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May's Daily Message

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1 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 29: Friday 1st May 2020

Thought for the Day

Today is of course 1st May, traditionally a day of celebration. I wonder what pictures and experiences come to mind? Perhaps, in the past, you have been to the May Morning celebrations in Oxford or danced around a May Pole. For some reason, a picture that comes to my mind is a rather serious one: images of May Day Parades in Soviet Russia, with its demonstration of Russian military might. I think I remember these images from watching the television news when I was growing up – an interesting reminder of the power of television to shape our memories of the past. But in case you think that I must have had a very serious upbringing, I also have lots of light-hearted memories as well. I went to a school where music played an important role, and I have happy memories of madrigal singing on May morning.

For me, a significant part of the celebration of 1st May is that it is the day when the Church remembers two early followers of Jesus, namely St. Philip and St. James. (If you’re interested, there are two St. James, and they are designated the “Less” and the “Great”; today’s celebration is for St James the Less.) There are several short but fascinating passages relating to Philip in John’s Gospel. In one of these passages, Philip makes a request of Jesus: “Lord, Show us the Father [ie. God], and we shall be satisfied”.

There is a lot to reflect upon in Philip’s request. To start with, where do we see God in our lives and in our world? Can we see him at all, or is he always invisible? And then there’s the second part of the sentence: the idea that our needs and desires will be satisfied when we can see God. I wonder what we’re looking for in our life at the moment? What are our deepest needs and desires, and how and when will these desires be satisfied?

I think that’s probably enough to think about this May Day - thank you St. Philip!

Prayer for Today

Lord,
I know you want me to live a happy and fulfilled life,
help me to understand my true needs and desires,
and protect me from seeking satisfaction in places where it is not to be found. Amen.
2 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 29: Friday 1st May 2020

Thought for the Day

Today is of course 1st May, traditionally a day of celebration. I wonder what pictures and experiences come to mind? Perhaps, in the past, you have been to the May Morning celebrations in Oxford or danced around a May Pole. For some reason, a picture that comes to my mind is a rather serious one: images of May Day Parades in Soviet Russia, with its demonstration of Russian military might. I think I remember these images from watching the television news when I was growing up – an interesting reminder of the power of television to shape our memories of the past. But in case you think that I must have had a very serious upbringing, I also have lots of light-hearted memories as well. I went to a school where music played an important role, and I have happy memories of madrigal singing on May morning.

For me, a significant part of the celebration of 1st May is that it is the day when the Church remembers two early followers of Jesus, namely St. Philip and St. James. (If you’re interested, there are two St. James, and they are designated the “Less” and the “Great”; today’s celebration is for St James the Less.) There are several short but fascinating passages relating to Philip in John’s Gospel. In one of these passages, Philip makes a request of Jesus: “Lord, Show us the Father [ie. God], and we shall be satisfied”.

There is a lot to reflect upon in Philip’s request. To start with, where do we see God in our lives and in our world? Can we see him at all, or is he always invisible? And then there’s the second part of the sentence: the idea that our needs and desires will be satisfied when we can see God. I wonder what we’re looking for in our life at the moment? What are our deepest needs and desires, and how and when will these desires be satisfied?

I think that’s probably enough to think about this May Day - thank you St. Philip!

Prayer for Today

Lord,
I know you want me to live a happy and fulfilled life,
help me to understand my true needs and desires,
and protect me from seeking satisfaction in places where it is not to be found. Amen.
3 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 29: Friday 1st May 2020

Thought for the Day

Today is of course 1st May, traditionally a day of celebration. I wonder what pictures and experiences come to mind? Perhaps, in the past, you have been to the May Morning celebrations in Oxford or danced around a May Pole. For some reason, a picture that comes to my mind is a rather serious one: images of May Day Parades in Soviet Russia, with its demonstration of Russian military might. I think I remember these images from watching the television news when I was growing up – an interesting reminder of the power of television to shape our memories of the past. But in case you think that I must have had a very serious upbringing, I also have lots of light-hearted memories as well. I went to a school where music played an important role, and I have happy memories of madrigal singing on May morning.

For me, a significant part of the celebration of 1st May is that it is the day when the Church remembers two early followers of Jesus, namely St. Philip and St. James. (If you’re interested, there are two St. James, and they are designated the “Less” and the “Great”; today’s celebration is for St James the Less.) There are several short but fascinating passages relating to Philip in John’s Gospel. In one of these passages, Philip makes a request of Jesus: “Lord, Show us the Father [ie. God], and we shall be satisfied”.

There is a lot to reflect upon in Philip’s request. To start with, where do we see God in our lives and in our world? Can we see him at all, or is he always invisible? And then there’s the second part of the sentence: the idea that our needs and desires will be satisfied when we can see God. I wonder what we’re looking for in our life at the moment? What are our deepest needs and desires, and how and when will these desires be satisfied?

I think that’s probably enough to think about this May Day - thank you St. Philip!

Prayer for Today

Lord,
I know you want me to live a happy and fulfilled life,
help me to understand my true needs and desires,
and protect me from seeking satisfaction in places where it is not to be found. Amen.
4 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 30: Monday 4th May 2020

Thought for the Day

How are things with you? Have things settled down a bit, and has a new routine begun to establish itself? Or is everything still pretty overwhelming?

Much of our energy and focus at present is being spent on the here and now - simply getting through each day. But some of us might be finding that we are beginning to find a bit of space in our lives, in which to be able to start thinking about the future – what the “new normal” might look like once the Coronavirus pandemic is over. How might the “new normal” be different from how things used to be? How might the world become a better place, and what might we do to help to bring this about?

There are, of course, lots of varying answers and approaches to this question. Everyone is different, and everyone’s circumstances and opportunities are different. But I would like to explore one particular approach, which is at the heart of the Christian Faith. The idea can be expressed very simply: we discover meaning and purpose in our lives by caring for others. So, as we think about the possibilities and opportunities of the “new normal”, I’m wondering: how we might become better at caring for others? What might this care look like?

