Thought for the Week: Choices

In the prayer time last week, I pointed to Romans 8. V.28 where Paul said, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him”. This week I want to say a little more about that sentence. I don’t need to tell you that we are going through tragic circumstances which are not made by God but by evil that is prevalent in the world. At the beginning of Paul’s statement, it says, “we know”, so if we know what is good, we also know what is bad and are therefore led to make choices. In order to make the right choices we need the help of the Holy Spirit who deals with what is true and good for us. We had all hoped that by now we would be out of Lockdown but sadly that has not happened and I feel strongly that our prayers must be for what that means for us now and also what we are afraid of what we think the future will be.
As a lover of wildflowers, I move now to share with you something that has uplifted my recent days. On the day before Lockdown my daughter Lisa went to a funeral of the sister of her friend from Plymouth. When she came back home, she gave me six packets of seeds and on the packet were these words: “Let wildflowers grow in all the places I could not and every time you see them flower think of me.” Then it added, “Please scatter these seeds in memory of Del.”

I planted them in twenty small pots and spread the others in a part of the ground which needed weeding. I then watered the pots and after a week or two some little green shoots were seen and gradually, we saw some strong green plants but no flowers. They were overgrowing the small pots so then I transplanted them into the old plastic dog basket with a prayer that they would survive. Then, about ten days ago, there were signs of small white flowers and following, day by day, different flowers popped up and we now have corn flowers, lesser spear wort, fox and cubs, sand wort, ox eye daisies, willow herb, dog rose and others.
What a lovely way for the family and friends to remember their loved one.

PRAYER TIME

AMAZING GOD we praise You for all the ways You help us to cope with sadness. As it says in Psalm 30 v. 11 “You turned my sorrow into joy!”
Today Lord we are facing more sadness as thousands of people are losing their jobs and are afraid of the future because they will be unable to feed their children and some families are already in that situation.
Lord, You know that many people have died because of the pandemic and are distraught because they have not been able to be with their loved ones as they died. FATHER GOD, we place all of those people into Your hands.
LOVING GOD, we have heard that You overturn the bad to make it good. When Mary was told that she would give birth to Jesus, the Angel Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, for nothing is impossible with God.”
FORGIVING GOD, during recent days people have made choices which were against the law and in doing so have made danger for other people. We all at times fail to follow the way Jesus Christ showed us how to live and how to show our love for one another. Lord we ask for forgiveness for our wrong choices in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
CREATING GOD, we thank You for the abundance of wildflowers in the countryside as well as the varieties of beautiful flowers in our gardens and in hanging pots in our cities and towns.
CARING GOD, we ask help for the problems made by COVID-19. For instance, that the children can return to school safely and that the teachers will be ready to restart lessons for them. We pray too that if another spike occurs, the NHS will be able to cope with those who are ill and have all that is necessary to keep the doctors, nurses and carers safe.
FATHER GOD all our prayers are in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave us the Holy Spirit to intercede in our weaknesses and our choices. We reach out for the hands of God to hold us in safety. AMEN

