nora the noisy angel

In the interests of recycling I am reposting something I wrote 3 years ago. It’s the text for a story that you might like:

Nora the noisy angel*

nora-the-noisy-angelHeaven was normally a calm, quiet place. It was peaceful, gentle and lovely. The angels would talk to each other in gentle whispers because it was so quiet.

Except for Nora. She could not speak quietly. If one of the other angels whispered, “Good morning Nora,” she would respond in a loud voice, “GOOD MORNING!”

If one of the angels whispered, “How are you?” Nora would bellow, “I’M WONDERFUL THANK YOU, HOW ARE YOU?”

And when the angels suggested that Nora should speak more softly she would shout, “I’M SPEAKING AS SOFTLY AS I CAN!”

The other angels called her Noisy Nora and that made her a bit sad. She wanted to be quiet but didn’t know how.

One day Nora heard that they were holding auditions for a very special choir of angels. She was very excited and went along. Thousands of angels were singing in sweet harmony: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to everyone!” It was a lovely, inspiring, melodic sound.

When it was Nora’s turn she tried her hardest. But instead of a gentle harmony she sang at the top of her voice, “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND PEACE ON EARTH TO EVERYONE!”

“I’m very sorry Nora” say the angel choirmaster, “You’re too noisy. We can’t hear anyone else.”

Nora was really sad. She knew that the choir were practising for the most exciting moment since God had said, “Let there be light!” and she couldn’t be a part of it.

She went and sat down on a small cloud and cried.

She was still crying when she noticed that it had got brighter around her. She looked up and saw the Kindest Face.

“Hello Nora,” said the Kindest Voice.

“HELLO!” she said loudly, instantly feeling guilty about speaking so loudly to Him.

“I’ve got an important job for you,” said the Kindest Voice. And He whispered in her ear to tell her what He wanted her to do.

The next day the massive choir was ready, lined up in the darkness, waiting to sing their special song in honour of the special baby. They all waited for their cue. Then they noticed Nora walk out in front of them and step out from behind the night curtain in front of a group of startled shepherds.

“DON’T BE AFRAID!” shouted Nora in her loud voice, so everyone could hear, “I’VE GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU. IT’S NEWS THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD FOREVER! A SPECIAL BABY HAS JUST BEEN BORN IN BETHLEHEM. GOD’S COME INTO THE WORLD AND YOU CAN FIND HIM WRAPPED UP WARM AND LYING IN A MANGER!”

That was the cue for the rest of the angels. The night curtain was raised and the massed choir sang their special song: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to everyone.”

The night curtain came back down and the angel choir went back to heaven. Nora peeped through and watched as the shepherds faces shone and they hurried off down the hill into the village to find the baby.

When Nora got back to heaven the rest of the angels cheered and shouted and made such a fuss of her because she had done such an amazing job with her loud voice. And Nora could see the Kindest Face beaming at her.

She was so pleased that for the first time in her life she whispered, “Thank you.”

I have worked out some lyrics for a song that can be sung to the tune of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer after the story has been told:

Nora the noisy angel
Didn't have a quiet voice
And if you ever heard her
You'd be deafened by the noise
Nora just couldn't whisper
Her voice was always far too loud
She only had one volume
That echoed loud around the clouds

'Glory to God on hi-gh'
Went the special angel song:
'Peace on the earth as well'
And Nora went along
She sounded like a foghorn
Drowning all the harmonies
She couldn't join the choir
And sing the baby-melody

As she cried upon her cloud
She heard the Kindest Voice
"I have got a job for you -
I need to use your mega-voice"

Nora spoke to the shepherds,
She didn't need a microphone.
She told them about the baby
Born to bring us all back home.
When she went back to heaven
How the other angels cheered.
And Nora's First Christmas message
Echoes down across the years.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*If you like the story and want to use it, feel free. If you fancy giving me a credit that would be nice.

broken angel

While I was on Sabbatical Leave in autumn 2012 I took a week’s retreat at the Society of Mary and Martha in Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor. It was a wonderfully refreshing and relaxing time. On my last day I went into their little shop and saw a small stone angel, praying. I felt that it would be a nice reminder of my time on retreat, and also a reminder of the on-going prayerful support of others in my life, and how I can be that for others too. So I bought it (along with some wonderful home-made chutney).

I placed it on our mantelpiece at home and it sat there happily, praying, until one day the angel got knocked off. Despite having wings it did not so much fly as plummet and hit the stone hearth below. It split into fragments. I managed to find most of them, but could not find the ‘hands’.

I thought about throwing it away, but I couldn’t bring myself to, so instead I glued the angel back together, hoping that I might later find the ‘hands’ to complete it again. If this was a lovely story the next bit would be about me finding the ‘hands’ when I least expected it and in an unexpected place. But it’s not a lovely story – I have never found the hands. It is a story about learning from God.

