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I received a very special gift this past week. It might not seem wonderful to others, but I absolutely love it. I am looking at it now as it sits beside my desk – and even as I do, I feel blessed all over again. So … it is just an old chair, some might say! The cover looks a little worn and ‘pre-loved’ and is in need of being tacked on again in one spot, while the seat itself is definitely lumpy in places. And yet I chose it from my dear friend’s possessions above other things that were freely offered to me.

My friend wanted me to have something of hers with all her heart before she moves out of her very large, old home – and I did not want to disappoint her. Besides, I was delighted at the thought of having something to remember the many times we had met there together. This dear friend has been my ‘spiritual companion’ for a long time now – I know I would not have achieved what I have in my writing journey these past few years, were it not for her wisdom, support and encouragement. But what would be best, we wondered, as we sat drinking our favourite Lady Grey tea and reminiscing? Perhaps one of her precious, old books or some cuttings from the wonderful array of treasured plants in her cottage garden? Or perhaps something else I had admired over the years?

We wandered then along the winding path towards the tiny chapel her husband built many years ago. We stepped across the threshold and I gazed around – this truly was a sacred space that had been lovingly set aside and used for prayer and worship through the years by men and women from a variety of backgrounds. Again my friend asked if there was anything I would like and I shook my head. But then she lifted a cover off an old chair that stood in one corner – and I knew this was what I wanted.

I carefully carried the chair to my car, but whichever way I manoeuvred it, it would not fit in the boot. As a last resort, I flung open the back door and tried sliding it in there – and to my surprise, it fitted perfectly.

My friend and I flung our arms around each other. We were both so happy – she, that she could give me something that had been a precious part of worship for her for so long, and I, that this old chair would continue to be used well by those I now talk and pray with. I am honoured to have it in my study. It symbolises to me all the richness of the loving relationship my friend and I have enjoyed – and beyond that, the relationship of love and grace that God holds out to me – and hopefully to any who may come to talk and pray.

God’s presence is not dependent on particular chairs or any other piece of furniture, I know. But at this stage of the year when tiredness seems to have taken hold, it is so good to have a tangible reminder nearby of the one who is always with me, who knows my heart, who knows everything I have tried to achieve this past year, who knows all the coming year holds and who says to me lovingly: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.’ (John 14:27)

May God bless you too with deep peace as you celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus, the Prince of Peace!

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