The weather forecast said rain…..

But it was wrong!

This morning, the skies looked overcast and grey, and the weather forecast said it would rain. It didn’t look like a day for going out. However, I really felt like some fresh air, so putting on a big rainproof coat and boots, I ventured out, expecting the worst.

The thing was, as I started up a modest hill, all of a sudden the sun started to come out from between the clouds. The colours of the landscape around looked as if they were on fire, with yellows and oranges. And the deep indigo sky reflected in the water, and everything was gorgeous. It was such a clear and awesome view, made the more precious by being completely unexpected. It was a gift!

How often are we put off from doing something, because we are advised it is not a good idea, or it will be too hard, or it is just not possible. However listening to the negativity or advice of others is not always a good idea. It is worth listening to people’s insights, but we always need to ask the Holy spirit to guide us, and help us discern what to do. Sometimes it is worth venturing out, even when it looks like it might rain! There might be amazing experiences that we will miss if we stay in.

There is a weariness and cynicism around in the world, that can weigh us down, and make us question if it is worth bothering. But when we look to Jesus’ example, he persevered and kept on loving, even when he faced misunderstanding, opposition and even death. Through the cross, Love overcame all things.

I believe that it is important to keep venturing out, even when we do not know what we might face. In Romans 5, Paul writes about how suffering produces patient endurance, which brings character and hope. Even when things go wrong, God can help us learn things which might help another soul.

Galatians 6: 9 is also a timely reminder ‘ let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the right time, we will reap, if we do not give in.” A song from JJ Heller ‘Don’t give up too soon’ is a gentle reminder of this theme, and worth listening to.

There might be grey days, when we need to stay in and rest. There are days to go forward however, and to keep going, and not give up. For who knows what we will find, if we just keep taking the next step.

Eternal Father, You are the Creator of all things, and just being in Your Creation is such a blessing and inspiration, in all weathers. Lord Jesus, I confess sometimes I am easily put off, or discouraged from a new venture or project, because I am scared of all that might go wrong. Yet You set your face to Jerusalem, even though you faced opposition, as it was the only way to fulfil your purpose. Holy spirit, help us all to discern what to do, and when. Help us not give up too soon, but through prayer and encouragement, to persevere on our journey, Amen.

Starfish bring us hope!

God speaks to us every day!

Sometimes I question what my purpose is. I wonder if God can really use me, I am so flawed and feel so small. Can God ever use me to make any kind of difference?

Beaches are a place which encourage me to ponder and to pray. I wrestle with my dreams, and the difference between them and the reality of my situation. Sometimes I despair, because I want to help others know the reality of God’s love in Christ, but I make mistakes, say the wrong thing, and then pray for God to remake me, so I am more loving, thoughtful, considerate. I have such along way to go, as I feel a bit worn down by the experiences I have had in life.

I had the privilege of walking on Luskentyre beach on Harris this month, and when all this heavy stuff was going on in my soul, I saw this gorgeous star fish. And I remembered the star fish story. The synopsis is that some one was throwing stranded star fish into the water, and some one said why do that, there are so many on the beach. You won’t be able to help them all. And the person throwing them I to the water said ‘ it will make a difference for this one.’

We have dreams of making a difference in this world, inspiring change, supporting people on tough days. But the reality is on many days, we are grumpy and on hold, waiting to get through to an energy company, or frustrated that no one in the family seems to be able to pick their clothes up of the floor. There are so many frustrations and distractions each day.

However, God spoke to me through that starfish. If you help just one person, then that is enough. I can stop worrying about the things I can’t do, and just be thankful for small things I can do. Mother Theresa said ” we can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

In Matthew 25, Jesus famously talks about how just to give food to the hungry, or to give a thirsty person a drink, to show a stranger hospitality, to clothe the naked, or to visit some one in prison, makes a difference. ( verses 31-46).

Even just doing what might seem like an insignificant action, can cause a positive ripple effect for others. So we persevere in faith.

Gracious God, You encourage us and give us hope, when we question our purpose, and what our life is about. You remind us that even faith the grain of a size of a mustard seed can make a difference. Lord Jesus, please take our offerings, however flawed they are, and use them for Your glory. Thankyou that every starfish matters, every act of kindness and grace brings your kingdom closer. Holy spirit liberate us from worry about what we haven’t achieved, and help us to get up each morning, open to your leading, of maybe blessing just one person this day. By your mercy, hear our prayers, Amen.

Landscape of lament.

A cleit and dwelling places at St Kilda.

I had the privilege of visiting St Kilda this week. It is a group of islands over 40 miles from Uist off the west coast of Scotland, where for thousands of years, people lived in a very harsh enviroment. The group of islands and stacs are stunningly beautiful, with incredible rock formations, a vast and varied colony of birds, including puffins, and the physical remains of a community, who chose to leave in 1930, when the community was no longer viable. When we visited, the cloud was often very low, and it gave it all a very atmospheric and mysterious air.

Walking around the village, you can see the remains of blackhouses (traditional stone cottages from the 1830’s), almost 1,300 cleits ( stone larders), dykes, the church, the factor’s house, graveyard etc. There are sheep everywhere, and you can imagine a little of trying to work the land, looking after the sheep, and capturing birds for harvesting.

Traditionally in Scottish literature, the relationship between humanity and the land is depicted as harsh, think for example of George Mackay Brown, where in ‘The house with the Grem shutters’ rural life is seen as cruel and desolate. Or we might look at Lewis Classic Gibsons ‘ A Scots Quair’, and the changes that war brought to the farming community. People often work hard in all weathers, only for the crops to fail, or financial ruin to strike.

We sometimes have an ideal concept of farming life, but listening to the stories of the people on St Kilda soon dispels this. They were out in the fields in all weathers, and in the evenings spinning and crafting wool, distilling oil for export from birds, making skins into shoes etc, and often living with their animals. Life is depicted as relentless, and yet the people persevered, through illness and little medical support, and terrible storms, when the community were completely cut off. You can’t help but admire their stoicism. And when you visit, you almost here the song of lament in the air, for the loss of so many lives over generations.

Today, we perhaps face different types of adversities and obstacles, sometimes more subtle ones, but they are there- poor health, the loss of work opportunities, the impact of the pandemic, climate change, injustice in our society. We have to try to navigate these, whilst keeping our self respect, and a constructive sense of purpose..

Christians are not exempt from seasons of frustration and hardship. Everyone has to work through difficult stuff. Yet God always encourages people to keep going, and to have hope, even when things are tough.

In Galatians 6:9 it says: ‘let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up.’

Creator God, You have made this beautiful world, yet we live in a state of rebellion and disharmony, and it is hard work to care for nature, and to make a living. We give thanks for those who persevere in what seem like impossible circumstances. Sometimes we lament for the pain people experience just trying to put food on the table, and we think of story of the people in St Kilda in the past, and many other places today. Lord Jesus, help us all to work together for a just and fairer world. And when it all seems too much, holy spirit give us courage to persevere, and hope that things can get better, Amen.