Wednesday 8th July
I was listening to a radio programme yesterday about what the new social norms were turning out to be. It raised more questions than answers. Do we actually know what the new social norms are yet? What exactly are good manners in the ‘new normal’?
Apparently, even Debrett’s is going to publish a new edition, taking into account etiquette in our new post Covid 19 world. Some of the rules governing good manners and etiquette have changed, almost overnight. The way in which we greet people has changed. It was seen as polite and necessary to shake hands when greeting a person. – But now we no longer hold out our hand when we meet someone.
These new social measures can feel incredibly awkward and at times impolite and confusing. Some things once considered rude are now considered polite. The obvious one is crossing a road to avoid people – once considered rude now seen to be polite. It was said to me that the new definition of a Good Samaritan is someone who crosses by on the other side!
Adhering to the correct etiquette was at one time seen essential in certain classes in our society and needed to be followed ‘religiously’.
Yet etiquette is more than fussy rules laid down by stuffy people; “etiquette is the oil that lubricates society and reduces the friction of interpersonal relationships.”
When we view etiquette like that we become more sensitive to the way we present ourselves. We see our behaviour, whether table manners, telling jokes, or wearing a face mask in a shop, as instruments that either attract or distance others.
We need to look to Jesus is our model. He came to earth and took on our dress, customs, and manners in order to lead us to God. As His followers, we should see etiquette as a way to follow in His footsteps. At the moment it may be all about respecting what others want in the way of social distancing. Remembering that if you are wearing a mask it is not for your benefit – so it is courteous to wear one when you go into shops, even if you don’t feel the need for yourself.
Good etiquette is one way we can remove social barriers and create a connection with people who need to hear the gospel.
…whatever you do, eating or drinking or anything else, everything should be done to bring glory to God. 1 Cor:10 31
Monday 6th July
You don’t hear it said much now but It was something said a lot when I was younger ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’.
This weekend ‘national hibernation’ was lifted with many of the restrictions. in going out to places rescinded. We saw pictures on the news of people meeting in pubs, restaurants and cafes.
I was reminded about that opening phrase when I saw the comments in the media of people meeting in towns around the country.
“It’s been beautiful to get out and have a drink with my mates, it’s been really good”.
“I didn’t think sitting with my friends outside the coffee shop having a cup of my favourite brew could be so good, I have really missed it”.
When we are deprived of something, when we are prevented from doing something, and then when we come back to it, we appreciate it even more.
That is partly why some people give up things for Lent. Then on Easter Day you can celebrate and have them once more, really appreciating them.
But does absence always make the heart grow fonder – as people used to say about lovers being separated? Or do we learn to do without, do we find something else to take its place?
We have all been separated from the company of friends and family. We have all been prevented from meeting together for Church Worship.
Three months ago people were really distraught at the prospect of no social meetings, no gathered religious worship. But over time we have got used to it, even if we didn’t much enjoy the imposed quarantine.
Several people have said to me that they have got used to their own company. Others are saying that they are actually too nervous now to go out, but even they say they miss the company of others and being able to have a chat with friends
Absence has shown us that we can easily do without some things, and probably now don’t miss them, but if you are like me, I realise even more powerfully the need for relationships with other people. Real close warm human interactions.
God created us to have relationships with others. Just as he created us to have a relationship with Himself. If nothing else, this absence has taught us not to take each other and our joining together for granted. Let us emerge from our ‘hibernation’ really mindful to nurture the relationships we have with others, remembering how important they are.
Friday 3rd July
Continuing on from my last ‘Thought’ on Wednesday I want to consider the question: How do you make choices? Or to put it another way how do you know God’s will, when you have to make decisions?
I remember reading a Guardian article by Polly Toynbee,when the scale of coronavirus was realised. The headline said ” Coronavirus will force hospital chiefs to make some terrible choices” It brought home the importance of making the right decisions.
As Christians when we make decisions, when we make choices, we want them to be in line with what God wants. Indeed people spend many hours in prayer and study trying to discern the right thing to do. Is this the person I should marry? Should I take that job offer in a different part of the country? Which college should I go to? …
At some point in our lives we have all faced a major decision and wondered how to know what choice to make. What is the will of God for me in this? It’s not always clear cut. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find it easy to know what God wants. I usually end up opening a door, taking a few steps and seeing what happens. Is the pathway clear or are there boulders blocking the way?
We need to be sure we are fully open to whatever God wants. If we have already decided what to do and are only coming to God so He can rubber stamp it, we’re not really seeking His will.
Seek other people’s advice. Don’t ignore your own emotions and feelings, God gives these to us, so listening to them to is all part of discerning God’s will.
Spend time reading Scripture. We read in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” God’s word brings light to paths that otherwise seem dark. Spend time in prayer, both interceding and listening.
My theological college principal used to say he couldn’t understand the problem people had in discerning God’s will for them. Saying if you’d been married to someone for forty years, giving time listening and talking to them, you know what they like and want. It’s the same in our relationship with God.
In the end we trust that God is with us guiding us, so we take a deep breath and step out and see where it leads!
Wednesday 1st July
Just because you can do something does it mean that you should?
I can think of all kinds of situations where that applies.
Just because you can stay up all night on a Sunday watching box sets doesn’t mean you should: it’s probably not a good idea as on Monday you’ll be too tired to work properly.
Just because my car can do 150 mph should I? Apart from it being illegal on UK roads, it’s pretty foolish because of a potential accident that may involve others.
Just because it is legal to buy and smoke cigarettes should we? We know it can harm your health so it’s rather unwise and can also damage the health of others around you.
Just because you can travel up to the Lake District after the 4th July for a break, should you? It’s maybe nice for the family or individual involved, but what about the implications for others with this virus still active?
One that affects all of us who are members of Church congregations is : Just because we can meet together in a Church building from July 4th – does it mean we should?
Like all the other situations it takes some thinking through. What are the implications, not just for you but for others that may be affected by your behaviour?
Where does our wisdom to make these choices come from? Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with heart, mind and soul and then second to love your neighbour as yourself. Maybe that is as good a place as any to start?
God has given us freedom of choice – let us exercise it wisely!
Monday 29th June
A friend of mine after a long wait to fulfil her calling was going to be ordained Deacon in Chester Cathedral this coming week. I was due to be going to her ordination to rejoice with her and the other 22 due to be ordained into the diaconate. This cannot now happen, nor the ordination of over 20 others to become priests in Chester in the coming weeks.
This situation is being repeated all over the country for many hundreds of people. Including Andrew and Zena from our District who were not able to be ordained Presbyter this weekend either.
This is because ordinations are understood to be both a personal and a corporate journey. God calls, the individual responds and the Church affirms, so ordinations are always public occasions.
I started to think about the way God calls us – How do we know? In some ways a million dollar question because there are no simple answers.
Wouldn’t it be easy if there was a questionnaire you could fill in and depending on your answers the assessor could say, you are called to be a priest, a presbyter or a deacon? If your answers fell into another category you could be told that God has called you to be a lay minister, even better, more specifically a Sunday School teacher, a youth leader or a pastoral visitor. But that is not how God works, because we are all unique individuals, made in the image of God, but with different personalities and gifts that the Holy Spirit can use.
There are many different ministries in the Church, sometimes when we think about a calling we only consider ordination, but God calls every single one of us to serve and minister in different ways.
The whole Church should be involved in looking and discerning and confirming the call of its members to ministry. The process of discerning God’s call will be different for every person and the time scale will differ too. Everyone though should be asking ‘What is God calling me to do for Him?’ Every person should also be looking for the gifts that they can see in others and then pointing them out.
There needs to be a corporate responsibility we take for ensuring that all the gifts that we see Paul talking about in *Romans and *Corinthians are exercised in our Church.
I believe God’s call is to each and everyone of us. What are you going to do about it?
