Serenity- a Pagham Swan.

The Reflectionary

There’s a gale blowing. Politicians from many places have apparently lost their senses. Christmas adverts feature everything from Kevin the Carrot to Elton John’s piano. It’s almost December… Soon it will be shopping.

What am I yearning for? Silence, solitude, and serenity.

I escaped on my bike a few days ago looking for all those things beginning with “S.” When I found them, they had an extra “S” for company. Pagham Harbour is a paradise for water birds, and this majestic swan slipped serenely between the reed beds and into a patch of sunlight. It was just what the soul needed. My cares shrank, and my spirits rose. The swan became a symbol for me of purposeful action in a calm moment.

There is a famous “Serenity Prayer” which goes like this:

O God and Heavenly Father, grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be…

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Grasping at Straws? Or sharing hope?

I’ve been thinking about life in this world where so much is chaotic and painful. Feeling deeply grateful that faith in Christ reminds us that we can have a hope that transcends the weight of the news, politics, homelessness and lovelessness that bombards our senses every day.
 
Every year the farmer sows in hope of a harvest. Those seeds experience dirt, cold, heat, rain, drought, storms, bugs, light and darkness. Yet still they grow and bring comfort and sustenance… after being bashed, threshed and baked! They give life to others: and some seeds who avoid the baker will be re-sown for the harvest the year after. Life wins!
 
Quote from Henri Nouwen: “Our mortal bodies, flesh and bones, will return to the earth. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says: “Everything goes to the same place, everything comes from the dust, everything returns to the dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:20). Still, all that we have lived in our bodies will be honoured in the resurrection, when we receive new bodies from God.
What sorts of bodies will we have in the resurrection? Paul sees our mortal bodies as the seeds for our resurrected bodies: “What you sow must die before it is given new life; and what you sow is not the body that is to be, but only a bare grain, of wheat I dare say, or some other kind; it is God who gives it the sort of body that he has chosen for it, and for each kind of seed its own kind of body” (1 Corinthians 15:36-38). We will be as unique in the resurrection as we are in our mortal bodies, because God, who loves each of us in our individuality, will give us bodies in which our most unique relationship with God will gloriously shine.”
 
Love wins.
Those who hold to this hope can make a difference in this life for those who are desperate for any harvest. Nations with wealth have responsibility to help those who have nothing. A real hope of eternity surely leads to working towards positive change.

Retired – Look, See, Pray

The Reflectionary

Oak leaves are falling into my garden. Little jigsaw-puzzle pieces lying around with no chance of re-assembly.  That tree may last for another century; the potential number of leaves in my garden is beyond count.

Each leaf has finished its work. A little chemical factory waving in mid-air, freshening the air and filtering carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis has changed sunlight into food for the tree. The tree is providing acorns to feed the squirrels. All is well.

018garden19118editYou see this leaf? It’s floating in the bird bath and making an intriguing pattern. Subtle colours and muted tones suit its retired status. The only thing left for the oak leaves is making leaf mould. But for now it makes a nice photo.

I’ve pondered my retired status this week. Things take longer than they used to.

I’m leading “Life Groups” on photography; and on understanding the Old Testament. It’s enjoyable – but the…

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A nation divided- Look, See, Pray

A prayer for hope to replace confusion.

The Reflectionary

As I write, the Prime Minister has been speaking in the House of Commons about one of the most divisive political issues I can remember. At this point, no-one knows what shape the British Isles will take in the future. Divided on party, class, and economy we face a real prospect of no longer being a United Kingdom- and have no clarity about our relationship with Europe or other potential trade partners.

Nation divided Peaks2010_3804haze sq

Fingers are pointed, tongues wag, and hate crimes increase. What have we come to?

Many of us have strong political opinions, which is as it should be: but we seem to have forgotten how to disagree without blaming and victimising others.

