Sunday, 4 September 2011

The skies proclaim your handiwork

Are you there, God?

Well, life isn’t easy, is it.  I come away on holiday and I love being by the sea and the sun has shone and the stars last night were truly spectacular.  All the family is here and we’ve spent time sitting on the beach and had a lovely meal out and watched the children play and looked at the sunset over the marshes. It has been beautiful and awe inspiring and just lovely.

It's just me that's the problem.

My head is all over the place and it just goes to show (not that I didn’t already know this) that I take my problems with me wherever I go. I had hoped that I’d be able to leave them behind at home (with the cotton trousers, hairbrush, boules set and flip flops that I meant to bring with me, grr) to come away and feel a lightness of spirit that has been eluding me recently. Indeed, a lightness of spirit that I felt last time we were here in this very place. That time, I had the spectre of impending investigations into a sinister-looking breast lump hanging over me and I still managed, with some miraculous input from you, to feel more lighthearted than I do right now. How come?

Well, it doesn’t really matter how come, does it.

Lord, I’m still going round in circles. I want to leave my baggage with you but I seem to tell you about it and then just pick it up and take it away again.

‘Don’t you want to leave it with me?’  you’re asking.
Yes, yes, I’m leaving it!’ I say, as I haul it off the ground in front of you and hoist it onto my back.

I need some help, please. Don’t I always? Oh dear.

Let me tell you about last night.

‘The heavens declare the glory of God;
The skies proclaim his handiwork...'

Psalm 19:1

From where you are, do you get a perfect view of the stars every night? Or all the time? Do you still admire your handiwork or are you a bit blasé these days?  Because last night they blew me away. There was less light pollution out here right on the coast and we’re about fifty yards from the sea. The sky was dark and the stars were out. My God, were they out. There were more than I’ve seen before and after a while, when my eyes became accustomed to lying in the garden in the dark I could see the Milky Way like a cloud down the middle of the sky. It was spectacular. Vast. Majestic. And you made it. Stars in the sky and grains of sand on the beach. You know how many there are. You are great.

I saw it once before, years ago when I poked my head out of a tent in the middle of the night in a place called San Pedro de Atacama, in the Atacama desert in Chile. The dark was dark as this little village didn't have electricity and it was in the middle of nowhere. A friend and I had backpacked there and we were due to get up before dawn to see the sunrise over the El Tatio geyserfield. The stars took my breath away then and they did last night. I never thought I'd be anywhere that I'd see them again. Fancy that. The back garden of a rented house on the Suffolk coast and you pulled back the curtain again for me. 

Awesome.

Now there’s an overused word. But what I mean is something magnificent, mindblowing. Something of such beauty and wonder that it it stills me.  It's that awe that leaves me open mouthed with a sense that my head is struggling to grasp something enormous.

There’s a song by YFriday that has a line:

'Glorious, incredible, above our thoughts, immeasurable
Beyond the far horizons of our dreams...'

(Ken Riley and Andrew Neve, 2008 Thankyou Music)

That came to mind tonight as I gazed at the stars, over and over. Making me realize that I can’t even imagine your glory. It's far, far too big for me. I'm very, very small.
The heavens declare...

Today I was lying on the beach and the sun went behind a cloud for a second before it emerged again. The cloud formation was breathtaking and the sun’s rays radiated from behind this cloud before it lit up the sky again.  Yesterday as we were driving here we followed a thunderstorm for a while – the sun was shining but the sky ahead was purple and dark and for miles everywhere we went was soaked through as if we’d just missed a heavy rainshower. A few times we saw lightning forking in the purple of the low cloud even though we were in bright sunshine.

There were ladybirds on the beach. My girls kept catching them and examining them closely before they took off again. The seagulls can swoop to catch a chip in mid-air as you throw it to them before they whirl away again.  Our bedroom overlooks the marshes down to the harbour and there are rare birds there if you know where to look - avocets and bitterns and marsh harriers. 

I'm surrounded by wonders and beauty and majesty. I need to raise my game a bit I think.

I hope that I am just feeling like this because I’m tired – and I am so tired after last night’s bunk-bed-excited-children palaver. Late to bed and early to rise doesn’t do much for my state of mind. Maybe tomorrow we’ll all feel better and the sun and the sky and the sea and the rest of the beauty around me might get inside me and lift me out of myself.

‘Be of good courage. And he shall strengthen your heart. All you who hope in the Lord.’

Psalm 31:24

This was today’s little meditation on my (increasingly on-the-blink – do you ever heal mobile phones? If so, can I put a word in?) iPhone.  I read it at a moment in the day when I was feeling a little desperate and greatly in need of some strength. I do hope in you, Father God. I cling to you and I take refuge under your wing.

Strengthen my heart, Lord. It feels a bit weak and wobbly at the moment.

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