*Romans 12:6-8, 1Cor 12:8-10
With love and prayers
Friday 26th June
The country is beginning to emerge from lockdown. We can meet in groups outside. albeit socially distanced. The Church too, never asleep, but now can be more active socially. Our buildings can be opened for private prayer. Soon buildings are allowed to be used for worship again, but with a lot of safety measures in place. Does this mean we are going to be where we were 4 months ago? – No. How we will look and what we will be doing I can’t tell at the moment, but what I do know is that we have to emerge from this lockdown transformed.
As many of you know I had a huge amount of frogspawn in my pond. Slowly I watched as the eggs changed into tiny tadpoles and swam away into the pond. I watched for weeks to see if any frogs would emerge. Nothing appeared to be happening and I thought it was time the pond was cleaned out, but then I found in the silt at the bottom of the pond, without me realising it little froglets had developed.
The same sort of process happens with a caterpillar, forming a pupa, a chrysalis, where nothing seems to be happening until one day an amazing transformation happens, a butterfly emerges.
Both frogs and butterflies have an in-between ‘waiting’ stage. It appears that nothing is happening but it is – we just have to be patient to wait, to give them time and see the change.
Maybe this is where we are with the Church?
We have had with lockdown a time to pause. to wait, to reflect. What will emerge? Let’s not rush. Had I given up on the tadpoles and drained the pond, I would never have seen the froglets appear. If we see a chrysalis as a dried up leaf and rush to be rid of it we would miss the amazing butterfly. We too have to be patient as we start to emerge. It can’t be the same as before.
The frog doesn’t go back to being frogspawn after it leaves the pond. The butterfly doesn’t return to be a crawling caterpillar when it emerges from the chrysalis. No it spreads its wings and flies.
Rejoice in the fact we have been given this waiting time, this space and let’s wait and see what God will transform us into, rather than rushing to return to what we were!
Thursday 25th June
This is an invitation to you, the person reading this!
One of the most difficult aspects of lockdown for most people has been the loss of relationship with people we hold dear. This includes those we come together with to worship and pray. Our faith in God, whoever we are, of whatever denomination, is based on a personal relationship with Him. Individual prayer is vital to that relationship, but so is our coming together in some form or other to share that. Isolation works against relationships, and so it has been so encouraging when we have been able to maintain some contact through technology; but praying together continues to remains difficult.
A small Ecumenical group of Christians have agreed to pray for each other at the same time each morning. Even on bad days, when it feels like no-one is there, the knowledge that someone else is holding you before God is hugely helpful.
We would like to invite anyone reading this to join us, by committing to become part of a group of up to twelve people who pray for each other at the same time each day, either at 7am or 7pm. You may also want to add others to your list, of course, or just sit in silence and hold those names in your heart before God; that is up to you. But you will do so in the strength that the others in your group are also praying for you. If you miss the allotted time, just pray when you can. God doesn’t need a clock!
Wednesday 24th June
The future has always fascinated people – lots of sci fi films that predicted the future became block busters. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey made in 1968 which predicted video calls and space tourism. Then there was Star Trek which had people using satellite (mobile) phones long before they were ever invented and the characters visited future lands and worlds and saw and experienced themselves several years on
People are desperate to know what their future is, that is why they pay a lot of money to fortune tellers and get tarot card readings. People want to find out what their futures will be like, because they feel it gives them security.
Martha Kearney was echoing thoughts like that on BBC R4 Today introducing “ReThink” the BBC’s series considering the future as society emerges from lockdown and other restrictions. Saying “In the past months all our lives have been changed and changed utterly.”
Hopefully people aren’t going to have fortunes read (it isn’t just a harmless bit of fun!) but lots of people are longing to know what will happen to them, what their world will be like in 60 days time let alone 60 years time.
That is where faith for the Christian comes in!
Why do we feel so insecure when we don’t know everything about the future? Would we actually be any better off if we did; any more at peace if we knew what we were doing two years from now?
What does give us security, and brings us deep peace that nothing can overcome, is knowing that God holds our future.
Part way through writing this, a chorus from my early Christian years came into my mind:
‘I do not know what lies ahead the way I cannot see
Yet one stands near to be my guide, He’ll show the way to me.
I know who holds the future , And He’ll guide me with His hand;
With God things don’t just happen everything by Him is planned.
So as I face tomorrow with its problems large and small,
I’ll trust the God of miracles, Give to Him my all!’
With love and prayers
Monday 22nd June
I read a report last week about New Delhi, saying traffic in the Indian capital was back, along with the dreaded air pollution, which had disappeared during the country’s lockdown. With the reporter going on to say “The lockdown is now practically over,” But the outbreak is far from over. “When I step outside my apartment, I hear ambulance sirens coming from the main road near my house. The biggest cities are running out of hospital beds and the peak is still several weeks away.”
We hear on the news, leaders, particularly in developing countries, saying that continuing the lockdowns may result in economic catastrophe. So the thinking has changed: Instead of ordering people inside, governments have decided to reopen and risk a greater amount of illness and death.
As I survey the world and read what is going on with this pandemic, the track and trace systems that don’t work, people defying bans on large gatherings, the potential economic catastrophes…. It would be easy to ask where God is in all of this, because from my small human perspective here in Kendal I see chaos and confusion.
But that possibly is the point. I can only see a small part of the picture and I can only see if from my own limited understanding of the subjects.
I was reminded of the verses about creation we find in Genesis:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep” Later it talks about seas and great sea monsters of the deep. All this to ancient peoples represented chaos.
But I have left out some important words – “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” – God brought it all together as an orderly, harmonious system.
Just because we see chaos doesn’t mean that there is no heavenly plan. For the present time we just can’t see it.
God does not stand aloof from the world in all its chaotic agony. His caring, presence is very near, and he is at work. Let us not lose sight of this!
With love and prayers.
Friday 19th June
It really irritates me when I hear the excuse for horrible behaviour as…“Oh, that’s just how they are!” And if that person claims to be a Christian or is a member of a Church it just doesn’t make any sense to me at all. It didn’t make sense to people like the Apostle Paul either when he wrote his letter to the Church at Ephesus. He had an expectation that if you’ve been born again in Christ then you would grow in your maturity to be more like Him in both actions and attitude.
I read in an article recently “Kindness is almost a lost art today. So many people are rude and self centred, worried about themselves, and not worried very much about others any more.”
Kindness is underrated. It shouldn’t be, after all it is listed in Galatians as one part of the fruit of the Spirit. It goes along with love, joy, patience, gentleness and everything else we should be exhibiting. Kindness, like the other fruit of the Spirit, is really an attribute of God. The reason we are to practise kindness is because He practises kindness on us.
In our world it is all too easy to speak sharply, and unintentionally to ignore the needs and feelings of those around us.
Worries about coronavirus, relatives that are ill who we can’t see, our own health, our jobs, all mean we can so easily be preoccupied and are not aware of what effect our words might have, or how the tone of what we are saying comes across.
Kindness is more than being ‘nice’. Being kind means being like the Good Samaritan. Being kind means being like David was toward Saul’s family. Being kind is being like Jesus when he prayed, “Father forgive them…” Being kind controls our actions and our words towards one another.
We all have a huge responsibility to each other, to all those around us, especially as we go forward with a degree of uncertainty of what we will or will not be able to do, with people feeling anxious and confused. A word of kindness, an act of kindness can lift someone up from anxiety, a harsh comment might put someone back into despair.
So let us “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Wednesday 17th June
This pandemic has affected all of us in varying degrees: from my daughter in law who lost 3 uncles to Covid 19, to others who are feeling deprived of all the things they used to do.
So how do we as Christians reconcile all that we have lost with verses like this one from Romans 8:28 which I read yesterday?
‘… We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes for them’.
At first sight it seems to be in direct opposition to all that we have experienced and maybe still are, because of coronavirus. Which raises the question ‘Do all things really work together for good?’
I would want to say that all things are not good. It would be a mockery to say that they are. The deaths of thousands of people because of Covid 19 is not good, cancer is not good, wars are not good, famine is not good… I could go on…
That verse tells us that God can use all things together for good. It doesn’t say that all things are good. And that is where our misunderstanding of verses like this happen.
