Welcome to the summer months of August and September. This is a time when the sun rises the highest and we behold the beauty of warmth and sunshine. C S Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” And it is true, by means of the sunlight, we witness the wonders of God’s creation.
When the sunshine moves into our hearts, the impact is equally impressive. Tom Baker quoted: “Strive to have sunshine in our hearts each day as it will greatly improve our outlook”. Our outlook is regularly tested by the cross-winds of life itself. Coming out of a pandemic is one thing, dealing with family bereavement is another but carrying long term illnesses or experiencing recent ailments are just as challenging. The 119th chapter of Psalm cites: “my suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees (or commands)”. How challenging! Can any good improve our outlook?
We grow though the resistances we meet in our families, communities work and wider environment. It is not so much what happens to us, but what we do with it which determines the result and outcome. It is a fact of human nature that learning and growth, development and change require a process, and so often the most important changes take place within the framework of struggle or a wrestling of circumstances. It was this insight that led the Psalmist to record the above truth: “my suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees (or commands)”.
In overcoming the impediments of life, we complete ourselves. The world around us is like an emery stone on which we sharpen ourselves revealing lessons through our adversities. Things that strike into our lives make us ‘bitter’ – or ‘better’– according to the way we respond.
If we live or work with people who seem to do a perfect job of irritating our spirits, then this can become a ‘cage’ or a ‘challenge’. What do we want it to be? How we handle it decides whether it is a ‘groaning point’ or a ‘growing point’.
St Francis of Assisi said, “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows”. Doubt, fear, anxious, worry and resentful are examples of shadows that disrupt our outlook. Although there are many ways of winning over these negative emotions, the most important point to remember is that we are God’s children and His personal responsibility. Nothing that happens to us can outwit God’s loving provision.
I am inclined to agree with an unknown author who said: “we delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty”. And who knows what life challenges we have experienced of late, yet our inner beauty remains intact. We become a sunbeam to others too and are driven to do good all around us starting with our family, community, schools, supporting our key workers, helping our vulnerable residents in and beyond this parish. The internal rays of sunshine become infectious spreading from person to person until the sunshine flourishes in the hearts of our village residents. How lovely!
You may have heard of the recent launch of our weekly Parish activities at the Parish Room, St Michael’s Church, Steeple Claydon, for bringing ‘sunshine’ to our community: Tuesday Club (10.30am to 12.30pm) is in collaboration with Age UK Buckingham whilst the Thursday Club (2pm to 4pm) is put on for all village residents. We look forward to seeing you as part of our collective efforts to lift community spirits.
Permit me to leave an encouraging quote of Hans Christian Anderson to ponder until the next magazine edition: “Just living is not enough”, said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower”.
Stay blessed with love.
Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of the Claydons