Last Sunday our church spent the day together on a retreat. We had been looking for ways to do things together that lasted longer than an hour and a half and aimed to build deeper connections with each other, with God and with His creation.
We had been given the use of the forest classroom and had the forest, stretching away in all directions, at our disposal. We had a plan for the day that was open to change, a box of teabags, a jar of coffee, a litre of milk and a plate of shortbread biscuits to get us going.
An afternoon session was all about crafts. When we join the family of God, and He becomes our Father, we take on the DNA of the Almighty. God is the creator and we have inherited His creative ability. Sometimes we need a gentle shove into a pile of empty boxes and paper, glue and fluffy things to awaken that creativity.
My husband Joseph is a very clever man. The school he went to, St Mungo’s, in Glasgow, were into ranking in a big way. After all the various end of year tests had been marked and collated pupils were ranked from number 1 to number 250 or what ever the roll of the year group was. My husband hovered around number 11. It was art that let him down badly. Without the art result he would have clinched the top spot year in year out. He just doesn’t do art. He has promised himself that once he retires he will learn to draw and paint properly.
I am not great at art either…but this is his story.
We had a whole box of stuff to play with and a half hour or more to make something. There were no guidelines except to have fun. No one was expecting Picasso to turn up, or Michelangelo.
Armed with a sheet of paper and a box of coloured pastel crayons, my husband drew a picture of Noah’s ark. The sea looked like the sea. The ark looked like a luxury liner. The sky was dark with clouds. A dove in the sky held an olive branch in his beak.
I’d glimpsed over once or twice, a couple of pipe cleaners twisted in my hand. I thought it was something to do with World War 2. I thought it was a plane ready to drop a bomb on a warship – but, yes, on closer inspection it really was a bird. There were feathers.
Time up and we were asked to talk about our creations.
He talked about Noah and the ark. In the clouds’ darkness Noah would not have been able to see the dove. He wouldn’t be able to see the water level dropping or the land in the distance – not in the darkness of the storm clouds.
All he could do was to rest in God’s promise that there would be an end to the storm.
At the end of the day, climbing into bed, talking about some of the things we had thought about during the day, there was a knock on the door.
Long summer nights meant that outside was still light – there were no clouds, but a storm was heading our way.
Family had been trying to reach us from Glasgow with the news that mum had been taken into hospital. There was the possibility of the end coming. She had spent a number of years in a nursing home. She had pneumonia and was finding ti hard to breathe.
Bags were packed and tickets and train times chased down. Facebook came to the rescue with an opportunity to ask people to pray. The response was wonderful. It was such a positive testimony to our family – and so effective too.
There has been an improvement in mum’s condition. She is comfortable and breathing much better. It may not be that a return to the nursing home is on the cards.
I think about the picture – with the dark clouds and the dove that Noah couldn’t really see – and the trust he had in God that the storm would come to an end. What a timely picture and an even more timely truth.
My husband is now home. He has spent time with mum and with his family. There is a settled peace about the situation.
Thank you so much to all of you who prayed and who continue to pray. It has been such an encouragement to us all.