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Reform Magazine | September 19, 2017

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On the pilgrim way

Sheila Maxey does battle with low spirits

Every year, during the early months of the year, I find myself struggling with low spirits. This year, irritated with myself, I decided to try to do battle with those low spirits. I started collecting good stories from the news – not easy! A parenting advice sheet by Syrian refugees in this country for refugee families (cuddle your children, play with them, read them bedtime stories no matter the chaos all around) was distributed with food aid in refugee camps. In a special ‘peace village’ in Rwanda, perpetrators and victims from the 1993 genocide lived and worked together, actually becoming friends. In the mayhem of South Sudan, the key trusted body working for peace was a council of churches headed by a Roman Catholic and a Presbyterian. All good stuff. But the low spirits continued. So I started a regular brisk walk through the woods, looking for signs of spring. These things are a work in progress.

God’s ways are not my ways. What has lifted my spirits, at least a little, has come out of the heart of sadness. A dear friend’s news of aggressive cancer made me weep – but his genuine delight at the many prayers offered for him and his enthusiastic funeral planning (which may well not be imminent) cheered me. A lovely couple, much younger than we are, is facing a poor cancer prognosis so wisely and courageously. She is taking early retirement in order to spend time together, and together they hope to train guide dogs for the blind. How positive! What fun!

Another very dear friend, with her husband, has booked a ‘journey of a lifetime’ to New Zealand. However, her heart condition has taken a marked turn for the worse and she cannot get insurance. Nevertheless, they are going, and how I wish them Godspeed.

Rather belatedly, I remembered an excellent little leaflet on depression written by an Anglican priest who was regularly stopped in his tracks by what he called his ‘black dog’. Writing just as he was beginning to emerge from the darkness, he wrote about how unhelpful it was that people recommended cheerful music, doing fun things and pulling oneself together. He recommended listening to deep, sad music. So I think I will just sit down with my knitting, even if it is the middle of the morning, and listen to Chopin’s nocturnes.

‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me.’ (Psalm 23:4)

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform

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This article was published in the March 2017 edition of  Reform.

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