The damaged praying angel now sits in my study on my desk – not lovely enough for the mantelpiece. I looked at it a little earlier and felt another urge to throw it away. It is still damaged and incomplete.

2014-01-21 09.40.45Then I paused. Perhaps the damaged angel is now a reminder of different things. It is a reminder that God loves and values me no matter how broken or damaged I am. He is not going to discard me. It is a reminder that my praying is not perfect but is still appreciated and important. It is a reminder that God’s Spirit is restoring me, but that work is not completed this side of death. It is a reminder that it is better to come to God humbly aware of our brokenness and failings than to come proud and full of self-righteousness and self-importance.

So the broken angel has an important place on my desk. And those reminders have an important place in my life.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Yay for Christmas!

Let me start by saying that I love Christmas, and I love Colchester Baptist Church – they are wonderful. This is NOT a complaint it’s an observation and a reflection. If you sense any complaining or self-pity in this bloggage it has sneaked in without permission. ‘Bah, humbug’ is banned!

People sometimes say to me that Christmas must be the busiest time of the year for a Minister. Yes it is busy and yes there are extra things to do, but part of me wants to say ‘no’ because it’s not as if I am sitting around twiddling my thumbs for the rest of the year (cue jokes about only working on Sundays…). I also want to say that if there is any extra busyness it’s no more than lots of other people experience at this time of year. And lots of other people in the church are also working their socks off in a voluntary capacity (which is why they need new ones for Christmas). And I want to say that I love it.

The Christmas-related work may mean that some of the ‘normal’ (if anything I do is normal) has to be postponed until January. It may mean that I have to prepare a few more ‘thoughts’. It may mean that I eat a few more Christmas Lunches than is usual (4 this year). It may mean that I have to try to be more organised than usual in order to do everything. It may mean that there are fewer gaps between activities. If I had time I could re-write the twelve days of Christmas for Ministers. (Perhaps one day!) But I love it.

Before I was called to this church I worked at our Baptist Union’s office in Didcot. I loved what I did there, but at Christmas I missed being a Minister in a local church. It was not always specific things I missed (like all the lunches) – it was simply being among people as their Minister at this incredibly special time. I love it.

And each year there are new insights from the age-old story. Each year I am captivated by the realisation that the baby in the manger was God with us. This morning I was blessed by watching this wonderful video on YouTube, especially the ‘twist’.

This year some of my pondering has generated the following story, which I shared with one of our parent and toddler groups…

little angelNora the noisy angel*

Heaven was normally a calm, quiet place. It was peaceful, gentle and lovely. The angels would talk to each other in gentle whispers because it was so quiet.

Except for Nora. She could not speak quietly. If one of the other angels whispered, “Good morning Nora,” she would respond in a loud voice, “GOOD MORNING!”

If one of the angels whispered, “How are you?” Nora would bellow, “I’M WONDERFUL THANK YOU, HOW ARE YOU?”

And when the angels suggested that Nora should speak more softly she would shout, “I’M SPEAKING AS SOFTLY AS I CAN!”

The other angels called her Noisy Nora and that made her a bit sad. She wanted to be quiet but didn’t know how.

One day Nora heard that they were holding auditions for a very special choir of angels. She was very excited and went along. Thousands of angels were singing in sweet harmony: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to everyone!” It was a lovely, inspiring, melodic sound.

When it was Nora’s turn she tried her hardest. But instead of a gentle harmony she sang at the top of her voice, “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND PEACE ON EARTH TO EVERYONE!”

“I’m very sorry Nora” say the angel choirmaster, “You’re too noisy. We can’t hear anyone else.”

Nora was really sad. She knew that the choir were practising for the most exciting moment since God had said, “Let there be light!” and she couldn’t be a part of it.

She went and sat down on a small cloud and cried.

She was still crying when she noticed that it had got brighter around her. She looked up and saw the Kindest Face.

“Hello Nora,” said the Kindest Voice.

“HELLO!” she said loudly, instantly feeling guilty about speaking so loudly to Him.

“I’ve got an important job for you,” said the Kindest Voice. And He whispered in her ear to tell her what He wanted her to do.

The next day the massive choir was ready, lined up in the darkness, waiting to sing their special song in honour of the special baby. They all waited for their cue. Then they noticed Nora walk out in front of them and step out from behind the night curtain in front of a group of startled shepherds.

“DON’T BE AFRAID!” shouted Nora in her loud voice, so everyone could hear, “I’VE GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU. IT’S NEWS THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD FOREVER! A SPECIAL BABY HAS JUST BEEN BORN IN BETHLEHEM. GOD’S COME INTO THE WORLD AND YOU CAN FIND HIM WRAPPED UP WARM AND LYING IN A MANGER!”

