Posts tagged ‘hope’

December 19, 2011

December Daisy

December Daisy

Walking around the garden the other day I nearly trod on it, something so tiny and yet in the cold and darkening gloom perhaps of greater significance than its small size would suggest.  A ‘Daisy’  was not something I expected to see.  Of course in the summer the lawn is covered with hundreds of them, but I can never recall seeing one at this time of year before.  In attempting to take the picture (no doubt a funny sight as I tried to avoid getting my knees wet on the damp grass), I smiled because Spring had claimed a momentary beachhead, reminding me that even in the middle of Winter the hope of Spring is not too far away…

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October 19, 2011

Letting go…

I came across this wonderful sculpture on a recent walk around Bantry.  Nearby is a plaque which reads:

The Spirit of Love

In remembrance of those who lost their lives in the waters of Bantry Bay.

Peace, kind reader, do not cry
Nor pass not, pass not quickly by
Surely we shall meet again
No more to part, no more to die
Saviour of the mighty sea
Let us find repose in Thee.
(Written by Donal Fitzgerald)

Artist’s note

This sculpture expresses the compassion of the people of Bantry and Ireland for men, women and children of all races and creeds who lost their lives in this bay.

The two figures convey love, loss, anguish, forgiveness, peace, reaching, letting go…

Paddy Campbell, 2006

Hmm, two posts now about loss.  Sometimes people ask me how I cope with all the loss and pain I come across in visiting homes around the parish.  The answer is that I talk about it with God in the place of prayer, I talk about those aspects that are not confidential with my better half and usually in some kind of abstract way it comes out in this blog too…

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 15:57, NLT)

December 24, 2010

“God bless Us, Every One!”

Christmas is many things to many people.  Homes all over the world will be full of laughter and joy as presents are opened and wonderful food consumed in the presence of loved ones.  Children and wise adults will soak up the magic of it all and even if only for a time will allow themselves to be transported in time and space to a place where all is well with the world, where people do look out for and look after one another.  Even if only briefly, hearts will be full of hope, whether they know it or not, a hope that reflects that Great Hope which came into the world.

Not all homes and families will be full of laughter and happiness.  Bereavement and grief are never more keenly felt than at this time of year.  The vacant chair at the table will never have seemed so empty, the echoes of laughter and happiness of bygone years never so vividly played out in bittersweet memory.  Perhaps more than for several generations on this Island, countless homes will be under the stress of uncertainty at what the New Year will bring.  How will we be able to afford to keep living in our home?  Will I still have a job in a few weeks or months time?  Will the children mind having presents that are much less than what they really wanted?

In the intensity of the celebration it seems that highs are higher and lows lower, hopes greater and fears magnified, but no matter how much the secular push against celebrating Christmas persists, it cannot take away something that has been there for generations and will adamantly remain until the end of time, namely hope.

There are many Scrooges today who would say ‘Bah!  Humbug’ and would seek to diminish and undermine in any way they can this most wonderful of Christian celebrations.  I am reminded of what Scrooge’s Nephew says to his uncle near the beginning of Charles Dickens’ great story, ‘A Christmas Carol’:

‘But I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round – apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good and will do me good; and I say, God bless it.’

God bless it indeed.  Never have we been blessed more; Jesus Christ came into the world on a rescue mission so daring and so wonderful that it brings joy and peace to even the most troubled heart that to that Christ says “Yes Lord, be born in my heart this day.”

A very merry Christmas to you all and “God bless Us, Every One!”

February 28, 2010

Hope

Nikon D70s, 1/250 sec, f8, ISO 200, 105mm equivalent (Bigger)

“Hope is anticipation of good not yet here, or as yet unseen.”

(Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart)
June 20, 2009

Rays of Hope

Taken at the top of the “Devil’s Ladder”, Carrantuohill, Co. Kerry on a bleak November’s day 2004

Job 38:1-11 (Today’s Sermon)

I can remember one time when I was a boy going out to a meal with my parents at a restaurant in Cambridge. Everything was going well until my mother ordered the Apple Crumble. She was halfway through eating it when she made a horrible discovery – a slug; a great big fat juicy slug was there behind a bit of crunchy topping. I laughed, I think my parents laughed too, but not for long. It was a bit like a scene from Fawlty Towers. Mum demanded to see the manager of the restaurant. The waiter tried to placate her by offering another bowl, this time without the slug, but my mother stood her ground -she wanted to go to the top. The manager eventually came with a face like he was about to stand before a firing squad. Anyway my extreme embarrassment was tempered by the fact that there was hardly anyone else there and that we got our meal for free. A few weeks later walking down that same street I noticed that the restaurant had closed and I couldn’t help but think that my mother might have had something to do with it….

