God of the bleak

I love the sunshine. Closing my eyes and feeling them kissed by the warm rays as a gentle breeze ruffles leaves close at hand. That sunny feeling, the smells and sounds and sights of a temperate summer. I love it all. I call this ‘nice weather’ and I associate it with things going well and God being present.

Grey skies, cold bleakness, rain falling, collar turned up against the biting wind, head down, ‘Quick, get home as soon as you can. God where are you?…’

I realised as I took the journey through this year’s British Pilgrimage of Hope, that I expect to meet God in the nice weather, but I associate bad weather with his absence. It didn’t take much to see that this was also true in life; I assume that he isn’t close when life turns bleak, I assume, when life’s weather turns bad its because he turned away and frowned on me.

I found a treasure this year on pilgrimage. It was the realisation that God is as much in the driving rain as he is in the blue skied sunshine. So rather than wishing the bleakness away in my frustration, I can encounter and welcome the saviour right in the midst of it. This is a truth that the early Celtic saints would have lived and breathed, I am thankful for the this gift they pointed me to.

Since returning from Pilgrimage I have encountered a string of events, some personal and others more remote but impacting me profoundly, most of which I have found bewildering. Many of them I simply have not understood God’s action in, most of which have been bleak, discouraging and some have been desperate. I just read a prayer I wrote after walking the Pilgrim’s Way to Holy Island, it gives me hope and I share it with you here.

High King of Heaven, source of all life, God of all creation, Father and Shepherd…
Take me by the hand and lead me in this day, on this journey.
Be in the bleakness, be in the breeze, be in the gentle Sun breaking through the clouds and kissing my face. Be in the cold rain and driving wind. Be in the soft, wet mud and sand. Be in the horizon. Be in the flush of my cheeks.
Bless me Father, for I am your child; sin bound, broken, weak and frail.
Bless me Father with the touch of your breath and your closeness.
Bless me Father to know your hope in every moment.
Bless me Father with prayers that bring me back to you, when I find myself walking on the edge, the knife edge between life and despair.


Looking back to Look forward

Last year i was part of the team who helped coordinate the Annual British Pilgrimage of Hope. It was an incredible 18 days. if you are ready for a little more than the usual diet of Christian summer festivals and bible weeks, this could be for you. Did you enjoy Manchester 2000 or the soul in the city events of past years? there was something about being together in mission that was so much more purposeful! The Annual British Pilgrimage of Hope goes a bit further than even those events.

We really just wanted to create something that was worthy of a generation of Brits who wanted to learn how to change the world. So we put together some training in mission – practical skills but also looking at biblical frameworks of values that express God’s glory and inform every day of our lives. We added an inspirational look at those in our past who put their lives and reputations on the line because they knew that Christ was asking no less of them; they changed the world and life as we know it now would not exist had it not been for their choices. They show us a courageous face of mission that doesnt shrink back but brings justice, mercy and compassion to the streets and homes of our land. But what is the use of inspiration, new skills and understanding if you dont have a chance to try it out? So we added a mission placement, in teams heading off to support local churches in their on going local mission. And still it wasnt time to go home, we journeyed way back in time and headed up to Iona where we drew further inspiration as we saw how God used Patrick, Columba and Aiden to bring the first light of the gospel to our land. And so as we said good bye to oneanother we each embarked on the pilgrimage of the rest of our lives, with no excuses but a desire to live for God.

this year we beging our journey on the 15th of July at 9am and complete on the 26th. Come and join us if you are game!