsman redeemer if her daughter-in-law were ugly and vain? Am I just another whose head has been turned by a pretty girl? I cannot fool myself that she comes to me out of love – except for Naomi.

But maybe she will grow to love me. She is the one I have been waiting for. I think I knew that from the first moment I saw her.

God of my fathers, if this be your will let me be a good husband to Ruth and a good son-in-law to Naomi.

Morning cannot come soon enough.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The prayer of Judas

Our Father in heaven

Have mercy on me, have pity on a poor sinner, oh, God have mercy on me.

Hallowed be your name,

You are the great and mighty God. You know what I’ve done, you know the secrets of my heart, God have mercy on me.

Your kingdom come,

That was all I ever wanted. You know that, don’t you? This wasn’t about me. You know that, don’t you, God? You know it wasn’t about me – or the money. The money, the money, 30 miserable pieces of silver, 30 denari. I sold my soul for 30 denarii. God have mercy on me for no-one else will. But you, you know why I did it. Oh God, you know. Let me know that you understand. God have mercy on my miserable soul.

Your will be done that’s what I was doing, that’s what I thought I was doing. Your will, I thought I was doing your will, wasn’t I obeying your will, God? Even Christ, he said, it. He told me to. He said, ‘go and do it quickly.’ He told me to. I took that to be his approval. I thought … I thought. God you alone know what I thought. Your kingdom come. Your kingdom come. All I ever wanted was to see your kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven. Christ was supposed to be the messiah, the promised one, the king who would lead us to freedom, who’d set us free from the cursed Roman occupation. That was all I wanted. I thought I could help. That’s all I was doing, helping. You believe that, don’t you? You know this wasn’t what I intended, what I wanted. I never wanted to ... to see this. I sold my soul. Oh God have mercy on my miserable soul. God have pity.

Give us today our daily bread. God forgive me I sat at the table with him. I ate the bread he gave me his body; I drank his blood. Oh God what have I done? And he knew, he knew all along. He knew everything I’d done, everything I was going to do. I could see it in his eyes. His sorrow, his pain, his … fear. God, I’d been with him through it all. I’d seen love in action and I betrayed him as he knew I would. As he knew I must. Why didn’t he stop me? Why didn’t he tell the others? Why didn’t he insist they took me prisoner to stop me doing what he knew I was going to do. What I had to do. That’s what he should have done … but he didn’t. He let me get on with it. He told me to go and do it. And the others, why didn’t they work it out? He couldn’t have made it clearer that I was the betrayer if he’d pointed to me. There was no doubt who he meant. Why didn’t they stop me? Didn’t they see? Were they too blind or stupid? Were their eyes covered? They could have stopped me. It wasn’t all my fault; they should have realised. He told them. Oh God have mercy on us.

Forgive us our trespasses,

Oh, was there ever a greater trespass done? The worst of all, to betray the man who loved me. He did love me. I know it. I could see it in his eyes. Even at the end when I could hardly bear to look at his face, I could see the sorrow but I could see the love as well. He knew what I had to do. I was in the crowd as he passed. I was at the back amongst strangers. People who didn’t know me. Who didn’t point me out as the one who betrayed Jesus. But he saw me. He turned his head and looked straight at me. Just that one time he turned his head. He turned his head and looked at me. Looked at me through the crowd, through the heads and the faces he saw me. He knew I was there and he looked right at me. Oh God he looked at me. I tried to turn away. I didn’t want to look on his poor battered face. I didn’t want to see the hate and anger there. If I had been in his place I would have spat at me. But he didn’t. He looked at me and kept my gaze though I wanted to turn away. I wanted to run away and hide. But his face held no resentment, no anger, no hurt, just forgiveness. Forgiveness. As we also forgive those who have trespassed against us. God knows, I wanted to see forgiveness there. But I don’t believe what I saw. How could he forgive me? A wicked sinner.Oh God what have I done? Have mercy on me.

And what had he ever done to me? Nothing. Except love me. He loved me and that is how I repaid him. All he ever did was love me and respect me and value me. He trusted me. He put me in charge of the money. In charge of the money. He knew I was trustworthy. And I was. I was. I looked after it like it was my own. I was careful with it, yes, but what’s wrong with that? We needed money. We were going to fund a revolution. That took money. I was getting ready for that. That’s all I was doing. And I took no more than a fair pay for my work no matter what they say. That was all I did. I earned it. It was mine by right. It was only fair. My fair share. My fair share.

