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Well of inspiration - Psalm 8

I am currently praying for the negotiations that are taking place in Glasgow to address the manifold issues caused by the changing climate. This can be really overwhelming given the complexities of processes, the delicate balancing of different interests and the sheer scale of the challenges. To be honest, my temptation is to shut down when I am feeling overwhelmed - I get easily swamped by details.

I find the psalms helpful in grounding me and seeing the bigger picture. The painting above was inspired by some lines from Psalm 8: "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?"

These words take me back to a night in the Jordanian desert where there were so many stars visible that the sky was the colour of pewter. It is humbling to try to grasp the vastness of the universe and our place in it. The moon and stars were there long before us and have accompanied us from time immemorial.

I imagine our ancestors looking up and being awed by similar views as we are enjoying today. They learned to measure times and seasons by observing the phases of the moon and the rotation of the stars. Whilst they may have fallen into the trap of worshipping the elements themselves, our temptation is to place ourselves at the centre of the universe.

Incidentally, when I exhibited my painting at the weekend, I noticed that the title had been accidently changed from "What is (wo)man?" to "What is (no) man?" This typo may have been simply due to my sloppy handwriting, but it could also express something of our sense of hopelessness in the face of daily catastrophes. There is a growing minority who see the solution to our planet's woes in mankind's extinction.

Psalm 8 invites us to look at the universe and our lives from the perspective of the ultimate creator of it all. We may be frail, mortal beings living on a speck of a planet in an unimaginably large universe, but every one of us matters. I love the way Pete Greig puts it in his sabbath blessing - he prays for "grace to embrace my own finite smallness in the arms of God's infinite greatness."

I believe that we have been entrusted with the stewardship of the earth. Our actions and inactions matter - for those around us, the environment and future generations. May we learn to celebrate and cherish our place in the universe and pray for creative, just solutions for the issues we are facing.


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