Tigger’s 2021 and Christmas Messages….

Tigger is a well-known figure on the Bury Methodist Circuit and a regular contributor to ‘Thought for the Day’ on the circuit website. He is currently enjoying a well-earned summer sabbatical from thinking.

Tigger plans to accompany Jenny Benfield to some services. You may have a chance to meet him soon!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – MAY 31 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Tiggers don’t have birthdays, so we have to make the most of other people’s! I was lucky enough to preside over the blowing out of the candles and the cutting of the cake. Cake, candles, presents, fun – what a wonderful celebration! However, I understand that there is a downside – you are one year older at the end of it! Tiggers don’t mind that, but apparently some people do mind very much, because they are growing one year nearer the next big milestone. Nevertheless life is always moving on, and I’m waiting for the next big event – seeing our friends in person at church. One good thing about the hopeful re-opening of the churches is that I might be able to return to the Methodist Cathedral (Trinity) one day!

As Tigger says, life moves on. We rejoice in the opportunities that brings us for growth as we learn more from the Bible, as we experience more of God’s love and become more rooted and grounded in Christ. We are growing all the time whether we like it or not, and Jesus had a lot to say about growth. He talked about the seeds sown by the sower with differing results in terms of growth. He also likened our growth to the way in which the very tiny mustard seed grew into a plant large enough for birds to settle in. But what about the seed growing secretly? So much growth happens underground, as we know only too well when we disturb a plant by mistake. We may discover deep roots, even though there is very little evidence of growth above ground.

God was working ‘below ground’ in Saul’s life as he watched Stephen being stoned to death. God was moving in Saul’s life while he actively campaigned against the followers of Jesus. Many Christians today would also acknowledge that God was working in their lives and they didn’t realise it until later.

When restrictions are eased and life moves on, we too may be surprised to find that God has been at work secretly in our lives and in the lives of others. Thank God that even though we are very conscious of the many downsides and the pain of all that has happened over the past year, there is still room for celebration of the way He has been at work, developing in us those strong roots, which will eventually bring the flower and the fruit to the surface.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – MAY 12 – DEFLATED!

Tiglet and I have had real problems! Jenny’s bicycle tyre went totally flat, so Tiglet got out the puncture mending kit. When we couldn’t sort it, we resorted to trying to pump up the tyre instead! I was pumping as hard as I could, but Tiglet couldn’t read the gauge – what on earth were we going to do now? Then Tiglet had a bright idea – if we changed places, maybe I would be able to help with reading the gauge? Tiglet and I always work as a team, so I’m sure we’ll get there in the end, just as long as Jenny doesn’t want to go out on her bike before next week!

We all know about deflation! We work hard doing all kinds of things, like building a garden wall, growing flowers from seed, dressmaking, cooking dinner. We’ve spent several hours on it and we think everything is going fine, then suddenly we realise that the wall is crooked, the little plants are keeling over, we’ve put the sleeve in the shirt the wrong way round or we’ve forgotten to put the key ingredient into the pie, and it’s already in the oven! We are totally deflated – all that work, and it’s all gone wrong! That’s when we need our ‘teammate’ to help us rebuild the wall or suggest watering the plants, take the sleeve out for us, or simply to say, ’I’m happy to eat it, even if you’ve forgotten to put the kidney in the steak and kidney pie!’

Jesus is always there as our ‘teammate’. The blind Christian singer, Marilyn Baker, was interviewed by the media on one occasion and felt afterwards that she’d got it all wrong. She was so deflated that she got down on her knees when she got home and confessed to God that she’d made a complete mess of it. God spoke to her in her deflation. She got up from her knees reassured, refreshed and ready to start again. One of her songs says it all -‘Rest in My love, relax in My care and know that My presence will always be there. You are My child and I care for you, there’s nothing My love and My power cannot do’.

We, too, may feel deflated sometimes in our Christian lives. Thank God He understands our deflation – His words of comfort and strength set us on our feet again as we move on in company with Him.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – APRIL 23 – RESCUE MISSION!

The other day ‘they’ put me in the bath! I can’t imagine why, because ‘they’ know I don’t like water. Fortunately Tiglet the Valiant arrived in the nick of time to rescue me – it was just about to start raining from the shower! It might have seemed an impossible task to him, because he’s half my size. However, he was armed with Robert’s dressing gown belt and he gradually hauled me up to safety. What a relief! I shan’t go near a bath again – very dangerous places!

