A Norwegian artist loved to make ice sculptures. When winter came he would travel to the Artic north and camp in a shack beside the frozen river. He would hack slabs of ice from the river and carve them into beautiful shapes.
People soon heard about his work and came from far and wide to see these sculptures.
“Not at all”, he replied, “for this is our life. For a brief time we take material form, and have a unique opportunity to express something of the nature of the spirit within us. If we express that spirit truthfully and honestly, others will find inspiration from it. And then, when the time is right, we return peacefully to the river, and all is well.
by Margaret Silf
Last Monday, the 15th of January was a special day in the yearly calendar, did you mark it? In the USA it was a public holiday, Martin Luther King Day. A day when people remember the sacrifice he offered and the service he gave with his life and death. Now while it is a public holiday, it is a day that is not meant to be of rest, but a day of service. The idea is to follow the great man’s example and to be of service to the wider community.
The day light hours will increase over the coming weeks but still we must face winter. January and February can be difficult as we feel stuck in the cold on these dark winter evenings.
Whenever I look at the winter world it looks barren and bleak. It looks bare as I look out there.
I was staring at a barren tree the other day. It looked vulnerable just standing there all alone and yet I knew it was alive as it stood there bold and upright. It reminded me of my own vulnerability and my exposure to the cold of winter and to the challenges of life, challenges I do not shrink from, even though I do from time to time feel tempted.
Like everyone I want to feel safe, protected and warm, not cold, exposed and vulnerable. It is a refuge that we all seek, often something that folk seek and believe they will find in religion and spirituality. This sense that we are protected and safe, but is it realistic? So often we seek protection from the troubles of life, from its winter. If life has taught me anything it has shown me that the insulation I often seek so easily becomes isolation. These attempts to protect myself from exposure only increase the suffering. If I have learnt anything in life it’s that self-protection just cuts you off and leaves you feeling all alone, once again.
The spiritual life teaches me not to cling to things, but to let life flow freely through me. The power of our finite lives is in the impermanence. Thus giving us a time for everything under the sun, including death. The power and beauty of our lives comes in its finiteness. Nothing ever lasts forever. That said although our lives and the lives of our loved ones someday come to an end, life does go on and love does indeed remain. To quote Ecclesiastes 1 v 4 “Generations come and generations go, but the earth abides forever”
For everything there is a season. Winter is the most difficult in many ways. This winter has been a challenge for me as a minister, the demands are greater than ever and there is much heart ache within both congregations I serve, many are seriously ill. For some this will be the final year of life.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”There are many seasons in our lives, just as there are many different emotions. Yes sometimes we can experience all those emotions in one single day, just as we can experience four seasons in one day. There is a time and perhaps a place for all them, for to diminish any of them is deny what it is to be fully human. Yes there is a time to weep, just as there is a time to laugh and there is a time to mourn, just as much as there is a time to dance.
I have wept several times this last week and have held others in their suffering too, that said I have also laughed many times, I have seen joy and I have seen how life continues on. Again to repeat Ecclesiastes 1 v 4 “Generations come and generations go, but the earth abides forever”
It is the realness of Ecclesiastes that really speaks to me, it reveals and authentic truth. I have a growing love for Ecclesiastes. I love it because it is real, it is authentic. Like the changing seasons life is forever changing, it is impermanent, nothing last forever. As Rami Shapiro writes of its wisdom:
Eccleciates teaches me what it means to live authentically and truly religiously. That said it is a religion that is not pointing to Salvation beyond this life, but in this life. This to me is the essence of my Unitarian faith. It is not pointing to something beyond this life, but within this life. Which you can only truly experience by letting go of control and allow life to have its way with you, every season of life and every feeling of life. In so doing you will live the life you have been given, the ultimate gift, the ultimate grace.
Last Monday was meant to be the most miserable day of the year, Blue Monday. I didn’t feel that myself. Yes there was pain and suffering present in my life and certainly in those around me. I have been with many people experiencing the most difficult kinds of suffering. There is much pain in those I hold dearly to my heart too. I also relive my own grief and suffering when I am with others going through the same pain. Whenever I walk into a hospital ward I do relive those times I have gone to be those I love the most those whose lives are coming to end or have already ended. That pain is the price I pay for daring to love, a pearl of the greatest price. It is the refusal to close myself to this pain that allows me to do the things I am here to do. It gives me meaning even in the most painful suffering.
Remembering always that while our individual lives come and go, just like the seasons, both the earth and love abides forever.
I'm going to end this "blogspot" with the following inspired by a verse I have reapeted from Ecclesiastes 1 vv 4 “Generations come and generations go, but the earth abides forever”
“The Earth Abides Forever” by Richard S Gilbert
The seasons come and the seasons go,
But the earth abides forever.
The cold-whetted wind blew autumn from my mind,
The white snow whipped across my landscape
And reminded me of the changing seasons.
Another transition, paying no attention to the calendars,
Simply doing what it had to do to follow Nature’s law.
The seasons are capricious here;
They come and go without warning;
They flaunt our human artifacts and devices;
They remind us of our finitude
And call to mind our dependence.
There is a strange beauty in their passing,
Something mysterious in the subtle or not so subtle
Changing of the guard.
The seasons seem indifferent to us
Who, after all, are in charge here, aren’t we?
They act as if they do not need our permission to be or not to be.
It is a humbling reminder of irresistible forces
Meeting immovable objects
With inexorable persistence.
And we, with our little lives, tossed into his playground of Nature,
Strutting importantly about our business,
Try to learn to play our small part within the larger drama
In which we find ourselves.
The seasons come and the seasons go.
So do we
But the earth abides forever..