That was the cue for the rest of the angels. The night curtain was raised and the massed choir sang their special song: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to everyone.”

The night curtain came back down and the angel choir went back to heaven. Nora peeped through and watched as the shepherds faces shone and they hurried off down the hill into the village to find the baby.

When Nora got back to heaven the rest of the angels cheered and shouted and made such a fuss of her because she had done such an amazing job with her loud voice. And Nora could see the Kindest Face beaming at her.

She was so pleased that for the first time in her life she whispered, “Thank you.”

Be blessed, be a blessing

*If you like the story and want to use it, feel free. If you fancy giving me a credit that would be nice.

angelic visits

In our evening services at our church we have been working our way through the book of Daniel, in the Old Testament. On Sunday evening I had the joy of looking at chapter 10, which includes an astonishing encounter Daniel had with an angel. It is quite easy to get carried away with talk of angels and whether we have guardian angels and what they look like. But to do that means we miss the point. Angels are messengers from God. The important thing is the message from God, not the messenger. ‘Angel’ simply means ‘messenger’, ‘one who is sent with a message’.

We have a phrase, “Don’t shoot the messenger” for when someone delivers bad news, well perhaps we should also have, “Don’t exalt the messenger” for when they have a message from God.

Among the things God told Daniel through this heaven-sent delivery boy were these phrases:

“You are highly esteemed” (which means ‘precious to God’)

“Do not be afraid”

“Peace”

“Be strong now, be strong.”

Those words spoke powerfully to me. Imagine that they are words for you, for your family, for your friends. Receive them as words from God just for you. Share them with others as words from God for them.

And as you do you will be an angel – a messenger from God! (Wings and halo optional!).

Be blessed, be a blessing

A husband and wife were in a car. The husband was driving very fast and very erratically.

“Slow down,” urged the wife.

The husband grinned, “It’s okay dear, don’t you believe in guardian angels who are looking over us?”

“Yes I do,” said the wife, “but I think he fell off the car about half a mile back.”

the little angel

Following on from yesterday’s bloggage I thought I would share a story with you. It’s the story I told in our Bright Sparks parent and toddler group and is based loosely on fact.

The little angel always looked forward to Christmas because it meant she came out of the box and got to hang on a lovely Christmas tree. This year we got her out of her box, along with all of the other tree ornaments, and hung her from the tree as usual.

But this year the thread from which she hung broke and the poor little angel tumbled off the tree and bounced into a corner. Nobody noticed she was missing and she lay there all Christmas, hidden from everyone. She was very sad.

After Christmas we packed away the tree, the ornaments, the lights and the tinsel from the tree and put it all back in the roof. The little angel watched all this happening from where she was lying and sadly realised that she had been left behind.

As I was finishing tidying up after the Christmas decorations had been put away, I noticed the little angel in the corner. I picked her up and put her on the table, ready to take up to put with all the other decorations. But then I had a thought. I decided that instead of her only coming out at Christmas, she would be on display all year round and would remind us of the wonderful Christmas story whenever we saw her.

So now the little angel is happier than ever, because she has the really important job of reminding us about Jesus all year round.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

It came upon the blog so clear…

So that’s it for another year, then.

Christmas has been packed away in boxes and confined to cupboards, the garage or the loft… only to be considered in December as we wonder whether we will be able to untangle the lights, why they don’t work when they did when we put them away, and where we put those favourite tree decorations. Rooms, houses, streets and (dare I say it) churches look a bit drab and empty after all the glittery tinselly sparkly twinkly lighty stuff has been taken down.

I wonder if we do the same with the Christmas narratives. We focus on them for a short period of the year and don’t consider them at all for the rest of the year. Mary is free to live without fear of being surprised by an angel, the shepherds stay unfrightened in the fields, wise men don’t travel from the East, and the cattle are free to low to their hearts content without fear of finding a baby in their food.

But if the real message of Christmas also gets packed away for another year we are impoverished by that. If Immanuel, God with us, is simply something we consider during the Advent season and we forget the miracle and reality that he is with us always, we are almost in the same category as Joseph’s relatives in Bethlehem who would not put up with the scandal of having Mary and Joseph stay with them: we are part of the family in name only.

It’s a real shame that we only sing Christmas carols at Christmas because there is so much deep theology within them that we could spend the whole year unpacking and still not finished by the time we get Christmas again. so here’s a challenge for you: think of your favourite Christmas Carol and contemplate averse a day until you have finished that Carol. What is it saying to you about who Jesus is and your relationship with God? How is your life different because the baby was born in the manger? Where do you fit in the Christmas story? Where does the Christmas story fit in your life?