It might be that we become better at caring for the poorest and most-marginalised communities around the world. There are lots of charities and non-governmental organisations who work to tackle the root causes of poverty and to provide emergency relief when disasters strike. At this time of year, in this country, there is a tradition of supporting the work of Christian Aid. Christian Aid is a partnership of people, churches and local organisations, committed to ending poverty around the world. You may wish to support them or may not; but do have a look at their website to see what they do.

This is only one way, of course, in which we might become better at caring for others. I will be exploring some others in the days ahead!

Prayer for the Day

Heavenly Father, when we’re stressed,
it can take all our energy just to care of ourselves and our families.
Remind us that others need our care too,
especially the most vulnerable. Amen.
5 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 31: Tuesday 5th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Yesterday, I started a series of Daily Reflections thinking about how we might become better at caring for others. As a Christian, I am convinced that we can discover meaning and purpose in our lives by caring for others. For me, caring for others is not limited to caring for fellow human beings – I think we are called to try and care for the whole of God’s wonderful creation.

Over the last few days, I have been thinking quite a bit about birds. When I go for a walk at the moment, I hear such a range of bird song. I can only recognise a few of the birds in question, but it is lovely to hear them all, chirping and cooing away. At present I have the additional delight of a pheasant. I usually only hear him, but occasionally he emerges from the undergrowth and then I see him in all his magnificence. In fact, yesterday I saw him with a lady pheasant - all very exciting. I wonder if baby pheasants are in the offing.

Life would be so much the poorer without our birds. There is quite a bit we can do to care for our birdlife, locally and around the country. Caring for birdlife is often closely connected with caring for our environment as a whole. Many charities are involved in this work but let me mention just a couple. The first is the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust. This local Wildlife Trust works in partnership with other Wildlife Trusts around the country – you can find out about the work of the Wildlife Trusts on the internet. The second charity is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – do have a look at their website to see what they are up to. The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB provide lots of practical ways in which we can enjoy, value, and protect our environment.

I think many, if not all, of us will have appreciated seeing and hearing the birds around us during these days of lockdown. I wonder what we might do to show our appreciation for them, now and in the months ahead?

Prayer for the Day

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the sounds and sights of nature all around us.
Help us to be good stewards of all that you have given us,
so that the generations to come
may enjoy all that we enjoy today. Amen.
6 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 32: Wednesday 6th May 2020

Thought for the Day

If you are a regular reader of these Daily Reflections, you will be aware that at present I’m writing a series of reflections on how we become better at caring for others. Why am I doing this? Because, as a Christian, I am convinced that we can discover meaning and purpose for our lives by caring for others.

Yesterday I was thinking about caring for our birdlife, locally and around the country. Hearing birdsong does so much to lift the spirits; but so does looking at them, too, whether they’re poking around on the ground, sitting on a branch, or wheeling high in the sky above us. But what if we are partially sighted or can’t see at all?

We’ve probably all heard of the Royal National Institute of Blind People. They do so much to support the blind and partially sighted – do have a look at their website. It’s easy to assume that the only way to support a charity is through making a donation of money, but there are lots of other ways to support a charity’s work, which can be as valuable or more valuable than a financial gift. If you look at the RNIB’s website, you will see that they provide many different ways in which we can support them: there are volunteering opportunities; the possibility of internships; and the possibility of being part of their campaign network, in order to work with others to create a society where sight loss isn’t a barrier to living life to the full.

One of my favourite sayings of Jesus comes in the gospel of John, where Jesus says that he has come to give life, life in all its fulness. I wonder what we might do to help the blind and the partially sighted live life in all its fulness?

Prayer for the Day

Heavenly Father,
so often we take the precious gift of sight for granted.
Help us to help those who are partially sighted,
and those who cannot see at all,
and bless all who work as ophthalmologists,
in this country and around the world. Amen.
7 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 33: Thursday 7th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Do you have memories of time spent with grandparents when you were growing up? There can be something very special about relationships across the generations. I have fond memories of my granddad, who grew up in a steel town in the North of England. He used to tell me about the hard times of the 1930s, and his experiences in the Home Guard during the Second World War. He was a life-long Methodist, and I can remember an occasion when I sat down at the piano in his front room, and he asked me to play a hymn. I started to play, and he started to sing the words of the hymn - from memory! I can remember his kitchen - he used to chop up potatoes and fry them for lunch. I can also remember his favourite biscuits.

As I look back on my childhood, I’m so pleased I was able to spend time with my granddad. He was someone whose life was so different from mine, but there was a bond between us - something deeper than merely the family link.

Perhaps you are a grandparent yourself and enjoy spending time with your own grandchildren.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the challenges and opportunities of our own generation and can forget that there have been generations before us, and there will be generations to come. Every generation offers its own perspective on life, and every generation has something to teach.

Over the last few days, we have been thinking about how we might get better at caring for one another. I wonder: how might we get better at caring for members of a different generation? A simple way night be deliberately to spend time with those younger and those older than ourselves. As we spend time together, we can listen to each other, and learn from one another. And I’m sure we can have a good laugh together too!

Prayer for the Day

Heavenly Father,
we thank you for the multi-generational aspect of family life.
We thank you especially for grandparents and all that they have to teach us.
Help the different generations to understand each other,
and help us all to be willing to learn new things,
even when we’re sure we right! Amen.
8 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 34: Friday 8th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Over the last few days, we have been looking at various ways in which we might get better at caring for others. Sometimes it’s been about things we can do; and sometimes it’s been about things we can think about; and sometimes it’s been about both.

When we are faced with human need, there can be a natural desire to move straight away to doing something about it. But sometimes it can be good to first pause and to think things through. Part of this is about personality – some people are more “activist” than “contemplative”. Part of it is about what our culture measures and values: some cultures value “thinking time”, while others focus on measuring output. And of course part of it is about the particular circumstances in question: if our house is on fire, I don’t think we’d be very happy if our neighbour said “Let me think about phoning the fire brigade - I’ll get back to you tomorrow!”

Spending time thinking about important things is a significant strand in Christian spirituality. It is often called “Contemplation”. Today the Church remembers Mother Julian of Norwich, who lived back in the 14th Century. She wrote what is the first surviving book in English written by a woman: The Revelations of Divine Love. Mother Julian lived in the wake of the Black Death, and she was no stranger to the existence of pain and suffering in the world. But her spirituality is profoundly optimistic - why? Because she was convinced that we are loved by God and protected by His providence. Although she lived such along time ago, many people today find her writings a great source of comfort and inspiration.

