All the light we can see

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

I love the light.

I love how it transforms things all around us.

How flowers bloom in the sunlight, brightening the grey streets and bare trees, reminding me that Spring is truly on the way.

How sunlight, even through closed windows, makes me feel warm in a way quite unlike anything else.

How it transforms everything it touches.

How it makes me feel like I just want to hit the beach (even when it’s March and I’m in a land-locked country.)

How fireworks turn darkness into a canvas for awe and wonder.

How light enables us to capture images of beauty, wherever we are, whether it’s people we love, things that make us laugh, or incredible natural wonders.

How the sunrise represents a brand new start, a new hope, a new opportunity to experience God’s goodness.

I was reminded of this viscerally while celebrating Christ’s resurrection at dawn this Easter Sunday. As the sun rose over Letná Park, the rays broke through the trees (and eventually the fog) to flood the city with myriad shades of light. Even though we were all shivering, the sheer wonder of the vistas opening before us were cause for great joy. Just as Jesus is victorious over darkness and death, darkness we are constantly reminded of in these times of fear, the dawn is victorious over the darkness every single morning.

Even if the view isn’t as spectacular as it was in the park, the dawn is inevitable.

Even when we lie awake full of anxiety and fear, the dawn is inevitable.

Even if the darkness feels so deep and so long, like a winter night, the dawn is inevitable.

Christ has risen. The darkness is defeated. The light I can see reminds me of this. It reminds me to love boldly and fiercely, it reminds me to laugh, it reminds me to cry with those in pain. It gives me hope. The dawn is coming and the darkness cannot overcome it.

The dawn is all the more amazing after the dark and cold nights of winter, just as the great dawn to come should seem sweeter in these dark times of fear and hurt. May I remember that when the sunlight isn’t shining. May we all.

As Spring truly takes hold and the days are more filled with beauty and wonder, as the trees blossom and the beach calls, I pray that I remember the wonder of dawn on that cold morning. How the darkness was defeated, how it gave me hope.

Reflections in Murky Water

I was looking forward to time away over the summer for many reasons; the reliable sunshine, the travelling, the chance to see friends and family, the barbecues, and not least, the chance to reflect on life here in Prague. It’s a teacher perk, the long summer, providing the perfect opportunity to get some distance from the day-to-day and to consider the past and the future. I was so fortunate to have a full six weeks away, travelling around in the USA, Israel and the UK, and I was eager to seek God’s will for my future in that time.

I often find it really hard to spend time with God on holiday, when routine is interrupted and breakfasts move closer to the afternoon than in term time, and this was certainly the case this summer. As has been the case for the past year, I have found my relationship with God far too one sided; God being good to me and I only belatedly realising just what he has given me and done in and around me, if I notice at all. My half-hearted attempts at connecting with God amounted to reading the Bible in a hap-hazard manner and attending church wherever I ended up. Yet as I look back I am yet again amazed how God has been gently changing my thoughts, actions and viewpoint over the summer.

On my travels I was lucky enough to visit San Francisco, somewhere I had long wanted to visit, perhaps due to my love for the rather naff Bond movie A View to a Kill, featuring, among other things, a blimp battle atop the Golden Gate Bridge. I was struck while there just how far I was away from ‘home.’ By the time I made it there I hadn’t been back to the UK in over eight months, not that long in the grand scheme, but still the longest I’d actually been out of the country. My homesickness wasn’t painful, more wistful and bittersweet perhaps. When I arrived back in the UK for a visit a few weeks ago, I was again surprised at my depth of feeling for the land of my birth, and by just how nice it felt to be home (it may have helped that I went straight from the airport to a National Trust property, proceeded to have a walk in the rain, followed by a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Some stereotypes are true.)

This came as a surprise mostly because this last year has been a whirlwind of new and wonderful experiences, as I have settled into Prague and my new job. My thoughts went along the lines of ‘This is so great, why would I ever go home?!’ Yet it’s clear that home has a strong pull on me and the week or so I spent in the UK was perhaps the sweetest of my summer. God exposed my heart and I was surprised at the attractiveness of moving home and being in this place where everything is just more familiar and where I fit just a little bit more nicely.

