Dear Friends for December

An article for our church magazine all about the reflective waiting that goes on during Advent and my own personal reflection on the upcoming festivities in the light of my dad’s diagnosis.

Dear Friends

If you ask most children what December is all about they will say Christmas. There are myriad adverts on TV, decorations and lights in every shop and city centre, and schools begin their Christmas activities almost as soon as December appears, giving the impression that the whole month is all about Christmas.  However, most of December is actually spent waiting and preparing for Christmas to come, which for a young child can seem endless.  Add to that, the worry that they haven’t quite reached Santa’s expected standards of behaviour for the year, and December can seem like quite an agonising month of waiting amidst the excitement and soul-searching.

This is also true for Christians – the season of Advent (the four weeks building up to Christmas) is all about waiting and preparing oneself for the arrival of the Messiah – on the one hand, it is a commemoration of the Messiah coming in the form of a newborn baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, while on the other it is the anticipation of the time when He will come again in glory to herald God’s Kingdom on Earth.

While it is difficult to keep in mind in the midst of holiday celebrations, shopping, lights and decorations, and joyful carols, Advent, much like Lent, is intended to be a season of reflection, both personal and for the wider world.  I have begun my reflection early this year as I struggle to come to terms with my Dad’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. I will be honest; I have not been anticipating Christmas so much as dreading it, but then I found a poem that has inspired me and put me back on track, if only for a short while. It is called Four Candles by Aino Makoto, which resonates with the season of Advent, calling to mind the four candles which are lit at this time of year, one for each week of the Advent season. So maybe, if like me, you are struggling with something in your own life and Christmas seems daunting or if you are saddened by the state of the world we live in and are finding hard to look forward with anticipation because God’s kingdom seems so far away, then maybe the words of this poem will bring you some comfort as they have for me:

The Four Candles by Aino Makoto

The Four Candles burned slowly.

Their Ambiance was so soft you could hear them speak…

The First Candle said, “I Am Peace, but these days, nobody wants to keep me lit.”

Then Peace’s flame slowly diminishes and goes out completely.

The Second Candle said, “I Am Faith, but these days, I am no longer indispensable.”

Then, Faith’s flame slowly diminishes and goes out completely.

Sadly The Third Candle Speaks, “I Am Love and I haven’t the strength to stay lit any longer.

People put me aside and don’t understand my importance.

They even forget to love those who are nearest to them.”

Waiting no longer, Love goes out completely.

Suddenly…A child enters the room and sees the three candles no longer burning.

The child begins to cry, “Why are you not burning? You are supposed to stay lit until the end!”

Then The Fourth Candle speaks gently to the little child,
“Don’t be afraid, for I Am Hope, and while I still burn, we can re-light the other candles.”

With Shining Eyes, the child took the Candle Of Hope and lit the other three candles.

Never let the Flame Of Hope go out of your life.

With Hope, no matter how bad things look and are…Peace, Faith and Love can shine brightly in our lives.

 

Vicky Miller

(Lay Reader)

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Dear Friends

This letter was written for the November edition of our church magazine, however I wrote it back on 2nd October, after which I promptly forgot what I had written.

Just over 3 weeks later, we received the devastating news that the treatment that my Dad has been getting for his cancer is not working and he has reached the end of the road as far as options for treatment are concerned.  This did not really surprise me, however the fact that his specialist suggested that the time we have left with him could be as little as six months, was like a sucker punch.  Following the news, I spent a weekend either crying or raging…raging against the world, medicine, but mostly against God.  I felt angry with Him and I really struggled in church on Sunday morning, but then I picked up a magazine and read my own words back to myself, words that seemed almost a little prophetic given the circumstances, and my struggle lessened – it is OK to be angry with God.

 

Dear Friends

November is a month that seems to be all gathered up into acts of remembrance – Armistice Day, All Souls and All Saints – all of which underline how death can also be the bearer of life, and that light is only truly appreciated when the darkness begins to cover us.

Memory is an interesting thing. Think back to some of your earliest memories. Some will be quite vivid, others will not. Memory is not always neat and logical, but it enables us to see beyond the immediate – the memory of a good holiday might cheer us up on a particularly grey and overcast day; memories of friends and loved ones enable us to continue and develop our relationships when we see them again.

