If you have nothing to say, why say it? Elusive ideas floated like the soap bubbles I tried to catch as a child. MY MATERNAL GRANDFATHER floated by, next to it CONSOLATION, and then a big one like a banner in the sky, GOD OF COMPASSION, but I could not reach it, jump as I tried, and trailing behind, a little one with JOY wobbling on it. It touched my hand and I caught it!
Though elusive, Joy, I thought, might be worth a try. “Hello Miss, I am conducting a poll: do you have joy in your life?” “No! my boyfriend’s left me!” And you, sir, what gives you joy?” “Making money! Can’t talk!” And you, madam?” “ Baking cakes!” I could see that.
Seriously though, Joy is worth considering. It reminds me of a cartoon my daughter sent me: a man sitting on a chair plucking a harp. Underneath is a quote by Igor Stravinsky: Harpists spend 90% of their lives tuning their harps and 10% playing out of tune. People search for joy in all kinds of ways and some never find it. Their lives become rather like a Google search, an unending quest.
As a Christian, I turn to the Bible. It says a great deal about joy, an abstract noun, but much more about rejoice and rejoicing. The Bible is full of good news! There is much that we can learn about living a joyful and productive Christian life in the Bible which does not mention the word joy but joy results from it. Think of the joy of one’s conversion, of serving others, of following our Lord, of God’s help and peace in times of trouble.
In the Old Testament joy applies to God’s dealing with the Israelites, although Christians have taken many verses to heart. Here is a favourite.
“Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh 8:11 NIV).
Turning to the New Testament, it starts with the great joy of Jesus Christ’s birth and follows in his ministry, resurrection, ascension and second coming.
“The angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them…I bring you tiding of great joy which shall be to all people.” Luke 2:8,10
The wise men: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Matthew 2:10
Jesus walked many miles in the three years as he preached “Repent: for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
“ …joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over 99 just persons which need no repentance.” Luke 15:7.
Jesus spoke to his disciples about his death. He said: “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will be turned to joy.” John 16:20 NIV “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22 NIV.
After Jesus had told the parable of the vine and its branches, he said: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11 NIV.
In Hebrews we read of Jesus on the cross: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2
Jesus appeared, that is after his resurrection, “to the 11 and them that were with him.” Luke 24:33. “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said to them, Have ye here any meat.” Luke 24:41.
The Ascension of Jesus: “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. Then they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Luke 24: 51, 52 NIV.
Jesus in Heaven: “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy…” Jude 1:24 NIV A wonderful Doxology!
The early church has much to say about Christian joy, how Christians felt, and how we can still feel today. It’s told in the books of Hebrews, Epistles and The Revelation.
After Pentecost “Every day they (Christians) continued to meet together in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Acts 2:46 NIV. Some other translations say “with joy.”
And then trouble and persecutions struck the early church and have ever since. Staggering numbers of Christians die for their faith every year. In the early church it resulted in Christians fleeing Jerusalem and spreading the gospel in places where they settled. In 2 Cor 6:10 NIV we read, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing: poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, yet possessing everything.” Other translations use “joy” and “always rejoicing.” And James writing to the dispersed Christians says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds.” James 1:2 NIV
Peter adds his voice in 1 Peter 4:13: “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding Joy. And Paul, writing to the Corinthian church says, “I have spoken to you with great frankness, I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” 2 Cor 4:7 NIV
And of course, the early church was dependent on the Holy Spirit. “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Rom 14:17 NIV. Paul writes to the Galatians, “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Gal 5:22-23 NIV
This is what the apostle Peter said about joy.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 8,9 NIV
The joy of Christians is knowing that after death their souls are carried to Heaven to await the second coming of Christ in spectacular glory with all the hosts of heaven when their souls will be given new bodies, bodies suited to live in the new heaven and new earth created for them. No wonder our joy is inexpressible and glorious!
My father started a search for his lineage in the 1970s. There was no Google to help him, or heritage foundation, so he hired a noted searcher who started from the known, a Scottish farm near Castle Douglas. He went to the parish churches to find out who married whom. It went on and on until after some centuries he stopped at a labourer on a farm. His descendants owned the wealthy and prestigious farm that bred award-winning Clydesdale horses and cattle. As a boy, my father spent some holidays at the farm with his mother. My grandmother had been a missionary nurse and her mother-in-law disapproved of “her fine English ways.” In fact she was born in England but her parents were German political refugees.
My Scottish great-grandmother was a very strong-willed widow. She had 4 sons and had decided who they should marry. The sons were equally strong-willed so my grandfather became a Rhodesian pioneer, one disappeared to America, and two remained bachelors.
