August has always been the traditional time for holidays. As a child I recall the week spent in either Perranporth or Carbis Bay in Cornwall. The journey seemed endless at times, especially as this was in the days before bypasses were thought of. It was the days of proper picnic baskets, and stopping in laybys to have your flask of tea.
Whether the roads are faster today or not, the journey can seem very long to an excited child longing to buy his or her new fluorescent bucket and spade, and to be the first to write their name on the sand each morning (yes we did use to get up and do that at 6am!)
As the journey proceeds the constant question is ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ and the continual answer ‘no!’ Eventually the questioning stops and a game of I-Spy begins as the car load of travellers take note of the beauty around.
On our journey of faith we may sometimes ask, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ well I guess for most of us we have a long way to go. We are assured of the destination for those who believe. Yet for each one of us the earthly journey will be different . I wonder whether God is actually saying to us ‘Play a game of I-Spy, look at the beauty around. Yes keep heading towards the eternal destination, but don’t miss out on what I give you now!’
Whether you stay locally this August, maybe you don’t even venture out of your village, or if you travel many miles, play a game of I-Spy, and thank God for his glorious provision today.
Rev Michelle Ireland
Over recent weeks there has been huge turmoil, resulting from the EU referendum, and as I write politicians are leaving their respective parties. Most other news seems to have melted in to the background, except perhaps the muddiest Glastonbury ever! It seems an age ago since there were numerous events to celebrate the birthday of our Queen, her long reign and the manner in which she has indeed endeavoured to be ‘Defender of the faith’. With the current unrest in mind, I would like to take you back one final time to the Queen and her Christmas message, and bring a spot of hope and light!. She has talked of her faith and how he belief in and trust in God has carried her through the challenges and joys that have been hers. She has also encouraged others to find out about the God she worships, and invited her hearers to place their trust in Him and in his Son Jesus.
In a book published by the Bible Society especially for the celebration this year, there are snippets of the Christmas messages from over the years and the Queen herself has written at the front of the book using words from the poem by Minnie Haskins which has become so connected with the Royal Family…
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
I think most of us are fairly familiar with those words, but the poem continues and it may well be that this second part might just be for you at this moment. For there are times in our lives when we are not quite sure of the next step, we believe everything is in God’s hands but sometimes we wish we could see the path ahead a little more clearly.. have a read, I hope these words will bring comfort, together with the words of Jeremiah 29.11
‘For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.
These words I believe can of course fit many a situation, but maybe they are particularly relevant for this moment in history. And finally, have a look at Psalm 46 ( God is our refuge and strength…..)
Rev Michelle Ireland
I was recently asked if I would contribute an article for the Midsomer Norton Methodist Church magazine. Such articles are often given a title containing the Christian name of the contributor and one other word beginning with the same letter as the Christian name.
Last month the magazine had a contribution from its editor Martin, and he called it ‘Martin’s Mutterings’, so that word was no longer available for me. What should I call it? Michelle’s Musings of course!
Tapping the word ‘musings’ that into the computer, I thought to myself, what does the word ‘muse’ really mean? Looking it up in a well trusted online dictionary I found the following definitions -as a verb, to muse is to consider something thoughtfully; as a noun, it means a person — especially a woman — who is a source of artistic inspiration. I will let you ‘muse’ over those!
On a serious note, there is something really important about slowing down at times and ‘considering thoughtfully’. With the rain over the last few days and the warmth in the air, the tremendous growth in plants, both garden and hedgerow, has been amazing. The fresh green, the vibrant blues – such a joy. But I know that I have had to make sure that I actually walk around the garden each day and look closely at the wonders there. The wonders of our creative God, who has given us more than we could ever dream of. How blessed we are. But how easy it is to miss seeing these wonders, due to our rushing around and not ‘considering thoughtfully’. And if we do that with the beauty around us in creation, how often do we do that with the pinnacle of God’s creation – mankind? The Novena (nine days of prayer from Ascension to Pentecost) prompted us this year to ‘consider thoughtfully ‘those we might miss – the marginalised in so many areas of life, from old, to young, to homeless, to refugee. Who is it you and I don’t notice in our busyness?
Jesus, our example, noticed those whom others didn’t, those who were marginalised for all sorts of reasons, for health reasons, moral reasons, social and cultural reasons. He ‘considered thoughtfully’ and due to that included all people. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost’ (Luke 19:10). Not dependent on background, status or anything!
He missed nobody. I believe he gives us much to ‘muse’ upon - happy Musings!
Rev Michelle Ireland
Pentecost (this year Sunday, May 15th) is the final day of the Easter season (the Great Fifty Days.) It's the 50th day from Easter Sunday in which the church is called to celebrate the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Pentecost Sunday is the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, changing them, empowering them to live out their resurrection faith by telling others about Jesus through bold words and actions.
You may have noticed In churches and religious art, that a variety of symbols are used to represent the Holy Spirit, all of which come from the Bible.
One of the most common symbols of the Holy Spirit is a dove. It comes from the story of Jesus' baptism, when Jesus saw “the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.” (Mark 1:10).
Fire is another popular representation of the Holy Spirit. The fire that appeared on Pentecost (Acts 2:3) was reminiscent of the burning bush on Mount Sinai from which God spoke to Moses. (Exodus 3:2) During the Exodus, the people of God were led by a pillar of fire at night. (Exodus 13:21) Fire calls attention to the strength and force of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is also represented by wind. In fact, the original Hebrew and Greek words for “Spirit” can be translated as “wind.” The wind that appeared on Pentecost (Acts 2:2) was reminiscent of the wind that blew over the waters at the beginning of Creation. (Genesis 1:2) The wind calls attention to the Holy Spirit breathing life into the Church.
Water signifies birth and life. From a faith perspective, it represents the cleansing and life-giving action of the Holy Spirit at Baptism. (Matthew 3:11; John 3:5)
The cloud is used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit because clouds provide life-giving water. In the Old Testament, God often leads his people with a cloud or appears to them in a cloud. (Exodus 16:10) The image of a cloud is often combined with the image of light to symbolize the God who is hidden and mysterious but also revealing and luminous.
Anointing with oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit's uniting us with Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One. (Acts of the Apostles 10:38; 1 John 2:20-27)
Official documents in the past (Nehemiah 9:38; Esther 8:8), and some documents today, were sealed with hot wax. Then an imprint was made on the wax with the official seal of the person sending the document. In a similar way, we are “sealed” by the Holy Spirit to show that we are forever part of God's family. (Song of Songs 8:6; John 6:27)
If you were to draw a representation of the Holy Spirit, what would it look like? What would be your reasoning for drawing the Holy Spirit that way? How does the Holy Spirit affect your life?
Surely one of the key points about the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday is that it reminds us that we too are not alone in building God's kingdom in our present day. He empowers, indwells, equips, comforts and prods us to live out our faith with courage and boldness until that time in the future when Jesus will reappear. Why not pray that the Holy Spirit becomes a stronger and more powerful person in your life.
Rev Michelle Ireland