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Guiding Lights

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Enlightening God,

as we reflect
our earthly journeys
we give thanks for all those companions along the road
who have, over the years,
often unwittingly,
opened windows or even doors of enlightenment
illuminating, our paths,
sharing their prayers, thoughts, words and deeds,
sometimes just through
books, hymns, films
deepening our understanding
of who you are
and how we can live positively, despite the difficulties.

We pray for awareness
of the Spirit’s guidance
when you need us
to allow the light of your love
to shine out through us,
illuminating the dark journeying
for our companions
along life’s road.

Rev Ros Murphy

January Reflection

lt is a very long time ago that I learned that January was so named because of the image of an ancient god, Janus, always depicted with two faces, one looking back and the other forward.

Because January is the beginning of the Western year, it is a good image, reminding us to review the past year with its successes and failures, its happy and sad times, with a view to improving as the new year progresses. It is a long time too since I learned of ‘New Year Resolutions’, aiming to improve, but although I must have made many, very few were long lasting, changing my life.

One thought though, not really a resolution, but an image or symbol stays with me and has been a great help in my life. It comes from a book called Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense, by a theologian called Vanstone. He writes that as we set out in life, it is as if we plan to paint a beautiful picture, encompassing our hopes and dreams as we go. Perhaps all goes well but then suddenly, by us, someone else or external circumstances, the paint pot is tipped up and makes a huge ugly ‘splodge’. Our life’s picture is
ruined. What can we do? Life will never be the same again.

Sadly, for some the temptation is to tear up the picture, to end it all. I was saddened to find, when researching hymn stories recently that a much-loved Methodist hymn, What a friend we have in Jesus, was written by Joseph Scriven who took his own life, some time after each of the girls he was planned to many died within a few days of the planned weddings and he himself suffered terrible ill-health.

Maybe if people believe in reincarnation, the thought of having another go at life might seem attractive, but the teaching of such faiths seems to suggest that such actions would make matters worse, not better. Do we just have to suffer in silence‘? Back to Vanstone though, with a very firm, ‘No! ’. He writes that if we commit the unplanned ‘splodge’ in our lives to God, we will be helped by the ever- present power of the Holy Spirit, often expressed through the compassion of others, not only to survive the disaster, but to be changed by the experiences, for the better, often leading us to accomplish far more than we could have dreamed was possible for us, producing the most beautiful part of our life picture. Joseph Scriven’s poem written to comfort his mother, was found by a friend when Joseph was very sick. When asked who wrote the poem, his reply that it was himself and God. The number of people helped in dire circumstances by that hymn is uncountable a truly beautiful outcome of a series of disasters.

As we look forward into 2018, may our lives too be strengthened by the ever- present God and especially by Jesus whose terrible death on the cross was not the end, but the most wonderful evidence that the transformation of life’s pictures is possible in the hands of God, whose apparent foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and apparent weakness far stronger than any human strength. We set out into a new year in his hands.

Rev Ros Murphy

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