Waiting, hoping, needing.
The glue-like mud clings heavily, like lead weights.
We watched the tide go out and the sparkling waters
became a twisting path to desolation.
How strange that, at the lonely times,
the little glory left behind causes disappointment
reminding us only of what we used to have.
Our vision is blurred by the mist of tears
and the plaintive whistle of curlew and gull
draws attention to what we have lost.
Surely the rhythmic tide will come sweeping back?
There are tides, and times, and seasons
but the turning point has delayed so long
that our dreams are ashes, scattered,
and heartache holds our spirit
in the grip of the vice of despair.
How long, O Lord, how long?
Who can tell the lonely ones with the ravaged hearts
that peace flows, like a river, towards the sea of grace?
How long, O Lord? When will mercy come?
A lament over the state of the Church and the nations.
The last century has seen the tide retreat as faith is devalued, morality has divorced wisdom, and entertainment has become the opiate of a purposeless people.
As God’s people pray, we raise burning candles toward the sky, each one contributing a light to call upon the Light of the World.
If you read this far and your heart is stirred for the nation, please join in prayer: and if you wish, share this post on your timeline in the hope of others also crying out to Christ.
Lord, bring the tide of compassionate love over the mud and sorrow of these days. Amen. May true grace be with you.
Text and photos (c) Richard Starling, 2019
Holidaying in Malta was a new experience for us. Parts of the island were dusty and dry, filled with exotic plants like this agave with its fruits.
Thinking about that was helpful when I needed a group activity for some men at church on Tuesday. I came up with a reflective “game” called Desert Island Disciples. See below!
My idea was based on the observed discontent of so many. If one was stranded on a desert island, what would I miss? What would be “enough” for me to be contented? If everything that is “standard” in my life were taken away, what would I have left that was precious?
Paul’s words in Philippians 4 are heroically challenging. “I have learned to be content…”
The idea of the worksheet below is to explore what really matters to us. If all we are left with is God, is that enough? It should be, at least in the short term. The Book of Job asks and answers a very similar question.
So much of our lives is about being entertained and distracted. The industry is huge- think of the millions spent on making movies, selling sports cars, and merchandising cosmetics! Christians in the contemplative traditions have discovered something wonderful. If we are prepared to avoid or dismiss distractions, we can encounter the reality of the Living God in the space and silence we have chosen.
Have a go at answering the questions. You might find a treasure. If all else fails, you can smile at the piggy with dentures at the bottom! But I hope, that we may, like Paul and like Jesus, discover the freedom of simplicity and learned contentment. God bless you as you give it a go!
(Copyright 2019 Richard Starling)
Politics is currently depressing. After yet more blatherings from people who demonstrate a self-confidence far in advance of the evidence of their efforts in public office, I confess myself unusually low about the prospects of progress. The age of soundbites cuts the throat of intelligent discourse; volume outweighs substance.
Where are the outstanding candidates for office? People of good character, a moral compass, a servant heart? Cynicism tars all politicians with the same brush, but that is unfair. It is also difficult to avoid. Self-promotion and naked ambition are encouraged because they make good stories for the media and satisfy a public attuned to Twitter. Minimum syllables and catchy slogans are used to judge matters that require deep thought and rational debate. It does not bode well for sensible government.
I was looking at the Book of Proverbs this morning and found some apt advice for anyone who dares to read it and put it into practice. Proverbs 27:2 (NLT) “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth- a stranger, not your own lips.”
“Image” is overrated. Reality has a way of disclosing itself eventually: and what is in a person’s character will be revealed in time. Proverbs 27:19 (NLT) As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.
I found hope in two places. First, in taking a photograph of this beautiful lily- colour, perfume, the signs of its purpose- and secondly in familiar words from Psalm 136. The continual refrain of this ancient prayer-song is a strong statement of confident hope. Whatever else may be in life, God’s faithful love endures forever.
I think some time meditating on this psalm will be a tonic for the soul. Using this psalm’s confident hope as a basis for prayer reminds humanity that there IS a God, who is GOOD, and who cares deeply about justice and compassion, truth and mercy. And it reminds us to pray for those who seem to be ignoring God yet think themselves fit to lead others.
Today is a great day to remember to be thankful to God: His faithful love endures forever.
The sweet silence of solitude.
Low tide here exposes a stretch of sand which is lovely to walk on. Usually I am here first thing in the morning before the waves of humanity sweep onto the beach. Shared with seagulls and a few deliriously contented dogs, there is a quiet peace. Even the wavelets scarcely disturb the gentleness of solitude.
I’ve been busy this week teaching a short course on personality and spirituality; and another looking at the “Heroes of Faith” who have walked faithfully before us. Great subjects taught to keen people. Fulfilling for me, apparently inspiring for them.
Taking a brief time alone the next morning was so good. My body was complaining a bit-when I do activities without taking enough rest, then the grumbles begin.
Restoring the soul with silent solitude works because it places me physically where I can encounter Love, becoming aware of the Presence of the Lord. Busy living has a way of squeezing peace and joy into a sour soup of weariness. By straining out the twisted fibres of stress, solitude acts as a re-balancing time where grace can sooth the pain.
There was such a peacefulness on the beach today. May we all hear the kind invitation of Jesus to come and share in wholeness.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT2)
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”