Poor Job had a much more serious problem that a slug in his food. In a series of tragedies he lost all his sons and daughters, then he lost his wealth and then finally his health too, becoming afflicted with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head (2:7). From being a man with a happy life, a large family, large wealth and good health, he became lonely, sad, poor and wracked with pain. Job was a godly man and this fact remained despite his suffering and despite the desperate questions he had of why God would allow his terrible misery to not only happen but to continue.

When we were children we got used to the idea of being rewarded when we were good and punished when we were naughty. We soon learn the idea of justice and mercy. Naturally we extend this same principle to God – we think that God will reward us if we are good and we are sometimes tempted to think that when something bad happens it is because we have done something wrong. Well the story of Job shows us that nothing could be further from the truth. Here was a deeply religious and godly man – who had not done anything wrong and yet he was suffering terribly from the tragedies that had befallen him. As we get older we realise more and more that if anything the more good we do the more we suffer, we do right and we get knocked down, we do our best and something comes out of the blue and shatters our life into pieces.

If we allow it to, this kind of suffering causes us to be angry. For some it is too much and they turn their backs on God and blame God for what has happened and give up even wondering why He didn’t do anything to make things different from the way they are. If anyone had cause for complaint it was Job. He was a better person than any of us could ever be. He had more wealth and more land and a larger family than any of us will ever have. Did he get angry with God? You bet he did. Have you ever been angry with God, have you ever shouted aloud at Him about something? There have been times when I have seen pain and suffering in people and even at times in my own life when I have very strongly asked God the question “Why?” Job speaks to God with such eloquence, with such unnatural strength and wisdom, but he doesn’t beat about the bush. For chapter after chapter he asks God why, Why WHY? For a long long time there is no answer.

If we turn to the book of Job and expect a nice, neatly packaged answer to the question of suffering we will be disappointed. Of course Job’s three friends try to give him neat, stock answers but none of them work. In so many ways the question of suffering is a very complicated and messy one, no amount of human wisdom will even begin to approach an answer. We do however get a peek behind the curtain. At the beginning of the book we see the character of Satan at work and we understand that Job’s pain and suffering and loss do not come from God, but rather God allowing Satan to inflict Job. Rather than answer any questions though, this raises a whole lot of new questions, such as why on earth would God allow Satan to do such a thing? It just doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Finally after all the silence from heaven there is a great storm and God speaks at last. But then what He says is not what Job (or we) were expecting to hear. We were expecting something along the lines of an explanation, an “ABC” of suffering. Instead however God takes a different tack entirely, We read:

Then out of the storm the LORD spoke to Job. “Who are you to question my wisdom with your ignorant empty words? Now stand up straight and answer the questions I ask you.” (38:1-3)

Instead of getting answers, Job is getting questions! But perhaps in those questions there will be the beginnings of an answer. The Lord continues:

“Were you there when I made the world? If you know so much, tell me about it… Who laid the cornerstone of the World? In the dawn of that day the stars sang together, and the heavenly beings shouted for joy. Who closed the gates to hold back the sea when it burst from the womb of the earth? It was I who covered the sea with clouds and wrapped it in darkness…” (v.4-9)

Frederick Buechner writes: “God doesn’t explain. He explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kind of things Job wanted explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little-neck clam … God doesn’t reveal his grand design. He reveals himself.” (1)

Pain makes people react in different ways. Some people in their pain grow closer to God, some drift bitterly away. The main difference seems to lie in where they focus their attention. Those who become obsessed with questions about cause such as “What did I do to deserve this, why am I being punished?” often turn away from God. Those however who lean on God and like Job trust God though the suffering are much more likely to find, somehow, a way through it all.(2)

God’s speech goes on to remind Job of the wonders of Creation with some of the most beautiful poetry in the whole Bible. The message becomes clearer, that even if God were to explain to Job all about suffering and evil and pain, he would not understand it; it would simply be beyond his ability to comprehend. In reminding Job of the majesty of Creation and God’s power, it is as if God is simply saying to Job “Trust me”. Parents know this full well, there are times when you have to convince your children to trust that you are right – you are not able to give a full explanation that they could understand, so you say “because I am your Father”, or “because I am your mother” trust me.

In response to our pain, our misery, our suffering, God holds us tight and says “trust me” and as we look up from that promise we see a cross on a hill and we begin to understand, (not as much as we would like to understand, but nevertheless it is a beginning). We know that the only way forward, no matter how hard it may be is to say, “Yes Lord, I trust you, I trust you no matter what.”

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(1) Quoted in Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts, Zondervan, 1990, p.106
(2) Ibid., p110

See also: “The Message of Job”, David Atkinson, IVP, 1991.