The whole of the Bible is the story of a ‘Rescue Mission’. Noah and his family were rescued from the Flood (water again, you see), Jonah was rescued from the whale (more water) and the people of Israel were guided to the Promised Land, escaping from Egypt by passing through the waters of the Red Sea!

The ‘water theme’ continues in the New Testament. When Jesus comes on the scene, He begins His ministry by turning water into wine at a wedding – a rescue mission for the family, when the wine ran out. However, more importantly, we see the power of God at work within Jesus to do what seems humanly impossible. A little later He calms the waters of the Sea of Galilee to rescue His disciples from being overwhelmed by the waves. They find it hard to understand how Jesus is able to do these things, ‘How come even the wind and the waves seem to recognise and obey His command?’

 ‘Frith’ Robb is an Iranian lady who came to Nottingham to study in 1972 and found herself very lonely. On a cold and foggy Christmas Eve she had one tin of corned beef and no can-opener, when there was a knock on the door of her student accommodation. The University’s Methodist Chaplain was asking whether she would like to go out for Christmas lunch. Frith was hosted by two elderly ladies who simply wanted to offer friendship to a young person far from home. God was once again on one of His rescue missions to someone in need. (You can read Frith’s story in her recently published book ‘In the Shadow of the Shahs’).

We may not understand how God works, but we know that with Him nothing shall be impossible. Can we, too, be part of one of His rescue missions?

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – APRIL 6

EASTER – THE 3Ms

‘Tiglet, Easter isn’t about eggs and bunnies and chickens! Come and look at this picture with me! There’s an angel sitting outside the tomb at dawn and three ladies looking for Jesus. They seem bewildered by the message they have been given. “He is not here. He has moved on.”’

Easter is about mystery and moving and morning!

Most people enjoy a bit of mystery. A lot of us watch Poirot or Midsummer Murders or Death in Paradise, simply because we enjoy the mystery. We wonder at how Poirot manages to sort out all the different strands in the story he has been told in order to reach a conclusion – always the right one, I might add. The Resurrection is also surrounded by an air of mystery and bewilderment. Many, many people down the ages have tried to reason it out and come up with a conclusion as to how it all happened, often with little success. It remains a mystery, which we cannot grasp with our finite minds. Nevertheless we stand amazed at divine power and love, which went through the agony of death by crucifixion to emerge the other side. Renewed in body and spirit, Jesus blessed His disciples with His living presence, which still encircles us today.

Do you remember those small cardboard cylinders, which you looked into at one end to see a kaleidoscope of colours at the other end? As you turned the cylinder the small coloured pieces kept moving to produce different patterns. The Resurrection created a kaleidoscope of different patterns in the lives of the disciples. The stone had been moved away, Jesus had risen and they became changed people. For us, too, the Resurrection opens up a new pattern to our lives. ‘God is out of the box – He is on the loose’ and is moving us on.

St Clement of Rome wrote, ‘Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawn’. With the Resurrection comes the morning, a new day is dawning – and we are part of it! Resurrection is not just an event which happened over 2,000 years ago. It occurs every day as we embrace each new morning as a gift from God and seek His living presence, power and love to be with us wherever we are.

Today, of all days, O Lord, I want to know You, and the power of Your Resurrection.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – MARCH 18 – DOING OUR SUMS!

Robert’s in his counting house, counting out the money

Jenny’s in the kitchen, eating bread and honey

Tigger’s in the office, working out his tax

Tiglet’s in the armchair, trying to ree-lax!      

(With apologies to A A Milne)

Abacus, slide rule, pocket calculator – do you remember them? All were used for counting and working out those things we used to call ‘sums’! Robert remembers doing all his A Level calculations with the slide rule, but Bru and Scot are finding it a bit cumbersome today, as you can see from the photo! Tiglet was looking for a quiet snooze, but got roped in to help with the counting!

I was surprised when I started to think about how much ‘counting’ is mentioned in the Bible. The Psalmist talks of the vast sum of God’s thoughts, which are precious to him. ‘Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand!’, he says. Jesus tells the story of the shepherd who counts his sheep and then goes to search for the one who was missing. In Matthew’s Gospel Peter asks Jesus, ‘How many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?’ Jesus replies, ‘Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven’ (The Message). I think of this answer as meaning ‘Don’t even bother counting!’

