Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Taking In The Scenery

Free-flight (that is, without an engine) is dependent on a number of things to make it possible - suitable air being chief among those things. Indeed, powered flight is affected by the same phenomena, but due to advances in powered-flight, their effects are less apparent. One of the great joys of gliding is that it demands a new sense, and that is to have a sense of the activities and behaviours of an invisible force - the air.

All glider-pilots want all air to go upwards. Why? Because it is the very thing that we need for our flight to go as we had planned, and is the means by which that flight is made longer and therefore more fulfilling. Upwards is what we want. Prayerful people also feel the same about the action of another very invisible force - the Spirit. We quite naturally want every prayerful encounter to be satisfying, as long as we choose it to be, and in every sense the answer to the prayer that we make.

Pilots of non-powered aircraft will know only too well that not all air goes up. It rotates, smashes against solid surfaces like breakers against rocks on our coast-lines. It whirls and swirls, and yes, it even goes upwards at times (as often as it goes downwards). Glider pilots cope with this by recognising how air reacts in given places. Behind a hill, air rotates turbulently - not for good flying. Above flat dry areas drenched in sunlight, the air invariable rises in thermals - wonderful flying. If the air hits a slope it rises like water would, and it is possible to surf that air like so many folks on a Cornish beach! Little techniques bring such considerable yield.

The same must be true for prayerful people. Little techniques work, are time tested. Taking in the scenery is perhaps the most valuable pre-requisite for a healthy flight, or a worthwhile moment of prayer or reflection. To do either blindly, without some 'flight-plan' would render the moment to luck and often to failure. As a pilot should, so should prayerful Christians stop and enjoy the view. After all, like any wind the Spirit can only be discerned in its effects on other things. Of course, if we are only ever passengers, then we can do all of the this with eyes closed - but where is the joy in that?

Monday, 17 January 2011

On Being Known

When anyone takes to the sky, there is a raft of papers and a plethora of documents that determine the fitness (in all senses) of the pilot in question to be more than a few feet off the ground. The simple fact is that every human being in the air, and in control of an aircraft (powered or otherwise) is fairly comprehensively known to the regulatory authorities. There is no real way of avoiding that, and for good reason.

We find ourselves, at the moment,  in the wonderful and hopeful season of Epiphany. The season of 'revealing' gives us a chance to unwrap afresh the perfect gift of Jesus in our midst. It also grants us another chance to unwrap ourselves and discover the 'us' that God knew before we were born (cf. Ps 139). I believe that the person that God knows, as distinct from one we think we know, ourselves, takes a lifetime to get to know.

I am blessed with twin daughters who, perhaps unsurprisingly, look very much alike - except to their mother and I. To us, they couldn't be more dissimilar - not because we have especially good attentions to detail - but because we 'know them' so much better than anyone else. Few people can tell them apart, as you would expect. Those people are good, kind, and caring people - it is just that they are not blessed to know as we know. If that difference can be so marked in humans, imagine what we must really look like to God who knew us even before our mothers?