This is the view I see each October half term as we have a family holiday. I get to sit on the sofa and stare at the view as the sun rises – which at this time of the year doesn’t mean I am up that early!
Last night I had a bath and read some of a Ruth Rendell novel, I had previously had a walk by the sea and played golf with the adorable nephew. I am not always sure why I blog when I am on holiday, I do it in part because it is a spiritual discipline for me which gets me to reflect and at least identify something which I need to ponder on for a bit longer. In my term time life I don’t get a lot of time to sit and stare but I do need it to recharge and renew. It doesn’t have to be a pastoral scene like this – I could do the same with a city skyline, it is more about being still and resting.
Paul and I stood looking at this heron in the river at Bude asking if it was real. It was slightly deeper in the water than we usually see herons and it was so amazingly still. Eventually it started to move and we were clear then it was real!
I envy that capacity to be that still, at the end of a busy post holiday week – always plenty to catch up on I hope to take an hour or so today to be still, reflect, recharge between two lovely appointments – through skype and in real life!
Writing this is also in part being publicly accountable to actually doing it rather than just thinking about it!
Living in densely populated urban Birmingham, the moon tends to just appear in the sky and often in a position we cannot see out of our house. This picture was taken as we sat in a summerhouse watching with awe as the moon rose over the horizon and we watched it move in the sky. It was such an unexpected sight, not something we thought to look out for or plan in our day. One of those magic moments that nurtures the soul. Every July I remember how my world got bigger the day I sat in class at school hearing that humanity had walked on the moon – I still can’t really believe it when we seem unable to build a road surface that doesn’t get full of potholes in a short space of time!
I live a little bit in my head and am not always fully aware of what is going on in the world around but holidays are times to try and live in the moment and give my attention to the complexity and diversity of the world around me. I can then be filled with wonder and replenish, re-create and rest in a different sort of rhythm.
Yesterday we sat looking at this view and I began to think of the year that is ending today. In the background you can just see the dishes that enable someone somewhere to listen to who knows what! I have learnt so much from listening in the past year, about being a Curate, about spiritual care, about shame as I continue my studies, about how Common Awards works as CYM looks to develop new courses… There have also been a few hard climbs at various points of the year. I realized that my gratitude journal lasted until November which was a particularly difficult month for various reasons and probably a time when I need to focus on what I was grateful for but the little book got stuck in a big pile of books… but I am aware that we have so many things to be grateful for this year. You can just about make out the sea pool in the picture with the water being renewed by the sea – I am particularly grateful for the renewing moments during the year which include time with people, time learning new things, sacred and thin spaces and places… I am wondering about 2015 and as usual will spend some time on 1st January listening with God about the year ahead.
I am drawn to pictures of rest and regneration at the moment – perhaps God is saying something! The picture of the swan sleeping makes me want to curl up in a ball, close my eyes and dream. I have always enjoyed the story of the ugly duckling that grows up to be a beautiful swan – not that I think that the duckling was ugly – ducklings are so cute but I do know what it feels like to feel different to others sometimes. This picture reminds me to rest secure in who God has made me even when I am not in the place which feels most natural.
Yesterday Sally and I had a really nice day off. As a part of the day we went for a walk around one of our local lakes. A few years ago a new hide was built. Over the summer we have seen a higher number of cormorants, sea birds, on a lake which could almost be no further from the coast in England.
When we went a few weeks ago the lake had a small Island in the middle (picture on the right), but yesterday it was almost covered in water but there were even more cormorants . As well as a few on the postage stamp land and a few diving in the water most of them were in roosting in two trees, the ones that had lost their leaves (as in picture on the left). Perhaps there are a few trees in some normal nesting areas but this seems to be a contextual change according to need and the environment – where can they find a place of safety to rest?
Is this a lesson for all of us? Adapt, adjust, evolve according to our environment – find a way to flourish as individuals and as communities, find those places of rest and nourishment. Just twenty minutes watching the birds left us so much more relaxed and helped us to realize how we need to grasp those opportunities as they come along and take time to calm our souls and rest as God encourages us to do.
Recently Paul and I had a couple of days away on an all inclusive break where we just sat around and read and thought and created. This was in the preface of the first book I read and I was very challenged by it. Being fully present in the moment is not something I find easy but again I was reminded that I need to ask God to help me with this.
Rarely is life enough for us. Rarely are we able to live restfully the spirit of our own lives. More often what, where, and how we are living seem small, insignificant, petty and depressingly domestic. We seldom notice our hunger and sleep, cold and warmth. Rarely do we taste the coffee we drink. Instead we go through our days too preoccupied, too compulsive, too driven and too dissatisfied to really be able to be present to and celebrate our own lives. Always, it seems, we are somehow missing out on life. Added to this restlessness is fear and guilt. We live always in fear – about losing life, losing health, losing loved ones, losing a job, losing securities, losing youth, losing respect and losing ourselves. As well, our lives are always colored by guilt – guilt about things we have done wrong, guilt about things we have not done at all, and guilt, at times, simply about being alive, healthy and experiencing lives pleasures.
While I find it difficult to be real and say this is me there are times I know this is me – it sounds so unlike how I want to be but I know there are times when I feel like I am living on autopilot and not embracing life in all its fulness! I fear losing things which means I am not trusting God in the way that I want and I can feel that I should have done or not done so many things!
I have long loved the verses in Matthew 11.28-30 which talk about all those who are weary and heavy laden coming to God and I need to draw on those beautiful words rather than trying to carry on in my own strength.
Reference Ronald Rolheiser Forgotten Among the Lilies New York Image Doubleday 2005 pix-x