I should. This blog is a sign of my indiscipline, because I’ve had such a great Sunday that I don’t want it to end, and this blog is one way of squeezing out a little bit more juice. So here I go, squeezing;
This morning the beach was just fabulous. Prayer was deep and silent and full of stuff. That phrase ‘full of stuff’ lacks the weight of Wesley or Ignatius and it’s a million miles away from my favourite prayer, spoken by Thomas A Kempis, for strength in faith. But hard cheese, folks, this is not their blog, is it? It’s mine, and you know me by now. My prayers are full of stuff.
What ‘stuff’ this morning? Well, cosy down, light a fag or pour a glass of wine, or whatever warms your bones, and I will tell you. This morning I prayed for the morning service at our church, not just because I always pray for it, but because today was going to be special. It was going to be out of the ordinary not just because the whole world is reeling from the effects of a pandemic, but because five people were going to be baptised during the service. And that’s a little pocket of joy in all the sadness and stress, the happiest of happy times.
I have a photo of the beach taken during this morning’s prayer time – it doesn’t do the moment justice, it can’t share the golden light with you, you can’t feel the fresh breeze, hear the distant sea. What am I doing , taking photos during prayer? Listen, Sunshine, I do all sorts during my time of prayer – I walk and sing and stare at the clouds, I talk to God and tell Him about things I love, and ask Him things I don’t yet know, and I meet people and chat with them and while we laugh I know that He is there with us, however silly our conversation, because this time is for HIM. I sit on a log or a rock, I think of the people He’s given me to love, completely overcome with realisation of how much Jesus loves them. Actually, that’s not right – my small heart and tiny brain can hardly begin to imagine how much He loves them. I sometimes say a poem to God, and often lose the words, I remember other times with Him and ask for His reflection on the memories, to give me His perspective. I pick up dog poo and watch Pip and Percy chasing bigger ‘proper’ dogs. I tell Him about my childhood, and thank Him for bringing me to this moment safely. It’s a time of companionship and thanks, with the God of all creation. Four years ago I prayed for a hand to hold mine, and He has held my hand ever since.
Occasionally, not frequently, I experience something I can describe only as ‘timelessness’. All goes away. All. There is no sea, or sky, or land, I have no body, or breath, or consciousness of sight. There’s no time or space. Everything fades. There’s only love. Only love. How long does it last? No idea. It lasts no time at all and it lasts for ever. You know when it happens? When I begin, just begin, to empathise with the God who became Man, for me. For me. It happens when I think of the night before Jesus died and He broke bread and gave thanks and said “This is my body”. It happens when I ask myself what He was giving thanks for, and I have my answer “He gave thanks that He could die for me.”
We’re four weeks away from Easter and already I feel the excitement building. It will be a strange Easter this year – maybe we won’t be able to meet in church, because of quarantine. So, maybe, who knows, we will be able to meet on the beach! Imagine that! Oh, oh, oh. Wouldn’t that be fab?
Hah! If there’s a gale blowing and our songs are whipped away by the wind, if the sand is swirling and we’re blinded and soaked and floundering in the storm, we’ll be right there, roaring out “I hear the mighty thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.”
Easter is such a wonderful time, a great and powerful reminder of the greatest story ever told. The Man Jesus, who broke that bread and gave thanks, knew only too well what He was giving thanks for. The metaphor was powerful and deliberate. Brutally graphic. How much did Jesus the Man know about the agony that was to come? Everything. He had grown up in Roman occupied Israel – he had seen the roads lined with crucified men, dying in the heat, in agony, naked and shamed, flies crawling on ripped flesh, the dried blood, the broken bones, and He had heard their cries of despair, witnessed the brutality of Rome. He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him. Even as He broke that bread, the metaphor for His poor body, Judas was betraying Him. Jesus knew it all. Just a few hours ahead. And for this, for me, He gave thanks. Thanks that He could save you and me. What an amazing God. Who would dream up a story like that? Who could imagine a God like this?
That’s who I walk with on the beach every morning. It’s who I talk to at my desk. Who I turn to. He is my reality. And if you don’t yet know this reality, you can. You really can.
Sorry. Ran away with it then. I was talking about today. When I left the beach I drove to a pal’s house because she’s quarantined and I dropped some things off, and then, it was church! Church! Five lovely people being baptised. Worship and praise and a fair bit of singing (I have a terrible voice) and a few tears. I was snottily weeping even before the baptisms began as the Pastor spoke about what Baptism means. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. It’s like going to a wedding – you can’t help but remember your own, and the emotions flood back. And you hear the stories of how these people came to know God, of the difference He has made to their lives, of their rebirth, and even the stoniest heart would melt. God is so good.
Does that phrase seem banal? If you know God it’s startling, brilliant, shockingly true, never old, always fresh.
Back home to an empty house. Bit of an anti-climax. I read the verses we were going to be talking about in the evening service and as I finished a text pinged in, from my youngest granddaughter, who lives 100 miles away – she wants to be baptised! To say I was amazed is an understatement. Amazed, thrilled, thankful, humble, totally gob-smacked. How wonderful. We are not a churchy or even a conventional family. But God is at work.
And then the evening service, and the parable of the rich geezer who had a big fat harvest and kept it all for his big fat self. And Jesus called him a fool. OK, I know that the bloke was fictional, just a character Jesus created as a teaching tool, but to hear our God say the words “You fool!”… well, a bit of a stunner. Imagine if God said that to us. I think that He might be saying it to those who are stockpiling food and goods like no one else in the world matters but themselves. In the last war it was a crime to hoard, I think it should be again.
But that’s another digression. I warned you that I’m proper indisciplined tonight.
Then it was wine and cheese with two very dear friends, a gentle winding down from worship and excitement, but still right there in the presence of God.
That was my lovely day, and now here I am. Oh, come on Luce, what is it you’re trying to say? Let me think. Why won’t you just finish the day and go to bed? I will, I will. Stop nagging.
I think I am trying to say that God is so good that sometimes the heart overflows with love, that our thoughts are too great for our happy minds, and that I don’t deserve this happiness. I did nothing to earn today. I am so grateful for it, but it’s completely un-earned. A gift. God’s first gift is our salvation, but as that salvation takes hold, and as He enters our lives, wowzer! What joy.
Lord, I will worship you with extended hands
as my whole heart explodes with praise!
I will tell everyone everywhere about your wonderful works
and how your marvellous miracles exceed expectations!
I will jump for joy and shout in triumph
as I sing your song and make music for the Most High God.
That’s Psalm 9, first two verses, TPT
PS. Just read that through and it might give the wrong impression. Sometimes I struggle to pray. Sometimes I am grouchy, cold hearted, semi-detached, fearful. But that’s just me. God is always there, always waiting, always God.