Refresh and Rebuild

We have the original, classic, now vintage ‘Dark Shark’ Lego pirate ship. For almost 25 years it has sat on top of a book shelf along with our children’s favourite teddies and toys.

Disaster struck when our cat, Sevgi, decided to knock it down, shattering it into almost 1000 pieces. Without the box or instruction manual, we turned to Google and then to YouTube. The Lego enthusiasts reviewing this ship, known as ‘The Barracuda’ in the US, brought tears to my eyes.

Treasuring the Whole

I learned I had never fully appreciated what we had. This big vessel, Lego set 6285, was the first of its kind and is truly unique. It was a long build, requiring patience that was rewarded with a majestic galleon festooned with red and white sails, synonymous with pirates, and a wonderful scale with room to move the 8 small detailed figures around.

As I watched and listened to those reviewing Lego set 6285, their love of this ship was obvious and their desire to tell others all about it was infectious. It made me reflect on how I feel about my Christian faith. I don’t want to take it for granted but really appreciate what I’ve received. I want to love Jesus, the alpha and the omega of my life, enough to want everyone to know and love him too.

Treasuring each Part

How well those who love ‘Dark Shark’ know their ship! Each part is beautiful in itself. The canons that peek out from the lower deck, the mini-figures that can climb the rigging, the captain at the wheel with his peg leg, hook and parrot and the monkey hanging from a halyard. Then there’s the treasure chest. I didn’t know that 6285 has 16 pieces of gold in its treasure chest – more than any later model!

Refresh and Rebuild

As I gathered the scattered pieces I realised how grubby the ship had become with just the occasional dust over the years. It has now been through a wash cycle and as a family we are in the process of rebuilding. What pleasure there is in finding parts and piecing them together, discovering aspects of this model that we’d either forgotten or never understood. It’s quite a puzzle and is going to take a while.

I do want to give time in my life to think deeply about my faith. What pleasure there is in understanding how the Bible fits together and how its truths impact my life. I know that I can spend the rest of my days plowing its depths. May my Christian faith never ‘sit on the shelf’ gathering dust, but may I keep it fresh by taking time to ponder and by sharing my love and joy with others.

Easter Chickens

Is Easter all about chocolate eggs and cute bunny rabbits? No, surely not! The emoji on my iPhone for Easter is a chicken, so is Easter really about chickens?

Maybe, yes!!

As Jesus journeys to the Cross in the Gospels he calls us twice to be like chicks with a mother hen. The first time is when news comes to him that Herod Antipas is planning to kill him, and he calls him ‘That fox!’ (Luke 13:31-32). Jesus sees Herod like a cunning would-be predator, and he treats him with contempt. Then, as he looks forward to being rejected and crucified in Jerusalem, he cries out,

“How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” (Luke 13:34)

Several times we read of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem, the city that has killed prophets and stoned those sent by God. He also knows the fate of the city that will reject him and feels pity and compassion for her inhabitants.

The second time is during Holy Week when Jesus addresses the crowd, pronouncing a series of 7 woes on the religious leaders for their hypocrisy. Even after the strongest rebukes, he expresses sorrow because of their stubborn pride and refusal to recognise his authority. These are the last words of Jesus in a public setting before his private discourse with his disciples on the Mount of Olives.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”(Matthew 23:37).

The image of God as a bird whose wings give refuge is an image from the Old Testament. Moses in his farewell song (Deut 32:11) and David in several Psalms refer to this safe shelter (Psalm 91:4). Even Ruth, the Moabite, found protection under these wings because she was willing to come (Ruth 2:12; 3:9).

Mother Hen

Jesus pictures himself as a mother hen covering her chicks and shielding them from harm with her own body. Are we willing to come to him, acknowledging our human smallness, our doubts and fears, our vulnerability and need of God’s warmth and loving care, or are we too proud and self sufficient? Perhaps, like the Pharisees, we’re guilty of hypocrisy. Does our pride cause us to project an image incongruent with the true condition of our hearts? Jesus offers the welcome embrace of his presence to us all.

