Deep, deep calm

One bonus of being chauffeur for my wife going to school- I can go home via the beach and sit quietly watching the beautiful world go by. Today was glorious. Gorgeous blue water, almost flat calm, as the tide was beginning to come in.Ocean Love txt 413Glcr Bay July16edit.jpg

It reminded me of a different sea, on the other side of the world, where wavelets barely disturbed the surface of the Pacific. Majestic mountains were the backdrop that day. God’s presence was the link. On both occasions I could sit and think, gaze and breathe, and be transported into an awareness of Almighty God: being quiet, and just listening.

As I watched the water I found myself thinking about the deep, deep calm of the ocean. Depths that I can never know: life I will never see. The sheer abundance of water was awe-inspiring. I could take a ship and sail all round this amazing planet; I would see different aspects of the ocean. There would be raging storms, whales breaching, dolphins leaping for fun… and so much more.

Today was calm. Deep, deep peace.

Love, vast as the ocean, is found in the Father heart of God. I invite you to find or make a time to be quiet and receive calm peace, loving acceptance and reassurance that the God who made heaven and Earth truly is the Love and the Lover of the world.

On a busy, maybe crazy day, take shelter in the deep, deep calm of the Lord your God.

Blue Ice, Red Canoe

Courage- knowing the risks, and taking action anyway.

Visiting Glacier Bay is breath-taking.  Huge rivers of frozen time slide majestically to the sea and the ice displays the strata where debris has been compacted year after year. Noise from the constant stressing and shattering of the ice reverberates in the still air. Regular “calving” of icebergs from tiny to house-sized attract the wonder of onlookers.

Some get closer than others.

Red Canoe Blue Ice 219Glcr Bay July16editThis bold adventurer in a bold scarlet kayak glided through freezing ice-mush and milky water, getting an incredible view- and taking a considered risk. Too close, too bold, and tons of ice could crush the fragile craft.

As the ice rears above, the fissures reveal the deep clear blues of highly pressured, frozen snow that fell perhaps 200 years ago.

The canoeist experienced Glacier Bay in a far deeper way, and was certainly less warm and far less comfortable! I envy that experience.

I like to think that, if given the opportunity, I’d ship out on a kayak and experience this myself.

There’s a little joke about this… A canoeist wanted to go kayaking in Glacier Bay: but decided the chill factor was too extreme for comfort. So he installed a paraffin heater to keep the kayak warmer. Sadly, the paraffin leaked and the kayak caught fire… which goes to prove that you can’t have your kayak and heat it.

I really should apologise for that! Christianity is sometimes accused of being dull, humourless, and a soft option for people without the guts to face up to life. I disagree. To follow Christ takes courage. Believers can be criticised, ignored, laughed at, or even attacked. Living the way of Christ requires self-sacrifice, obedience, humility and a radically different set of values and purpose. We should stand out from the crowd.

Jesus sends us into a world that is beautiful and damaged, wonderful and terrifying. “Go into all the world… tell them…” Follow the Way of the Cross… love your neighbour, your enemy, even yourself. It is a challenge worthy of our best response and determination.

Jesus also said we would not be alone on the journey… He will be with us. Up for it? It will take courage, even with such a Friend. Courage is knowing the risks, and taking action anyway. Go on, be bold today!

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At just the right time

At just the right time…
Bank Holiday Monday… and it’s raining. How very British of the weather! So I can’t get out in the garden, I can’t gloat over the shed I built which is still standing despite the weather. I can’t – er, won’t – go out for a bike ride. So I’m looking at photos.
I thought this picture was a “noble failure.” I caught the wave breaking at just the right time- but the horizon wasn’t level and the colours were muted. But five minutes in an editing program and I like the end result. Just at the right time.
Yesterday was Easter Sunday- Resurrection Day. I had a really good morning worshipping with our new church family, all about the “Really, really Good News.” That’s what Easter is all about- the amazing lengths to which God will go in order to love and be reconciled to human beings. Paul, the great theologian of the Early Church, summed this up rather well.
This is the REALLY Good News for all of us- at just the right time. That’s NOW. Please don’t throw Easter away with the boxes of the eggs. As nice as it is (was?) chocolate is not the best bit of Easter.
Romans 5:6-11 (NLT)
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Finding Wisdom on the Beach

It will be officially Spring on 1st March. Someone should let the weather know. We have snow forecast this week; a cold north-east wind is bringing Siberia to Sussex.

