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Answering God – Day 28

Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Day 28 – Saturday after 4th Sunday of Lent

A&Q sidewaysTo Read:

Approach old age with courage and hope.
As far as possible, make arrangements for your care in good time, so that an undue burden does not fall on others.
Although old age may bring increasing disability and loneliness, it can also bring serenity, detachment and wisdom.
Pray that in your final years you may be enabled to find new ways of receiving and reflecting God’s love.
(Advices & Queries #29)

 

From the Scriptures:

Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
    when he delights in our way;
24 though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
    for the Lord holds us by the hand.
25 I have been young, and now am old,
    yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
26 They are ever giving liberally and lending,
    and their children become a blessing.
(Psalm 37v23-26)

 

To Reflect:Mum on Balcony 2019

When my 81-year-old mother is in a bit of grump, she puts down her crochet hook (she makes cot blankets to give to new-born mums) and complains loudly to any family member who is within earshot, ‘So, when are we going to see this “nice old age” we were promised?’  After which she will go and stand on the balcony of her Waterfront flat, look at the yachts bobbing on the water in the marina in front of her, and strike up a congenial conversation with anyone who doesn’t walk past quickly enough.  She sometimes reminds me of the 17th Century Nun whose prayer I wrote about on Day 16…

However she deserves to have an occasional moan.  She is not in good health, a serious chest condition means she doesn’t get about too much, and she was adept at social isolation before the current worldwide need. But, despite her odd grumpiness, she is fine and knows she is in a good place. She makes friends with anyone and everyone who walks past her balcony and, Rapunzel like, has a basket on a rope which she lets down to hand on blankets or pick up the milk and paper from the Café next door.  Holly Johnston, a local folk singer, even wrote a song about her called The Basket’.

Whisper it quietly, and please don’t tell her because she might give me a clip around the ear, but I think she’s been secretly reading ‘Advices & Queries’.

I don’t know how people grow old with grace.  It isn’t about wealth or class, some of the most well-heeled are the most demanding whilst the poorest are the most giving.  Perhaps it’s about knowing your destination and being content, secure in the knowledge, in David Watson’s words, that ‘The best is yet to be’.

A precious friend in a Residential Home, who struggled to walk, reminded me that every step she couldn’t take was one step closer to Glory.  Lord, give me such faith and assurance!

i-look-forward-to-being-older-what-you-look-like-becomes-less-and-less-an-issue-and-what-you-are-is-the-point-quote-1How then do we prepare for the weakening of the body and the mind that we will all face?

Make arrangements: Life is fickle and we cannot guarantee anything at all.  Many people are learning this lesson as the way the world works is transformed in a matter of months. But that doesn’t mean we descend into some sort of fluffy-fairy-faithy Que Sera, Sera’ approach to the future which puts all of our burdens on the shoulder of those struggling to carry their own.

Expect change: Sadly, it is not a case of old age may bring increasing disability and loneliness, it almost certainly will!  We need to ready ourselves for this and look for the serenity, detachment and wisdom that can be its fruit.  This is frightening as we are stepping out into the unknown.  Throughout my life, whenever I have been frightened I have taken the prayer of the Bene Gesserit nuns from the desert planet of Dune called the Litany against Fear into the unknown with me…Litany Against Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death

that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past
I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

 

Pray for renewal: As we age it is all to tempting to make the complaint of the dry bones of Ezekiel:

Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”

And not see the rest of the verse: 

Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.

Old or young, experienced prayer warrior or brand-new Christian, we must always find new ways of receiving and reflecting God’s love.  This is not an activity reserved for the elderly alone, but it can be a precious treasure for all those who feel that ‘hope is lost’.

simeon and anna iconWhen reading this reflection we may think that today’s Advice is something to put away for another day, another decade, a time when we need them.  Yes, we may have other things on our plate but it is worth remembering that wise old Simeon did not wait until he was ready to die before learning to pray and that Anna the prophetess was worshipping in the temple with fasting and prayer night and day, for at least 84 years.  The wisdom that comes with age is founded on lessons learnt when we are young.

This is not a task for then, it is a preparation to be begun now.

 

To Pray: 

When I am liberated by silence,
when I am no longer involved 

in the measurement of life, 
but in the living of it,
I can discover a form of prayer in which
there is effectively no distraction.
My whole life becomes a prayer.
My whole silence is full of prayer.

The world of silence in which I am immersed 
contributes to my prayer.
(Thomas Merton)

  

To Do:

1)  Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2)  Find a prayer (or two or three) to memorise which will help carry you into the years ahead and prepare for the life after life.

If you can’t find one here is one Simeon wrote earlier:

Master,
now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.

(Luke 2v29-32)

Please Note: 

These reflections are also published on my blog: www.suffolkvicar.wordpress.com

as well as on my public Facebook page: Rev Andrew Dotchin

 

Acknowledgements:

Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Prayers from ‘Prayers for Hard Times’ are copyright  © Becca Anderson 2017

These Reflections, ‘Answering God’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged

Acknowledgements:

Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Prayers from ‘Prayers for Hard Times’ are copyright  © Becca Anderson 2017

These Reflections, ‘Answering God’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged

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