A torrent of tears.

So many losses…

There are days when things feel better, and there are signs of hope. And then there are other times.

For me, I have had a difficult couple of weeks. It all started with the death of Mikhail Gorbachev about ten days ago. I had watched the poignant Storyville interview with him, a few years before his death. When he led the USSR through glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980’s and sought to act amicably on the world stage, he changed the course of the world for good. Yes of course he was flawed, but he was courageous and advocated free speech, reform and often championed non violent solutions. He has been blamed for the collapse of the Soviet empire, and he didn’t get a state funeral. Yet even at the end of his life, he retained a vision of what he was trying to do, and why it was important. He stood by his convictions, and greatly suffered as a result.

And then this week, there has been the death of HM Queen Elisabeth. Whatever your views on the institution of the monarchy, she dedicated her life to serving her people, and for over 70 years sought to fulfil that promise, whether it was though her travel through the Commonwealth, her thoughtful role at state events, and her listening, encouragement and insights shared with so many. We all saw her in the photos on Tuesday inviting Liz Truss to form a government, just two days before her death, with the Queen looking frail but dignified, deeply engaged in what was going on, and very much at peace in her surroundings. Somehow these pictures made the news of her death on the Thursday much more shocking. We have lost now just our Queen, but the stability and continuity she represented, and that feels so emotional. Between the impact of the pandemic, the war in the Ukraine, and the worry about the cost of living crisis, the amount of profound changes we are living with keep stacking up, and are disorientating and unnerving.

For me, yesterday was also my late husband’s birthday, and that too was gut wrenching. It brought back memories of tines when we had tried to make his birthday special, but he was too unwell to always enjoy it. I was often so helpless to support him, as his ongoing health deterioration didn’t ameliorate for special occasions.

The tears have just flowed- not just for all these losses, but because of what they represent. We seek to honour flawed people, and we are all deeply flawed, but people trying to do their best, showing extraordinary courage in very different contexts. We lament, as we also give thanks for their lives.

I remember the verse from psalm 126 verse 5 ‘ those who sow in tears will reap with joyful song’. At the moment, that feels difficult to imagine, yet we trust………

Eternal God, from the rising of the sun to its setting, Your name is to be praised. We go through seasons of loss and heartache, where our tears are so raw, we can no longer discern the specific cause, as loss piles upon loss. Maybe part of getting older, is witnessing all the changes in the world, and learning to find acceptance and peace. Lord Jesus, you look upon people with compassion, You see our earthly struggles and our many tears. Not a tear falls, that You do not see. We give you thanks for the richness of life, for the inspirational people who seek to do good. Holy spirit, as the tears flow, comfort us in our grief. Thankyou that there is always a rainbow after the heaviest shower, a ray of hope after the darkest night, eternal life with God, after our mortal life on this earth. We live with both a torrent of tears, and also with the prospect of new birth and resurrection, and so we find strength and peace. Thankyou, heavenly Father, Amen.

A torrent of tears.

So many losses…

There are days when things feel better, and there are signs of hope. And then there are other times.

For me, I have had a difficult couple of weeks. It all started with the death of Mikhail Gorbachev about ten days ago. I had watched the poignant Storyville interview with him, a few years before his death. When he led the USSR through glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980’s and sought to act amicably on the world stage, he changed the course of the world for good. Yes of course he was flawed, but he was courageous and advocated free speech, reform and often championed non violent solutions. He has been blamed for the collapse of the Soviet empire, and he didn’t get a state funeral. Yet even at the end of his life, he retained a vision of what he was trying to do, and why it was important. He stood by his convictions, and greatly suffered as a result.

And then this week, there has been the death of HM Queen Elisabeth. Whatever your views on the institution of the monarchy, she dedicated her life to serving her people, and for over 70 years sought to fulfil that promise, whether it was though her travel through the Commonwealth, her thoughtful role at state events, and her listening, encouragement and insights shared with so many. We all saw her in the photos on Tuesday inviting Liz Truss to form a government, just two days before her death, with the Queen looking frail but dignified, deeply engaged in what was going on, and very much at peace in her surroundings. Somehow these pictures made the news of her death on the Thursday much more shocking. We have lost now just our Queen, but the stability and continuity she represented, and that feels so emotional. Between the impact of the pandemic, the war in the Ukraine, and the worry about the cost of living crisis, the amount of profound changes we are living with keep stacking up, and are disorientating and unnerving.

For me, yesterday was also my late husband’s birthday, and that too was gut wrenching. It brought back memories of tines when we had tried to make his birthday special, but he was too unwell to always enjoy it. I was often so helpless to support him, as his ongoing health deterioration didn’t ameliorate for special occasions.

The tears have just flowed- not just for all these losses, but because of what they represent. We seek to honour flawed people, and we are all deeply flawed, but people trying to do their best, showing extraordinary courage in very different contexts. We lament, as we also give thanks for their lives.

