Saturday, 17 August 2019

'a long walk in the same direction'

I made a ten mile walk yesterday. It's quite some time since I, with my professed love of walking, walked so far, but I chose well for a first longer walk; by the side of the Selby Canal for 5 miles there, 5 miles back. All on the flat, in good weather.

It's an old canal, with bridges that look as if they would fit into a nineteenth century rural painting with ease. It made for a pleasant walk; quiet, green, an aid to contemplation and inner quiet. With unexpected pleasures amid the plod; the sight of two swans and their seven well-grown cygnets gliding down the canal towards Selby. A crab-apple tree, some sloes, views across the fields.

The words of the 'Nunc Dimittis' accompanied me all the way; Now Lord, let your servant depart in peace, according to your word. For mine eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before all people, A light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. Why this,and not something else, I don't know. But welcome it was, in the bright and particular light of a late August morning, knowing that the intensity of the summer light was not likely to be seen again this year, to know there was another light to illumine the way as we head into the darker part of the year.

The walk took about three hours. South-westerly there, roughly; north-easterly back, roughly. Long-enough, in a particular direction to qualify, I think, for that definition of life-long faithfulness which I and all Christians aspire to, to apply in some small sense; a long walk in the same direction. 


Sunday, 11 August 2019

Boundary issues

I hasten to state at the beginning of this piece that I am not in dispute with any neighbours over any boundaries; this new estate where we live has fences which mark clear edges to property. Nevertheless, it seems to me that much of the world's troubles stem from boundaries, and the disputes which arise as these are contended over. And most of them are nothing to do with land. It's more 'my rights versus what you (mistakenly) think are your rights' in any particular dispute. Or responsibilities, of course, or interpretations of truth, or visions of what society should look like, but human nature being what it is, I suspect 'rights' take precedence over these others in many a dispute.

We are not immune in the church- far from it. We are as disputatious as the rest, imperfect as we are. Our disputes mark the difference, the gap, between the church and those mysterious words of Jesus- 'the kingdom of God'. Trying to see what 'kingdom' means, and trying to bring it about, we make choices which shift over time as to what and who is 'in', what and who is 'outside' this kingdom, and these in turn set off disputes.

I wonder if Jesus knew what balls he was setting rolling as he talked of the 'kingdom of God'. When all is said and done, more has been said than done to bring it about. Nevertheless, I cling to that vision of a kingdom come which we find in the Revelation at the very end of the New Testament. In spite of our disputatious nature, we somehow struggle blindly, for the most part, towards 'justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit' as the Taize community has it as they sing, and which is spoken of in the Revelation. May it be so. 


Saturday, 3 August 2019


How small my world is! It encompasses my family, friends, church, acquaintances, interests. It's a box which contains me; the sides are what I believe about myself, what has been told me, all of which I have internalised or overcome, what I now believe about myself, about possibility. In that sense the box has no set dimensions, sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller.

My hope and belief is that with time, with the wisdom God gives me as I grow older, with his Spirit working within me, the box will  continue to grow, and not become smaller. I think of the chorus I sang in Sunday School so many years ago, about God's love being as 'wide, wide as the ocean, high as the heavens above....'; my little box can grow into that expansive space without crowding, if I give myself to it, give myself more fully into the hands of a loving God. 

And that little box should dissolve- this is the Christian hope- so that the soul can roam freely in the infinite love of God. Okay, so the fullness of this will only occur when I die, when I pass into the full realisation of eternity, but it would be good to stretch a little, begin to feel a citizen of that eternity now.

Lord deliver me from my small world, into the grandeur of yourself.

Saturday, 27 July 2019


The heat this week- extreme by Yorkshire standards; it is 44 C according to the thermometer on the cabin in the back garden- has reminded me of my year in the States, to which I set off fifty years ago this last week. I noted in the diary I kept that on one memorable day soon after I arrived in one of the leafier suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, that the temperature rose to 108F, a degree or two warmer than it is here today.
By contrast, in the winter it fell one day, if we count the wind-chill factor in as well, to minus 59F. I remember that day well; I had walked the mile into the town, and ran back as fast as I could, or I was sure my ears would drop off.
Mostly of course, it was less extreme, and mostly pleasant, although the humidity was hard to cope with in the summer. Three showers a day failed to keep me from being dripping wet, in spite of the air-con. I prefer a more equable climate. But wonder if the heat this week is a sign of things to come in this age of climate change.