Mother Julian was someone who spent her time thinking about important things - and this formed the foundation for her being able to help others, in own lifetime and down the centuries as well. She is a good reminder to our activist culture that spending time thinking things through is never wasted.

Prayer for Today

Lord, so often we’re in a rush to do something,
a rush to get results.
Help us to give ourselves time to think things through,
time to consider options, and time to ask for help. Amen.
9 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 34: Friday 8th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Over the last few days, we have been looking at various ways in which we might get better at caring for others. Sometimes it’s been about things we can do; and sometimes it’s been about things we can think about; and sometimes it’s been about both.

When we are faced with human need, there can be a natural desire to move straight away to doing something about it. But sometimes it can be good to first pause and to think things through. Part of this is about personality – some people are more “activist” than “contemplative”. Part of it is about what our culture measures and values: some cultures value “thinking time”, while others focus on measuring output. And of course part of it is about the particular circumstances in question: if our house is on fire, I don’t think we’d be very happy if our neighbour said “Let me think about phoning the fire brigade - I’ll get back to you tomorrow!”

Spending time thinking about important things is a significant strand in Christian spirituality. It is often called “Contemplation”. Today the Church remembers Mother Julian of Norwich, who lived back in the 14th Century. She wrote what is the first surviving book in English written by a woman: The Revelations of Divine Love. Mother Julian lived in the wake of the Black Death, and she was no stranger to the existence of pain and suffering in the world. But her spirituality is profoundly optimistic - why? Because she was convinced that we are loved by God and protected by His providence. Although she lived such along time ago, many people today find her writings a great source of comfort and inspiration.

Mother Julian was someone who spent her time thinking about important things - and this formed the foundation for her being able to help others, in own lifetime and down the centuries as well. She is a good reminder to our activist culture that spending time thinking things through is never wasted.

Prayer for Today

Lord, so often we’re in a rush to do something,
a rush to get results.
Help us to give ourselves time to think things through,
time to consider options, and time to ask for help. Amen.
10 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 34: Friday 8th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Over the last few days, we have been looking at various ways in which we might get better at caring for others. Sometimes it’s been about things we can do; and sometimes it’s been about things we can think about; and sometimes it’s been about both.

When we are faced with human need, there can be a natural desire to move straight away to doing something about it. But sometimes it can be good to first pause and to think things through. Part of this is about personality – some people are more “activist” than “contemplative”. Part of it is about what our culture measures and values: some cultures value “thinking time”, while others focus on measuring output. And of course part of it is about the particular circumstances in question: if our house is on fire, I don’t think we’d be very happy if our neighbour said “Let me think about phoning the fire brigade - I’ll get back to you tomorrow!”

Spending time thinking about important things is a significant strand in Christian spirituality. It is often called “Contemplation”. Today the Church remembers Mother Julian of Norwich, who lived back in the 14th Century. She wrote what is the first surviving book in English written by a woman: The Revelations of Divine Love. Mother Julian lived in the wake of the Black Death, and she was no stranger to the existence of pain and suffering in the world. But her spirituality is profoundly optimistic - why? Because she was convinced that we are loved by God and protected by His providence. Although she lived such along time ago, many people today find her writings a great source of comfort and inspiration.

Mother Julian was someone who spent her time thinking about important things - and this formed the foundation for her being able to help others, in own lifetime and down the centuries as well. She is a good reminder to our activist culture that spending time thinking things through is never wasted.

Prayer for Today

Lord, so often we’re in a rush to do something,
a rush to get results.
Help us to give ourselves time to think things through,
time to consider options, and time to ask for help. Amen.
11 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 35: Monday 11th May 2020

Thought for the Day

I hope you have had a pleasant weekend. There’s been quite a change in the weather! We’ve had strong winds here in Blewbury, and it’s been fascinating to see the shrubs and the trees moving in the wind. Sometimes the gusts have been particularly strong, and some of the branches have been bent back so far that they seem that they are just about to snap – but of course they never do snap, as they have the flexibility to respond to the movements of the wind.

Some years ago, I had a fascinating tour around the roof, tower and spire of Salisbury Cathedral. The spire is, famously, the tallest spire in England. The person who was taking me around pointed to the spire and said that it looked sturdy and solid. But actually, during a strong wind, the top of the spire moved at least a foot. Its strength was in its flexibility. If the spire did not move in a strong wind, it would collapse.

I think there’s a valuable lesson for us here. Yes, it’s good to have our principles and fixed positions and set ways of doing things. But we all need to have a bit of flexibility, too. We need a bit of flexibility, so that when the winds of change blow particularly strongly, we have a bit of give in our lives. That bit of give, that bit of flexibility, makes the difference between holding steady and snapping under the strain.

I wonder if there’s some area of our lives at present where we need to show a bit of flexibility?

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
Help us to see where we need to stand firm,
and where we need to be flexible.
Save us from stubbornness
and help us to be open to change. Amen.
12 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 36: Tuesday 12th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Here is a question for you: how well do you know Beaconsfield? A little, perhaps, or quite well? If you know it quite well, you may be familiar with the church of St Michael and All Angels. During the Second World war, the then vicar, Revd Ronald Dix, felt called to leave his parish to serve as a chaplain in the armed forces. He had a brother, who was also a priest, and he arranged for his brother to come and run the parish in his absence. His brother was a monk, as well as a priest, and a noted if controversial scholar. His brother’s name was Gregory, and because he was a monk he was known as Dom Gregory, or Dom Gregory Dix in full. Dom Gregory used his spare time to continue his researches into the history of Christian worship, and to write a book, titled “The Shape of the Liturgy”. This book was published in 1945, and it has proved highly influential - not least because the conclusions which Dom Gregory reached continue to shape worship today. Not bad for a book published 75 years ago!

I’m thinking of Dom Gregory for two reasons. First, it’s his day today - the day when he is remembered in the church’s calendar. But secondly because Dom Gregory was able to make a virtue out of necessity. I’m sure that it had never been part of his plans to be the stand-in vicar of St Michael and All Angels. But that was how events turned out. He was going to be there for the duration of the War, and so he thought to himself: how can I make the best of this situation? I know, I’ll write a book!