Thought for the Week: The Peace of God

It was Monday, the 14th Monday of Lockdown. Monday is often not good for me and I have at times been very reluctant to get out of my bed! However, I prayed to God for inspiration for the THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK and at first, felt lead to the United Reformed Prayer Book of 2010 and when I opened it I nearly laughed out loud as I read the heading which said, ‘LOOSE OUR CHAINS AND SETTLE US IN PEACE’.
Suddenly I saw a light in the tunnel, my Monday grumpiness went, for God had answered prayer immediately because. the words in my mind which I had had as I woke up were almost the same: ‘LOOSE THE LOCKDOWN AND GIVE US OUR FREEDOM AND PEACE’.
This followed the reading in Galatians 3 v.23 where we are reminded that before we had faith in Jesus Christ we were imprisoned by our past mistakes and by the wrong things like sins that we had done even though we knew they were wrong. We also might be craving the wrong things today and all of it would have been forgiven due to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The other part of our wish to be free is peace.
You may have heard the verse from Philippians 4 v. 7 many times but it is a special gift from God and is as follows:
“AND THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH TRANSCENDS ALL UNDERSTANDING WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS”. God’s peace is different from the peace we talk about so often, especially when It is used at times of war or some other kind of conflict.
There are many commentaries regarding people’s understanding of God’s peace. One wrote, “God’s peace is the smile of God reflected in the soul of the believer”. Another wrote, “It is a very special gift from God, founded on Grace and the love of Christ which is explained in Ephesians 3 v,18 where Paul wrote, ‘I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’”. What more can we ask for?
Going back to freedom, if you can find one of my favourite hymns which begins with, “And can it be” and read verse 4 you will find an explanation on how in believing in Jesus lives are changed.
As we come to Prayers for the week, I copy that verse:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

PRAYERS FOR THE WEEK

Jesus teaches us to pray. Give us our daily bread;
As we give thanks for our food, our homes, our security,
We remember that many are hungry, or homeless, or in danger.
Help us not to be complacent with what we have,
But to look for ways to make a fairer world.
Jesus teaches us to pray, and keep on praying,
To ask and search and knock.
O God, who always hears our prayers
Accept these and all our prayers in the name of
the one who taught us to pray. Amen ( Prayer taken from “Teach us to pray” by Sue McCoan )
Father God, We have been through a time of trial caused by COVID-19. Paul wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him”.
Heavenly Father as we pray in the name of your Son, we might see good coming from what has been a very difficult time throughout the world. We ask now that the terrible times many have suffered by losing their loved ones will end and they will find peace. As we search for a better future, we pray that those who are still suffering from the virus will be healed and able to enjoy their lives again.
Lord Jesus Christ as we reach out to you we would pray that as we get used to our changed lives we might be given your special peace which we have been thinking about and may we be used to help those who, as yet, have not taken you into their lives that they will be blessed by finding you as their saviour. Amen

Thought for the Week: New Normal/New Life

As the constraints that we have all lived with for twelve weeks are beginning to be eased I have heard people talking about getting back to normal and then talking about ‘THE NEW NORMAL’ meaning, as they look back over that time, they have realised that their way of living has changed in ways that are better. I know that I have been surprised that I have used the time in ways that have been better for me.
As the poet W.H. Davies wrote “What is life if full of care, we have no time to stop and stare.” For the first time in years I have sat in my garden in the lovely sunshine eating my lunch instead of trying to fill my time with unnecessary activities.
I know that I took that quote of the poem out of context when using “full of care”. In today’s news programme it said that for many people life in the near future is going to be full of care. During lockdown, the parents of children with severe special needs lost their carers and thousands of people who have already been on part pay will discover that there are no jobs for them.
The reading for last Sunday was about a man who had been crippled from birth and who was taken daily to the Beautiful Gate of the Temple so that the people leaving worship would give him some money. When he saw Peter and John coming from the Temple, he asked them for some money. Peter answered him by saying, “Silver or gold have I none but what I have in the name of Jesus I will give to you.” Peter touched the man and he was healed. What this story says is that because we are Christians, we have been given a new life in Jesus Christ. To give money is helpful but more important is to spread the love of Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. We may not have the gift of healing but by leading someone to Jesus gives them a new and eternal life. The whole story is in Acts 3.v 1-10.

