The Road

So much time, to think, ponder, wonder, worry, try to make sense of all that unfolds in our world and planet. Moments to remember what has passed in our lives; hopes, fears, longings, missed opportunities, and looking ahead, if we dare, to what might be.

Our vision of our lives in this place in which we find ourselves, perhaps feels like being adrift in a rudderless boat, at the mercy of things we cannot control. There are lots of things that we share with others, whether they or we are able to verbalise what lies in our hearts.

We’re in the Easter season still; the timing of the pandemic resonates with the uncertainty of Jesus’ disciples after his crucifixion. They were lost, rudderless, bereaved, seemingly let down by the one they trusted. If we are honest, we might feel some of this in the moment we are living through, but also for the times of difficulty in the past when we felt alone.

Just before the scenario of our gospel reading, the disciples were struggling and locked away. It was the women who went to the tomb and were met with the presence of two angels and an empty tomb. Just try and process that one! To add to the shock, no body, plus angels verbalising the simple phrase, ‘He is not here, He is risen.’ Let that resound in your heart and soul, today.

Then we move to our reading and we are even given the name of one of the two disciples walking away from Jerusalem to Emmaus: Cleopas. Down hearted, let down. The risen Jesus catches up with them and opens the conversation with a kind of, ‘What’s up guys?!’ They respond with a simple, ‘Are you kidding?!’ They chatter away on a stream of consciousness; stressed and fearful. Even as Jesus tells them more, they can’t hear or see what is in front of them!

They do the right things, but miss the point, even inviting Jesus to stay with them and eat, when they reach Emmaus. During the meal, he very simply, took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, the penny dropped and simply Jesus moved on, out of their physical presence.

How easy it is to miss Jesus in our lives. Worry, fear, distraction, complexity, self pity,…we can each make our own list! But the witness of this account in the Gospel of Luke, is that Jesus Christ is only a breath away. We simply need to be ‘tuned in’. It is very easy, I agree, to get lost in self pity and anxiety and our own limited vision.

But we need to stop, ‘have a moment’ and sense that the Risen Lord of the Gospel stories is with us in the events of each day, as he was with the two disciples walking along a dusty road, carrying uncertainty in their hearts.

The Risen Lord, bless you and keep you and accompany you on your road and life journey.

Humour

Need I say any more?! Photograph taken on our daily walk. What is going through the bird’s mind?

How do we see things; ourselves, the times we are going through. God in all this.

A prayer;

Lord we are seeking, but not always finding.
Moving, but not catching up.   
Questioning, but silence reigns.
Lost, but not being found.
Listening for your still small voice,
but hearing silence.
The bird looks...perhaps she has found;
in ways that we miss.
Give us your grace,
which knows no bounds.
Amen

The Lord bless you and keep you in each moment of each day

Blue sky thinking

I guess that’s about it! If I may share something…where does all this thinking of mine lead? I was heading for a no blog day. Then had a look at some photographs I took on a lunchtime walk with Helen a couple of hours ago.

The phrase, ‘blue sky thinking’ popped into my mind. It will now never leave me alone for hours! I found a snappy definition; ‘Creative ideas free from practical constraints’! We all think about lots of things at a time like this, which we find ourselves living through and trying to make sense of, or adapt to. Simple answers there are none, and even when we think we find them, they end up disappointing or lacking coherence.

Perhaps now isn’t the time for answers I hear my inner voice proclaim! But surely this is the moment…oh dear. Being a person of faith and a priest backs me into a metphorical corner, where answers are demanded. But I have no knock down answers, that would be presumptuous. I’m not lost, just perplexed. My experience tells me that this will take time; like the cycle of the seasons, the forming and development of clouds. I’m looking to the Creator for help with creative ideas held within practical constraints and thinking. Goodness me, that’s some ask!!

And here’s a bit of an answer from the moment Jesus shared his final meal with his friends. As he looked at this group of no doubt very frightened people he says these profound words, which I leave with you; ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…’

Crossing Point

I’m not immediately sure why I’ve chosen this photograph. It was taken last summer whilst we were visiting friends in North Wales. But here it is.

