Sabbatical: Surprised by Christ?

Surprised by Christ? Surprised by the birds singing, and the gift of time. I have been staying with family for a week to be able to relax after working hard. A chance to unwind and be looked after before I  begin walk. I recognised that when in the busyness of ministry I am unable to give quality time to visiting family, the family that I have in Paignton I am often only able to visit for very short times.
The first night that I was staying here we went for a little walk along a seashore, we suddenly heard birds singing, it was very beautiful and we all stopped and listened, amazing. Was that my encounter with Christ for that day? What was wonderful was that we were able to stop, listen, and enjoy. I valued the gift of time.The next day Aunty Sue and I went to visit a garden, as we were getting back to the car I suddenly heard and saw a robin singing. It was so lovely in the midst of the other birds singing that it surprised me. I Don’t know if that was Christ but is did surprise me AND I was filled with joy, so the day after when I saw another robin I felt a familiar nudge of joy.Uncle David was able to take us out on a boat another afternoon, another gift to be able to do that, to be able to go on any boat is wonderful. Whenever I go out on a boat I feel peaceful, relaxed and a deep connection with Christ. I found myself remembering another boat trip, on ‘Eda Frandsen’, I spend time remembering how much on that boat I feel connected to God, Spirit, and Christ. Through the welcome, care and love of the crew, through laugher and all sitting round a table and sharing together. Through being out in all weathers, enjoying whatever came.
How do we encounter Christ? Another day Aunty Sue asked how have I encountered Christ today, I said well probably through you. Aunty Sue said ‘Ohh’ and I said it is extraordinary how moving it is to be compared to Christ. I know as Christians we would want to be like Christ but when someone says ‘you were Christ to me’ it is deeply moving. With Aunty Sue it was through the care, the listening, the interest, the cooking, the buying the special biscuits and making tea in nice mugs. Not fussing but offering warmth and care.
So where is Christ in these days as I take time before I set out on my walk? Through hospitality, warmth, cooking, through the generosity of others. Through the Joy of nature and taking the time to experience it, value it, time to listen to the birds.Yesterday I went out for the day with Aunty JANE, we had much sharing and chatting together and I was able to paddle in the sea which I love. It was also good to see Aunty Jane looking so well.
Today, Sunday I went to church with Aunty Sue, a lovely small church. The reading was the ‘Walk to Emmaus’, we heard how Jesus comes alongside even when we don’t recognise him there. And that he gently becomes a recognised presence. Given what my theme is for my sabbatical that was moving. The minister had only just met me but during the prayers for others he prayed for me by name and for the journey that I am going on. Another encounter with Christ. The other moving moment from that service was that I had been sharing with Aunty Sue the hymn 558 from Singing the Faith and how lovely it is. She is the organist, so even though before this week she hadn’t heard of it, she had practiced it and played it before the service began. Lovely.
I go tomorrow by train down to Cornwall where I begin walking… I will update how I get on, and possible encounters with Christ.Before I sign off I leave you with a prayer that I was given to me by Pat at Elham church which I have taped into my journal.‘Take the love of this place with youTo warm the lives of those you meet, in God’s name.Take the friendship of this place with youTo reach out to the lonely, in Christ’s name.Take the prayers of this place with youTo bless others with the peace of God’s Spirit.
Let us go in peace to live and work in God’s praise and glory.In the name of Christ. Amen.’