For all of us, the Coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions which have come in its wake have come along unexpectedly and quite uninvited. While the restrictions last, in one form or another, I wonder: how might we make a virtue out of necessity? Perhaps now is the time to write that book we’ve always wanted to write!

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
Everyday you give us opportunities,
opportunities to use the gifts you have given us,
opportunities to show some love and kindness.
Lord, give us the wisdom and courage we need
to make the most of the opportunities we have. Amen.
13 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 37: Wednesday 13th May 2020

Thought for the Day

You may remember that yesterday I wrote about a monk, Dom Gregory Dix, and the book that he wrote during the Second World War. This has got me thinking about monks and monasteries. I wonder: have you ever visited a monastery?

Many monasteries welcome guests, and you can visit for a couple of hours, a day, or stay longer in the guest accommodation which they provide. What you do during your visit is up to you. You might simply sit in the garden or in the abbey church. You might join the monks for a service. You might see if one of the monks were available for a chat about spiritual things. It’s really up to you. And don’t worry: the monks won’t ask you what church you go to, if any. You will simply be welcomed as a fellow human being.

Monasteries have played an important role in my own spiritual life, and when I get the opportunity, I like to visit a local monastery, Douai Abbey, which is just off the A4, about half way between Newbury and Theale.

Monasteries are, quite deliberately, places of quiet. Monks have learnt down the centuries that we need to create spaces of quiet in our lives, to reflect and to engage with the deep questions of life. As human beings, we can have a tendency to fill our lives with busyness and chatter, so that we never think about the bigger issues. In a world of constant TV and a myriad of mobile devices, it has, I think, got even harder for us to allow ourselves the space simply to be. Perhaps we are frightened at coming to terms with who we really are, and so we fill every spare moment with noise of some description. And what would a monk say to this? He would probably smile and say: slow down, calm down, give yourself a silent space to connect with your true self. There is nothing to fear: God loves the real you. Let God embrace you in the silence.

As I go for my walks during the current lockdown, I often think how much quieter life has got, with less traffic on the roads. And I thank God for those moments of quiet when God and I can simply enjoy each other’s company.

Prayer for Today

Help me, Lord,
to find some quiet, and to rest awhile.
Help me, Lord,
to connect with what really matters in my life. Amen.
14 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 38: Thursday 14th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Do you sometimes find that particular words and phrases stick in the mind?

There is a particular phrase that’s lodged in my mind at present. It comes from the words of prayer known as the Collect for the 4th Sunday after Easter. The starting point of the prayer is a recognition that we need to be careful about simply following our wills and desires. The prayer describes our wills as “unruly” – in other words, sometimes our desires lead us astray. It’s as if there’s something inside of us which insists on leading us in a direction which is going to lead to disaster. We might be lucky enough to spot this and try our best to resist our will – but the will fights back, determined to lead us where we know we should not go. Why are our wills so “unruly”? Often, it’s because we mistake where true joys are to be found - we think that if we do such and such, or have such and such, we shall be truly happy. We make every effort and obtain what we think will make us happy – and then find that actually, we’re not happy at all. Happiness and joy have eluded us.

The prayer which I have referred to goes on to ask God to help us to focus on the place “where true joys are to be found”. The prayer leaves it at that - it doesn’t tell us what these true joys are, and it doesn’t give us the postcode or map co-ordinates for the place where they will be find. It allows us to think about these questions for ourselves.

I wonder where “true joys” are to be found? What answer would you give? Perhaps you might say that they are to be found in our relationships with one another, especially within a family. Perhaps you might say that “true joys” are to be found in the loving service of others - putting others first. Whatever answer you might wish to give, the question remains: where are “true joys” to be found?


Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
Guide us as we search for happiness,
joy, and fulfilment in our lives,
and save us from seeking them in places
where they are not to be found. Amen.
15 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 39: Friday 15th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Do you find making choices easy? Of course, it can depend on the nature of the choice, how complex it is and how important we feel it is to get the decision right. It can also depend on our personalities and the culture in which we are working. Some cultures put a premium on being decisive and making quick decisions; other cultures place more value on deliberation and weighing up pros and cons.

In my own life as a parish priest, there is a particular choice which has been very much on my mind. The official regulations now permit me to enter one of my churches to say prayers, provided I follow some strict guidelines. Members of the congregation are not permitted to enter the church building - only the priest and members of the priest’s household are permitted to do so. So, I have been given a choice – what do I do? I was in a group of other clergy discussing this, and it was clear that different priests held different views. For me, I do not feel it is right for me to enter my church buildings when members of the congregation and other villagers are not permitted to do so. I look forward to entering when we’re all allowed to enter. I been thinking quite a bit about the choice which I have made, about how it feels, and about what it might be saying to me about my own values.

Thinking about the choices which we face, and the choices which we have made, can be a powerful way of growing in our understanding of who we really are as human beings, and how God might want to be at work in our lives. We can all make good choices, bad choices, and choices which are somewhere in between.

I wonder how we might give ourselves the space we need to make a “good” choice? I wonder what a “good” choice might look like – in your life, and in my mine?

Prayer for Today

Lord, every day you present us with choices,
some trivial, some important.
Give us the space, wisdom,
and courage we need to choose well. Amen.
16 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 39: Friday 15th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Do you find making choices easy? Of course, it can depend on the nature of the choice, how complex it is and how important we feel it is to get the decision right. It can also depend on our personalities and the culture in which we are working. Some cultures put a premium on being decisive and making quick decisions; other cultures place more value on deliberation and weighing up pros and cons.

In my own life as a parish priest, there is a particular choice which has been very much on my mind. The official regulations now permit me to enter one of my churches to say prayers, provided I follow some strict guidelines. Members of the congregation are not permitted to enter the church building - only the priest and members of the priest’s household are permitted to do so. So, I have been given a choice – what do I do? I was in a group of other clergy discussing this, and it was clear that different priests held different views. For me, I do not feel it is right for me to enter my church buildings when members of the congregation and other villagers are not permitted to do so. I look forward to entering when we’re all allowed to enter. I been thinking quite a bit about the choice which I have made, about how it feels, and about what it might be saying to me about my own values.

