Mark Loughridge

The Lowest Rungs

 There are many days when we daren’t pray, “be gracious to me for I obey your word”. There may even be days where we can’t say, “Be gracious to me because I love your word”—days when we feel we can’t even look at God’s word, and we feel immense guilt for that. But few are the days where we couldn’t at least manage, “Be gracious to me, for I love your name.” Think of your reaction on hard days when you hear someone slandering your saviour—even then you wish to defend his name. It matters to you. That might be all we can manage—we may be able to say little else—but it is enough.

I was preaching on Jesus cursing the fig-tree recently, and the challenge to bear fruit. In conjunction with Jesus’ parable about a fruitless fig-tree there really is quite a challenge. No one wants to hear Jesus’ verdict of “Cut it down”. Or we think of the fruitless branches in John 15 which are cut off and thrown into the fire.
It is easy to preach the challenge in powerfully searching ways, taking aim at those who profess to be Christians but show little fruit—but it is also easy to crush wounded souls in the attempt. And not just wounded souls, but those who by nature are more self-critical.
We might ask the question: what fruit is it that Jesus is looking for? Naturally we turn to the fruit of the Spirit. But when you are a wounded soul, you are often a really bad fruit inspector, and so as you cast your eye over your life, you see little to no fruit. And any that there is, seems to you wizened or rotten in places. There are always areas you could have been more loving. Or more patient. Certainly more joyful. And on it goes, until you are convinced that the axe is at the root of your life.
But those aren’t the only fruit—there are wonderful fruits of repentance and trust. A person may feel a failure, but they are repenting over their failure. Remind them that that’s a fruit. A person may feel fruitless—they do not witness like others, they do not have a breezy confidence which they imagine others find attractive. But they trust—they trust amidst illness and affliction, amidst trials in work and in the home. They need to see that their persistent trust is a ripe and glorious fruit which Christ loves to see as he walks amidst his fruit trees.
But sometimes the fruit seem too high above our heads for us to see. But God has placed low rungs on the ladder of assurance that we might climb out of despair. We may not feel we can scale the dizzying heights of fruit-picking, and we certainly can’t see any fruit from where we are, but we can at least climb on the ladder.
What low rungs am I thinking of?
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The Lost Art of Humility

True humility is not heard by talking about it, but by talking about others. By being less focused on self, and more focused on those around us. Ask yourself how much of your conversation with others starts ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘my’? True humility is seen in serving out of the limelight—away from the attention of social media, rather than carefully documented ‘acts of kindness’.

I was watching a clip the other day about a 911 emergency call operator who twigged that something was up with a 911 call they received. Albeit it took them considerable time to figure out that the person couldn’t speak openly because the antagonist was within earshot. Apparently the person had tried several times to get an operator to realise the issue. But eventually this one did, and in the interview said, “I was so humbled to think that I had realised what she was saying when four others hadn’t.”
“I was humbled”—perhaps one of the least subtle of the humblebrags I’ve seen.  For those unfamiliar with the term ‘humblebrag’, it means to boast whilst seeking to appear humble.
It crops up all over social media—self-promotion in many ways being of the essence of social media. Often it incorporates a complaint of some sort, which acts as a foil to the real boast, “Why do I always get asked to work on the most important projects—something ordinary would be nice for a change!”
Or it may be a photo with a self-deprecating caption, but with some carefully positioned designer item in the background—a sort of “Hey, I want you to notice, but I want you also to notice that I didn’t want you to notice. I want the kudos for both.”
It is the manner of doing it—a desire to appear virtuous, while desperately drawing attention to your achievements, possessions, status, etc.
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For Better, For Worse…

Jean-Pierre Adams was a French footballer in the 1970s and 80s, and he passed away on the 6th September, aged 73. But what makes this story remarkable is that for the past 39 years he has been in a coma, looked after tirelessly by his wife. In 1982 he went for routine knee surgery. The anaesthetic, meant to knock him out for a few hours was mis-administered, and he would never regain consciousness.

Last week I came across a remarkable story. Jean-Pierre Adams was a French footballer in the 1970s and 80s, and he passed away on the 6th September, aged 73. He was capped 22 times for France, and was part of a formidable defensive duo for the national side. He played over 250 games for Nice, Nimes and Paris Saint-Germain.
But what makes this story remarkable is that for the past 39 years he has been in a coma, looked after tirelessly by his wife. In 1982 he went for routine knee surgery. The anaesthetic, meant to knock him out for a few hours was mis-administered, and he would never regain consciousness.
At this point his remarkable wife, Bernadette Adams, stepped in. After some months in hospital, and seeing that he had developed infections through bed sores, she took him home. And there for 39 years she has cared for him.
She would sleep in the same room, getting up in the middle of the night to turn him. She would wash, shave, toilet and dress him daily. She prepared his food and fed him. She talked with him, gave him presents. She worked to ensure his muscles were exercised to avoid atrophy and its accompanying pains. She rose at seven each morning, and cared for him until he would fall sleep at around 8pm—if things went well, otherwise it could be all night.
For four decades.
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