Spreading our wings

Patterns of nature

I have been really struck by the simplicity of the natural world as I have watched ducklings, goslings and now cygnets venture out on the water not long after hatching. They soon follow the lead of their parents in feeding and cleaning themselves. It is truly lovely to watch. I have been struck by the resonances between young birds venturing out and us venturing out as aspects of lockdown have been lifted. The latest announcements have led to much planning and preparation as people seek to bring more familiar aspects of our society out of hibernation; it can be really reassuring to see more signs of ‘normality’ returning to our communities.

On the other hand, in Leicester, we seem to be seeing an increase in cases; this has led to talks of a local ‘lockdown’. I have not found significant media speculation very helpful over the last number of months, but this comes as a stark reminder of the threat that continues to loom. One thing which seems ever apparent is that it is difficult to have any sense of certainty about anything in these times…I have found certainty however, in nature.

I’ve recently read Losing Eden by Lucy Jones which I highly recommend. The core thread running through it is that our minds need connection with wild, natural, world to be well – this connection brings clarity and a sense of something bigger – perspective. I have really noticed that when I have been able to walk or to sit in the garden, to listen to the birdsong, to feel the sun on my face, I have found comfort and refreshment, even amidst uncertainty and unfamiliar circumstances. This is one revelation from being in lockdown that I do not want to lose – what are your signs of hope during lockdown that you wish to hold on to?

My nature and my name…

Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into the deeps of my being. Show me the hidden things, the creatures of my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name. Give me freedom to grow; so that I may become that self, the seed of which you planted in me at my making. Out of the deep I cry to you, O God. Amen.

George Appleton (1902-93), adapted by Jim Cotter (b. 1942)
This loved toy, left behind in my neighbourhood today, will be known by a child somewhere. The child will know the toy’s nature and name with real fervour…remember that feeling – that is how God knows you!

After a week of ‘lock-down’ my way of life as ministering from home is becoming the new ‘normal’. No doubt for many of us, the novelty (if there was one) has well and truly worn off as the tensions of more than one adult needing a space to work, home education causes stress, the internet slows because we all need it, we are becoming increasingly worried about money and security as for some ‘working’ will soon cease to be an option, as job roles become redundant under these conditions…I could go on.

In conversation with a colleague this afternoon though I was pointed in the direction of the George Appleton prayer, quoted above. We had been talking about where we find our energy, and what the current circumstances reveal to us about ourselves. I invite you in the cool of this evening to spend time with these words, and ask that God “tell me my nature and my name”…. Ponder your responses to this new ‘normal’, your emotional responses. Notice where you are getting your energy. Notice where you are being drained. Hold them before God and ask that God would show you how to use your God given nature for the glory of God and God’s Kingdom…. Amen.

Uniqueness of creation…

Signs of spring, and even the heat of summer, have been with us for the last few weeks now. I remembered walking in winter amongst sleeping trees and seemingly dead and gone plants, thinking about the life cycle. It is amazing therefore to walk amongst new life at this time of year and see beautiful bursts of colour and a flourishing of our natural creation.

It’s a beautiful reminder that we are not in control…

That the rich diversity of our natural world reflects something of the character of God…

Beauty is present in many different forms and in the most unexpected places…

God who creates such diversity must surely value difference and individuality…we are all uniquely made!

Why then do we insist on a fixed understanding of beauty?

Why are we so intent to convince others that there is only one way to see things, only one way to make sense of life?

Beauty depends not on the subject, but the seers being prepared to look and really notice; or glimpse the glory of God in something or someone – it’s always there, we just have to take time! Each will see something slightly different, and that diversity of seeing is also part of the glory of God! The only challenge is to embrace it, and to be open to the uniqueness of creation.

Life and death…death and life

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way death is held and handled in the natural world, how different that may be to our various societal approaches to death, and possible reasons for this.

It seems that life can flow through aspects of the natural world that have died and are decaying.

New light can shine through, giving new perspectives.

Unexpected growth can come, which may or may not prove useful as an end, but can be a process which brings a different kind of beauty.

A form of protection can also be found to enable a nourishing and healing end for the surrounding community.

Sometimes, rather than an end, there is potential and the possibility of a beginning. Before this possibility is realised there is a period of rest and recuperation.

That rest occurs in community; it’s each taking care of one another’s needs…

…until finally there are the first signs of new life, growth, a new season.

With news stories such as this Triple Death Crash or reports of 11 US School shootings this year, it is little wonder that we often struggle to see death as a positive part of life. Equally losing a long loved relative can feel like just as much of a tragedy to those who grieve as the stories which make up our headlines. How often do we stand in solidarity through these times, not only in the weeks following but, in the months and even years that those left behind seek to adjust to a different way of life…a life without. I was astounded to find that for a major bereavement work places generally give three days of compassionate leave, and that is it. There are many front facing professions where this is just not enough for a person to recover to a state of being able to function. Equally after a few short weeks, no more than months, you are expected to be back to normal and yet this season of grieving can last well beyond expected time frames. Do we expect too much of ourselves, of one another? Do we allow safe spaces to voice our pain, our loss and our grief? How can we do this better?

Rain

#692 The sound of #rainonthetent when camping brings mixed feelings of wonder at being #closertonature as well as #apprehension that everything will stay dry! Ultimately it’s part of that experience of the #greatoutdoors which draws me closer to #god 

Image of God

#557 This week I’ve had a number of #conversationsaboutGod – quite normal in a theological college – and I’ve been struck by our inability to #express the #natureofGod in a way which fully symbolises God. This photograph is a starting point with the #cross, #light and #tabernacle all as different expressions of God’s presence here with us, but it doesn’t seem quite enough. For anyone reading this, I would like to invite you to photograph something which symbolises God for you and link it to this post with an explanation. I’m really interested in how different people understand God and would love to hear from you! Thank you in advance!

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Sense of hope


#373 Is this true? Do gardeners have more #hope than non-gardeners? A strange question perhaps…I guess what I mean is do those with a #deeperconnectionwithnature have a deeper connection with the divine, and a greater sense of hope as a result? When I’ve had a garden, I’ve found it incredibly therapeutic to spend time working and being within it. I think I do find a deeper connection with God in the #naturalworld as well. I’m reminded of a sermon I preached last year for #lammas in which we thought about farmers as those whose livelihood relied on them connecting   with, and listening for the heartbeat of God as they worked the land…what is it you do that helps you to hear the #heartbeatofgod and have a greater #senseofhope?