We have just got back from a couple of weeks in California. One of the things that took a while to work out was how to buy petrol! Our cards didn’t work in the pay at pump version but we still couldn’t work out how to start pumping gas! Finally we realised we had to go inside and prepay a certain amount and were then allowed to fill the car. When I said what I usually do at home, fill the car and then go and pay once I know how much petrol the car will take, I was looked at with incredulity. More than once I was told that if they allowed that people would just drive away without paying. Trying to guess how much fuel the car would take was challenging and a couple of times we overestimated and found it really hard to fill it up to the top! I have never thought about how petrol is sold at home, filling the car is one of those chores that often seems tedious (although I am very grateful for my car!). Now, however, it will remind me of the importance of trust and I am grateful for the trust that I will act honourably. It seems to me that is important for society and sad when we can’t do that. It wasn’t all like that – I accidentally gave a $20 bill instead of a $1 and the person who was selling me a smoothie gave it back to me and made sure I only paid the correct amount – it would have been easy for him to pocket it. Little things are important.
If you look really closely at this picture you will see me as I took the photo. I see this picture every time I walk out of our living room. I bought it because the phrase consider the lilies is one which has been important to me for many years. It is a phrase from the Bible which reminds me to trust in God. In a week of endings and announcements that is a message it is good to be reminded of.
We had fun watching these gulls last weekend – there was only a small patch of ice and we wouldn’t really have noticed it apart from this. We were not tempted to emulate them however much fun it might be to look like we were walking on water. However, life sometimes feels like you are walking on ice and are not sure when it might crack. My challenge is often like that of Peter (Matthew 14.22-33) to trust Jesus and carry on walking rather than getting bogged down by the circumstances, fear or a myriad of other emotions and finding myself sinking as the ice cracks.
On Saturday Paul and I walked the Worms Head at Rhossili on the Gower. I am not the most physically courageous and this was the closest I have ever come to rock climbing. On a short stretch right at the top Paul was telling me where to put my hands and feet as I ascended and then descended what was close to a sheer drop – at least to me. When I hear the word ’causeway’ I think of the paved roads at Holy Island or St Michael’s Mount not so many different rocks with no obvious routes through them! I wanted to feel the sense of achievement of walking the whole thing and it took courage as I didn’t know if I could and I was aware how precarious my footholds were at times – praise God for Keen sandals! At several points I wanted to give up and I was pleased I persevered and I pushed myself to see what might be possible.
I have used the term a gram of courage because I don’t want to get what I achieved out of proportion – I was proud of myself for what I accomplished but that is nothing compared with the courage of some of my friends who have to act courageously day after day just to make it through a day. Courage looks different for all of us and we are not always aware of the hidden challenges and circumstances people face.
Last week we got to see the river Tamar in many different moods. We turn the car round at the bottom of the road and I am often inspired to jump out of the car and take a picture such as this.
Life is a little like a misty morning at the moment, there are quite a lot of things I can’t see! On a different day I could probably have seen 20 boats but on this day just two. I know the boats are there, I just don’t know exactly where or what they look like. On those misty mornings I try to trust God and not try and work everything out myself or go to worse case scenario planning. To me this is a beautiful picture full of mystery and possibilities, that’s how I want to feel on the misty mornings of life.
One of my friends may well be sitting looking at this boat as I write this. She is on her ordination retreat. The boat is on the river and the oars are in the house so going out on the river is not something she can do on impulse – unless she is happy to go with the current – which may make getting back a bit tricky!
There were times on my journey towards ordination when I felt like I was in a boat without oars and that I needed to find them but they were not anywhere obvious. For me being out of control on a journey is not a position that I find very easy but the choices I have made in my life have meant that there have been times when it has felt like others have had control of my destiny. Yes I had God to trust in but there were times that was hard and I wanted a motor for the boat, not just a pair of oars.
This week I have a phone interview for a paediatric working group. It is in area I know a bit about and I was encouraged to apply. I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to interview.
In church today we had a reading about John the Baptist and him being asked “Who did he think he was baptising people?” He explains that this who he is, what he is called to do, and that he is not the Messiah. For more on this please see my previous blog. This is the approach I have been encouraged to take for my interview (especially not being the Messiah just a naughty boy according to my wife ala Monty Python!) I have been encouraged to just explain what we do. There is a temptation in some of our cultural contexts to big ourselves up, push ourselves forward at the expense of others or the cause.
So what I plan to do is to take my lead from John the Baptist, graciously answer the questions on who I am and what I know, and not try and be someone I am not and leave the outcome in the hands of others and God.