Thinking about the choices which we face, and the choices which we have made, can be a powerful way of growing in our understanding of who we really are as human beings, and how God might want to be at work in our lives. We can all make good choices, bad choices, and choices which are somewhere in between.

I wonder how we might give ourselves the space we need to make a “good” choice? I wonder what a “good” choice might look like – in your life, and in my mine?

Prayer for Today

Lord, every day you present us with choices,
some trivial, some important.
Give us the space, wisdom,
and courage we need to choose well. Amen.
17 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 39: Friday 15th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Do you find making choices easy? Of course, it can depend on the nature of the choice, how complex it is and how important we feel it is to get the decision right. It can also depend on our personalities and the culture in which we are working. Some cultures put a premium on being decisive and making quick decisions; other cultures place more value on deliberation and weighing up pros and cons.

In my own life as a parish priest, there is a particular choice which has been very much on my mind. The official regulations now permit me to enter one of my churches to say prayers, provided I follow some strict guidelines. Members of the congregation are not permitted to enter the church building - only the priest and members of the priest’s household are permitted to do so. So, I have been given a choice – what do I do? I was in a group of other clergy discussing this, and it was clear that different priests held different views. For me, I do not feel it is right for me to enter my church buildings when members of the congregation and other villagers are not permitted to do so. I look forward to entering when we’re all allowed to enter. I been thinking quite a bit about the choice which I have made, about how it feels, and about what it might be saying to me about my own values.

Thinking about the choices which we face, and the choices which we have made, can be a powerful way of growing in our understanding of who we really are as human beings, and how God might want to be at work in our lives. We can all make good choices, bad choices, and choices which are somewhere in between.

I wonder how we might give ourselves the space we need to make a “good” choice? I wonder what a “good” choice might look like – in your life, and in my mine?

Prayer for Today

Lord, every day you present us with choices,
some trivial, some important.
Give us the space, wisdom,
and courage we need to choose well. Amen.
18 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 40: Monday 18th May 2020

Thought for the Day

This morning I had a lovely surprise. I was taking a walk and suddenly I noticed something I hadn’t expected to see. There it was, among the leaves of an elder bush and other bits of greenery, small, delicate, and fragile. It was the flower of a wild rose. At its centre was a deep, golden core, almost the colour of the yolk of an egg, and the around this were petals of the gentlest pink.

Nothing fancy, nothing exotic, simply the flower of a wild rose. But how beautiful!

And there was a double joy: the joy not only of the flower itself, but the joy of discovering it was there. I came across it quite unexpectedly, and it stopped me in my tracks.

For me, the experience of beauty is one way in which God connects with us in our lives. God Himself is beauty in all its fulness, beauty which is infused with God’s truth, love and mercy. As human beings, in this life, we cannot cope with the fullness of God’s beauty – we simply don’t have the bandwidth, to use a contemporary phrase. So, God sends us that amount of his beauty which we are able to receive. Our experience of God’s beauty depends in turn on our own receptivity. If we’re too busy or too distracted, we’ll miss much of the beauty which lies around us. Similarly, if our attention is focussed solely on ourselves, our selfishness will have blinded our vision, and we simply won’t be able to see all that is good in others and the world around us.

Fortunately, God is kind, and he knows that it’s often hard for us human beings to see what’s in front of our eyes. So, every so often God takes the initiative, and brings us face to face with beauty, in unexpected ways and unexpected places. He is tapping us on the shoulder, if you like, and saying “hello, I’m here”.

Prayer for Today

Give us eyes to see the beauty all around us, Lord;
and help us to see in the beauty,
a sign of your love and your presence in our lives. Amen.
19 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 41: Tuesday 19th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Well, today I’m thinking about butterflies. It’s been lovely to see the occasional butterfly on my walks. Do you have a favourite? I think I have recognised about half a dozen different species over the last month or so. According to the Butterfly Conservation charity, there are 57 resident species of butterfly and 2 additional species which are regular visitors. Different species, of course, prefer different environments. Perhaps you might like to go out somewhere to see how many different species you can spot - a great activity for all the family. If, like me, you’re not so confident when it comes to identifying different species, I would heartily recommend the Butterfly Conservation charity website. It has lots of lovely photographs of the different species.

There has been a tradition of using a butterfly as a symbol in Christian art. What might it symbolise? One of the interesting things about symbols is that their interpretation is usually open for discussion. One and the same symbol can mean different things to different people in different contexts. And of course, this all begs the question: who says the object being referred to is a symbol of something else? Might it simply be an object without any symbolic value at all?

Some Christians have seen butterflies as a symbol of the Resurrection. I think the idea here is that as the butterfly has to emerge from the chrysalis, so our beautiful Resurrection body will emerge from the chrysalis which is our earthly life. The beauty of a butterfly fluttering among the flowers of Summer some how gives us a glimpse of the beauty and joy which will characterise our Resurrected lives.

Whether you would go along with this interpretation or not, I think there is something of value in simply giving thanks for the beauty of a butterfly. And, for me, the delicate fragility of a butterfly’s beauty reminds us of the delicate fragility of the natural world. What more might we do to protect the wonderful world around us?

Prayer for Today

Thank you Lord,
for the beauty of the butterfly,
thank you for the simple things
that bring joy and beauty into our lives. Amen.
20 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 42: Wednesday 20th May 2020

Thought for the Day

Do you like poetry? I’ve been thinking about some words from a poem which I was reading this morning. The poem is found in the bible and it’s known as Psalm 120. It’s a short poem and not easy to understand fully, but it seems that the author was unhappy and was asking God to do something to sort the situation out. The poem contains the following line: “My soul has dwelt too long with enemies of peace”, and it’s this line that has got me thinking.

I wonder what are the “enemies of peace” in our lives? What might we need to do if we are to find peace in our lives? I don’t think this is the sort of question which can be answered quickly, or with a simple word or two. Many of us spend years of our life searching for true peace. Sometimes it’s because we’re looking for it in places where it’s not to be found. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have the strength or courage to look at a deep cause of unhappiness in our lives - it’s simply too much to face. So, we skirt around the edges and give ourselves a nice periphery of peace while at the centre of our lives there remains a deep unhappiness, which saps away at our energy and our well-being.

