A good reflection? Look, See, Pray

Reflections in the Fjord at Olden, Norway

Forty eight years. Where have they gone? If you’re doing the maths, that’s 1973. 29th April to be precise- the day I was baptised as a follower of Jesus Christ. 48 years today.

My Dad conducted the ceremony, three baptisms that evening: baptism by full immersion as believers and disciples. All three of us were baptised at our own request because we had received the grace of God and responded in faith & trust. Our public testimony marked us out as people who had encountered the love of God and who now intended to follow Him as obediently and sincerely as we could, with the help of the Holy Spirit working in us.

How much I have learnt. How much have I succeeded? Good question!

I hope that my faith in Christ has been clearly reflected throughout my life. Have I been perfect? Far from it. But I have learnt that forgiveness is given when needed, and that purpose has also been a consequence of my faith.

The proverb written on the photo was taken on a very still early morning, approaching the mooring at Olden in the Norwegian fjords. The reflection had a gorgeous clarity, a detailed copy of the sleeping village. Our ship was moving so slowly we hardly disturbed the surface. My hope is that the reflection I have left in the passing years has had that same clarity: people watching my life, hearing my words, judging my actions and attitudes OUGHT to be able to discern a true picture of what Christian living is about.

Storms and squalls have stirred up the waters at times. Interacting with other people isn’t always calm and straightforward. But I’ve been grateful for companions on the journey, including those who have knocked off my rough edges and/or helped me learn lessons I had hoped to avoid! My apologies and regrets to those who may not be glad we met. I wish I could have been better able to navigate some of those troubled seas.

A reflection is never PERFECT. Even in a quality mirror, there will be slight distortions and some of the light is reflected away. Sadly there are times when my reflection of Jesus has been distorted or incomplete, and some of the Light of the World has bounced off my imperfections. I hope you will forgive my shortcomings.

But I REALLY, REALLY hope that my representing of Jesus has been good enough to help others see Him more clearly. As my namesake, St Richard of Chichester, prayed:

Thanks be to you, my Lord, Jesus Christ,

For all the benefits that you have given me;
For all the pains and insults you have borne for me.

O, most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know you more clearly;
Love you more dearly;
And follow you more nearly,

Day by day.

Richard of Wyche, also known as Richard of Chichester, was born at Wyche (Droitwich), Worcestershire, England. He was orphaned when he was quite young. He served as Bishop of Chichester for the last years of his life and this “Prayer of Gratitude” is his memorial.

It’s so ANNOYING!!!

It’s so frustrating. I’d even go so far as to say ANNOYING. I want to be cross. Grrrr…
 
I am quite a peaceable bloke. I don’t often want to kick things (or people) but I could make an exception in this case. Am I allowed? Aren’t I supposed to be nice? Even meek?
 
Hang on. Peaceful waterfall photograph… Steaming stroppy writer. What’s going on?Norway25th_0258cropQ
 
I am trying to get one of the big energy suppliers to do the decent thing (well, I do believe in miracles!). It’s proving difficult. I’m glad it’s not my supplier: but they really are the limit. For the umpteenth time I have been writing a friendly… er, no, a polite letter that is expressing frustration and anger at the way the company are trying to bully a customer and avoid responsibility for the company’s own failings. I hope this one works. Two pages of A4, typed politely and logically and OBSTINATELY and making some forceful points to a Jobsworth. Next letter goes to the Managing Director and Ombudsman.
 
The waterfall reminds me of the power of persistence. Water carves through the rock by refusing to stop flowing. It doesn’t give up.
 
It’s also calming. Remembering the day, standing and watching the beautiful curtain of white brushing across the surface of the cliff.
 
It reminds me of God’s patience too. His love has been gradually wearing down my resistance over the last fifty years- job not done yet, but this boulder is getting shaped by the power of love.
 
Why post this on a page about prayer? Because too often we Christians don’t know what to do with our anger, frustration and angst. What we should do is include it in our communion with Christ, as part of our prayer. To be quite honest I don’t feel like being particularly holy. I am raging at an injustice and the attempt to cover it up. But if I don’t express it in my praying, the turmoil of my mind will infect my spirit with unease, and my “prayer” would be a sham. Hey, Lord, I’m worked up about this!
 
I know I am in good company. Many of the great men and women in the Bible get hacked off and stroppy, and their prayers get real. God doesn’t smack then down for insolence or impiety.
 
Perhaps the value of the prayer is that it may change ME. No way can I ask God to strike down the offenders! Someone important said “LOVE your enemies.” I suppose my prayer is about needing strength to persist in fighting injustice… but not to become bitter or unjust myself. And not to yield to the temptation to kick some butt.
 
If only prayer was a simple formula of words. The One who offers Living Water wants to purify my heart, cleanse me of my annoyance, and teach me forgiveness. My heart is pretty hardened in this instance. Lord, please persist in wearing me down so I can forgive those who trespass against me and my “client” … and learn how to be justly, righteously, passionate about even the hardest boulders in life’s path. Teach me patience and persistence.
 
Persist. Living Water, flow through me. Amen.

Seeing with the eyes of the heart

Changes beget changes.

I didn’t expect to be doing this. My calling was to be a local church pastor.  You may find that odd- do normal people still do stuff like that? (Depends on how you define normal.)  Life changed in unforeseen ways. That’s why I now have the time to write- I was moving too fast before.

Thirty years in different communities, discovering how interesting people can be and what surprising things they have done; discovering more of my own centre, and the diverting experiences that made life so varied. Being a pastor isn’t all about Sundays. Much of my time has been spent on encouraging and managing change in others. Change for others also means change for me.

I have been learning how to see better. When I rushed busily around, I only skimmed the surface- the obvious things. Having been forced to slow down, I am discovering the more I look the more I see.  The more I see, the more I pray. The more I pray, the more I know about myself, about God, and what makes sense.

Look at the photo. An early morning in a misty Norwegian fjord. At first glance, it was a dull and disappointing day. Then I began to look harder- I had the time, nowhere else to be.  The perfect reflection on the mirror-like water, subtle changes of the colours in the soft light,  and the sense of amazing peace. No-one else was up. Work hadn’t started for most of us, and there was no traffic noise. It was almost silent.

Quietness is an invitation to see more deeply.  Time spent “looking” opens the eyes of the heart- and that opens the spirit to the revelation of love and grace that is God.

My hope is that pictures can be worth a thousand words: and with a few chosen words we can explore together so we see, think, and feel more deeply. No longer blinded by busyness… may God open the eyes of my heart.

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