Dear Friends,

The Book of Proverbs (Chapter 6) tells us to consider the ways of the ant. Or at least, it gives that advice to those people (including me) who sometimes have trouble getting up in the morning. I have to say I'm reluctant. After all, as Ogden Nash has mused:


The ant has made himself illustrious
Through constant industry industrious.
So what?
Would you be calm and placid
If you were full of formic acid?

To show willing, though, I thought in this letter I'd consider the ways of another insect: the butterfly. Both Avenue St Andrew's and Freemantle will be opening their sanctuaries to crafted butterflies this Easter, as signs of resurrection, and I'm hoping that examples from the other two churches in our group will also be fluttering in. Some of our Group Lent reflections this year, on Tuesdays at 11.30am in Avenue St Andrew's cafe, will also focus on the butterfly's unlikely lifecycle, changing from one form to another. But it's not just in its transformation that we can learn from the butterfly's ways.

Have you ever been accused of having a butterfly mind, flitting from one topic to another? That's the experience many of us have when we try to pray. We make time in our daily routine to settle down comfortably, try to get our breathing deep and regular, empty our minds of the unimportant – oh yes! We've used up all the milk making that cake. Better get some more from the corner shop! We make a mental note about the milk, settle ourselves again; but then Mrs Jones, our next door neighbour, comes to mind. We've not seen her for days. Is she staying with her daughter again? Or could something be wrong? We'd better give her a call when we've finished. Once more we try to focus on God alone. Then the memory of a TV programme last night drifts across our mind, something about the poor treatment of children in local authority care. It's so unfair! That makes us start to worry about our nephew's rocky marriage: who will get the children if – God forbid! - they split up? Brrr! the oven bell rings: it's time to get the cake out and get on with the rest of our day.

In that sort of scenario it may feel as if you've accomplished nothing in prayer. But you've been giving people into God's hands: Mrs Jones, vulnerable children in care, your nephew and his family. Though your experience may not have felt too holy, it surely counted with God, who's good at catching prayers as they fly.

Another thing about butterflies is how, though they appear not to be getting anywhere as they flutter and float, these tiny, fragile insects can travel huge distances. Monarch butterflies in the States migrate over 3000 miles as they travel south for the winter and then north again to breed. But that's nothing! Over six successive generations our own Painted Ladies complete a 9,000-mile (14,400km) round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle, travelling at altitudes of over 1,000 metres. So if your prayers, or your actions, appear to be flapping around in circles and getting nowhere, take courage from the butterfly: small actions can have huge consequences.

One thing more about butterflies: their amazing colours, caused by the play of light on thousands of tiny scales. Each species has a unique pattern by which it can be recognised. But each individual human being is uniquely made to show something of what God's like. And in God's eyes, each of us is even more beautiful than a butterfly.

Sarah