Thought for the day 13th – 18th July 2020

13th July 2020 – Ian Morris 

One bright aspect of the lockdown was people going out to clap their hands in appreciation of the NHS. One of the Bible readings for this Sunday has a phrase, “The trees of the fields shall clap their hands,” made well known by its inclusion in a popular modern hymn. But trees don’t have hands; hands are a very human feature.
We clap our hands in joy and acclaim and we shake hands in welcome. We use our hands to add to our speech, some more than others, and touch is a very special and meaningful part of human interaction. It will be good to be able to touch each other again without fear of passing on infection.
Meanwhile we have that wonderful notion that we are all held in God’s hands. To ascribe to God that most human of activities, holding something in our hands, we sense how our frail nature is secured within the love of God.

14th July 2020  – Revd Paul Bettison

Were you able to share in the recent on-line worship service? We were promised that, in each of the ‘Breakout Groups’, the Superintendent would put in an appearance. Well, he didn’t appear in ours. Maybe it was something we said (when we thought that we were ‘muted’). But I suppose he can’t be everywhere.
Whilst at present, many of us find ourselves with time on our hands, until the restrictions came into force, the phrase “I can’t be in two places at once” was very much part of our vocabulary.
There are many gifts of the Spirit, but omnipresence – being everywhere at the same time -isn’t one of them.
Yet, the psalmist rejoices in the omnipresence of God. “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” The God who “knit me together in my mother’s womb”, “takes me by the hand”, and “holds me fast”.   Sometimes we need reminding that, wherever we are, God is around. In whatever situation we find ourselves, God is present. And that reassurance needs to be heard by people who feel isolated, lost, or alone. Try, when reading the psalm, to picture someone you know, and substitute ‘You’ for ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my’.   The reassurance of God’s omnipresence can also be felt, when we, as it were, take each other by the hand and hold each other fast.
Our Reflection;
There is no moment of my life,
No place where I may go,
No action which God does not see,
No thought God does not know.

Before I speak, my words are known,
And all that I decide,
To come or go: God knows my choice,
And waits to be my guide.

If I should close my eyes to God,
He comes to give me sight;
If I should go where all is dark,
My darkness is made light.

God knew my days before all days,
Before I came to be;
And keeps me, loves me, in my ways—
Through all eternity

                                                   Brian Foley.

15th July 2020  – Revd Paul Bettison

Life Story
Sometimes, when delivering teaching sessions with health care professionals, I would invite them to take a sheet of paper and spend a while creating a ‘life-time-line’. They would draw a line across the page, sometimes straight, sometimes wiggly, and on it mark significant events occurrences and experiences in their life story. What they initially considered to be an academic, factual, exercise often developed into something quite reflective, searching and, dare I say it, ‘spiritual’.
A surgeon once said that a story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. And I believe him to be right.
When reflecting upon our story, we may make some astonishing and revealing discoveries. Today I invite you to reflect upon yours. Maybe even having a go at creating your own ‘life-time-line’. Be prepared to be taken by surprise.
Then reflect upon the well-worn piece, ‘Footprints’. Like a pair of well-worn shoes, it may prove yet again to be comforting, supporting, and shaped for you.
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
                                                                                                                                                                         Mary Stevenson, 1936


16th July 2020  – Revd Paul Bettison

The psalmist proclaimed, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘let us go to the house of the Lord’”. Familiar words, that inspired Sir Hubert Parry to compose his sublime anthem. Maybe there is a musician around who can come up with a tune to which a contemporary version could be sung – “I was sad when they said unto me ‘you are not to go to the house of the Lord’”.   Whilst tentative steps are being taken to make it possible for folk to meet in church buildings for worship, services as we have known them may be, for a while, the things of which dreams are made.
Now, something upon which to ponder. What impact has our inability to gather for worship had i) on us and ii) on God?
i) I know that worship of God involves all that we are and all that we do, but nevertheless, for a church community, gathering together is important. We catch a glimpse of that as those of us who are able share in the weekly online worship opportunities. The practice of worship, at its best, draws us closer together and closer to God. It feeds our spirits and focuses our hearts and minds on God, revealed in Jesus, who, in and through his Spirit, is always at work in the world. We are missing it.
And ii) ? God only knows!
So, let’s look forward to a time when we can again sing “I was glad when they said unto me ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’”
Our Prayer:
Gracious God
We are, at present, unable to gather for worship, and we miss it.
We remember the exiles in Babylon and their cry ‘How can I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’.
It sometimes feels to us as though we are in a strange land.
Yet we know that, whilst we are unable to meet together, we are, by your Spirit, joined together and to you.
For that we thank you.
But, if we’re honest, will miss our communal worship, and just wonder whether you do too.

17th July 2020  – Revd Paul Bettison  

A colleague of mine, an occupational therapist by profession, spoke with me about the satisfaction that she derived from her job. She said that she helped people who were recovering from illness to improve their ability to do everyday tasks, and told me that she saw her role as being that of providing ‘scaffolding’ that offered support for as long as it was needed. I thought that was a helpful picture.
Well, its not only when ill that we need support. All of us, at some time, value those people who, like scaffolding, hold us up when we have a ‘wobble’ or even perhaps feel that we are in danger of falling over. We all at times benefit from support, be that emotional, spiritual, or physical.
So who is your ‘scaffolding’, and who is that you support?
Call to mind the phrase in the hymn that will be, for today, our prayer – ‘Let me be as Christ to you’
Our Prayer:
Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow,
till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.
                                      © Kingsway’s Thankyou Music

18th July 2020  – Revd Paul Bettison

“I can manage” – one of our most oft used phrases perhaps. We may like to think that we’re independent, but we’re not. I’d be the first to admit that, all too often, I’m reluctant to admit that I need help. Mindst you, that reticence doesn’t extend to the DIY department! Rather than DIY, I am a signed-up member of the GSI Brigade. That is, Get Someone In. I know my capabilities, or lack of them.
One of the most valuable lessons that life can teach us is that of our mutual dependency. That has been powerfully demonstrated during the challenges of the pandemic. Some folks, self-isolating or shielding, have depended upon others for shopping, collecting medication, and goodness only knows what else. We’ve rediscovered our dependency on others for conversation, company, and care. When such people are not physically around, we really miss them. Whilst on-line conversations may not be our first choice, chatting to friends and family via Zoom, Skype and the like have made it possible for us to be re-connected albeit to a limited extent. We depend on each other.
Perhaps during these past few weeks we have come to rediscover our dependency on God, who created us for each other. God, in whose image we are made, and by whose loving kindness we are sustained.
That loving-kindness, so often channelled through those people with whom we share our lives.
Our Reflection;
My light is burning bright
My stride is long, my head is high.
Don’t go; I need the humility of your low light.
Stay near and, if by chance you see more clearly to take your next few steps
We shall have served each other well,
But now my light is glimmering low,
I stumble and barely see the way
I need your light which now is burning strong.
Dare I believe you still need mine?
And now my light is out I think;
I cannot find the way at all
But stand in darkness, lost, afraid…
Until I see your light and trust your reassuring hand
And strength returns and fear is gone.
And now again, somehow, my light is burning bright.
Yet I did not see your light touch mine.
We are a gift and a miracle, you and I.


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