Sue Ellis 11th May
Thought for theday 4- Hope and despair
llustration by Isabelle Arsenault from Mr. Gauguin’s Heart by Marie-Danielle Croteau, the story of how Paul Gauguin used the grief of his childhood as a catalyst for a lifetime of art
I came upon a thoughtful article about writing that weighs the complexities of sustaining hope in our times of readily available despair; the writing is by Rebecca Solnit ‘Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities’
‘Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.’
Beauty for brokeness
Hope for despair
For endless suffering
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice joy peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase
God of the Poor
Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold heart
And tears fall like rain
Come change our love from a
Spark to a flame
Paul Bettison 12th May
How do you feel about wearing a face mask? The suggestion is that when leaving our homes it may be necessary to wear a mask; not for our own protection, but in order to prevent others from coming to harm.
The prospect of wearing a mask may seem very strange, but isn’t that what, for some of the time, most of us do?
You know the sort of thing that I mean – “How are you?” we are asked; and, with a beaming smile, our response, “I’m fine”. Were the truth to be known, behind the mask sometimes things look rather different.
We may try to fool others, but there’s no fooling God who knows us through and through. ‘Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid..’
Lord, you have searched and known my ways
And understood my thought from far;
How can I rightly sound your praise
Or tell how great your wonders are?
Besetting me, before, behind,
Upon my life your hand is laid;
Caught in the compass of your mind
Are all the creatures you have made.
Such knowledge is too wonderful,
Too high for me to understand
Enough that the Unsearchable
Has searched my heart and held my hand.
Peter G Jarvis
Based on Psalm 139 verses 1-6
Hymns and Psalms 71
Sue Ellis 13th May
The difference between birdwatchers and twitchers?
I have been enjoying watching the birds feeding, from my kitchen window. I like some more than others, especially the little ones like goldfinches, blue tits and robins, but they are all worth observing. I also recall seeing magnificent red kites circling at Harewood House Leeds – followed by men in camouflage with long lens cameras and binoculars.
So I looked up what is the difference between a bird watcher (birder) and a twitcher –the answer seems to be that a bird watcher sits and waits to see what comes, and observes and notes the details in quietness; a twitcher sets out in search of a rarity and may need to move quickly, comparing notes with others and feeling real achievement in their finds.
It struck me this is a bit like the story of Martha and Mary – and we need sometimes to exercise each set of characteristics – one is not superior to the other…
For now I have to be a birdwatcher, like Mary, still at the feet of Jesus, watching and learning until I can pursue life’s achievements again.
God of grace and peace, give us perspective on our current situation in light of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Give us grace and peace.
Grant that we may have the heart of Martha, understanding our responsibility and calling to peacemaking;
Willing in time to work hard to set things right.
Grant that we may have the heart of Mary, understanding that the presence of Jesus in our midst is the most important thing to seek;
Willing to seek first your kingdom.
Stuart Merry 14th May
In the song ‘By Your Side’ there is a line, “The road I walk is changing my direction”.
When we are pressed by the problem of having to answer to others, our faith in what we know to be true frequently founders. In moments of spiritual weakness we can often be persuaded to diverge from the right path, with the best of intentions, finding the road takes us nowhere.
In my care there was a profoundly autistic child who I will call Paul.
Lost in a world of elective silence, at times he became inexplicably upset and cried. To gain his attention his mother would gently place both her hands on his cheeks and hold his head firmly until he made eye contact with her, then tenderly say, “Now then, tell me what’s matter.”
Paul’s parents were desperate to find some measure of ‘educational normality’ in their son and asked me to attempt a Key Stage 2 English Test with him. It was not something I thought would serve any purpose other than to frustrate us both in the attempt. The comprehension passage was about a boy who had lost his pet tortoise in the house, but in the garden a stone was observed to be moving around the lawn (obviously the missing pet tortoise).
Paul and I faltered very quickly, as the comprehension of both the test passage and my questions were bewildering to him. We made little headway in gaining marks to bring his score anywhere near the average of his peers. As I struggled to elicit answers as to what the stone might be, the dark clouds of stress and frustration were clearly making their mark on my facial and verbal communication skills.