And lead us not into temptation,

It was all moving too slowly. I just wanted to speed things up. Speed things up, get things going. He couldn’t see the mood of the people; I could. They were ready for revolution. He only had to say the word. They’d have taken up arms. I thought they would have. I was sure they would have. They cheered him as he entered the city. They loved him. The sight of Roman soldiers taking their hero prisoner would have been too much for them, I was sure of it. They’d rise up in his defence, to free him and then the land and our people. We’d have been free again as you God intended. I could see that. Freedom. Just within reach. That’s why I did it. That’s why I did it. It wasn’t for the money; it was for the cause. God, you know I’m telling the truth here. Listen to me. You know my motives. Listen to me. You know my thoughts, before a word leaves my mouth you know it. You know I only wanted good. I was impatient. The time was right. We had the people on our side. I thought we had the people on our side. God forgive them for their treachery. How could they turn against the man who’d raised their dead, healed their sick, fed their hunger? God, how could they do it? Oh God, how could I do it? Why did I do it? Why oh why did I do it? God in heaven have mercy on my soul, Have mercy on my soul. forgive me.

And deliver us from the evil one.

From the evil one deliver me, deliver me. From evil. From evil deliver me. From all that is in my head deliver me. From the evil that I have done deliver me. From the evil that has possessed my soul, deliver me. From the pain that is in my heart deliver me. Take these tears and wash me clean. Take these tear and wash me whiter than snow. Whiter than snow. Can I never be clean again? Will I carry this burden to my grave? Oh God answer me! Have you forsaken me too? I can’t carry this load. I can’t bear this burden any longer.

My father in heaven, forgive me for what I have done, forgive me for what I am about to do. Have mercy on my soul.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness

Good evening, sir. You look surprised. I can imagine I’m the last person you would have expected to see here. I’ll admit these aren’t the sort of surroundings in which we usually meet, but I’m not the woman you knew, not any more. Don’t look so worried, sit awhile with me and I’ll tell you my story. Come, you may as well sit, the teacher is resting and you’ll not get any closer to him in this crowd.

It’s two months now since I first heard the teacher speak. He spoke of many things that day, some of what he said I didn’t understand, and I began to wonder if I’d made a mistake coming to listen to him but then he started to speak of hope. That drew my attention. You see, I didn’t have any hope, no hope for now, no hope for ever, but he offered it to me, in his gentle assuring voice. There were hundreds of people there that day and I was right at the back of the crowd but I swear he was looking at me as he spoke of love and forgiveness.

I can see you’re thinking ‘what right has she to expect forgiveness?’ I didn’t. When you’ve lived my sort of life you soon learn that forgiveness is not for you, and as for love, well. The men who bought my body for their pleasure despised me as much as they needed me. They thought more of their donkeys than they did of me. You ask why I did it then? For money, of course. But do you think I had a choice? Do you think that’s the life I would have chosen? Of course not. But I had no choice — I was damaged goods. If I wanted to survive I needed money although there’ve been plenty of times when death seemed preferable. You’re a wealthy man, sir, respected by your peers, they seek your opinions, can you imagine what it’s like to be looked down upon by everyone? From your friends in high places who treated me as a commodity to be used and forgotten until the next time my services were required, to your servants who spat on me and shunned me. When I was pushed over on the street, not one person came to my aid or asked if I was all right. I believed there was no-one in this world who cared one jot for me, no-one who thought that I had any value or worth, except the going rate for today. And even that got less with the years. All I had to look forward to was the day when I would discover that I was truly worthless and I would have to resort to begging on the streets.

But the teacher told me something different. When he spoke of love, it was not just for everyone else but for me too. He promised me forgiveness. I could have sat and listened to him forever. But all too soon the darkness of the night came and the crowds began to disperse. I tried to make my way towards him but there were too many people all going the other way, and he had gone before I could reach him. I made up my mind then that some day I would tell him how his words had touched me, how I wanted to believe his promises.

Then a few weeks ago, a Pharisee came to our house to hire women to wait at table. He liked to hire the prettiest, the ones who would entertain his guests if they wanted. When I heard him say that the teacher would be at the banquet I quickly adjusted my dress, hurried over and gave the Pharisee my most alluring smile. He hired me on the spot.

