We are living through a massive period of change, globally, and probably within our own lives, as a consequence of the pandenic.
I took this photograph last evening; the view from the bottom of our garden. The tide was rolling in, relentlessly; imperceptively erodong the dunes and the rocks, and shaping a new landscape, slowly but surely.
This photograph of ripening barley was taken last Friday on a walk around Hauxley Nature Reserve. In these differnt days, we had to pre-book a slot of two hours, in order to regulate visitor numbers. It was so good to be back in our favourite place and the field of ripening barley outside the bounds of the reserve was captivating and I have to say humbling. Hence the title of today’s blog.
Seeds, growth, ripening, harvesting, all themes throughout the Bible. Signs that weave the spiritual world with our own lives. If I reflect on my life I see all of these elements I’ve just listed. The sense of growing awareness in ones heart and soul and mind, of something real, but always a bit out of reach, for the moment. The seed growing in the darkness, then the recognisable shoot breaking into vision and reaching for light/illumination/ and growth. The flowering, pollination, seeds developing, leading to new life and possibilities….I could carry on….but I won’t! A mirror of our lives, held up for us to reflect upon for ourselves.
Being at the Reserve after so long was humbling. Helen and I reflected upon the vibrancy of the created world; juxtaposed with all that we are and continue to be travelling through, in our individual journies.
As you read this musing, you will react in your own way, depending on what is happening on your own journey. I pray that you will know that peace which passes all understanding, and be humbled by the richness of not just the natural world, but by the complexity of your own world. A place in which God sows metaphorical seeds, through the breath of the Holy Spirit. Humbling indeed, and exciting!
For me, it is sometimes that niggling thought that won’t go away, or a way of seeing that takes me by suprise. The possibilities are endless and inexhaustible.
Let humility take root,, and hang on for the ride of a lifetime!
Or should the title be, seeing IS believing?! A long and tortuous debate could ensue at this point.
But it’s Monday morning and I don’t feel as though my head is full of profundity! So I’ll just go with what flows, as I usually do!! I had a day’s break from blogging yesterday, mainly just to rest my thinking, but also because we were doing two services of worship in the morning. Life beginning to return back to normal? I’m not certain.
Hence the title for today’s blog and the photograph; an eroded log, probably oak, which produced acorns 10,000 years ago in a forest and land mass which connected Britain to Europe. Seeing and believing; look at the log. It looks like a mythical beast with its prey clamped in its jaw and a rather sinister eye gazing at the onlooker! That’s my interpretation anyawy, but you will have a different interpretation and respone.
Seeing dosen’t always lead us to believing. Different people look at evidence in widely different ways. This for me, is the joy of faith. We each bring something to offer to the whole. Our interpretation and response to the days through which we pass is unique and as valid as anyone elses. This is both the challenge and joy of faith.
The understanding of the other; the give and take of our seeing in relation to others. The acceptance of difference and perspective. I could create a whole story about the mythical monster I see in the photograph, and it would be a valid interpretation, just as yours is.
We each bring our own understanding. That is the richness of human existence. Sometimes the seeing and believing, not the seeing is believing, is more challenging..unless I want to believe the existence of the mythical monster of the shoeline!!!
Seeing and believing tests our faith in the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists. But it’s worth the journey and the road!
Allow yourself to be suprised! (Perhaps the start of the blog for tomorrow?)
A moment in time, a few months ago. Held in memory as time has moved on. Captured by the pressing of a shutter in the blink of an eye.
We each inhabit our own moments in time. Passing moments in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes captured and held consciously or unconsciously; ready to be activated!
We sometimes just need to give ourselves permission to rest in those captured moments, projected onto our own ‘inner screen’. Left to be considered and re-interpreted. The prompting of the Holy Spirit; the one who reminds and cajoles and whispers.
The words of the prophet Isaiah project into my consciousness as I write;’ The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever.‘ (Isaiah 40, verse 8)
I have wobbly days, when nothing seems to make sense, and I seem to be adrift. But these words, despite their age (1700 years old!) seem to capture something. Not a static, ‘you will do this and won’t do that’, but a dynamic movement of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts, souls and minds.
Think on these words of Isaiah, allow them to speak into your heart and mind. Be captured!
Helpfully there is a wooden sign identifying this stall at the Summer Fair at St John’s Alnmouth last year!! For those of you I’ve never met, this is a photograph of yours truly enjoying a relaxing time being pelted with wet sponges!!
How things have changed simce then. In some ways the last few months have perhaps left us battered and bruised. I don’t want to write lots of words this morning, just to offer a prayer, thanking God for our uniqueness.
Still small voice, gentle breeze, noise and clamour,
we dare to offer our ourselves,
into the boundless love of the Creator.
The sustainer of all that is.
Our lives and days and minutes and seconds.
Nothing lost or wasted. Thank you.
For all we areand might be.
Living in the moment of your grace
as you call us to your side.
In the helpless time and the uncertain time,
enliven our spirits and raise our vision
to see the wider canvas;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, woven into the fabric of our lives.
The sculpture above is installed outside Notting Hill Methodist Church. I’m sure you will agree that it is a very evocative.
