I'm having what is charmingly known here in England as a 'duvet day' which generally means conducting life from the comforting shelter of one's bed. After a crammed weekend of good work (pictures are up and books on the shelves), friends (there's nothing like seeing an old friend in a new home), and festivities (a barn dance for the harvest celebrations at church and a BBQ to mark the opening of term at our college) I find myself tuckered and thankful for a morning with coffee, my new blue duvet, and a stack of books. And a moment to say hello here. First, thanks from the bottom of my heart for the comments and input and encouragement regarding my new book idea. Your input has spiced up my own brew of possibilities and I now have an outline simmering on the back burner of my mind. We'll see what good things emerge in the week to come. Thank you.
Second: if I'd had my act together I'd have posted this last Friday, but there were bookshelves to be arranged and I forgot. So here it is instead: I'm currently a weekly guest on my mom's lovely blog at sallyclarkson.com. Every Friday for the next couple of months, I'll be posting there with reflections centred on home and all the ways it waits to be crafted to delight and shelter the heart as the year draws down to winter. Go HERE for last Friday's post and this week I'll try not to let the bookshelves distract me ...
And now. The winds of autumn have swept into Oxford. There's a chill in the air, and a quickening in my heart as the winds both of earth and spirit blow a bit faster. I find myself negotiating so much change as I survey the altered horizons of my future, my goals, myself. Thomas begins three years of theological and ministry training this week, I'm finishing my final year of theology, and both of us are settling in for three more years in England, rooting ourselves in church and neighbourhood and community.
Beyond that, in a much deeper shifting of the earth of mind and heart, we have embarked on this gigantic thing called marriage in which the very borders of self we've always known are renegotiated, in which the vision and goals of our lives are merged and we decide what 'we' will be. There is a keen drive in us to do this well and as I've reflected on it all this morning I find myself wanting to draw in all my resources once more, to begin this time in devotion and givenness to Christ. This is our chance, our first months in which we will form what we, together, will be, how we will walk with God, live his love and mercy, bring his life in the smallest moments and biggest decisions.
Last night, we attended our usual evening service at a church we love and heard a simple Gospel message. I think this is probably a yearly tradition with churches in Oxford as I witnessed a similar service in my first week in Oxford two years ago. As freshers (first-year students) arrive, minds hungry, hearts open, bombarded with a thousand philosophies and ideas, the churches here reach out their hands with a Love greater than anything else that has ever been taught, theorised, or discovered. The sermon last night was a straightforward description of that love, drawn from the Luke parables describing God's rejoicing over the repentant. The pastor described Christ's refusal to see people by the label of their background or social stance, but rather to encounter them as the beloved, known, and desired children of the Father. He invited us, who know the Father's love, to join Christ in that work of invitation, reaching into this polarized and aching world with love.
And for Thomas and me both, it was a summons to a wholehearted givenness of life, to hearts and minds laid open to Christ. In this season, we are beginning so much, embarking on such an adventure. But let all the learning and study, the deepening of our love, the forming of our home, the making of our rhythms be in service to Christ's love as it reaches out to heal and renew the world. There are moments of clarity, when the many facets of your experience and work come into focus via the lens of one great idea. For us, it is Christ's love. It is the Gospel, the first, single, best news of the world and this is the wind in which we want to travel throughout the work of the coming years.
This is the wind I want daily to sing in my own heart. On this indrawing of a duvet day, it is my prayer, one helped by a little postcard I picked up during our honeymoon. While we were in France, Thomas and I took a brief trip to Taizé, an ecumenical community in France. In the Taizé chapel, there are a series of stained glass windows, worked by one of the brothers. One in particular captivated me. In warm, vivid tones, the meeting of Mary and Elisabeth is depicted, as are the tiny babies within them, all radiant with joy. I love it as a daily devotional image, one I keep in my Bible, because these two women said a radiant 'yes' to the the good news of the world. They recognised the story to which they were called, they lived with eyes opened to God work in the world. In my own season of new beginnings, Mary has been a companion and mentor to me because she is the first one who, when confronted with the coming of Christ said 'let it be done to me according to Thy word'.
In this swift and exciting new season, my prayer is daily the same.