Is it necessary, desirable or edifying to keep being reminded – via newspapers, TV, digital media – of the scandalous events, behaviour and opinion that are prevalent in current culture?
Paul, writing to Christians in the first century, said, “Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honourable.” He wasn’t pretending the nasty stuff didn’t exist. This former persecutor of Christians exposed the amoral and immoral culture of his time – which wasn’t so different from our own culture today – but then pointed to an alternative lifestyle based on Jesus who was the epitome of truth, nobility, purity, loveliness and honour. Paul was himself persecuted on many occasions and imprisoned for standing up for what he believed.
A ride on a country bus yesterday reminded me that, while acknowledging the nastier parts of human nature and behaviour, we can balance that with glimpses of God through nature’s wonders: Snowdrops nestled beneath hedges that had had their winter haircut. Pale grass hosted twisted trees that stretched ungloved fingers skywards. Sheep, cows and horses grazed on gently rounded hills, squat-towered churches dotted the landscape and a buzzard rode the air currents in a blue sky.
Side by side we see beauty and brokenness, wealth and poverty, morality and amorality, wisdom and folly, selflessness and ego… What we fill our minds with will impact our attitude, affect our personal behaviour, and maybe prompt us to share goodness, truth and loveliness.
PS ‘Out of a listless sky’ has been added to the Poems page.
Should I be flattered? I received a letter yesterday to say I’d been ‘randomly selected’ to complete a survey. I suppose it might have been more flattering had I been selected because I was deemed to be super-important or highly efficient or extremely wise. The ‘randomly’ suggests that I’m any old Tom, Dick or Harry – or the female equivalent.
Any thought of flattery swiftly plummeted as I read on. The survey is for ‘older adults.’ Am I as old as I feel – which varies from day to day – or does the fact that I’m nearing my three score years and ten make me an ‘older adult’? Well, yes; otherwise I wouldn’t have been randomly selected. But with my parents both alive – and more than twenty years older than me – doesn’t that make me middle-aged rather than old? Wishful thinking!
The questions in the survey made me think that I’m doing pretty well for an ‘older person.’ But as I’ll receive the same survey each year for the next five, things might change. The good news is that the research findings from this survey may help to provide better care, and enhance the well-being, of older people (when they reach that undefined stage.)
Each individual person is of value and loved by God whatever their age, ability, health or status. His example of love is one to follow, so that we learn to regard people as he does – with honour and respect.
Last Wednesday’s blue moon was magnificent. At 11.30 pm I was walking downhill along a normally busy – but at that time, quiet – country road, with just the brilliant moon and stars for company. The moon was behind me and, though walking fast because it was a cold night, I felt obliged to stop and turn to look up at the moon. It made me smile with delight.
This morning I was out early and watched the sun rise behind a line of bare beech trees. The awesome orb cast shafts of golden light through the dark branches. I turned 180 degrees and there was the moon, not in its pristine circle of last week but still big and beautiful. As the sun came up, the moon began to fade.
“Angels, help us to adore him, ye behold him face to face. Sun and moon bow down before him, dwellers all in time and space.” I hummed that song about God as I twizzled my head from side to side, looking first at the sun, then at the moon. How I love the sky! It was particularly good to see it this morning in all its glory after a grim day of rain and gloom yesterday.
Life, like the sky, can be oppressive and grey sometimes, expansive and exciting other times. Which is preferable? Well, that’s a no-brainer! But the sun, moon and stars are there, even when hidden by cloud. Just as God is there, even when he appears to be hiding.
New ‘Sun and Moon’ pictures are in the Photo Gallery.
Here we are again! He’s done it – a 20th Grand Slam title for Roger Federer. And a 6th Australian Open, to equal Roy Emerson’s record. Emmo was another of my sporting heroes. He won the Wimbledon Championships in 1964 and 1965 and then, during the 1966 quarter final, crashed into the umpire’s chair and injured himself – and that was the end of a possible trio of consecutive titles in SW19.
