Friday, January 02, 2009
Happy New Year
Well, getting to Wengen was a bit more of an adventure than I’d hoped for. I knew flying EasyJet was a risk...
Though to be fair, it wasn’t exactly their fault that the snow in Geneva was so bad that whilst we were in the air, Geneva airport was closed. So we were diverted to Lyon, where we waited (on the runway) for four hours till Geneva re-opened. Which would have been OK, apart from the further four hour train journey I had to Wengen, and now I had no train times for that journey as I’d only printed out the morning schedule. At least we had made it to Switzerland in time for me to be able to get to Wengen the same day.
(Waiting for my bag at the airport, having sat patiently for hours with nothing to do on the plane, I turned & saw Simon – Matty’s vet! He has a place in Chamonix and was on the same flight. Remarkable, though of course going through my mind was that if anything happens to Matty whilst I am away Jane & Teg won’t be able to take Matty to see him...)
Part of the deal being chaplain for two weeks here in Wengen is that the Tourist Office provides evening meals in one of the local hotels. Week one – Hotel Belle Vue. Really excellent food, and of course night one was Sylvester – the Swiss name for New Year’s Eve – so it was a very special meal, beginning at 8pm (when I arrived) and lasting till 11.30pm. I genuinely lost count of the number of courses. Quail, foie gras, lobster, steak, and the most amazing dessert buffet remain in my memory – as do the two wonderful French-Swiss families sitting next to me who insisted that I should join their table for the night: Antoine, Caroline, Jean-Yves and Francoise were the parents, and there were six kids, the eldest of which can only have been around ten; all the kids stayed up all night, and all were wonderfully behaved, playing in an adjacent room between courses and returning for the food. These were families that knew how to eat together!
It snowed beautifully that night. Gloriously picture book night-time snow. Childhood dream weather.
And in the morning? Sunshine and blue skies and perfection. I pottered about, eventually leaving the flat and going up to the church, where I worshipped for a while before finding the wonderful Maggie in Central Sport. Great to see her! So good to come here and find lovely friendships. I wandered up to Chalet Breithornblick and found Jane and Paul as well, which was also a delight, and will spend more time with them tonight. They are such wonderful people and always an encouragement. A quick dash into town found the DHO hut open, and familiar faces there – always a pleasure to find Paul Zvegintzov.
I spoke to Gill on the phone. There is sadness in Florida: Sammy the cat died. Ben loved that cat. They buried him outside, and put a little St Francis on the spot. O, how I feel for them. There is nothing that can take away the pain of losing a pet. I hope they know how much God’s love touches them at times like these. Truthfully, though the full pain of losing Charlie has subsided, I still shed the occasional tear, now, nearly six years on. I still miss him. I wish I was there with them. But Gill knows my heart is there, and my prayers, and Lord I beg you comfort them today. Please.
Back in Wengen, after supper, we had a group from Oak Hall in church, with a really nice New Zealander speaking to them about letting God love them and carry them and work through them. Then I found my way over to the Falken where Maggie was with Roger Scoones (here on a short break, but doyen of Wengen chaplains), having drinks with some friends, so I joined them there.
The first Bible passage I read this year was Isaiah 60. The whole thing struck me freshly, how the Lord brings restoration to those who need it, how he changes the hard times to glory, how he blesses his people, and how the whole thing shows his grace and his glory, but in particular it was the words, “I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler” that stayed with me.
I often feel that peace is a visitor; one I welcome, and then miss for a while as I struggle on with life. And though I preach about righteousness till I am (and everyone around me is) blue in the face, the truth of living in that right relationship with God and trying to live that out with those around can sometimes be – less than easy?
Recently I spent time with an old person who was trapped in a character flaw. They had been a certain way all their life, and now in very old age, though they could see the problem, they could not even bring themself to want to change or to accept that God might help them. Often I have noted that in old age, people are as they were when young – but more so.
When I am old, I do not want to be waiting for peace to visit; struggling to live in right relationship but truthfully fighting frustration or anger or fear or a thousand other things. So I have been praying that the Lord would help me get these things more sorted now. As sorted as they can be, at least, in my life. Know what I mean? I don’t want to pretend that I live in heaven now and that everything will be perfect tomorrow because I said a prayer today.
And then I read those words: “I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler”. I do not know a timescale or a mechanism, and I do not have a technique or a plan, but I have a God who hears my prayers and answers with promises that I will trust.
Happy New Year.