18 May 2022

Offaly influencer reflects on the gift of Spring


Ronan Scully of Self Help Africa

Again it has been a long worrisome year since last Spring when we yet again battled against various restrictions and lockdowns and where we faced so many challenges and heartbreakingly lost so many more loved ones.

Yet, there is something about the gift of Spring that awakens a feeling of optimistic expectation. Am I crazy or do we also come alive in springtime? I remember when younger I was involved in musicals in my little home town and recently while walking in nature I remembered the lines of a song from a musical that a cousin of mine sang and it went "younger in springtime are you...' and it made me think how true that statement is. Though the day at present on which I'm writing this column could only be described as cold, we've already had a sweet taste of the warm spring days before us and it has given us a new 'spring' in our step and has made us in some ways feel younger and more alive! I love spring.

The new beginnings, trees sprouting green tips, birds caroling from branch to branch, crisp fresh air rushing in from newly open windows and the earth awakening from its dull brown slumber. Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!’ For spring is a metaphor for change. Some changes we eagerly await, and some we abhor. Some changes we plan and others arrive uninvited. To all these changes we ask the gift of God's perspective beckoning us to expectation, hope, and rebirth. May the sunlight and the rain be reminders that God is at work renewing the earth. As a God of renewal, God is ever at work in our lives, too. Open our eyes and lives to the needed changes in our lives this Spring. Awaken us to new life and perspective and may all that weighs us down crack open so we can breathe anew and bask in the beautiful spring light!

Season of Renewal
"Just as there are seasons in the world around us, so there are in our interior life," Teresa of Avila wisely observed. "We cannot expect it to be otherwise." Spring is a season of renewal and rebirth. It's a time when buds become leaves and flowers, when healing rain washes roads and streets and falls like grace on parched country fields, when the ground beneath us softens to allow shoots of new life to emerge. As outside, so inside. Spring is a time for cleaning out and making way for fresh possibilities and new commitments. It's a time to revive our senses and expand our horizons. It's a time to begin again. Spring awakens and enlivens us in a way no other season can.

We remember what new life looks like, we remember what possibilities can be just around the corner, and we remember that beauty is all around us if we only look and become aware. At this time of year, we tend to want to clean our house and rid ourselves of anything that reminds us of the long, cold winter and this year especially anything that reminds us of the Coronavirus and lockdowns. We want to open our windows to let in the clean, fresh air. We want to toss out anything that clutters our house. We usually refer to this as spring cleaning. We want to get rid of anything that reminds us of the cold, dark months of winter and the many months of lockdowns so we can allow in the beauty of spring. But just as we have spring cleaning, we can also use this time as one of spiritual spring cleaning.

When spring arrives, more sunlight brightens your home as the days grow longer, and fresh air blows in once the temperatures warm up enough to open your windows.  But all the light and fresh air reveal what you may not have noticed during the dark, cold days of winter: Your house is a mess.  It’s not fun to see the clutter and dirt that needs to be cleaned up around your house, but the more light and air that flows in, the more motivated you are to do some spring cleaning. Spring cleaning can be more than just a chore, however.  It can actually be exciting if you use the time to start cleaning up something far greater than your house: your soul.  The closer you get to Jesus – the Light of the world – and the more you invite the Holy Spirit to blow the fresh air of His love into your life, the more you become aware of how messy your soul has become. Thankfully, there’s no sin too messy for God to clean up when you follow His divine cleaning plan of confession, repentance, and reconciliation.

So while you’re spring cleaning your house, invite God to clean your soul. It is a time to clear out our spiritual house, so we become receptive to God’s love and bring joy and happiness into our lives. Our spiritual house is our body and mind in which our soul resides. We must free ourselves of the clutter of mind and matter so that God's Holy Spirit can flow in.

Spring Clean
Since we put so much time and effort into cleaning our homes, offices and outer self at this springtime of the year, shouldn’t we also do some spiritual spring cleaning of our heart, soul and inner self? There comes a time when we must clean out the wardrobes of our life so that we may have room for items that will enhance our life. Let’s search the wardrobes of our lives and make a trip to the rubbish bin.

Throw away any hatred that may be lurking there and be sure to toss out jealousy, bad attitudes, dishonesty, complaints and hypocrisy. Before you finish, throw away that grudge you’ve been carrying against someone. Make room to add love, honesty, forgiveness and kindness and not to mention thankfulness for all God’s blessings. Go on and make room for reverence and respect for God from whom all good gifts come. Stand back and look: Your life’s wardrobe is looking better, isn’t it? Take a moment today to spring clean your heart and soul.

Ask God to come in and if He finds anything else that should not be there, take it out so that you can live a life more loving and caring. Try and change those behaviours that have not helped you to achieve your goals in life. Look at replacing old ways of thinking and reflecting, that hold you back, with new thoughts that will inspire you and help you to enjoy this journey called life. If something in your life is not fulfilling you as it should be, maybe set limits or determine if it is time to move on and discover things that do fulfill you.

