• Rossendale Circuit

From The Garden Bench - Renewal

Words by David Hollows


How do you usually relax?


– or chill-out, in the modern parlance.

Watch TV, run, read, a nice glass of red, knit?

Your personal context during the Covid-19 period will have determined the amount of relaxation time you had; if you were in isolation, then time was abundant. If you were on a front-line, then time would be of a premium. It may be that you were totally chilled and horizontal or exhausted, fed-up or frantic. However, we all understand and appreciate the need for times of renewal when we leave the routine and demands of daily life and have some quality ‘me-time.’

Perhaps for you the recent months have been an opportunity to stop and assess; to reflect upon how you spend your time, your money and what is really important to you. Depending on your life outlook, you may have reflected on life locally, nationally or even of events on the world stage. Or you may have given the garden a make-over or the house an enormous spring-clean.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

Holidays are usually a time of renewal; to get away to the sun, explore a new part of the world or return to the same place you have visited for many years, to hear the rhythm of waves as therapy for the stressed life or purvey the scenery to settle the mind. Are your holidays for this year cancelled or on hold?

However, renewal is not just for the individual. Following the financial crisis of 2008, whole societies across the world experienced austerity in order to renew and rebuild. Already the National Farmers Union has a strap-line for the immediate future as farmers renew; Build Back Better.

The media is constantly informing us of a ‘new normal’; that the world cannot return to life as it was prior to the coronavirus, that life and the world have changed and hopefully for the better. The clear skies over many countries, the improved air quality and the amazing blue sea at Blackpool, these should be not be sacrificed by a return to the old ways. Yet, the images of people in cars, busy shops, packed tourist spots following the various and varied releases of lock-downs, these do not reflect this call to a ‘new normal.’

Will there be new political agendas and radical ways of improving life following Covid-19 or will we return to life as it was because we are creatures of habit?

Renewal is never easy and comes with a price tag, either for the individual or a community.

People in war-zone countries such as Syria and Iraq fully understand the cost of renewal and have learned how to be adaptable in order to renew their society. How will we fare in our country?

There is also spiritual renewal that, just as we renew our bodies on a daily basis via sleep or exercise or renew the mind via crosswords or IT games, then we need the renew the spirit.


Photo by Jared Rice via Unsplash

In the Christian lifestyle, renewal is important. To reconnect with God is essential in order to live our lives His way. This may include weekly worship with a group of similar-minded Christians or a daily time of devotion; prayer and Bible reading as time spent with God in order to re-energise ourselves for the day ahead.

Like the rhythm of the waves, there is sometimes a wax and wane cycle in the Christian life; one moment we may feel close to God spiritually and the next He is distant; not that God has moved away, rather it is we that have moved away from that secure relationship. As expressed in Psalm 23; I lay down in green pastures or I walk in the valley of the shadow death.

The different traditions of the Church offer direct experiences of renewal in the form of retreats; a Christian can choose a weekend or several days of silence or solitude away from the world to spend alone with God in order to be renewed.

Waiting upon God is not just a Christian theoretical approach but a practical one; studying the Bible in different ways to discern God’s voice, spending time in prayer and meditation are often a huge blessing to those who give time to this form of renewal of the spirit.

And renewal is important for God as He cares for our physical, mental and spiritual well-being;

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint

- Isaiah chapter 40 verses 30 and 31.

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and thought that we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But, as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely on God. And He did rescue us. We have placed our confidence in Him and He will continue to rescue us.

- Paul’s second letter to the believers at Corinth chapter 1 verses 8 to 10.

Renewal was important for Jesus;

‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile’ said Jesus to His disciples. He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and the apostles did not even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place where they could be alone.'

- Mark chapter 6 verses 31 and 32

In the Gospels we are told that Jesus would rise early and go to pray or go alone in the night to pray. God himself rested on the seventh day after creation. Taking quality time to be renewed is essential – a thought to ponder in the days ahead.

Photo by Aaron Burden Via Unsplash


The following hymns may be useful;

Be still for the presence of the Lord (Mission Praise 50) Turn your eyes upon Jesus (Mission Praise 712)


The following prayers may be a blessing for you;


When nothing is right and we are weary and lost, when clouds dull the sky, help us to be still. When our pain is unending and no effort bears fruit, when the sun sets on our dreams, help us to be still. When love is over and hope is gone, when darkness covers our lives, help us to be still. For in being still, in refusing to panic or despair, then we shall come to know that you, Lord are there; suffering alongside us and with us, waiting to show us the stepping-stones through the swirling waters of life, to help us be renewed that we may sing a new song of love to you.

Amen



Make time to sit in comfort, to breathe deeply, to relax in the presence of God in order for Him to renew your soul. For the Loving One who made you cares deeply for you; He yearned over you in the womb, cherished you as a baby, tended you as a child, moulded you as a youth and walks with you daily as His friend, regardless of your age. The One whose loving arm is always there to carry you, says to you; ‘Have no fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name and you are mine.’

Amen


God bless you


Photo by Ruben Daems via Unsplash


Signing off; your local Lay-worker, David Hollows

© 2020 Rossendale Methodist Circuit