Thought for the Day June 23rd
‘’Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips’’. Psalm 63: 3-5
Not long ago I listened to a transmission on Radio 4 by Fr Christopher Jamison, Benedictine monk and former Abbott of Worth Abbey in West Sussex. You may recall him if you watched the BBC Series ‘’The Monastery’’, broadcast in the summer of 2017. He became well known through his ability to communicate simply and effectively insights from monastic life which could help ordinary people in everyday life. He suggested in his recent radio broadcast that there are similarities between lockdown and novices entering monasteries. Both are faced with a sudden change to their normal daily life and the need to create and adjust to a different pattern. Fr Christopher emphasised the importance of starting the day with gratitude, not grievance. It is so easy to get out of bed with a niggle, to feel low for no obvious reason, to become preoccupied with petty irritations. Instead, start with gratitude for being alive, embracing God’s grace for the day ahead. And just as novices need a routine in their monastic lockdown, so we need to shape our lives in our lockdown. Although lockdown is now gradually easing for some of us, we can usefully reflect on the way it has shaped and is still shaping our lives. It struck me recently that if we took as much time and trouble to welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives as we do to protect ourselves and our families from Coronavirus, what a difference it would make. Although the virus is invisible, we know it exists because we see its impact.The Holy Spirit is also invisible but we know it exists through its transforming power in people’s lives.
Psalm 63, quoted above, is prefaced by the words ‘’A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah’’. David praised God with such joy while in his lockdown, hiding in a barren place from those who sought to destroy his life. He could say in those difficult and dangerous days ’’my soul is satisfied as with a rich feast’’. What an example! I am reminded of our last Cafe church when the theme of gratitude was explored. Experts from the fields of medicine, psychology and spirituality gave their testimony and all affirmed how gratitude contributes to mental health and wellbeing. I looked up the dictionary definition of gratitude, out of interest, and in addition to ‘’being thankful’’ it is defined as ‘’appreciation of and inclination to return kindness’’. As Christians our gratitude to God arises from knowing how steadfastly he loves us. In turn that love inclines us to extend love to others: gratitude is not a passive emotion. I love the following prayer by George Herbert with its heartfelt prayer for a grateful heart which responds to God’s steadfast love, for its reminder that God is always there, He does not take days off from blessing us.
Prayer (by George Herbert 1593 - 1633)
Thou hast given so much to me,
Give me one thing more - a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart whose very pulse may be