As I got to thinking about memory I was reminded of Paul’s letter to the Philippians which is written at a particular dark and difficult moment in his life; he is imprisoned and expecting execution. Yet he describes his state of mind as one of thankfulness, joy and confidence. This is not because of his immediate circumstances, but his capacity to remember. He remembers the care and affection of his friends in Philippi; he remembers the things God has been doing in and through them; he remembers their common purpose of sharing the Gospel; and he remembers that God will be with him no matter what.

Sometimes we prefer not to remember as it is too painful, but memory is a gift to us, it is that part of a loved one or friend that can never be taken from us, our memories of them are safe and can be drawn on as part of the healing process.

As Paul sat, a condemned man he had more than just his memories to sustain him; he had his God. And while his friends could only be with him through the power of memory and recollection, God was sufficiently present for Paul to be able to give thanks to Him, there and then. As he thought of the future and recognised the likelihood of execution, he might easily have argued that he had little to thank God for. But as he trawled through the recesses of his mind, they were full of memories and experiences that gave him great cause to be thankful.

Coming together during this month to remember, and doing so in the presence of God, is a powerful opportunity. For some of us, the pain of loss and parting might be so great that we struggle to believe that we have anything to thank God for. But God has given us the capacity to remember, and He invites us to use those memories to discover that even in our present struggles and pain we can find cause to be thankful. And as we express our thanks to Him, so we begin to discover His presence, giving us the strength and healing that we need.

Remembering can be painful, traumatic, sometimes even tinged with guilt at our own shortcomings. Remembering is not easy, that’s why, perhaps, for generations people have come together in acts of remembrance, supporting and helping one another in the struggle and need. Let us use the memories of the past to find God in the present. Let’s not be afraid to shed the odd tear, or even express our anger and despair to God – he does not demand of us that we come to him in a state of polite composure. But through remembering; sharing our stories; laughing and crying together we will find the strength for each new day’s challenge. Remembering our loved ones might be painful, but forgetting them or allowing others to forget them would be a far greater tragedy. So as we share in the many acts of remembrance during November, let us pray that by God’s grace we might reach that place where, like Paul, we can look back and say “I thank my God, every time I remember you.”

Vicky Miller

Harvest 2017: Just Enough

One of those stories which go round from time to time tells a touching story of a very elderly man saying goodbye to his daughter at an airport.  They both accept that the next time she will come all the way home again will be for his funeral, and as they depart they wish each other “just enough”.  A passer-by overheard this and asked why they used those words. The old man replied that they were the traditional greeting in his family and had been for generations. “When we say ‘I wish you enough,’” he replied, “we are wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.” Then, turning towards the passer-by, the old man shared these words as if he were reciting them from memory:

  • I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how grey the day may appear.
  • I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
  • I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
  • I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
  • I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
  • I wish you enough loss to appreciate all you possess.
  • And I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye.

It’s a bit corny, I know, like all such stories that do the rounds on social media, it may not even be true, but it has a point.  We don’t need to wish each other lavish riches and great fame; all we need wish them is “just enough”.

Conversely, when you come to thank God for all His gifts, you can thank him that he has given you “just enough”. Because, often, at the back of your mind is that nagging wish that God could have given you more. He could have made you richer, prettier, smarter. You may wish you had a house as splendid as the Jones’ next door. You know that you don’t really need all of these things; all you need is “just enough”. In fact, if God had given you more than He has, it might have done you more harm than good, turning you into a spoilt brat, a troubled tycoon, or that rich fool that Jesus describes so accurately in the parable we heard earlier.

Thanking God for the harvest is a tradition which reaches back to the beginning of the agricultural society. But in those days nature was totally unpredictable, and they had no refrigeration to preserve the produce of the good harvests to eat in the leaner times.  When the harvest was in, the first priority was to provide seed for sowing the next year, and food for the whole family until the next harvest-time. That was “just enough” to get by on. Any surplus was sold or traded in the markets to provide money or materials for house repairs, furniture, education, clothing and so on.  These things, though not luxuries, were items you had to forego in the slim years.  We should thank God that our life today is better than theirs was then.

Having said that, there are plenty of people around the world today who live on the same knife-edge of poverty.  Even in this country, there are those who slip through the net of the welfare state, whose only resource in emergencies is a foodbank, if they’re lucky, or a loan shark, if they’re not, dragging them deeper into the spiral of poverty.  For these we should pray that God will bring their income up until it is “just enough”, at least, and ask ourselves if there is any way we could share our surplus with them in a way that would encourage them, rather than demoralise them, maybe by donating to the local foodbank. We have come to believe that essential to a full life are all the latest electronic gadgets, luxury food and clothes, and a shop-until-you-drop mentality, and this makes us greedy, and does us more spiritual harm than their poverty does to those who have less than enough. We must learn to be satisfied with the blessings of God’s house.

