Saturday, 28 February 2015

Surprised by The Trinity

On Saturday afternoon we ventured to the southern end of the county for the Branch Meeting of my local ringing association at Eckington.  Last time we were active members the meetings always fell on the 2nd Saturdays of March, June and October.  For technical reasons the first meeting of the year now falls in February, and instead of service and tea we were offered delicious cakes. This did have the effect of somewhat shortening the proceedings, which meant we were able to return home before it got dark.

I have rung at many churches, and often the only part of them I have seen is the ringing chamber, so it was lovely to take the opportunity to wonder around the church and take time to look at the building.  My own church is modern and simple, so I love admiring altar cloths and other seasonal decoration.




The church has some beautiful glass including this stunning window. I wish I had had longer to stand, study and understand its rich symbolism, as I am sure it has a great deal to say.







































I recognised the diagram of the Trinity from my reader training,
and zoomed in to take a closer look.

Later when I looked at the photographs I had taken I remembered that the church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity.










In one corner of the church stands the old church clock retired from service



























with this timely reminder,
which started me pondering on the different ways we serve.
Ringers serve their churches by summonsing the faithful to worship, 
and are a reminder to all who hear them that the church is a part of their community.

What about us, are we faithful in our worship?  
Does it form an integral part of our life?  
Is it a commitment we take very seriously, or something we do when it feels right to us?

Is our faith detectable by others?  
Does it ring out in our lives, or is it muted and suppressed - like a bell with a tied clapper, or a tower where sound control limits what is heard beyond the walls?

Let us take note of these words.
Let us serve God with all our might,
Tell of his love, power and glory
May we be a good example and witness to those we meet
and make serving God our purpose.


















Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Great Escape

"Steve, we have a problem!"
"We always have a problem.  It is what we do! We help people through their problems. You know our motto..
'Our business is helping YOU through difficult times with dignity!' "
"It's young Josephson.  I just went to get the body out of the mortuary..."
"And..."
"There was no body"
"Mary, he's probably waiting for you in the chapel.  Maybe the family phoned and booked a viewing.  Go and check!"
"I already have and he isn't in any of the chapels,"
"Someone must have moved him. After all dead bodies don't walk!"
"Well, this one did!"
"Don't be ridiculous!  Have you checked the video footage?"
"Yes."  
"And..."
"At 7:01 this morning he climbed out of the storage, waved at the camera and scribbled a note and left.  Here is the note.."
Steve slowly takes the note and reads the writing
"I've been to hell and back, beaten death and now I am off to see my Dad.  Thanks for taking care of me.  See you around J.
We buried his Dad a good 15 years ago, so he must have gone to the cemetery..."
"It's his handwriting, sure enough. I have seen it enough times scribbled on paperwork for all the coffins he has made for us over the years!"
"Yes, you are right. It IS his writing."
"The weirdest part is that he passed Mary M. and I in the corridor, and I realise now that it was him, but at the time I didn't. We directed him up to the visitors lounge, and he smiled and said he knew the way..
There is just one thing.  I handled his body when it arrived late Friday.  I KNOW he was dead, but now he is alive, and I can't make sense of it!"
"Do you believe in miracles?"
"I will, if you resist the temptation not to send off the footage to 'You've Been Framed' "




Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Deviation

This evening the Lent Course began.  I was really looking forward to spending the evening with folk from other churches in the parish.  My daughter was due to go bowling.

It was after 5pm when the phone rang. My daughter picked it up and after an initial greeting, listened with great interest and but contributed no more.  I grew suspicious - was she involved in some complex telesales scenario?
"Who is it?" I asked, but she just grinned infuriatingly and said not a word.  I took the receiver but could not hear anything. I pressed the speaker button but I still could not hear anything. I terminated the call, to my daughters disgust.
"I was listening to that! It was about bad traffic!"  Apparently my husband had picked up the upstairs phone and she had been listening in to a discussion about the trip this evening.  By the end of the call my husband had been roped in to help with transport!

