Walking through the Wilderness

 

2. “No man is an island” – John Donne

“Then they came into Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd,were leaving the city, a blind man Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), was sitting at the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more. “Son of David, have mercy on me”. Jesus stopped and said “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man. “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “Your faith has healed you.”

Mark 11 v 46-52

What would he say? What could he do? How would they cope – with the mortgage – with his job – or lack of it? How would they cope with everything?

A deep frown settled Doug’s face as he recovered his key and opened the door. Fiona had been cooking. He could tell from the mouthwatering aroma coming from the kitchen. Great if you have an appetite. Doug didn’t. he hung his coat on the peg, doffed his shoes and prepared to face his wife with the news.

The kettle was on. Tea was brewing. Looking at the set muscles in Doug’s face, Fiona quietly prepared herself for what clearly was bad news.

“What’s up, Sweetheart? Cummon, have a cuppa and tell me what is wrong.”

“Optician – I’ve been to the optician. …. I new my eyes were getting worse but …..”

Doug took a sip from the steaming mug.

“Fi, it’s bad news. he says,- he told me, that I have …I’ve been diagnosed with macular degeneration … the bad kind. It’s only a matter of time …and I’ll not be able to see.”

” O sweetheart that’s awful news… but we’ll cope. Look when… no …. if your job goes then we can still cope. Look … the kids are growing up now. They’re all at college. I can increase my hours at work – if and we can always downsize if we need to. We will support you….”

“Oh Fi you’re so good to me. How can I hold on to my job? I’m an engineer. I need my eyes. But what about the modelling … my hobby? I need my eyes. I won’t be able to drive. I can’t ask you to be my taxi all the time. Every part of the world I have built for myself … it’s falling apart. There’s no hope for me now…”

Every time he thought about the situation Doug thought of himself as a failure. He was a burden to his family. He would no longer be able to provide for them. There would be so many things that he would not be able to do. He’d be reliant on everyone else. He wan’t old. Not yet. He was not ready for this. He didn’t want to get old before his time. That’s what he believed was happening. He became bad tempered and depressed, complaining at every opportunity. He made life miserable for both himself and his family. Doug felt as if he was standing at the edge of a cliff top, staring into a dark stormy sea of despair. How long would it be before he fell….? Doug had already lost sight in one eye – and the other eye was now beginning to fail too. He’d lost his job now. He could no longer drive. His hobby no longer gave him any pleasure. It was time to decide whether to give it up completely. He couldn’t work on his models. They were simply sitting on a shelf gathering dust. No pleasure in that.

Fiona and the children, despite his bad humour and his negative outlook had rallied round and supported him in any way they could. In spite ofthe fact that his eyesight was deteriorating even further, he’d stepped back a little way from the stroming sea of despair.

Fiona was working full time now. The children were completing college, looking for jobs and preparing to leave the family home. If they could downsize now they would be able to manage financially. There were practical problems to overcome too. he’d been in contact with the RNIB and Beacon, both institutions for the blind. Not only had they helped him to cope with moving around and remaining independent as far as possible, they had also invited him to volunteer by offering help and advice to others who found themselves in a similar position. So many unexpected opportunities had come his way. They helped Doug to become more positive and happier about his situation.

Obviously Doug would never have chosen to become blind. However his experiences had helped him to look for the positive things in life. He learned that he was not the only one. There were others who struggled with many types of problems, and somehow there was a learning process which came through experience. He learned that to be totally independent did not open your eyes to the people in life who opened their hearts no only to those they loved, but also to the unlovable. He now had the humility to recognise his need for other people, not only for physical help but the emotional help he needed to adapt to his new style of living. Through his impending blindness he learned humility, a sense of community, .and that however difficult your situation there can always be hope.

Jesus can heal blindness. Yes, of course He can. we read that at the beginning of this passage. But how many ways are there that we cannot see? There are so may ways that we blind ourselves to the hope and the love we find in our every day lives.

Lord Jesus,

we come to you

because we are blind,

because we are helpless

and because we feel alone.

We come to you asking you to heal us,

to open our eyes

to your love.

Open our eyes

to the love

which we find among one another,

which is all around us.

Open our eyes to the hope we find in your eyes,

in your touch and in your love.

Lord Jesus we are blind.

we come to asking

that you will heal us

from our pride,

from our selfishness,

from our greed

and our despair

when things do not go our way.

Heal us we pray.

May we

however we are,

whoever we are

come to you to be filled with your love.

In your hope may we live,

Amen

Walking through the Wilderness – Lenten reflections.

We’ve reached that time of year when Lent begins. Today is Shrove Tuesday when we celebrate with pancakes and other treats. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and Lent begins. Lent is traditionally regarded as a time to give up the excesses. The period is used to look at our faith and reflect on our relationship with our Lord and Saviour. It’s a time when we think about diving deeper into the heart of our God. The plan is to add posts weekly culminating in the death and the Resurrection.

