Through the Glass, Darkly… Look, See, Pray

The Reflectionary

Hampton Court has been a Royal Palace for 500 years. Built by a Cardinal, and acquired by Henry VIII, it was the centre of political intrigue for the Tudor dynasty. Splendid and beautiful, it is truly impressive, expensive, and very large!

Visiting with friends, we took the tour to see the State rooms and humbler servant’s halls. Displays of Tudor cooking and costumed actors tried to re-create the atmosphere of power and wealth. It was educational, interesting, and even inspiring. Later reflections took a more sinister tone.

It was the window that did it. Sorting through photos taken that day, I was taken aback by the lack of transparency from outside. Anyone could have been inside that room behind the blank, dark glass.

In its history, there have been meetings of the powerful and plots by the politicians. King Henry VIII stood within those rooms and issued his decrees and…

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Simply Love- Look, See, Pray

Father Pedro Arrupe’s prayer about falling in love with God was shared with me this week. Here it is- enjoy. 

Nothing is more practical than

finding God,

than falling in Love

in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,

what seizes your imagination,

will affect everything.

It will decide

what will get you out of bed in the morning,

what you do with your evenings,

how you spend your weekends,

what you read, whom you know,

what breaks your heart,

and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in Love,

stay in love,

and it will decide everything.

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Seeking Peace- Look, See, Pray

Psalm 34:14 (NLT) Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how fed up are you with watching the news? Every headline is dramatic, every event is a potential crisis, and what wouldn’t we give for a bit of peace and quiet?

Mild February days are rare enough to be treasured. This afternoon I cycled down to Pagham Harbour, my local nature reserve. I was surprised to find the tide was right in: the mudbanks usually hosting a convention of wading birds were covered in blue and gold water.  I settled down to absorb the peacefulness of the scene, and watched the available wildlife action: a short-eared owl quartering the reed beds, and then the explosively noisy eruption of hundreds of Brent geese who left their farm field and came down to the water. After a short while, quiet took over again.

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One of the best-known and powerful images in the Bible is found in Psalms.

Psalm 23 speaks of “still waters” and water symbolises life, cleansing, and renewal.

This is a beautiful theme. Without water, we could not live.

Psalm 34 v14 instructs us to search for peace, and when we find it, work to preserve that peace.

Searching for peace in a wearying world may seem a fruitless task.

Perhaps this week, you could find- search for- a peaceful place, near water if possible, and take time to enjoy it. Reflections and ripples can inspire thoughts and prayers.

Silence and beauty restore our soul. In this world of strife and noise, we are called to be peacemakers, peace-bringers, servants of the Prince of Peace. In the quiet and calm of our restored souls, we may find strength and grace to share peace and preserve it.

How might God speak?

Communication- sight, sound, touch. We learn through experience and effort, through resting and remembering. When I see the crocus peeking through the grass, how does my soul respond?  Two short quotes to consider:

Sacred writings are bound in two volumes—that of creation and that of Holy Scripture. —Thomas Aquinas (1224–1274)

Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and deity—however invisible—have been there for the mind to see in the things God has made. —Romans 1:20

Today- look out for something that will speak to you of God and His love. The one who seeks, will find.


Last Rites of Winter? Look, See, Pray

The Reflectionary

The last few leaves remaining on the beech tree. A few survived the autumnal cull, a few more clung on through the frostiest nights… but now it is all over bar the final flutter.

New buds and shoots are forming in the longer light and warmer airs. They will put fresh pressure on old joints, and the “old guard” are already colourfully crisp and comatose. Out with the old, and in with the new!

100150219 Hotham Pk editA strange dignity still attaches to the persistent remnant. Cracks may be showing, but the colour is bold in the warm Spring-like Sun. Bright copper flags salute the change of seasons; a bit like the Chelsea Pensioners, whose courage and colourful garb is also a  testimony to brave history.

Soon the fresh bright greens and bronzes of new shoots and buds will herald a resurrection of the tree. Birds, insects, squirrels and kids will riotously greet…

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Reading “Alice in Wonderland” is an exercise in exploring the strange imagination of the author – and recognising people you know in the characters. Our local park has this wood-carving of the Queen of Hearts that caught my eye and made me chuckle at memories of the book. It is very strange tale.