At Easter we see Jesus stretch his wings as he is pinned to the cross. He does this to save us completely and gather us to himself forever. Our refusal to come to him will leave us abandoned to face the foxes in life alone.

Your City Needs You!

This is Palm Sunday and I’ve been struck again by Jesus’ tears as he paused before entering Jerusalem. Conscious of their ignorance about the true nature of his kingship and his mission to proffer peace, he drew near, saw the city and wept tears of sorrow over her future destruction lostness of her inhabitants (Luke 19:41-45).

Our society is also ignorant of Christ’s person and the mission of his church. Do we have a sense of foreboding as we anticipate the future – enough to weep?

Street Pastors

A great vehicle to help us love our city is the ministry of Street Pastors. At weekends the city centre population nearly doubles as the night life attracts many from greater Glasgow and other cities. Spirit-filled, gospel propelled teams of volunteers from various churches and denominations walk the streets from 10pm-4am mixing with revellers coming in and out of the clubs. Their posture is one of service not conquest as they fulfil their mandate to listen, care and help.

Drunken girls are particularly vulnerable, staggering along in their very high heeled shoes. They welcome our offer of free flip-flop sandals, but as it’s hard to balance on one leg when you’re drunk, we end up kneeling on the ground, opening toes and putting them on. Onlookers are amazed. “What’s a street pastor?” “Why do you do this?” It is such a small humbling for us, but God is doing something very powerful. It’s called ‘church reputation repair’ and this simple action starts up many God conversations and requests for prayer as people tell us their stories.

Urban Trinity

Early on when Street Pastors began in Glasgow, the Lord Provost invited us for afternoon tea at the City Chambers. A local councillor had joined the team one night and her report had so thrilled him that he wanted to meet us all. As we ate our cream scones the police officers admitted they had been very sceptical when our work began in 2009. They were sure these ‘do-gooders’ would just get in their way. However, they had to admit our presence on the streets was making a difference and they were now delighted to be part of the ‘urban trinity’ of Police, Church and City Council.

Safe Zone Pastors

A few years ago the police asked us to create a ‘safe zone’ at our base in a city centre church, manned by Street Pastors and first aiders. It’s a place police can bring vulnerable people for help, rather than taking them to hospital or the cells. We sober folk up with cups of tea, toilet visits and sometimes a sick bowl! We charge phones, make calls, reconnect folk with their friends and listen well. Most feel ashamed and sometimes sheepishly reveal a high powered occupation. Many are overwhelmed by our love in Jesus. What a privilege to be a welcome part of a big team helping to make our city a safer place. The police we serve with are so patient and kind, the first aiders so willing, the taxi marshals so helpful, keeping order in the queues at the ranks and working with us to get folk home safely.

Prayer Pastors

Jesus wept over the city but became angry with established religion. He saw little mercy and little prayer (Luke 19:45-46). This blog/vlog is unashamedly a recruiting drive. Watch the link below as I attempt to mobilise more prayer through a movement that aims to love and serve in Jesus’ Name.

Mary’s Mantle

I always felt close to Mary, her supportive interest, her positive attitude and prayer for church, family, friends and neighbours and her deep concern for our nation and world made spending time with her a delight.

Twenty years ago we got even closer. Asylum seekers began arriving in Glasgow and Mary, then in her 70s, was part of the welcome team. Our church opened a weekly International Drop In and she loved making strangers feel at home. Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners and Africans all became her friends.


We made visits together and she was great fun, always willing to sample a new food or learn a new dance. She had a kind heart. Three failed asylum seekers, Kurdish boys from Iran, stitched their lips together refusing to eat. Mary and her friend Irene visited them every day for a month just to sit with them, mothering them with care and prayer. At last they were persuaded to begin eating again.

