Last week my family (plus dog) went up to the ridge at the top of Stoke Park. It was the evening of 5 November and we were hopeful some people might set off some fireworks from their gardens. It was a wonderful view up there: a great sweep of East Bristol glistened yellow and red beneath the night sky.
And then the fireworks started. Dozens of displays, some miles away, popped and fizzled across the city, each one vying for our attention. It was a spectacular moment, a glimpse of something joyful and exuberant in this sobering time of lockdown.
As we stood and watched, I had a real sense of God’s love for Bristol, as if each firework was an expression of his blessing over every household. As if he was saying, ‘can you see – I love this home with an everlasting love, and this one, and this one, and this one – if only they knew’.
Why am I telling you all this? I hope it will serve as an encouragement that whatever our circumstances, God never turns his eyes away from us. I sometimes mistake difficult circumstances as evidence that he has forgotten me or turned away. But there are so many scriptures that say that this is simply not true. I love the verse in Isaiah 49.16, where God reassures his people Israel that he is always with them:
‘See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’.
When I want to remember something really important I write it on my hand, so it is there in front of me and the first thing I see. That’s the image here: God is saying to his people, ‘I don’t forget you and I won’t forget you’.
Your name is not written on a sticky note that will end up in the recycling or scribbled in biro that soon washes off. It is engraved on His palms, and there is nothing more permanent than an engraving. What a thought. You are always before him – in his sight, on his mind. Right now. And forever. I hope you find that idea as encouraging as I do.
A couple of things we’d love you to know about. The Archbishops are calling the wider church to pray for our nation at this challenging time. Perhaps you would like to join us and them as we pray together? Click here to download a booklet of prayers to serve as a guide as we pray. I love the thought that millions of Christians across the world will be united in prayer over this time.
Finally, we are holding our annual gift day for resourcing our ministry and mission on Sunday 22 November. If you are interested in contributing towards this then you can find out more here
Be assured that you are regularly in our prayers, and we look forward to the time when we can see each other again face to face. In the meantime, whenever you see your name written down or hear it called out, you may want to remember that this precious name is also written on the palms of God’s hands!