Squirrels – a reflection from my friend Lynn Hurry
I’ve been thinking about squirrels lately because they keep nicking the vicarage strawberries and they don’t even mind if they are still green, as seen in the photo above. A lot of people don’t like them, but I love them! We call them ’Tree Monkeys’ here at the vicarage and delight in watching their playful antics.
I Have watched them in our garden for years burying all sorts of things they find to eat, not least acorns and peanuts. And I’ve often wondered if they ever, for a moment, stop to think about their little acorn and wonder if it might turn into a tree at some point. I doubt it! But there was one acorn that got away when the squirrel forgot where he had buried it. It’s well on the way to being a large oak tree now in our garden.
When I’m in the garden I often praise God for creation and the joy it brings and I think that squirrels can become reminders to us to spend more time in nature.
The spiritual writer Thomas à Kempis wrote : “Every creature can be a mirror of life and a book of heavenly teaching.”
I reckon for sure they can become a window to glimpse a bit of the divine and I’m sure God was smiling when he made squirrels!
Squirrel the squirrel is a busy guy, too occupied to to stop or wave or even say hi! –
always on the move in a very focused searching groove – up the tree, down the tree, scamper here and there, bushy tail alive itself flagging everywhere!
My dear friend Gill Henwood has sent me this to help us celebrate the Longest day or Summer Solstice. *
“Here’s a photo from yesterday evening of Red Screes, the fell between Ambleside and the Kirkstone Pass to Ullswater. The midsummer sun setting at its furthest NNW reach casts a shadow only seen for a few evenings, showing the steep face of the screes’ far side. On the saddle under the deep shadow lies the Kirkstone Inn – bathed in glorious sunlight all day but deepest shadow under the great fell.
It seems a parable of contrast – dazzling glory is heightened by deepest shadow. And the darkest shade has piercing light beyond.
It reminds me of a story that in a night time barn or hall, a huge space, it only takes one candle to give us light. God illuminates us in the Light of Christ, shining in the deepest dangers of our troubled world.”
Dear God Thank you for light and warmth. Thank you for the sun. Thank you for the gifts of nature and for the annual cycles and seasons. Today, give us grace to see you as the Creator, the One who lifts us to the light.
* A solstice is an event that occurs when the Sun appears to reach its most northerly or southerly excursion relative to the celestial equator on the celestial sphere. Two solstices occur annually, around June 21 and December 21.
Once again Refugees seeking safety and asylum in Britain are in the news. Ms Patel, the Home Secretary, is heading up a plan to send unwanted refugees to Rwanda. This is without consultation with those involved – the refugees who are vulnerable and who have already suffered so much.
Senior Bishops of the Church of England, led by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York recently had a joint letter published in the Times newspaper. In case you haven’t seen or just heard snippets and adverse media comment, here is what they said.
Bishops’ letter to The Times on the Rwanda asylum policy
All of the current Lords Spiritual have signed a letter to The Times voicing alarm about the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. They wrote:
Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. Rwanda is a brave country recovering from catastrophic genocide. The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries. Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal, or reunite with family in Britain. They have had no consideration of their asylum claim, recognition of their medical or other needs, or any attempt to understand their predicament.
Many are desperate people fleeing unspeakable horrors. Many are Iranians, Eritreans and Sudanese citizens, who have an asylum grant rate of at least 88 per cent. These are people Jesus had in mind as he said when we offer hospitality to a stranger, we do it for him. They are the vulnerable that the Old Testament calls us to value. We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law — which protects the right to claim asylum.
We must end the evil trafficking; many churches are involved in fighting this evil. This needs global co-operation across every level of society. To reduce dangerous journeys to the UK we need safe routes: the church will continue to advocate for them. But deportations — and the potential forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries — are not the way. This immoral policy shames Britain.
The Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury; the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York; the Right Rev Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London; the Right Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham; the Right Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham; the Right Rev John Inge, Bishop of Worcester; the Right Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry; the Right Rev Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford; the Right Rev James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle; the Right Rev Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans; the Right Rev Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough; the Right Rev Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely; the Right Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark; the Right Rev Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds; the Right Rev Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester; the Right Rev Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester; the Right Rev Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol; the Right Rev Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby; the Right Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn; the Right Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester; the Right Rev Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford; the Right Rev Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter; the Right Rev Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford; the Right Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich; the Right Rev Paul Williams, Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham
[Source: Church of England official website]
A PRAYER for Refugees
Give Us Hearts
God of love and compassion: may we always recognize your spirit:
in the refugee family, seeking safety from violence;
in the migrant worker, bringing food to our tables;
in the asylum-seekers, seeking justice for their families;
in the unaccompanied child, travelling in a dangerous world.
Give us hearts that break open whenever our brothers and sisters turn to us. Give us hearts that no longer turn deaf to their voices in times of need;
Give us eyes to recognize a moment for grace instead of a threat. Give us voices that fail to remain silent but which decide instead to advocate prophetically. Give us hands that reach out in welcome, but also in work, for a world of justice until all homelands are safe and secure. Bless us, O Lord…
The Revd Lynn Hurry reflects on coping with change and finding our true worth (our ‘Place’) in the heart of God.
As we go through life things change don’t they…and at times I think we have all had that thought where we feel we don’t know our place anymore. It’s often a thought that accompanies all the significant changes in our lives. Such changes may include: The end of a relationship; Changes in a family relationship such as the birth of a child, or a sibling; Moving home, especially to a new area; Change of job; Unemployment; Retirement; death of a loved one or partner
There are also the changes to do with ageing such as when our bodies get tired, old, or we are unwell. Coping with the change of getting old, we might think “Where is my place in a society that emphasises youth, beauty, health, get up and go, etc?” We even describe our spiritual or emotional lives by saying “I’m in a bad place right now.” What it shows though, is that we seem to intuitively know that there is another place, a better place. Regardless of how the changes of life come about, it seems they leave us wondering, “Where is my place in life?”
But there’s something we often overlook and that is, we need to remind ourselves that our life begins and ends in God.We need to remember that God created us and breathed His own life into us as He breathed us into existence. God chose each one of us to be filled with divine breath, God’s divine life. This shapes our lives and our understanding of what life is really about.
If we forget that, we are in danger of living our lives in the ways that other people think we should. Too often we can strive to live a life based on what others think of us. Or we can live a life in such a way that others notice us. We can end up trying to please others more than anything else. In our spiritual life we might do things that others may see as religious and so seem a bit ‘holier than thou’. Remember what Jesus said about those who lived that kind of life. They were in danger of practicing false piety and even, hypocrisy.
But it may be that none of this is deliberate. This is us trying to find a place on the outside instead of on the inside. Yet when that happens our place in life changes according to the opinions of someone other than our God.
This week we have remembered Evelyn Underhill, a teacher of what it means to Worship and to live an interior life rather than an external one. She understood from personal experience how easy it is to replace God with something far lesser and more shallow. Self-centred living is about living on the surface. But Jesus is calling us again and again to search for the interior life which involves living life from the inside out. He is asking us to move from the outer world to the inner world.
So if we are to break our dependency on others to help us find our place, then the secret prayer, fasting, etc, is not about how we do them but where. In that secret place with God then we are learning to stop depending on others to give us our identity or place in life. In the secret place we see that our identity, who we are, is who we are in God. It’s the interior life as opposed to the showy one for others! It reminds me once more of that beautiful George Appleton prayer about being taken deeper into God. That secret place within.
Give me a candle of the spirit, O God as I go down into the deep of my own being Show me the hidden things. Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name.
Give me freedom to grow so that I may become my true self – the fulfillment of the seed which you planted in me at my making.
Out of the deep I cry unto thee, O God. Amen
And so despite the disappointments in our lives we are, we always have been, and we always will be the beloved children of God. And so, it follows that repentance, prayer, reading and meditating on God’s holy Word, receiving the Blessed Sacrament, taking regular time out with God are the journey back to our place. These are the practices that point us to that secret place where God resides within.
And this secret place is where we truly find the faithfulness of God to us and encounter also the promise, therefore, of resurrected life.