The joy of photographs!

Light and space!

Lockdown seems to be lasting a long time- what an understatement this is! We know it is needed, to get the rates of virus transmission down, but it seems a bit endless, well actually completely endless.

It is a time of hibernation- when we are in a dormant state, everything seems slowed down, and going out to walk in the cold and rain can lose its appeal. It would be easy to feel a little down.

I am so impressed by people who have taken up knitting, done an on line course and learned a new language in lockdown! Such amazing self discipline and focus are needed.

One thing that can be remarkably beneficial, is to open up some old photo albums. Electronically stored photos are good too, but don’t quite have the same feel. Everytime you turn the page, you find a plethora of experiences, journeys and memories. They are mixed of course, sometimes people look a bit grumpy, and other times a moment of pure joy is captured- a night out with friends, a family holiday, an unexpected fun day out. Looking through photos, I am reminded of birthday meals, talking with dolphins, that trip to Moscow, swimming at Florida beaches, sunsets in Cyprus. I am reminded of all the ways that I am blessed.

I would encourage everyone to look at old photos. They remind us of family and friends, times of being together. They remind us of places we have traveled too, and the experience of different cultures and landscapes. They remind us of the richness of the lives that we have led.

God has blessed us, He watches over us in days of heartache,  He gives us days of song, He inspires us with His word, He reminds us of beauty  even out of ashes. We just need a little reminding at times.                                

     ‘I will praise you, O Lord, with all of my heart’   Psalm 9:1    

Dear God, in lockdown, we often live much of our life within four walls, which can seem pretty claustrophobic. We cry to You to help us, when we feel hemmed in, and ask that You remind us of the freedom of your holy spirit. Lord Jesus, forgive us that we have short memories of the joys of past days. Give us patience, thankful hearts, and a desire to connect and bless others in safe but thoughtful ways. Thankyou that your love is never restricted, but is unlimited at reaching each one of us, wherever we are, Amen.

Unexpected angels in our midst, even Gabriel!

A Christmassy Gabriel!

Everyone has their own favourite film at Christmas, from Elf, Love Actually and It’s a wonderful life. There are many films to choose from, and it seems important to enjoy them, especially with the latest locdown restrictions announced today. People are so worried about the virus, disappointed about their plans to see loved ones have now been cancelled, concerned about loved ones unwell or having the virus. We need some escapism, to help us to cope.

It’s a wonderful life, is particularly popular, as it reminds us that when we are questioning what our life is all about, that maybe God has used us to accomplish more than we know. Clarence the angel, is maybe not what we imagine angels to be like, but he appears just at the right time to save a life.

There are so many angelic appearances in the bible, and in the Christmas story, Gabriel the angel speaking to Zechariah in the temple, to Mary in the house, to Joseph in a dream. Angels are described as heavenly messangers, that stand in the very presence of God. They do the bidding of God, answering prayer, intervening in situations, revealing God’s will.

Especially in these days of difficult death statistics, restrictions and isolation, we pray for God to send His angels into this world- to remind the lonely person that they are not alone, to visit the despairing person in a hospital bed or prison cell, to remind that bereaved person or traumatised child that God wants to comfort them.

On the hillside, the angels praised God amongst the shepherds, and brought news of great joy for all people, for a Saviour was born to bring glory to God, and peace on earth. The purity of angels praising God must have been inspirational.

I believe that God still sends divine messengers to this earth, to encourage, to guide the lost, to be with the dying. Sometimes God might choose the most unlikely people to fulfil His purposes, unexpected angels are all around. And this brings us hope.

We know that in the new year, the various vaccines will be rolled out, and that this will make a difference. We know that these restrictions will not last forever. We know that the number of people ill with the virus will gradually lessen. There is much to be hopeful about.

Right now, as we look at the dark nights, and the rain drops rolling down the window pane, it is easy to feel down. May we know that God has not deserted His people, and that the angels still sing. May we notice the angels in our midst, the prayers said, the acts of kindness around, and may this strengthen us, and remind us that there are better days to come.

May we pray. Eternal Father, news of a new more spreadable variant of the virus, is hard to hear, and the new restrictions have curtailed so many plans to meet up at Christmas. Help us to remember that the first Christmas was tough too, a long journey, a birth of a child in less than ideal circumstances. Yet God provided for the holy family, and He provides for us today. Holy spirit, help us notice the angels in our midst, the heavenly singing, the prayer, the acts of kindness. And may we find peace, trusting in You, Amen 🙏

A convergence of sorrow and love.

