Lockdown 3 is a totally different beast in comparison to the first one. As much as I love and adore my three, I was able to give Pollyanna proper time when Freddy and Matilda were at school. Now she just has to join in Matilda’s activities. I fully planned on looking for a little job when John retired, but my hip problem limits me, and then coronavirus thrown into the mix has postponed that idea.
We literally have three, four and five year old children non stop from 7.00 am until sometimes 11.00 pm by the time Matilda has stopped coming down for cuddles. It wasn’t quite so pressured in the first lockdown as I did ‘school’ myself. Due to the government not being as proactive and planned with regards to home schooling, we did well with the fun activities I produced. The weather was nicer and we managed daily walks.
Now schools are so pressured to set ridiculous amounts of work, our children are suffering terribly and Freddy in particular hates home school, resulting in every day being a battle. We hate it too, and can’t wait until it’s over so we can start work repairing all the emotional damage.
We don’t get out for walks much because Matilda’s scheduled Zoom class falls right in the middle of the afternoon, and by the time it’s finished and we’re all ready it’s getting dark and cold. Plus, there’s too much school work to get through during the day and if we kept activities for the evening the children are too tired to concentrate. We often have to stay up until gone 2.00 am to catch up with washing (and other jobs). Household jobs that are normally done during the day are now done at night when my exhausted is exhausted.
Like me, many of you will probably have been using Grammarly to check your spelling and grammar across the web, it was (and still is) certainly a useful tool. But, there’s a new kid on the block, namely Microsoft Editor.
Previously, I had Grammarly installed as an extension in Google Chrome (my browser of choice) until Microsoft’s editor came along. It works in the same way, checking your spelling and grammar in real time. Initially, it wasn’t as good, but it’s now been developed and is equal to Grammarly (if not better).
If you have Google Chrome synchronisation activated, it also works across all your devices and platforms.
My only contact with Grammarly now is via emails from them telling me I haven’t done any writing recently, and how they miss me. I must unsubscribe.
The best free office suite just got even better as LibreOffice 7 was released recently. It’s the nearest you’ll get to Microsoft Office without having to pay a penny, and the latest version is even more compatible to it than previous versions.
LibreOffice includes several applications that make it the most versatile Free and Open Source office suite on the market: Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (databases), and Math (formula editing).Source.
So, if you don’t want to pay for Microsoft Office and like to use software installed on your computer (rather than in the cloud) this might be for you. There’s also a portable version that you can run directly from a USB flash drive, and you can even install it on your Chromebook.
Note: I currently use both LibreOffice and Microsoft 365 (as Microsoft Office is now called) because a subscription to the latter includes OneDrive cloud storage.
Just some Bible thoughts this Sunday, when we would have been uniting in worship at Wallsend with North Shields and Shiremoor Corps, rather than a full online meeting. This is neither an apology nor excuse, merely a reflection of the kind of week I’ve had in lockdown. I’m simply doing what I can and not what I can’t. My hope and prayer is that these thoughts will be an encouragement to you, as well as stimulating your own reflections and thoughts. God bless you, Major John Ager.
One of the corps I was appointed to in the past had the following mission statement, this was its raison d’être: To put Jesus first and grow as Christians, through Bible reading, prayer, worship and fellowship. To share God’s love and forgiveness, especially through loving service in the local community.
That was and (as far as I know) still their purpose as a church and community centre; the focus of that group of Christians, both individually and collectively. It’s important to have focus and purpose as a fellowship of God’s people. Yes, I know businesses have mission statements, and the church is not a business; but the principle still applies. Having a defined focus helps us to be better Christians.
The church is currently unable to meet because of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, and some of the things that are essential are not able to happen in the normal way. Having said that, the church is finding new ways of doing things, although nothing can fully replace the actual meeting of people in a place of worship. Collective worship and fellowship are a vital part of the Christian life. Whilst many people say you can be a Christian without going to church, I disagree.
Watch the beautiful (although actually sad) song I Am A Rock by Paul Simon and pay particular attention to the lyrics.