There is a middle way in the faith too. Some have despised it, most notably the writer of the Revelation, berating one of the seven churches of the Roman province of Asia (in western Turkey) to which he was writing, for its being 'neither hot nor cold'. Well, I hope to be sincere and firm in my faith- I am reluctant to use that overworked word 'passionate'- but not lukewarm. Judicious, wise, seeing what good I can in all, drawing strength from many sides. I hope Jesus would approve. And maybe it's needed, a via media,a middle way, in today's world where polarity seems to be flavour of the month. 'The common good'; there they are, those words I keep uttering, in prayers and sermons. They demand a middle way.

Saturday, 20 July 2019


The 'Rambling Rector' rose which climbs along the north fence in the back garden is now over, and with it the lovely musky perfume which drifted across to the house, or which one caught when walking beside it.
A new fragrance has replaced it; the lavender, under the south fence is now a magnet to the bees and butterflies, and in the clammy afternoon heat its fragrance beats out into the rest of the garden. I hope it lasts for a good few weeks; there is nothing in the garden at present which will carry on the work of perfuming us, giving us such pleasure. The honeysuckle has been a disappointment- attacked by aphids, it has not been the glory this summer both of flowers and perfume, which I had hoped for.
As is to make up for that disappointment, a friend arrived this morning with a bunch of sweet peas, and their delicate aroma can be caught in the dining room; lovely! 

St. Paul's epistles ask us to be a fragrance for God. Striking image! Something that causes people to smile, to pause, to savour the present moment, to give thanks. Someone that causes God to smile, to be thankful we are as we are.In St. Paul's world, full of earthy smells and the Great Unwashed, a pleasing aroma would be something to be truly thankful for......

Well, the message is- we give off an odour, and I'm not necessarily talking B.O.! What is mine- something to make others smile, or something which causes folk to wrinkle up their noses? And what's yours?

Saturday, 13 July 2019

the post-prandial nap

For as long as I can remember- at least since 'O' level days- I have had a nap over lunchtime. Mostly after lunch, but if I'm struggling with that delicious drowsiness which tells me I need a sleep, sometimes just before lunch. If it fails to be part of the daily routine, Mary tells me that my normally equable and sweet-tempered self becomes bear-with-sore-head-like.

Twenty minutes is all I need to recharge, but sometimes of late it drifts into an hour, and if so, I find it difficult to wake up, and all afternoon I feel as though I would benefit from sleeping another several hours. Shocking, isn't it, in a grown man?

I'm reminded of the verses in the Old Testament about God not sleeping. Constantly watchful. whose attention doesn't drift off. At the great contest on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Elijah taunts these prophets, when their God does not answer their prayers to send fire down on the sacrifice they have made to him, that perhaps Baal is sleeping? Or has gone on a journey?

Elijah has absolute trust in the God who is ever wakeful and watchful, who does not need to recharge his batteries, who is not dopey at any time, is always alert to what is going on. At the same time, this same God recognises our need for rest and sleep- again, the Old Testament tells us 'He giveth his beloved sleep'.

'Someone to watch over me'- the old standard song, has it about right. I can rest in peace while God, ever alert, keeps watch.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Busy busy

Whoops! Twelve hours late in posting a blog! It's an indication that life has been too busy this last week.
If only life had a steady rhythm to it, where the days and weeks all has an equal weight of work and leisure.......instead, it all seems to be taken at a pace. Maybe there is an antidote, but I haven't yet found it. It's a delicate balance between wants and needs, the urgent and the satisfying, the must-do and the leisure options; things for self, things we do as a couple, things for church.

Somehow when I look at Our Lord, things never seem to be hurried. Maybe pressured, as in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his betrayal, but not hurried. A little searching for the secret of unhurriedness wouldn't go amiss....

Maybe it's about being appropriately resourced as well ,for all the different roles and demands. You'd think that two years into retirement, with a lifetime of sorting stuff, juggling priorities, I would have learned something. I wish.

As a youngster, keen in the faith, I admired for that sentiment of burning out for God. An incandescent flame. Not now; I'm in it for the long haul. In the words of Paul, I'm keeping on keeping on. Whatever the hurry.