I'm Sorry, I haven't a Clue!

Thursday, May 28th

Guess what this plant is called?

There are lots of areas of knowledge where I haven't a clue. Ask me about wild flowers, or birds, and I may well have an answer. It may not be right - but it's the way I tell 'em! When we are walking in the countryside, Jenny often questions my identification of plants she hasn't noticed before. Sometimes, she even laughs at my answers. Not because she knows better, but because she thinks I often make up names. Take Viper's Bugloss, for example. That's the plant in the picture above. I had to resort to Google to prove to her that that wasn't just me conjuring up with the most fantastic name I could think of.

The same goes for Hemp Agrimony, Grass of Parnassus, Devil's Bit Scabious. It's not my fault that somebody came up with these strange names. Years of accompanying Years 5 and 6 children on field trips to Welsh and West Country locations mean I soon learned to identify Ivy-Leaved Toadflax, Pennywort and Bog Asphodel. But ask me why we have been stricken with such a cruel virus where we are denied access to our dying loved ones and I will have to say, 'I don't know.'

I am sure there are people who can give you an answer to that one. Including some Christians who will give you a convincing theological explanation for the problem of suffering. To be honest, I am immediately suspicious of anyone who is confident that they know why the innocent suffer.

Job, in the Old Testament, was plagued by friends who thought they knew the answers to suffering. It was simple: 'if you're suffering, you must have done something wrong and God is punishing you.' Fortunately, Job didn't buy any of that formula doctrine where the goodies are always blessed and baddies are punished. That's just not how life is.

In the end, Job just had to accept that suffering happens and trust that God knew whether he deserved it or not - which he didn't. Neither do those poor souls who have been hit by this virus.

Or those trapped in refugee camps, in Chinese 'education centres,' in occupied territories or disaster zones. Explanations of why we suffer aren't going to help the victims. All we can offer is a prayer that someone will stand alongside them and see them through whatever hell they are experiencing.

Of course, we can and should address the issues of injustice that cause some of this suffering, but when it comes to a virus, we can only be there for each other. I don't know whether it's my age or what, but I have become convinced that being agnostic on many areas of theology, doctrine, or what you will, is an honest place to be. Suits me anyway. And for me, it's more realistic than pretending I know the answers to life's conundrums. Maybe. I'll get to know everything one day - but not in my lifetime.

All My Answers

I pulled my sack of question marks

right up the stairs of heaven

and shook them out

all clattering

before the feet of God.

He smiled that I had carried them

for such a weary distance

and I could smile

because it seemed

I would not need them now-

for all my answers floated up

like rainbow bubbles laughing

and children ran to catch them

down the lanes of Paradise.

We threw the dots for distant stars

and then we gently gathered

two armfuls of

some brand new moons

that nobody had used.

We fixed a question hook in each

and on these silver hangers

the people hung

their coats of care

they would not need them now -

for all my answers floated up

like rainbow bubbles laughing

and children ran to catch them

down the lanes of Paradise.

Cecily Taylor (from Reynard - Quaker Fellowship of the Arts)


Mother, Father God,

Keep me honest.

Honest about the things I know and the things I don't.

Honest with myself about what really matters in this world.

Honest to my family and friends about what they are worth to me.

Honest with the world about how much I am prepared to care.

Honest with you, who showed me how much I am worth in Jesus,



Bog Asphodel

Sea Holly at the Seaside

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