Knowing we were supposed to be going to St Peter's my husband then had the bright idea that I might like to walk from St John's to St Peter's in the dark, through the parkland...  I declined the opportunity.

This evening we changed our plans.  We let go of what we wanted to do and enabled  a group activity to take place. My husband and daughter got to go and play bowls and I got to spend time working on a project that had been the object of much procrastination!

Lent is a time of giving up, and so it seemed quite right to lay down what we planned to do, which was for our personal gain, and instead to give priority to others, particularly as it was an outreach group.  There is the danger that we can be too busy doing church to be church.

Lent - a time of surprises...

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A Place of Waiting

A short walk
Through a door
where I have never been before.
A corridor carpeted in a colour I will not remember,
for I am too busy listening to the silence within,
and the contrast with the steady rush of traffic
beyond the perimeter.
Brown veneered doors stand like sentries,
guarding secrets I do not wish to contemplate.
Some are labelled
others offer no clue of the mysteries they contain.
I pause
My eyes searching for some indication
of the direction
I should take.
Despite my hesitance,
I have no thought of fear or flight.
In faith I walk forward,
and with quiet satisfaction
I notice the sign for reception.
Before I reach the threshold
people appear,
activated by the discrete alarm that heralded my arrival
I am made welcome.
and led into a room,
with cheerful upholstery.
I do not notice the literature
so carefully displayed
for my attention is focused totally on the person I have come to see.
We talk easily,
and I am surprised
by how relaxed I feel.
Any anxiety I had dissipates.
I am offered a tour,
but after discretely checking,
my host regrets that
I cannot visit the chapels
for they are occupied,
It would be rude
of me to intrude
into their silent world of waiting.
We walk on,
the corridor follows the downward contour of the land,
We enter a large space, where fairy lights and cars meet,
we greet those who are there.
The conversation moves on,
ebola, Christmas and the gospels.
I take my leave,
exchanging the peaceful sanctuary
for the more mundane noise and bustle of the world of retail,
my research complete
for now.
It is not every day you get a behind the scenes visit
to a Funeral Directors...




Monday, 23 February 2015

When Loss becomes gain

Imagine being given a gift,
and realising that the gift is not just adequate, or sufficient, but actually very nice.
You appreciated the gift,
because it was meant to be enjoyed.

Then you have a revelation that startles and shocks you with its audacity
What if you surrender your claim,
and exchange it for something else,
that will work just as well for you, if not slightly better.
"Fair enough," you say, that is a fair exchange."
Then, imagine your happiness when you suddenly realise
that the the gift you had originally can be shared,
and you all gain.

By letting go something marvellous is allowed to happen,
something better than you imagined
and in the moment of the decision making
and from then onwards
you have the peace and joy.

Yet all your releasing and subsequent contentment pales into insignificance
when you consider the gift God gave to the world
when he sent his one and only beloved Son into the world,
to be our Saviour
and the sacrifice for our sins,
our arrogance,
weakness,
selfishness,
meanness
and stupidity.

The nearest we can come to following this example
is when we give up trying to fulfil our dreams,
and goals for self aggrandisement,
and instead turn to God,
handing over control of our lives to him.
Seeking to work to bring about his kingdom here on earth,
and to bring his love to a world that is mainly unaware and indifferent
to the God who created them.
When we no longer seek personal success and ease,
but allow ourselves to be drawn into complex situations,
and try to hold on to the example Christ gave us,
picking ourselves up and starting again when we fail.

As for me, what did I lose,
and what did I gain?
Well, lets just say that the outlook is sunny ;)

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Food for thought!

Dinner this evening  was one of my favourites - roast chicken, courgettes, cheesy mash, green beans, gravy.... and sprouts.

Now sprouts are a bit like marmite - either you love them or hate them. (However in looks and taste they bearing little resemblance, other than being edible, and some would dispute that!)

I LOVE sprouts, they are one of my fav veggies.  However, my husband is not that keen, so if we eat sprouts it is often because I have cooked dinner.

