May 2020

Look After Yourself

Good Morning! Sorry I can’t be with you and that we all can’t be together in these difficult times.

I think it’s important to look after ourselves, physically, mentally and of course spiritually. If we are looking after ourselves, do we sometimes feel that it is selfish? “I don’t want to be selfish!” “I want to be kind, isn’t kindness always better?!” we might ask ourselves. But is taking time to look after ourselves un-Christlike?

I get it. We want to be loving, kind and gracious toward others. And those are good things. What we often don’t realise is that love, kindness, and graciousness flow from a heart that has received those qualities first. John put it this way
“We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4 v19)

We need to remember that if we don’t love ourselves then how can we love others? An inability to give self care immediately makes it more difficult to care for others as YOUR tank is already empty.

There are pitfalls which we can fall into (funnily enough!) I’ve learnt this as I learn to be a therapist.
1. We can start to appease or over indulge others without helping them grow.
2. We can take on others’ problems as our own instead of listening and enabling them to deal with them.

When we are run down within ourselves then we may want to help others but we may take the easiest but least helpful route for them as we simply don’t have the means within ourselves to help.

So we need to look after ourselves too. God loves us, He wants to see us glorify and love him but he wants to see us WELL, loving ourselves and loving others more easily because of that. How can we know how to be kind to others if we aren’t kind to ourselves?

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I’m reminded of Jesus taking himself into the wilderness to pray; Jesus went out to a mountain to pray; Jesus sent the disciples away to pray before he was crucified.

He took himself away and gave himself the nourishment he needed from His Heavenly Father before he gave his very life in the ultimate act of love the world has ever seen.

We know that we look to Jesus and try to emulate him; look after yourself, pray and love others. We all need to think about these things as we take the bread and wine this morning.

Much love to you all,
Lewis, Kat and Reuben xxx

PS. Signs you might be needing some self care
1. You’re irritable and short with everyone around you
2. You feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities.
3. You want to be kind, but you can’t muster the energy.
4. You’re struggling with decisions and worried about letting others down.

What to do about it...
1. Plan a day off and get out of your house. (if current government rules and health allow!)
2. Take a walk with yourself. Turn off your phone and spend some time noticing your thoughts and feelings. Talk to God about it.
3. Ask a friend, counsellor, to just listen. It’s amazing what happens when our hardest thoughts and feelings are witnessed by a loving “other”. (And guess what? Those loving others are probably getting care for themselves, too.)

(Advice taken from Alison Cook PhD)
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The Tonic of Humour

Alan Witcutt was due to do the exhortation today. He agreed last Monday to send material from which we could extract a short “Thought”. Very sadly, and unexpectedly, he died on Tuesday. His correspondence did not arrive, but I was able to select from notes that he had earlier sent for me to type. We offer our condolences to his family, and keep them in our prayers.

When Alan Witcutt returned from visiting his son Paul in New Zealand he was straight in to lockdown. He had been thinking of adding more anecdotes to his book “Nine Lives and More” and so he took the opportunity of being at home to write these down. He then sent them and his exhortation on forgiveness for me to type. It is from these that I plan to select a “Thought” for today.

The murder of his wife Christine by a sniper in Sarajevo while delivering much needed supplies with Edinburgh Direct Aid during the war there was a shattering blow to Alan and his family. Throughout Alan’s exhortation on forgiveness he says how difficult it was to put forgiveness into practice. He says, “I also am struggling daily to fulfil Christ’s commands.” He says, “The way of Jesus had become costly and painful to me. It imposed on me an almost impossible discipline of love. To my shame, I founder on occasions.” The grief was there but it was in the background. He finishes one part of the exhortation with “Daily prayer is my only answer to solving this problem of how to forgive.” And I think this is a lesson for us.

What did we see of Alan when he chatted to us on a Sunday morning or he entertained us or we him? We saw someone who was cheerful and ready to relate anecdotes that would entertain and inform us. Grenville Kleiser (a North American author on personal development 1868-1935) said, “
Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.

Jesus used humour in his storytelling and we can learn lessons that we can remember.
Matthew 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?” This gives a very vivid picture of how we can be critical of others whilst not realising our own faults.

During the lockdown we have been receiving WhatsApp messages with lots of entertaining videos. The aim of these has been to lighten our mood, take our mind off our problems and give us something to laugh about.

Alan tells the entertaining story of his cousin who had a problem with a smoky chimney which needed to be swept. “
To save the expense of having it done professionally she decided that she would do it herself. Unfortunately, she had no knowledge of the procedures and it is very important to do it correctly.” She borrowed the brush and poles from a neighbour. “She was not aware as to the importance of turning the poles continuously in a clockwise direction to prevent the brush head from becoming loose and detaching from the pole screw thread.” At this point Alan’s mother arrived and the draught of the door opening brought soot pouring into the room. She was asked to go and see if the brush was poking out of the top of the chimney. It wasn’t but the pole without the brush was. “The disaster was now complete. She unscrewed the poles, but the brush had become lodged in the chimney. She had no option but to phone her plumber and explain the difficulty.” Instead of saving money, Alan’s cousin had to buy a new brush and pay the plumber to remove the old one. Alan says, “Sometimes, even I have had to admit defeat when trying to save money attempting to do a repair myself in or outside my house.”

