Dales Faith – Growing faith in community
Why is it that so many people feel connected to or understand that this area of rural northern England forms a part of who they are, not just where they’re from, where they live, or where they feel most alive? There is no doubt that the natural beauty of the Yorkshire Dales has a way of moving our very souls as we travel its roads and paths and when we look out of our windows to its curving skylines. But there is something about Dales folk too.
I have lived in and around the Dales all my life. I love this place and its people; those who have lived here all their lives, those who have been drawn here by house or work, those who find themselves coming back again, and those who started life here, and now living elsewhere still call this place home. We have this in common, that the blend of landscape and life that is the Yorkshire Dales has touched our spirits.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.“Psalms 121:1-2
Beautiful though the Dales scenery is, it is a wild beauty and often harsh. Small settlements spread across miles of countryside mean services are often distant. Much time is spent driving many miles of road and track for life’s basic needs; food, company, friendship and community, and work too. Somewhere near, on a fine day in summer, becomes a distant place in the worst of winter.
As we travel through life, we sometimes find ourselves in a place where our everydays become harsh and hard. Only a moment ago things were going well, but seasons change. Paths, that in the summer with friends and family, passed green fields and gentle streams, look very different when we are on our own and life’s weather has turned against us. In Dales Faith we know these wild places and wildernesses well, we have been there too. Let us walk life with you, together turning to paths that lead from these wild places and into the warmth of better times ahead.
“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.”Isaiah 35:1
The Way On
The images of hill and valley that we hold in our hearts are those we have seen from the miles of road, track and path that lead from familiar stone villages to yet-to-be-enjoyed horizons.
When walking these ways, we all appreciate the company of others. On safe and familiar paths finding the way can be easy. On a windswept dales moor, or through life’s harder days, discerning the direction to head in can be much harder. We have to discern between the sheep tracks, followed by many, and the path that will lead us safely on.
Our journeys can be so much more rewarding and enjoyable too if we are following the directions of one who knows where we need to go and if we travel in the company of others, who like us, want to enjoy our friendship and appreciate the view.
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”Jeremiah 6:16
With outlines carved by ice, and contours softened by rain and rivers the Dales are constantly being shaped and sustained by water. There is a surprising beauty in a swollen stream cascading down a hillside in the mist, a serenity and peace in the rivers’ majestic flow beneath ancient bridges. We find ourselves just as swiftly soaked by the early morning’s heavy dew in uncut meadows as by cloud and mist’s hidden rain on hill top.
But with water comes refreshment from the run, cooling streams for hot tired feet, a place to bathe, and to our homes, the hillside spring and poly-pipe bring the water we need to live.
Life and refreshment, inspiration and renewal, calm and wellbeing have long been symbolised by water. Yet these are spiritual things. Gifts from the God who formed the earth, who sends the rain, and who promises life-giving water to those who would seek after him.
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ”John 7:37-38
And the Wind
We remind ourselves of favourite Dales’ views and days cycling with friends, in the photos we take. Yet a still picture can never capture the sound and movement we have experienced. The swaying trees outside the village pub, the hat lifted by the unexpected gust, the cooling breeze in the summer’s heat and the rain, driven into our faces on the moor top, all say ‘wind’.
Unpredictable, unseen, one moment gentle, another with the force to take down trees, the very air itself reminds us in the wind, that there is much beyond our control. The ancient Hebrews saw a connection between wind, and spirit, and the very breath we breathe. All three share the same word.
Most of us would agree that there are aspects of life that we can only explain in spiritual terms. Experiences that are as real as the breath we breathe. As much as the wind shapes life in the Dales, so too does the breath and spirit of the people who we share this beautiful part of Yorkshire with. So too does the God who is Spirit.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”John 3:8
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