Mary’s own mother had died when Mary was a young woman, the eldest of six siblings; she left her job to take charge of the family home. She married later in life, then was widowed with no children of her own, but she became a mother to many. Mary had a special love for the African community and to them she was ‘Mum’, the wise counsellor and faithful friend.


During the last 10 years of our friendship I felt she was mentoring me in how to grow old graciously. The Apostle Paul writes, ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’ (1Timothy 6:6) and that sums up Mary. Her spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible built resilience, so when the pandemic struck she was anchored. Her mantra then and until she died was,

‘Don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do!’

During lockdowns she was not idle. She would sit in her doorway chatting with visitors who sat on the chair provided on the landing, or meet one on one in Dnisi her local cafe. She phoned to encourage others and took homemade gingerbreads to neighbours. If she felt a bit down she would take her hymn book and starting at the beginning she would sing her way through until the cloud lifted.

Mary’s Mantle

The key to Mary’s bright faith was her prayer life. It was during the lockdown that Mary in her 90s learned to use Zoom. When she became housebound due to frequent falls she continued to come online and pray with our ladies lunchtime prayer group, always bringing us some encouragement. She never did find the mute button, so when we sang her sweet tones were heard by all. Lovely!

Her carers became an important part of her life, never complaining they were always changing. No, she saw each one as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus, and his presence was felt by all who came and went. Once a girl from Moldova appeared. They were both amazed as Mary showed her the European Christian Mission prayer notes. She had prayed for Moldova that very morning!

Mary saw life coming from God’s hand, so she saw his grace even in the direst of circumstances. After one of her falls she lay several hours on the floor and then several more hours in an ambulance in the hospital car park. Poor Mary, yet not a word of complaint or self pity, only tears in her eyes for the paramedics and hospital staff struggling to do their job. ‘Pray for our NHS’ was her cry. Then she added, ‘but God was so good to me, all those hours and I didn’t need the toilet!’

When the Old Testament prophet Elijah was taken up to heaven, the mantle of his ministry was passed to Elisha. Mary was found by her carer kneeling by her bed. Perhaps she had fallen unable to get up, but the symbolism is unmistakable. Mary was a woman who prayed for those near and far and I covet that mantle for however many years I have left.

God in the earthquake -3 things you won’t hear on the news

In the book of Acts chapter 16 Paul and Silas were in Philippi, wrongly accused and sitting in leg irons. At night while they were praising God in the prison, there was a violent earthquake.

God did 3 things then that he’s doing in Turkey now.

Setting his church free

The prison doors opened and Paul and Silas’ feet were freed from their shackles (v26). In these desperate days the Turkish churches are experiencing a new liberty in serving. They are united in their efforts, and though small they are rising up, forming their own NGO, running soup kitchens, networking for resources and channelling aid.

Opening hard hearts

In Acts 16, the jailor asks, “What must I do to be saved?” (v30). For many years there has been prayer for the east of Turkey where churches and Christians are few. Now, those experiencing such trauma and hardship are welcoming Scriptures and prayer and Christ’s presence in the believers.

In Iskenderun Pastor Hakan and his wife died in the earthquake, but a book he’d written was found in the rubble, “The Final Moments, Are you Ready?” Just as every disaster is a sign and a warning of God’s coming cataclysmic day of judgement, every believer’s transformed life of love and compassion is a sign of Christ’s coming kingdom.

Changing perceptions

When the magistrates realised Paul and Silas were Roman citizens their attitude changed and they apologised for their harsh treatment (v39). In the 10 earthquake ravaged cities the local councils are showing favour to the churches serving there. It’s as if there’s a new understanding of Christian identity. These people are good, hardworking and trustworthy.

Someone was overheard saying, “These Christians are different. They seem to enjoy serving us, whereas the others just throw aid at us.”


May God give strength and stamina to his church to be his loving presence.
May many find hope and comfort in the true and ultimate Rescuer, Jesus Christ.
May new perceptions of Christianity open the country for massive church growth.

