Sunset reflections.

Sunset in Lewis.

Sometimes I forget to slow down. I try to do too many things, I am always trying to catch up.

So one evening this week, I decided just to sit and watch the sun go down. It couldn’t be hurried, so I just sat and waited and reflected. It was a gorgeous still evening, with a soft light falling over the fields. Sometimes in the past, Colin and I would watch the sunset, and it was a time of connection and wonder.

The sunset was a time of aching beauty. It was breathtakingly gorgeous, but was also about change and letting go.

It the last 18 months, there has been so much heartache, pain and loss, through the pandemic and all the implications for so many lives. Times of questioning, isolation, depression, sadness. And in the midst of this, also stories of courage, humour and self sacrifice, as people sought to support others. Key workers, neighbours and others going the extra mile.

Gazing at the setting sun, was a moment that Wordsworth might have called a ‘spot in time’ a glimpse into eternity, a realisation of just how fragile life is, how easily it can slip away. And a deep appreciation for each day that we are given.

In psalm 90 the psalmist says ‘Teach us to number our days , that we might gain a wisdom of the heart’.

There is something profound in this, that we need to treasure each new day we have, for none of us knows how long we have. Sometimes the days fly by, and we wonder what we have achieved. In the midst of all things, may we take time to slow down, to ponder and to pray. If this was our last day on earth, what would we do? What is important to us? What is holding us back?

I am coming to the end of my break in the Outer Hebrides. It has been a time of stunning beauty, outstanding journeys, amazing wildlife, and of healing and space. I have loved this time. And watching that sunset, was a time of communion with God, of recalling the past, coming to terms with the present, and seeking purpose for the days to come. Whatever our situation, may God speak to each one of us that Word of encouragement we need to hear, as we continue onward.

Creator God, thank you for moments of clarity and peace, as we gaze on the beauty of your world. Lord Jesus You know our hurts from the past, the things we struggle with, the pain we feel. Forgive us, that we are sometimes too fearful to see the possibilities ahead. Help us have times of stillness in which we find refreshment and inspiration. May we make the most of each day granted. Holy spirit, grant us courage to step out into the next phase of our lives, whatever that might look like, for we trust in You, Amen.

Comfort and deep sorrow.

I am grateful that I live in a country where I have been able to have my two vaccinations against covid19. I know they should help prevent the virus affecting me severely in the future, and that is a great blessing.

However, I am also cognisant of the many millions of people in other lands, who have no access to effective medical care, never mind a vaccination programme. And it means I live in a state of comfort, but also great sorrow. Although sometimes I cannot bear to watch the news, I can still see the pictures in my heart of people struggling to get medical help for their loved ones, in hospitals that are overwhelmed. Their tears and cries of lament and despair are everywhere.

This is perhaps an empathetic response. It is the same with people diagnosed with cancer or other medical condition, and that feeling of shock and bewilderment. Or being aware of the cries of wounding and terror on battlefields, echoing throughout the years. Glencoe, however hauntingly beautiful, is a place where you are conscious of the massacre that took place there.

We have to self care, to focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, as it says in Philippians 4:8, but we cannot forget the cries of those living on the margins, the sick, the lonely, the traumatised, the impoverished. These are people with names and stories, and they are hurting.

Feeling it is part of our humanity. How we respond us the next step? We might pray, for particular friends, groups of people or countries in need. We might choose to give to a charity that works there, or to encourage a friend who works on the front line. In some circumstances we might be called to raise awareness, or even to go there ourselves.

I love Christianity, as it is not remotely airbrushed. The Bible shows human nature for all it us, at times brutal and nasty, at other times courageous and self sacrificial, the best and worst of humanity nature. And on the cross, Jesus saw the worst of humanity the cruelty and callousness with which he was treated, and sins of the world. And yet he said ‘ Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.’ Luke 23:34 And he showed that love can overcome even the most awful malevolence.

We remember some of the words of Desmond Tutu: ‘goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness‘.

May these words minister to our souls.