I don’t earn much but over the years I’ve been working, I’ve saved some money, not a lot but I hoped it would help me when the time came that men would no longer pay me for their pleasure. I kept my bag of coins hidden away in my room. But on the day of the banquet I took it all and bought a jar of the best perfumed oil I could afford. I hid it under the robe I wore that night. All evening I served food, poured wine, and tried to avoid the hands that reached out to grab and stroke me. I didn’t want the teacher to see me in that way. And all the while I looked for my chance. At last it arrived. The teacher was lying on a couch and amidst the bustle I crept up and knelt at his feet. He looked down at me and I wanted to say something, to tell him what his words had meant to me, but I couldn’t speak. His face was full of love but there was a deep sorrow there too, and I suddenly thought of my mother. The last time I saw her, when I was just a small child, before I was taken away. She’d looked at me with that same mixture of love and sorrow. I began to cry. The tears fell from my eyes and dropped onto his feet. I was embarrassed to think that the dirt from me was running over him. I undid the braid and let my hair fall forward so I could dry his feet. Then I remembered the oil I had brought. I broke the bottle and let the oil flow over his skin while I rubbed it in with my hair. By now, of course, the room had gone silent and everyone was watching. Some people were laughing; some were angry; one exclaimed at the waste. The Pharisee was the last one to notice. As soon as he saw me he came rushing over and grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me to my feet. ‘I’m sorry, master,’ he said, ‘this girl should not be bothering you. I’ll send her away.’ ‘No, Simon,’ the teacher said. ‘She may sit at my feet as long as she wants.’ ‘Do you not know what she is, master?’ the Pharisee said, and the teacher said, ‘I know everything about her.’ Then he turned to me and he said, and you’ll find this hard to believe, he said, ‘Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.’

My sins are forgiven. Can you understand what those words meant to me? The years of shame and guilt that he was taking away. Have you ever sinned? No, of course not, you’re an upright honest citizen, a pillar of the community, you wouldn’t possibly understand the joy of being washed clean when you’re so dirty that you can’t remember what it was like to be clean.

I’ve been travelling with the teacher and his friends ever since. His mother found me some better clothes to wear and they all share their food with me. It doesn’t please everyone though. You see the one leaning over, whispering in the teacher’s ear, that’s Peter, oh, you know him, well, he doesn’t like me. He never speaks to me if he can help it and when it’s his turn to share out the food I always get a smaller portion than everyone else. But it doesn’t matter. As long as I can be near the teacher and hear his words. And be there when he walks by and puts his hand under my chin and says, ‘Lift up your head and look at me,’ and I can feel his purifying love pouring straight into my heart.

Look, the teacher is about to start again. And Peter has found a seat for you — well away from me. Go, listen, hear the teacher. Don’t look so worried, I won’t tell anyone where we met — I’ve already forgotten. Can you forget as easily?

Blessed are the peacemakers

Are you a peacemaker?

If you are a child of God is it your duty to be a peacemaker?

a) a) Yes, of course it is.

b) b) No, I don’t think that’s what it says.

c) c) Maybe not obligatory but desirable.

Is peacemaking the same as peacekeeping?

a) a) No.

b) b) Yes, sort of.

c) c) It can be.

Can you make peace with a gun in your hand?

a) a) Never.

b) b) Sometimes you have to.

c) c) It’s probably not the best way.

Can you make peace for others if you yourself don’t have peace?

a) a) No, if you don’t know peace yourself you can’t impose it on others.

b) b) Yes, it’s easier to do it for others because you’re detached from the problem.

c) c) When I wear my mask I can do anything.

How did you do?

Mostly As: you see things clearly and can go to the heart of a problem and help resolve it. You are a good peacemaker.

Mostly Bs: You can see both sides of the argument and can help the protagonists to see it from the other’s viewpoint. You are a good peacemaker.

Mostly Cs: You’re probably me.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Blessed are the pure in heart

The heart surgeon was operating on an old woman. When he opened up her chest everyone in the theatre gasped as a bright light appeared to shine from her heart. The glow didn’t dim as he operated and was still there when he sewed her back up.

A few days later he called in to the ward to see how she was progressing. He examined her and pronounced her to be doing well. ‘You should be able to go home in a day or two,’ he said. He was about to move on to the next patient when he stopped and sat down on the chair next to the woman’s bed.

‘We had a surprise when we cut you open,’ he said.

‘Oh dear,’ the old woman looked concerned.