So I think there are some lessons for us. It is not always easy, especially in difficult times, to put into practice Jesus teachings but with prayer and God’s help we can daily try. Sometimes we have to accept our dependence on other people and we have had to do that perhaps more than usual in this time of pandemic.

AMcH
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Spring's Abundance

Matt’s recent blog about the beautiful buildings in Edinburgh resonated with me because my morning exercise during lockdown is a time for reflection and prayer as I tramp – at a much more sedate pace than our professional runners, of course! – along country lanes and quiet backwater streets out in the suburbs, without a soul in sight, enjoying the burgeoning life all around me.

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Springtime never ceases to amaze me - all these different plants erupting into fabulous displays of colour and scent; all the instructions for their blossoming into cherry or rhododendron or choisea or daffodils inside them, only needing rain and warmth and light to make them realise their full potential. We have within us the potential to be fully realised spiritually if we soak up the right nourishment and bask in the light of the world. And picking up John’s thoughts about light, what a difference sunshine makes.

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We might not feel like flamboyant or even beautiful plants sometimes, but we can still quietly and effectively make a difference, just as an understated clematis adorning railings, or cascading over plain trees can transform them. What do people see when they look at me in action, I wonder … or you?

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Even an unassuming weed, like this herb robert, can brighten a dreary spot and tell its own story about motivation and allegiance.

It might seem difficult to be any kind of Godly example in these days of isolation and social distancing, but even small acts of kindness can speak volumes, and open up an opportunity to reveal God in action today … through us, his hands and feet. Certainly I've personally had far more interaction with our neighbours during this last two months than I’ve had in all the busy years before lockdown.

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Even if our scope for showing God’s love is limited, we still need to nourish and care for our spiritual selves, too, looking forward to a time when we can be more active - much like this apple tree that promises us baskets full of lovely fruit in the autumn if it’s fed and watered now. I've certainly benefitted greatly from the imagination and hard work of others streaming services and good ideas for anyone who cares to link in to them online.

So huge thanks to everyone who is posting exhortations for us while we’re confined to our homes. Several people have commented that they welcome the chance to re-read the thoughts and pick up on ideas they missed first time round. We’re learning valuable lessons for life from this pandemic.

HMcH

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Light

During these dark days of “Lockdown” when so many have lost their lives, and so many mourn their passing, we take “hope” in the words of Jesus when he said “I am the light of the world”. He that follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life – John 1 v4. In Jesus was life and the life was the light of men and women.

Matthew 5 v16 shows us that we possess the knowledge of Eternal Life, Jesus tells us “let your light so
shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven”.

Matthew 5 v14 and 15 tells us quite powerfully that “you are the light of the world”. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

V15 Neither do men Light a candle and put it under a bushel but on a candle stick and it gives light unto all that are in the house”.

2 Peter 1 v19 Light shining in a dark place. Jesus is the light/dark place (our hearts), day dawn (Christ in our hearts)/day star arise (Jesus in our understanding).

Isaiah 58 v8 tells us that a time will come “when thy
light breaks forth as the morning and thine health shall spring forth speedily and thy righteousness shall go before thee, the glory of the Lord shall be thy re ward.

But before this time many things possibly have to be endured. The apostle, Paul, in Acts 16 v12 in Philippi, here smeets with Lydia.

Acts 16 v22 Magistrates commanded Paul and Silas to be whipped and thrust into the inner prison feet fast in stocks. At midnight they came around and sang praises to God and the prisoners heard them. So here in this stinking cold prison, pitch dark/not able to lie down/backs cut and bleeding. They sing to God.

V26 tells us a great earthquake shook the prison, all bands loosed, doors open. The prison guard seeing the situation, drew his sword so to kill himself.

V28 Paul stops him.

V30 This man asks “Sirs what must I do to be saved?”

V33 Paul preaches Jesus. The man and his family believe and are baptised.

So Paul and Silas were sent specifically for this one man and his family.

Paul writes to exhort Timothy, 2 Timothy 4 v2 to preach in season and out of season.

Exhort with all long suffering (pain and suffering) to the end we glorify God.

Righteousness: By Faith in Jesus Christ Romans 3 v22.

Romans 5 v18 Righteousness “free gift” to us through Jesus and so we look forward to that time when we shall all join together and sing Hymn 294 “Hail to the brightness of Zion’s glad morning”.

JD

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Pressing Forward

Recently, with another big birthday, I have been encouraged to reminisce. Perhaps I have thought about the past too much, but I may not have too much future. I suppose that could be said of us all, irrespective of age, especially in these difficult times.

In the Bible we are encouraged to put the past behind us and press forward "to the mark of our high calling”. Perhaps this refers to past mistakes.