Gracious and Everlasting God, sometimes it can all seem too much, the cries of the wounded and neglected and damaged. We are in danger of being consumed by sorrow. Yet Lord Jesus, by your life and example, You call us to transform that pain, into a strength to do what we can, to pray and love and act, to love mercy and to act justly. Holy spirit, forgive us when it is too much, and we just sit in a corner and howl. Please lift us up, and inspire us to get involved, and to be on the side of the angels, Amen.

The shenanigans of seagulls.

It looks harmless, but……..

Yesterday I travelled north (before the new covid restrictions were announced) and was walking along the streets in the town in which I had newly arrived. All was going well till splat, and a present arrived from a passing seagull. So there I was, in the middle of the street, trying to remove bird splatter from my hair with dollops of hand sanitiser. Not the best moment in my day. I got some very strange looks.

It reminded me that I have often found that in times of stress, trauma or bereavement, other things often go wrong. It could be a little thing, like forgetting something, or getting your jumper sleeve caught in the handle of a door you were endeavouring to go through. The week after my husband’s funeral, I took my son to the cinema, in the forlorn hope of distracting ourselves for a moment, and I managed to break a bone in my foot. In the cinema! How is that even possible?

I think though if you are a long term carer, or have been bereaved, so much of your brain is coming to terms with what happened, another part becomes less active, and you can become accident prone. The stress of everything on your body, seems to show itself in clumsiness, illness and even pantomime situations where ridiculous things happen. A grief reaction I hadn’t been aware of, is to laugh hysterically at something. I think it was the alternative to crying, but it looked a bit strange. I still do this!

I just want to encourage anyone who is going through difficult days, when things seem to go wrong around you. It can be so frustrating. It doesn’t last forever, or hopefully at least not in such an intense way!

In the midst of all the antics that happen to us, and around us, I remember the verse from psalm 3: ‘You, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the lifter of my head.’

When we feel besieged by adversity, God shields us with His love. When we are down, God lifts up our head, and gives us hope. What a Great God we have.

Let us pray, Creator God, we thankyou for all the creatures in this world, even seagulls! We know that when we feel sad or under strain, it can seem that everything is going wrong. Lord Jesus, may we know your understanding presence with us, and find strength, and be able to find a way forward. Holy spirit, console us when we are discouraged, help us to be patient, and to keep trusting, Amen.

Rays of light in times of heartache.

Sitting with the dying.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my husband’s death. Somehow I thought that things would be easier. I have so much to be thankful for, but it is still a time of deep sorrow and difficult memories.

My husband was invalided out of military service because of a blow to the head which resulted in epilepsy. As the years went on, the seizures became more poorly controlled, and this brought degenerative damage to his brain. He was defiantly independent, and tried his best to work through traumatic memories from his service, but as the years went on,  he became less able. When he needed 24 hour care, he was admitted to a care home, where they took excellent care of him.

My son, myself and the dog visited regularly, as did other family and friends. However after another 4 years, and a broken hip, he was very weak, and had infection after infection.

And so many times I sat by his bed, with the doctor telling me there was nothing more they could do. All that was left, was to make him comfortable.

So many people sit by the bed of a dying loved one. And we know it is a privilege, time to play beautiful music, to express the things most needing to be said. But is is also exhausting and distressing, watching them gradually become weaker, less able to swallow, the morphine level having to be increased.

At times Colin was restless and agitated, at other times more subdued. At times he knew what you were saying and could respond, with a smile or wave. At times you could give him a little raspberry ripple ice cream- a favourite, and you were rewarded with a wan smile.

It was heartbreaking watching him becoming weaker, shrinking in front of me. On some days, there were rays of light through the window that landed on the bed, bringing him warmth and comfort.

And these rays of light spoke of many things. I was thankful that he was comfortable, and well cared for. I was thankful for family able to visit. I was thankful of the presence of Jesus in the room, ready to take him to be with God, in that moment Colin was ready.

