Sparkling ice crystals

Wonder!

I have been called away to spend time with God. I am so relieved, as the cares of this world are so heavy. In the last week, there has been so much sad and tragic news. My friends are suffering, and it is so tough. Life can be so cruel at times.

So I am up here in the Cairngorms, and it is stunning, whether it is overcast, or blue skies or raining – and it has been all three in the short time I have been here. The searing wind definitely blows all the cobwebs away!

The majesty of the white streaked mountains, contrasted with the black contoured ridges in so many curvy patterns absorbs your attention, and helps you to just be lost in the expansive vastness of the universe. And I had to find lochs nearby, just for the reflection.

Just being still in nature, can bring restoration and hope, even in the darkness of times. We need to keep choosing to look for the good and beautiful, even when we don’t feel like it.

Some one said ‘ in order to appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.’

It can be in the hardest of times, when life feels cold and hostile, that we can glimpse the greatest beauty.

‘He makes everything beautiful in its time.’ Ecclesiastes 3: 11

I took a bit of a circuitous route to get here last night. It was dark and the road more of a track than anything. But I saw the moon reflect on a loch with snow covered mountains around. I met deer who crossed the road in front of me. It was a beautiful journey, that I would have never had if I hadn’t left the beaten track ( or correct road). Even when we are on the road less travelled, may we marvel at the beauty.

Gracious God, sometimes we are lost in the dark, unsure of our direction. Yet You still guide us, and reveal to us unexpected beauty in the landscape, sparkly snow or moonlight reflected on a loch. Lord Jesus, reveal to us Your goodness and mercy to us, so that we might be entranced once more by your love. Sometimes we are hurting deeply, and do not understand. Holy spirit come alongside us, and bring to us your consolation and peace, Amen.

Building bridges not walls.

A beautiful bridge.

I have so enjoyed walking in the snow this week, noticing birds and squirrels and foxes. The park has been an extraordinary place of crisp snow, exquisite swirly patterns on bark, soft sunrises and a frozen pond. And every time I walk round, I pass a gorgeous wrought iron bridge, joining the land with a small island in the middle.

It has caused me to reflect on the importance of bridges in our society today. People seem to be so polarised in their opinions, whether about independence, the effects of Brexit, or about the best choices in a pandemic. Everyone seems to have a view, and they often seem to be strongly held, and loudly articulated. And people are so busy speaking, there seems little room to listen.

Listening is underrated however. Listening attentively to another human being can lead to new understanding and a fresh perspective. At the end of the time, people might still have different views, but someone perceived as an enemy could have become a friend. Listening, helps to remove walls of division and hatred, brick by brick, and allow bridges to be built in their place.

In the book of James chapter one verse 19b it says: ” everyone should be quick to listen, and slow to speak” and the transformative power of this teaching, if applied in our world, would be powerful. Before we spout forth, we should check our sources, listen carefully, and ask God what we should say. The checklist, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?, is a wise one to consult, before we even consider speaking. We all regret saying hasty words that have given offense to others.

In the New Testament, one of the great listeners is Barnabas- Son of Encouragement. He was one of those people who listened to God, who saw beyond the superficial, and brought people together. An example of this is in Acts chapter 9, where Saul has had his conversion experience on the Damascus road, but when he got to Jerusalem, the Christian community were suspicious about the genuineness of his conversion, and wondered if he was trying to trick them. It was Barnabas who spoke for Saul, and told of his story, so bonds of trust could be built, and Saul, or Paul as he became known, was welcomed into the Christian community, and went on to become one of their most feverent leaders and letter writers. If Barnabas had not intervened, then we might never have heard of Paul!

And so in today’s age, let’s not be part of the vitriolic rage and criticism of others, but rather be reasonable and fair in debate, looking for the best in people, weighing things carefully. Let us see behind empty and critical rhetoric, and have courage to listen to God, to discern the wisest course of speech and action, so that bridges of insight and understanding can be built, and a shared way ahead found.

Let us pray. Gracious God, You are perfect, holy, good, yet because of Jesus’ death on the cross, the one who sacrificed His life for us, You look upon us with grace and mercy. You have reconciled us to yourself in Christ, and then give to us the ministry of reconciliation. Forgive us when we look for the speck in another’s eye, whilst there is a log in ours. Give us calm hearts, that we might listen attentively to others, to appreciate their views, even when we differ. May your Holy spirit inspire a ministry of reconciliation through Your people, and in this world, so we might work together for peace and justice, so we might value and honour one another. In Jesus’ name, Amen.