Annie Johnson Flint

Annie was a poet and hymn writer who lived from 1866 to 1932, and I was recently touched by her story. For most of her adult life she was gripped by arthritis, in great and constant pain, and was an invalid dependent on others for her personal care. But in spite of all her adversity, she could write this hymn:

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labours increase,
To added afflictions he addeth his mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, his grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of his infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

I have known people over the years who have a similar spirit, finding depths in God I can only marvel at. People who always seem to find something positive in their pain and suffering. A biographer wrote of Annie, “she felt what she wrote, and out of the crucible of suffering she was able to administer that comfort to others wherewith she herself had been comforted of God.” So if you are in pain today, remember Annie and be encouraged, as you draw on the “infinite riches in Jesus”. And for those of us who are not, let’s thank God for our health, and look for ways in which we can comfort and support those who are not so fortunate, using the resources God has given us.

I am still here

I was reading Psalm 65 this morning and the last two verses particularly caught my eye.

The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture
And the hillsides blossom with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep
And the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!

I love the word pictures in these short lines – “blossom with joy”, and “clothed with flocks”. “Carpeted with grain”. So expressive. Directing thoughts into musings about pastoral pictures based in our local rural landscapes in Scotland.

This winter has been milder than last and we have been blessed with an early display of snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils. It’s been a year since my friend David passed away. His legacy lives on in the community – in fact it is growing, because the daffodils and crocuses he planted are multiplying. And they came early this year to increase the blessings. The leaves on the trees and shrubs are starting to bud and burst into new growth. My rose tree is reaching out heavenwards with new shoots, confirming to the doubters that I didn’t kill it with the last pruning!

Talking about doubts, is there someone reading this blog this morning, who has doubts about God? Perhaps they have looked at world events, despairing over the political mayhem, the terrorist atrocity in New Zealand. Or their own circumstances filled with pain, or a lack of hope for the future? Perhaps the thought of having to face another day is starting to prevail, a thought forcing itself into your mind, even though unwelcome and intrusive, but still strident in its despair. Well, I felt God say to me in a gentle whisper, “Helloooo! I am still here – just look around at My creation”.

God never slumbers or sleeps. He never leaves things undone. He is constantly working to complete His plans, His will, His purposes for His creation. And that includes you and me. And I never get over the fact that the beauty and life in our natural world is under a curse, blighted and stunted by Adamic sin. One day creation’s groans, and our griefs and mourning, will be no more. And what will all creation, including you and me, be like then! It’s definitely worth lifting our eyes into the heavens, to get a glimpse into the real Heaven, our future home. And feel the relief of no more terrorism, Brexit, pain and grief flood into our souls.


The chimney was belching forth an acrid, pungent, plume of smoke and steam. Polluting the air around me. It was otherwise one of those calm, fresh, crisp, early March mornings. Temperature just above freezing. Overnight rain had stopped and the threat of further inclemency had receded. But back to my neighbour with his wood burning 1.jpgstove (“multi-fuel” he calls it). It wouldn’t be so bad if he was burning the sort of fuel that is supposed to be used, but he tends to pile all sorts of rubbish onto the flames. But society has changed. It wasn’t so long ago that every house had an open fireplace, burning coal mainly. Particularly in the West of Fife where I live, populated as it has been by miners using their weekly allowance of coal. In fact the adjacent village of Oakley, nestling in a hollow adjacent to the main Dunfermline to Stirling road, was nicknamed “Smoakley” because of the pall of smoke gushing from chimneys which, on still days, filled the atmosphere like a dense fog. But the mining days are long gone, and a gas main provides the main source of heating fuel in our village today.

For society to function well, it needs people who put the rights of others before their own. Most people around me are good neighbours but there’s always a few who don’t care for others. But before I extend my “rant” to another neighbour with her loud radio and tuneless vocals,  I have to remember what Jesus said about our neighbours. He was very clear about what being neighbourly meant, with His teachings based on the Good Samaritan parable, and His quotation from Deuteronomy 22 – “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important:‘Love your neighbour as yourself’Paul wrote as well in Philippians 2 – Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too”.

So I won’t go and hammer on Bill’s door. Instead, I’ll pray for him and his wood burning stove, that I will be more tolerant, and that he will find something suitable to burn that doesn’t make us all choke. And we’ll get on fine. But that woman – when I was at school I built an electronics device that jammed radio broadcasts. I wonder what I did with the circuit diagram…


There’s “stour” on the main road between where we live and the county of Clackmannanshire. “Stour” is a great Scottish word, meaning “dust forming a cloud or deposited in a mass”. That aptly describes the mess left on the road by the constant procession of lorries moving the remains of coal mining in the West of Fife to somewhere else, a red dust that quickly coats every car panel and window. Vehicles quickly attract this dust and the process of removal requires rinsing, washing, rinsing again, with perhaps a periodic polish to build up a protective layer that will help remove the dirtiness next time. But it is easy to lose heart, as many do, because the next journey sees the return of “stour”. And those who fail to keep their vehicle clean are easily spotted – usually the number plate has acquired the same ubiquitous coating as that covering the rest of their pride and joy. Some even say that eventually the dirtiness plateaus (or is it plateaux) and doesn’t get any worse.

I think you know where I’m heading – our Christian lives can suffer from “stour”. Not a physical dust or grime, but a negative and sinful accumulation of rubbish picked up as we journey through life. Switch on the TV and watch the news – very little is “good”, most is “bad”. Adverts blast us with invitations to buy more, eat more, watch more; in fact very little of it is necessary. And around us the conversation easily lapses into unwholesome talk about others. And our own sinful lusts and passions add to the mix. So we need to regularly wash and rinse off the sinful “stour” that can so easily cover us. Two Scriptures come to mind. We have Ephesians 5:25b-26, ”Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” And also 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

But we cannot afford to lose heart and let the “stour” accumulate. We must constantly confess our sins, read the Bible, cleansing ourselves and, by so doing, building up a spiritual “polish” that can help prevent the sin from sticking; thus helping us as we journey towards perfection in a new life to come. Another helpful Scripture is James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” And Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

So, fellow journeymen and women, let’s keep going in our Christian walk, not giving up. One day the coal bing will be gone and the accumulation of dirt will disappear. And so with us, one day we will be in the presence of Jesus, free for ever from the “stour” of human life.