It reminds us that although sin and the evil tragedies of this world are powerful forces, God is more powerful. He is able to redeem and restore anything for our good,and for his glory.
All things may not be good, but God can and will use all things for good!
Often when we are in the midst of a crisis we can’t see any good in the situation at all. As time passes we can often see good things that have come out of it that we never anticipated or expected.
Many people have started to talk about some of the good things that have happened in our communities since this pandemic; people pulling together’ supporting each other, neighbours getting to know each other, a deeper appreciation of the relationships that we have, not taking things for granted.
Verses like this one assure us that no suffering is wasted, and whether we are aware of it or not, God is always at work for our good and his glory.
When we cannot understand why things have happened and struggle to imagine anything good coming from them, we can rest in the security that God is in control. Because of this we can have Hope.
Monday 15th June
During lockdown I have known of many people locally who have marked particularly significant events in their lives Birthdays – an 80th, a 90th and even a 100th, a Golden Wedding anniversary, a birth of a baby. In other circumstances we would have arranged parties, hotel meals, gatherings of friends and family, but of course none of that happened this time; yet celebration still happened. I even had someone say last week that it was one of the best birthday celebrations they had had.
Celebrations are important. It is important to mark significant moments and thank God.
Celebration is important to our spiritual life. It is easy to live a life of routine, which can eventually make our faith become dry and mundane, making us more like the Pharisees in their practices.
Each day we can take time to celebrate. Celebrate as an elderly friend of mine with multiple illnesses did – as he drew back the bedroom curtains each morning he said “Thank you God that I am here to celebrate another day.”
Celebrate when you hear the birds in the morning. Celebrate as you see the new flowers growing. Celebrate something each day – eat a piece of chocolate, make a special tea to eat outside in the garden. Maybe that is what we need to do as social distancing and a degree of isolation continues. Look for something in your day, your life to celebrate and thank God for.
Celebration is part of the life of all God’s faithful people. In the Old Testament we see people celebrating with the festivals God had given them, celebrating by dedicating everything to God. The shepherds and wise men celebrated Jesus’ birth bringing gifts. Jesus himself went and joined in the celebrations at a wedding.
It is good and proper to have routine times to celebrate God, as we do on a Sunday, but it is also good to have special times of celebration more often.
Psalm 118 reminds us ‘This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it’. So as part of your spiritual discipline, find something to celebrate each and every day.
Lord, today I want to look back with thanks and celebrate all the great things you have done for me…
Friday 12th June
How do you view the many protests on the streets that are springing up around the UK in response to the way they see people of coloured skin being treated?
As I view what is happening I can’t help but wonder what Jesus would do in response to the injustices that have spurred people to these actions. Would he grab a placard and stand in line with the protesters? Would he write letters to politicians? Would he start up a petition to be handed in to the government? Would he get down on his knees and say prayers?
My best guess is probably “all of the above,” because faithful protesting comes in many forms.
Bishop Mariann Budde, based in Washington DC, when asked about the protests there said this “Some people are called to be on the streets and some people aren’t. Some people are called to offer a supportive presence in one form or another, while others are just called to pray, But no Christian is called to stay silent when people are suffering”
When I told a friend on the phone I was going to write my next ‘Thought’ on protests, his response was “that’s a risky one to tackle.!” I think he thought I was on dangerous ground because there is such a variety of views held amongst Christians on protests.
But aren’t Christians often on dangerous ground? Aren’t we often challenging accepted norms? If we follow Jesus’ example we need to be questioning all that we see happening around us, prepared to call on the wisdom of the Spirit before taking action, remembering that sometimes Jesus exercised silence.
The problem for many, is that Scripture talks about obeying those put in authority over us. So how do we balance respect for the law and those who legitimately govern us, alongside taking action to challenge those authorities when we see injustice being done? History shows us that it is possible to respect governing authorities and call for change at the same time.
Wherever you stand, the one thing Christians cannot do is look away when wrong is being committed. How you respond will depend on your circumstances, but Jesus does call us to respond. Christians are called to be a “voice for the voiceless,” and that demands some kind of action not indifference.
Wednesday 10th June
Are you an early morning person? One of those people who bounce out of bed after switching off your alarm or do you need at least two cups of coffee before you can face doing much?
In an email exchange with a friend, who is also ordained, she was saying how difficult she was finding it to motivate herself at the moment. From getting out of bed in a morning, to opening up her bible and saying her morning prayers. She still did her work but needed to push herself in a way that she’s never had to before.
She like me lives alone, and I too a couple of weeks ago felt a real lack of energy. I can normally rouse myself pretty quickly in a morning and be working by 7.30am but now find it difficult to have that vitality. I know from other conversations that many people are feeling like this – is it lack of a ‘normal’ routine, lack of real human company, a not knowing how long we will all be doing this? Probably all of those things contribute to this feeling. Add to that, many of us are feeling ‘zoomed out’ too much time in video meetings, also ’’socially distanced out’.
It’s actually okay to feel fed up. The point is, what do we do with the feelings? Do we express them openly to each other and to God, or do we bury them, feeling guilty, because Christians aren’t supposed to be fed up? A quick look through the Psalms shows us that many faithful people before us felt this way; felt a lack of motivation, of energy. When they expressed these feelings openly to God, in almost every instance we see that their present situation was not the end of the story, it didn’t go on forever, rather it was the beginning of a new stage on the journey.
There’s our hope! Don’t lose heart. Ask God for strength. And then don’t put anything extra in your diary for a while. Take a breather and pray for spiritual refreshment.
Lord, if I am ever fed up help me to turn it around so that I am filled up with a full measure of Your love, mercy, forgiveness and grace. AMEN
Monday 8th June
In a recent conversation with my youngest sister she remarked that she felt there was total complacency in the way people receive the daily numbers of deaths from Covid 19. Reflecting, that at that beginning of all this, how horrified we were when there was announcement of 50 deaths here and 80 in Spain in one day.
On Friday we announced another 357 here without much of a reaction by the media at all.
Then there has been much talk about ‘herd immunity’, particularly in Sweden where they have allowed the virus to go virtually unchecked with many deaths, particularly of those who are older or who have existing illnesses, compensating for a hoped for immunity for the rest of the population.
Add to that the ‘black lives matter’ campaign which started in the States after several deaths of black people at the hands of the police.
It started me thinking about the sanctity of life and what value society places on life. Just at that moment up popped this picture on facebook from a friend – a sign outside a cleaning supplies company in Odessa in USA.
For Christians, all human life is sacred and is a gift from God which is to be respected and protected.
It is important to know that our worth is not based on what we do or whether we meet certain criteria or qualities. Instead, our value exists because human beings are created in the image of God. Life is precious. From the healthy and strong to the weak and infirm and everywhere in between, life is precious. From those who haven’t learned to talk, to those who can no longer remember their names, and everywhere in between, all human life is precious. He, sustains us, sacrificed His Son for us and seeks to use us in His Kingdom’s work.
How encouraging for people to learn God’s purpose in our life is tied directly to His ability to use us and love us, no matter what our physical or mental condition or colour.
With love and prayer, Tricia
Friday 5th June
I saw a desperately sad news item some weeks ago about a teenager who killed herself after she had received a ‘shielding’ letter. Her family said that she felt a three-month coronavirus lockdown was “like 300 years”,
I have read other articles saying young people can’t face another extended time in lockdown if there was to be another spike in infections – that it seems an eternity to them.
Eternity – not something we contemplate much, although mentioned many times in the New Testament as well as the Old. I wonder how you view it?
The problem is that we tend to view eternity in relation to linear time. To many, it is thought to be the realm where time goes on and on, non-stop, ad infinitum, But Eternity is more than an endless succession of perishing thoughts or moments. And It is not simply looking to the future.
We are limited in our understanding by the fact that we are constrained in time. Every aspect of our being is controlled by time, so it is difficult to rationalise anything outside of time. Because we inhabit a place of Time and Space, we cannot imagine an experience that has no equivalent in this world.