How can watching a fuzzy yellow (or white in the olden days) tennis ball be so engrossing? Well, it wouldn’t be if it were me hitting it. But when the ball is tossed into the air and hit by an expert it becomes a thing of beauty to behold. It’s the same with other ball sports. Watch JPR Williams or Gareth Edwards with a rugby ball, George Best or Bobby Charlton with a football, Ronnie O’Sullivan with a snooker ball, Jeff Thomson or James Anderson with a cricket ball.
When a ball is in the hands of someone who is skilled and has a passion for what they’re doing, expect something special to happen. We marvel at Roger Federer. He works hard and enjoys what he does. But in the end it’s only a game and his prowess, sad to say, really won’t last forever. Far more awesome are the ‘hands’ that shaped the universe. If you believe in God, you’ll marvel at his skill, passion, ingenuity and love – and not a fuzzy ball in sight.
Is it easier in winter to appreciate the landscape? Whatever the weather, there’s always something beautiful to see in a wintry scene, despite – or perhaps because of – poor weather conditions.
Pearl drops adorned bare-twigged trees this morning. A silver birch, its mottled bark creating a haphazard pattern of grey and black, looked exquisite. Each little twig wore a drop of rainwater, looking for all the world like a decorated piece of art. The river, flowing ferociously, was punctured all over by piercing rain, creating a pattern reminiscent of summer sun sparkling on the water. A female pheasant stood on the river bank, her feathers fluffed up. She was absolutely still, and looked like a carved wooden sculpture.
In muddy groves, snowdrops bowed their white heads, adding brightness to a dark spot. Daffodils, in a growth spurt and eager to burst their buds, drank thirstily from the saturated earth.
Blackbirds and robins delighted in the softened ground, cocking their heads on one side, then pulling up wiggly worms for breakfast. Greenfinches adorned the bird feeders, dropping sunflower seeds for pigeons to hoover up.
Such activities contrasted with the absence of human beings who, having glanced out of the window, were holed up at home or in their cars, missing out on close encounters with the gems of nature. Thank God for wet winter days? Why not?
Clocks don’t always work like clockwork. London’s Big Ben isn’t donging while it undergoes repairs. A neighbour’s grandfather clock has been removed from its case – in need of complete overhaul by an expert repairer. The clock’s owner says the grandfather is an old friend – and she misses it. A friend’s chiming clock has stopped its chimes and is also away for repair.
Do you like a ticking clock? Someone told me that hearing his clock ticking during sleepless nights is a comfort, a reminder of the steady, rhythmic passage of time.
We anthropomorphise time pieces by talking of a clock’s face and hands. The familiarity of a clock on the wall provides security. When it fails to work, it’s unsettling – as when a family member or friend leaves your house after a happy visit.
Some years ago, when my last watch stopped, never to go again, I gave up wearing a watch altogether. It was liberating! Admittedly my laptop tells me what the time is (3.12.34 pm at this precise moment.) As does my mobile phone. And if I wake in the night I’m chuffed if I can guess the correct time before checking the digital clock by my bed.
We’re more tied to time and timetables than God is. For him a day is as a thousand years; a thousand years as a day. Our lives, like our clocks, won’t always go like clockwork. God’s promise is that he is with us at all times.
There are personal and global situations that can become so all-consuming that they threaten to overwhelm us. We flounder, not knowing what to do or how to unravel the things that are of concern.
“They were overwhelmed with joy.” This phrase is part of the strange account, read in churches at Epiphany, of the wise men (probably more than three and almost certainly not kings) who’d travelled westwards with a star as their Sat Nav, to see and worship a newborn king.
The wise men went to the palace in Jerusalem and innocently asked the megalomaniac King Herod where they might find the new king. “Bethlehem,” his own wise men told him. The travellers duly pressed on to Bethlehem. En route they spotted the guiding star and were “overwhelmed with joy.” Why? The night sky is awe-inspiring and exciting, but “overwhelmed with joy” seems slightly over the top – until you realise where and to whom the star had taken the men: right to the place where Jesus was! In his presence they gave their presents and worshipped.
Jesus’ presence is God’s present to us. Joy indeed! In his divinity he came to earth as a human being. He understands what life is like. Centuries before Jesus’ birth, God reassured his people that, “Your troubles will not overwhelm you.” Like a seesaw we have ups and downs, troubles and joys. Jesus can be the steadying central pivotal point – with us in all circumstances.