I remember counting the pennies in my pocket money – yes, I do go that far back! – and deciding how much to save in the piggy bank, how much should go in the collection and how much I had left to spend on sweets and my comic. And we carry on ‘counting’ throughout our lives! ‘Counting’ the cost of our time and commitment to God and others becomes a way of life. We commit to prayer and contemplation, to listening and responding to another’s need and to moving out of our comfort zone to follow the way of Jesus.

I imagine the money changers in the Temple counting out their ill-gotten gains and piling them up, when all of a sudden Jesus comes along and overturns the whole lot! We, too, may experience a different direction in our ‘counting’ when Jesus moves us on to new things. But, thanks be to God, whatever happens, He is always there to support us. So we join the Psalmist in praising Him for the vast number of His loving thoughts towards us – too many to count!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – MARCH 1 – LOST IN THE WOOLSTACK!

Lost in the Woolstack!

You’ll remember that last time we were trying out a new hobby – knitting!

I turned my back for a moment, and during that time, Tiglet disappeared. Panic set in to start with, but then I peeped over the wall of wool, and there he was – completely surrounded by coloured balls. What a relief! Rejoice with me, for I’ve found my nephew who was lost!

How often have we lost something important and panicked because, although we know it must be somewhere, at that precise moment, it is lost! The other day we slammed the front door behind us, then came the obvious question ‘Have you got the key?’ ‘NO’. ‘Where is it?’ ‘Help!’

The lady whom Jesus talked about in the Parable of the Lost Coin was desperate to find the coin she had lost – it was like losing her wedding ring. We don’t know whether it was a systematic sweeping of the house which followed, or a panicky brushing hither and thither. Whichever it was, the coin was found and she called everyone together to celebrate.

But sometimes it isn’t losing something which concerns us – it’s the fact that we ourselves feel lost. We can feel lost, and alone, in a crowd. We can feel lost as to which way to turn when we don’t know what to do. We can feel lost when our world falls apart, and we are bereft of work, of family, of friends, of health. Being and feeling lost is part of the pain of life, which we all experience, as Jesus did on the Cross.

So, is there a way in which we can rise above those feelings of being lost and come to a place of celebration? The lady who found the coin after a long search, and Jesus Who rose from the dead, both discovered the answer in their different ways. Overcoming that feeling of ‘lostness’ is the gift of God and, guided by Him, we are led, as Charles Wesley put it, to become ‘lost in wonder, love and praise.’ Our troubles are not over, but we know we are safe and secure once more in the loving arms of our God.

Thought for the Day – February 15 – Auntie’s started knitting again…

…..so Tiglet and I thought we’d try it out for ourselves! Lots of balls of wool in wonderful colours, but we got in rather a muddle! We couldn’t decide what to make – should we knit a scarf to keep us warm, or a blanket to bring comfort to someone who was ill? We thought we could be really clever and design our own pattern – the one Jenny gave us looks rather old – or should we knit a rainbow jumper?  Then, we didn’t know which end to hold the needles, or which colour wool to choose as a start!

Most of us love colour. There’s sentinel red and volcanic orange, or cool blue and pacific green. Some of us prefer the bright colours, others are moved by the paler shades. But one thing is certain, we need all the colours to make up the rainbow and if one is missing, the whole rainbow is incomplete. Of course, there is an obvious message in the rainbow: we are all needed in order to bring about God’s purposes in the world – the world of our family, our street, our village, our town. We may be outgoing and find it easy to connect with others, or we may be quiet, and shy of taking the initiative. Whether we are one of these, or somewhere in the middle, we are all part of God’s rainbow.

However, if we dig a little deeper into God’s gift of colours, we discover that He’s given us colours to delight us, to brighten up our lives, to relieve the greyness and give us something to be grateful for, something to shout about. God said to Noah (…….. put your own name in here instead), ‘I have placed My rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of My covenant with you, and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds’.

Those who knit with many different colours present us with a joyful picture of our rainbow God, Who wants to lift us out of our humdrum daily existence into the vibrant life of His love and grace.

Thought for the Day – February 1 – Contemplate the beauty…

Thought for the Day – January 18 – A Leisurely start to the day!