As Christians I think we understand eternity differently even if we do not fully grasp it. As Christians, we have already entered into eternal life. It is not just a future reality, it is here and now. Actually it was always here, but while totally bound up in the things of this world we were unaware of it. We may have caught a glimpse every now and then, but didn’t recognise what it was, and may even have been frightened by it, thinking it was only endless time.
Jesus talked about eternal life as knowing God. So when we become Christians that is when eternal life starts, which means It is also living for the day.
Life is not futile even in lockdown. It can have purpose and meaning because God is drawing us into eternity to fellowship with Him. There is a purpose for all that we experience, and once we are free of time, we shall see it and rejoice.
Wednesday 3rd June
Having worked in charities which regularly had major fundraising events such as treking along the Great China wall, and bungee jumping, risk assessment was always a big part of the preparation.
Every business, school and shop in this country has been busy during the last few weeks assessing risk as they plan to reopen. I know school governors and teachers have been inundated with risk assessment papers and there has been a lot of anxiety generated.
Actually, we all undertake some kind of risk assessment every day. We weigh up a situation and in our mind say to ourselves ‘is it worth it..?’ ‘ Is it safe to cross the road here or should I move further away from the junction?’ After heavy rain I have more than once stopped on roads where I knew there were hidden dips to assess the depth to see if it was safe to drive through or not.
Risk is part of living. We make multiple decisions as we perform activities to minimise any risk to ourselves or others, and that is quite right, but we can never completely eliminate risk otherwise we would probably never make any decision or actually do anything!
Risk is involved in the Christian life too. Going forward in faith involves risk – it involves us in taking the risk of trusting God. It means stepping out of our comfort zone and being susceptible to failure. All through Scripture we see people following God, prepared to take risks, trusting that as He has called them He will support them. Just look at David stepping out with just a slingshot to take down the mighty Goliath.
Risk in the Christian faith is not calling us to be reckless, it calls us to weigh up all that we believe God is calling us to do and then to act in His strength. Instead of foolish risk God’s risks are judiciously chosen for the possibility of promoting abundant life. But they are still risks.
How will we know what God is going to do in our lives unless we take the risk of following Him?
Monday 1st June
It is becoming more apparent as time goes on that we are going to have to learn to live with Covid -19 as it is likely to be around for a long time to come. Until this virus appeared the viruses we heard most about were those that attacked our computers and infiltrated our software. Most of us are used to having to protect ourselves from hackers, indeed a whole industry has grown up to provide us with reliable antivirus software. This means that we can get on with using our computers without getting too worried about whether they are going to crash or have all the information stored on them stolen.
Maybe this is how we have to view this coronavirus, put in protection and then get on with living.
A whole new routine and way of life has developed for all of us, from which we are starting to emerge – although it will be anything but straightforward, and there is bound to be a great deal of trial and error involved too. We are going to have to learn to live in a different way.
With the easing of lockdown our thoughts are turning to how we are going to live in the future. Many of our congregations have been asking the question about ‘when will we be able to go back inside our churches and chapels to worship together?’ Maybe that is the wrong question to be asking at this time. It would be better to ask ‘How are we going to BE the Church that God calls us to be now and in the future?’
Yes we do have to address the question of buildings and how we make them safe places but the bigger questions are to do with how we understand the Church, its worship, its witness, its mission and our individual part in that.
In having to live with this virus it reminds us that we human beings can’t always expect to be in control. As Christians we say that we believe God is in control, but often that does not show in our actions. Let’s stop trying to control everything around us and listen to what God is calling us to do and how He wants the Church to be.
If you would like to take part in Week day services with the Beacon Team information can be found on their website.
With love and prayers, Tricia
Friday 29th May
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and I think it came at an opportune time. After 10 weeks of lockdown, many of us are struggling with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness – perhaps even despair. So it is really important to take steps to strengthen our mental and spiritual health at this difficult time.
Although a connection between spirituality and mental health has long been recognised in Eastern ideologies (such as Buddhism) here in the west there was for a very long time a split between religion and science. However the evidence that ‘religion’ is good for ‘mental wellbeing’ is now incontrovertible, and spirituality is seen as being very helpful, for our mental health.
Mindfulness is often spoken about as something we need for mental health, but there is still a lot of suspicion in Christian circles given its Buddhist roots. But mindfulness can simply be seen as our God given capacity for awareness and attention. It seems to me that there are two dimensions to mindfulness; mindfulness for health and mindfulness of God. Both should engage Christians, as we talk about worshipping God in body, mind and spirit. We should practise Awareness of the present moment – my own emotions, the state of being of those around me, the possibilities inherent in what is happening right now. Also, Mindfulness of God: freeing us to see with his eyes. Something the early Christian contemplatives were very aware of.
If you have not come across it can I recommend a small book by Brother Lawrence ‘The Practice of the Presence of God.’ All Christians are called to be mindful – mindful of our unity with Christ, and the presence of his Spirit. Mindful of ourselves and mindful of others.
So make sure in these coming weeks to take time for ourselves and to take time for God.
With love and prayers, Tricia.
Wednesday 27th May
The personal behaviour of politicians has been forefront in the news again. I am not going to comment on whether it was right or wrong of Dominic Cummings to have acted as he did, but simply to reflect on how we view right and wrong. Morality if you like. A person’s belief in this can affect everything they do.
When working for a charity that undertook criminal reform it became apparent that this was the key to behaviour change.
Just giving prisoners the right tools, teaching them the right way to behave was not enough. If you didn’t change someone’s beliefs you could never change their actions. If someone didn’t believe that stealing was wrong, they would possibly never stop. A prisoner on our programme believed that he was a moral man, why? because he cared for his family and would never steal anything from them or his community, only those outside it! Beliefs affect everything that we do.
As Christians our beliefs and our system of behaviour is and should be governed by scripture and what we see in the person of Jesus, but we need to recognise that other people and the society we live in do affect us. One of the promises that used to be made at a baptism service, was to renounce the deceit and corruption of evil. Recognising that we can all become dulled to our Christian values and go along with what is happening around us, believing that to be right. An example of this was the politicians’ “expenses scandal” when so many were claiming for things they knew they should not have, with the common excuse being “but everyone does it”.
As Christians it so often feels that we are swimming up against the stream, but just because we are sometimes a minority voice or because it is difficult, doesn’t mean we should give up holding on to what we know to be right.
With love and prayers, Tricia.
Monday 25th May
In recent weeks we have heard a lot about a “road map” that will take us towards ending the present lockdown, and returning to normal life.
It started me thinking about maps. How many people still use them? Today’s generation all use satnavs and never bother to look at a map. Of course hikers still use them, and I do too.
The differences between using a satnav and a road map are enormous. With an actual map you can see your destination, can plot the most convenient/prettiest/quickest route to get there, but you also have in front of you a whole host of alternatives in case you come across diversions or see another way that takes in other landmarks, so allows for changes in direction.
With a satnav you don’t have that kind choice, once you have put in destination and chosen the quickest or shortest route, you literally have to follow it even if you end up in a field ( I did once).
Scriptures have been compared to a road map with the intention of leading a person to a destination – to heaven or putting us on a course to the good life; they may, but not necessarily. Scripture is much more important than mapping out for us a good religious way of life. Ultimately, the Word of God intends to lead us to God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
With Jesus Himself saying:
“I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, except by me.” (John 14.6)
It doesn’t mean that we will all have a straight neat plotted out route in our Christian life There may be twists and turns, we may go in the wrong direction, we may have long rest stops before starting off on the journey again. What Jesus gives us, is a way of living with the Holy Spirit pointing us in one direction or another, which might change completely our life and situation. What this gives us is the confidence to go on in whatever path he has placed us, because in him we have a personal relationship, a closeness to God. Not a satnav with a straight line to our destination, but the love of someone who cares for us, and as the Good Shepherd, a guide and protector we can trust, absolutely.