A winter’s day
In a deep and dark
I am alone
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island
I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island
Don’t talk of love
But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries
The words are very telling, we need each other. The lyrics of this wonderful song are actually the very antithesis of what it means to be a Christian. Yes, we can be hurt when we tear down the walls we build around ourselves, because we become vulnerable. But, as Christians, we follow one who became vulnerable for us, and when we open up to him we open ourselves to the love of God and others.
As we gather together again for worship and fellowship, at some yet unknown date in the future, we may have to reassess our overall vision.
As Salvationist poet Will J. Brand once wrote: …so much we deemed essential is forever left behind.
The Rising Sun Country Park is a wonderful place to visit, just two miles away from where we live in Wallsend. It’s somewhere we’ll miss when we move away from the area on my retirement in a few months time. It’s also the location for a parkrun.
In the current coronavirus pandemic the main facilities and car park are obviously closed, but it’s still open for exercise and there’s plenty of space for social distancing. We had a lovely walk round part of the country park yesterday. The above photos are some that I took while out with my family.
You can see all the photos taken on my smartphone by clicking here.
Because I’m currently on ‘holiday’ (at home obviously) here’s an edited version of the Bible message I gave last year at Wallsend Corps when we united with North Shields and Shiremoor Corps on the Sunday after Easter. I’m hoping to publish a full online worship meeting next Sunday. Major John Ager.
Bible Message: The Road TO and FROM Emmaus Bible Reading: Luke 24:13-34
It’s the song that sums up so much for the club and supporters alike. It captures the importance of unity crucial to everything achieved by the team, and it remains a source of comfort to those affected by the tragic events that have hit the club.
From a simple song in a musical, it’s become a worldwide secular hymn of encouragement and hope in the face of difficulty, suffering and death. But Christians, because of Easter can truly sing You’ll never walk alone because it sums up the whole message of the resurrection.
The Crucifixion must have traumatised Jesus’ disciples and followers, even though he’d tried to prepare them for it, not just once but repeatedly. They failed to realise the full significance of his words and so ‘the penny didn’t drop!’ The bottom had fallen out of their world; they were defeated and downcast, devastated and discouraged.
Significantly, the Risen Jesus came alongside two followers walking on the road to Emmaus. But they were kept from recognising him. The original Greek here uses what’s known as a ‘divine passive’, with God as the implied subject. It’s as if God intentionally blinded their eyes until the moment of revelation, that moment when Jesus broke bread with them. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.
No wonder they were surprised that someone hadn’t heard. The Romans conducted crucifixions at major public crossroads to make examples of their victims and warn others against revolt. It really was quite unthinkable to these disciples that a Passover pilgrim wouldn’t have heard about Jesus’ crucifixion.
All their expectations had been dashed, even if they misunderstood or hadn’t fully comprehended the nature of Jesus’ purpose and ministry. The phrase ‘we had hoped’ speaks volumes about their feelings, but it’s also a Messianic reference; his coming to save Israel, the message of Palm Sunday hadn’t taken root in their hearts. One version says they stopped short, sadness written across their faces.
And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.
These verses help us to understand their confusion and disorientation; they were struggling to make sense of it. Wanting to believe the reports, yet doubting in their hearts.
He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Just imagine what it must have been like to have Jesus himself explain the scriptures? But ultimately the road TO Emmaus is the road of confusion, doubt, and weakness.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.
Then comes the moment of insight, the moment of clarity, the moment of recognition; here is such a wonderful moment of recognition and insight: When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
Suddenly they received new energy from somewhere: They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’
They initially failed to recognize him, but as he stayed and broke bread with them the truth dawned, and they realised they would never ‘walk alone’ again.
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, And you’ll never walk alone… You’ll never walk alone.
The disciples were changed from being defeated and downcast, devastated and discouraged, to being confident in their Saviour and Lord. They faced the future with hope and returned to Jerusalem with a new spring in their step because they were not walking alone.