As you can see, Tigger has no intention of being put off by the fact that today, Monday 18th January, is supposed to be Blue Monday – the lowest time of the year, when the weather is cold, Christmas and New Year celebrations are over and finances are stretched. Tigger is nevertheless still going to enjoy a quiet moment before rising to meet the world!

We often read in the Gospels of Jesus ‘rising a great while before day’ in order to spend a quiet moment with God before going out to meet the world. In fact Mark’s Gospel, which is the gospel set for the lectionary this year, is littered with examples of Jesus going to a solitary place, withdrawing from people, going up a mountainside, leaving the crowd behind and being all alone. It is a salutary experience to read through Mark and highlight all the references to Jesus’ times of prayer, both alone and with His disciples. Sometimes His word to the disciples was quite simply ‘Watch’. Prayer is not about talking, it is about withdrawing, being quiet and sitting alone with God.

Archbishop Rowan Williams was once asked how he prayed about a difficult problem, and his reply says a lot about the God Whom we approach in prayer. It took him 30 minutes to come into the presence of God, before he even started to bring the needs of the situation before Him. This helps us to realise something of the transcendence of God, even if we cannot understand His ‘otherness’. The 17th century poet, Henry Vaughan, talks about ‘the radiance of divine darkness’. God is mysterious and beyond words, which goes some way to explaining Rowan Williams’ answer to the question of how we pray.

However, the wonderful truth is that, although God is ‘other’, He is also ever-present in the Holy Spirit, so we are never alone. Enjoying a quiet moment before rising to meet the world worked for Jesus – He then went out and spent a hectic day teaching and healing. People came to Him from everywhere and He was able to meet their needs. At our low points we, too, can be uplifted by taking a quiet moment to watch and wait with God.

Thought for the Day – January 5 – Ring the Bells!

Many people stood on their doorsteps on Christmas Eve to ring bells and send Santa on his way. This brings to mind the poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘Ring out, wild bells’, which was set to music, and we used to sing it lustily in our School Carol Concerts years ago! However, we weren’t singing to welcome Santa, we were saying goodbye to the old year, letting it go, and ringing in the New Year. We were ‘ringing out the darkness of the land and ringing in the Christ that is to be’. So say the final lines of the poem.

Throughout the Bible we read of God making all things new, from the very dawn of creation in Genesis to the promise of a new heaven and a new earth in Revelation. The prophet Jeremiah in particular has much to say about the new state of affairs for the people of Israel after the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. His words are especially relevant to us, as we think about the 2020 world we are leaving behind. The people were despondent. Their houses were destined to be destroyed and they were to be banished from their homeland. However, God promises to bring them back, to make an everlasting covenant with them and never to stop doing good to them.

As we renew our covenant with God on the first Sunday in January, we, too, are looking for new things. An up-to-date example of God at work in human history comes from a missionary couple in Portugal, who started to feel frustrated and useless as lockdown hit and seemed to paralyse their activities. However, they discovered the huge possibilities of online communication with others, and in their words, ‘God showed Himself again to be the creative author of our history’.

What new things are we looking for? Apart from the obvious ones connected to the pandemic, there will be new opportunities, as we each look to God’s future for ourselves. Maybe we can all find something new, however small, which God is doing in our lives, to lighten the darkness around us.

Tigger’s Message. Tiglet and I have been experimenting with bell ringing, because we thought that was a good way to celebrate the New Year. Apparently, proper handbells each have a different sound, a note, I think they call it. Hopefully each bell we ring will bring a special message to someone who needs to be encouraged, cheered up or inspired for the new things ahead

Thought for the Day – December 19th

‘LIKE A CANDLE FLAME, FLICKERING SMALL, IN OUR DARKNESS’.

It’s 6.30 pm and it’s already dark, because we are in the tropics. As we walk down the street, little lights are glowing, illuminating the faces of the sellers and the small goods they have for sale on their low, makeshift tables. We might find tins of milk, bread, green oranges, matches – domestic necessities to keep body and soul together. These little lights signify hope of needs being met for the buyer and the seller. The light of the Jesus of Christmas also signifies hope for us ‘flickering small, in our darkness’.