Friday 22nd May
In the UK, we are in between lockdown and the opening up of ‘normal’ life again. In the Church we are in between the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost, with the coming of the Holy Spirit.
There are lots of ‘in between‘ moments in life: the time between taking an examination and getting the result, the time between being given a diagnosis and finding out about treatment, the time from booking a holiday to actually going on it.
There are lots of ‘in between’ moments in the Bible too. Noah waiting for the flood waters to recede before they can leave the ark; Adam waiting for God to give him a companion; Peter and John going to the tomb – not finding Jesus and having all day to wait until he appears to them. Martha and Mary being told that their brother will rise again. Not knowing at that moment what that means and having to wait to see what Jesus will do.
It seems to me that the coronavirus situation is rather like a prolonged version of these in between moments with all the turmoil and questions, and uncertainty and waiting that they hold. As we look further into the stories of Scripture we find that this ‘in between time’, this time of waiting is the norm for God’s people.
Maybe what we need is not an end to in between time but a greater willingness to seek the riches we can find in it. To ask, what can God teach us in the in-between periods of our lives that we can’t learn at other times?
Thursday 21st May – Ascension Day
“…while Jesus was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke 24.51)
The disciples learned that they had to let go of the physical Jesus to be able to have Him with them in the Holy Spirit in all places for ever. Maybe it is a lesson for us that we sometimes have to let go of things to have something better or to make way for something that is new. Maybe it might be letting go of the ways we have always thought of doing Church so that when lockdown is over we can move on to something better?
The Ascension narrative is a reminder that there is no such thing as returning to normal.
As Jesus was taken from their sight by the cloud, not to be seen again, the disciples knew that everything would be different. The book of Acts begins with a group of confused apostles staring into the sky, and it ends with a multi-national, multi-ethnic church that has gone from a small handful of believers in Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have announced the reign of God which showed them and us that we are under the care of a risen, ascended, and sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, who orders all things for the good of his Church.
Prayer for Today
Heavenly Father, today on Ascension Day, help us to follow the example of the disciples in Acts, who after seeing Jesus leave this earth, “joined together constantly in prayer”. Today may we all voice our prayers to you, about the need of your presence in our lives and our world; our great need for your direction, strength and help. May we receive the empowering promise of your Holy Spirit so we may be your witnesses in our own families and communities and all over the earth. We pray in the name of Jesus our Ascended Lord.
Wednesday 20th May
How many times have you had someone say to you, or even said yourself, ‘when all this is over I’m going to……’?
After two months of being prevented from seeing families, taking part in sport, going away for holidays and not doing all the other things we take for granted, there is a sort of desperate feeling to make some plans to look forward to.
I was browsing an internet site for families which asked people to think about the future, asking them to post one big and one small thing that they would do when all this is over.
Answers ranged from, taking as many holidays as possible, achieving a lifelong ambition to make a parachute jump, going to the zoo, through to going to have a cuppa with my dad and travelling to Australia to see a grandchild. But among the answers were those who were anxious about how they could ever achieve those things, and worry that many of those desires might never happen.
I confess I’m a planner; strategy has always been my thing. Looking at future goals and then planning the steps needed to get to them. In this crisis however, strategy in a planned way has changed, yes there are still goals but the steps and timeframe in which to get there are largely unknown. I have had to start to live more for the moment, embrace the present and to seize the day.
We read in Matthew 6:34 “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think about or plan ahead, but that we are not to be anxious. Sometimes always thinking ahead or being worried about tomorrow’s concerns will rob you of the strength for today. Will stop you appreciating the things of today. Getting stuck in ‘what will I do next’ will steal your joy and render you ineffective for the work God wants to do through your life.
This situation will not go on forever, lockdown is only temporary, but the love of God in Jesus Christ will be with us forever, there will not be a time when it is over!
With love and prayers, Tricia
Monday 18th May
‘Stay Alert’ has in some people’s minds become a bit of a joke, because we are not really sure in the current context what it means. Lots of the emails I have received from folk in the last week ask me if I am staying alert??? And there have been some brilliant cartoons circulating!!
Whatever we think about the government’s slogan and its ambiguity, the Bible has quite a lot to say about ‘Being Alert’.
Throughout the Bible, we are constantly reminded to be watchful, alert, sober and vigilant.
As Christians, there are several reasons why alertness must characterise our lives. That we shouldn’t muddle our way day in and day out, but instead live with a greater sense of awareness as a result of our faith.
In Matthew 24:42 we read “Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.” We are confident that Jesus will come again but not confident as to when. The proper response is to not make predictions around the exact time, but rather live constantly with a sense of alertness, so we are ready for His impending return.
In Ephesians 5:2 we read “Pay careful attention then, to how you walk -not as unwise people but as wise -making the most of the time, …” So the Christian must also live alertly because of the opportunities around us to make much of the Kingdom of God. Unless we are alert we will miss the opportunities right in front of us, to work and use time well for the sake of the Gospel.
And finally from Hebrews 2:1. “We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away”, because we know that unless we are alert, there is always the tendency to drift away from Christian truths.
So ‘Stay Alert’!
Thursday 14th May
I have been really sorry this week to see all the point scoring between politicians, not just here but in so many countries around the world in connection with the pandemic.
Then there are all the negative and inflammatory comments I see from individuals on facebook and in other media about politicians and what they are trying to do to resolve the situation. And how the particular individual commenting is right and knows better. Some of them from people connected with churches. It just feels wrong to be doing this at the moment. Our goals and values should be different.
Instead of trying to out rank each other or continually put other people down, we should encourage each other. There is far more at stake at the moment than the petty victories of this life.
One of the reasons Paul wrote what he did in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, was
because people in Corinth were fighting over who was most significant. Including people in the Churches. Their focus was in the wrong place! It’s not about the ranking of gifts, or who has done the most giving or who has made the most significant speech, it is about using those gifts for God’s purpose to enrich and build up each other.
Paul reminds us that Faith, Hope and Love are the three things that will still be here when everything else is said and done. All three are important. Yet he goes on to say that Love is the greatest because in the Church, in the Christian, it is the characteristic that will have the biggest impact on others.
It’s not good enough just to talk about love and care and service. Maybe, now as we come to the end of Christian Aid week, it is a good as time as any to start putting our talk into practice.
With love and prayers, Tricia.
Wednesday 13th May
After Monday’s announcement are you confused about what you now can or cannot do? If so I think you are with the majority of the population.
In 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, as well as all those statements about love, Paul also talks about the fact that “we don’t yet see things clearly”. (vs 12)
He says this is the way we are in this life. We do not see clearly. We don’t see all the factors and issues of life. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.
- We don’t see how God is using difficulties to mould us or to enrich someone else.
- We don’t see how our prayers change the circumstances of others.
- We don’t understand why God allows the tragedies that happen in the world.
- We don’t see the fears and insecurities that others carry with them.
- We don’t know why two people lead similar lives and one gets sick and the other doesn’t.
- Just because we don’t know or don’t understand is no reason to give up.
- Just because we don’t understand why a country is suffering drought is no reason not to give help if it is within our ability to do so.
- Just because we don’t understand why we are in the grip of a pandemic is not a good reason to give up on all the measures that have been put in place to protect us and others.
- Just because we don’t see an immediate end to the world’s problems when we pray for an end to them, is not a good reason to stop praying.
We are also reminded in that verse that it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
We need to recognise that we only see a small part of the truth. All the more reason not to give up praying, not to give up on supporting those organisations bringing aid, education and healthcare, even if we don’t see an immediate result with that aid. We need to remain both persistent and patient in times of difficulty, because we don’t know what God is doing in us.
With love and prayers, Tricia
Monday 11th May
The themes running through Christian Aid week are‘ Love never fails’ and ‘Love Unites Us All’.
Although these themes would have been decided many many months ago it seems uncannily appropriate this year. Although we in the UK have been badly affected by Coronavirus, it is a global pandemic and all countries across our world have seen people become ill. Many countries with poor communication and health infrastructures, who may already be trying to recover from, drought, famine and war are now struggling with thousands of people who are seriously ill.
