I loved this quotation from the young Henry Manning (later to become the Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster):
The mind of Christ must be transfused into our own. There must be somewhat of the same intense love of perishing sinners, of the same patient endurance of moral evil, and unwearied striving to bring the impenitent to God: a portion of the same holy boldness and fearless inflexibility of purpose; a measure of that perpetual self-denial and self-sacrifice to the service and glory of His Father: of that acute, affectionate, and universal sympathy with the sick, the suffering, the sinful, and without partaking of their contamination, even with the sinful: and somewhat also of that intuitive penetration of heart and character, which His omniscience apprehended at a glance, but we can gather only by keen observation, strict analysis, and rigid search, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, into all the depths and windings of our own. What a mission, Brethren, is ours.
(From a sermon on The English Church, its Succession and Witness for Christ quoted in David Newsome, The Convert Cardinals: John Henry Newman and Henry Edward Manning, 1993 pp 90-91)
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Sunday, 4 July 2010
But yesterday we visited the Smoo Cave. Bethany and Natalie were taking with the fact that on the grassy slopes beside the cave mouth lots of people had written their names using stones, and they followed suit. What does that say about our inclination to make our mark? And in there a lesson for us in the fact some people had spelled out their identity using stones pillaged from other people's names? See Bethany and Natalie's names in the image below, just under 'Jolly'
Thursday, 1 July 2010
‘Mither, he kens me!’ said the child delightedly to her mother. Andrew Bonar had recently – at the end of 1856 – come to be minister of Finnieston Free Church in Glasgow but already he was getting to know the members of his congregation and people in the community.
It’s been claimed that Andrew A. Bonar, (1810-1892) born exactly two centuries ago, was one of Scotland’s Protestant saints. A Free Churchman, he was renowned for his passion for God and his commitment to prayer. A man of joy and love, he was living proof that that the stereotype of Calvinists as miserable, life-denying zealots is wrong.
His diaries focus largely on his developing relationship with God, but in reading them, one of the things I found inspiring was his use of references to everyday things to illuminate his understanding of the spiritual dimension.
For example, writing in March 1847 he recalls walking beside a river and seeing the sky reflected in its smoothly-gliding waters. Discerning signs of God’s activity in our everyday lives, is he says like ‘walking along the bank of a perpetually flowing stream in which we see the reflection of the glorious heavens.’
Things on earth which remind us that God is not inactive – a co-incidence which seems given by him, the beauty of creation, the words from the Bible which come alive in our hearts, the timely challenge of a caring friend – are reflections of another dimension seen in the stream of life.
The day Andrew Bonar learned that his sister Christian had died, 9th August 1862 he was on holiday at Girvan, and could look across the water to the small island of Ailsa Craig. It seemed to him to be ‘a symbol of the “Rock of Ages”, calm, fixed, strong in the midst of changing waters.’ Our lives may be falling part, but God remains – real, holy unchanging, utterly reliable.
‘Coming home through the wood last night,’ he wrote at the Manse of Collace in Perthshire on 21st November 1840 ‘I was refreshed and comforted in looking up to the stars. Ministers, like these stars are sent to give light through the night. We shine on, whether travellers will make use of our light or not.’ In fact, all of us as Christians are God’s stars, sent to bring light and hope into dark places: Bonar’s words challenge us to ask whether, relying on God we are shining as brightly as we possibly can.
‘Why is the fire kindled after going out every morning in my room?’ he mused in January 1844. ‘Just because I like to have its heat,’ he continued. ‘So the Lord daily kindles love to Himself in me just because he never ceases to desire that I should be His.’ We are enabled to respond to God in the first place, and to keep responding to him because he keeps kindling in our hearts the flame of faith and God-focussed love.
Bonar never found it easy to live God’s way. In February 1855 he wrote that his heart was like ‘a bed of hard stones scarcely worn smooth’ by the flowing river of God’s kindness. Bonar’s experience alternated between intense joy at God’s reality – when he lived ‘under the smile’ of God’s love, and a sense of deep personal failure.
We feel uneasily he was often too hard on himself, and yet perhaps it’s only in reflecting on our imperfections that we realise the sheer wonder of God’s acceptance of us. And the more we realise that, the more open we are to submitting the harsh rough edges of our lives to the power of his freely-flowing, life-changing grace.
‘Today,’ Bonar wrote on 28 January 1877 ‘I was like a man standing in full sight of plenty at the door of a well-stocked granary, all of it mine, but I took little of it.’ God offers us, as he did Andrew Bonar, a storehouse full of gifts – life, friendships, food and shelter, acceptance as his children, resources to help us show forth love, joy and peace. How full are our arms as we leave the storehouse?
Andrew Bonar was always conscious that no matter how much of God he understood and experienced, there was always more. ‘All this time,’ he wrote in 1858 ‘I am only at the margin, never getting out into the deep of the great ocean.’
There were times when the spiritual dimension was more real to Bonar than the material. We do not all share his depth of spiritual experience. But we can, all of us, ask God as Bonar did on an other occasion ‘Lord, lead me in, far further in.’ and embark on a voyage across the boundless ocean of the love of this God about whom each of us can say ‘He kens me!’
(My piece from the Highland News dated 26th June 2010)