January Jobs in the Garden with God

The Old Testament prophets Isaiah (58:11) and Jeremiah (31:12) both apply the rich imagery of ‘a well watered garden’ to the people of God, and King Solomon in his Song of Songs (6:2) likens his Beloved to ‘a garden of delight’.

If Jesus is the ultimate bridegroom king, and his beloved bride is the church, then perhaps we can learn from the garden gurus some tips on how to tend our souls so that he can enjoy our company.

General Maintenance

Gardeners tells me that January is a good month for ‘general maintenance’. That means taking stock and planning ahead. It’s a time to declutter and clean out the shed. Take these cracked dirty plant pots and broken old tools to the city recycling centre.

I like to take time in January to reflect on my life with God, so that I don’t take bad attitudes, resentments or known sin into a new year. What am I hoarding in my ‘shed’ that needs to go?

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Ps139:23-24).


It was January last year that I watched in horror as my husband and daughter pruned the apple tree in her new garden. They were ruthless. The tree hadn’t been pruned for years and the branches were overgrown and crowded, letting in little light. They chopped so much off that I wondered if the poor tree would ever produce apples again. How wrong I was! It recovered well and produced a bumper crop in late summer. January is a good month for pruning.

In John 15 Jesus says God is the gardener who prunes our fruitful branches to make us more fruitful. As we enter a new year it isn’t so much my weaknesses that concern me as my strengths. It’s easy to start to feel I’m good at something and subconsciously rely less on God. I welcome his humbling, though painful, as he reminds me that without him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).

It was the very articulate prophet Isaiah who on meeting with God realised he was ‘a man of unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5)!


January is the perfect month to mulch, I’m told, and a Christmas tree is perfect material for this! The pine needles keep weeds down and improve the soil by helping it retain moisture. They are slow to break down and don’t get mouldy; they act like a blanket to protect plants from the cold. Last year I walked past a pile of Christmas trees in our local park waiting to be chopped, shredded and recycled as mulch; the pine aroma filling the air was breathtaking.

Christmas is not for one day in the year, but for life! Without it, there would be no Easter, no Ascension, no Pentecost, no hope for the future. So, this January, I plan to keep mulching its glorious truths and wrap them like a blanket of sweetness around my soul. Emmanuel, God with me, is the greatest story ever told; I will never fully plumb its depth. Life, like winter, can be cold and harsh, but Christ in Christmas will keep me warm. He is for me to make me more like himself, fruitful in attitude and action to be his garden of delight.

Happy New Year

Where is the Peace? Where is the Joy?

Anyone remember ‘Silent Night’ sung by Simon and Garfunkel? It was the final track on their album, ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’. The harmonies were beautiful, but then in the background the 7o’clock news was being read, louder and louder outweighing the Christmas message. The year was 1964 and soon reports on the Vietnam war and America’s race riots were threatening the sweetness of the song. Christmas 2022 in the UK would carry news of Ukraine and the cost of living crisis. Two thousand years ago in Bethlehem it would probably have been about the Roman occupation and the paranoid King Herod who killed his wife and three of his sons!

We sing about ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Peace on Earth’ but near and far there seems to be much more sorrow and suffering. As Jesus predicted, wars, famines, earthquakes and pestilence or maybe pandemics will continue till the end of time (Luke 21:10-11). In our current crisis of climate change and environmental degradation Nature seems to be groaning not singing (Romans 8:22).

Good News of Great Joy

Yet, that first Christmas night when the angel came to shepherds on the hillside of Bethlehem he announced Good News of a Great Joy for All the People – a baby, a saviour had been born and the sign was a manger! The Angel Gabriel had told Mary he was the Son of God, yet he was born in an outhouse. He would reign over a kingdom without end, yet he was laid in a feeding trough! You would think something had gone wrong, but according to the angel, the manger was part of the sovereign plan.

God came very low to be our Saviour, and this news was so amazing that Heaven exploded with an army of angels – myriads and myriads praising God!

‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace for those on whom his favour rests.’