PRAYERS FOR THE WEEK

Abba Father, Almighty God, during this very difficult time, our strength has come through the children’s hymn “He’s got the whole world in His hands”. Soon after the lockdown began we were unable to be together to live once again through all the suffering that Jesus endured for His people, like the Passover, Good Friday, and His crucifixion followed by being able to share in the celebration of the Resurrection. Loving Father our strength came from You then and it will continue to come via the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus the King.
Lord Jesus, we know how you loved both children and people with disabilities, our prayers are for the many in the world who suffer, their families and their carers. Lord we pray that there will be many with the gift of caring who feel able to help them.
Dear Lord Jesus, because of COVID-19, thousands of jobs have been lost causing people and families to become desperately poor. Lord Jesus, we may not have the answer to this problem but we know that you will have it and so we put it at the foot of the cross.
Holy Spirit, our prayers now come to you as we ask for your intervention to make the words of these prayers acceptable. In the name of Jesus, the Son, Father creator and Holy Spirit, Amen
Near Santiago there is a statue of Jesus Christ. It has no hands because they disappeared many years ago. It was discussed about replacing the hands, but it was decided not to. On the plinth of the statue there is written: I HAVE NO HANDS BUT YOURS.

Thought for the Week: Waiting for the Feeling

Waiting for the Feeling
I was watching the ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ programme on TV. A couple had bought a house and renovated it to the man’s satisfaction. The woman was not satisfied and said, “I am waiting for the feeling”, meaning she would feel when the house was the home she wished for. I wrote about Pentecost in the last ‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’ and mentioned what happened when the Holy Spirit came. The Apostles had been waiting for the feeling and they were touched by flames of fire which gave them the feeling without a doubt.
Sometimes, a person seeking Jesus will expect to have something like the strong winds and flames before they can be sure. I knew one such person many years ago who was waiting in that way and had almost given up saying, “Unless I have something miraculous, I will not believe”. On his way home from work that day he stopped for a break and in that moment, he had a feeling which changed his life. The Holy Spirit had shown just with a feeling that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the man gave his life to Him.
I imagine we are all having thoughts about COVID-19 and may be getting tired of asking God to change the world and give us back the freedom we enjoyed before the virus came. I know that I have been made aware that most of the people who have a faith have found it difficult not to have an opportunity to worship their God. We are waiting for the time to come when we will have a feeling that the Holy Spirit has turned things around.
Many years ago, when my son was in university, he had a chance to have a year in Texas. The church he worshipped in was out of doors under a bridge. Every Sunday, whatever the weather, even deep snow, and whatever the age of the congregation, they gathered together to worship God. After the service they dispersed to serve the Lord in different ways. My son taught black children who were not receiving an adequate education at that time. This week, we have been told that our chapels can be opened for prayer. There are many difficulties which have to be overcome. We have a challenge though. If any of you have a feeling about a way of us worshipping again together within the law, let me know.

PRAYERS FOR THE WEEK

Ever loving, ever caring God, we pray today that the times will change to enable us to get together to worship you, our Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We are still struggling to cope with the constraints of our lives, but we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ who was made to suffer before His crucifixion. Our Lord Jesus cried out about what was happening to Him, and then added, “Thy will Father”, and so, even though we find it difficult to accept the constraints, we also say, “Father God Thy will be done”.
Lord Jesus, we bring to you this week those who are in hospital and the doctors and nurses caring for them. We pray for carers who are suffering mentally as they try to keep people alive, only to stand by their bedsides as they die.
In our thoughts this week we consider thinking and waiting, Lord Jesus. You went through all of those emotions and disappointments and we ask that by the power of the Holy Spirit, people who have not yet given their lives to You will get that feeling of a new life, a changed life and become a person joining all of us in your special family.
With love in our hearts and thanksgiving for our own lives of faith, help us to help others to know You, In the Name of God, the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Thought for the Week: Celebrate!