Many years later through an inheritance, my father found his American cousin. She and her husband became very good friends of my parents on their trips to London, and John and I visited them in their home among the forests outside Princeton. I was most surprised to see a statuette of her father - it could have been my Dad!
And so I have something in common with Queen Elizabeth 11! She can trace her ancestors from Scottish royal houses and English ones from as early as the 7thc House of Wessex. Through Queen Victoria she is related to many royal houses in Europe – including Oldenburg in North Germany. Her husband, Prince Philip, was also a royal and was actually Queen Elizabeth’s third cousin.
All this leads me to think of our Lord’s lineage as told in the 4 Gospels. Matthew starts from Abraham and ends with Joseph, husband of Mary, and regarded as the father of Jesus. He could never have written “Son of God” because ancestry was required for the Roman Empire’s census. Mark has no list of ancestors but in his first chapter, tells of the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan and the voice that came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Luke writes in 1:35, “the angel answered her and said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” And then John, the great theologian, starts in 1:14 with this magnificent statement: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
And what of my lineage and yours? It is of no consequence. Our eternal lineage, if we are Christians, shall be as the sons and daughters of God himself.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is a poem from A CHRISTIAN IN LONDON AND PARIS that you may like to read.
LONDON WOULDN’T BE LONDON
without the Queen
said a policewoman
in the Mall
what was happening
young and pretty
her filled eyes
how she felt
on our way
to see her
there she sat
dressed in green-
showed the artist
layer upon layer
and I realized
the awesome responsibility
that rests on monarchy
what is right
in the sight
of the Lord –
and on us too
Unless one happens to be the Queen of England or a person of great eminence or fame, when we die our lives reflect what the Psalmist said: “We spend our years as a tale that is told.” (Ps 90:9 KJV).
No matter how moral one thinks one is, everybody has sinned and broken God’s Laws. I wonder how many murderers have got away with their crimes? And then there are corrupt politicians rewriting history to suit their political party, banning books, burning Bibles. The Ten Commandments state God’s Laws, written on the conscience of humanity from the savage to the sophisticated. And never forget the little sins that we justify as not sins.
Christians live in faith and hope believing Jesus Christ is God’s Son who bore God’s punishment for us when he died at Calvary. Our confessed sins are forgiven and we will be raised to eternal life when Christ returns in great power and majesty.
My physiotherapist’s secretary, a young and healthy woman, was struck down with Coronavirus and spent 3 weeks in ICU on a ventilator. She said all night she heard people screaming, “I don’t want to die! “ Death is a truly fearsome thing without Jesus Christ.
What about really wicked people? Is there any hope for their redemption? Take Manasseh, King of Judah. He followed his father King Hezekiah who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord by doing everything that was wrong. (2 Chron 33:1-17).
He destroyed his father’s places of worship, he set up altars to all the host of heaven, dealt in witchcraft, had a personal medium, sacrificed his own children by “passing them through the fire,” and set up and worshipped a carved idol in the house of the Lord. Tragically the people of Judah followed him. Neither king nor people would listen to the Lord. As a result, the Lord sent the King of Assyria to attack Judah and he was taken away in chains.
In his affliction, he remembered the Lord and humbled himself in prayer. The Lord restored him to Jerusalem where he destroyed all the evil places he had set up, worshipped the Lord God and commanded his people to do the same.
Manasseh’s “tale that was told” is one of great wickedness forgiven by the Lord God when he repented. He will not stand condemned before God on Judgement Day, but will rise with those dead in Christ “to meet the Lord in the air” and live to serve the Lord eternally when he comes again.
Christ is risen! A blessed Easter
My little book, A CHRISTIAN IN LONDON AND PARIS, is in the USA Library of Congress because all books printed in the USA are there. Because of it, I had much to do with booksellers, libraries, Christian universities and theological colleges. John and I were also privileged to visit many leading Christian universities on two occasions.
Thus began my interest in all things American! The other day I was listening to a commentator who had been a top advocate and a Congressman, and he posed the question: “What will your legacy be? What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?” He then had this advice: “You had better start building your legacy now!” Sage words!
At our son’s Memorial, despite his many note-worthy achievements, his legacy was his Christian life and service. Despite being intensely busy, he always found time to help those in need and to speak about his Lord.
And what was Jesus Christ’s legacy? On his cross, defeating the Devil and death, he achieved the eternal salvation for everyone who believes in him. May our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, be the focus of my legacy and yours!
God bless you
To say we live in uncertain and dangerous times, is a cliché and something the whole world knows. What makes this different is that it is worldwide. As a Christian, I think this is the beginning of the end times before Christ returns. How must we face this threat when we never know who or when we and our loved ones may die?
A couple of years ago when I had a hip replacement, I wrote some texts in my Bible about trusting God. They were a great comfort to me then and they are now. I read them every night before I go to sleep – and I sleep peacefully. Our great God is in control of the world and our lives! Perhaps you would care to read them too.
