Stuarts's Page 

Candle

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who’s been following my daily blog. IfVideos you’ve stuck with it for all 109 days, that’s awesome. I’m no expert on websites or social media, but viewing figures have fluctuated between 200 and 300 Facebook ‘engagements’ and anything up to 25’likes’. I’ve no idea whether that’s good or bad, as there’s nothing to compare it with, but over nearly 16 weeks I’m told that’s a consistent ‘reach’ (I’m getting the hang of all these technical terms!). As of yesterday – will it go down in history as ‘Super Saturday’? – everything has started to change. We can all be out and about more, enjoy a socially distanced pub lunch with socially distanced friends and pop into church for quiet prayer. That means less time for reading blogs (I only started because everyone was going to be at home!) and less time for me to write them. So ….after this week I’m going to drop two days of writing so that you all have some respite and I can think more lucidly when I do write. My first day off will be next Saturday, and after that I’ll leave out Wednesdays too, so there are still five days left for all you readers. It’s good or bad news, depending on your perspective, but you’re welcome to email me if you want to suggest an alternative. Meanwhile, now we’re all in the habit of lighting a candle and settling down with some refreshment, we can reflect on our day, and the past 109 that have gone by already.

Keep calm

Jesus then spent time praying to God. “I thank you Father, Loving God, ruler of time and space, that your truth cannot be grasped by the clever and smart, but only by the simple and straightforward. That’s the way you decided to organise the world, a great idea! You’ve put me in charge, just as a parent would a trusted child. You know me better than anyone, and I’m the only one who knows you, apart from those I speak with about you.” Then he said to those around, “I offer my friendship to all who are finding life tough or struggling with problems. Come to me, I’ll teach you to rest and relax. I’m a carpenter by trade. I can recommend the yokes I make for oxen, they’re well-known for being smooth and light. I’m also a teacher; my methods are gentle, and I never bully my pupils or give them a hard time. It’s rest you need, and you’ll be at ease with me.” (Matthew 11:25-30)

Despite my best efforts to convince everyone otherwise, I’m no academic! I managed to get  through my university days, telling everyone I was done with studying after that. Then I had to swallow my pride and return for another 2 years’ ordination training, and more recently I took on some research, which left me exhausted but regretful I hadn’t done more when the opportunity presented. Maybe I’m just lazy, but disciplined study usually leaves me rather demotivated and short on mental energy. Helping others with their studies now makes me realise my student days really are over!

If I learned nothing else while studying, I recognised how complex and fragile the world is, how much thought needs to be applied to understanding it. In every area of study there are various ideas and theses to be discussed, research to be conducted into new information or perspectives, all of which is to be communicated in the approved style! Absolutely not to be devalued or dismissed, but our everyday walk with God can both accessible and comprehensible. In this very short prayer, Jesus thanks his Father that faith isn’t an intellectual exercise, but a way of living open to everyone, whatever their background or achievements. In fact, a simpler understanding and approach often reveals spiritual depths hidden by focusing too much on detail. That makes much better sense of the next verses. Academic research and study rightly demands hard work and organised thinking, but Jesus understands we all need spiritual as well as physical rest. The noted Swiss theologian Karl Barth (author of the 13 volume ‘Church Dogmatics’, written over 35 years) was once asked to sum up his faith in one sentence. He quoted the 19th century children’s hymn: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’ Jesus isn’t encouraging us to be simplistic or naïve, but true simplicity - of heart and lifestyle – makes us open to learning from Jesus as a disciple and enables us to experience and enjoy the rest and calm we long for.

Our experience of pandemic has released a torrent of information and research from experts on viruses, pandemics and statistics. Initially I found it interesting, but before long difference of opinion led to differing advice, depending on the specialisms involved. I found myself steering away from it before long, longing for greater clarity and simplicity. When as Jesus’ followers we learn from him, we encounter true rest and refreshment.

In your quiet space, thank God that the Christian faith is at heart so simple that even a child can take it on board - often more readily than an adult. As you take a drink allow God’s Spirit to refresh you too, and pray that you’ll have opportunities to give spiritual refreshment to others.

Prayer for today

Almighty God, you have made us for yourself
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:
pour your love into our hearts, and draw us to yourself,
and so bring us at last to your heavenly city
where we shall see you face to face,
through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen

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