Wow! Who would think that there is a reason to celebrate today when we are in lockdown and unable to gather together for worship? My friends, we celebrate because we are free. Our Lord said, “Where two or three are together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18. V.20) If any of us, as we read this, is called to celebrate, we can be sure that Jesus joins with us, in fact He will be in the midst of us. So, today, we celebrate the 193rd year of worship in this chapel and we give thanks for Mr. Herbert and Mr Sibree and a small group of people who risked their lives and their livelihoods to have a chapel in this village. Those people were determined before God to overcome the restraints which took from them their freedom to worship Jesus Christ. For 193 years, people of this Long Itchington Congregational Chapel have been able to worship freely with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit has been with them.
I don’t want us to forget in our time of memorial that it has not always been an easy journey, for there have been times from the beginning of the 193 years when ministers and lay people have come under attack; people who, because of their faith in Jesus Christ and their way of worship, have been made to suffer.
The restraints today are different and necessary. Today, we are praying a thanksgiving for those who have suffered through their faith to follow Jesus Christ, who gave His life for all people, and in our celebration we thank those who serve the Lord in many ways and we wait prayerfully for the days when we can be together in worship safely.
We also look to the future as we welcome more people to come into membership and to become part of our Christian family. We welcome all who would become friends of the Chapel and are interested to learn more about the work of the Chapel to speak to Marion or one of the Deacons.
Today we also have a great gift to celebrate, for two thousand years ago before our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified He was explaining what was to come. He promised that He would not leave us like orphans, but He would give us another counsellor, another helper. The promise was also that the Holy Spirit would be for all who believed in God His Father and just as He had promised the day came while the Apostles waited, the Day which is called Pentecost. On that day, there was a sound like the blowing of a violent wind from heaven followed by what seemed like flames of fire touching each of the Apostles, but that was not all that changed because suddenly they began to speak in different languages so that everyone could understand them. Then there was more. Peter who had denied Jesus once in the past began to preach in a way he had never done before and those watching wanted to know what they needed to do to change to become Christians. They found their lives being turned upside down so that they could serve God as never before.
We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit because to this day and into the future the Holy Spirit is alive for us, to help us to speak about our Lord Jesus so that others will want to know about the love of God and the love of Jesus who died for them.

PRAYERS FOR THE YEARS OF THE LIFE OF LONG ITCHINGTON CONGREGATIONAL CHAPEL

Almighty and ever caring God
We come on this special day for our chapel to thank you for being with us always, even though we are not able to gather together in the chapel we love.
We thank you for the ongoing work in the chapel and for all who share in making it a welcoming place for worship.
We thank you Lord Jesus for giving us your Holy Spirit and for the Day of Pentecost which has given us a special time, two months earlier than usual, to celebrate in our hearts with remembrance how we would usually have a day of celebration. We thank and praise you Lord Jesus as, in faith, we look forward to the day when we are no longer in lockdown and when the terrible virus has been beaten and we are free once again.
We look back into the past and give thanks to all who have come before us and have served you here.
Lord Jesus Christ, we praise you again and again for giving your life on the cross and we pray that in the coming of the Holy Spirit many newcomers will come for us to welcome and share with them the love and joy which we have from you . Amen.

Thought for the Week: All Change

ascension of Jesus Christ

Today’s thoughts are about changes and the Ascension of Jesus Christ.


Following Easter Sunday, Jesus was showing His disciples that he was resurrected and alive, but not all of the people who were told about His change were able to accept it. Some were uncertain.
Nine weeks ago, the lives of people throughout the world were changed, not all in the same way but they were changed. Some were heard to say that they had lost their freedom and others just looked for someone to blame.
Today, we will think about what the Ascension meant at the time when it happened and what it means to us today at this time of uncertainty – yes, uncertainty, because no one understands how COVID-19 will react from now on.
On the day of Ascension, the people were looking up at the sky, and I imagine it was because they were still uncertain about where Jesus was. Two men dressed in white appeared, angel messengers from God who said to the onlookers, “Why are you looking up, Jesus has gone to His Father God in heaven and will return as He promised”.

We need have no uncertainty because we have the truth a) that Jesus is alive, b) that He is with God, c) that He will return one day in the future, d) the love that God has for us never changes because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and e) the ministry of Jesus on earth becomes our ministry.
Throughout these past nine weeks, we have been told firstly, to do certain things to save the lives of other people and secondly to be safe. That is the same today. We have done what Jesus did and many have given their lives for others. The prayers for today were written 7 years before the pandemic by Karen Campbell for Ascension Day.
Before we come to the time of prayer I hope you will forgive me for including my cat in the thoughts again…I have learned a lot since having Nala 3 months ago. Many people find change very difficult to handle and are uncertain about doing new things. I tend to be untidy and put things down in haste instead of putting them back where I got them from. Nala has her own way of putting me in my place. As soon as she comes across something new or something out of place she will sniff it, stand by it, look at me with her beautiful big eyes and even make her strange cat talk at me and wait for me to put things right. As we read the prayers we may feel that God is speaking to us about putting things in our lives right while we make the necessary changes.

PRAYERS FOR TODAY

LIVING GOD’S KINGDOM

Inviting God,
You call us to work as partners with you, in and for your world.
Show us how to live your kingdom into being inspired by the love of the risen Christ,
Now seated at your right hand.
Sustaining God, you call us to be as Christ in our world,
Starting here, where we live and work and dream. By your Spirit, grant us wisdom to discern your will,
When to wait, and when to move,
When to be silent and when to speak, when to be stubborn, and when to change,
Show us how to live your kingdom into being
Immersed in the love of the risen Christ now seated at your right hand.
Loving God, you see when the road seems too long,
When the task seems too great, when we encounter hostility or disbelief,
And the world laughs at the foolishness of the gospel
When we are tired, disheartened and ready to give in, remind us that we are a people of power,
Show us how to live your kingdom into being empowered by the love of the risen Christ
Now seated at your right hand. Amen

Thought for the Week: Lifted High

It was very early on Thursday morning, time to prepare for this week’s THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK. I was about to close the computer down, prayerfully asking for inspiration, and there it was before me! A thank you for the “SO GOOD” thought from a reader who had tried but failed, she said, to say something profound about ‘be strong, keep calm and have faith’ and then asked, could I help?
You Raise Me Up
You will recall that a previous THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK included words from a song which was sung by Michael Ball with Captain Tom who raised over 30 million pounds for the NHS. Soon throughout the world people were singing the song and getting help through the words, “When you walk through a storm… you will never walk alone”. As I recalled that happening, another song popped into my mind – one that has always lifted me when I’ve struggled. It was written by the band Secret Garden, with music from Norwegian Ralph Lovlaid and lyrics by Irish writer Brendon Graham. Many have interpreted “You Raise Me Up” as a song to God, part of which is “When I am down and oh my soul so weary, You raise me up,” and another line is “I am strong when I am on Your shoulders… You raise me up to more than I can be…”
Please let me know if you can’t find the complete song for in that raising up there is calmness and faith.
Now I take you back to those two short words ‘calm’ and ‘faith’, neither of which need to be intense or deep in knowledge. We might remember the day when Jesus calmed the storm – Luke 8.v.22-25. Jesus did not calm the storm for Himself but for His frightened disciples as He does it for us.
Then we go to St. Paul writing to the people of the Roman church (Romans 8 v.26 & 27) and saying, “The Spirit (Holy Spirit) helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us by searching in our hearts.” Our simplicity is loved by God and answered by Him.
I have spoken to Revd Michael and Barbara Haighton and they thank us for the prayers. Thinking about those who have not got access to the internet, they suggested turning to Premier Christian Radio, which can be found on channel 725 on Freeview (also available on digital radio).

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Almighty and ever hearing God, we pray that we might find stillness, for in stillness we can know your nearness and as we are still Lord you show us how to be calm.
Lord God, as we are quiet, we find once more the depth of love which comes to us from your Son Jesus who gave His life that we might live.
As we are still and quiet we remember how Jesus calmed the storms and as, at the present time, we are going through the storm of COVID-19 the prayer is that Jesus might calm our fears, that our children will be safe as well as the teachers and other workers, as the decision has been made for the schools to be opened again soon.
We pray too that the Holy Spirit will be interceding in all our prayers as was promised by St Paul. and as we pray as always in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. AMEN