Look.

For now we see through a glass, darkly;

but then

face to face:

now I know in part;

but then shall I know

even as – also –

I am known.

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Yesterday, my two children flew across the world to spend their first Christmas away from me/with their father.

We got through the airport.  Got through in both the physical and metaphorical sense.  My twelve year old with eyes brimming checking the angles to see if anyone was watching this poignant, heroic, moment of farewell. We giggled at ourselves, and through they went.

It is an oddly weightless feeling to be without your children at Christmas.  To be without anyone, in fact.  Not at all a tragic feeling, just a slightly bizarre one.

All my Christmas activities have been accomplished.  Father Christmas cannot land early (so I was off the hook in the stocking department) but we had our full-on Christmas meal (plus requisite soup the following night), opened presents (as is our wont) over several days, sang Christmas songs and watched favourite Christmas movies, wrote Christmas cards and even managed to send Christmas packages by filial courier to the other side of the globe.  I’m done! All finished!  And it’s not yet even the week before Christmas.

I find myself being still. There are loads of things I could be doing, but what might happen if I choose not to do them?  If I choose stillness. Quiet. Solitude.

Devotionals have been extraordinarily on point for me in recent weeks and this was today’s:

‘Muddy water becomes clear only if we let it be still for a while.’ Dallas Willard.

I feel very excited about being still.  Never usually alone in human terms, I could actually spend Christmas with Jesus this year.  Present, interactive, truly grateful, quiet.

As the water clears, whom might I discover myself to be?  Who might show up? The last time I had the leisure to ask this question was probably 20 years ago.  “Who am I?” I asked myself then. “And what do I want to do now?”

Over the next two weeks, the opportunity is there for me to ponder everything from the right side and not the back side. I often howl with friends about looking life’s backside square in the face on a daily basis, but it is also truly the back side isn’t it?  We can only see things from a temporal point of view.

And maybe it looks drab, or weird, or hopeless, or limited. But we are only seeing it now from our own vantage point.

If I spend time with Jesus – listening to Him, chatting with Him, chewing the fat with Him – I might get a clearer view of my life journey from His perspective instead of my own.  Look at it in His light, His warmth, His truth, regarding His eternal values. Not just these current, common circumstances.

So, as much as I’ll miss my children, I recognise the astonishing gift of time and space I’ve been given. In a season where usually these things come in minimal supply.

I want to see my life more clearly from Jesus’ point of view. To do that, and because my kids are away, I’ll get to take time with Him until ‘the things of this world grow strangely dim‘.  To ponder Advent itself, and this Advent in particular. Christmas too.

To see things about the daily rush that often, perhaps, I cannot spot for want of looking.

I’ll finish with this very favourite text for Christmas. A letter, written by Fra Giovanni Giocondo to his friend, Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi, on Christmas Eve, 1513.

‘There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look.

I beseech you to look!’

I beseech you too – along with myself! – to look.

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Happy Christmas one and all,

Josie

 

jsg/dec 17

 

Playing the bass note.

Bass notes blog

There are times in my life – many times over the past few years – where what has happened seems to be one damn thing after another.

Unfortunately, I do not find currency in this.  I have no interest in being “Oh poor Josie!” as if people are expecting one more dreadful thing to come flying at my head. It irritates me hugely.  I am not interested in drama (somewhat ironic for an actress), and I long for the moment when news might travel far and wide on the airwaves prefixed by this, “Oh my word, how BRILLIANT! You will NEVER GUESS what has happened for Josie – she’s had a WIN!”

In the meantime, I sit with what is.  I am not disconsolate nor in despair. I have retained my sense of humour, I can mostly see the funny side.  I have good perspective.

And here’s the interesting thing.  I realise that because my life has so often played the bass note, I find that I can be the “go to” person when friends are in difficulty.  I either reach out to them, or they will contact me.

For here is the treasure of darkness.  Once you have sat in the ashes (and been willing to stay there knowing that, ultimately, God will bring it to good no matter what) you are willing to do it for other people also.

Oswald Chambers (as so often) puts it well:

‘You always know the man who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, you are certain you can go to him in trouble and find that he has ample leisure for you.’

It’s not that you are no longer impacted by tragedy or heartbreak, you feel it wholly.  But you no longer feel excluded from involvement by its enormity.  Because you know that actually there is nothing you can say to mitigate the circumstances, the key is just to show up. Just be present.  Be with.  Sit it out.

I think of the bass notes in jazz and how they ground the tune.  Carve it out, deepen it, enrich it, bring out every shade of tone and temper. They give the higher notes room to dance, to soar, to play around.  They give the music its frame.

Without them the score would be lightweight. With them, it’s breathtaking.

And when those bass notes play in your own life, those who will walk beside you become doubly precious.  Not simply because they know a part of your journey, but because they stayed with you through it, no matter how unending it seemed to be.

I cannot flee the music of my life, it’s my only one. Tellingly, as much as I think I might prefer to be a soaring high note, when I’m rigorously honest with myself I recognise that perhaps really I wouldn’t.

For the greatest riches of my experience have all come when everything else has been stripped away. They are the ones I truly cherish, because they came at a cost.

And of course the greatest gift through all of it is this.  It is indeed because of the bass notes that I have come to know that I know that I know that I know 

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that God is real.

 

jsg/aug 17