After my musing on grace yesterday, I have found myself considering the word Lament. The two seem to go hand in hand. The book of Lamentations in the Old Testament give us a glimpse of grace and lamentation. The author bemoans his fate and the fate of the people of Israel throughout his writing; but these moments are interspersed with hope and grace.
After a period of negativity in Chapter 3, we read these words (verses 22-24);
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The grace of God bursting in during moments of despair. There is almost that sense that grace and lament go together. We cannot have one without the other.
This morning I awoke with much on my mind and a degree of negativity. I lamented all that is happeneing throughout the world, and sank into helplessness. Eventually, Helen challenged me and helped me change my perspective. Leading to this musing on Lament.
The power of the figure above, speaks volumes about the sculpter and their skill and observation. Take a moment to reflect on the figure for yourself and try and weave in the words from Lamentations…..weeping not to bemoan one’s fate, but because of the deep love of God, which never falters.
We’ve been thinking about the ‘place of abundance’. I hope you have been able to try and focus on where that might be for you. Sometimes I’ve sensed that I might have found it and then being an elusive thing, it moves. Perhaps that is how it has to be!
The word grace has been lingering around my consciousness, and I am aware that I’ve become a bit obsessional with it! You might well ask what has it got to do with the photograph?
The church is dedicated to St James, and can be found in the little village of Manorbier in South Wales. It stands on a small hillock on one side of the valley, which runs between the church and the castle on the other side, from where I took the photograph. A church has been on this site for over 1000 years and it has witnessed much. It is a graceful place. A little place of abundance, despite all it has witnessed. I first saw it in 1967 when I came here on a family holiday. I’m overwhelmed by the sense that in those intervening years I have been held by grace; God’s grace, freely given and offered.
I hear only these words from the hymn, Amazing Grace…..‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace shall lead me home…’. John Newton, who wrote it, was a witness to grace in bucket loads. He worked, shamefully, on slave ships; became a slave himself, then eventually became a Captain of a slave ship. He then underwent a profound religious conversion, renouncing slavery and becoming a Minister and a tenacious abolishinist.
Grace…..,,,,’ I cannot lose anything, in this place of abundance I have found.’
The title for today’s blog is where we left off on Saturday. In fact some words from St Catherine of Sienna, penned in the 14th century; ‘I cannot lose anything in this place of abundance I have found.’ We each of us will react to these words in different ways and perhaps the reaction will change throughout our day, depending on our mood or circumstances.
St Catherine lived through some difficult and disturbing times, but was a tenacious and fiesty woman who had a very quirky take on life! We are living through similar times, when old certainties perhaps don’t work, and we feel a little ‘cast adrift’; hence my use of the photograph of Coquet Island and the rising sun.The beginning of a new day, but with the backdrop of our personal worries and to be frank, fears.
The light and darkness intertwined in the photograph of the porch at Goodmanham Church, from last Friday’s and Saturday’s blog…looking out from darkness into light.
It’s difficuly to feel ‘anchored’ sometimes in times like these. But St Catherine’s words somehow give me a sense of something found, not lost. That seems to me like something I need,…or indeed we need.
To identify St Catherine’s ‘place of abundance’ is impossible, but not necessary anyway! The clear call of these words is to encourage us to find our own ‘abundant place’. This may be your own special physical place, or piece of music, words, art work…the list is endless. But it is/will be unique to you, and may change each day, or each moment! Ultimately it is a moment in which we are captured and held by the love of God, which is visceral and poured out for us; abundantly.
There is something within me that dares not hope that this is true. It was OK for St Catherine and maybe others, but me? The still small voice whispers…’even for you’. No one is excluded or not forgiven; the place of abundance, for all, not just a few.
In these days of uncertainty, the abundant love of God cannot be lost, but it can be missed.
May you have the courage to find your own place of abundance.
Yesterday, we left off by ‘looking out’ from the door of the ancient church at Goodmanham. It seems to me to be something of a parable for the situation the world finds itself in, during these days of the pandemic.
The whole moment distills itself down to two words; faith and hope It is easy to get lost in the labyrinth of fear, which can so easily stalk our waking, and indeed resting life. Hundreds of thousands of people have walked across the threshold illuminated in the photograph; both into and out of the sacred space within the building. Carrying within themselves the whole gamut of expectation and fear and hope.
We struggle to make sense of all that occurs. Endless chatter and experts giving opinions. Politicians wondering and hoping and fearing…just like each of us.
I’m using the photograph as the point of focus for my reflection and thinking daily..it’s almost inexhaustible in it’s offering! Hope and fear still stalk our own lives, but in a more concentrated form at the moment. We need to acknowledge both and try hold them in some sort of creative tension, without allowing the fear to paralyse us.
I’ve had something in my head recently which I can’t get rid of. I offer it to you now, It is attributed to St Catherine of Sienna, a mystic who lived in the 14th Century. She wrote’ ‘I cannot lose anything in this place of abundance I have found.’ She spoke of the love of God.
I leave you with it, and after a break tomorrow (Sunday), I will pick up with these words of St Catherine in my next blog.