Ken's Pastoral Letter for November
In my study I have an hourglass. Truth to tell it only measures around eleven minutes of time and is more decorative than practical, but as the grains of sand pass from the top chamber through the aperture to the bottom chamber, its purpose, to my mind, is not so much to measure time as to remind me that my use of time is limited to the tasks that can be efficiently accomplished within any measured period of it. In other words, I sometimes need to remind myself that I can only do one thing properly at any given time.
It is easy to become overwhelmed, particularly today, when we have instant communication at our fingertips by means of our laptops and handheld devices: I-Pads, phones etc. Everyone from friends to charitable institutions to advertisers are now able to assail us throughout the day, and at any time of the day, with their multiple concerns. It is possible to begin a day with so many tasks which we feel we must accomplish that day that we hardly know where to start. When, as sometimes happens, we have added to this picture a major worry, perhaps about finance or health, then very quickly we can become disheartened, and our productivity falls along with our morale. To be in good spirits despite our circumstances is a blessing and one which the Psalmist valued very highly: ‘My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.’ (Psalm 73:26)
My eleven minute hourglass reminds me that only one grain of sand can pass through the aperture between the chambers at any one time, without of course breaking the glass, and that if I am to reach the end of the day able to report progress, if only to myself, then I must concentrate upon one task at a time to its conclusion, or at least until I can take it no further before setting it aside to take up something else. Life, too, is a little like this, when it throws at us more than we can think through or have the answers to. Jesus said ‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ (Matthew 6:34). What this means is not of course that we should not plan, prepare in advance, fund our pensions etc. No, we should of course do all of that, but there are still times when there is little we can do about what may happen tomorrow and nothing much we can do about what happened yesterday either, but today, one day at a time, and one task at a time, we can surely advance our cause a little.
This month sees us mark Remembrance Sunday and again we will honour the fallen of two world wars and more recent conflicts too. A hymn that was popular during WW1 was John Henry Newman’s ‘Lead kindly Light’, the first verse of which captures the essence of what I am trying to say. In fact it does it so well that men facing death in the trenches and women the loss of their menfolk somewhere far from home and in a foreign land were able to find solace in its words - at a time like that! ‘Lead kindly Light….. Keep thou my feet: I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.’
With trust in God: ‘….casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7), one day at a time and one task at a time you can endure the toughest of circumstances with a strength not your own! My hourglass reminds me of this truth and reminds me of my God given limitations as much as it does of my access to God given strength. This strength of course is acquired through prayer and often, we are grateful to acknowledge, through the prayers of others on our behalf: ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:6, 7).
May you know His peace as you grapple with life in everything from the small and multiple tasks to the great challenges that we don’t have the answers to yet– one grain of sand through the aperture of the hourglass at a time!
Yours always in Christian love,