I believe that God is the source of true peace, and if we find true peace, we find God. I think for most of us it takes many years and much searching before we find true peace. We have to understand ourselves and our power of self-deception. We have to discover that many of the things which seem to offer true peace have no real substance to them at all. And I think we have to be humbled to accept the profound simplicity which lies at the heart of true peace.

And what does lie at the heart of true peace? The knowledge of God’s love for each one of us, and for our world, in all its depth and all its richness.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to find a sense of true peace.
Help me to face up to the enemies of peace in my own life,
and guide me as I walk in the ways of peace. Amen.
21 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 43: Thursday 21st May 2020

Thought for the Day

Here’s a question for you: what would you say makes a good listener? Do you consider yourself to be a good listener?

I think lots of different qualities go to make a good listener. Patience is important - it’s hard to feel listened to if the listener is obviously in a rush to be elsewhere. Then there is also the importance of being non-judgmental. It’s hard to share our thoughts with someone if they keep butting in and reminding us of all the mistakes we have made and all the things which we ought to have done but haven’t got round to! I think another quality is confidentiality. It’s important to know that the person who is listening to us will keep what they hear to themselves. I think none of us likes to be at the mercy of an inveterate gossip.

Being patient, non-judgmental and being able to keep a confidence are all important qualities in a listener. But perhaps the most important quality of all is the ability of being able to inspire and retain trust. I think we can all probably put up with a bit of impatience or an unhelpful remark, provided we feel that we can still trust the person who is listening to us.

So perhaps listening comes down to trust, and trust is a precious quality, hard-won and easily lost. I suspect many of us have been part of organisations where the people in charge have said that they’re going to undertake a “listening exercise”, in order to understand our needs and concerns. The experience of these “listening exercises” can vary enormously, in part because they assume the presence of high levels of trust. Another problem can come when it is known or suspected that the relevant decision has already been taken and the “listening exercise” is no more than a piece of window-dressing for PR purposes.

Good listening is so important, for us as individuals and for our communities. I wonder what we might do to improve our listening skills.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to listen - really to listen,
not to listen half-heartedly with my mind elsewhere.
Help me to understand that good listening is a way of showing love. Amen.
22 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 44: Friday 22nd May 2020

Thought for the Day

Recently, I had a fascinating chat with my aunt. My aunt lives on her own in the North East of England, and she is finding all the travel restrictions particularly irksome. She is not a car driver, and in normal circumstances she relies on the bus network to get and about. She was telling me that from her point of view, life was much harder now than it had been during the Second World War. She had been a child during the war years, and I think she enjoyed quite a bit of freedom to travel around, although she added that there were of course some restrictions. My aunt feels that, as a result of the current restrictions, she has lost her freedom, and she finds this very hard to bear.

Our freedom matters so much to us. I think, certainly in this country, we tend not to give much thought to what we mean by freedom. We tend to assume that freedom means the ability to do what we want, when we want to do it, assuming of course we have the money and the time. And we’re not very happy when someone tells us we can’t do something! We accept that parents and teachers can set and enforce boundaries when it comes to children, but when we reach the magic age of 18, we suddenly become adults and can do what we want. So, we associate freedom with being an adult, and think that accepting limits on our freedom means going back to being a child.

Of course, the reality is that, even in a liberal democracy such as the UK, there will always be limits on our freedom. Sometimes these limits are imposed to protect others; sometimes they are there to protect us from ourselves. But are the limits on our freedom acceptable? And who should decide this – should we decide this ourselves or should the limits be decided by the Government on our behalf?

As the Government considers lifting and relaxing the current restrictions, I think it is good to remember just how important freedom is - but equally, how necessary it is to impose limits, especially to protect the most vulnerable.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
thank you for the freedoms we cherish.
Help us to use our freedoms wisely,
and for the benefit of all. Amen.
23 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 44: Friday 22nd May 2020

Thought for the Day

Recently, I had a fascinating chat with my aunt. My aunt lives on her own in the North East of England, and she is finding all the travel restrictions particularly irksome. She is not a car driver, and in normal circumstances she relies on the bus network to get and about. She was telling me that from her point of view, life was much harder now than it had been during the Second World War. She had been a child during the war years, and I think she enjoyed quite a bit of freedom to travel around, although she added that there were of course some restrictions. My aunt feels that, as a result of the current restrictions, she has lost her freedom, and she finds this very hard to bear.

Our freedom matters so much to us. I think, certainly in this country, we tend not to give much thought to what we mean by freedom. We tend to assume that freedom means the ability to do what we want, when we want to do it, assuming of course we have the money and the time. And we’re not very happy when someone tells us we can’t do something! We accept that parents and teachers can set and enforce boundaries when it comes to children, but when we reach the magic age of 18, we suddenly become adults and can do what we want. So, we associate freedom with being an adult, and think that accepting limits on our freedom means going back to being a child.

Of course, the reality is that, even in a liberal democracy such as the UK, there will always be limits on our freedom. Sometimes these limits are imposed to protect others; sometimes they are there to protect us from ourselves. But are the limits on our freedom acceptable? And who should decide this – should we decide this ourselves or should the limits be decided by the Government on our behalf?

As the Government considers lifting and relaxing the current restrictions, I think it is good to remember just how important freedom is - but equally, how necessary it is to impose limits, especially to protect the most vulnerable.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
thank you for the freedoms we cherish.
Help us to use our freedoms wisely,
and for the benefit of all. Amen.
24 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 44: Friday 22nd May 2020

Thought for the Day

Recently, I had a fascinating chat with my aunt. My aunt lives on her own in the North East of England, and she is finding all the travel restrictions particularly irksome. She is not a car driver, and in normal circumstances she relies on the bus network to get and about. She was telling me that from her point of view, life was much harder now than it had been during the Second World War. She had been a child during the war years, and I think she enjoyed quite a bit of freedom to travel around, although she added that there were of course some restrictions. My aunt feels that, as a result of the current restrictions, she has lost her freedom, and she finds this very hard to bear.