One of the problems at Christmas is that there are so many lovely carols we don’t get to sing them all in any given year. I got into trouble this year because several people had said that they had a favourite Carol and I had not included it in our Carol services. Perhaps this is an opportunity to redress the balance!

It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the Earth to touch their harps of gold: “peace on the earth, goodwill to men, from heaven’s all gracious king;” the world in solemn stillness late to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come, with peaceful wings unfurled, and still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world: above its sad and lonely plains they bend on hovering wing, and over all its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long, beneath the angel-strain have rolled 2000 years of wrong; and man, at war with man, hears not the love song which they bring: so hush the noise, you men of strife, and hear the angels sing.

And still the days are hastening on, by prophets once foretold, when with the ever-circling years comes round the age of gold; when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendours fling, and all the world send back the song which now the angels sing.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

angles from the realms of glory (no, that’s not a spelling error, it’s meant to be angles)

>We had a visitation at our house on Wednesday. No, not Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. The visitor did not even ring the doorbell, but they did knock on the window, and their visit left an impression on us.

I think it may have been a small trainee angel on its first flight. It did not stay long, but we have photographic evidence of its visit.

The trainee angel must have hit the window at some pace to leave an impression like that. Sally, who was in the house at the time, heard a thump from the back of the house, but by the time she got there the angel had gone – presumably embarrassed at having made such an elementary error – to be greeted by good-natured banter from his classmates when he got back to the heavenly hangar.

I am quite relieved in some ways that the angel did not get to deliver his message to Sally. Very significant things happen to women when they are visited by angels – just look at the first chapter of Luke! But it reminded me of a verse in the New Testament that has both baffled and challenged me:

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. 
(Hebrews 13:2)

Does this mean I should be trying to do my magic tricks for anyone I meet – to make sure they are entertained? Strangers beware!

Or does it, as I suspect, mean that I need to be as hospitable as I can to everyone I meet? That instruction is not just a personal one for our homes, it is a corporate one for our churches too. How welcome do people feel? We sometimes say to guests, “Make yourself at home,” by which we don’t mean raid the fridge, switch on the TV and use the phone to call anyone you want. How might our churches be different if we began each service with “Make yourself at home!” Is it so ridiculous? What might we have to do differently? What might people find helpful? How can we entertain strangers?

A monastery which had once flourished was going downhill rapidly. The monks were getting cranky with each other, they resented their work and they were less than hospitable to strangers who visited, contrary to their tradition. One snowy night a stranger knocked on the door seeking shelter from the bad weather and was reluctantly and ungraciously admitted. He sat in a corner at the mealtime, without being offered any food, and watched sadly as the monks selfishly grabbed food from the table and listened with a heavy heart as he heard all the moaning and complaining.

Before he left the next day, the stranger asked to see the Abbot. He told him that in a dream that night God had told him that one of the monks was actually an angel, but he didn’t say which one. He left and the Abbot excitedly told the rest of the monks what he had heard. From that day on the monastery was a different place. The monks treated each other with courtesy and respect. They worked diligently and they enthusiastically welcomed all who came to the monastery seeking help.

When the stranger returned a year later the Abbot took him aside and asked him which one of the monks was the angel. The stranger just smiled.

I realise that it is conceivable that the impression left on our window was from a bird that did not realise that our beautifully clean window was there, or perhaps someone had put vodka in the bird water in another garden. Don’t worry, no birds were harmed (badly) in the making of this blog because by the time Sally had reached the back garden the bird (or angel) had flown.

Angel joke – sort of
One Halloween this woman opens her door to find the most adorable little girl, with golden blond curly hair and the biggest blue eyes.

She was dressed as an Angel, and was just delightful. The woman said, “what are you supposed to say sweetheart?”

The little girl looks up at the woman and says “Twick or Tweat!”

The woman thinks this is just adorable, and she calls her husband to come to the door. The woman say to the child, “Go ahead honey say it just one more time.”

Once again the little Angel looks up and says, “Twick or Tweat!”

The husband agrees with his wife, this little Angel is just the cutest thing. The woman picks an apple from the Treat Bowl, shines it up with her apron, and drops it into the little girl’s Treat Bag.

The little Angel looks in her bag then looks up at the woman, swore horribly and says, “Thanks a lot, you just broke my ********** cookies!

[disclaimer: the sharing of this joke is not intended as an endorsement of doorstep extortion by children, nor the use of bad language. If you prefer just to say ‘asterisk, asterisk, asterisk, asterisk, asterisk, asterisk, asterisk, asterisk, asterisk’ instead of inserting an expletive, that will be fine.]