Harvest 2016: Thanks-giving not Thanks-getting

Thinking about harvest, I always think of the concluding verse of Psalm 65: The folds shall be full of sheep: the valleys also shall stand so thick with corn that they shall laugh and sing. The sentiments expressed in this Psalm are, of course, appropriate to today’s Harvest rejoicings. It is thought by commentators that the composition of Psalm 65 followed a severe drought that led to famine in the land. Prayers for relief had been answered by God and the barren wilderness had been transformed and restored to green pastures and sprouting fields. The community gathered in the Temple, the place where it was believed that God dwelled on earth, to offer him thanks for their relief from its privations. But the Psalm does more than just say thank you for God’s bounty and munificence in relieving their hunger. Its fine poetic language also demonstrates how the chosen people displayed their understanding of the totality and comprehensiveness of their belief in God, its inner harmony and wholeness. This comprehension included, in their minds, the visible and invisible; the internal and external; and things of past, present and future; all seen and experienced at the same time. The Psalmist envisages that this one particular event, relief from famine, provokes a thanksgiving in the widest possible context, reflecting the full redemptive work of God. In this Psalm, God is the focal point of the poet’s thoughts. His delight in all the blessings of this earthly life, which he makes his starting point, is nothing but an outpouring of joy to his God.

A celebration of the fruits of harvest is one of the oldest forms of man’s offering of thanks to his maker. It is interesting to record that, apart from Christmas Carol services, Harvest Thanksgiving is one of the one most popular services in the church’s calendar. This is true even in the most urban of parishes where the majority of the congregation have never visited a working farm.  Lustily, we sing about ploughing the fields when most of us wouldn’t have the first clue as to how to use a plough. It may be that the idea of saying thank you to God for something tangible is easier and more satisfying than offering gratitude for things that are more vague and nebulous. It may be that the fruits of the harvest, often displayed in great profundity in our churches, give a real, physical sense of making an offering to God. It may be that the knowledge that the vegetables, fruit and flowers will be distributed to nursing homes, foodbanks etc. actively demonstrates a visible perception of charitable giving. Equally, it may be the well-loved hymns, give it an impression of homeliness. There is, of course, after all, an embracing awareness, a deeply ingrained feeling that is rarely if ever analysed, that there is a God who is a bountiful provider of the fruits of the earth and the seas. It still feels right to affirm our unity with nature, and to remember that even in the days of tinned and frozen foods, that we are entirely dependent on the harvest of the land.

If, as I premised, the idea of offering thanks to God for the fruits of the harvest are as old as antiquity, then, by contrast, the modern Harvest Thanksgiving service is relatively new. If it hadn’t been for a Victorian vicar in Cornwall, there probably wouldn’t be harvest thanksgivings in any of our churches. The Revd Robert Hawker, for forty-one years Vicar of Morwenstow on the wild Cornish coast, is said to have initiated the modern Harvest Thanksgiving. Yet, long before this, during the Middle Ages, the church had a form of harvest service. It was called Lammas, a corruption of Loaf Mass. This was held on the first day in August, before the beginning of harvesting had really begun. Each farmer cut one sheaf of corn, and the flour from those sheaves was made into one enormous loaf of bread. Everyone went in procession to their village church and the loaf was offered to God as the first results of the coming harvest. Later, when the crops were all safely gathered in, the farmer would throw a big party for all his workers and their families, celebrated with beer, cider and plenty of food. But these customs gradually died out and today many people are ignorant of Lammas. Yet Lammas is probably the origin of the Harvest Luncheon, or Harvest Supper; events still popular in many places. As the people migrated from the countryside to the newly developing towns of the Industrial Revolution they lost their interest in farms and crops. No longer did they plant and tend and reap and fish – they went to their local stores for their comestibles. Even in the villages the Lammas-tide celebrations went into decline.

Robert Hawker was acutely aware of the life-and-death importance of the harvest to his parishioners and he was convinced that the germination of wheat was a supernatural event. He liked the old customs and, despite criticism from neighbouring clergy who thought him most peculiar, he designed and held a special service in 1843, when everyone was invited to bring their produce as a way of saying thank you to God. Thereafter he urged his parishioners each year to come to church for Harvest Thanksgiving. And so the idea caught on. Along with the service, the traditional lessons, hymns, and fruity decorations, went a Harvest Supper with an abundant supply of food and drink. Inevitably the Vicar sang silly songs to round off the proceedings. So popular was this Harvest service that it became accepted across the whole nation and bred a form of devotee; individuals who, rather like train-spotters, would come from far and wide and do the rounds of country churches during the harvest season. Even today, in many people’s eyes, harvest festival, as it is commonly, if erroneously, called, ranks as one of the church’s important, special days.