Good Friday and Easter prove that he knows the worst about us, yet still loves us, enough to die for us, and he’s with us forever in the journey of life. Moments we share with each other in worship, fellowship and eating are so important. Times we might appreciate more after the current coronavirus pandemic lockdown. The Last Supper in the upper room was a highly significant occasion, as well as being a tremendously poignant one.
As Christians meet together in worship, fellowship and yes, feasting, we’re sharing something divine. The Risen Christ comes and blesses us with his presence: While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’
What incredible moments these must have been as they gathered in the presence of the Risen Lord; such moments of collective insight and clarity, everything falling into place, especially after Jesus opened up the Hebrew Scriptures to them.
In contrast to the road TO Emmaus, the Road FROM Emmaus is the road of clarity, insight, energy, and peace. It’s the way of peace and the presence of Jesus.
Those disciples must have been so weary after their long journey, travelling home always seems longer and harder when the heart and emotions are burdened. But they were still able to offer hospitality though, and I’m sure it was genuine.
How important it is for us to come alongside others on their journey through life and offer love, support and hospitality. None of us fully know what the other person is feeling or going through, the pain and the daily struggles.
Brother, sister, let me serve you, Let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too.
It can be very moving when we dedicate ourselves to being with each other on life’s sometimes difficult journey, but also sharing the joys as well. This is something we do in our individual corps and as we unite together as brothers and sisters in Christ, walking with each other and walking with Jesus. Even though this is now happening online.
Song 79 (TB 199/Brantwood)
I know thee who thou art, And what thy healing name; For when my fainting heart The burden nigh o’ercame, I saw thy footprints on my road Where lately passed the Son of God.
Thy name is joined with mine By every human tie, And my new name is thine, A child of God am I; And never more alone, since thou Art on the road beside me now.
Beside thee as I walk, I will delight in thee, In sweet communion talk Of all thou art to me; The beauty of thy face behold And know thy mercies manifold.
Let nothing draw me back Or turn my heart from thee, But by the Calvary track Bring me at last to see The courts of God, that city fair, And find my name is written there.
Benediction: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
Announcing the National Emergency Library, a collection of books that supports emergency remote teaching, research, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation while universities, schools, training centres, and libraries are closed.
In the coronavirus pandemic, you can browse 1.4 million digitised books made available in the United States. You can flick through these pages from anywhere in the world. In addition, there are more than 2.5 million extra public domain books available for free download.
Note: This special access is set to run until the end of June 2020 unless the pandemic goes on for longer.
Earlier this year Radiohead launched their own public library comprising an online archive of the band’s vast material.
You can create your own library card and membership number giving access to a curated and organised archive of the band’s back catalogue and a selection of artefacts associated with each album. You can also stream a number of previously unavailable rarities for the first time.
My online friend Helen Austin (who has previously contributed a guest post) wrote this three years ago. I share it here (with permission). Artwork by another online friend Adam Howie, a piece he chose especially for Helen’s words.
Don’t give up on people. People are complicated. Complex. Don’t give up on them.
We are complicated and complex. Don’t give up on us.
We are all broken. Broken people. But there is hope. Life doesn’t have to stay broken. It can heal. Move forwards. Be different.
It will never be the same again. As it was before we broke. But it can be beautiful again. It really can. Beautiful in its brokenness.
Don’t give up. On people. On us. On you. Don’t give up on yourself. You belong here. You are loved. You are being thought of right now.
It’s not often I travel to London these days, and I can’t actually remember the last time I visited. One of my favourite places in London is the National Gallery, where many of the paintings on display feel like old friends. The Fighting Temeraire by Joseph Mallord William Turner is one of those old friends, a familiar point of reference amongst the myriad of paintings.
Turner’s painting shows the final journey of the Temeraire, as the ship is towed from Sheerness in Kent along the river Thames to Rotherhithe in south-east London, where it was to be scrapped. The veteran warship had played a distinguished role in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, but by 1838 was over 40 years old and had been sold off by the Admiralty.
Not only am I currently separated from London by distance and circumstances, the gallery is also closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, it’s still possible to view the collection online, read detailed descriptions of the paintings, watch informative videos and have a virtual tour.