Father's Love Letter

Dear friends, I hope you are well.

This greeting is something I'm seeing a lot in letters, emails, texts. But what on earth does that mean? And what if we're not.....

Of course we mean that we hope covid's not affected you, but also that you have health in your mind, your heart, your spirit. The wellness also known as "shalom", the lacking-nothing peace of God. If you've not had covid, you'll probably by now know someone that has. How can we have peace in the middle of this deeply unsettling time and as we approach a year since the first lockdown began? Don't get me wrong, at times I've felt much anxiety physically in my body - inner tremors, sleeplessness, heart rate racing, lower capacity and mind fog. And at times I've felt low; frustrated, exhausted, lonely; and had to pray and ask for hope and the other things I've needed desperately. But there are some things which I'm finding incredibly helpful as spiritual practices which may help you too.

In a recent course called "Church: Next", it was suggested we need to first acknowledge the effects of the past year. Some of us now have extra roles and responsibilities. At the staff meeting last week, we prayed for the young families (many now working and homeschooling) and for the grandparents in our congregation who are now looking after their kids' kids. The rapidly changing

safety rules and our need to adapt can be stressful; maybe the time has come to enable us to process our experiences and emotions. I hope you find a safe place to do that with others, whatever that looks like. If not, please get in touch and we can connect you with others. Being part of God's family means we don't have to be alone and we don't have to tough it out. Close, life-giving connections may be few and far between but if you have someone you can be yourself with and they love you whatever, we are rich indeed.

I have found myself clinging on more than before to Jesus. Learning to further surrender, to resist trying to control circumstances, simpler trust, silence and deeper gratitude have helped achieve greater security and joy in the monotony. Holding each day lightly has opened a door to God interrupting my busyness and I've seen Him moving more in the everyday in new and beautiful ways.

It's been good to remember the cross. The place where it all happened, where separation and pain, all death and sickness were all absorbed by Jesus. We can do nothing in our own strength! For this reason, I cannot share a blog which requires us to "do more" or "try harder", especially when we recognise we are still only just starting to process and recover from 2020. God is already on the case, "it is finished" and it is our childlike trust now which pleases God.

I've also been superglued to Bible verses which speak powerfully about who God is and who we are to Him. Thankfully, none of that has changed, which helps to root us on secure and solid ground when life can feel like a fairground ride on the Waltzers at times.

My prayer is that we begin to hear again God speak over us His love, His Fatherly care and that He sees what we've been through and wants to gather us up in His arms and tend to us with truth. I have encountered this powerfully again through a beautiful imaginary letter and I'll close with it. With scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, let this reality overlay your present situation. Don't try harder, or try and do better, but accept these words as a child does and live forever "as if" (in faith) these things are true.

May God bless us at St Mark's as we continue to follow Jesus, may we allow ourselves to be held tight by Him and may this Father's 'love letter' (see below) bring comfort and "nothing-lacking peace" to our hearts and minds in the days ahead.


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