I strongly suspect that the root of our troubles lies in the fact we have uprooted ourselves from our true foundation. We have, as a nation, cut ourselves “free” from God and we have chosen to go…

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Strong enough to let go – Look, See, Pray

The Reflectionary

This beech tree is older than I am. It has survived storms and drought, summer heat and freezing cold. Every Spring soft new leaves unfurl, an umbrella of gentle green. Of all our British trees, the beech is blessed with beauty through the year. Summer gives dappled green shade, and then as Autumn develops the canopy turns golden, then bronze and rich brown. Winter shows off the graceful elegance of branches, underlaid by a carpet that hushes the footfall of man and beast. And so the seasons turn.

Standing at the base of the trunk, and aiming the lens straight up, produced this image of strength and dainty colour.

Let Go 026arundel08118autTo stay strong, the tree sheds its leaves: it lets go of the growth that would endanger survival. Fully leaf-clad, the tree would be far more vulnerable to strong winds or heavy snowfall.

In any event, the tree has a rhythm…

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Another point of view…

Another point of view… seeing the prayer on the top of the breakwater.

Lord, that wooden post has been there years. Every day the sea floods it, covers it, bashes it and abandons it. What kind of life is that?

Barnacles, seaweed, a limpet or two. Nobody pays attention unless they happen to scrape their leg on it! What kind of life is that?

Seagulls stand on it, crabs walk round it. Dogs pee over it after chasing the seagulls away. Waves crash into it. What kind of life is that?

Resistance is futile, says the sea- we will assimilate you.
Not while I’m standing, says the post. I’ll break your waves!

Looking down from above, the photographer sees form, shape, and colour. The stubbornness of not giving in. A post with a purpose, a duty to fulfill. A home for tiny creatures with tiny urges of their own, just as stubborn as the post and clinging to life with all its trials.

I wonder if I looked at other people from a different point of view… what would I see? The stolid patience of daily living, the refusal to be battered into submission, still clinging to life and hope- knowing storms come and storms go.

Would I care, or notice, or walk away? What kind of life is that?

Lord, if you looked down on my life, what would you see?
“What kind of life is that?” says the angel, looking askance.

“A life with a purpose, and someone I love” says the Word who spoke Life to the world.

I guess we do matter, after all.

That Loving Feeling…

Halfway through our worship service this morning I realised that I was feeling very happy and content. We were being led by musicians and singers from our youth group and they played well and sensitively.  Jamie engaged us in discovering who we are, and what God thinks of us, and my smile widened.

Please don’t jump to the conclusion that on the other weeks at church I have been miserable! Nothing could be further from the truth. Today was simply a special moment.

I didn’t just know my faith was true- I felt strangely comforted in my heart of hearts, the centre of my being.  Can I explain it? No, not really.  Can I depend on my feelings as a measure of my faith or the truth of Christian belief? No, my feelings can go up and down because of health, tiredness, weather or something that goes wrong and annoys me.

Are “loving feelings” good? YES! If my faith is only knowledge about God, or some hope of a better life after this miserable one… then something is wrong with me!  To know God is to love Him, and to experience REAL love is a distinctive way. Paul writes in Ephesians:

Ephesians 1:3-4 (Message)
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.

God’s love is His divine choice. He has set his heart on us. Today was one of those moments where it seemed that he whispered in my ear… “You are loved, and chosen, and I wanted to remind you!”

That loving feeling may not stay forever. But God’s love WILL last forever. Chosen before He dug the trenches for the foundation of the Universe, he has set his heart on little old Earth and those amazing yet exasperating human beings. Jesus came to this world so that we can be reconciled to the Creator, Lover, Sustainer, Provider and Redeemer- the Lord of All. No wonder there was a loving feeling involved! Whatever tomorrow brings, and however this uncertain life unfolds… God has loved US so we can love Him.

That’s the best feeling and the deepest Truth I know. May God whisper love in your ear today!

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The cutest and most lovable Meerkat…