There are lots of elements in the scene; light, shade, moving water; fallen tree. If we give ourselves a space, we will experience our own interpretation. Just try it for yourself, it may just be a feeling or a word or a sense. Whatever pops into your head, hold it for a moment; write it down.

I have to say, I’m pretty bad at doing this, so there’s my confession! But persevere, if only for the sake of this blog! As I look at this scene again it reassures me. Nothing big, just some words from Jeremiah in the Old Testament…’Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…He/She is like a tree planted by water, that does not fear when heat comes.’ Profound. Even the dead tree becomes a bridge…..a sense of hope and something beyond this moment

I want to end here because too many words can get in the way. Give yourself a space sometime today to reflect on the photgraph.

Something Understood?

Forgive the lack of a post today…but here’s something late on! My best friend has just taken up icon painting and very generously gave me this icon of St Basil….of whom more tomorrow!

I placed a statue of Buddha in fromt of St Basil, as a reminder of the diverse and very precious world we are part of. I had a Buddhist colleague working within the chaplaincy team in HMP Durham. Brother Finan is a very special person and we had many conversations about faith.

Simply, I thank God for you, for all, for always

Doubt and faith

I’m getting into some kind of pattern in the writing of this daily blog. Patterns are not really my thing, but to be frank if I don’t ‘patternise’ (sorry) my thinking, this would never happen.

The pattern for the moment (subject to change) is that I’ll look back through photograph albums and then choose one that resonates and allows me to hang thoughs upon it.

Waves; a statement of the obvious! The photograph was taken in February this year, just before the world changed. I have never thought of waves as having a prophetic element, but perhaps this needs a re-think. My memory of the moment I took this photograph is one of overwhelming power and relentlessness; but not necessarily in a forboding way. I think I just stood and watched for some time, before I took the shot. Anyway, that’s something of the back story.

But why the heading; ‘Doubt or Faith’? Hazzarding a guess, I think we all live each moment in either one state or another. Perhaps holding both in tension at the same time. I remember having a conversation with my line -manager in the first prison I worked in. He was an avowed atheist, and we used to have occasional moments of ‘sparring’ as he called our exchanges. At one point we came to a pause and he looked at me and said…`Barrie, there’s something about you people that makes me wonder!’ We laughed and sparred a little more. I was always honest with him about doubt and faith and how we needed to hold them in tension, Sometimes there were no answers, just living with tension.

I’ll come to the point. For me there is no faith without doubt, and that is being tested in these moments in which we live. There are times when one reaches an impasse and the feeling is one that I can only imagine is like being like a rope held in tension in a tug of war match. The tension is where we can find stability in a strange way. The witness of life is that God reaches us in the most of unlikely of ways or places. Doubt is not a negative but a place on the road to faith. It’s not a steady state of bliss I’m looking for, it is the still point, which may be fleeting, but which speaks of something deeper than I know or normally access.

As always thank you taking a moment to read this blog.

Self giving

I wanted to start my reflection with this image I took yesterday. Nothing really deep and meaningful to say about it; I’ll just let it speak for itself.

Self giving is around us and within us all on one level or another. Acts of kindness from others to us, and vice versa. In these moments in which we live it is very easy to become overwhelmed by all that is unfolding; some of us are naturally optimistic, others not so much. I guess most of us are somewhere inbetween.

What has spoken to me in these past days is the strength of the human spirit in the midst of fear and worry. Those who put themselves on the line for others, or reach out to others in simple acts of kindness. The tenaciousness of the human spirit, as exemplified in the person of Captain Tom, as he walks to raise funds for the NHS. But we all have something within us that whispers and prompts us. I want to name that whispering and prompting voice as God’s Holy Spirit.

In these days of uncertainty, we naturally reach out for answers; a seeking for meaning, and often we sense nothing; it is as if God is silent. Perhaps in odd moments we dare risk the thought that God might not care, or is helpless. I’ve often counselled people that it is alright to shout (outwardly or inwardly!) at God, in moments of despair of uncertainty. Believe me, I’ve done some myself. Often the response seems to be silence, but then in that moment, a word or phrase or sense or feeling enters our consciousness.