This evening, as I stripped away the outer leaves of the humble sprouts I was remind of Lent.  Where did that random thought come from, you are wondering? Well sprouts are seasonal. They may be in the shops all year, but I only eat them during the colder months, when hopefully they have been exposed to a frost.

When I was a child many of our vegetables were grown in the garden or on an allotment. The rest were purchased from Mr Badger, the mobile greengrocer, who arrived in his battered van at the same time each week, offering a variety of fresh fruit and veg from the Vale of Evesham.  We were used to the food on our table changing with the seasons. These days we are accustomed to the same foods being on sale in the supermarket every time we shop, and moan if they are not there, waiting for us! We have grown accustomed to a continuous supply of standardised veg.

Forty years ago we would have thought it foolish to expect the same availability week after week. What if the church year followed suit and instead of seasons we just remembered everything Christ did each Sunday.  Would it be 'Ordinary Time' all year? My church is modern and simple, a 'no frills' sort of church, devoid of altar fronts or other mysteries.  On Ash Wednesday we went to the parish church, and I remember sitting marvelling at the intricate stitching on the piece that hung down on the pulpit,  an ornate gold cross contrasting richly with the purple cloth.  The altar front was also purple and the clergy wore stoles to mark the season of contemplation, when we remember Jesus' time in the desert, battling temptation and winning.  The church year would lose its richness if we did not celebrate the seasons - Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Pentecost, Trinity.  Each season reminds us of a different aspect of our faith.  Long may we keep celebrating our seasons!

Back to the sprouts....we strip away the outer leaves, so we can remove things from our lives during Lent -  let go of excess, remove temptation, focus on Jesus and his sojourn in the desert.
As I turn the sprout over, I cut a cross in the base.  The season of sprouts will end, just like the season of Lent will. Though even I hesitate to compare the consumption of perfectly cooked sprouts with the resurrection of Christ!  However, just as our sprouts were marked with a cross, so Lent begins the journey to the cross.  Food for thought....


Friday, 20 February 2015

Change is..?

Change is exciting, invigorating.  
Opening up opportunities, 
offering new ways of doing things.   

Change is scary, 
our landscape is altered, irretrievably, irrevocably.
We cannot go back, only adapt.  
Sometimes we cope by retreating, 
hiding within ourselves,
where we can pretend that change is not happening, 
and by not engaging
reduce the potential to get wounded.

Change is good, 
refreshing, 
offering up new horizons
and providing fresh opportunities for different conversations, unpolluted by cynical deja vu.

Change is paralysing - we no longer understand how we should react.  We rationalise, and try to apply previous experiences.  
We experiment. 
We evaluate. 
We survive. 
The unfamiliar becomes more familiar.  
We relax and begin to enjoy the journey.

Change is inevitable.  
Nothing stays the same.  
We constantly adapt, in ways too subtle for us to notice.
We ride the waves.
Sometimes we get battered, 
but we also experience moments of pure exhilaration.

I wonder how Jesus felt, as he went into the desert.
I am sure he knew that it was not going to be easy. 
Forty days of physical and mental torture, 
Forty days of fasting.
Forty days of obedience,
wrestling with temptation, 
and winning the battle!

All this makes me wonder how much perseverance we have? 
How often we give each other 'get out' clauses
instead of encouraging each other
to keep on battling against our inbuilt human weaknesses? 
“Yes, but you don’t REALLY need to do that, 
God would not want you to struggle…" 

The only way to take control of a bad habit
is to wrestling with it, 
and developing the mental strength to hold out, 
even when everything in you wants to quit.  

If you want to win, hold on to the grace of God. 
Don’t let others talk you in to settling for less.  
Remember, that we do not have to rely on our own strength, 
because Christ who battles with us, 
and for us, 
because, 
if we allow him,
he dwells in us.






Thursday, 19 February 2015

What if...

What if Jesus had not gone into the desert? 
If instead he had turned away 
from the pain, suffering and responsibility,
and opted not to wear the crown of thorns,
deciding that the price demanded was just too great.

