‘…I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now)’ – St Paul

Dear friends,
When we were on holiday exploring south-west Scotland last month, we set out one day to explore a forest drive in the north of Galloway Forest Park. We had enjoyed a beautiful day meandering along a similar track just a few days earlier, so we were looking forward to it. We tried not to be put off by the dense fog that surrounded us as we drove up above the cloud level, and we emerged from the gloom to find the start of the forest drive. Unfortunately, what none of the websites had mentioned was that this drive was well and truly closed to the public this year, and our plan was scuppered!

Thankfully, we realised that there was a good ‘Plan B’ available. If we drove on for another half an hour, we would reach the coast… and for Matthew, a rather famous golf course at Turnberry – even if it is way out of his price range to play. As we descended, the cloud and fog gave way to lovely warm sunshine, and we found a footpath across the links out to the famous Turnberry lighthouse and adjacent beach ‘…make up your mind not to put any stumbling-block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.’ Romans 14:13.

While Pauline took in the sea views out to Ailsa Craig, Matthew enjoyed watching golfers take on the challenge of one of the world’s best courses, which he had only previously seen on TV… and we were both stunned by the plush marble interior of the facilities at the lighthouse (installed at the instruction of the current owner, who goes by the very Scottish name of Donald…)

Life doesn’t always go as planned, does it? We were reminded of that last week when we found that we had been in close contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for Covid. As a result, we joined the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Health Secretary and thousands of others in self-isolation on Monday’s rather ambitiously-named ‘Freedom Day’. Not much freedom where we were, effectively under self-administered house arrest! The consequences were inconvenient – two ‘in-person’ services missed, along with Foodshare and a couple of planned BBQs with friends and colleagues; and more importantly, the inconvenience of having to postpone Sandy’s baptism from today (hopefully it will now take place next week). Many things, however, were able to carry on almost as normal thanks to the benefits of modern communications.

Our holiday experience turned out for the best, even though it was not the day that we had planned. It doesn’t take too much research to find examples in the Bible when the plans of the characters involved in a story were thwarted, only for God to replace them with a much better ‘Plan B’. Think of the two disciples heading for Emmaus after Jesus’ death, only to be compelled to turn back after meeting the risen Jesus, so that they could bring their friends the good news that ‘…the Lord has risen!’ (Luke 24:34) Or the many times that Paul was prevented from making planned visits (Romans 1:13). What we might think of as ‘Plan B’ – second best or a last resort because our original plans have been thwarted – often turns out to be God’s best for us. So if in these days you face the frustration of your plans being undone, look for signs that the change of plan is leading you to something better – to God’s best for you.

With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline