Friday, February 23, 2007

Second Home

I took Mrs P to France last week for a lovely restful time in a beautiful Normandy B and B owned by a couple of Christians I met last year. It is in the middle of beautiful countryside not far from the port of Honfleur.

France is fast becoming a second home to me. I visited France for the first time in September 1974, just before the start of my second year at Bible College. I went with my best mate with a view to sightseeing and also to give out tracts and other christian literature. We spent most of the time in Paris, camping in a two man tent in the Bois de Boulogne, literally next to the river Seine. It was at this time that I fell in love with the country. Paris is a magical city and is one of my favourite places. Spiritually, however, France is one of the darkest countries. Secularism rules.

The weeks holiday was a half-term treat for us. We had not been away together since the summer. We visited several friends, one of who was getting engaged. (See photo)

We spent the day with her and her family, a farming family, and were amazed at the different foods that seemed to just appear as we sat around and chatted.

I also got into conversation with her dad who decided to spend half an hour chatting with me in French! My brain was fried by the end but I did manage to get quite a bit out of him about farming in France and what he actually did as a farmer. He was good with his hand gestures which helped.

We also spent quite a bit of time praying with individuals. They know me as the visiting prophet from the UK so people will ask for ministry. It is such a privilege to see the hunger in many of them. There are not many churches in France that are lively and many Christians will travel over an hour to a service. They are desperate for God and their faith is simple and effective. We learn a great deal from just being with them.

Mrs P and I had a great time, we visited a museum, had great meals and great conversations and know that for us France is a special place. In April we are leading three teams to St Etienne on prayer mission and I know that those who go will never be the same again. It may be a dark place but it is a hungry place and has people of faith who are passionate in their love for God.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A walk with my grandaughter

Yesterday I spent a great time with my eldest daughter and my beautiful granddaughter Eloise (I am biased and don't apologise for that). I try and go once a month but with all of my other recent commitments haven't been for a while.

Like with your own children when they are little, I am discovering a lot of firsts with Eloise. She has learned new things every time I go and speaks a lot more, but I still find for some things I need mum as an interpreter. Her squeezes and blown kisses just melt my heart and I already am excited at the prospect of grandchild number two in later April early May this year.

My 'first' for this visit was a walk to the play ground, maybe for me a five minute walk one way, but together maybe fifteen. As we walked I began to think of how this walk reminded me of my spiritual walk with my heavenly Father.

First of all He sees a lot more that I do. I could look over the walls and through the gardens to the swings and play equipment when all Eloise could see was plants and fences. She insisted on walking and not being carried so that was the view she had. I could describe all of the things I could see and try and get excited about it but she didn't get any sense of joy until she saw the swings. That's often like my walk with God, He is trying to excite me but if I take a 'unless I see it I won't get excited' I will miss out on all of the joy I could have. I need to capture by faith the promises He makes and learn to really enter into the joy of them. That's what He wants.

My daughter Alison told me before I left the house, 'she will wait if you tell her to'. She had been trained to respond to that word because with the best will in the world Alison can't always hold her hand in times that could be dangerous. Sure enough that proved true. If only I could learn to respond to the 'Waits' of God. As I have grown older I have learned to do that more but I could relate a lot of times when that caution wasn't heeded and I walked headlong into disaster.

Then there is the joy of making her squeal and laugh and seeing her face as she went on the swing. I admit to being a bit reckless with swings and kids, mind you my eldest daughter has learnt well and is far more adventurous with Eloise that I was with her. I think the mum with the kid on the swing next to me didn't know where to put herself as I pushed Eloise and ran and hid behind her then ran quickly in front of her to howls of laughter. I realise that I have missed a lot of the times when God was doing that with me, enjoying me, gaining great joy from being with me, loving my joy and laughter moments. A number of years ago I had a special moment when I realised this, it broke me just to think God loved me this way. Cath Horne spoke on the same passage not long after it had been given to me. Its from Zephaniah 3 and it tells us that He delights over us with singing. Imagine that, He sings a song over me in heaven.

Then came the moment to leave, to leave the swings and slides and all the things that for Eloise had brought joy. She didn't cry just hung her head down and stood still, unmovable. She couldn't see that there may be other times. Eventually with a little coaxing she moved on - a bit. Then another bit. The only way I could get her back home was to pick her up and take her where she didn't want to go. When I placed her on my shoulders the sulking stopped and the joy returned. How often God must have had to use His strategies to get me to move on. I'm sure I have had those times when I didn't want to move on and I am sure that once or twice He has given me a spiritual kick up the backside to get me to move. His motive was because He knows there are things that only I can do for Him and there are so many more things He wants to give me that with bring joy and blessing to Him, myself and others.

It was a great day. I wish I lived nearer and could go more often. It is so special to love and be loved. These times are never lost because of distance. I have so many memories of moments such as these and they sustain and give me the encouragement that is is worth it all. I pray that my Father in heaven will feel the same about my life as I live it for Him.