What if he had said,
"Great idea, Dad, 
but I want to settle down 
and continue to run the family business.
I want to get married 
and enjoy the delights of physical intimacy,
become a father and raise a family,
to pass on the business to.
Keeping Joseph's name going 
- even though I understand
that due to some freak of genetics,
I do not share his human DNA.
I feel I have a debt to repay.
After all he brought me up as if I was his own.
He bore the brunt of whispers and innuendo,
protected my mother to his dying day 
- it was his destiny 
he said
and surely part of the legacy 
surely I must inherit
as his eldest son?
He left behind everything,
firstly to travel to Bethlehem 
at the summons on a census
And then we became refugees,
fleeing the tide of blood
of slaughtered sons of David.
No, don't count on me!
Chose another."

"What would Aunt Liz have made of your plans, Lord?
If she had known that the child she longed for 
was to live out his adult life in some of the most inhospitable areas,
a hermit and unpredictable preacher
Declaring the importance of a repentance,
that couldn't be paid for by coins,
but only by a change of heart and mind.
To be the warm up act for another
and then to forfeit his life,
at the whim of a power sinner
who asked for his head on a dinner
plate?"

"Sometimes, Lord, don't you think that my family has given enough?"

Yet, this is the legacy that we inherit,
the calling we respond to.
To give and not count the cost,
to speak out for the hurting and the lost
and not to turn away
but to walk towards our own cross
whatever God ordains that it shall be.

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.   Galatians 2:20


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ashes of Repentance

‘Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58:3b,4,6,7

“What is this fasting thing, anyway?”
“It’s when we give up chocolate for Lent..”
“Oh, well I suppose I could do with losing a few centimetres…”

Lent - a time of repentance and selfless action or self-improvement?
Is our focus on Jesus, or ourselves?
My daughters diet is still very limited, so I was not keen to dwell to heavily on the fasting side of Lent.  However, while reducing her chocolate bar intake for a few weeks won’t do her any harm, it won’t necessarily help with her spiritual development either!

This evening it was the Ash Wednesday service of Holy Communion with Imposition of Ashes. The Old Testament reading was Isaiah 58:1-12, and as I was asked to read it, I found myself pondering on the words, as it was not a passage that I was  familiar with. I found the words to be a wake up call - a reminder that God asks much more than lip service from us.  During Lent we recall the time Jesus spent in the desert in preparation for his ministry, being tempted and tormented, while he went without.  Meanwhile we grumble about not eating chocolate!
This passage, however, makes it perfectly clear that God isn’t over interested in us improving our outward appearances by dieting.  The action he seeks from us is to help others, particularly those on the edge of society who cannot help themselves.  We are called to speak out against injustice, to set free the oppressed, share our food and clothing, help our families, stop accusing others, gossiping, and ensure that we keep Sundays special if we are serious about being transformed.  All of a sudden, Lent is looking a lot more costly, with the focus on inward transformation, yet a great deal more rewarding. Giving up chocolate, hard as that will be, suddenly seems to be far more trivial and insignificant.


Lord, this isn't about me, 
or my vanity,
but about becoming more like you.
Amen. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Life's Little Mysteries

A friend was  virtually window shopping for lighting.  She sent me links to some up lighters that she had found. Then she sent me a further link
"This one looks like a toilet brush!"
I clicked the link
"Thats because it is a toilet brush!..."
Don't ask me what it is doing in the lighting section...
It is always entertaining when you discover things accidentally placed in the wrong part of a website...
I suggested that she wrote to the company and complained...
"Further to the light fitting I purchased from your website, it had a lovely shine outside which reflected the light.  This was very useful, as it kept blowing the electrics when I knotted it on to the wires... May I suggest you add a connector for ease of fitting to the ceiling...
I was also disappointed that the bottom dropped off, and we were unable to detect any discernible glow, but this may be because we were unable to find anywhere to fit a bulb!"