Love is not simply a warm feeling, it is a practical action that wants and acts in the best interests of another. Paul in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 focuses on love within the body of Christ and in our everyday relationships, showing that love treats other people with kindness and courtesy; love desires the best for people and that it never gives up.
Loving our neighbours here has meant social distancing to protect our communities and families. As the Prime Minister recognised last night, at a cost to everyone. Loving our global family might mean a cost too, in taking action to enable organisations like Christian Aid give support with soap, clean water and medical supplies.
I know several things were planned in support of Christian Aid including a ‘Big Breakfast’ which now can’t take place. We can still however pray for the work that is being undertaken and support that work where we can financially.
The body of Christ is not just our brothers and sisters here in Kendal it extends to our brothers and sisters across the world. Let us especially remember and support them at this time.
With love and prayers, Tricia.
Friday 8th May
Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe), when we remember the end of war in Europe and give thanks. Which is why today is the May Bank Holiday rather than Monday.
The beginning of the national service for today starts in this way. Heaviness may endure for a night: But joy comes in the morning. God has been our refuge and our strength: A present help in time of trouble.
Isn’t that a good response for us now just as it was for those 75 years ago. A reminder of God’s providence and mercy.
When living in Norfolk I came to know and love the writings of Julian of Norwich (an anchorite living in the wake of the Black Death). In ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ she wrote these words, very appropriate for our present situation and for VE day: ‘He did not say, you shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be travailed, you shall not be afflicted. But he said, you shall not be overcome.’
She wrote these words having assurance that whatever life’s circumstances, whatever the trouble or difficulty or pain, whatever the hardships and sufferings, God’s nature and God’s name is love. Hence she was able earlier in her writings to record the words most people associate with her ‘all shall be well; and all shall be well; and all manner of thing shall be well.’
75 years ago people dared to hope once more, that there would be the prospect of healing and reconciliation, that all might ‘be well’. Now as then, it is sometimes hard to believe this to be true, but remember how hard it was on that first Easter for the disciples to believe that there would be new life.
Our Christian faith dares to believe that God’s purposes of love can never be thwarted: ‘all shall be well.’
Prayer for today
Lord God our Father,
we pledge ourselves to serve you and all humankind, in the cause of peace,
for the relief of want and suffering, and for the praise of your name.
Guide us by your Spirit;
give us wisdom; give us courage; give us hope;
and keep us faithful now and always. Amen.
With love and prayers, Tricia
Thursday 7th May
In my lifetime many things have changed, one is the way in which we use touch. We now follow many European countries, and shake hands every time we meet, not just the first time. It’s also common for men to hug, something not done in the UK in years gone by. On sports’ fields, group hugs are essential before the start of a game, and any triumph is greeted with hand touching, hugs and team pile-ons! Women often greet each other with the traditional French double peck on the cheek!
In my years of working with Deaf people the importance of touch became even more highlighted. To get someone’s attention before speaking or signing, you always touched their arm. Even now I find it difficult not to touch someone before speaking to them.
In these days when touching is almost impossible, even dangerous to health, the value of those touches is made very clear to us. On zoom chats we may offer one another a virtual hug. But it’s not the same as real human contact!
Jesus understood the importance of touch. The Gospels use the words “hands,” “fingers,” and “touch” nearly two hundred times, often referring to Jesus: “Jesus put out His hand and touched him… He went in and took her by the hand… Then He touched their eyes… Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand…” Jesus reached out and embraced people, when a simple nod or quick handshake might have sufficed.
Touch plays a very important role in the Easter story and the accounts of Jesus’ appearances after he had risen from the dead. A couple of Sundays ago we had a reading from John 20, where Jesus invited Thomas to reach out and touch his hand and feel the marks of the nails. He knew that touch was a human need: Thomas’ reaction was immediate “My Lord and my God”. Thomas dared not believe what his fellow disciples told him, only Jesus’ damaged healing hands changed his life forever.
Frustrating though it is, we know it is for our own good, to avoid close contact with others. From Thomas, we know that same wounded hand is there to heal us.
His touch can be upon us even when we are self isolating. John Calvin said ‘ [Jesus] does not only stretch out his arm to us, but he comes down from heaven even to the very depths… and pours upon us his holiness’
God comes to us. In locked rooms, in lonely places, in the middle of the bedlam of a family experiencing cabin fever! There is no time when we are without God. There is no place where God is not with us and cannot touch us.
Monday 4th May
I was reflecting once again on the situation we find ourselves in. There is not a single person who in one way or another has not been affected by coronavirus, with many continuing to be anxious, on edge, and afraid.
In the midst of these thoughts I was sent this lovely photo of a baby Beltie, and it started me thinking about the emergence of new life in the midst of the crisis and death we see around the world.
19 years ago in Cumbria, during this time of year, we experienced another devastating crisis with the Foot and Mouth outbreak. This coronavirus is different as it is world wide. But the feelings and experiences people had in Foot and Mouth are so similar to those we are having now.
If you lived in a rural area and Foot and Mouth was identified in a farm, a large exclusion area was put in force, you could not travel. Many of our churches were shut as they were in the middle of farmland. As ministers, our pastoral care was via the telephone, we could not travel as lots of rural roads were across farmland or even through farmyards!. Farmers in particular were desperate, isolated and depressed. Their herds and flocks were being culled. Where there would have been lambs in the fields there were none, nor any other stock for that matter. Even if you didn’t have the disease, no animals could go to markets. Some had no hope. But then as now you only had to look and see that there was new life and hope. Daffodils and bluebells were still flowering, grass and wheat were sprouting up in the fields.
As I thought back to my experience of Foot and Mouth in this county there was one common factor; the Church responded as one in loving and caring for those affected in whatever ways they could. We could not visit, we could not go and give a hug to someone who had just lost all their stock, but we could pray with them on the phone, we could listen to them, we could develop community support.
Everyone will react to crisis and fear in different ways, but in trying and uncertain times like these when the rest of the world is afraid and loses hope, the church has a responsibility to bring the life and love of Jesus Christ to a sick and dying world.
I remember a Methodist hill farmer (already living in an isolated farm, but now even more so) reading to me on the phone this verse from Isaiah 41:10 which had helped him “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”.
As devastating as it was people came through. They were changed and the memories are still there of the loss, but the one that dominates so often is the outpouring of love, compassion and community care. May this be the memory for people of these times too.
With love and prayer, Tricia.
Friday 1st May
“Prepare for new norms – we won’t go back to how we were.” Said the government headlines just 48 hours ago.
How does that make you feel? Anxious, excited, nervous, sad, relieved… I have had people express all of those emotions to me this week.
I recently read this from the author Sonya Renee Taylor:
“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, iniquity, exhaustion, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”
We have learnt a lot during the last few weeks and it is important not to forget those things: our need of others, our own mortality, the ability to learn new skills, space to think and reflect, to mention but a few. We need to look at the opportunities we are being given, We have discovered the
opportunities of electronic communication, enabling those who can’t join in physical worship (for whatever reason) to do so. The same with internet meetings. That is not to say meeting physically is not important, it is, but there can be some of both in our new ‘normal’. To actively continue the conversations that have started, about faith and prayer with those who would not normally attend church and find ways to expand those. For people in the community to continue to have opportunities to actively engage in supporting each other in new ways.
I firmly believe we need to resist the notion of “going back to how things were.” We need to move forward from where we are now. Change is not always comfortable, but it is essential to grow.
2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
With love and prayer, Tricia
Wednesday 29th April
Why? Why me? Why this?
- The questions people utter when they are given the news of a serious illness.
- The questions people utter when a loved one dies.
- The questions people utter when they are made redundant.
- The questions people utter about this current coronavirus pandemic.
‘Why do these things happen?’ And ‘why does God let them happen?’
Yet so often there is no obvious answer.