Then, quite unobtrusively, but with infinite tenderness learned from his mum, Paul reached out to my face, placed the palms of his hands either side of my cheeks, and, looking deeply into my eyes said, reassuringly, “Now then, tell me what’s matter.”
Tears rolled unchecked down my face as I recognised Paul’s unique comprehension skills. This aspect of his emotional literacy was far and away in advance of many of his peers (as was his dance and his drawing skills). We both smiled then fell about laughing; the tension healed, and we gave up on the Test.
Like so many when faced with compromise, I had allowed the path I had taken to change my direction with Paul, looking (understandably) more to the needs of his mum and dad than his own. I had known what my head and heart had said but I had been diverted from my conviction that this was not in Paul’s best interests.
How often we expect others to conform to our norms. How easily we label and dismiss those with different skills, experiences and needs. Yet in these troubled times how much we have come to re-evaluate those we have taken for granted; and how we have now come to place our faith in their service.
Jesus’s anger with his disciples at their lack of faith in his power was understandable. In him all things are possible. He lights our path and responds to the needs of each individual, loving us for who we are, healing and equipping us for the direction our individual lives will take. Yet it is only as in the innocence of a child that we may enter His Kingdom.
We are not called to change others but to change ourselves, walking in faith, humility and joy to receive his healing Holy Spirit.
For Christ the path he walked was his direction. Through these difficult times may it be ours also.
Paul Bettison May
Much has been written and spoken of as we reflect upon what life may be like on the other side of the pandemic. The Prince of Wales added his ‘two-penneth’. He wrote “After the suffering and selflessness we are witnessing, we cannot allow ourselves to go back to how we were. When we come out of this pandemic, we must learn some lessons”. And what might those lessons be? The one that caught my eye was this; “simply of a kinder way of being”.
So how can we be kind? Perhaps by being caring and compassionate, by being ‘present’ for and attentive to others and responding to their needs. You could add to the list. Put simply, kindness is love in its everyday form.
Love and kindness go together – lovingkindness, a quality extolled in the Old Testament. And as St Paul wrote, when addressing the Christians in Corinth,
“Love is patient and kind”.
So, let our prayer be, that when we come out of this pandemic, things will be not just different but better. That in the world will be experienced love in its everyday form; kindness.
As I look forward to a time when things begin to look
more normal, help me to catch a vision of what that ‘new normal’ might be.
Help me to remember how acts of selflessness and caring have made such a difference to the life we
May lessons be learned, hope renewed, and kindness rekindled.
And may it begin with me.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Colossians 3 v 12
Paul Bettison 16th May
Have you noticed that, during the past few days, there appears to be more traffic on the roads? After weeks of adhering to the Covid 19 restrictions on travel, folk seem to be on the move again. A sign that things are getting back to normal?
So, what’s normal? Several ‘Thoughts for the Day’ have suggested that, even when restrictions are lifted, things will de different. We will be living in a ‘new normal’. In a previous offering I quoted the Prince of Wales who reflected on lessons to be learned.
“What might those lessons be? he wrote. The one that caught my eye was this; “..simply of a kinder way of being”.
He echoed what many folks have been saying. But it’s so easy to fall back into the old ways, into the comfort of the familiar. You will remember how John in his Gospel tells the story of how, after the events of Holy Week and the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples, who had professed that life for them would never be the same again, nevertheless returned to the lake, went fishing and no doubt found comfort in the familiarity of ‘the old days’. The risen Jesus calls them back to shore and challenges them to leave the familiar and follow him into a new normal. Read the rest of the story (John Chapter 21).
So, a question for us all; What example can we show to encourage folk to embrace a new normal which has, at its heart, a kinder way of being?
I have such good intentions.
When this Pandemic crisis is over, things will be different.
I will be different.
But you know, as I know, how easy it is for me to slip back into the comfort and safety of the old familiar ways.
So help me, I pray, to hold fast to my intention
to demonstrate a kinder way of being, that your Kingdom might come on earth as in heaven