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There’s a tree outside my landing window where I have my desk which was completely bare when the lockdown began and which is now full of lovely green leaves once again.

I’ve no idea what type of tree it is. Horticulture would not be one of my strong points. Indeed if you give me some plants as a gift I’m almost guaranteed to kill them in a short space of time as I have no real idea how to help them grow and flourish.

There are no ‘green’ fingers in the Baxter household! Yet as I stare at this tree outside my window the word that pops into my head is ‘renewal’! God has done a new thing, renewing what was bare and empty until it is lush and full, fragrant and alive.

It reminded me of Genesis 8;22

“As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter,

day and night

will never cease.”

This was part of God’s promise to Noah after The Flood and right now it resonates with me as I look at the world in which we live and these most challenging times which we are experiencing. God always renews. Whenever his people were greatly oppressed and looked on the brink of extinction there was always a remnant, always renewal.

It seems to me that he is constantly doing a new thing whether it’s in people or the natural world as he created it, in all its fullness and beauty. He renews people through His Son, Jesus Christ and he renews and refreshes the world through the timeless rhythms of the seasons. That’s not to say our human activity isn’t having an impact on the world; it is and it does and it is our responsibility. Yet the seasons come and go and in the history of our world crises come and go too.

I often challenge myself to try and work out what it is I am supposed to learn when there is a personal crisis? The immediacy and pain of a crisis can understandably cloud the mind to the bigger picture of what is going on; whether that’s something that is personal and only happening to you at any given time in your life, or a global pandemic which is often personalised when you or a loved one or someone you know becomes infected but which is also something happening to the whole world at the same time. What are we supposed to learn? What is God teaching us about ourselves, our behaviours, our assumptions in life and of life, our direction of travel, our priorities and our understanding of who we are? The questions are fairly endless and you will have others that are personal to you. It’s important that we answer them for ourselves and for society.

But while these questions linger renewal continues, hope never fades and change persists. We will in time enter a post-pandemic age and our conclusions about what has gone on and what they mean may take a while to surface and right now I respectfully suggest patience is our friend. The rush to blame serves no one and reveals a deep human conceit that we have all the answers all the time and at the right time. The conceit goes further, imbuing us humans with such staggering power as to have the mind to envisage all eventualities. How humbling, sobering and for some, shocking and indeed frightening, to realise we do not!

The one constant in all this is Jesus Christ – the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – risen and alive, loving and watching and wholly available.

What a friend we have in Jesus, wrote Joseph Scriven. Indeed!

Just a thought… Blessings, Carlton