‘Why?’ is a question that has been asked by so many people, throughout history. Prophets have cried out with it, just look at the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. Jesus Himself used it on the cross. The psalmists frequently did the same. Psalm 10 begins with: “Why, O Lord do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
Things aren’t always easy in life. There are times when we all question where God is in the midst of pain and difficulty, and whether he is still good. We see good things happening to bad people while bad things happen to good people. It doesn’t make sense.
The psalmists and the prophets in all their trials and difficulties turned to the Lord for answers. They remained steadfast and connected to God through prayer and faith. Our difficult moments should not disconnect us from God. God does not always offer us answers. In this life, we might never really understand why some things have happened. But God always offers us himself. He offers us friendship. He longs for us to come to him, talk to him, bring our suffering to him. Whatever you face, you can choose to go through it without God or with him.
The truth is that the Lord is with you. He is not far off.
With love and prayer, Tricia
Monday 27th April
I was reading an article about St Augustine and his writings – ‘Confessions’.
In one chapter he writes of a conversation with his mother, where they imagine everything falling completely quiet with nothing moving in order that God can speak to them directly.
Maybe that is a picture of what is happening now. The cessation of traffic, of factory noise, of loud conversation on the streets. To hear the long forgotten rustle of leaves on a tree, to hear new bird song that had been drowned out by noise.
We fill our lives with activity, indeed we are made to feel guilty if we are not busy doing something. The problem is that in the midst of all this activity we don’t have time to stop and listen to God, to hear what he is asking of us.
Most of us have more time at the moment. Not having to commute frees up space in a day, some activities no longer able to continue, give us back time in a different way.
In Psalm 62 the psalmist tells himself “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him”.
Intentional silence is a chance for us to turn off the television, close our laptops, and put our phones far away from us so that we can, like the psalmist, deliberately hear from and hope in our God and in his word.
Rejoice in the silence, take hold of the times in the day where you are not ‘doing’, to wait upon God, to listen to Him. Take note of what he is saying!
Thursday 23rd April
I was sent this picture by a friend on facebook, just after the announcement that Covid 19 would still be a threat all through this year.
It is hard to imagine social distancing continuing for many more months, with no fixed end date for when we can resume social activities. It reminded me of the cry we see so often in the Psalms. Nearly half of which could be said to be Laments. Where the psalmist expressed his own feelings of distress to God and to plead for help ‘Cry out to God. From the depths of your spirit, cry to the Lord. He will not turn a deaf ear to you. God will always listen. God will be there’.
In Psalm 6 we find, “…O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.” And Psalm 13 “…How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?”
The point of lament, is not just that it’s an outlet for our frustration, sorrow, loneliness and sheer inability to understand what is happening or why. The mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments. Remember Jesus weeping at the tomb of his friend.
Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit “groaning” within us, as we ourselves groan within the pain of the whole creation.
The pain we feel at loss, whether it is of family and friends or at continuing isolation is felt by God himself, whose presence and healing love can soothe our troubled spirits.
With love and prayers, Tricia.
Wednesday 22nd April
Social Distancing; a term that we are all now very familiar with, but
something that I had never come across until this pandemic hit us.
However, I suspect that to a certain or lesser extent we have all practised
social distancing in the past, albeit not self consciously, and not in order to
protect people from disease. Ways in which we have held ourselves at a
distance from people and things that come near us.
It may be as simple as ignoring the person selling ‘Big Issue’ on Stricklandgate. Looking ahead so that we need not make eye contact or
crossing over the road so we don’t have to respond to their request to buy a
Yet as Christians our whole faith is built upon relationship. First and foremost our relationship with Jesus Christ/God and then our relationships with each other Just take a look at Luke 10:27.
The Greek word for “at a distance” is “makrothen”. It is used quite a lot in the New Testament. After Jesus’ arrest in the garden at Gethsemane, we read that Peter followed “at a distance,” until they reached the courtyard of the high priest.
When Jesus was crucified, Matthew says that many women, having followed from Galilee, were also there, looking on’ from a distance’.
So often our actions don’t just distance us from other people but also from
God. And we find ourselves following Jesus, but at a distance. If anyone knew what it was to be at a distance it was Peter but God narrowed the gap and he came back into relationship with Jesus, so that he could preach “… the promise is for you, your children and all who are far away”.
So although social distancing (keeping a 6ft distance between ourselves and
others) is essential at the moment if we are to save lives, we should try to
ensure that we don’t distance ourselves from God nor emotionally distance
ourselves from others; we can ring, we can text, we can write, and many
other things too.
With love and prayers, Tricia
Monday 20th April
Yesterday was the 5th Sunday we have been worshipping in our own homes. Not by choice, but in order to protect others. Yes, we are missing meeting in our lovely buildings which enable us to come together in person, but in a sense, what we are doing is what the early Christians
were doing: Whole households worshipping in their own homes.
We heard in our Gospel reading yesterday about the disciples being together in a room in someone’s house when Jesus came to be with them.
The Last Supper was held in someone’s home.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes to them in an upper room (of a house).
The church continued to spread out from Jerusalem through homes and house churches. We read in Acts of Lydia and her entire household being baptized. After which she invited Paul and others to stay in her home. Her house became a place where fellowship was enjoyed, a meeting place for worship, and a base of operations for Paul’s mission.
Virtually all of the New Testament churches mentioned in the letters of Paul were in private homes. The house church remained the most significant context for early church worship, fellowship, and Christian education, right up to the early part of the 4th century.
Our new way of being Church is really an old way of being Church. Just as the early Church grew and multiplied from people’s homes maybe this now is a chance for that to happen again, this time with modern technology to aid us!
We will meet physically together in a church building again, but until that time let us grow in faith in our households.
With love and prayers, Tricia.
Thursday 16th April
How do you feel about a further 3 weeks of isolating?
Throughout Christian history there have been religious individuals who looked for solitude in remote and silent places. They were call Hermits from the ancient Greek word ‘eremos,’ which can mean a desolate and lonely place as well as a state of being alone.
Maybe there are some lessons we can learn from them?
When early Christians read their Bible, they found the word eremos referring to places for important events – the stories of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and Jesus going to a “lonely place” to pray. Solitude being necessary for the individual/s to grow in their relationship with God.
Lessons can also be learned from those who have found solitude essential for inspiration and creativity:
- William Wordsworth in his poem Daffodils talks about ‘the bliss of solitude’.
- Albert Einstein said ‘the solitude of a quiet life stimulates the mind’.
All these folk knew that loneliness (feeling alone) and solitude (being alone) were not the same thing.
One of the more well known hermits of the Early Church was Anthony, who in the 4th Century sold up everything he had and went to live in the desert. Far from being an anxious, sad person, we are told by Athanasius (a bishop of the time) that Anthony’s face was ‘radiant’ after a long period of isolation. Loneliness was transformed into joy. Far from making him depressed, isolation was liberating.
Many Christians today go away to have silent retreats where they can spend unhindered, unrushed time in prayer and study. Sharing with those from the past, a longing for quiet solitude and simplicity.
Let’s see these further weeks as an opportunity given to us for listening to God and time to reflect upon faith.
With love and prayers, Tricia.
Wednesday 15th April
I was reading again through the some of the passages from 2 Corinthians that had been set for our Kendal Lent Course. My eyes alighted on Chapter 4 vs 18.
“…because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
Given the current situation we find ourselves in, how do we focus on the unchanging, when everything around us is changing on an almost daily basis? It seems to me that one way is to focus on the unchangeable truths in your life.
What are these for the Christian? The following is a list of some, you may well be able to add to them.
- God sees everything you are going through.
- God cares about everything you are going through.
- God has the power to change what you are going through.
- He hears your prayer.
- He will act in response to your prayer (even if not in the way you expect).
- God always acts out of His goodness to you.
- God’s plan is always better than your plan.
- God will never stop loving you.
- God holds us and will go through every stage of this crisis with you.
By focusing on the eternal truths rather than the transitory, we can experience real peace despite living in confusing times.
Monday 13th April
I have heard the word ‘hope’ used a great deal this Easter. What do we mean by it?
