The other day had a lovely walk round Buttermere. It is one of the smaller lake (fortunately) in the Lake District, a most beautiful part of England. I know foreign holidays are limited or non-existent at the moment but there were very many people walking round. It was great to see folk enjoying themselves with a little bit of freedom.
We live in such a wonderful world. Often we are too busy to notice it. These last few months there has been opportunity to ‘stop and stare’ as William Henry Davies (1871-1940) wrote –
What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows?’
As holiday travel to Spain is limited at the moment, it reminded me that I was in that country only 15 months ago. Three of us went out there to support our missionary friends who were in Algeciras, a ferry port and resort of southern Spain.
At the time we were there, the unemployment rate was high and being a ferry port, drug smuggling was a problem. I wonder how the members of that church are getting on now that the corona virus has hit the country..
We often had a laugh when we were there. I only knew about six Spanish words. My friend knew more, especially how to ask for a cup of tea. Useful until we wanted to order chicken. My miming of a chicken were not very convincing. Another time a cockroach was found in one of the cases. Not a laughing matter for the case owner.
Like many of your countries, in Great Britain we are slowly coming out of lockdown. As we know that in itself can bring many new hazards. We can get too close to other people, we can forget to wear our masks or just keep it over our chin. Although we wash our hands frequently it is still possible to touch something that it contaminated.
The hazards in coming out lockdown can be like the hazards in life. Something can look pleasant and enticing but lead to a road of disaster. A friendship can prove to be unsuitable or a TV programme is not as healthy as it should be. The story of Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, reflects our life. Like him we often stagger off the narrow path.
John Bode in his hymn ‘O Jesus I have promised to serve Thee to the end’ reminds us of this –
‘O let me feel Thee near me; the world is ever near,
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear,
my foes are ever near me around me and within,
but Jesus draw Thou nearer and shield my soul from sin.’
‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face towards you and give you peace.’ Numbers 6:24-26
I like the idea of the Lord making His face shine on me. This means He will be showering me with blessings. He will also be turning His face towards me; therefore i will receive the warmth of His smile.
We are in a period when we can’t smile. Well, we can smile but no-one will see it because of our masks. So we have to make our lips smile as we say kind and helpful things to people. We can make our eyes smile so that they shine out Your love. But what we really need is smiling hearts, then we will radiate smiling all round.
At this stage everyone has to learn more technology to stay in contact with the rest of the world. For some people it is a very steep learning curve. I haven’t quite mastered the ‘mute’ and ‘unmute’ button on Zoom meetings yet. It always seem to be the opposite to what I want.
In one meeting the comment was made, ‘Carol we can only see the back of your coffee table, we want to see your face.’ Clever people will know exactly what I did wrong.
As we become older we are more unwilling to learn new things But what about the things God is trying to teach us. God is definitely sending out messages during this pandemic. Are we spending time to discover what the messages are? They will be different for each once of us.
‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance.’ Proverbs 1:5
On this day back in 1866 Beatrice Potter was born in the south of England. She became a writer, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist. Wherever you live in the world you may have heard of some of her creations with fanciful names like Jemima Puddleduck or Squirrel Nutkin.
Her characters and illustrations have walked out of many of her books, still in popular demand today. She moved to the Lake District which was the inspiration for many of her stories.
As a conservationist she bought much land in the area and farmed in a responsible way. She helped to form the National Trust which cares for areas all over the country. The beauty of her surroundings can still be seen today and is still being preserved.
No hugs. No handshakes. For the foreseeable future this will be the norm. Maybe we never appreciated the human touch before. There was the cuddle when the youngster grazed their knee. There was the lovers’ embrace and kiss. A pat on the back saying ‘well done,’ was welcome and encouraging.
Now for a while we have to keep our distance. This is right and sensible. By being diligent we will overcome this virus. Though touching will eventually make a welcome return.
Touching was part of the agenda for Jesus. In the book of Luke we read ‘People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have Him touch them.’ After the resurrection of Jesus He invites his disciples to touch Him, ‘It is I myself! Touch me and see.’
In Matthew we read ‘People brought all their sick to Him and begged Him to let the sick touch the edge of His cloak and all who touched Him were healed.’ Then the woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years said to herself ‘If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.’
Today the touch of Jesus is demonstrated by our caring and sacrificial medical staff.
Because of the pandemic in my country, England, it is becoming compulsory to wear face masks. There had been much debate about their effectiveness. Many of your countries have been way ahead of us.There is still discussion as to whether we are protecting ourselves or others.
I am very happy to mask my face as I am old enough to remember owning a gas mask during WW 2.
But we also need to consider the virus that comes out of all our mouths – hateful words, gossip, slander, sneering, rumour, lies and so on. These are a virus which hurt and wound. We also need protection from these words which are directed at us.
‘With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s image.. Out of the same mouth come forth praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.’ James 3:9-10
During this pandemic many of our wonderful medical staff have died. Not many of you will know the name of Cecilia Fashanu but she was a nurse in our local hospital. She has been described as passionate, caring, gentle and meek. Not a bad obituary. She was 63 years old and had trained in Nigeria.
Her son has described her as ‘the centre of gravity’ and she had ‘patience for all the patients.’ He also said that only their faith in God has kept them going. We do thank God for all the Christian medical staff that we have. Some have paid the ultimate sacrifice and we owe them a debt we can never repay
‘She is worth far more than rubies.’ Proverbs 31:10
This week I climbed a small Wainwright. OK it was only a tiny one, number 192. Going up there was a slight drizzle; not good for me wearing glasses. It was not possible to see the top because of the mist. When we did reach the top we couldn’t see where we’d come from.
Then we were assailed by the strong wind but we found shelter to eat a snack and after photos to record the climb we turned to come down. The photos emphasised the inclement weather.
As wedescended out of the mist the weather changed. We could see our cars in the valley and two of the local lakes. By looking hard we could see the Solway and Scotland. Then the mist moved obliterating that view and revealing another. Mist was on the move all the time.
It was my friend who pointed out how like life this was. Sometimes we are in the mist; surrounded by problems and not seeing a way out. Then we see a ray of sunshine and life becomes easier. Weather and life do not stay the same. We can be on the mountain top of life or down in the valley.
It is then, and always, that we need our God. He is not like the swirling mist; He is like the solid rock beneath our feet. “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”