Dear Friends

Welcome to the month of February.  It’s hard to think that our modest celebration of Christmas was just over a month ago coupled with the ongoing tightening Covid-19 Tier rules.  But we have reached this month of February 2021 as a community with thanksgiving and renewed hope.

A famous psychiatrist said, “Thankfulness is the perfect antidote for mental illness”, which I believe concurs with the 20th bible verse of the fifth chapter of Ephesians: “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.   But what is “mental illness?”  One commentator suggests that it is a fear of reality – a lack of awareness, an escape from the present.  Although a limited definition, the mentally ill find it difficult to face reality with thankfulness while the mentally healthy are better equipped to face life with calmness, patience, confidence and thankfulness.   But what is reality?  Reality is seeing life as it is.  Life comes to us with many problems, injustice, deceit, pain, hurt, disloyalty of friends, sickness, accidents, disease and so on.

Reality from the Christian’s perspective is about the sovereignty of God, the loving purposes of the Almighty and the care that He has for us, particularly, in these desperate circumstances where more and more of our community are impacted by infections and long-term illnesses.  If we, as Children of God, don’t see the full perspective, that God is in control of the universe, and at work turning every stumbling block into a stepping stone, then we will struggle to see His glorious view of the whole of creation.  Also, that Christ is actively intervening in every situation and life events, turning them into opportunities wherever possible to praise Him i.e. stumbling blocks into stepping stones.   The stepping stones may not fully tackle our desperate issues but we’re able to face them with greater resilience – heightened assurance and reality of God’s peace.

According to Edward Carnell, “God created the world for reasons that are sufficient unto himself. It is not necessary that we be told these reasons. As long as we know that God loves us, we have a base for hope. And when we have hope, all else can be borne in patience”.  The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines have begun to be administered locally beginning with our vulnerable residents, which is great news.  As vaccinations increase, they will bring renewed hope and Covid-19 protection to our communities, some of whom still hold painful memories of family and friends’ bereavements as well as the lack of access to the elderly and long term sick relatives and friends.   Yet we cannot forget the importance of being “mentally healthy”.   A Welsh Christian once said, “the envelope may be tattered but the letter (that is us) is still safe”.  We become safe enough to face a new day, safe enough to enjoy the gift of a new day and safe enough to appreciate with thankfulness the repeated daily second chances.

Interestingly, I came across the “February song” by Josh Groban.  Topical lyrics which resonate with the ongoing emotions of Covid-19.   Josh says:   “There are times in our lives where we feel as though we might need to just slip away from life for a bit and think or just breathe.  We don’t want to disappoint or hurt those around us so our hopes are that they understand we are okay.” 

He also says, “There are days when we need time to ourselves to figure things out and work through things in our lives.  We should always remember that our happiness is with those who love us and no matter how confused we may become or lost we always have those around us who do care and want to help.”

Let’s remind ourselves just in case there’s any self-doubt or lack of confidence.  God loves you as though you are the only person in the world, and He loves everyone the way He loves you.   If we hold onto these words by faith with thankfulness, they will support our mental health, sustain renewed hope of blessings, create stepping stones of opportunities and outpour second chances daily during 2021 when we need them the most.   We will not be abandoned or forsaken.   Permit me to leave a prayer for daily reflection this month:  “Lord of creation, whose glory is around and within us: open our eyes to your wonders, that we may serve you with reverence and know your peace at our lives’ end, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Stay blessed with love

Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of the Claydons