So, Can this tiny spark set a world on fire?’You may remember fireworks of long ago called ‘Roman Candles’. In sharp contrast to today’s noisy bangs and explosions, they were gentle and beautiful, erupting quietly in a shower of stars when the blue touch paper was lit. You could set them off in your back garden and stand back in awe and wonder, without danger to life and limb. Here was a tiny spark, which produced a feast for the eyes and kept us looking for more to come. The Jesus of Christmas brings us a tiny spark of hope again. We know He set the world on fire in Palestine, and then across the world, through His disciples down the centuries. We see that fire in Peter’s preaching at Pentecost, in Paul’s Damascus Road experience and in John Wesley’s witness as ‘a brand plucked from the burning’. In 2020 a 70th birthday party on Zoom illustrates the power of lots of little lights, tiny sparks, coming together. They produce what looks like a huge fire, as a friend places a birthday cake in front of her screen and proceeds to light all 70 candles! An amazing sight! Together, the small sparks of hope in each of our lives can indeed set the world on fire.

‘Yet His light shall shine from our lives’. Yes, it will shine from our lives, as insignificant and unnoticed as they may seem to be. We, too, can have the hope that ‘the Spirit will blaze within us, as we touch the flame of His holy fire’. Gathered around the scene of the Nativity together in spirit, if not in the flesh, we can experience afresh the flame given to us, to bring light to our family, our community, our world.

Thought for the Day – December 5th

Our Christmas to do list.

Often small is beautiful – little gifts, not lavish ones; small actions, not big trumpeted ones. God has called us to a large work, but it’s best to start small. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes us a true follower, because Jesus said that a cup of cold water given in His Name is worth a lot. He came small, as a baby in Bethlehem, so that we could proclaim Him our infant Redeemer.

Debbie has suggested that we should make an Advent paperchain with prayers on it for someone different each day. This helps us to focus on the needs of others in a positive way and directs our Christmas thinking towards the real meaning of the season – ‘the baby, Who became the Servant King’.

Tigger’s star has 6 points – a reminder of 6 key words, which lead us from the stable to the Cross. When we think of Jesus’ coming, we bring to mind His humility, His humanity, His suffering, His presence, His divinity and His glory. All these lead us to the ultimate mystery which surrounds the Incarnation, and brings us to our knees in worship of the Maker, Monarch and Saviour of all.

Mystery parcels are always exciting! They are well wrapped, and their shape doesn’t give away the contents, so undoing the string is a moment of delight. What is inside? The mystery of Jesus’ coming is a fresh experience each year, because we never get right to the bottom of it. There is always excitement and delight, as we glimpse a little more of the light dawning on our darkness, guided by the Star of the East.

So we take time to pause and think as we approach Christmas.

‘Who is He in yonder stall, at Whose feet the shepherds fall?

Tis the Lord! O wondrous story! Tis the Lord! The King of glory!

At His feet we humbly fall, crown Him, crown Him, Lord of all.’

Thought for the Day – November 22Come and Join me!

 Today is the big day! Time for me to visit the loft and decorate my bin ready for Christmas!

They tell me that everyone is decorating bins this year, as well as trees, so that they can raise money for Bin Twinning! Apparently, billions of people in the world live amongst mounds of rubbish because no-one collects it. It’s very bad for their health – and the children play amid the rubbish, or look for bits and pieces to pick up from the piles, in order to sell for a little money. Jenny tells me she’s even seen this happening in Nigeria.

Bin Twinning is working with social enterprises in poor neighbourhoods in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, which aim to collect rubbish, dispose of it safely and recycle as much as possible. Many of these projects upcycle waste into items for sale – from compost to paving blocks. At the same time they are tackling the problem that someone dies every 30 seconds in the world’s poorest countries from diseases caused by plastic pollution and rubbish.

So, come and join me by decorating your bin and sending a small donation to Bin Twinning via the Ixworth Methodist Church website ‘ixworthmethodistchurch2020christmas.com’. We are also supporting Bury Drop In to help care for the homeless locally.

Please could you also send me a photo of your decorated bin/tree and Robert will put it on the website as part of our On-line Christmas Festival. Full details available on the website.

‘Come and join Me’ were the words of Jesus to the first 4 disciples, to Matthew and Zacchaeus (the tax collectors), then to the 12 and many others, including the apostle, Paul, on the road to Damascus. Those words have never ceased to ring out down the centuries and they reach us today as words of challenge. We are not only called to follow Jesus, we are called to join Him in the places where He is already at work.

Where is He calling us to join Him today?