Spring Hope
I think God created Hope when he created Spring. Crocuses, daffodils, and tulips wait expectantly just under the surface of a thin blanket of soil and earth. The trees, stoic and bare, whisper of new life and greener more vibrant days. Rebirth is patient, but ready to announce itself at any moment. No matter how used we have become to the dead of winter we may have found ourselves in, especially during this time of worry because of the Coronavirus, the alertness of spring does come. 

Spring offers each of us the obvious opportunity to reflect on the renewal of life that is all around us. Maybe this Spring we might reflect more on what is really important in life to us as the past year of the dreaded Coronavirus has made us all have a good look at ourselves and what life we would really like to be living. The Earth radiates new growth and we as its inhabitants are part of this magical paradigm but we need to be better carer's of it! Spring is here and it is a time of life, reflections, change, birds singing brightly in the air, rebirth, renewal, refocusing and growth. It is also an occasion to reflect into the oasis of one’s beautiful soul, mind and heart, and carry out a spiritual loving spring cleaning with lots of self reflection.

It is a time to energise one’s aspirations, hopes, goals and dreams, to fulfil one’s purpose, mission and vision for one's life. Spring is a time of the dawning of new light, new life, new spirit, new birth, new beginnings, new momentum and new hope. It is a time of waiting, of expectation, a time of preparing new ground, planting new plants, nurturing new seedlings, tending new shoots, protecting new buds. It is a time of dreaming new dreams, thinking new thoughts, making new plans, growing new goals and welcoming a new hope. It is a time of holding tight the fragile, embracing the vulnerable, nurturing the young, protecting the old, saving those on the edges of our communities and a time to recommit and begin again to the real work of our lives that of caring for one another as we ourselves would like to be cared for and caring for our environment and nature all around us on our daily journey through life. For me Spring is a resurrection time in our lives so to speak and please God it will lead to new hope of better days to come. It makes me think about the many blessings that spring showers upon us such as the freshness in the air, wonderful breezes, singing of the birds, lots of growth, baby animals of all kinds emerging, fresh water flowing, trees, plants and flowers budding and starting to blossom, and of course the oncoming of Easter.

Spring always brings a sense of renewal and change. It is a time to look around and look within and reflect on all that has passed and to consider what may come. Spring cleaning does not have to be limited to cleaning around the home. Although cleaning out the closets and cleaning the house and cleaning or redecorating the garden a bit more than usual may be a good idea and a healthy one at that! This spring, in addition to the typical spring cleaning, I have decided to rid myself of some thoughts and behaviours that no longer help me or cause me to feel down and so I am looking at a spiritual form of spring cleaning as well.

The Magic Piper - Spring
Spring is the perfect time to effect a positive change in our lives because the ever-lengthening days of warmth and light and all of nature’s responses to them are powerful cues for new growth. Spring urges us to plant some, grow some and bloom some. Spring brings us new hope that one day those of us searching for the light at the end of our tunnel will see the light shine through claiming victory over our burdens and worries. Somehow the battle feels less overwhelming when the spring warmth of the sun shines through after the winter hardness in our lives. 

It’s as though God is telling us he is here to help us find the courage to keep our spirits upbeat and feel younger. It will hopefully bring us our resurrection moment!! For me there is no more invigorating time of the year than spring. Let me share with you this lovely poem by E. L. Marsh, titled "The Magic Piper": - "There piped a piper in the wood, Strange music--soft and sweet--And all the little wild things, Came hurrying to his feet. They sat around him on the grass, Enchanted, unafraid, And listened, as with shining eyes, Sweet melodies he made. The wood grew green, and flowers sprang up, The birds began to sing; For the music it was magic, And the piper's name was--Spring

Thought for the week
As your thought for the week, approach spring as though it is the first time you ever experienced it, the first time you ever saw a flower, a tree growing, a bird flying. Open your heart to love, to beauty, to prayer, to reflection and meditation, to clarity, to God. Leave the old behind and be reborn during the season of spring. The gift of hope is representative of the spring season, the image of the sun peeking through the clouds. You are reborn as the sun is reborn each day.

Each spring your spirit will burst out of the darkness of winter. Make your spirit bright like the colors of Nature. Feel the world through your heart. This is a time to leave behind old patterns, old ways of doing things, and embrace the power and beauty of new life. I pray that as the signs and the magic of spring begin to show themselves all around us, that you will remember that each new day is like a cleared field ready for planting. Your thoughts, attitudes, and actions are the seeds you plant.  Let us be moved by this vast and gentle insistence that goodness shall return, that warmth and life shall succeed. Help us to understand our place in this miracle.

Let us see that as a bird now builds its nest, bravely, with bits and pieces, so we must build human faith and life. It is our simple duty; it is the highest art; it is our natural and vital role within the miracle of spring; the creation of faith and life. God, thank you for the Gift of Spring and the hope of warmer, longer, brighter days. Thank you for the coming of growth and life and birth. Thank you that things are coming awake in the world. This is what our calendar says, and we do see some signs that it is real. But we also still struggle with the residual layover of winter.

Now we ask that you bring into reality all that belongs in this season. Your word says that we will have provision, and hope, and joy, and health and loving relationships here and now in this life. We ask that what belongs in this season would become actual in our practical lives. We hope in you and in your promises. We hope for your gift of Spring. Have a great Spring everyone!

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