That’s the intention – keep watching this space. Think – and pray…….

1. Bread for the hungry.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit  in the desert where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.  He ate nothing during those days and at the end of it them he was hungry.  
The devil said to him, 
“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to  become bread.”  
Jesus answered “It is written, “Man does not live by bread alone.”
Luke 4 v1-4.

Part of our human nature decrees that we do not like being told not to do things. Leave a child with sweets at hand. Then be cruel. Say “Let’s leave those till later.” Oh no. The temptation is much too great. We should have known. I talk to myself about being more healthy. “You really could substitute that refreshing cup of coffee for a glass of water. “You really don’t need that block of your favourite chocolate, do you?” Oh dear. Human nature. My years tell me I am no longer a child. But even now the temptation to resist the things we like are sometimes too great. Jesus was genuinely hungry. He needed food to survive. How easy it would have been to substitute those stones for something good. But he was strong.

I see stones and pebbles in the garden, on country walks. It takes me back to my own childhood, standing with my brother picking up stones and throwing them across the pond. He was older than me and could make the stones skim across the water. We were at the local park. The water was so still. Sunlight pooled across the water and created a vast reflection of trees on the opposite bank. You could have seen your own reflection if you leaned forward far enough. No, I didn’t lean forward too far. I didn’t fall in. I threw my round flat pebble into the water. It went a long way – almost to the middle of the pond. The stone plopped into the wet surface and disappeared. Gone to the bottom of the pond. But I could tell where my stone had fallen. Ripples were spreading from that same place. Wider and wider, more and more until they reached the edge of the pond. And as they spread they distorted the reflection and changed the surface on the water.

Now, as I think of that memory, I think of the stones in the story of the temptation. I think of stones as a symbol of faith. I think of water as a symbol of life. If my stone was my faith and I threw it into the water of life, how deep would it fall? How deep is my faith?

The stone in the pond caused ripples to spread. It changed things. When I throw my stone does it cause ripples, like the stone in my memories? Does it change my life? Does my faith change the lives of others?

If you had a stone which you could describe as your life, how deep would it fall? How deep is your faith? Jesus had fasted and still he did not give in to temptation. Is your faith that deep? Could your faith cause ripples, or even move mountains? Is it strong enough, or should we all throw our stone deeper?

More next week………

Salads? or oak trees?

“The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which a man took   and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all  our seeds, it is the  largest of garden plants and  becomes a tree, so the birds of the air come and perch in its . branches.”

Matthew 13 v 31-32

I like the idea of growing things. The house we have moved to has a very small garden. At some point I will organise a small herb garden and grow a small selection of rosemary and mint, but for now I want to add extra flavour to my salads. So I’ve arranged a saucer at the kitchen window lined with wet kitchen paper and sprinkled with mustard and cress. I will water it regularly. It will seek the summer sun and sleep in the darkness. The tiny green leaves will add heat to spice up my salad.

Science tells us that plants need air, warmth, moisture and light to let them grow, whether it be a seedling to flavour the salad or a tree in which the birds can rest.

I’m only talking about a leaf to add flavour. Jesus was talking about —-

Lord, you are speaking

of something much greater

than my tiny seed.

You speak of tiny seeds

which grow into trees.

Like acorns into oak trees.

So here I am

with my tiny seeds

in their tiny tray,

wet with water

from the tap

turning towards

the light from the window.

Yet your word

is like those tiny seeds.

Your words fall

upon my heart

gently

silently

without my knowing.

Like all seeds,

there is the need

for space,

for light

for warmth to surround it.

Conditions

where the seed

might grow.

where your word might grow.

Your light will feed my seed.

the warmth

that will radiate.

The light

towards which

my seed might grow.

You give me free choice

the space

in which to make

my choices,

be they good or bad,

and when the sun

is blocked by shadows

and my seed is

shrouded in darkness,

then the seed is watered by

the tears of pain

the sorrows of this world

then my seed can grow.

It can face towards the light

and face you,

growing up strong and true.

May the seeds we grow

grow in your light,

fed by your love,

watered by our tears of anguish,

that your world may be filled

with the seeds

and the leaves

and the trees

which forest the earth

with the fruits of your love.

Amen

The important things.

 “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the   Lord  be  praised”  Job 1 :21b

It was a beautiful winter morning. Cecil was sitting in the kitchen with his first coffee of the day, and staring out of the window. He loved mornings like this. The lawn was sparsely covered with a layer of frost, so thin the green of the grass was also poking through. The cold pale light from the early morning sun revealed itself from the hills on the distant horizon, casting an accusing glare through the mesh of winters denuded trees.

“The best time”, thought Cecil to himself as he picked up a note resting next to the phone. A list of hymns for the service this morning. Cecil was on the rota to play this Sunday. He liked the early mornings. He could drive to Crosham early and have a quick practice of the hymns before the service started.

