I occasionally write poetry. Well, I call it that anyway. It is mainly for me and I seldom share it. I find that the starting point 99% of the time is a memory, and more specifically a remembered feeling that is sparked off by something in the “now.” Today, the remembered feeling is one of trembling excitement. It was the simply glorious weather today that sparked it off. It took me back to my first visit to the Mainland of Orkney when I was in the early stages of feeling the call of God to go to Orkney to minister. The day Morag and I first set foot in the islands we were met by the interim moderator – sorry that is Church of Scotland speak: it means the person in charge of a vacant church until they get a new minister. He took us out for lunch. I suppose lunch lasted about an hour to an hour and a half as there was much to talk about. I do not remember a thing about the food. I certainly remember the kindness and integrity and warm encouragement of the interim moderator, Rev. John Waugh. The other thing I remember is a passing thought that he must have wondered if I was being rude, because I was fascinated by the changing weather framed by the window behind him as he talked. It was almost like a speeded up video, that compacted a year into an hour! Every season seemed to cross that window. There was sun, rain, snow, wind whipping up leaves followed by calm. I had never seen such changeable weather! It was an early but definite sign that if we followed through the sense of call, we would be coming to a place which was different in every way to what we had been used to and I felt a tingling sense of nervousness mixed with a sense of an adventure that was beckoning.
By the time we had been in Orkney a couple of years, I got used to the rapid changes in weather so much so that I hardly noticed them. I got used to the constant wind across the treeless sea-hugging island we lived on, so much so that if the wind ever stopped blowing, it unsettled me and I could not sleep! It felt as though something was wrong! I was soon just like the locals in that I would call what we in Scotland would call a storm, “Just a breeze!” I got used to the very dark days of winter and the wonderful long spring and summer days. These long summer days are bound to become a poem or a blog or both someday or other whenever I manage to name the feeling they awaken as I think of them. It is not just fiction by the way; you really can read a book outside at midnight if you so choose; you can also play golf at that same hour, though in Orkney golf courses are rather rarer than hen’s teeth! But today it was the remembered first thrill of that changeable day that came forcibly to mind.
Somehow I was helped as I remembered. I guess that for me these last three years have been a time when nothing has seemed quite as stable or straightforward as I might have wished. My health has been unpredictable and unreliable. Squash had to give way to golf, which had to give way to riding a bicycle which has had to give way to walking along flat paths beside the canal. Changes are coming with where we will live, lifestyle etc. I am retired at least 8 years before the right season. Somehow that remembered day in Orkney lessened the fear of rapid change and brought back somewhere on the wind of the Spirit the call to adventure, the lure of fresh places to go in God, wherever and whatever they may look like. Change with no anchor points of course is a fearful thing. Let me tell you two things that I have been thinking about today that are helping me move away from the anxiety end of the scale towards adventure. I don’t think I have successfully completed that journey but I am getting there, even if at times it is one step forward, two steps back. If you are facing changes you find it difficult to negotiate, I hope what follows might help.
Firstly, there is one thing I know I can be certain about. Brennan Manning says that if a Christian is asked what is certain in this life, before they answer along with the world “death and taxes, ” they can say, “the love of Christ.” I don’t always handle the changes that come my way as well as I would like and sometimes fall into self condemnation. Thankfully though my trust is not in me but in Christ in me, Christ for me not against me. His love is constant, it does not change like the weather. Perhaps you are going through changing seasons of life at the moment. Perhaps the weather in your life is constantly shifting. You may be coping well. But perhaps you are not. It is so easy to pour upon ourselves how we “ought” to be or “should” be coping as a Christian. Somewhere in my mind I remember a preacher asking a question, “Which is greater; your capacity to mess it up, or God’s capacity to love you?” If you are tempted to say that you are making a hash of your life at the moment, that the way your are coping with the weather in your life seems stained with the word “failure” then let me quote to you words the source of which I do remember. Duncan Campbell says in a tape recorded sermon that, “The blood of Christ can cleanse as deep as the stain has gone.” That is a wonderful thought. Please believe it. Whatever mark you would give yourself for coping or not coping with changes you are trying to negotiate, there is nothing more certain than the love of Christ for you.
Secondly, if you are struggling to get some sense of continuity and order to your days for whatever reason, let me share help I found in Henri Nouwen. Frequently in his writings he draws attention to the way in which Jesus life was ordered. There were 3 anchor points; solitude with His Father, fellowship and communion with his disciples, and mission/ministry to the world. Especially in times where not a lot is certain and a lot seems to be changing, I have found these 3 anchor points useful to keep in mind. They help keep anxiety at bay and bring a sense of balance and some sort of order. I am not wanting to be prescriptive here about what these 3 concepts would look like in your day or week or month. Find what works for you. I am simply saying where I have found bread and want to share it with you.
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