Surprised by Joy – Look, See, Pray

Supermarket shopping. As I drove home the sea was almost still; just enough of a wind ruffle to make the surface sparkle like stars.

Turned the corner to be confronted with a mass of creamy white blossom on a hedge.

I began to feel a strange surge of delight at what I was seeing. Joy sneaked up on my lips and cracked them into a smile. I felt GOOD about life and beauty and the cosmos.

Spring’s blessing continued to present itself in every garden, hedge, tree and sunbeam. How had I not noticed all this before? By the time I was home and unloading the car the inner joy was bubbling nicely. It was a lovely surprise. Ironically, I have been training myself to take notice, to look out for beauty and colour and gifts of grace. It still came as a surprise today!

C S Lewis, the author of the Narnia stories, the Ransom trilogy (and a whole shedload of books on theology, ethics, and Christianity) described his discovery of faith in a book called simply “Surprised by Joy.”  Moving from a position of non-belief, Lewis found himself overtaken by a joyful process that brought him to a passionate belief in Jesus Christ. Out of that change, he wrote extensively and became one of the best apologists and philosophers of the 20th century.

I photographed this rosebud when I arrived home. It is the first rose of the year in my garden. Bright red, beautiful, and another joyful surprise.

May your day be filled with joy, surprise, beauty- and God’s love.

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Ravages of Time? – Look, See, Pray

Gentle giants showing their age… Beech trees responding to another warmer season. In just a few short weeks they had received a bright green makeover, and paraded their party togs with pride.

It was still and quiet in the wood. Footsteps crunching through last year’s leaves and the infrequent song of the birds were the only real sounds.

Something about the strength and dignity of these old Lords of the Forest held my attention.

Pitted and scarred by the experience of the years; damage from insect, storm and time has marred the beech bark. One tree already uprooted, perchance victim of an unnoticed tragedy? Who knows when or why it fell? Younger saplings will make their takeover bid in due time. For now, these mighty beeches stand, adding leaf-mould every autumn and hosting the harbingers of Spring after every winter’s cold tale. In their summer prime, the canopy of green provides shelter, food and pleasure to all life that passes through the wood.

At first sight, these are just old trees, marked by the ravages of time. Spend time here in the wood, and listen, and the story of persistence and fruitfulness will be told again. Ravaged? Maybe.

Badges of honour, I would say. They have grown where they were planted, they have done their part in the long story of the years- they have outlasted many humans- and they have given away their seed with generous purpose.

Here’s a thought. As I look back over the last thirty or so years of sharing in Christian community, I have seen a marvellous selection of strong, dignified, generous people. Marked by the passage of time, wounded and pained by failures and successes, they still stand firm on their faith foundation. Old? True enough… but wise, and patient, and persistent. Love has brought them this far, and the future holds no dread. Kindly endurance gives backbone to their “forest” and the long tale of their years encourages the next generations. Blessed are those whose roots dig deep into the rich soil of Eden’s distant cousin. Blessed are those who drink deep of the Water of Life and share their fruitfulness. To them is promised a Spring with no more Winter.

Living life to the full means risking the scars and inheriting the Kingdom. Give thanks for the giants we have known, honour them in our prayers, observe their example. A well-wrinkled face is a portrait of love lived with a smile in the heart. Alleluia!

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Delicate Beginnings- Look, See, Pray

The Reflectionary

Delicate hawthorn blossom made white frothy mounds along the footpath. The overall appearance was stunning.

Spring is a wonderful life-affirming season. But the flowers are vulnerable to the high winds, late frosts, and occasional hailstorms. Such delicate beginnings- and such promise for the future.

I’m writing on the day when local council election results have been declared. Both major parties have suffered losses, and new councillors have been elected to serve.

Response in the media has been predictable. Every reporter seems to be using the same set of results to champion their preferred editorial stance. Amazing how the same bald figures support directly opposite conclusions!

A simple plea: beginnings are such delicate moments. Whatever our own political views can we do one thing? Pray for those in “authority” at both local and national levels of politics- and pray for those who put forward alternative views, and pray for those who…

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This ol’ tree – Look, See, Pray

The Reflectionary

A personal post of reflection, thankfulness and confidence… 29 April 1973 is a day of memories. At about 7pm, in Portslade Baptist Church, I was baptised as a believer in Jesus Christ. I had the privilege of being baptised by my father- and later I followed a similar call into service as a pastor in Baptist churches across England.

Believer’s Baptism for me was the beginning of really taking my faith seriously. There is something powerful about making a public witness and commitment, and the act of being immersed in the water is a graphic illustration of faith. It marks the “burial” of an old way of life, a “bath” of symbolic cleansing, and a “birth” into a life of obedience to the God of Love and mercy.

Nearly half a century later, I’m standing firm on the foundation I took hold of back then. My memories of the churches…

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Light brings Life

Such quick change.  A few weeks ago, the wild daffodils earthed the sunshine and made the world a cheerier place.

Just a few weeks later the trees are breaking their buds and soft new leaves clothe the landscape. These back-lit copper beech leaves blend vibrant colour with downy gentleness.

Soon those leaves will turn darker in colour: but will continue turning sunlight into nutrients, and absorbing carbon dioxide so oxygen can become the breath of life.

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Easter celebrations have reminded us of Jesus, who is the Light of the World. Shining the Light of Glory out of the mouth of an Empty Tomb, the grace of Almighty God announced that Darkness and Death were destroyed.

Eternal Light is making Life grow again.  Every time we witness the awesome ordinariness of a Spring day, and the procession of colour and song provided by nature, a spark of True Light is planted in our innermost being. We may not recognise it, we may even try to hide it- but that Light is a gift, a message of Love sent by the Faithful One who will use any opportunity to call us back into divine Presence and awareness.

I intend to enjoy as many moments of Spring Light as I can: and hope that my heart will interpret the Message wisely, so that my whole being is infused with that Heavenly Light that has always been the Light of all humankind. Let us look, so that we see: and in seeing, we may pray, praise, and serve the Kingdom of God here on Earth- until the final Promise is unveiled, and the heavens and Earth will be renewed as the Lord dwells among us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…”  (John 1 v1-5)


Gethsemane. Look, See, Pray

The Reflectionary

Gethsemane. That’s a name forever etched in my memory. It’s been a favourite spot to pray, sitting in the olive trees in the blessed shade.

Now it’s getting dark. Something bad is happening, I know it. Judas is up to mischief, I think. He looked so small and uncomfortable when Jesus spoke to him at supper- he slunk off looking embarrassed and angry. Perhaps he had forgotten to do some errand. But it seemed to make Jesus sad to watch him go. I’ll ask him about it when I have a moment.

Those words about the bread, and the wine cup, they are ringing on in my head and I don’t know why. I must remember to write them down, they feel important.

You could cut the atmosphere with knife today. The whole city seems on edge, and the mood was nasty out there. Jesus has been speaking strangely again…

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