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Saturday, April 18, 2015

there must be



24th April 2015: Brinkmanship

About the fourth watch of the night he came to them... Mark 6:48
We all have a touch of the 'brinkman' about us, some more than others! Out of bed at the last possible moment -- toast munched, as we scurry down the corridor -- wet towel and black coffee as we swot in the all-too-short months before an exam -- midnight oil burnt for the report due yesterday -- the results not obtained, the X-rays not fetched, the investigations not done, that send everybody else, quite unfairly, into a panic-stricken fever of activity! O the misery to ourselves and the nail-biting anxiety of others of the vicious circle of 'never doing today what we can possibly leave till tomorrow!'.
Have you ever noticed how often God seems to act right at the last moment? Yet his brinkmanship is of a totally different order. He is never in a hurry, yet, in spite of our impatient apprehension, he is never late. His seeming delays are never because of a lack of care for us. It was because he saw their heavy going against a head wind that he came to them about the fourth watch of the night, walking on the sea (Mk 6:48). (Would we have left it until the morning?). How typical of us that they were surprised and frightened by his coming and nearly let him pass by without inviting him into the ship! It was the very night before Herod's proposed execution of Peter that the angel rescued him from prison. All honour to Peter's faith that he could spend his last night on earth asleep, chained to two soldiers (Acts 12:6).
Why does God seem to leave it so late before he intervenes? Is it that he can only act when we have exhausted our puny resources? Or that he will not share his glory with anyone else, and we and the world have got to see how he alone did it (1 Cor 1:28-29)? Is it to strengthen our faith in his unslumbering care (Ps 121:4)? Or perhaps to bless us more than we had ever thought possible (Jn 11:5-6, 15, 40)?
'In the fullness of time' -- his time -- 'God sent forth his son...' (Gal 4:4 AV). If he could do that at the right time, can we not trust him with the events of our lives?
Lord, teach me that sometimes you have to wait
until I have come to the end of myself
before you can bless me,
until I have finished trying my own plans
before you can show me yours.
Help me to recognise your perfect timing,
and to know that you will never let me down.

6th May 2015: D G -- Deo Gloria -- to the glory of God.

Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
I never did like examinations. I always came at the very last moment and rushed away as soon as I could. I thought little of those who claimed that examinations were harder for the examiner than for the students, but I had to become an examiner before I came across the two initials DG at the top of some answer papers.
They puzzled me. After a while it became clear that it was the mark of Catholic students. D G -- Deo Gloria -- to the glory of God. It challenged me. Here was a group of people who were willing to advertise their answer as being to the glory of God. I often wish that I had had the courage and the knowledge to do this as an undergraduate. In order to be able to put D G on a written paper one has to be confident that all the necessary hard work has been done beforehand and then the answer committed in prayer to the glory of God. Not only at times of testing but in all our lives everything we do should be D G. Whether we take a history in outpatients, examine an old lady in the wards, set up an intravenous drip on a new born baby, counsel a disturbed adult, all should be done in a manner that will glorify God.
I like the term St Paul uses of himself: an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). It may be difficult to think of ourselves as ambassadors in the middle of a general practice surgery or at 3am doing an appendicectomy, or at 1.45pm still doing morning outpatients, but that is what we are. God can use us for his glory wherever we are if we are loyal and obedient. His ambassadors are rarely in high places, but often in the undesirable parts of the world, and working at unsociable hours. 
Lord, help me never to fall into the trap
of thinking that 'the grass is greener'
in the place where you have not put me,
or that I could serve you better
in someone else's circumstances,
or with the gifts and personality of another.
Grant that this day I may bring glory to your name,
by doing my best for your sake, just as I am, and where I am.

9th May 2015: My Shepherd (5)

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Psalm 23:3
The retrospectoscope is a wonderful instrument for appreciating the fact of the Lord's leading. Those at the start of their careers can be encouraged by the life stories of others -- it is true that he leads. Sheep have to learn to know and respond to their shepherd's voice, and the ways in which the Good Shepherd leads are also learnt by experience and will have individual variations. We can be sure that we are not hearing his voice if we set foot on paths of unrighteousness or even of self-righteousness. The paths of his righteousness may at first sound narrow and forbidding to the uninitiated, but assurance of the Shepherd's constant care for his flock must surely assure us right at the start that he has our interests at heart. We may stumble and stray, but only as we find the paths where he leads shall we continue to hear the calling of his voice, to see the print of his foot and to be assured that we are not setting out into the unknown alone.

Doctors in training change jobs more than most other workers. Do we pray about which of the many doors we should try? When each house-job has scores, if not hundreds, of applicants, can we trust him to lead us to the post of his choice? The experience we glean, the colleagues we have and the contacts we make will all become woven into the pattern of our lives and can have important implications for the future. He alone sees the end from the beginning and is thinking today of our tomorrow. How vital that we ask him to lead the way and then follow. It is very likely for each of us that there will be times of great uncertainty and even of unemployment. Closed doors may be one way by which our paths are being directed. These setbacks need not mean that we are off his path: each of us needs to learn the value of developing patience in waiting upon God. It requires practise to keep looking to him expectantly, despite delays or dashed hopes. Each experience of his leading will add to the encouragement to trust him in the next crisis. He has a way of suddenly making dead ends open up or finding ways around apparently impenetrable barriers. This comes as an affirmation of his presence and assurance of his leading. So often, too, he speaks to us clearly through his word if we have established the habit of reading it day by day. Words of encouragement or direction will be read which the attentive heart will recognise to be personally directed by his Spirit. At other times, an apparently chance encounter, an unexpected invitation, or a bewildering closure of a planned route can be his way of showing us the next step. We can rely on him to be faithful, and the reason for his faithfulness is his love. For him to behave otherwise would be inconsistent and contrary to his good name. When he leads and I follow, this brings praise and glory to him. It is indeed for his name's sake.
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