As many of you will know, I am very interested in recollecting hymns that express my thoughts and aspirations. Hymn 155 in our green hymn book came to mind. "Lord, who Thyself hast bidden us to pray for daily bread.” The words of verses 4 and 5 are:

We could not bear to hear complete the tale,
    If it were told;
Enough to know Thy mercies cannot fail,
    Nor love grow cold.

So, day by day, Thy never-failing love
    Our soul shall stay;
So let us be content Thy love to prove,
    Each passing day.

Both the words and music were written by an Anglican priest called George Wallace Briggs, who lived from 1875 to 1959.

MMcG
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The Direction of our Lives

What an odd situation – and yet we are getting used to it – being unable to meet and greet!

Do you remember not that long ago when we were able to meet but it was not thought prudent to shake hands and give a hug? It affects us all a bit differently – Kathy is really missing the opportunity to hug our family especially after the death of her father.

Our exhortation this morning is a little reflection on the direction of our lives.

The daily readings over the past couple of weeks or so (if we choose to read the word of God that way) have been dealing with new beginnings.

In Deuteronomy there we have a record of the Children of Israel just before they move into the promised land. The first 4 verses of Chapter 12 of Deuteronomy detail what they were required to do once they moved into the land. They were not to worship the Lord God in the same way that the nations in the land worshipped the multiplicity of their gods and remove all high places. And yet these clear and unequivocal commands were never followed through completely. Even in the reign of good king Amaziah of Judah, we read in 2 Kings 14v3,4, “And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not like David his father. He did in all things as Joash his father had done. But the
high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places”.

In Acts we have been reading of the beginnings of Christianity. It started all really well when we read in Acts 2v42-47
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

But soon all sorts of problems emerged!

Each week we start with a new beginning but it never seems long until things go wrong and we forget about what we are remembering today.

Even though we are no longer servants of sin (after our baptism) we still are affected by our sin. As we start a new week, and as we perhaps begin to contemplate a change in our freedom with lockdown being eased, we need to be careful to remember God’s love and the love of Jesus Christ for you and me and use that as a restraint in our daily lives. We need to cease to serve self and be servants of God. God gave his own son to present to us the wonderful opportunity of a new beginning in His kingdom. Jesus devoted his life to always serve His Father and give us the opportunity for that renewed beginning. We remember the sacrifice made for us in the Bread and cup which we now are about to share.

LY
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Inside and Outside

There is a lot in the news at the moment about inside and outside. We must stay inside as much we can and only go outside when we need to. We can only go outside for exercise once a day and when we get back inside, we must wash our hands. We’re staying inside to meet together when we would normally travel outside to meet.

Since the lockdown started Ros and I have been out every morning for a run. We started off running around The Meadows but quite soon got bored of that every day and have been finding new routes around Edinburgh, in particular looking for nice streets and houses. When I was at university studying architecture and building construction, I preferred modern architecture but as I run around Edinburgh now, the old buildings are my favourites.

As we run round, we see nice streets and houses and think it would be nice to live in there. It could be easy to get jealous of other people’s houses and where they live but all we can see is the outside.  Although they look nice, most of the time we’ve no idea what they are like inside or what it’s like to live in a particular house. We do know that burglary is an issue when you have a large house in a nice area.

In a similar way when we look at other people we only see what’s on the outside, but it’s still easy to judge them based on that view, either by looking down at them and thinking how much better we are or by looking up to them and thinking we’re not worthy because we don’t appear to behave like them. We may get glimpses of what they are like on the inside, like looking though a house window, but we don’t really know. God knows though – he can see what we are all like on the inside and how we really think.

The only person we should be looking at and comparing ourselves to is Jesus; we know his Father saw the inside and declared he was pure on the inside as well as the outside. We’ll never reach his standard, just as I’ll never get to live in the perfect house in Edinburgh (that I’m sure doesn’t actually exist), but that shouldn’t stop us looking to him, and trying to follow his example.

One place we have run past a number of times is what used to be Donaldson’s School in Edinburgh; it’s a grand building that has now been converted into flats and around the back of the school the developers have built some modern flats, which don’t look special themselves but have lovely views of the old building. I’ve pondered if I’d rather live in the fabulous old building or in the modern ones looking at it, concluding I’d probably prefer the view.

It has also occurred to me that if I use this as a parable, we could see our lives at the moment as living in the ‘ordinary’ building looking at Jesus, in his perfection, but from the outside. However, really I think we are on the inside – we are part of the house of God now and we can put our trust in God. Being part of God’s house is a lot to live up to, but we know he is a merciful and gracious God.

As brothers and sisters of Jesus we are living inside the beautiful house and it’s a place of safety and security. We might be tempted by what’s outside but it’s not the best neighbourhood right now. However, we need to go out to do the work of God in the world, to show others what God’s house is like on the inside and to try to reflect the behaviour of our Saviour.

So let’s not look at others, like we might look at houses and judge them from the outside. Let’s stay inside God’s house, enjoy his love and only venture outside (metaphorically) to help others and show them what it’s like inside.

MC
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