A Candle in the Window

14 January 2021        A Candle in the Window           Peter Millar

Words to encourage us in tough times.        ionacottage@hotmail.com

From the prophet Isaiah chapter 43, verse 18 :

The Lord says ‘Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there’.


This is the time to be slow

Lie low to the wall

Until the bitter weather passes


Try as best you can, not to let

The wire brush of doubt

Scrape from your heart

All sense of yourself

And your hesitant light.


If you remain generous, time will come good; And you will find your feet again on fresh pastures of promise, where the air will be kind, And blushed with beginning.

                                                                                                                John O’Donohue

Francesca Jones – an inspiration for us all:

At a time when people are seeking to summon significant resources of fortitude simply to endure the loneliness, uncertainty and inconvenience of daily life, the example of a 20 year-old from Bradford in the UK is uplifting. Francesca Jones, who has qualified for the main draw in the women’s singles at the Australian tennis open, has had to overcome enormous disadvantages to progress so far in her career. Before her final qualifying victory, Jones was ranked No 241 in the world and No 5 in the UK. Reaching such heights counts as a considerable achievement for anyone. Given that Francesca was born with ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia, her exalted status is a testament to her astounding determination.

Her condition, which is congenital and extremely rare, means that she has a thumb and three fingers on each hand and three toes on one foot and four on the other. A large part of her early years was spent in hospital. When she was eight, surgeons told her to forget any ambition to become a professional tennis player. Proving doubters wrong became a motivation for her there and then. A useful one, too. Although she can still encounter problems with gripping her racket, she has largely conquered what the experts saw as insuperable physical obstacles. In doing so, she has developed the mental durability that in elite sport often makes the difference between the good and the great. As with the French sailor Damien Seguin, born without a left hand yet lying fifth in the Vendee Globe round-the-world race, talent and grit have triumphed.

Even if she loses her first-round match in Melbourne next month, Francesca will fly home with her entry into the top flight secured.  

(from an article in the UK Times)

Known, yet unknown, without a name yet holding every name. In the mystery of love You come to us and in tenderness reveal the meaning of our lives and the pattern of our days.  

In Bethlehem:

In central Bethlehem the Church of the Nativity was packed with pilgrims from many countries, a beautiful and powerful reminder of the extraordinary diversity of the world church. For a few moments we joined a group of Africans in prayer – that vibrant kind of praise and thankfulness to God which resides deep in the African soul, and knows what it means to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in hard times. And I thought again how true it is that those in the shadows are often the ones that reveal the true nature of the divine. In a place like this, in a town under daily oppression, the words of Mary carry a deeper resonance and fresh questions for our hurting, divided world: ‘The Lord has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty’. (Luke 1; 52-53)

As we walked across Manger Square, my friend Colin who knows the Palestinian people well, suggested that we visit the Mosque which for many generations has stood directly opposite the Church of The Nativity. Many worshippers were going in and out of the Mosque, but no tourists. We asked if we could enter and were given a warm welcome. As we ascended a wide staircase to the central prayer hall, an older Palestinian man asked where we came from. We started to talk and he told us that he was one of the two muezzins at the Mosque. He had been calling the faithful to prayer five times a day in this particular place for thirty one years: we soon realised that we were in the presence of a man who had experienced the sacred in his life. After introducing us to the imam, he led us up a narrow, stone spiral staircase to a small balcony which tops the minaret. The view across the villages and hills of Palestine was literally breath-taking. And on the far horizon, the Wall which looks ghastly at any time, but much worse under the brilliant sun – snaked its way amidst the fields and olive groves, dividing communities and families in its relentless progression. Below us the bells of many churches rang out, while on the far side of the square an Armenian bishop got into the back of a rather decrepit taxi, while in the front seat, next to the driver, a young priest held an enormous gold cross which stuck out of the window by at least five feet. No hiding of the Christian faith here!

And as we watched the gold cross making its way in the taxi out of Manger Square, we had a special moment In the Mosque, Our new-found friend, the muezzin, said he would like to sing for us. In a low, beautiful voice he sang from the prayers which had accompanied his life on earth for the last thirty one years. Unforgettable. He then translated his songs for us, and as we stood in silence together, he said ‘How can there be peace in my land if our hearts are angry and not pure –whether Jew or Arab?’ He told us how he longed for real peace and how weary everyone was of constant conflict. He also knew that many years of suffering lay ahead for the Palestinian people. The silence between the three of us was deep in that ancient house of prayer in the heart of the place where Jesus was born. .Later on.as I reflected on the events of the day, I remembered that great prayer of Brazil’s Bishop Helder Camara who was truly a companion of the poor and understood oppression. This is it. ‘Lord, take away from us the quietness of a clear conscience and press us uncomfortably for only thus that other peace is made, your peace.’

(An extract from my book, A Time to Mend: Reflections in Uncertain Times - Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow 2013 -    ISBN 978-1-84952-247-2)

 www.ionabooks.com for more information about Wild Goose Publications