Our freedom matters so much to us. I think, certainly in this country, we tend not to give much thought to what we mean by freedom. We tend to assume that freedom means the ability to do what we want, when we want to do it, assuming of course we have the money and the time. And we’re not very happy when someone tells us we can’t do something! We accept that parents and teachers can set and enforce boundaries when it comes to children, but when we reach the magic age of 18, we suddenly become adults and can do what we want. So, we associate freedom with being an adult, and think that accepting limits on our freedom means going back to being a child.

Of course, the reality is that, even in a liberal democracy such as the UK, there will always be limits on our freedom. Sometimes these limits are imposed to protect others; sometimes they are there to protect us from ourselves. But are the limits on our freedom acceptable? And who should decide this – should we decide this ourselves or should the limits be decided by the Government on our behalf?

As the Government considers lifting and relaxing the current restrictions, I think it is good to remember just how important freedom is - but equally, how necessary it is to impose limits, especially to protect the most vulnerable.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
thank you for the freedoms we cherish.
Help us to use our freedoms wisely,
and for the benefit of all. Amen.
25 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 45: Monday 25th May 2020

Thought for Today

Do you enjoy history? Perhaps you’re a fan of historical dramas on the TV or enjoy relaxing with a good history book. Today I’m thinking of an English historian called Bede, who lived in Anglo-Saxon times. As well as being a historian, he was a theologian and a monk, and it’s his day today, 25th May. He wrote one of the most influential history books ever written: The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It’s still in print and still read today – not bad for a book written over a thousand years ago. In this work, Bede tells the story of what happened in England back in the Seventh and early Eighth Centuries. All history is written with a particular focus and for Bede, his focus was on the growth of Christianity in England. As a Christian himself, Bede did not need to ask why England became a Christian country - it was because this was God’s good and gracious plan. But there was another question which was worth asking. Yes, England became Christian because God wanted it to happen. But how did it come about? Bede undertook serious research to try and answer this question, and he was careful to record the sources of his information. In short, he was England’s first professional historian.

At the same time as being a professional historian, Bede was also someone who believed that God could act in human events, and sometimes in quite dramatic and unexpected ways. Bede was not afraid to leave space in his history writing for the idea of a miracle. Over the years, historians have debated whether there is a place for the idea of a “miracle” in historical writing. The idea of “miracle” is not limited to religious events – for example, many people talk about the “miracle of Dunkirk”.

If you or I were asked to write the history of our country over the last 50 years, I wonder what we might say? What would we consider the most significant events? Would we say that God has had a say in what has happened, or would we leave God out?

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
thank you for the gift of memory,
and the ability to research the history of the past.
Help us to give thanks for all that has been good,
and help us to learn from our mistakes. Amen.
26 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 46: Tuesday 26th May 2020

Thought for the Day

How are things at the moment? Are you finding yourself in need of some rest and relaxation? I have a sense that the current time is particularly stressful for many people. The lockdown has been with us a couple of months by now. Yes, the restrictions are beginning to ease up, but only gradually, and many of them are going to be with us for quite a while yet. It seems harder than ever to keep calm and keep patient. I’m sure we all have loved ones living elsewhere who we’d love to see - but can’t. It’s all very frustrating.

I happened to be reading a document about schools, and how we can support our schools during these difficult times. It included a section on well-being, which stated that “neuroscience has shown that being in a “green” space has a positive impact on mood”. Unfortunately, it did not provide a link to research which supported the statement, but it seems to make sense: green space is good for us. I was intrigued by the inverted commas in the quote – “green” space, rather than green space. I think the writer was indicating that they intended greenspace in the figurative rather than literal sense.

But it’s got me thinking. I find space that is literally green particularly restful. In my daily walks, I love seeing the variety of greens in the hedgerows and tress all around us. Lime greens, dark greens, brownish greens, shiny greens – I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a hundred different sorts of green in the world around us. I wonder why I find the greens of the natural world so relaxing, so re-assuring? Perhaps because green reminds me of new life – the new growth of spring and early Summer.

For me, new life is what God is all about. God brings new life into our world, new beginnings, new hopes, fresh adventures. God is about hope for the future. We all experience painful limitations in our lives, but God gives us a picture of life beyond these limitations. The future belongs to God, and this keeps us anchored in hope.

Prayer for Today

Lord,
we thank you for those times and places which help to calm us down.
In our worries and frustrations,
help us to trust that you love us,
and help us to look to the future with the eyes of hope. Amen.
27 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 47: Wednesday 27th May 2020

Thought for the Day

I think one of the joys of going for a walk is that you don’t quite know what you’ll see. I had a lovely surprise this morning, as I was walking in the village. As I walked past one particular front garden, I noticed a plant which I hadn’t seen for ages: a Red-hot Poker. It was there in all its showy glory, confident in its red and orange flowers. I can’t remember when I last saw a Red-hot Poker - perhaps they’ve gone out of fashion. For some reason, the sight of it brought back happy memories from my childhood. My mother was, and is, a gifted gardener. When I think of my mother, I think of lovely herbaceous borders full of flowers, butterflies, games on the lawn, and orange squash!

The unexpected sight of that Red-hot Poker has made me think of how God operates in our lives. I think most of the time God doesn’t want to bother us - He’s there, in the background, like a good friend. You know He’s there; and He knows you’re here; and that’s fine. But because God’s presence is so gentle, we can sometimes forget that He’s there at all. And then God gives us a reminder. These reminders come in lots of different forms; they are suited to our needs and our circumstances, so sometimes they are subtle, and sometimes not. I think most of us sometimes experience a sudden awareness of something profoundly beautiful – a sunset perhaps, or a landscape, or a flower. For me, a sudden awareness of beauty is one way that God reminds us that He’s around, interested in us, willing to listen, and willing to help. I think another way that God reminds us of His presence is when we’re suddenly reminded of just how much someone loves us.

These are reminders of God because God is the giver of all good gifts. He is gracious and caring. When we’re stressed or tired it’s so easy to forget that God is busy sharing His goodness with us, sometimes in quite unexpected ways.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
there is so much good in the world,
so much beauty, so much love;
when we look out upon the world with tired eyes,
help us to see the goodness which is all around us. Amen
28 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 48: Thursday 28th May 2020

Thought for the Day

I wonder what you might be finding hardest during all the current restrictions. I wouldn’t be surprised if, for many people, the hardest thing to bear was not being able to visit and spend time with people we love.

