Saturday, 16 February 2019

A  quick search on 'google' can confirm or dispel most of the half-remembered things I want answers about nowadays. The words to 'The Ash Grove', that lovely Welsh folk song; a quote from one of the prophets -quicker to look on google than leaf through the Old Testament. And a search to find out what happened to the ship I sailed to New York on in 1969.

These searches can plug gaps in knowledge- before I forget it all again- but don't go anywhere near what is needful at this time of life, ( 70+ going on 25) which is the getting of wisdom. I can cram my head full of facts, but these are ineffectual in dealing with the ups and downs of life, and the decisions which come with those peaks and troughs.

Somehow the wisdom comes from within, and not via pressing keys on a laptop. And few people can tell you how it  is obtained. For me, it is the product of my inner life, where a mix of reflected-on experience, prayer, scripture and time- time above all- has given me the small store of wisdom I fool myself that I have accumulated.

It's something to do with refining, or percolating, like rain-water through rock- till it appears again like an emerging small stream . Unremarked, unnoticed, but making a valued, refreshing mark on the landscape of my life, which I draw on to nourish my experience. For all of which, God be praised.    

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Book of the month (2)

'…..and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.' These are the closing words of 'Middlemarch' about which I wrote last week. And they seem a fitting tribute to some of the characters in the book.

But more than that, these words reflect a truth which I hope would be universally recognised. I think of Simeon and particularly Anna,  there in the Temple when it came to Jesus' presentation as a child. Probably they were people whom regular worshippers there might half-recognise- 'I think they were here last time I came...' but whose faithfulness and constancy in worship would have largely passed unnoticed. We surmise from the gospel account they virtually lived in the Temple precincts. But their life was hidden from view to their generation. As it is from ours; apart from the brief incident which Luke records, we know no more.

Yet they added something to the story. A gladness they had seen God's anointed one, a prophetic voice warning Mary of pain to come because of this child, a foreseeing something of the trajectory of Jesus' life. And then they sink into the gospel narrative; we hear no more of them.

I'd like my life, indeed, every Christian's life, to be like that; a faithful life, hidden and not showy, adding to the stock of good in the world. The rest doesn't matter.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Book of the month.....

A copy of George Eliot's 'Middlemarch' has been sitting in one of our bookcases- unread- since 1981;  the book-plate on the inner cover gives that date. And now I am over two-thirds through it, and find it, eventually, unput-down-able. I was a bit slow to get into it just after Christmas, and put it aside for a book acquired as a Christmas present, but now...…… every spare moment seems taken up with it. It will be the middle of the week before it is finished, and I hope for neat and tidy endings with regard to the fate of all the main characters, although I fear that the plot has set up so many conflicts, that this hope will not be fulfilled.

My experience of the faith has some similarities with the process of reading 'Middlemarch'. Invest in it, and it becomes all-absorbing. Lay it aside, neglect it, and other interests supervene. I cannot say that neat and tidy endings are part of the faith; life is too varied for that. But the broad canvas             (cosmic in scope in the case of the faith), interest in the outcomes of people's affairs, and wanting the best for them; a benign understanding of the frailty of human behaviour, uncertainty as to how the future might unfold; all these are part of how our story is taken up into God's story.
And as with 'Middlemarch', the omniscient author will, I'm sure, bring it to a satisfactory ending.