I recently enjoyed a weekend away at Scargill House in the Yorkshire dales, a place which is well worth visiting. (Although I should make it clear that the cobwebs mentioned in my poem exist only in my imagination.) As I sat in the chapel on the first evening, I tried to relax and focus on God. But this proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated.
To begin with, the view through the chapel windows is stunning: I could quite happily have sat and stared for hours. Then there was the noise – I’d come expecting to find silence, but outside I could hear lambs crying and birds calling. The longer I sat, the more I noticed the distractions all around me.
It was only as I acknowledged these distractions that I became aware of God’s presence surrounding me. Words and sentences began to whirl around in my head; phrases which later formed the basis for the poem below. As I re-read these words, they remind me that God’s presence doesn’t depend on my feelings, but on the truth that he is always with us. (Psalm 139.)
A friend of mine said I should look in the chapel:
“The vicar’ll help you; she knows what to do.”
But the church is quite empty, no sign of the priest;
So I’ll rest in this corner and wait here for you.
I ought to be making a list out for Tesco.
I need some potatoes, and meat for a stew.
But I’ve not brought a pen and my i-pad’s at home;
So I’ll savour the silence and wait here for you.
I wonder how Grandpa has coped with the children –
He promised he’d take them both out to the zoo.
But Georgina gets car-sick and Joseph hates snakes,
So I’m thankful I’m sitting here, waiting for you.
I imagine this place takes a fair bit of dusting;
I’ve seen by the door there’s a cobweb or two.
But there’s beauty and grace in those intricate threads,
So I’ll marvel and stare as I wait here for you.
You’d think that the countryside might be more peaceful:
Outside there’s a terrible hullabaloo
From the bleating of sheep and the clucking of birds –
Don’t they know that I’m trying to focus on you?
So where have you gone Lord? I need you to help me
Untangle my prayers as I sit in this pew.
And the harder I’ve tried the more distant you seem
As I’ve wrestled impatiently, waiting for you.
A voice whispers gently: “My child, don’t be anxious.
The things that concern you are in my heart too.
Can’t you hear my creation all shouting my praise
As I sit here enjoying the stillness with you?”