The Bag Lady

Having decided some months ago not to ‘do church’ anymore we as a family have found ourselves facing the previously alien concept of free time on a Sunday morning. This has opened up endless opportunities for us which, up until then, had been denied by the traditional 11:00 a.m. service – actually resting on the Sabbath as opposed to running about from one religious appointment to the next; spending time with God (normally a hit and miss experience at Sunday services this last year or so); and dare I say it enjoying ourselves (definitely a 100% miss).

Today was no exception. I am a keen runner (regular followers of this blog will grow to hate these words). And in an effort to spend some ‘quality family time’ (three of the most patronising words in the English language when arranged in that order) I encouraged (dragged) our son and youngest daughter to a junior running event in our local park. My wife and eldest daughter knew better and wisely stayed at home.

Once the lycra fest was over we stopped at the supermarket on our way home to pick up some groceries. And armed with the necessities of life (Diet Coke, sausages and toilet paper – in that order) I stood in the queue waiting my turn to pay. In front of me a dear old lady battled to gather up various purchases in her arms. As I gallantly stood by and did nothing the shop assistant helpfully enquired ‘Would you like to put them in a bag?’

Quick as a flash the plucky pensioner shot back ‘I need a bag but I’m not willing to pay for one’. In Northern Ireland (where we live) legislation was introduced in 2014 placing a five pence charge on plastic shopping bags. To help save the environment….or something like that.


Many (myself included) have struggled with this outrageous and draconian dictat ever since. I mean five pence!  That’s like 1/20th of a pound. I’ll happily fork out £4.95 for a running magazine and £24 for a gallon tub of honeycomb ice cream. But five pence? For a plastic bag?! It’s a bridge too far. I’d much rather flounce out of the shop tripping over dropped milk cartons and smashed eggs than suffer the ignominy of such an ridiculous surcharge.

Which is exactly what this heroic old lady did….

Thankfully the assistance of my daughter (four arms good, two arms bad) meant I didn’t have to face the question that invariably causes me to break out in a cold sweat – ‘Would you like a bag sir?’

On the drive home the morning got even more eventful when we passed the scene of a road traffic collision. We stopped to offer assistance but thankfully nobody was badly hurt. My son got to pretend to be a police officer for a while directing traffic until the real police officers arrived.

It got me thinking though. About the man who thankfully crawled away unscathed from his overturned car. And the old lady back at the shop. Life is so fragile. One minute we can be happily sauntering along with not a worry for the future. And the next that future could be gone. A road traffic collision. A terminal illness. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The variables are incalculable. The one constant is that death awaits us all one day. And it might be a lot sooner than we think.

That’s the grim news. The good news is that we do have an input. Not usually as to when it will happen but rather what will happen afterwards. To the Christian, death is just the beginning. Life is just the aperitif before the main course. The warm up before the race begins in earnest.

We have a choice. And that choice is Jesus. Who came to earth and died a violent death on a wooden torture instrument reserved for the basest criminal. An agonising, humiliating, dirty death. For us. To cleanse us of our past, present and future sins in order to allow us access to the greatest gift of all. Eternal life.

And the price? Five million pounds? Five hundred pounds? Five pence? No it costs us nothing. All we have to do is say yes and embrace him as our Lord and Saviour.

Yet so many of us still say no. We need it but are still not willing to give up our material, sinful lives. And like the bag lady we stagger along, laden down with our false idols, our guilt and our secrets.

My prayer as I write this is that if you haven’t already done so say yes. To Jesus. To a new life. And if you do I’ll happily give you five pence the next time I see you….

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. JOHN 10:28.

How did you spend your Sunday?

Do you still ‘do church’ on a Sunday? Or worship in a different way?

Have you said yes to Jesus? Tell us about your experiences. 

27 thoughts on “The Bag Lady

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  1. I used to do church, but we’ve since parted ways due to a theological disagreement. Fortunately for me, I’ve been working the last several Sundays and have had to miss church (I’m so not sorry about that.) I recently picked up a special edition magazine about spirituality in order to kind of re-orient myself to this new landscape. I guess I got tired of being pushed down the well-worn path of Christianity, being told what I had to believe and that any deviation or free thinking was a sure ticket to the wrong eternity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the reply Jamie. Yes we have had negative experiences at a number of churches over the years. We have felt restricted by ‘religious’ rules and people telling us how we should be behaving. Then we realised that we live under grace and not under the law. We are focusing on following the teachings of Jesus and not how religious leaders choose to interpret those teachings. Traditional church is just a building. We find church elsewhere at present. Thank you again for taking the time to read the post.

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      1. That’s pretty much where I’m at – I read through the red letters and look for the spirit that Jesus talks about – the things that are good ideas no matter who you are and what century you live in: love God, love everyone else, be compassionate and merciful like the Good Samaritan, do to others what you would have them do to you; and I look to Jesus’ patient example with regular folk and how he would criticize the religious folk for following rules and failing to discern the spirit of the text. It really bothers me how churches have put so much emphasis on Paul’s teachings because they can be interpreted to say anything if one’s creative enough to twist them around a lot, use them out of context, cobble them together for some end.