Yet is still hurts- not just Colin’s death, but all the years of suffering he experienced, recounting traumatic stories, and having seizures. All the times when he was frustrated and despondent because of his limitations and disabilities. All the years of behavioral issues, of carers and hospital admissions, and the toll it took on his loved ones.

In the last two years, both Colin’s parents have died, and that just adds more layers to the trauma and grief.

I pray for all carers looking after a loved one, but especially those sitting at the bedside of a dying relative. I pray for the person not to be in pain, for loving and attentive care, for words of love to be shared, and for a peaceful passing.

And I am thankful for loving family and friends, who prayed for us and supported us, and for moments of humour in the midst of sadness. I am grateful that I have been able to honour Colin’s memory by telling his story, and to raise awareness of the plight of veterans. I am glad we could raise money for charity- for the Coming Home centre in Govan, and for Epilepsy Connections in Glasgow. I am thankful for all these rays of light, and hope and love. But it still hurts….

Eternal Father, You know what it felt like for your precious Son to die on the cross. You know what we humans go through, when we sit with a loved one who is dying. We are anguished and sorrowful. Lord Jesus, thankyou that You are there too, with an invitation for people to place their trust in You, and find their eternal home. And that your holy spirit enables us to say our goodbyes, and to find peace. Help us as mourn, to honour our loved ones, and then when we are ready, to find our healing, and new direction. May rays of light always fall across our path, 🙏Amen.

The book about Colin’s writings and poems, and the story of his life is called ‘Loved song for a wounded warrior” and can be purchased by contacting this website or on Amazon. All proceeds go to the two charities mentioned above. Thankyou.

A dark day of weeping.

A cascade of tears.

Yesterday was Good Friday, always an emotional day. To think that some one could love me enough to give their life for me is so much to take in, never mind that that person is the Son of God.

To read the narratives of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas in the garden, of his trial in front of the high priest, Herod and then Pontius Pilate, and then the crowds shouting ‘crucify’ is heartbreaking. And then it gets worse, the taunting and mocking of the soldiers, the spitting and jeering and beating, the crown of thorns, Jesus carring his cross, and then dying on that blood soaked wood.

And the words that Jesus said ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’ Luke 23: 46, and then breathed his last. I was just so moved by the scene, with his mum Mary, the women, his disciple John all present. Jesus was surrounded by love and prayerful tears, even in the midst of his agony. They watched him commit his spirit to God and breath his last.

And something of the meaning of these words struck home, as I remembered the memory of my late husband breathing his last. The sacredness of that moment, the events leading up to it, the helplessness all came back into focus. And I wept hot tears for Jesus, for Colin, and all with those remembrances of sitting at the bed of a loved one. These moments of eternal significance  stay with you for a life time.

It is so hard to finish preparing Good Friday worship, when you cannot see the page in front of you because of your tears. Sometimes the flood gates open, unasked for, as you catch a glimpse of the rawness of grief once again, and that collective grief of the world, sorrowing over loss and pain and sin and violence. It gives a deep sense of the love that motivated Jesus to die for the sins of the world, and to open the way to eternally for all who place their trust in Him. And it brings clarity to that sense of the depth of sorrow of those round the cross, accompanying Jesus in that last journey.

Grief is like this, you are thinking that you are getting stronger, and then out of the blue that wave of pain and sorrow overwhelms. It is also a sense of loss that connects with the losses in all humanity, and is so very dark.

The idea that we grieve so much, because we have the privilege of experiencing the richness and fullness of love makes sense. In many ways to feel such pain, is the cost of love, and so it is a privilege. And after tears in the night, eventually comes the comfort of the dawn.

Gracious Father God, we cannot begin to understand your distress at seeing your precious and beautiful Son so cruely mistreated at the hands of others. Lord Jesus, even in your darkest moment, You demonstrated love and grace, and trusted your spirit into the hands of your Father. May we know too that sacred moments of life and death are held in Your loving and compassionate hands. Even in the midst of our tears, Holy spirit, help us not to fear, but to trust and find peace, for You are faithful. Thankyou Jesus, the Lover of our souls, Amen.