'Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.' (New International Version)
Every good gift is a gift from you, my God.
Even on a day which started perishing cold because the boiler took a morning off, I am surrounded by presents from you.
Evidence of your love is everywhere. I miss so much more than I notice, I am sure, but today I have been aware of your presence.
- Waking a sleepy daughter this morning, only the top of her head visible from under the duvet. 'Mummy, you smell nice. You smell sweet, like flowers and ice cream.'
- Ice crystals on the metal of the gate at the side of the house.
- Foxes in the garden before school, playing in the snow, unafraid.
- The first miniature daffodil bud on a pot of bulbs given to me by a friend who knew that I needed a little piece of spring in my kitchen.
- Small children bundled up in hats and scarves and mittens and ski-suits so puffy that they can't bend in the middle. Wellies so tiny that the feet inside can barely be walking.
- Pink cheeks and holding hands tightly on the icy pavements.
- Another daughter, on the way to school, 'Mummy, when can we get the paddling pool out?' and we laughed.
- Bright berries in a world of white.
- A fieldfare in the garden this morning for more than an hour eating his way hungrily through the rotten orange apples still on the trees. Beautiful bird.
You give gifts for the sheer delight in giving; in seeing your children delighted. You shower us with blessings that we don't even notice. You leave us love-notes to remind and reassure us.
The Father of heavenly lights.
The source of all light. The author of light. Creator of the sun and the stars. Origin of all that is good. Banisher of darkness.
The dark is only the absence of light, and where you are, there can be no dark. no shadow. Black is an absence of colour, and you are the source of colour.
You are the rainbow, the blue of the sky and the green in the chlorophyll.
You are the red of the rose and the yellow of the corn, the purple of the thundercloud and the silver of the spray of the sea.
You are the sunrise and the sunset, the eclipse and the full moon.
You are the blanket of snow making the mundane beautiful.
You are present everywhere; you are the Presence of light and colour, where darkness is the absence. When you arrive, everything is illuminated, darkness is banished. Dark and light cannot co-exist, and you will always prevail.
You do not change like shifting shadows...
Shifting shadows. I'm sitting underneath a tree at the height of summer, grass thick and soft and lush. There's a feat of imagination. It's -4 degrees outside, snow is still lying thick on the windowsill, the roads are treacherous and I'm here wearing three jumpers and a throw around my shoulders, hunched over the steam from my coffee.
Anyway, where was I?
Ah yes. Under a tree on a hot day. In the shade, lying back looking at the deep blue of the sky through the green leaves, the sound of a gentle breeze stirring the branches. The light is dappled, shadows of the countless leaves dancing and flickering. Ever-changing. Nothing the same from one moment to the next. Shifting shadows, impossible to pin down and capture.
Not like you. You are constant. You are steady. You are eternal.
So much in life is like shifting shadows. So much that I think is secure is really just momentary light through leaves.
- I lean on people and they are bound to let me down, because they are human too.
- I lean on things, only to find them eroded, destroyed, unstable, stolen.
- I find comfort in food, only to find that the reassurance I was looking for is too elusive and I am more damaged than ever.
- I try to build myself up with roles that I play; committees I sit on, rotas, jobs - but then I miss a meeting because of illness and I find that nobody is indispensable after all.
- I retreat under the bedclothes and go to sleep to escape my anxieties, but I wake up again, and they are unresolved.
Nothing is safe, but you. Nothing constant, but you. Nothing eternal, unshifting, solid, reliable, dependable. Nothing heals, but you.
Older translations of the Bible say, '...there is no shadow of turning with thee.' (King James Version)
I'm not sure why, but this makes me think of a huge ocean liner slowly changing course so that the sun behind it slowly casts a different shadow on the waves of the sea as the boat moves round. You don't change course. You know the way - the only way. There will be no re-plotting of co-ordinates and reversing of the propellors with you.
Alternatively it could mean that there is no suggestion of turning; that there is not even an illusion of change. You never give the impression that you might. You are unshifting, constant.
You do not change. Everything else does - I just have to look in the mirror to see that everything changes. The whole of life is simply a montage of shifting shadows, but you are the Sun. The world might spin, slowly alternating who feels the warmth of the sun, but you shine without stopping. Where the sun shines, things that are frozen melt.
Teach me to depend on you, Lord Jesus, and not cast about for things down here to prop me up. Not to look for meaning or satisfaction from any other source than you. To fix my eyes on what is steady, not shifting.
When I try to balance I need to focus on something that doesn't move, something unwavering. That's you. When I try to steady myself by gazing at something that wobbles, I fall over.
Thankyou for the gifts. For the beauty and whimsy and humour and majesty. For the little things and the big things. For health and family and laughter and snowflakes.
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Though changest not, Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been, though forever shalt be.
Lyrics: Thomas Obediah Chisholm (1866 -1960)
Music: William Marion Runyan (1870 - 1957)
How's that for a couple of good middle names?