Dear Sisters and Brothers,
This week I was speaking at a lawyer’s fellowship in Sydney – and made a remark about the apocalyptic goings on in the world (fires, floods, plague, locusts, earthquakes, wars). What was next – a plague of rats? One of the lawyers present told me that in actual fact there is an official plague of rats in Sydney just now – his house had several. It’s hard to keep up!
As I am writing this I am listening with great sorrow to the morning service on BBC Radio Scotland. It is almost beyond parody and irony that the beautiful words of Psalm 43 (O send Thy light forth, and Thy truth) have been followed by a ‘sermon’ which sends out darkness and lies. It is at best meaningless, syncretistic drivel – at worst a negation of Christ and the Gospel. It is no wonder that the Church in Scotland is in so much trouble. There is so much good about the Scottish church and the spirituality that comes from it – but this sanctimonious waffle is the worst and is the reason why the Church is dying. The fact that the preacher is a woman minister is not the reason I despair about it. My despair would be equal if it was a man. Heresy knows no discrimination.
Speaking of women – today is International Women’s Day – to be honest I dislike these artificial days but on the way to Church this morning it set me thinking about the women in my life and why I have so much to be thankful for them. Hence this prayer.
Our Father in Heaven,
I thank you that you have made humanity male and female. And that we are equally made in your image – in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. I thank you that your Son our Saviour was ‘born of a woman’ and I thank you for so many women who you have brought into my life – not least the woman who gave me life – my mother. Protect and keep her in her later years.
I also bless you for my sister Fiona, – her intelligence, faith and compassion inspire me and I bless you for Aunts, Uncles, nieces and cousins – even Sally – who once knocked me down in a boxing match- the memory is still bitter! I remember with gratitude those who have gone on before – my Granny and Aunt Sheila especially. And my mother-in-law, Annie…in your providence I only knew her a short time, but I learned more about your grace and wisdom through her in that short time, that I have learned from many others in longer!
I bless you for Annabel, my best friend, partner and mother of our children. I have no idea where I would be without her. She is worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31).
It seems as though all the women you have placed in my life are strong women. I thank you that my daughters Becky and EJ think for themselves and submit to your word. Bless them as they continue to serve you. Thank you for providing Caireen as a wonderful helpmeet for my son, Andrew.
But there have been many other women who have blessed my life. Like your servant Paul in his letter to the Romans – allow me to mention a few.
I think of Bible women like Esther, Naomi, Deborah, Phoebe, and Tabitha – great examples of how you work in and through women. Mary of course is the most ‘blessed of women’ – the ‘theotokos’ ‘Mother of God’. But I have a particular affection for Priscilla (the wife of Aquila) who instructed the preacher Apollos. I guess there is a role for women teaching after all! And how wonderful that Paul mentions Eunice (Timothy’s mother) and Lois (his granny) when he wants to remind him of his ‘sincere faith’ (2 Timothy 1:5). What a blessing you have granted to those who have Godly mothers and grandmothers!
Paul describes some women as ‘fellow workers’ in the Gospel. I am so thankful that I too have experienced this. Where would we have been in Brora without Big Margaret, Wee Margaret, Helen, Betty, Maggie, Annie, Barbara and many others? Likewise in St Peters the church would not exist without faithful sisters like Louise, Sulvi, Mairi, Isla, Laura, Anne, Sheila, Kirsteen and so many more. I have a special fondness in my heart for three of the older women – Jean is now with you and I have no doubt that she received the ultimate accolade “Well done, good and faithful servant’. Elizabeth was and is most faithful in prayer. And Dr Anne has always been an inspiration to me. I am so grateful for every remembrance of them.
In this new sphere of life I am also so thankful for my fellow labourers in the Gospel – Janelle, Tuvan, Caroline and Robyn – faithful assistants to the work you have called us to here. There are other women who serve both in City Bible Forum and St Thomas’s….too many to list – but all a blessing. I think of some of the gifted and remarkable sisters here in Australia who have already become friends – Kathy, Caroline and Jill.
But I remember those who have been an inspiration from the history – Monica (Augustine’s mother), Mary Slessor, Katherine Von Bora, Rosa Parks, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Margaret Thatcher (even though I hated much of her politics) and perhaps most inspirational of all, Corrie Ten Boom. I bless you for their lives and, (for most of them – their faith in you.
I think of those women who have taught and instructed me through their writings – Jane Austen, Hilary Mantel, Gitta Sereny, Meredith Lake and Marilyn Robinson. What gifts they are to the human race! I also bless you for women who have taught me in other ways – especially Rosario Butterfield – she is like a modern day Priscilla. And I don’t want to forget my history teacher, Anne Thompson who inspired me to study history at Edinburgh University and encouraged me to debate (note: After writing this someone contacted me to tell me that Anne died a couple of weeks ago – O death..) , and Dr Frances Dow who taught me to love the Puritans!
And then there are those women you have granted great musical gifts – EmmyLou Harris, Aretha Franklin, Maddy Prior, Joan Baez, Alison Krauss and Ruth Naomi Floyd. They are part of the soundtrack of my life. Thank you.
There are also women who take great responsibility in politics – Angela Merkel and Nicola Sturgeon spring to mind. We pray for them as we pray for male rulers. I thank you most of all for the Queen – a woman who acknowledges not only that she is a servant of the people – but Your servant. God save our Queen.
I bless you that just as you raised up Queen Esther so you continue to raise up women as leaders. I pray for Katie Forbes the new Scottish Finance Minister – keep, guide and sustain her.
There are many others. I count my female blessings. I name them one by one. And it does surprise me what the Lord has done.
I think of the women of the future – the girls in St Peters who are growing up as Covenant Children. Keep them in your loving arms for all their days. And I thank you for the fulfilment of your promise that ‘you shall your children’s children see’…please keep Isla and Evie as the apple of your eye. Protect them from wicked men who would abuse, disrespect and mistreat them. Give them the gift of Godly and honest men. Be a wall of fire around them.
But today especially I want to thank you for one special lady – Meike Reinks, our Dutch sister, friend and so much more. She was like a mother to Annabel and a great friend to me as well. This week we heard that she has gone to be with you. We mourn for Kees – who has lost his partner of 63 years. But we are so thankful for her – for her life, hospitality, kindness and what I can only call that Dutch Calvinist joy – which none but Zions predestined children know! We are thankful that she is now free from pain, sorrow and suffering – with you there are no more tears. Be gracious to those who remain to weep on this earth – and grant that she will be reunited with all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren…till the dawn breaks and the shadows flee.
O Lord, I bless you for all these women. They are truly your gift to me and many others – providing a richness and variety without which the world would be a far poorer place. Grant that I as a man may be worthy of them. Continue to bless your creation and enable us all to enjoy you and serve you forever,