Draw your own conclusions... http://www.homebase.co.uk/en/homebaseuk/bathroom/bathroom-essentials/bullet-brush---stainless-steel-637349

I then read the reviews to discover what experiences other folks had had, and was rather amused by this review..

"good brush but couldn't get on with it so have gone back to using paper"



Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Seeing Red!

Dear Rebecca

Thank you for writing to me, expressing your concern about another five years under the leadership of David Cameron.  I freely admit that I share your misgivings.

I would love to vote for you, why wouldn't I? You are young, eloquent, and embraced local politics in a way which made it perfectly obvious to most of us that you would be a strong contender to represent your party at the next general election, and sure enough, you were selected!

Our social security bill is escalating and showed no sign of shrinking any time soon. However I loathe and detest the injustice and inhumanity of this new system, where penalties are imposed and benefits withdrawn from claimants for the most arbitrary of reasons - with no right of reply. Many of those affected are those on the edge of society - the very people the system was set up to protect.  Those who abuse the system will just change tactics, they will survive.  I also wonder if anyone has stopped to consider the effect on the employees forced to implement these targets and how this regime is eroding their very souls in the process?  Meanwhile multinationals have clever accountants who appear to choose to whether or not they will contribute to the pot.  The rich have dealt themselves a winning hand, as they get richer at the expense of the poor.  Yes, Rebecca, your party is not in power any more.  Your party can avoid some of the blame for our current predicament.  However, your party is the most ineffectual silent opposition party ever! I get the impression that your leader is actually scared, that he has no answers, no strategies, no policies and that if he won he would be like at rabbit in headlights - paralysed!  There have been so many opportunities for the opposition to speak out against injustice, corporate greed , government incompetence and bureaucratic bungling....yet you are silent.

We have lost the socialist heart of the labour party - people with passion for the poor like Aneurin Bevan and Dennis Skinner. We have gained career politicians, who have no concept of the helplessness of poverty.  We have lost a society when your progress depended on your brains, graft and good fortune and replaced it with one where education carries a debt, healthcare is limited and your future is dictated by schooling your parents can afford to buy for you.

Labour has lost my respect before. Last time was during the winter of discontent, when collective bullying was used to force higher wages and contributed to financial instability.  Strangely Tony Blair's New Labour won back my respect and convinced me that New Labour was the way forward.  Now we have silent Labour and as a mother I really don't get how Labour can be silent when Labour is actually a place of anguish and pain.  Sorry, Rebecca, until your party starts striving for the people, not the shareholders, until your party is prepared to shed the lightweight leadership, and rediscover a heart for the people, I cannot trust you with the next five years anymore than I can trust David Cameron.

I remain not so much a floating voter, as one who is paddling against the tide of bad policies made by greedy politicians, who do not go to bed hungry, or fear to put on the heating. As I ponder on the current political abyss I find myself asking if this is really 2015 or 1915, and if the great depression sandwiched by the carnage and cruelty of two bloody wars, still awaits us.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Starting off On The Way Of The Cross

The idea, the seed, remains dormant until it evolves gradually from a thought, to a vague plan with some details sketched out.
A structure is discovered, adopted, volunteers appear....
God is in the small detail, breathing life into the dust of human intention.
Slowly a form begin to appear.

The idea began stirring over 12 months ago.
Talking to people more seeds were sown, as imaginations stirred.
A chance conversation guided me to a structure, a support mechanism to help the whole project hang together, without compromising the theology of the flock.
I recognised the truth and integrity of the plan and knew that as a church it would be one we could work with and feel comfortable.  Theology is common, yet diverse. It challenges and comforts, mystifies and inspires.  It must not be too comfortable, or it offers no support, yet it must not pinch and distract us from our worship.

This Easter we shall be giving people the opportunity to reflect on the second half of Holy Week.
Volunteers are starting to come forward, but I sense that people are overawed at the prospect of engaging with some of the most powerful verses in the Bible.

The journey is exciting - what new insights will we gain into scripture through creating and reflecting on the work of others?

