The photo above demonstrates my firm ongoing admiration and thankfulness of Redding, (with snow-capped Mt. Shasta in the background), together with my similar admiration and gratitude for such men of God as Bill Johnson (pictured above), Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding. Not perfect by any means, but he is deeply gifted and gracious, humble enough even to converse with little old me. It was refreshing to say the least, for the second time in just a few years, for such a man of great stature, wisdom and favor across many continents now to have time and remain so sincere and humble.
Having returned home yesterday, today I made it back to Coleraine, where I enjoyed a ‘wee walk’ down by the River Bann in what felt like the freezing cold of the north coast, reflecting on a somewhat surreal, amazing time away in California.
Today though, as thoughts have been bombarded with many ‘real’ things, and turned towards the hassles of life, it has been a choice to press on in the hopefulness and fresh sense of the ‘new season’ installed into me over this recent trip, rather than coasting on a mere mountain-top high. As ill health of a family member, financial stresses, ongoing health concerns and issues of my own, together with work tomorrow all vying for my attention, it has been hard today, to simply continue on in the huge high I was in during my time in the ‘Golden State’.
The choice to follow onwards no matter what our feelings is always that, a very real and focused determination often times required, and a solid stubborn desire to endure often more normal than any glorious sense of ease in one’s spiritual path. If you’re reading this today and you’re a Christian, perhaps you can relate? If you’re reading this today and you are not, trust me, its not easy but it IS worth it and still strongly recommendable above and beyond any other way of life. Relationships, of any nature, require some effort. Spiritual ones are no different, and just as with humans, for example, often what you put in, is what you get out.
Prayer felt hard work today, and many of you reading this can relate. However, that is not to say one does not engage. If you’re of the praying variety reading this, as my Uncle continues to battle for his life in hospital currently today, I would greatly appreciate any prayers you are led to pray. This is real life.
Coleraine is full of strands of the ancient path, and just one glance at the beautiful building of St. Patrick’s Anglican church draws one’s attention upwards.
Ireland, both Northern and Republic of, owes so much of its Christian heritage to this saint of old, so what a fitting return to this land to be led to think of our patron saint, so often only associated with drunkenness and partying on the 17th March.
Patrick was used to praying and seeing miracles happen in this land, regularly in the 6th century and beyond, as prayerful saints saw the power of their living God manifest. His kingdom of heaven, come down to earth. Not so far off the California mantra coming out of Bill Johnson’s church, or his wife Beni, who firmly believes and speaks of her view and faith in the existence of ‘thin places,’ on the earth, just as the early Celtic saints did. As do I. Why should it be any different for saints of the 21st century, and so far from ‘the norm’ for us to see miracles and healings today? I don’t believe it is.
Perhaps the biggest miracle I long for is greater unity amongst the existing saints in this land, starting with my neighbors in this town and all others. A cry goes up for the unity Jesus longs for, as he prayed, “that they would be one, just as I and the Father are one,” (John 17). Until we learn to lay down our own agendas and kingdom building, have we any real right to say we are about our Father’s business or seeking to truly build and further his kingdom here on earth? I wonder.
One thing is for certain, whatever the rest of 2014 holds, I shall forever remember this highlight at the beginning of the year.
Winter persists here for now in this beautiful land of phenomenal green (and rare, for today, blue sky), which feels a shock to my California-acclimatized system, but soon it will be spring time. In more ways than one I sense with hope.
Tomorrow it will be back to my day job, and work in the office. The choice of adventure, traded in for wilderness, continues. This is hard amidst ongoing personal health battles, which are all still there, just diminished and blessed by some California sunshine. A new personal disciplined diet for health reasons beckons. As we do our bit, Papa God does his, and after all the burgers and fries in the USA, its time for me to reacquaint myself with feasts of vegetables!
In fact I am still craving them!!!