Only this morning, I was in the bank, and there was someone telling the bank clerk how difficult it was not being able to visit their grandchildren in Wales. And later on, I had a conversation with someone who hadn’t been able to visit their son in months. And when I reflect on what I am finding particularly difficult about the current restrictions, it would probably be not being able to spend time with my Mum and other members of the family.

How do we cope with the pain of this enforced separation? Yes, of course, there are always ways of keeping in touch by phone or email, or even a good old-fashioned letter or card through the post. But the pain of separation is still there.

For me, a starting point in dealing with pain is to acknowledge it’s there. I think it does us all good to be honest about how we are feeling. Sometimes there can be a great pressure to have the stiff upper lip and the fixed smile, and to say something along the lines of “Oh, I’m fine, thank you”, when actually we’re not fine at all.

And then, having acknowledged the pain, I find it helpful to have a conversation with God about it. A good conversation is, of course, two-way: we need to allow God to speak to us, as well as telling him all that is on our hearts and minds. And good conversations cannot be rushed. A deep conversation can go on for days, for months, even for a lifetime.

Acknowledging the pain, and having an honest conversation with God about it, will not make it magically disappear. But I think it helps us to cope, and I think there are times when coping is what life is all about.

Prayer for Today

Lord,
it can be so hard to be separated from those we love.
Give us strength and patience,
and help us to look forward
to the time when we shall be re-united. Amen.
29 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 49: Friday 29th May 2020

Thought for the Day

I think we are fortunate in this area of the country to enjoy such a variety of landscape – the river Thames, of course, the low-lying fields of the Vale, the escarpment of the Downs, and the Downs themselves. I was driving south along the A34 this morning, coming from the Marcham interchange, and there on the horizon you could see the Downs in all their glory. They looked reassuringly stable and ancient.

There is a short poem in the bible which starts with an invitation to look at the hills. It’s known as Psalm 121, and begins with the line: “I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?” The reply to the question is given in the next line: “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”. The poem is about re-assurance. It reminds us that as we travel through life, we do not do so alone. God is there, keeping watch over us, protecting us. God’s care is constant, and everlasting. We might not be aware of God’s presence, but He’s there anyway. The poem ends with the line: “The Lord shall keep watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore”.

Some of our journeys in life are in the nature of a “going out”: we are leaving the familiar and going to somewhere new. Other journeys are more of a coming home, a return to a place of security, what the poem refers to as a “coming in”. We’ve been outside, and now we come back in, back to the comforts of home.

As we look to the months ahead, some of our journeying will take us to places which are unfamiliar and frightening; and some of our journeying will take us back to a place of comfort and security. But whatever the nature of the journey, we can take comfort from the knowledge that we are not travelling alone. God is there with us, at all times and in all places.

Prayer for Today

Lord,
when we are sad or anxious,
helps us to lift our eyes to You.
When we feel alone,
help us to know that you are with us,
and when we travel into the unknown,
remind us that You are at our side. Amen.
30 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 49: Friday 29th May 2020

Thought for the Day

I think we are fortunate in this area of the country to enjoy such a variety of landscape – the river Thames, of course, the low-lying fields of the Vale, the escarpment of the Downs, and the Downs themselves. I was driving south along the A34 this morning, coming from the Marcham interchange, and there on the horizon you could see the Downs in all their glory. They looked reassuringly stable and ancient.

There is a short poem in the bible which starts with an invitation to look at the hills. It’s known as Psalm 121, and begins with the line: “I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?” The reply to the question is given in the next line: “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”. The poem is about re-assurance. It reminds us that as we travel through life, we do not do so alone. God is there, keeping watch over us, protecting us. God’s care is constant, and everlasting. We might not be aware of God’s presence, but He’s there anyway. The poem ends with the line: “The Lord shall keep watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore”.

Some of our journeys in life are in the nature of a “going out”: we are leaving the familiar and going to somewhere new. Other journeys are more of a coming home, a return to a place of security, what the poem refers to as a “coming in”. We’ve been outside, and now we come back in, back to the comforts of home.

As we look to the months ahead, some of our journeying will take us to places which are unfamiliar and frightening; and some of our journeying will take us back to a place of comfort and security. But whatever the nature of the journey, we can take comfort from the knowledge that we are not travelling alone. God is there with us, at all times and in all places.

Prayer for Today

Lord,
when we are sad or anxious,
helps us to lift our eyes to You.
When we feel alone,
help us to know that you are with us,
and when we travel into the unknown,
remind us that You are at our side. Amen.
31 May 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections No 49: Friday 29th May 2020

Thought for the Day

I think we are fortunate in this area of the country to enjoy such a variety of landscape – the river Thames, of course, the low-lying fields of the Vale, the escarpment of the Downs, and the Downs themselves. I was driving south along the A34 this morning, coming from the Marcham interchange, and there on the horizon you could see the Downs in all their glory. They looked reassuringly stable and ancient.

There is a short poem in the bible which starts with an invitation to look at the hills. It’s known as Psalm 121, and begins with the line: “I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?” The reply to the question is given in the next line: “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”. The poem is about re-assurance. It reminds us that as we travel through life, we do not do so alone. God is there, keeping watch over us, protecting us. God’s care is constant, and everlasting. We might not be aware of God’s presence, but He’s there anyway. The poem ends with the line: “The Lord shall keep watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore”.

Some of our journeys in life are in the nature of a “going out”: we are leaving the familiar and going to somewhere new. Other journeys are more of a coming home, a return to a place of security, what the poem refers to as a “coming in”. We’ve been outside, and now we come back in, back to the comforts of home.

As we look to the months ahead, some of our journeying will take us to places which are unfamiliar and frightening; and some of our journeying will take us back to a place of comfort and security. But whatever the nature of the journey, we can take comfort from the knowledge that we are not travelling alone. God is there with us, at all times and in all places.

Prayer for Today

Lord,
when we are sad or anxious,
helps us to lift our eyes to You.
When we feel alone,
help us to know that you are with us,
and when we travel into the unknown,
remind us that You are at our side. Amen.