God’s rescue mission had begun in a manger, and so it would continue. Later in Luke’s Gospel we read Jesus had nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58). He would humble himself to a feeding trough, then taking the form of a servant he would die for our sins, a shameful death on the Cross (Phil 2: 6-8). This is where we find real peace – peace with God. God and sinners reconciled. That’s the real peace on which all other expressions of lasting peace depend.

Almost 50 years ago – I became aware of the holy presence of God and like the shepherds I was afraid. My lostness felt very dark, yet God’s love drew me close. I gave him my ugly secrets and he gave me his peace. It felt like Christmas – Jesus had been born in my heart and I was filled with unspeakable joy. Peace with God, peace with myself and a deep desire to have peace with others.

Global Peace and Joy

There is a global aspect to this peace. We mustn’t stop at chapter 2 of Luke’s Gospel! Jesus tells us that wars will continue till the end of time, but then Jesus will return to judge the nations and put everything right. His kingdom will fully come bringing peace on earth, joy to the world and a new creation delivered with us from decay and death.

Make room for him now, join the angels in glorifying God and his favour of peace and joy will fill our hearts as we enter 2023. Join the shepherds in spreading the good news that lasting peace and joy are only found in the Saviour, Christ the Lord!

Christmas Wreath

Of all the decorations at Christmas, my favourite is a wreath. Maybe that’s because my mum used to wrap my plastic hula hoop with holly and ivy and it hung above the fireplace throughout the season. It was big!

We use circles as symbols of eternity with no beginning and no end. Hence, rings are given as tokens of commitment in wedding ceremonies. As I wrap my small hoop with green ivy gathered from our back lane, I celebrate these winter evergreens and meditate on God’s everlasting love, always fresh, creating and sustaining life. From and to eternity, he is love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Crown of Thorns

Christmas must be the best news ever. Jesus, who is Love himself, came down to us. Yes, to us he was born, to us he was given, took on flesh, wrapped tightly in swaddling bands and laid helpless in an animals’ feeding trough. Mary must have wondered how the promised Son of God could be born into such poverty, but how reassuring the visit from shepherds must have been, declaring the manger as the holy sign. God foreknew and was even orchestrating events.

‘And did she see there in the straw

As I twist the pieces of holly around my ring, and invariably prick my fingers till one bleeds, I remember Christ’s suffering on the Cross for me. I ponder with Mary and sing the line from Graham Kendrick’s song,

‘And did she see there in the straw
By His head a thorn
And did she smell myrrh
In the air on that starry night….?’

Jesus, born for us, to live and die for us and for all of creation, bearing the curse, taking that crown of thorns upon himself that one day death and decay would be no more.

Victor’s Crown

In Ancient Rome laurel wreaths were worn around the heads of prize winning athletes at the Games, courageous, military commanders triumphant in battle and, of course, mighty emperors. A wreath was also the honour given for saving a life in battle. Caesar Augustus was credited with saving the whole republic by settling the civil wars in Rome and had a civic crown of oak leaves hung on his doorpost. He was dubbed, ‘Saviour of the World’!

When he ordered that census 2000 years ago, little did he know there was an older, more powerful decree being played out to accomplish the will of God, that the true Saviour and King might be born in the little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

As I hang my wreath on the door, I think of Christ’s victory through death and resurrection, and resolve again that I want a symbol-rich wreath, not a coffin floral spray at my funeral! I wrap a string of little red lights to declare to a dark, dead world that the Light has overcome! Jesus has conquered sin and sickness and sorrow and death itself.

When Christ returns in glory, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess him as Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Even now, this Christmas, let’s acknowledge with the hymn writer,

‘All the wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,
And our hearts confess him King of Glory now!’

Word of the Year

Language is alive. It’s fluid – ever changing and adapting at remarkable speed. Words are added, dropped, and meanings revised. In fact, lexicographers add hundreds of new words to English dictionaries every year if they meet certain criteria. They must have relatively widespread use, a widely agreed upon meaning and likely to be used for a long time.