Light and shade

In life sometimes there can be the juxtaposition of too many sorrows. The loss of a loved one, of a job, of a dream, all coming at the same time. There are so many things that can cause people to mourn, not just our personal circumstances, but the loss of certainty, a wailing over injustice, a deep sorrow at the state of the world. In this time of pandemic, turbulent international politics and horrendous poverty and injustice, we have so many reasons for sorrow.

Walking in the valley of the shadow can be scary and lonely. There are so many dark places on the path, which are unexpected and unnerving. Yet it is when we are under pressure, that we call out to our Saviour, when we find out what it means to have him walk beside us on that path.

One of my favourite verses is from Isaiah chapter 43: ‘ I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places’. I often ponder what this means, but it seems to be that it is only when everything goes wrong, and you feel overwhelmed, that the beauty of Jesus’s presence can be truly felt and appreciated. Somehow it is only through being in the darkness, that we find out who we really are, and the discover the blessing of God’s grace to us. For He never turns His back on us, and when we are weak, He holds us up, and encourages us each step of the way.

And do there is a convergence of sorrow and love, for it us only in the deepest despair, that we experience the tender and transformative love of God, His Holy spirit refining our characters, so the dross is burned away, and only the gold comes forth. We are changed forever, with such an overwhelming waterfall of love flowing over us, that we are cleansed and strengthened and inspired.

The cross points to this deep truth, because in this place of human cruelty and barbarism and pain, Jesus lived out the love of God, revealing concern for his followers, forgiveness for the sinner, and a trust that he could commit his spirit to His heavenly Father. The cross is the most powerful and moving expression of love, because it is when Jesus is desolate and separated from his heavenly father, we see the extent of his self giving love for all.

This encourages our hearts, for when we are burdened looking after a loved one who is chronically unwell, or when we are struggling with pain and ill health, and life seems colourless and drab, that is when Christ’s presence gives us new strength, when we feel appreciation of a random act of kindness, when we are gently drawn into an experience of love that defies all description. In the darkest moment, God can bring a revelation of His grace, which whispers to our souls a word of peace.

I feel really thankful, that even in my worst days, God was there. Even when it seemed no- one understood, God listened. Even when all seemed lost, God was faithful. We are so blessed.

I remember the words of that great hymn ‘ when I survey the wondrous cross’ and the third verse says this: ‘ see from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down; did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?’

May we pray, Gracious God, we give thanks that even on the most drab and empty days, in the midst of our unmittigating sorrow, You reveal to us the depth of Your love in Christ, that convergence of sorrow and love on the cross, and you meet with us, and through your holy spirit breathe new strength and life into our souls. Your amazing love demands all we have, gladly given in love and service,and so we declare our love and devotion for You anew, Amen.

Sky- bringing a change of perspective!

A stunning and ever-changing expanse above.

In recent days, I have been visiting Skye, and noticed the soothing rhythm of the tides, the desolation of the mountainous landscape inspiring courage, and now the ethereal beauty of the light evoking reverence. The skies here are more than awesome! ( skies on Skye seems to be a bit of play on words!)

The light on the Cuillin mountains has often been dramatic, with shades of dark and black and grey. The sea bays are adorned with purple heather and yellow seaweed. And the seas reflect the colour of the skies- from dark and moody to brilliant cobalt blue, with every combination of cloud formation drifting across the top in different layers. You can be mesmerised just watching the sky change, moment by moment.

In psalm 19 it says:

‘The heavens proclaim the glory of God, the skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak, night after night, they make Him known. They speak without sound or word, their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the earth.’ NLT version

The poet Gerald Manley Hopkins says ‘ the earth is charged with the grandeur of God.’ and there is this sense of God’s majesty and creativity being revealed through His creation.

After the confinement of lockdown, and the trauma of individual stories and difficult experiences, to see the expansive sky above, opens up our horizons, and refreshes our soul. The intricate patterns of deep colours and cloud formations inspires us to look up, to be reminded that there is so much more to life than day to day practicalities. The beauty of the sky can take our breath away, can fill us with reverent thanksgiving for all tbat is good, can remind us that God is the original and most imaginative Artist ever !

If we are worn down by cares and worries, if our life can feel a little grey, may we be inspired to look up, and be reminded of the power and glory of God, and may this give us hope.

Let us pray, Eternal Father, Your Creation is magnificent, whether it is the vibrancy of stars in a jet black night, or white fluffy clouds on a bright blue morning. Lord Jesus, slow us down, and open our eyes wide, so we might notice your glory, and gain a new reverence for life. Holy spirit, grant us a new perspective on our priorities and opportunities, and encourage us to be more creative in how we live each day, to relish colour and form and light. In Jesus’ name, Amen