The journey is challenging - will church members have the courage to engage with the scriptures and then let their work be seen by others?

Despite our human anguish the journey we will under take is just a pale imitation of the agony Jesus suffered and the price he paid.  It would save a lot of work of we didn't bother, but we will learn so much if we have the courage to embrace this project and all that it offers.


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Approaching PIP

Tomorrow is PIP day
Yes the sharp question-shooting sheriff will stride into my sitting room, rattle off questions and try and assess whether my daughter qualifies for Personal Independent Payments....The whole thing bewilders me, as I am not aware that a cure for Autism has been discovered....

Still we are switching systems, leaving behind the familiar territory of Disability Living Allowance, and moving on to the unchartered waters of PIP,
and with any change there is always the potential to slip...

Meanwhile, as far as my daughter is concerned, tomorrow is Monday and she should be in school and is not very pleased that she has to stay home and meet this strange woman...
Life is never simple is it?

I have no idea if the person who will visit tomorrow will understand my daughters disability and vulnerableness, or if the whole assessment will be driven by quotas and we are destined to fall in the fail camp before we even begin.

I want this to be a positive experience for my daughter.  I want her to believe that she lives in a country that will value her as a person and look after and protect her.

I want to like and respect this person as they carry out their job.  However I am also aware that they will have targets.

I have no desire to be cynical, but the 'Marvin' in me warns of doom, darkness and failure.

I have looked at the criteria and I am convinced my daughter should pass part, if not all of the assessment, however nothing is certain.

All we can do is be totally honest, and present the best case and remember Marvin, and try not to be complacent.

I wonder when we will hear the outcome...?


Monday, 2 February 2015

Candlemas

Candlemas is a festival that has accompanied me throughout my life. It was the day the medical profession i.e. the local GP, predicted that I would enter the world and my fathers 40th birthday. I arrived 2 days later. My dad regularly reminded that I had chosen not to share his birthday - as if it was a choice I had deliberately made!

Being born in early February you would have thought that we would have had quite a few white birthdays. However I only ever remember one, and that was relatively recently! My father would often have a cold sunny dry day for his birthday, whereas mine just 2 days later was usually mild and rainy. How odd that this pattern should be repeated year after year!

This year Candlemas was  mainly grey and cold, with temperatures struggling to stay above zero. However, the sun did remember to appear, albeit briefly.  Today was also dedicated to window shopping - looking at furniture to see what was available...  We began by heading up the motorway network to the Swedish furniture and candle haven of Ikea.  There we discovered practical furniture, that would suffice, but lacked the 'wow' factor we were looking for.  Instead I made do with buying four under bed storage boxes - you don't need a wow factor when choosing under bed storage.  All they are required to do is fit in their intended place, as remain out of sight until required!  Despite it being Candlemas I avoided looking at any candles, as it has been pointed out how many hours of candle burning time my current stock would clock up!  I have come up with a solution to this problem, on a warmer evening when the air is still, I will place some of my candles in jam jars in the garden and enjoy their gentle glow.

After Ikea we headed off to Solihull.  In John Lewis we found the wow factor in plenty - they know how to make wood look good.  However, the price tags were not to my liking, and I have to say they were not actually as practical as the more pragmatic Swedish option.  Fortunately we do not need to make a decision yet.

This evening as a step towards reducing my candle stock, I have lit the candle in a clumsy imitation coil pot, bounty from Messy Church last month, and remembered again that it is Candlemas.
It is nearly 15 years since my Dad cracked his last jokes, but Candlemas will always be one of the days when I remember him - not in a mawkish way, for he would have detested that. Instead I will remember his....

  • humour, 
  • appreciation of word play, 
  • rejection of self important people and their hierarchies.  
  • love of the sea, 
  • the time he had to talk to children, 
  • and him dancing round the kitchen, desperately trying to cool down an over heating frying pan, rather than just turning down the gas....




This evening, as I gaze out at the snow scattered scene I wonder what the weather will be like on Wednesday...?