Trust in the Lord with your whole heart and lean not unto your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5,6
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear. Psalm 46:1,2
My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:2
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and he knows those who trust in him. Nahum 1:7
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me in green pastures, beside still waters. He restores my soul. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Your rod and staff comfort me… Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Psalm 23
I will both lay me down in peace and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3
God bless and keep you all
Ps: See Menu for EASTER which has music (with links to Musescore where they made be heard) and some of my poems.
2020 and now 2021 have forced many of us to think of death. It has touched millions of homes. It has touched ours. Our dearest only son has died, not from Covid, but from a brain bleed. And so the family mourns as Christians. Christians are blessed. We have an answer to our mortality and are not lost in a hopeless and helpless view. We also have comfort. God himself knows our pain. He gave his only son so that we may have eternal life. (JOHN 3:16).
God created humanity as a special creation. Created in his image, he gave us liberty – free will. He wanted companionship, so in the evening he walked in Eden and talked to Adam and Eve. There was just one prohibition. And we can’t blame Adam and Eve – we would have done the same! And so our sad saga began.
Christians believe that God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the world. That includes you and me, providing we accept him as our Lord and live changed and forgiven lives to prove it. Christians are far from perfect, but “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 JOHN 1:9). If we accept Jesus Christ, we are promised eternal life.
How do we go from this life to the next? Well, it’s a very exciting journey! We read that “when the beggar (Lazarus) died, the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” (Luke 16:22). So God sends an escort of angels to take his children to Heaven! Another question: do people, who are now spirits awaiting Christ’s triumphal return to Earth when they will receive their new spiritual bodies, know what is going on in Earth? Jesus, when the Pharisees were trying to trick him, said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day. He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56). By the way, God forbids us from trying to communicate with the dead.
Our son was a neurosurgeon who in his thirties left surgery and became a very successful businessman. He was loved and admired by all his staff. They said he always had time to help us when we needed it, and the lowest employees received the same attention as the highest. He walked the talk, living a Godly Christian life that all could see.
He had plans for an early retirement. He would use his life and wealth for God and was very excited about what he could do using technology, helping missions, helping the needy. His scope and excitement at the prospect was beyond anything I could have imagined. He used to say, “I long to meet Jesus.”
But God had other plans for our son. He took him to Heaven to serve in a special place he had reserved for him. And our son is rejoicing: he has met his Lord.
Ps See the menu for EASTER. There are items you might find useful.
“Don’t talk to me about evolution!” I exclaimed. I had just been watching MY OCTOPUS TEACHER. Now I am not a fan of watching sea creatures and neither was the person who recommended it as “the best documentary she had seen.”
For those who like me have never heard of it, here is a brief summary. It was filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, not far from where I live and have often driven past. It depicts the year-long friendship between a middle-aged man and an octopus. It took months before a rapport was established, and the process was documented meticulously day by day. It shows the astounding intellect of a small octopus when confronted by danger and the extraordinary steps she took to evade it. As we would say, ”thinking on our feet!” She, like her kind, died after a year. Through this year-long experience, the narrator found peace. A very touching, memorable film.
In some ways it reminded me of this poem which I wrote after a visit to Paris in 2006 and is found in my book of poetry A CHRISTIAN IN LONDON AND PARIS.
JARDIN DES PLANTES
it was hot
an old garden
Jardin des Plantes
avenues of trees
they were all there
intent or talking
light of foot
or panting slow
with their teachers
near the swings
round the zoo
maps in hand
trudging to the
Grande Galerie de l’Evolution
dirty at their
digging flower beds
in the sun
and she was there
a nun at prayer
book in hand
against the ancient
for 270 summers
it had stood
in sun and snow
that embrace the sky
I saw myriad leaves
dark green and delicate
in such a pattern
I have never seen
and after that
I did not dream
God bless and keep you this new year
Christians worldwide will be singing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” on Christmas day. Others will be celebrating the “Festive Season” with parties and saying “Eat, drink and be merry!”
But this year will be different in many ways. A woman I knew years ago said to me, “When I go to a funeral, I look around and wonder who will be next.” And this year, that is something very real. It’s not only 83 year-olds like me who think that this year.
Christians live in hope. We know where we are going and Christmas is a joyous time! And many on the Festive Season side are going to be surprised by joy as the Holy Spirit gathers them into the sheepfold. Pray for them as they join us in singing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
Tidying up piles of paper that I seem to accumulate, I came across this poem.
I go to church
bells are ringing
Joy to the world
the Lord has come!