It made me wonder how comfortable we are with whom we are. Looking in mirrors, real or metaphorical, can make us aware of things we’d rather change. That might be our physical appearance, or a flaw or quirk in our character.Most of us would like to change something.

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A good friend paid me a compliment this week. David attended a very good regional retreat/conference down in Cornwall, and emailed to say I’d been missed. (I left the south-west several years ago, so am no longer eligible for that conference.)

David even suggested my sending a video would have been good- naturally, I probed to find out what exactly he meant. That’s when he paid me what I took to be a compliment. Had the missing ingredient from the conference had been my sparkling wit (no)… or amazing musical talent (er, still no)… or my deep psychological insights and deep spiritual maturity. (Sadly, NO.) Without me…

There was not enough MISCHIEF.

Mischief! Some of you may be shocked to think that ministers (or even Christians in general) might ever be mischievous.

Is it my fault that I was put in charge of handling the visual projection facilities for several years? Is it my fault I have a warped sense of humour and a large collection of jokes, video clips, and the like? I suppose it might be inferred that I took advantage of such opportunities as came my way…

Humour has sometimes got me into a bit of bother. Or other people into a sticky spot. It also made others relax, laugh, and shed some stress.

I am quite comfortable with humour, mischief, and laughing. There is a time and a place, of course, but hey-ho. It’s funny!

A few years back I had a deeply significant experience in a prayer/encouragement meeting. The conference leader was praying over individuals round the room. To be honest, I didn’t expect much (he didn’t know me at all) but when he stopped in front of me, John began chuckling. Oops, I thought… what on earth… Then John said “I sense the Lord is telling me you are a joker- and that your humour is a special gift. Use it wisely.”

We’d never spoken before. He was an Anglican, I’m a Baptist. We lived hundreds of miles apart. John didn’t know me from Adam.

His words were an affirmation to my soul. Jokes and pranks are not always the obvious “tools of the trade” for pastors, and I had been criticised from time to time. To be told this was a valuable gift meant so much. The way my character is shaped is not a mistake, or something to be ashamed off. I am comfortable in my own skin. (I’m far from perfect- I should carry a sign saying “please be patient, God hasn’t finished with me yet.”)

God accepts us as we are. Even mischievous me, a work in progress. Even you, also a work in progress. That should put a smile on our faces.

A vicar, rabbi and Baptist minister walked into a bar. OUCH, they said in unison.

Just be glad I have better jokes than that, and may just try a spot of mischief…  See you at the next conference, David. Sleep well!


A frosty morning at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo found me watching the rhinos. The animal version of a battle tank, they have short sight and often short tempers. Rhinos also have very thick skin. One of them had a magpie attacking it, pecking away at wounds in the surface of its hide.

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A closer look at the photo shows this more closely.

What a mismatch! Magpie against Tank. The rhino even seemed to tolerate the bird’s attention.

I suppose the rhino is pretty helpless. All its power and weight is useless against a small, quick, mobile opponent- even though the pecking must have been painful.

Zoo staff explained that the birds are actually helping the rhinos. Ticks and bugs can burrow into the thick hide; cuts and scratches can become infected. The magpie was doing a clean up in exchange for a chewy dinner.

So what? What does this have to do with us?

Consider this. Even the thick-skinned, tough types of people and institutions have faults and vulnerabilities. We may think we’re too small, too insignificant to make a difference. Yet our prayers and actions can have a vital impact on the health and well-being of our “targets”.

When we see things that trouble us, political or economic woes, injustices and a lack of compassion- we can act to highlight the issues. Our “rhinos” may bellow a bit, the pecking may sting! Even the thick-skinned need a bit of careful attention and constructive action.

Who or what has attracted your attention or given you a dose of righteous indignation? Will you pray? Write, email, or visit the person involved? Will you act to make a difference? Our rhinos might just be grateful… and some bugs controlled. Have a peck… do it carefully and in a controlled way. Prayer pecking, if you like!

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a magpie who cleaned the hide of a rhinoceros… and stopped the rhino from being driven to violence by the biting irritation of its bugs…”