I remember the verse from psalm 126 verse 5 ‘ those who sow in tears will reap with joyful song’. At the moment, that feels difficult to imagine, yet we trust………

Eternal God, from the rising of the sun to its setting, Your name is to be praised. We go through seasons of loss and heartache, where our tears are so raw, we can no longer discern the specific cause, as loss piles upon loss. Maybe part of getting older, is witnessing all the changes in the world, and learning to find acceptance and peace. Lord Jesus, you look upon people with compassion, You see our earthly struggles and our many tears. Not a tear falls, that You do not see. We give you thanks for the richness of life, for the inspirational people who seek to do good. Holy spirit, as the tears flow, comfort us in our grief. Thankyou that there is always a rainbow after the heaviest shower, a ray of hope after the darkest night, eternal life with God, after our mortal life on this earth. We live with both a torrent of tears, and also with the prospect of new birth and resurrection, and so we find strength and peace. Thankyou, heavenly Father, Amen.

‘A grief that feels like fear’

No words describe it…..

There is a new film out about C S Lewis ‘The most reluctant convert’. I would love to see it, and to find out more about C S Lewis’s life. CS Lewis was born in Belfast, fought in world war one, lectured at Oxford University, and was a friend of JRR Tolkien. He was a fascinating man, who went through a long period of his life as an atheist. However in 1929 he became a Christian. He wrote many books of insights about Christianity, as well as the famous Narnia series. He also wrote a philosophical book about ‘The problem of pain.’

Later in his life he married Joy Davidman Gresham, and sadly she developed cancer, and died in 1960. Lewis then wrote a slim book ‘ A grief observed’ about how it felt to lose someone. It is very intense, and I want to share a quotation from the beginning of the book:

‘No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like bring mildly drunk or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps gard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another, and not to me.’

I find this quotation so deeply moving, such an accurate description of the physical sensations of grief, a mixture of detachment and fear. And he speaks of that restlessness, where you cannot settle or concentrate, you want company, but you don’t have the focus to listen properly. It is like living a vortex of contradictions, that are confusing and disorientating. You wonder if things will ever feel different.

In John chapter 11: verse35, it says ‘Jesus wept’. He wept over the death of his friend Lazarus, and was deeply moved by the grief and bewilderment of Mary and Martha. His was troubled at all that was taking place.

Jesus understands our grief, even when it is raw and unsightly, even when we are sobbing, eyes red and face blotchy. He doesn’t turn away, but sticks with us closer than a brother, holding us in the pain and questioning and emptiness. The presence of Jesus doesn’t solve all our problems, but His love quietens our soul, and helps us to heal and rest, and to carry us through sleepless nights of replaying memories and of lamentation. And so we keep trusting.

Eternal Father, You look upon us with mercy and grace, especially when we feel alone and struggling. We mourn over so many losses, some so very raw and others that recur from the past, catching us unawares. As we struggle with powerful and difficult emotions, Lord Jesus You come alongside us and weep with us. You sing over us, and quieten us with your love, bringing your healing lullaby of peace to our exhausted souls. Your Holy spirit helps us not to fear, and carries us through the darkest of nights, enabling us to rest. Thankyou Lord, Amen.

Waves of suffering everywhere.

Turmoil.

I choose to affirm the good in the world, that God is still real, loving and powerful, that there is still hope. But sometimes to make these statements takes such courage.

In the week where the details of Sarah Everard’s death have come to light, it seems that so much is broken, it is hard to ever imagine any kind of repair. Her trust was violated in so many ways it is hard to put into words. That people can be so intentionally cruel and brutal to another human being is terrifying.

I think however that the problem is that this terrible abuse of power, rape and murder just remind us of the reality of what goes on daily for many people. Whether you are talking about domestic violence or hunan trafficking, some one choosing to violently exploit and control another human being is all too common. Institutional corruption is endemic in so many places. And we often turn the other cheek. We pretend not to see, we pretend things will get better. And it doesn’t.

As a human race, we need to weep over the seemingly unrelenting brutality and violence in our world. We need to pray for it to stop, for us to support charities working in this area, to do what we can to support those affected by it in any way. There are too many children and adults traumatised by abuse and violence.

Jesus said ‘ come to me, all those who are weary, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28

When we are tired of putting on a face, being brave, of crying on the inside, we can come to Jesus and be honest, and pour out our hearts to Him. In the presence of God, we are safe, and can find shelter and healing. It might just be a first step in a healing process, but in the midst of the overwhelming pain and suffering of the world, it is an essential refuge. Even in the midst of heartbreak and sorrow, God’s love for us has never changed.

Gracious God, You are full of loving kindness and grace, and You created this world to mirror the beauty and harmony of who You are. But we have rebelled and sullied our planet and our relationships, and been exploitative and cruel. Lord Jesus, You who experienced the brutality and callousness of human beings on that Friday of Holy week, have mercy on our souls. In the ongoing spiritual battle, may we pray for evil to be restrained, and for the vulnerable to be protected. And please can your life giving holy spirit bring healing to all who have suffered at the hands of another, so that in time they might trust and heal once more, Amen.