But how relevant is this historic act of thanksgiving in the 21st century? You only have to go into a modern supermarket and see the wide variety of food on display – food from every corner of the world. Today few people live or work on farms and fewer fish the seas. Most live in complete ignorance about what actually goes on in agriculture, and, to a lesser extent, horticulture. These people are unaware to say whether, in any year, there’s been a good harvest or a bad one. Even those who live in towns and cities within largely rural areas will read nothing in their local newspapers to tell them whether local farmers have had satisfactory harvests. So, is Harvest Thanksgiving really very meaningful today and why do we continue with this annual service? Living, as we do, on an island that is dependent in so many ways on the harvest of land, forest and sea we should, above all others, appreciate the need to thank God for his abundant providence. But, the true significance is not that we reflect on our various harvests, but that we re-affirm and re-cultivate the Christian virtue of thankfulness. Through the symbolism of Harvest, we remember to give thanks. The purpose of today’s service is not to wallow in the nostalgia of Robert Hawker’s first Harvest Thanksgiving, or even to hark back to a keeping of Lammas-tide, but to give thanks. We must pause in the daily round, the common task: pause and say, ‘Thank you! Thank you for all those good things that have come our way this year.’

Now, thankfulness is an attitude central to the Christian belief. Our first reading from Deuteronomy was part of Moses’ main address to the people of Israel. The occasion was the harvest pilgrimage festival when the worshippers gave thanks for God’s generosity, his gift of land which produced food abundantly, a land, we are told, ‘flowing with milk and honey’. Moses urged the people to be thankful. The great medieval mystic, Meister Eckhardt, said, ‘If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.’ It’s an easy prayer to remember. To say, ‘Thank you’, is simple and straight-forward. But, if the truth be told, it’s a prayer we so often forget.  I have noticed in our own pew sheet, every week the prayer section is full of requests for help and assistance from God, yet very little in the way of thankfulness.

Yet, is it enough simply to feel thankful for our blessings and say ‘thank you’? Well, on one level certainly, it is enough, if that ‘thank you’ comes from the heart. But, on another level it may be just enough, but it’s hardly a complete fulfilment of what thanksgiving is all about. Thanksgiving is both a mental attitude and a physical response; it’s both faith and works. The writer of the Epistle of James said, in effect, ‘Faith without works is dead’ (James 2: 14-17). Some verses in Leviticus note that the ancient Hebrews were told to leave the remnants of their harvest for the poor and the stranger in their midst. The harvest thanksgiving in Israel wasn’t complete if the people gathered up all their crops and kept it all for themselves. Gratitude without sharing was no gratitude at all.

Integrated within this attitude of thankfulness and gratitude was another Jewish principle, that of the Jubilee. The Jubilee was celebrated every fifty years. In that year land was returned to its rightful and original owners, financial debts were remitted and slaves were freed. The people of Israel were told to forgive all debts and obligations of service to one another, and to allow every citizen to reclaim their land and property, free of all liability. The fundamental principle behind this fifty-year anniversary was that land was a sacred possession belonging to God. As such, it was not to be separated from God’s people, to whom it was originally assigned. Imagine what such a practice might do to our real estate markets or to the banking companies that rely so heavily on credit card debt and mortgage repayments. Our materialistic, secular culture elevates ‘getting’ over ‘giving’ to an inordinate degree. When Christmas comes the first thing children, and adults, ask one another is, ‘What did you get?’ No one ever thinks to ask, ‘What did you give?’

If we can remember that we are celebrating thanks-giving, and not thanks-getting; if we can reclaim the attitude and actions expressed in the ancient Hebrew celebrations which rejoiced in the harvest and remembered the needs of the poor and the stranger; if we can recapture the Jubilee sentiment of forgiving one another our accumulated debts, perhaps then, and only then, can we honestly say with Meister Eckhardt that a simple prayer of ‘thank you’, honestly expressed in word and in deed, is enough. In fact, it will be more than enough. Abundant and overflowing with grace our love will be made manifest. So, let us thank God for life; thank God for food; thank God for family and friends; thank God for the opportunity of living our lives in this rich and beautiful land, a land that could be said to be ‘flowing with milk and honey’. Let us thank God for being able to express our gratitude in acts of love, sharing and giving. Only then will we be able to gather in church, stand before God and, like the valleys that stand so thick with corn, and with the Psalmist, laugh, and sing.

