A few weeks ago I was able to enjoy a holiday which began with a Sunday off.
This particular Sunday was truly a ‘holy day’ which was part of a ‘hol-i-day’.
On the Saturday, I driven away from what had been an intense few days. A set of circumstances that had left me aware that my emotional energy tank was flashing a red warning sign ‘REFUEL NOW”.
Thankfully, this coincided with the gift of a week off, a campervan parked above a magnificent view of Robin Hood’s Bay, the company of my good man David and an excellent book. (Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton, of which I will say more later).
On the Sunday morning I half-heartedly (just being honest here) committed myself to emotionally refuelling by asking God to help me see His presence in the beauty around me and to help me gather these gifts as if each were a revelation of His love and presence.
In the course of the first day I ‘gathered’:
one blissful lie in
one delicious coffee on a sunny patio
two downpours when I was thankfully undercover
one scrummy bowl of fortifying soup
several wonderful views
one spectacular natural event as yet unidentified
an actual verse of Scripture (burnt into wood and fixed to a wire fence. I was stood on a clifftop in front of this fence feeling a bit desolate and my eyes drifted down from the view to this fairly ugly barrier in front of me only to see these words come into focus “I have come to give you fullness of life”!)
and … two rainbows (here is one)
It was a sign of my depleted state that, on seeing the second rainbow, I asked for a third, saying something along the lines of,
“very pretty Lord, but really… is that you? Isn’t it just because it’s been raining alot? I’ll know it’s really meant as a sign of hope if I see a third …. today”, a comment I directed to God and promptly forgot.
Even before the moment on the clifftop with the verse in the fence, when you would think that the actual words of Jesus would speak loudly enough to me (you’d think so, but my heart was buried a long way down at this point), there had been another moment that had made me smile.
Sitting on a huge pile of rocks at the back of the beach high above Robin Hood’s Bay (socially distancing from the crowds) we stopped to take in the view and read books, this was between our coffee stop and our lunch stop (good ‘holy days’ are mostly about meals).
My book, which I’ve already mentioned, was on the life of Moses and the chapter that I happened to come to was on the moment Moses sees the burning bush. I came to and read and highlighted these words in chapter 4 (ironically entitled The Practice of Paying Attention)
“Many of us are choosing to live lives that do not set us up to pay attention, to notice those places where God is at work and to ask ourselves what these things mean. We long for a word from the Lord, but somehow we have been suckered into believing that the pace we keep is what leadership requires. We slide inexorably into a way of life that offers little or no opportunity for paying attention and then wonder why we are not hearing from God when we need God most.”
I was convicted. And then I read on and came to this
“We squander the gift of this day just as it is, these people just as they are, the uniqueness and the sweetness (even the bitter sweetness) of this particular place on the journey just as it is, the voice of God calling to us in our own wilderness places”
What am I missing, I wondered, on this bittersweet day? Is there something else to be seen?
Thinking this, I raised my gaze from my book and my eyes fell on the rock on which my feet were resting. I was sitting on a large flat rock and my feet were on a slightly lower flat rock. There was nothing special or beautiful about the rocks but as I thought about what I just read the sun came out from behind a cloud and a ray of light fell over my shoulder onto the surface of the rock my feet.
In that shaft of light the flat grey dull surface of an ordinary boulder was transformed. A small flat diagonal plane on the surface of the rock suddenly sparkled like a diamond.
The light, the angle of it and the angle of the rock, all combined to make a ‘jewel’ appear suddenly out of nowhere.
It twinkled brightly at me for several minutes – sorry I was too mesmerised/amused to think about taking a picture – and then the sun went behind a cloud.
After a few minutes, even though the sun came out again, the angle and the shaft of light did not reproduce the stone that had for a moment ‘sparkled’.
It wasn’t just the combination of stone, angle and sunlight that delighted me. It was how it had appeared at that moment, it was being there to see it, just as I had been reading about all the times we miss being present to the presence of God.
I gathered up and treasured the gift of it as we hurriedly packed up and headed back to the cafe chased in by the start of the next rain shower.
At the end of the day, after we’d eaten, we went for one last coastal walk before bedtime. The light was fading and I’d forgotten about my flippant request for a third rainbow when suddenly out of the bottom of a very heavy black cloud far out on the horizon, the unmistakable colours of the rainbow dropped down as if pouring themselves into the sea.
This time I was ready to capture the moment and my heart, so far below the surface of my life, felt the faint tremor of hope and the warmth of God’s love.
Below are some other ‘treasures’ collected from the rest of the week: