and lent on line

Lent Thoughts from Week Two welcome.


In a rock cavern inside a mountain in the scenic Hardanger fjord in western Norway, is one of the Nordic region's biggest power stations and inside that is a hall which is renowned for its acoustics. The whole 1,120-megawatt power plant was shut down recently in preparation for a concert to let an expert tune a grand piano undisturbed by the hum of huge hydroelectric generators.

Noise is part of life. For many, this is as true of their inner selves as it is of their environment. Thoughts, demands, anxieties, plans for the future, fill their heads with an unending hum. The possibility of shutting that down, even if only temporarily, is profoundly attractive.

We can make opportunities to rediscover the quietness enclosed deeper within us. Sometimes itís best to remove ourselves physically from the places where we normally operate and to make sure we have as little to distract us as possible. Where this isnít possible, deliberately taking time out from our normal routine in order to be still can have a similar effect. Opening ourselves to what lies within us also puts in touch with what lies beyond and can have a transfiguring effect on our lives.

Perhaps itís worth making space to do this. If we want to perform well, we need quietness so we can attune ourselves properly, be in harmony with the people around us and live lives which bring sweet music to the ear of others.

For £350,000 you will soon be able to buy a house which always gets the sun. The French architect Fred Plazar produces homes built on a 14m metal turntable which turns to match the speed of the sun. He describes the technology, no doubt tongue in cheek, as Ďa revolution in housingí. The only drawback is the living space, limited to 200sq m to keep the homes within an average housebuilder's budget.

We may sometimes fancy life would be better if we always faced the sun, if nothing got in the way of the brightness and warmth which we associate with the good times. But the drawback there would also be that such lives would be very limited and confined. Itís often in those times when life feels dark and cheerless that the range of our experience and the depth of our personalities expand.

In the Old Testament, the word used to mean salvation is associated with spaciousness. If we are to be saved from lives which are too small and find the breadth and richness that life offers, times of darkness are inevitable. Itís not accidental that Jesusí transfiguration at the top of a mountain follows closely his assertion that he is going to suffer.

Letís today be glad that thereís more to life than constant sunshine and be grateful for what we learn from times of pain and struggle.

Every time Gavin Jacobson reaches for the Heinz tomato ketchup bottle which he uses at every meal, he sees a label which says 'Gavin, phone mum'. Heinz replaced the normal label with one prompting him to call his mother, Maxine, after she begged them to help. 'Since starting university three months ago,í said Mrs Jacobson, Ďhe has only called home twice, so I persuaded Heinz to produce a one-off bottle so I could get my message across.' Now Gavinís ketchup bottle is a permanent reminder of how his mum loves him and wants to keep in touch. Heinz has launched a competition inviting customers to suggest other alternative labels.

The kitchen cupboard may be where Gavin finds signs of his motherís care but he, and the rest of us, can find reminders elsewhere that we are loved. All around us are signs of careful provision for our needs and our delight. Some things speak instead of suffering and pain but the worldís beauty and intricacy suggests there is a power that cares about us and wants to be in communication with us.

Where we can, letís today enjoy whatís around us. We donít need labels on what we see for much of it to make us feel we matter and, if we believe that the power behind it is personal, that God might be glad if we kept in touch.

A pair of giant green sea turtles at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham now has their own private masseuse. Gulliver and Molokai have been rubbing up against and breaking the artificial coral in their tank in an attempt to dislodge unwanted passengers like barnacles and limpets. The attentions of the masseuse, Sherene Garry, appear to lessen the turtles' destructive tendencies.

Things latch on to us too. Itís often difficult to shift from our minds thoughts or feelings which are unwelcome passengers. Perhaps they were valuable once, even if painful or unwanted, because we were able to process them in a creative way. Now they no longer contribute to our welfare. Yet they persist. Their doggedness can even make us feel aggressive like Gulliver and Molokai.

Symbolic actions like taking a shower and self-consciously washing away unwanted feelings can help. In the Christian tradition, such burdens can be shared with Christ who'll help us carry them so we put them behind us. Or, if it's guilt that clings to us, God 's forgiveness has a cleansing power.

Perhaps for humans as well as turtles, a massage would help. Itís important to do something. The turtlesí shells keep the barnacles a bit at a distance. Weíre not protected by shells and can become quite miserable if we allow such intrusions to get a grip on us.


Divers undertaking routine maintenance work in Blyth harbour, Northumberland discovered a giant lobster standing guard over a barnacle-encrusted wristwatch. The watch, though about three years old and not waterproof, was still going. With advancing years, the thirty year old lobster was clearly determined not to let time run away from him.

The lobster has been taken to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Tynemouth where it is settling in well in the harbour tank display. Blue Reef's Zahra d'Aronville said: ďLobsters are well known for being extremely territorial. Perhaps it identified the watch as part of its territory and has been standing guard over it ever since.Ē

Itís not just the occasional lobster which keeps its eye on the time. Itís a habit many of us get into, mostly because weíre thinking about the next thing on our timetable. Weíre not really concentrating on the present because weíre more aware of the demands of the future. In a passage which starts by encouraging his readers to be imitators of God, St Paul advocates redeeming the time (Ephesians 5.16), making the most of every moment. We should be like God who, according to the biblical account of the creation, filled time with his creative activity. Time was Godís servant not Godís master.

Perhaps we could do our best not to let time rule our lives. A whole range of opportunities could open up for us today. Some might well be lost if our eyes are fixed permanently on our watches.