Daily dose

New day. Open eyes, touch cold floor with warm feet, push upright. Consider what lies ahead. Sigh or smile, depending.

And deliberately remind myself that God is here, in my excitement or apprehension or boredom or sorrow. He’s here. More faithful to me than I’ve been to myself. Or anyone else. Needing nothing from me, offering nonetheless his companionship, his guidance, his love. His delight, even.

I am held, nourished and nurtured by the love I cannot see or touch.
I am stubborn and slow to appreciate the steadfast love which never ceases, the endless, endless mercies.

I am held, nourished and nurtured by the love I cannot prove or locate.
I am fickle and quick to dismiss the insistent riff from beneath, from beyond, Limitless.


Sorry? That’s it?

Imagine for a moment you’ve got it wrong. Wrong place, or timing, or words, or ideas. Wrong attitude or clothes or expression or tone of voice. Too much information. Or not enough. This may only be me, of course. But from time to time, three or four or all of the above apply.

This past Sunday morning, after a difficult night, I was in church with a strong sense of wrongness. As usual at the beginning of the service, we were invited to think back over the last week. I didn’t really want to think back, I wanted to just keep my head down and get through the service so I could go back to wallowing. But, given the events of the night before it seemed that God wasn’t about to let me. As it’s still holiday season in this neck of the woods, regulars were thin on the ground and I was asked to help serve communion. It’s a sacred ritual dating back to the last supper where Jesus asks the disciples to eat bread and drink wine symbolising his body and his blood, which would be given up for them in his death.

So there I was, wanting to have my own pity party at the back but being asked to come up the front and participate in a ceremony which leaves no room for that. For me, communion is the time to do serious business with God, to hand over all the stuff I like to hold close and torment myself with, and accept His help. As I and my co-server had to take the bread and the wine before everyone else, I had no time to do anything other than simply give up all that good pity I was planning to feast on afterwards. You see, if he forgives me, then there’s nothing to party with. I am forced to move on, get on with it. Get over myself.

I can tell myself it’s too easy to accept forgiveness, especially when I haven’t forgiven myself, thinking it pious, when in fact it is simply proud. The truth is I prefer to give, not to receive. It is much easier, it makes me feel good, it puts me in control. I like to be the strong one dispensing help, not the weak one needing it. When I have to admit that I am wrong I manage this otherwise uncomfortable situation by showing how abjectly miserable my mistake or foolishness has made me, and how much I can punish myself for it. (Yes of course it’s nuts). I get away with it in most situations, but not in communion. Since my childhood, it has carried the weight of the truly sacred. It is the moment in the service where I feel most vulnerable, most naked before God. Illogical, obviously, because he sees us all the time. But communion brings me face to face with Jesus, as it were, across the table, holding out the wine, saying drink this, this is my blood, given for you. Remember that I have cleared your personal slate once and for all, backwards and forwards in time.

If I really believe that my slate is cleared, once and for all, backwards and forwards in time, by God himself, it follows that all I have to do is to be and to say sorry when I mess up, and receive his forgiveness. Of course where I’ve hurt others I need to put things right with them, but essentially it comes down to sorry. That’s it. Too easy, as they say here in Australia. But is it almost too easy. I have no work to do to deserve this forgiveness, no way of earning it. Which is entirely the point. My part is not to try to deserve this mysterious wonderful gift but to receive and believe it, not just at the communion rail on a Sunday but throughout the rest of the week as well.


Lord have mercy. I used to hear this a lot when I was growing up. It was an expression of shock, or outrage, or frustration. It was a phrase reserved for intense, extreme and usually negative emotions. It made me think of people as wayward children about to be dealt with by a displeased parent. It summed up the nature of our relationship to God; creatures in need of mercy, like the ant caught crawling across my sandwich in the park, unable to do anything to defend itself against me, at my mercy. Will I let it go on its way, or will I crush it?

Not an attractive view of God, this one. Don’t see anyone lining up at the doors of the church to meet the all-powerful one to whom we may be so many ants crawling across lunch. It may be as popular as the proverbial pork chop in the synagogue, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I kid myself when I forget that my life could be snuffed out at any second by my creator. I remember then each day is a gift, not a given.

Mercy is a quaint word. Not part of everyday conversation. It means help, but the kind of help that the strong gives to the weak, the powerful to the powerless. We can talk about mercy missions or perhaps mercy killings. But mercy is a thing that’s only meaningful if we need it. And in the age that we live in its easy to feel that we don’t need it, or anything else much because we are all able to deal with just about anything that comes our way. So we don’t need help, or rescue, because we don’t have any sense of crisis. Christianity, with its weird message about sin and salvation can seem to be offering a cure for an illness the world neither recognises or acknowledges.

It sometimes goes unrecognised or acknowledged by Christians like me too, despite all that old-time religion I grew up with. Sinners were those terrible people out there, the killers, the rapists, the violent, the extreme. The supposedly inescapable fact of my malaise, my tendency to do my own thing rather than what God wants, ie sin, managed to escape me until a family crisis in my teens showed me I had reached the end of my own resources. My own cleverness, ability to organise myself, not to mention the great array of domestic skills my mother equipped me with as a young girl while my peers were learning to smoke and drink with boys (I did that later) couldn’t equip me for the moment of realisation that the kind of help I needed could not be found in any human source, least of all myself.

That’s not the same as seeing myself as sinful, of course. That came as I turned, albeit in some desperation, towards the one entity I had been taught offered some kind of help. Turning in God’s direction made me aware of my own sinfulness, as I became aware of His purity. And my vulnerability. And when I finally capitulated He did not give me any greater sense of my smallness, but of His extraordinary acceptance and love.

When I remember his mercy it’s not in a way that makes me crawl across my life like the ant I mentioned at the start. (Okay, sometimes, but only when I’ve run out of chocolate). In the great scheme of things I am of course little more than a tiny moving speck in the universe, but I am one on whom God has had mercy. And in Psalm 8 I am reminded that though I may see myself as small, God does not. For every bad thing that I have experienced in my life, there are dozens, scores, of good ones, that largely go unnoticed and unappreciated. God is indeed merciful and I am grateful.