The next step was to defrost the car, so after starting the engine he circled the car with his de-icer and scraper to prepare the car for the short journey. Then he straightened his tie, donned his well polished shoes. Crosham was not far away, about two miles. Straight up the country lane to the crossroads – then turn right for the car park entrance. He approached the crossroads, indicated right….

********** *********** *********** **********

There was an almighty bang as Cecil began to manouvre the car. Shards of glass and metal shattered across the road. After that – there was silence. Cecil was not sure what happened. He was conscious, so therefore he was alive. However he was trapped. His vision was impaired by the airbag. it was impossible to move his limbs. Why was it so deathly quiet? In the distance there was the sound of voices in the distance. After a couple of minutes there was the sound of sirens in the distance. Help was on its way. His car had collided with oncoming traffic, his little Fiat flattened by a four wheel drive – or at least that is how it had felt. Pain set in and by the time the blue flashing lights appeared he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Some time later Cecil opened his eyes to find himself lying in a hospital bed. He tried to move. It was hard. The pain in parts of his body was excruciating pats where he seemed to have lost all feeling. he could not move. The healing process was going to be long and slow. The weeks changed to months. Thankfully he could eat, he could breath and he could hear. He could even speak. It was clear he would not be playing the organ, not any time soon. his feet were lying useless in the bed and he had lost full use in one of his hands. Finally he was discharged from hospital in a wheelchair. His sister Mary had come to help. Carers had been arranged to assist with care in the home. Her children came at weekends to help and members of his church came to do what they could.

Cecil was angry. he felt useless. How could his life have changed so dramatically – so suddenly. He had been retired for some year from his job at the university. That had sometimes difficult for him to come to terms with. But now his life was finished. No more playing the hymns. no church every week. Having to rely on everyone all the time for everything he wanted to do. People avoided him because they really did not know what to say. he felt invisible – unwanted and unloved. The accident had not even been his fault. He had loved God all his life. And how had he been repaid? He’d lost the use of his legs and one of his arms. He could do nothing. He was totally dependent on his sister and his visitors. from professor to useless old man. He wished he were dead.

His doctor prescribed anti depressants as well as painkillers. Cecil continued to feel useless and hapless. He prayed to God –

“Why God? Why?” He could not find the answer and his faith began to waver. “I can do nothing for myself. I cannot wash myself. I cannot dress myself. I can barely feed myself. I am not even in a position to end it all. I am a burden to everyone who knows me.”

  In spite of his anger and his loss of hope, as time went on the weight on his shoulder gradually began to lessen. He still felt a failure. He still felt he had lost everything. Even his life long belief in God began to fail him. He and his sister had had to dig deep financially to set in place much of his care. He had had to buy himself a large vehicle especially adapted to house him and his wheelchair. He needed help attending all too frequent hospital appointments. His friends patiently reminded themselves of the frustration and the anger which he must feel, and still gave him the calm love that they offered to all those who suffered.

Cecil began to accept that his life had undergone dramatic changes which he could not change. he began to think about the things in his life which were actually good. Instead of thinking with resentment about the things he had lost self respect, mobility, life without pain, playing the organ, driving. He could still speak, he could sing, he could read, he could smile. It made his family and friends so happy when he began to joke with them, and to chat without venting his frustration.

Instead of wishing he was dead and resenting his imprisonment in a wheel chair he accepted his new life style. People began to come to him to share their problems. Sometimes he was able to help them by sharing some of his own life or sharing wise words. Parishioners who were presenting with signs of low self worth came away from his house feeling better. His strength was encouraging people to see themselves as people rather than problems.

His family home was large enough for him to host church groups, it was easier that negotiating the issues travelling that albeit short distance to the church. So he moved from a situation where he thought he had lost everything to a place where he actually had more than he could have ever asked for. He had thought that God had forsaken him. But now he felt that after that accident he had been given greater gifts than he had ever had before.

There were still rough times ahead and obstacles to overcome. But he had learned to give love as well as receive. He no longer took life for granted. He had learned to find God’s blessings in every new experience.

“The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.”

Job 42 :12

What’s it all about?

Life is short. And we all start with hope in our hearts. we want to take part in life’s great adventure.

Some parts are easy – others hard. We reach a point at some time in our life when we start to take stock of what has happened, and where exactly we need to put our next steps. Which direction should we choose now?

So many of the promises we made at the beginning of the journey have ended up as the wrong direction, or even a dead end. There seems to be so much more to plan and so many roads which have been left untravelled.

I am a Christian. This naturally colours my thoughts, my prayers and the stories I tell. My blog will include a selection of all of these – reflection of a pilgrim walking the jouney, sometimes darkness, other times light.

Come with me and we can walk the walk together……