Monday, February 05, 2007

Badgers,Burdens and Buechner on the North Coast

"We must be careful of our lives, for Christ's sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world.And so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously. There is always this temptation to believe that we have all the time in the world, whereas the truth of it is that we do not. We have only a life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice." Frederick Buechner in the Alphabet of Grace.

Up on the North Coast for the Soliton emerging church conference. A great weekend of conversation with emerging church folk from Ireland , England and the US but 2 moments will stay with me for a long time.

Saturday night near midnight with a full car travelling towards Castlerock when out of nowhere a badger runs out into the road - Instinctively I slam on the brakes and the car starts sliding towards the middle of the road. I have no choice but to straighten up and hit the badger full on. Any swerve might have killed us all. It didn't - we survived and incredibly so did Mr Badger despite quite an impact and going right under the car causing a fair bit of damage. Life is a thin thread which could have been snapped that night but it wasn't and we continued into the mystical experience of Sunday morning.

Early ethereal winter morning with mist rising and frost glistening on the ground. We gather on Whiterocks beach and walk through an ancient coastal landscape. A dusting of frost clings to the sand dunes as bright winter sunlight raises the spirits but not the temperature. In one direction a mile of golden sand with the gentle music of the waves breaking on the shore as we dander along. A few horses gallop by, splashing in the shallows. Incredibly a few surfers are braving the freezing waters. Cary turns and muses - " Surely there must be professional help available for them somewhere ?" We walk back to the other side - looking towards the headlands and the ruins of Dunluce Castle just visible through the mist.

Our guide is Jim a local beachcomber with his years of experience etched into lines on his weatherbeaten face. Jim is passionate about the beaches and natural beauty all around us. He is the teacher I never had at school - his love and passion overflowing through every word - he shows us the things he finds washed up on the beach. We learn how the cliffs behind us were formed by millions of tiny creatures. As I hold a piece of white paper he uses a magnet to separate the black sand from the golden. And he shows us the flint which sustained the first settlers in this area 9000 years before us. And Jim is also something I hope to be one day - Authentic. He speaks simply and beautifully of his walks on the beaches and his conversations with God.

At the end he invites us all to go and pick up a rock - bigger the better - and then come back. As we hold our rocks he continues to talk. Then asks a simple question - are the rocks getting heavy ? And then the parable - he invites us to see the rocks we are carrying as our burdens whatever they may be for - people , situations even our own lives. We take a moment to look at the sea and think of those burdens and then..... in a profound moment of art and faith we lay those burdens before God - building a sculpture of rocks on the beach as a sign between us and God. Jim weeps for the beauty of what we have done - a memorial between us and God that even now has already been washed away but yet will forever remain.

I felt like a child again ,delivered , healed and whole in the embrace of a brown and earthy God who took pleasure in us casting our burdens on him, who loved the sculpture of those burdens and encouraged us all to walk barefoot,fly kites and make sandcastles.

"There is deliverance, to use that beautiful old word, and Christians are people who through such now-and-then, here-and-there visions as they've had, through Christ, have been delivered just enough to know that there's more where that came from, and whose experience of the little deliverance that has already happened inside themselves and whose faith in the deliverance still to happen is what sees them through the night."
Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember

On days like this I Believe and it sees me through the night.


Jude said...

wonderful post Marky

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

simply beautiful.....

The Father said...

Ah your too kind .....hope you are both well and remember the people of Belfast are always happy for a visit from either of you. Sooner rather than later . m