Despite the plunging temperatures, I am finding a benefit of living near the sea. It is a great place for wandering, pondering, and clearing the mind. I’m not the only one. This guy was walking towards the sunset as the tide pulled back. I’ll never know who he was. He was searching the sand and the breakwaters. I don’t know if he found anything, or even what he was looking for.

When I wander with my teeth chattering and my fingers freezing I find a sense of peace. Even when the ice or gales make for uncomfortable walking, the beach offers a myriad of interesting things. The tracks of seabirds, the colonies of shellfish, the patterns in the sand: the light picks out different features. Breaking waves and the sound of water retreating across the sands, with a chorus of gulls plaintively calling. Why do gulls sound so alone?  Sunset skies dye the wet sand in glorious technicolour. The Sun, the Moon, and sometimes the stars, shimmer their fractured reflections across the restless waters. It’s so beautiful. It has become a holy place for me.

Day or night, it helps me to sense the closeness of Almighty God: all this is His, and still He cares for His children. God makes Himself known in and through this world. People of faith have known this for centuries. The prophet Amos spoke of this: “It is the LORD who created the stars, the Pleiades and Orion. He turns darkness into morning and day into night. He draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The LORD is his name!  Amos 5:8 (NLT)

I find myself taking opportunities to detour down to the beach. The long way home from the shops, the bank, our church. Ten minutes in the morning after dropping Juliet at school. An hour with the camera, looking for new ways to record the wisdom of God’s self-revelation in Creation. Time to reflect and pray for people and situations; time to filter out all the inner noise and confusions, the anger and irritations of an imperfect life.

Maybe tomorrow I will get to chase snowflakes into the sea. Perhaps the frost will laminate the pebbles. And just maybe, the quieting of my soul will allow the wisdom of God to touch my mind and change my heart. It is wise to search: to search is to find.

The Lord is His Name!

Heavy weather

There’s always heavy weather. As the south-westerly gale brought the breakers crashing against Portland Bill, one feature stood out. Pulpit Rock stands four-square against the elements, unshakeable and solid. The conditions were, in typical British understatement, “bracing.” A few of us had braved the rain and gales to stand in awe at the ferocity of the sea. One brave soul climbed to the top of Pulpit Rock (using the carved footholds) and looked out to sea. Then, shortly afterwards, a small lobster fishing boat lurched into view, rolling and plunging in alarming fashion. The photo cannot do it justice!

I expect the crew thought it was a normal February day’s work. I thought “I hope they didn’t have greasy bacon for breakfast!”

Behind us stood one large and two smaller lighthouses, put there to warn and guide passing ships. The rocks of Portland Bill are hard and dangerous. Sailors must be warned, and if that fails, rescued.

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I feel rather like the climber. If the Rock represents my faith in God, much of my time for over 30 years has been spend on a solid foundation- looking out for and encouraging those going through the storms. The wind buffets me, but I am safe above the raging seas. Part of my responsibility has been to watch over and pray for the ones caught up in the storm.

I haven’t always succeeded. May God forgive me, and bless the ones that I failed.

Even when I have faithfully kept to my task, I can claim no credit for the help given, or even for the rescue of those caught in the heavy weather of life. What can I say to people, or even pray to God, when:

  • A much-loved child is ill, or is being bullied.
  • When work is so hard and the rewards are too few.
  • When the BBC News has only bad news and stark warnings.
  • Their diagnosis is serious, possibly even terminal.
  • A couple have reached the end of a marriage and want only to divorce.
  • God seems distant, and the storm is too strong.
  • At the graveside when deep love collides head-on with deep grief.

I have no easy answers.  I have learned some lessons, though.

  • Being there matters more than what I say.
  • God can do things that I cannot do. It doesn’t all depend on me (thank goodness!).
  • For me to stand on the Rock of truth means I am seen, a witness and herald, and recognised as one who depends on God. Then my faith in Jesus brings comfort to those who struggle to hold onto their own belief and trust in the crisis.

There will be stormy days.  Being caught at sea is dangerous. But our call is to go to those in peril, whatever the risk or cost. This is the motivation for Christians to go to wild places, and to look for those in danger of drowning; to give up their own hopes and ambitions so others might find solid ground on which to stand. Even standing on the rock can be cold and hazardous. That at least we can do!

Remember there are things that cannot be achieved without risk. Someone has to sail the boats. Who are you going to call? Who is watching out for you? Here’s a prayer of trust:

O LORD, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me and rescue me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me, and set me free. Be my rock of safety where I can always hide. Give the order to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.   Psalm 71:1-3 (NLT)

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