I don’t know if I will stay or go, both hold real attractions and benefits. God has been so good in blessing me with opportunities both here in Prague and at home, and he was so faithful in helping me to reflect over the summer, pretty much despite my feeble efforts. I think I have a tendency to look inside myself when I seek to reflect. What do I want? What thing would be best for me? I have been challenged to look to God, in his word and in his person, as I seek to understand myself and my place in the world (both literally and figuratively.)

After the summer I feel less sure than ever about where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to do. But maybe that’s a good thing. My prayer is that in the uncertainty and indecision I would seek God and allow his will to lead my actions, and that through the process, my love for and trust in him would grow as well.

 

A Nottingham Epilogue

I was encouraged recently to realise that, if we’re leaving a place for the right reasons, then we’re leaving because of the friends we leave behind, the experiences we’ve had. They’ve been preparing us, shaping us, helping us, to be ready for the new challenges we face. We’re not running away, but pushing doors, not fleeing difficulty, but seeking challenge. Our friends don’t stop being friends, in fact seeing them just becomes more special in the new context we find ourselves. Moments more treasured.

As I reflect on my eight years here I am amazed how much God has been changing me and opening my eyes to the diversity, complexity and joy of this world. Through hard times and good I have been blessed with great friends, reminding me of God’s love, my sinfulness and the joy to be found in all of life’s quirks and randomness. For day trips, meals out, random encounters, film nights, pizza nights, holidays, bad days, good days, I thank you all. As a reward, please accept free accommodation in Prague…

I read a really interesting article about how our 20s are the most formative years of our lives and it has been a delight discovering who God made me with you all (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/20-things-every-twentysomething-should-have). These eight years have enabled me to grow in confidence, explore creativity, go on a lot of trips to the pick and mix shop, expand my horizons in many a way, not to mention getting half decent at teaching (a more nomadic friend of mine recently commented ‘You have a profession!” Yikes! Am I supposed to be professional then?). Wonderful experiences all, on reflection.

This is not an end, but a beginning, not a full stop, but a comma. A new opportunity to enjoy God’s bountiful goodness, a new perspective to appreciate the truth of the gospel, and an opportunity to meet, and be met by, fellow travellers. I’m not looking to reinvent myself or leave behind my boring life, but just to step out on faith, as I am.

It has been a delight saying goodbye this week – I have spent wonderful times with wonderful people who are so dear to me. I am sad to leave, of course, but I am expectant of God’s goodness because I can see how he has used each person and situation here in Nottingham to enable me to reach this point. So it’s your fault I’m brave enough to leave really…

And I’ll be back. Count on it.

Christmas Time (Or what happened when we got Bop-It)

Do you remember Bop-It? It was around a few years back, very addictive and quickly irritating? Well, Mum thought it would be a good present to us all this Christmas.

You basically have to hold a sideways-S shaped controller and follow a rather irritating American man’s instructions to pull/twist/spin/flick or bop. If you fail you get mildly insulted by the machine and promptly feel obliged to have another go.

My mum perhaps didn’t count on my sister’s incredible competitiveness (and like Monica from Friends her favourite kind of competition is with herself) or the newly minted ‘Party’ mode (you use assorted body parts to really ‘Bop-it’).

We are a family of game lovers, and have often ended up howling with laughter/frustration during a board game or two. Perhaps my sister should stick to board games because she has become a bit of a Bop-It ninja. On the other hand, she has managed to turn it into an hilarious spectator sport.

On beating her high-score she was heard to yell “YEEESSSS!” in a rather manly register, sadly while filmed by her understanding boyfriend. Cue endlessly re-watchable hilarity and a perfect Snapchat opportunity.

Later she broke through the 100 ‘Bops’ barrier and celebrated with (and bear in mind she is a none-more white middle class medical student) an attempted finger flicking celebration of the type more commonly used by 90s scallys. Her thoughtful brother handily caught that on video too…

So thanks Mum and little sister for really bopping up my Christmas. I may just have to start filming more people while playing games. Though I suspect I would have to wait a long time for a similar moment of hilarity during a game of Scrabble. But then again my grandma is coming to stay today, so anything could happen…

Merry Christmas!