Kingdom of God
with the birth
of our Saviour
sent by his Father
to proclaim the Kingdom
sent by our Lord
we proclaim it too
when Jesus trod
the dusty trails
from town to town
he cast out devils
ruled the sea
healed the sick
gave his life
for you, for me
are six years old
living on the street
staring into windows
other people eat
are very old
your family far away
no one to cheer you
on this blessed
imagine you are
standing on the corner
as you drive
Jesus called us
to do something
in his glorious name
Please see my new page CHRISTMAS!
Wishing you a blessed Christmas
I have been amazed, bored, whatever, while watching some TV shows –especially those dealing with the renovation of people’s homes, or restaurants – to hear the shrieks of “Oh! My God!” repeated like a drum beat throughout. Have they never heard of Wonderful! Beautiful! I’m so excited! Thank you! Unfortunately “Oh my God” is an infectious virus and if you are not careful you catch it! I speak from experience. (See Ex 20:7). But on another note, who is their god? Not mine or fellow Christians! Therefore, I can look and enjoy. But the line is drawn when the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is used. That’s the end of that programme. PERIOD.
For those of us who read fiction – and I am not talking about Christian fiction – I find a real problem. Many of the authors I used to enjoy, now use our Lord’s name in vain or describe things Christians should not read. The world is getting more evil and we are taught “to be holy, for I am holy”. How many pastors and church members have fallen through what they have read or seen? Porn is an addiction with dreadful consequences. The Bible says “the devil, like a roaring lion, walks around seeking whom he may devour.” No one is exempt- not me, not you. The Bible has the answer. ”Put on the whole armour of God” to resist the devil.
I probably sound like an old Mrs Grundy, but I have another issue: films. Again, I’m not talking about Christian films or good family films but about films which portray violence, seamy sex and even Satanism. It’s frightening what some producers will do for money.
We Christians would do well to remember the THREE MONKEYS: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
God help us
It was only many years after the event that I asked, “Why me?” I was seven, sitting in Sunday School next to Barbara. There was a guest speaker- a missionary who ran childrens’ missions in school holidays. They were great fun, games, singing, eating and interesting Bible stories. That Sunday the missionary asked us if we loved Jesus, and wanted to follow him and become a Christian, to stay behind and pray with our Sunday School teacher. “Come, Barbara" I said, “Let’s go.” “No!” she replied,” I won’t”. And she never came back to Sunday School. We are not robots. God has given us free wills.
So often, when sadness, trouble, old age or pandemic depression hits us when life was smoothly gliding along, we ask, Why me? If we are Christians, the answer will come in God’s good time.
It’s interesting to see how prominent people in the Bible responded to difficult situations.
Abraham was about to sacrifice his precious son at God’s request. He could have asked “Why me?” But he didn’t. He trusted God and it was “credited to him for righteousness”, and his son was spared. But what a test!
Joseph, thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers and sold into slavery, never deviated from his faith in God through grave situations, adversity and imprisonment, until he rose to become second only to the Pharoah of Egypt, saving his family and Jews from starvation.
Then there was Moses, who in reply to God’s request that he return to Egypt and lead his people from bondage, questioned God and said “I am not an eloquent man, I am slow of tongue -whom am I that I should go to Pharoah?” So he asked, “Why me? As a result God sent Moses’ brother, Aaron, to be his spokesperson. Then Moses obeyed God and brought the Jews out of Egypt and was with them in the desert for 40 years.
Queen Esther, as a young Jewish girl, concealed her nationality and family on the instruction of her uncle Mordecai when she was taken by King Xerxes’ servants to the palace. They were searching for all the most beautiful girls in the land to take the place of Queen Vashti whom the king had banished. When as Queen, Esther heard that Mordecai was sitting at the gate in sackcloth and ashes, she sent a servant to enquire why he was there. Mordecai replied that the Jews were to be exterminated. He sent her this message: “Do not think that because you are in the King’s house, you alone of all the Jews will escape. Who knows but you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Queen Esther replied, “I will go to the King and if I perish, I perish.” Her bravery saved the Jews.
Ruth, did not ask “Why me” but left her people and went back with her mother-in-law from the pagan land in which they lived to the land of the Jews.. Both were widows. She said to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God”. Ruth had to follow the reapers in Boaz’s fields to glean what they left in order to survive. It was a story book romance and she married Boaz, becoming the great-grandmother of King David.
The worldview of Christians is diametrically opposed to that of non-believers. This world is not our home. Our view is eternal. We live in hope. The world’s view is temporal - eat, drink and be merry and, just in case, do some good.
From an early age Jesus Christ knew the answer to Why me? As God’s Son he had been sent to lead a life of great suffering, where even his closest companions did not understand his mission until after his death on the cross for the sins of the world -and the agonizing hours when his Father forsook him for our sakes, for yours, for mine, for Barbara’s - if we will accept him.