God desires restoration for our souls.

Luskentyre beach, Outer Hebrides.

After dark times of trauma, grief and pandemic stresses and worries, we might all be forgiven if our mood is a little uneven. It is going to take a long time, maybe even generations for there to be healing or recovery for those who have experienced some of the bleak and tragic consequences of the impact of coronovirus.

When we feel overwhelmed or sad, many things help, the power of prayer, a listening ear, a promise kept, a thoughtful message, the paw proffered by a pet. God uses so many ways to lift up our souls, and to remind us we are loved.

One of the things I am learning to appreciate more and more is the stunning nature of Scottish countryside, especially the western islands. There are so many epic landscapes, towering cliffs, colourful machairs, dramatic coastlines, exquisite beaches, and an amazing variety of birds and creatures. Even in the drizzle, these have the power to speak to our soul of big emotions, of wilderness and tragedy and solace and inspiration. The stories from each community visited are so moving.

I am reading from the Passion translation of the bible just now, and in psalm 148 verse 1 it says:

‘hallelujah! Praise the Lord.  Let the skies be filled with praise, and the highest heavens with shouts of glory.’

Just connecting with Creation, can remind us of the glory and majesty of God, so that just for a while, our hurts and wounds can seem smaller. Just being able to be still enough to give thanks and to worship, reorientates us, and can bring hope and restoration to our souls. Whether it is the shrill call of a bird, changing light through the clouds, or the rhythm of the waves- may we be lost in wonder, awe and praise.  If we have opportunity in this summer period, may we intentionally spend time in some of our glorious landscapes, and to find God, and in Him, refreshment and hope.

Gracious God, at times our hearts are bruised by worry and grief- our cares are heavy, and often beyond words. Please speak to us that Word in season that we need to hear. Creator of all, as we experience the grandeur of your creation, may tears of appreciation run down our faces, as we bow down before You in worship and thanksgiving. Lord Jesus, help us to experience your Love in new ways, and find a broader perspective on our troubles. Holy spirit, in Your creation, may we find restoration for our souls, and your healing grace and peace, Amen.

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.

Longing for Shalom.

A quest for peace.

War and conflict are greatly reflected upon, at this time of year. We have thought of legacies, lamentation, and now we seek to explore our longings. Out of a November remembering the horrors and visicitudes of war, so now we plead for God to bring some good purpose out of all this.

Having thought of shell-shocked soldiers in the deep mud of the trenches of the first world war, and the bombings of the Atlantic convoys in the second world war, of the IED’s of more recent conflicts, the trauma and inhumanity of war experiences, broken bodies and spirits, are all too clear. The cost of conflict in human lives is incalculable.

Yet this is not the end of the story, because exposure to these military stories and experiences, reminds us of our purpose as human beings, our deep yearning for shalom, for healing and goodness and forgiveness and love and peace.

I was reminded of the biblical vision of of a peaceful Kingdom in Isaiah 11: 6: ‘ in that day the wolf and the lamb will live together, the leopard will lie down with the lamb, the calf and the yellowing will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.’

Desmond Tutu describes the fullness of biblical shalom ‘ God’s shalom, peace, involves righteousness, justice, wholesomeness, fullness of life, participation in decision making, goodness, laughter, joy, compasdion, sharing and reconciliatiom.’ In some ways, it seems like a long list of qualities, but shalom is just such a beautiful deep peace,the very presence of God- so it needs all these words and more just to catch a glimpse of it.

We have a deep yearning for a peaceful world, of justice and reconciliation and love. And the reason we have that, is because we have seen the alternative- a world where the loudest voice seems to win, where bullies get their own way, where lies prevail over truth, where mistrust and violence and conflict have become the norm. And the hurt and pain and tears are flowing in all nations and continents.

So let’s not just accept this as ok. Let’s not just put up with violence or abuse or exploitation. Let’s not say that the lives of children, or people with different views are lesser in some way. Let’s not say that where there is a dispute, that fighting and guns are the best way to resolve this. Have we learned nothing?

So may God give us a pure heart, to hear His voice. We need discernment, to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. We need the holy spirit of God to help us on our narrow path, and it is not easy.

Even if we resolve to do one thing, to pray for peace, to give to charity, to not escalate a dispute, to support a veteran, to breath before we speak- if everyone did these things, it would make such a difference. And because the task is great, may be not be put off, but have our inner compass always pointing to true North, to the larger purposes of God, for shalom for His people, for the world.

It is sometimes only when you have been through hard times, that you realise what is important in life. So out of the horror and brutality of conflict, may we yearn for something better, and resolve to work for Shalom in our lives and world, Amen

Let us pray, Gracious God, Maker of the Universe, You look upon our world, which you made to be so harmonious and beautiful, and You see the damage that our greed and selfishness has brought. Lord Jesus, have mercy upon us, and forgive us for our vindictiveness and struggles for status and power. Holy Spirit, humble us to seek the wellbeing of others before ourselves, to yearn for a true Shalom, and to be channel’s of your peace, Amen.