Collins Dictionary has just announced ‘Permacrisis’ as their new word of 2022, meaning a period of instability and insecurity with no foreseeable ending. It’s true we are experiencing crisis upon crisis – a global pandemic; a war with worldwide effects; and unprecedented climate change bringing droughts, fires and floods. Faced with a growing energy crisis and record greenhouse gas concentrations, COP27 issues stark warnings of impending doom. It’s understandable that many are feeling they’re living in a perpetual state of anxiety, because of permacrisis.

How we need something greater, stronger, more stable, more secure, something permanent to soothe fraying nerves. God’s Love is like that. He calms our fears, tells us not to be anxious and fills our hearts with his peace as we trust him. The apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth stresses the permanent nature of Love. He says, ‘Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love’ (1 Corinthians 13:13). This week I’ve been studying this verse and I’ve discovered an interesting fact. Paul, writing in Greek, emphasises the verb and makes it singular. ‘Remains – faith, hope and love….’, declaring these three virtues to be an inseparable unit.


My word for this year is ‘Permalove’ with faith and hope intrinsic to it. Perhaps we need to think more about the world to come. Surely it won’t be static, but rather dynamic as we explore a world of love in our eternal state. Though we will walk by sight and not by faith, our trust in our Heavenly Father will not cease but grow even stronger. Our hope in Christ may be realised when Jesus returns, but our joyful expectation of adventure will not end. Faith, hope and love will live forever, but without the wavering that we often experience now.

Love is the greatest, for God is eternally love (1 John 4:8). Before creation there was love within the godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was Augustine who pointed out that only a triune God can love, because love cannot exist in a vacuum. The consummation of our salvation will be our growing participation ever more fully into that love relationship as we are immersed and perfected in the fullness of God.

Contrary to the common adage, being heavenly minded will not make us of no earthly use. How we see the future really does affect the way we live now. If faith, hope and love are permanent, to be experienced now and forever, then we will view all of life through this lens and shape our lives according to these certainties. We will pray with more faith and expectancy and love sacrificially with greater assurance that all things are working for our ultimate good and for God’s glory.

How Long?

There have been antigovernment protests in Iran before, but this is different. In the past the focus was on reform while now the goal is revolution! The uprising may have begun with the death of a Kurdish Iranian woman arrested for not completely covering her hair, but the cry of protestors, ‘Women, Life, Freedom!’ goes beyond dress code to pleas for social justice and basic human rights, and though initially driven by women and girls, it is uniting people from all ages and walks of life across the country. Government crackdown seems to just increase the anger, grief and defiance. After forty- three years of an oppressive Islamic government, the people of Iran have had enough.

In 1979 on the eve of the return of exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, Julyan and I were at Bible School in Glasgow and prayed through the night that the he wouldn’t bring the Islamic Revolution to Iran. God didn’t appear to hear us, and our fears were realised. Missionaries were forced to leave; churches that worshipped in Farsi and welcomed Muslim background Iranians were closed down; martyrdoms and imprisonments followed, and persecution of Christians continues to this day.

However, God answered our prayers in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Openness to Christ, which began under this oppressive regime, has only gained momentum over the years as underground house churches multiply and networks are established. Interested Muslims access Farsi Scriptures and other materials online. Persecution from the religious police is real and as Iranians flee their country, fellowships of Iranian believers spring up in cities all over the world.

Valley of Weeping

How brave the women and girls who began these current protests, and braver still those demonstrators who are continuing to stand up, refusing to to be silent, despite regime brutality. There are many tears being shed in Iran and among the diaspora around the world as batons and bullets fly, and sad songs gather up grievances, giving voice to the pain in hearts. The Iranian people are passing through a Valley of Weeping (Psalm 84:5-7). Can our prayers turn it to a place of springs and the Iranian people find true freedom in Christ?

Prayer for Iran

Pray for the church in Iran to declare with one voice, louder than ever, that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and that truest freedom is found in him.