‘Oh, it’s nothing to worry about,’ he reassured her, ‘but it was unusual. Your heart,’ he paused, trying to find the right words, ‘your heart appeared to be shining brightly.’

‘Ah, I see,’ the old woman smiled.

‘You don’t seem very surprised?’

‘Well, I’m a Christian, aren’t I?’

The surgeon laughed, ‘You must be a very good Christian then. I’ve never seen a glowing heart before.’

‘What? Never?’ The old woman sounded surprised.

The surgeon glanced at the nurse doing the rounds with him. He seemed reluctant to speak but finally he admitted, ‘I have seen it before on occasion but never shining as brightly as yours. Like I said, you must be a very good Christian.’

‘Me? A good Christian. Oh, no, I’m a very bad Christian.’

He looked at the kindly old woman lying on the bed before him and said, ‘I find that hard to believe.’

‘In my life I’ve lied, I’ve gossiped, I’ve hurt people, I’ve made the wrong choices and done bad things. I’ve envied others and been jealous of what they have, I’ve cheated and been unwilling to forgive. Believe me, I’m a very bad Christian.’

The surgeon laughed again. ‘If you say so but how do you explain the shining heart then?’

‘Oh that’s not me, dear; that’s Jesus.’

Blessed are the merciful

God, teach me mercy.

Show me others through your eyes.

Help me to see beneath the mask, the words, and the actions.

Let me see the person you created from the outpouring love of your heart.

God, teach me mercy.

Show me how to care, to forgive, to have patience, forbearance, tolerance, compassion.

God, teach me mercy.

Let me be slow to judge.

Let me be slow to anger.

Help me to not seek vengeance.

God, teach me mercy.

Help me to love my enemies.

Help me to acknowledge our differences without condemnation or compromise.

God, teach me mercy.

May I never forget the incredible mercy you have shown to me.

May I never take it for granted.

May my soul overflow with praise and gratitude.

May words of thankfulness and blessing be on my lips.

May your mercy and grace sustain me all of my days.

God, teach me mercy.

Blessed are the meek

Gentle Jesus meek and mild

But was it a meek man who threw the traders out of the temple?

Was it showing meekness to compare the Pharisees with whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones?

Was it demonstrating submissiveness to break the law by forgiving sins, gathering food on the Sabbath, or mingling with sinners?

Was it meek to fight injustice, to stand up for the poor and disenfranchised?


He was meek when they abused him, when they whipped him, when they led him to the cross. At this, the greatest injustice in history, the one man who had a right to say, ‘No, stop, this isn’t fair,’ took the punishment.

Not my will but yours

A rallying call to God’s children.

The meek fight battles for those who can’t

stand side by side with the outcast

wash the feet of the dirty

shed tears for the fatherless

defend the unlovely

care for the lost.

The meek are not downtrodden but strong

Not submissive but clear of vision

Not passive but passionate

The meek don’t take unfairness lying down

But take their stand with

Gentle Jesus meek and mild

Blessed are those who mourn


are those who

mourn for they know

what it is to love. They have trodden in the footsteps

of Christ.

Blessed are the poor in spirit

I am spiritually bankrupt.

The store of good deeds I keep under the bed is all used up.

The brownie points in the safety deposit box have been declared null and void.

Even my secret numbered Swiss bank account, the repository for my gold stars, has been closed for lack of deposits.

I have nothing.

So I am blessed.

But even as I write this I wonder, do I really believe it?

That there is truly nothing I can do?

Isn’t there a bit of me that thinks surely the patience I used in my dealings with my boss must be rewarded?

God must be watching me when I insist on fairtrade tea.

My generosity must earn me a better seat at the feast.

It must.

And isn’t that easier to accept?

That I can earn if not my way then at least a trouble-free passage into heaven.

An ABC of boxes to tick.

Didn’t swear when provoked by a stupid man driver: tick.

Did make extra effort to deal gently with my mother-in-law: tick.

Did make time for a friend when I didn’t really have time: tick.

Didn’t feel proud of myself for that act of nobility: cross.

And I find myself again at the cross, aware that even these superficialities of behaviour don’t even scratch the surface of my sinful self.

And at the cross I kneel,

Head bowed, empty handed, acknowledging my need

Wanting to believe

Wanting to accept

Wanting to be accepted

Wondering why it’s so hard to



That I can be




Not through me

But through you

In whom my treasure lives.