One Nation Under One King

Ezekiel 37: 15-end

I really should have known better than to Google Ezekiel! Did you know that he allegedly had encounters with spaceships? Oh yes! Apparently this guy reckons that verse 13 of the very first chapter of the book is an accurate description of extra –terrestrial helicopters: ‘their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were round; and they sparkled like burnished bronze.’ According to St Google he may also have suffered from a rare type of epilepsy called Geschwind syndrome -one of the symptoms being hyper religiosity. Take all that with a pinch of salt if you wish -the fact remains that a simple reading of the text reveals a rather weird bloke -with obsessive compulsive tendencies – who had an extraordinary capacity to see deeper than the surface -to read, deeply what was going on, and what that might mean in terms of the people’s relationship with God. We call people like that prophets. Not specifically telling us about the future, more exposing deep truth. It’s not a great job because there is this human tendency to shoot the messenger. Today’s text begins when Ezekiel has just experienced a vision about dry bones  -fabulatious images – rich, many layered – full of potential for interpretation -then God says: ‘These bones are the whole house of Israel” Dried up, not moving, -well- dead basically. However, the vision ends well. God promises to sort it – breathe the breath of life back into the old, dry bones -but then comes the rub. If Israel wants to live, it needs to become one nation again. Mend the split. These two sticks need to get joined together -one nation under one king. As an analysis of the human condition this is right on the money. Where to start? Well -think of yourself. When you are conflicted internally you can’t perform. You are at risk of depression. The same applies when there is a lack of congruence between what you believe and how you behave. A friend of mine was a senior Heath Service manager and constantly having to justify in public decisions about cuts and the like that she didn’t believe in. She became quiet and withdrawn and in the end she chucked it in for a less well paid job, but one she did believe in.

The same applies to the way a country functions. When you vote for a government which preaches equality and fairness but you experience systems and a class structure that means you never feel there is a level playing field -that lack of unity begins to cause society to fragment and lose self-confidence -and you are along the road to that quintessential expression of depression -anger. You may or may not feel that is what is happening here at the moment. Painfully enough we also need to look at the Church. Not only does the degree of splitting within the church severely limit its efficacy, but, let’s be honest, in the eyes of many folk it simply makes it look foolish and irrelevant. I’m standing here as a woman, preaching the word of God – and still, even after 20 years since the introduction of women as priests, there are some folk – only a few, who find that unacceptable. We now have women bishops – and again a small number of people have left the church because of it. In a church that preaches equality and inclusivity there are sadly still those who treat anyone with a different sexual orientation from theirs as aliens -and unwelcome ones at that. Not only do we behave appallingly, but we are seen as being far more concerned with our own internal splits than with the really big issues of peace and justice.

Ezekiel saw it then and we ought to be able to see it now. A house divided against itself will fall. As with the individual so with the institution -splitting leads to depression. The whole institution is exhausted and defensive. To be frank much of the Church of England is in a mess at the moment. While in other parts of the world the church is growing wonderfully and vigorously, here there is a feeling of having to fan the dying embers. Now if you really want to push the image it’s worth mentioning that Ezekiel is also a prophet in Islam -and the really big story here might be about humanity being divided against itself. One prophet speaking truth to two traditions -the same truth -but to people who are murdering each other in the name of that truth. The hope that Ezekiel holds before the divided Jews is the day when he says: ‘They will be my people and I will be their God.’  He speaks of reconciliation -and what he says is a foretaste of the incarnation -when Christ came to reconcile all thing to himself. This sounds so idealistic and unachievable. – Of course we want reconciliation -but we simply find it too hard. We even sometimes choose death rather than reconciliation. St Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes this vividly – this internal conflict we all live with: He says (and I’m paraphrasing here): ‘I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad but then I do it anyway.…..I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no-one who can do anything for me? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.’ We can easily forget how radical Jesus’ message actually is – doing good to those who hate you, loving your enemies. This isn’t wishy-washy – it’s the one and only hope for humanity which is destroying itself by being divided. It probably starts with the need to forgive yourself -love the part of you that you have labelled your enemy. Jesus didn’t just preach this -he lived and died it. He did not retaliate, or escalate. He forgave the very people who were murdering him. His was a death of reconciliation -and that way is life -is resurrection – is hope -eternal hope. I don’t know if you need to make peace with yourself today. I do know that as a church, mending divisions would bring new life and hope. I suspect that mending divisions in our society is just as necessary – before we can thrive again. In a world where we are all encouraged to stand up for ourselves, fight our corner, never admit you’re wrong or show any weakness, this call for reconciliation is counter-cultural -but there is a collective malaise and depression around which threatens to overwhelm us. By choosing to mend what is divided, amazingly, and sometimes life-threateningly difficult though it may be -by choosing that way you are choosing the way of Christ, the way of hope and the way of life.