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  2. Just over a year ago i stopped going to church and have had more fun with Jesus since . However , I am still willing to go back to church and try to remember to pray for the churches in my city and the one I left . I know Jesus will never disappoint us , leave us or let us down . Therefore although I can pick fault with ” church ” the real question being asked by God to me is am i prepared to raise my game ? That`s where the rubber meets the road 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are wise words Alan. Don’t get me wrong. We have had a lot of great experiences at regular church. We just weren’t feeling spiritually fed where we were and have been increasingly dipping into the online Christian community. I agree. It’s about what we can do for God.

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  3. Wow! What an amazing gift to turn an experience like that into a life changing message. Thank you Steve for writing
    it and allowing the gift of “the pen of the ready writer”, to flow through you to bless us!
    Jeanette Dale

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed reading this! You drew me in, and made some excellent points! And what amazing news you ended it with – that Jesus came to cleanse us of our past, present, and future sins so that we may have eternal life!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think fellowshipping with the brethren is important. So I hope you hear God in this period and that He leads you to a Church community where you and your family can be fed and grow with the Church. Praise God for the salvation a of our souls. Have a lovely weekend.

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  6. I enjoyed your post very much.
    I gave up Church from 2002 until 2012 due to the church’s reaction to my divorce. Late in 2012 I discovered a wonderful, friendly Church where I’ve attended ever since. I don’t attend every week (family comes first). I’m sure Jesus is okay with that. I’ve also made a lot of fabulous new friends within the Church. We go out together outside of church, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
    Cheers,
    Jo’Anne

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  7. Great write up. Thank you for your ardent plea to the world at large to accept Jesus. I had a fantastic experience yesterday and “had church” in a most unexpected venu. You’ve inspired me to blog about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your passion, but I must ask this and please be very honest – what is this magical honeycomb ice cream of which you speak and why isn’t it sold in the states!?!?? 😉 Lovely post!

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  9. I “do church” daily. Today, but…. nevermind! I felt asleep and even I have to do “the reading of the ancients” (Mondays use to be the worst days) so at the moment I don’t know of whatisabout (the today’s reading in the Bible of the ancient greeks) I can know soon on the Net… I going… Brb!

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  10. More or less “Happy the village that Lord’s has choosen as sons” So what? We have our mind and our conscience and understanding (God’s gave to us forever and ever).
    I went to the church on Sunday too: THe priest said (we are doing on about 36-38 Celsius degrees for two weeks) “Why don’t we, -that use to claim about anything-, just give thanks for the warmiest temperatures…”

    I was shocked. Today, on mOnday at 5:15 it start raining and I listen to the forecasters “we are waiting for more on wednesday and thursday and ten degrees minus on that”.
    So, why dont you give thanks to God, (this small person of mine would like to say to you), because you dont have to go to the church?… but im not a priest (yet hehe)”

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  11. When I was a Latter-day Saint (Mormon), I was a regular churchgoer, but they stressed so much on a perfect life, rather than the perfect Christ, my membership made me less satisfied with my life. When I focused on Christ, and not on Christians, I became a much happier person. The Mormon Church helped me become a more spiritual person, but it was just a stepping stone. I am now a non-denominational Christian, but sort of a “Creaster” (Christmas and Easter) attendee. That is something I’d like to change, because I do miss having a church family. That said, I have come to find out the hard way that a “church family” are more acquaintances than anything, and that is why it is so important to focus on Christ and what you can do for others, not what others can do for you (channeling JFK here). We don’t do much on Sunday but have brunch, recover from Friday, and prepare for Monday.

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    1. Thank you for posting. Yeah we have dropped out of church but I now feel closer to God through my blogging. You guys are our church now. Thank you for your reply. It’s thought provoking – Stephen

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  12. This article made me think. I have been enjoying Church to an amazing extent since I started letting Jesus more into my life, I was baptised about an year ago and I am in a regular fellowship with my church members. We should never forget that we are a church. All the Christians in the world form a church in itself. We are all humans. Churches will always have periods of trials. But the grace of God help us to embrace each other forgetting our differences. When you read about the first century church in Acts, you see a true fellowship. This fellowship in itself can show others, the amazing joy of God many of us have found.

    God bless you and have a great day🙂

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  13. I totally get what you are all saying. I am a minister in the US. I have been a minister for some 32 years. I believe there is a place for the church, if the church is what the church was ordained to be. A place where we take care of one another, without judgement and without causing others to fall away. Unfortunately, there are many who do not do as God would have them do in the church, thus the pain and separation. My children struggle with church, but they like hearing their father preach so they attend with me. I encourage that if they struggle with church that’s ok. I just ask them to not compare the church with God. Two totally different people. God is love, the church is..well…the church. Thanks for the blog and I look forward to reading more. Johnny at walkingthroughthejourney.

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