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andrew rumsey
strangely warmed
By Andrew Rumsey
More strange warmings here
The beach
October 2007

In the press of a busy day, we often miss opportunities to pause and allow the deeper meaning of things to come clear. In the sunlight on our landing recently, I was fortunate enough to share one such opportunity with my three year-old son, who was in a reflective frame of mind. For about a minute no words passed between us as I watched the pasta slowly drying on the carpet and he wrestled with the great thought crystallising inside.

Then, the epiphany complete, he raised his head to me and said, "Daddy – you're the Lord of the Trees."

"Yes, son. You are right, I am," I answered, presently. Taking Our Lord's cue, naturally I then cautioned him not to mention this messianic secret to anyone else. The main thing is that he knows.

As the shadows lengthen and the flood waters subside from your living room, perhaps there will be similar moments in our Indian summer for you to pause and be granted a glimpse of eternal truth. To help this process along, I have composed a brief guided meditation that you may like to use – either in private devotion or, better still, in the sort of larger prayer meeting where everyone will treat you with the unquestioning seriousness you deserve.

Good evening. I'm just going to be leading you in a brief guided meditation, to take away the strains of the day: a chance to remember that with faith, nothing is possible.

It might help if we begin with some simple breathing exercises. Just become aware of the rise and fall of your breathing and allow the stresses of the day to leave you as you exhale. You may immediately feel the need to breathe in again. Try to resist this temptation and, so that you are completely relaxed, simply continue to breathe out as I count: one... two... three... four... five... six... seven (continue counting for as long as you feel is necessary for people to be resting in peace).

And now, having relaxed, I want you to shut your eyes and imagine that you're on a beach, a lovely sandy seaside, somewhere in Britain. In the quiet, perhaps you'd like to name which seaside it is – either out loud or in the silence of your hearts (feel free to mention one or two locations to encourage others – Frinton... Cleethorpes... Clacton and so on.)

What's the weather like on the beach? Is it raining? Yes, of course it is... What do you notice as you wander along the beach? Looking up you see a flock of lovely seagulls swooping and diving overhead. It's almost as if they have been put there just for you – a lovely feathery gift. And one of them appears to have a gift for you, too. Something inside you wants to raise your hand to your forehead to wipe it off, but how wrong that would be. No, you will leave it there, you will accept the gift – and perhaps say aloud with me – thank you, my seagull friends (repeating with emphasis) thank you, my seagull friends.

In a way you are now one of them, and so you begin to gently jog along the beach and, with your new friends, start to flap your arms up and down... Perhaps you'd like to do this now – just flap your arms up and down like... like a nutter. No one will mind – all our eyes are closed...

Now then, here's a lovely scene. In front of you is a family group building a wonderful sandcastle. What time and care they have taken with it – all those seashells gently pressed into the walls, the seaweed and driftwood carefully collected and pushed into place. A little flag flutters from the tower – and the father and his children step back to admire their work. But something is wrong; somehow you feel sad... And then you notice what it is – their sandcastle has walls around it... walls to keep others out. All that beauty and creativity – shut in behind high walls. How sad...

In an instant, you realise that you cannot leave this scene – these people need your help- to take their walls down. So, with the seagulls' lovely gift freshly dripping from your forehead, arms still flapping up and down, you gently swoop across... and flatten the walls of the sandcastle – freeing the seaweed and driftwood from its sandy prison and strewing them around the beach to share with everyone.

A strange feeling of peace comes over you – but not, you notice, over the father and his children who you have helped. What do you notice about them – are some of them crying? Are some of them cross? How hard it is for others to break down their walls – how hard it is for them to thank you for having helped them. But a seed has been sown in their lives, nevertheless, something they won't forget. And as they pick you up and hurl you bodily into the sea, you realise the need to flap your arms again – in a different way... Amen.
strangely warmed
Strangely Warmed by Andrew Rumsey is now available as a book.
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