Amen.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I recently preached a sermon about finding God in the place that we are, in whatever situation you find yourself, and for that sermon I used part of the poem Bloom where You Are Planted but added some extra stanzas at the end:

Bloom Where You Are Planted

“Bloom where you are planted”,
Shine where you are sent,
Know that God has used you here,
Just the way He meant.

Love where you are living,
Serve where it’s His will,
Know that God has plans for you,
That only He can fill.

Grow where you are going,
Weep when you’re in pain,
Know that God restores your soul,
Makes you whole again.

Pray when you are breathing,
Laugh when you exhale,
Know that God is near you,
Never will He fail.

“Bloom where you are planted!”
Though it be dark or bright,
Some blossoms give their fragrance best,
In the darkest hours of night.

“Bloom where you are planted!”
Be strong, be not afraid.
The winds may blow and sun may beat,
And your spirit droop and fade

But “Bloom where you are planted!”
You will withstand the strain.
God’s life within will guarantee,
That His plants will remain.

“Sitting silently, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows.”

Dear Friends

Recently, my husband, Paul, and I spent a week on the beautiful island of Sark. The island itself is just over, there are no motorised vehicles allowed and no streetlights, earning it the status of the world’s first dark sky island. The way of life is totally alien to most people’s normal routines – nobody locks their doors, everyone travels by bike or on foot, and time is measured by the sound of the church bells and the position of the sun. The pace of life is considerably slower than the normal hectic pace of the average person’s daily life, so much so, we found it took us a couple of days to settle in to island life and be able to appreciate the wonder of the place.

We spent our week hiking and cycling around the island; exploring the numerous coastal paths, bays and caves. It felt like every time we turned a corner there was another breath-taking view to enjoy, from a natural rock pool large enough to swim in which was only accessible by clambering over huge rocks at low tide, to the majesty of the night sky filled with stars and meteors and, even, the Milky Way. Even just sitting outside our rented apartment, eating lobster fresh from the sea with just the sound of the bees buzzing and the gulls screeching, afforded us a unique opportunity to really appreciate the wonders of the natural world that God created.

During our week, I truly felt closer to God than at almost any other time in my life.  Through those rugged cliff paths and clear, crystal waters, I heard a calling to embrace life and all the challenges that God places before me.  Perhaps you have had a similar experience of God speaking to you through nature. Perhaps you have stood next to a mountain range and felt awe at God’s grandeur, or sat by an ocean basking in God’s peace and felt it enter your spirit.  For me, this was a daily occurrence on the island of Sark, and I was reminded of an inscription that can be found on a plaque on another island, Iona, it reads:

“Sitting silently, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows.”

It is a reminder that we should all take the time in our busy lives to lay aside our preoccupations and allow ourselves to reconnect with God; to remember to appreciate the beauty and majesty all around us. “In returning and rest you shall be saved,” says God through Isaiah, “In quietness and trust shall be your strength.” There is a divine imperative to down tools and just sit a while.

The Bible is full of stories of people meeting with God powerfully in natural surroundings. I think of Moses and his burning bush in the wilderness, Elijah enduring earthquake and fire on a mountain top and finally hearing God in a gentle whisper of wind, and Jesus going up on a mountain to pray.

We are not all fortunate enough to live somewhere like Sark where God is easy to find in every rocky path, sea view, and starry sky, however, we can all take time to go outside and enjoy what we can – the beautiful autumn colours, the dawn chorus, unexpected warm days. However and wherever you have the chance to get out into the natural world I hope you’ll take it and soak in the beauty of God’s creation. Spend a day away from your normal surroundings and travel to the beach or the mountains or just a field nearby. Maybe it’s enough to put some fresh flowers on the table or nurture a new houseplant. Either way, you’re invited to discover and experience God in a new way. I hope you will accept!

The Reluctant Blogger