Do we mean we cross our fingers and make a wish? Do we mean we have a desire for a particular thing to happen?
The Christian hope is different. It is when God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. It is a confidence in God’s promises.
If our future is not secured and satisfied by God, then we are going to be anxious. Whether that is about ourselves, our families, our future, or our problems. Fear and anxiety can be terribly debilitating if it gets a real hold on your life.
Someone said to me on the phone, that all they heard now on the radio or TV news was frightening. If it wasn’t about the numbers of Covid 19 victims increasing by thousands each day, it was fear of what was happening to the economy and would there be a job to go back to. That they felt anxious all the time and couldn’t settle to do anything…
When we are alone and afraid, we can trust this: God has been there, He is with us now, and He will love us through it.
Just look at Mary in the garden that first Easter Morning, fearful and distressed. But then she heard Jesus speak her name; suddenly all her fears died, they became unimportant in knowing Jesus beside her. As with Mary, Jesus calls you by your name, your fears can be transformed by the resurrection, of love that is God.
Easter reminds us that there is hope, however dark or unpromising the days seem.
We’ve got a dedicated page for Reflections on Holy Week. Please click here to view.
Friday 3rd April
This weekend we are about to embark on the most important week for Christians. The week when we look towards the events of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
In ‘normal’ times it is a week punctuated by many visible acts of worship, to both encourage us and to proclaim to our neighbours something of our faith.
During the time I was in Binsey, we used to walk with a donkey from one village to another, singing hymns and waving palms and praying. When people came out of their homes to greet us we gave them a palm cross.
This year there can be no processions, no palm crosses, no other gatherings. But we can still be visible signs of the Christian faith to our neighbours and communities. We can stand out as the non-anxious presence that speaks of the Prince of Peace and of His coming kingdom.
In these uncertain times we have an unprecedented opportunity to share Jesus with friends and family. People are now so much more open to wanting to share in a prayer, to read a bible text or maybe a Christian thought on facebook.
This Palm Sunday how about joining in with me with an idea suggested by the ‘Missionaries of the Holy Spirit’.
Put a green branch or some long green leaves on the door of your house or on the window, to celebrate Palm Sunday. It will be a visible reminder to anyone who walks by, that this Sunday is special and it will connect us all as the body of Christ in taking part in something together.
With love and prayers, Tricia
Wednesday 1st April
One of my ‘turn to’ passages when I am anxious or concerned is Isaiah Chapter 43.
There are a lot of worried people around at the moment, from ordinary folk like you and me, to those in positions of power in governments all around the world.
I think these verses from the beginning of Chapter 43, could be the antidote we need to all the worries that the news bulletins bring us each day.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,”
It begins with what seems to be impossible ‘do not fear’. How can we not fear? Covid19 is in our communities making people seriously ill. But the command is not based on what we can do but on what God has already done – He has redeemed us. He tells us ‘You are mine!’
The passage also points out to us that it is ‘when’ and not ‘if’ we experience problems, that we can be sure that He will be with us – Why? Because He is the Lord our God.
That is something we can hold on to no matter what.
Monday 30th March
We have just had our second Sunday where we’ve not been able to physically be together in a building. If meeting together on a Sunday has always been part of your life it is bound to feel very strange, with a focal point in the week not being marked. Yesterday many churches, including ourselves, were able to meet together in a virtual way through the wonders of the internet.
Online churches already existed long before this quarantining we are now in. In the USA I read of one with 70,000 members and another with 40,000. None meet in a physical building, they do church together online. They share bible notes, have discussions, couples have counselling from their pastor and there are online prayer teams ready to pray with people who ask for this. People who don’t meet in the flesh, make communities, connect with others, build relationships and grow in faith together.
In the Bible we read that Paul was very much part of the Church in Corinth even though he was living away from them. Indeed our Kendal Lent course has been looking at 2 Corinthians, one of Paul’s letters, and his relationship with the Church whilst he couldn’t be with them physically. No internet then so what did he do, he wrote letters that a messenger carried to Corinth and sent instructions for learning. Just like him we cannot physically meet together but we are joined together spiritually, by our love, our prayers and our faith.
We are not just the Church when we meet together in a building, we are the Church wherever we are. We continue to be called to show the love and care of Christ to the communities in which we live.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said last week when talking about the Church ‘Let us continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable and build our communities even whilst separated’.
With love and prayers, Tricia
Friday 27th March
This poster got me thinking… we are always hearing that we need to have balance in life, but somehow most of us never quite seem to manage it.
If nothing else, the current crisis has made people stop and evaluate their lives.
It’s interesting that although online sales of groceries have grown exponentially, online sales of other things such as new shoes and jewellery have dropped dramatically. People’s priorities have shifted.
Work life balance has changed too. Many people are working from home and the whole family is there now!
Jesus’ life revealed ways to pursue a balance in the Christian life. He worked hard. Indeed everything the Father expected of Jesus, He completed. Yet time and time again we see Jesus leaving his work for a bit and going away to a secluded place to have time to pray, to be with his Father. Jesus determined His priorities by spending time with his Father.
This forced pause in our lives, gives us all a chance to determine our priorities by spending time with our Father. Let’s look upon it as an opportunity to think through what God would have of us.
Each day I now go out for an hour to walk, to enjoy the beauty around me, to pray, to reflect. Not something I did before this enforced isolation – I felt I was too busy. This was a lesson I needed to learn too!
Use these weeks to spend time in His presence, to evaluate your life and your priorities, so when we are free to go out, to go to work, to mix with others, we may be clear about what Jesus wants of us.
With love and prayers
Thursday 26th March
The Prime Minister’s statement at the beginning of this week has meant that all of us need to think very carefully before venturing out of our homes. Shops that used to be open are now closed. Even our Churches that were open for prayer during the week have now had to close their doors.
The seriousness of the current situation is all too apparent. Someone on the radio described it ‘as though an unexpected tsunami has hit our world!’
Those words made me think of the incident recorded in Mark chapter 4 verses 35-41.
Jesus and his disciples are out on the lake when a huge storm suddenly sprang up out of nowhere and threatened to swamp the boat. Jesus was asleep, and the disciples scared and overwhelmed by the storm, call out to him “Don’t you care if we drown?”
Jesus calms the storm then says to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Jesus was causing them to look deep inside themselves, which tested their faith and trust in God! When life as we know it comes crashing down around us, there is still hope and security, but it is not to be found in ourselves or our circumstances. It is to be found in God.
The Bible consistently teaches us that God cares, and that He loves us. Writing to Christians in trouble, Peter, (one of the disciples in the boat during the storm) wrote: “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”
That day on the boat Jesus listened to his disciples’ fears, he responded to them and cared for them – he cares for us.
We are reminded to hold onto the faith we have in a God who knows us, loves us and cares for us. As we travel through the present storm, let us pray that we will know Jesus as our Lord and Master to take us across to the other side.
Monday 23rd March
Did you light a candle with the many thousands of other Christians at 7.00pm last night?
I prayed for every single one of you after I lit my candle, that everyone would know the hope of the resurrection at this time, even though we don’t actually celebrate the reality of it for a couple of weeks yet.
We read in John Chapter 1 verses 4 and 5; ‘In Him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’
Darkness can never extinguish light, but light can extinguish darkness. Even a small candle can dispel the darkness of a large room.
Throughout history there have been dark times, with people saying ‘Can it it get any worse?’ ‘How can we get through this?’ The reality is – they did get through it. Light will always prevail over darkness. No matter how dark the situation the light of Christ will overcome it and gives hope.
Don’t forget, we see signs of hope all around us. Crocuses, daffodils and tulips are showing splashes of colour in our gardens. Yesterday I went for a walk and saw clumps of yellow celandine everywhere. From apparently nowhere, my pond now has large clumps of frogspawn in it. New life everywhere we look. There is hope all around us.
I am going to light a candle every Sunday evening at 7.00pm whilst this Coronavirus continues. Why don’t you join me?