This was Courtmacsherry harbour last week as we waited for “The Storm”. It’s strange how the word “harbouring” seems (to me at least) to have negative connotations. We hear about someone “harbouring criminals” or someone “harbouring” bad thoughts or bitterness / resentment in their hearts, which is of course something that we need to be aware of.
But I like to think of what God Harbours us from, though even as I write that many many objections pop up in my mind! It is a deep and holy privilege of my work to listen to and to pray with people who have experienced every high and every low that life has to offer. Yes I can think of many times when a sick person has recovered, when a potential tragedy has been averted or the joy of when a person accepts Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. But I can also bring to mind many times when a sick person has not recovered, when a tragedy has happened and of trying to minister to people who have no cause for any kind of hope or joy in their lives.
Bishop Paul Colton struck a chord with many people last week with a ‘tweet’. Trying to come to terms with the sudden tragic death of a young man on a hockey pitch he wrote the next morning:
Yesterday was a day when my and others’ prayers were not answered. It’s hard to pray again today. Club is heartbroken. Andrew Chambers, RIP
Sometimes it seems that God does not shelter us, we are left to face the full blast of the storm, apparently on our own. We cry out to him for help but our prayers are swallowed by a great void of nothingness. I am reminded what what C.S. Lewis wrote after the death of his wife in his book “A grief observed” On trying to pray he experienced:
“… A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence”
As I struggled to come to terms this week with Andy Chambers’ death, as my prayers joined those of hundreds, (if not thousands) of others in praying for his family and friends, and for Bishop Paul as he ministered in that situation, a strange sentence kept repeating itself over and over in my mind. The words were strange, but I immediately knew what they were and Who it was that spoke them:
‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’
They are the words of Jesus on the cross “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” If we ever feel forsaken by God, if our despair is too great, our pain too intense or our anger too hot, then these words of Christ become our words. In this life we can only ever have a partial answer, but if Christ himself knew what it was like then it perhaps is against the hard, rough and blood-stained foot of the cross that we find the beginnings of a response…
Photo notes: This picture is actually sixteen separate pictures ‘stitched’ together as a panorama – it takes a bit of practise to get it right! Here’s how to do it with a digital SLR: First of all set the lens to 50mm equivalent (to minimise distortion), then take a meter reading from the brightest part of the scene. Then put the camera in manual mode and set it to whatever the meter reading was (eg. f10, 1/250 sec) then disable the auto ISO (I used ISO 200) and manually set the white balance (I used ‘cloudy’ for the above), finally make sure to turn autofocus off and depending on the scene set it for just short of infinity. Then start at one end and work your way across taking pictures. Make sure that you have plenty of overlap with each picture as this helps the computer to create the image afterwards. (You can do this using JPEG’s, but I use RAW files, again to give the computer more to work with). If you have photoshop you are laughing, I have an old version of photoshop elements which does the job almost as well, though there are many other programmes both free and expensive that will do the job for you. If you want to know more, just ask and I will be happy to help.