You might rightly question whether I have taken leave of my senses. But think about who and how God is for you. I spend time worrying; about the past, present and future. God says; ‘Take the moment, not the fear. Live every moment in that moment;’ and by some miracle, you will hear, perhaps imperceptively, the voice of the one who sent his only Son into our existence, to experience, life, death and resurrection…the self-giving that heads this reflection.

Light

Just as I began to write, Helen drew my attention to a very large cargo ship on the horizon; the play of light on the water was captivating as it moved gently across my field of view. Soon it will be lost to sight.

All this got me thinking about what to say this morning. To be perfectly frank, I’m not certain how this musing is going to turn out! I’ve had in my mind the image of ‘The Light of the World’, by William Holman Hunt, for some days…..

As if by magic…here it is! How clever I am! The original of this painting hangs in the side chapel of the glorious chapel of Keble College, Oxford. I came to faith in my early days at Keble and Holman Hunt’s painting captivated me then, and still does today. Do take a moment to reflect upon it for yourself.

There is an elegant simplicity to what Hunt captured, but that very simplicty draws the eye into the heart of the scene. Simply, the risen Jesus Christ knocking on a door and waiting for a response. Note there is no handle on the outside; the response to the knock relies solely on whoever hears. You, I……anyone. The handle is in the control of the one on the other side.

There is no coercion. But hear these words of Jesus from the Book of Revelation…’Behold, I stand at the door and knock…’, and from the gospel of John, Jesus again..’I am the light of the world…whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.’

I don’t need to say any more. I simply thank William Holman Hunt. I thank God for you as you read these words in this difficult time.

Time

Thank you for taking time to read what follows. My apologies for the delay in composing another post, but the muse had somewhat deserted me, until I took a walk, yesterday, along the sea shore near my home.

The photograph was taken as the ebb tide revealed what remains of the stump of a tree; around 7,000 years old. This ancient forest is being eroded very quickly as sea levels rise. Incredibly, the footprints of adults and children who lived during this period, have been found imprinted in the ancient forest floor.

They were human, like us. They had hopes, fears, dreams and their own undetstanding of their world and their place in it. As an avid fan of Time Team, I remember well the excavation of a burial of cremated remains placed in a clay beaker, which was eroding from the cliffs at Hauxley. What religious rituals they developed are lost to us, but they clearly reverenced their dead and ritualised their passing.

I ask myself the question, what actually is the difference between them and us? In the middle of the uncertainty of our present days, we question and try to make sense. We fear, we worry, we look for certainty and a framework of understanding. Often, I feel myself standing in a void of silence.

Just at this moment, as I was working out what I wanted to say next, up popped some words from Psalm 46, verse 10; ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ A very simple phrase, but profound in its reach. How you understand those words are unique to you, and I am glad about that! Because you are unique, as those were who lived 7000 years ago on the Northumberalnd coast. We have a connection!

Take time each day, just to reflect on those words of the Psalmist. Have a moment of stillness, even in the press of thoughts! If you’re not convinced, remember the words of the closing verse of the hymn, ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.’; …’Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire, O still small voice of calm….’

May the blessings of the still small voice of calm be with you and with those who you love and remember, now and every moment of the days ahead.

The Day After

Lord, it’s the day after Easter Day,

And I’m lost.

Waiting, expecting, perhaps longing

For something to happen; break in to my consciousness and give me faith or something, to connect me…to you….Risen from the dead.

I’m outside of my comfort zone in these Coronavirus days and making sense is mind blowing. Praying, hoping, bearing, holding…silence…unnerving and unerring.

Lord Jesus ….leaving the disciples for a week after showing up on Easter Sunday; Thomas missed the show and was left to wait; angered, adrift, let down. I identify with him; and the waiting is unbearable.

I don’t always know what I want; unerring certainty, some kind of proof, a still small voice, a shivery spine, an overwhelming vision. I’m human, God made, complex, but longing for simplicity.

In this aftershock of resurrection I only wish to hear something from you; not even a call…something far deeper, to connect me with you, if it’s not too much trouble. Thanks in anticipation.