Sunday, 21 February 2016

Insight

The theme of the service this morning was Darkness and Destiny.
We looked at Abram & Sarai waiting 25 years for God to fulfil his promise to them,
and I wonder how many 99 year olds would relish the prospect of giving birth
and caring for a small child.
Babies, they say, keep you young,
but surely that assumes that you are not incredibly ancient  in the first place!

In the Luke reading, Jesus was  refusing to be hurried out of the range of Herod.
He knew that Jerusalem was the place where his destiny lay.
The pharisees had his best interests at heart,
but surely 'saving' the one who is to be sacrificed would defeat the purpose of his ministry...
They have no way of knowing that.
Lets face it, even the disciples had not really understood what would happen,
even thought Jesus had told them on several occasions.

The same is true of us.
We do not hear what we do not want to hear,
and it is only with hindsight that we see understand the clues,
that were there for all to see,
if they were looking in the right places,
and with god-given insight,
not the blind vision of human preconception.

It all makes me wonder what I fail to see,
to understand,
to know,
and to ponder on how much I would be prepared to suffer...

Lent, a time of darkness, and of drawing close to God within the darkness.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Looking Forward

We began ringing again in April '14. We rounded up past members of the band, checked the bells and started to brush up our skills.  In the early weeks our arms ached, and the bells protested at the sudden disturbance to their slumbers. Then we remembered grease...

Our tower is at the junction of three associations, and close to the point where the 3 branches of our own association meet - so it feels like we are in a void. We journeyed to several other towers, but we rarely had any visitors.

We plodded on.

Learners came along, some found it wasn't what they thought it was and drifted away, others were interested but it was not the right time for them to make the required commitment. Others stayed.
After a long period when we felt that we were not making much progress, we suddenly gained learners from a variety of sources.  The tower is now full, and it is great to get to know our latest influx.

A lot of time is now taken up with basic ringing. Bell handling, rounds, call changes, plain hunt.
We do not mind. The bells are being rung and people are enjoying the practises.

This evening we had enough to ring Stedman and Bob Minor - which felt like a reward for the evenings when we rang a lot of rounds.

Progress has not always been in the ways we expected, but the does not detract from the progress made. It has just happened in different ways. God's ways.

We start each session with prayer.
Ringing is also our prayer.
A call to worship.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Sense and Nonsense

What matters?
Who matters?
When does it matter?
Who is right?
Is there one 'right', or many nuances of truth - planted with in our understanding.
or is it passed round in some random game - today I have truth, it is your turn tomorrow.
Maybe like Abram and Job, that truth is in sorrow,
or like Jonah the moaner it is best expressed in petulant outburst.
Do we thirst
for truth,
or is it let down through the roof,
flinging aside our carefully cultivated preconceptions?

I suppose
that only God know,
and when life is done
my understanding will be perfect
but it will be too late to share this news with anyone.

God has a great sense of humour,
according to the rumour
that I heard,
which spurred me on
to understanding that truth
is not all that it appears.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

21st Century Zacchaeus...

The preacher entered town,  some say he appeared from the direction of Sainsbury's, others pointed out that the old Abbey lay down that way.
As he walked up Birmingham Road, social media was buzzing...
10:29 'Spotted in the ditch' Facebook page reported
Hi Can you post this anon please.. 2 the guy with long flowing hair and a beard walking in 2 town from Enfield? yore not my type, but you have such a lovely smile and caring eyes - thanks 4 giving me a wave and letting my nan give you a big hug. Anyone no his name?
10:30 Twitter Lend me your ears Redditch #preacherintown
From nowhere, everywhere and a Diamond bus that actually makes it into town, crowds materialise...
The preacher reaches Church Green as the quarter to the hour, chimes out from the lofty steeple.
The local politician, who shall be nameless, feels their heart stirring, but they dismiss this forgotten sensation as heartburn...
The Politician is used to getting their own way and desiring to have a front row position worthy of their status, tries to break through the rows of assembled townsfolk.  However, the continued closure of the maternity ward at the local hospital is a festering sore in the hearts and minds of the local residents, who suddenly find themselves united in a desire to link arms and exclude the dastardly politician... Suddenly there is an unspoken commitment to keep the politician out of sight of the preacher, in case the politician decides to sweet talk the preacher into heading off to the county town, where better photo opportunities await....

Suddenly, some of those assembled find themselves showered with leaves, as the politician took advantage of the lifting arm of the car park barrier, and managed to elevate themselves into one of the trees around the perimeter of the green, and stowed away in a tree.
Meanwhile the tree was digging its roots in, as it had no desire to go to Worcester despite the potential of better photo opportunities....
The preacher, however, has brilliant periphery vision and spots the elevated tree hugging politician.  To the collective disgust of the crowd, the preacher makes his way over to the foot of the very tree where the politician is attempting to be a leaf...and calls out
"Politician, quick, come down! I am coming to your house for tea..."
The gathered crowd voice their collective disgust and outrage, updating their Facebook statuses as they speak..."politician steals our preacher - scum always rises to the top..."
The politician climbed down... (There is a first time for everything), stood there and said...
"In the original story I was a taxman, but I am a politician....
I would just like to take this opportunity to express my sincere regret for the occasions when I have had to consider the interests of others and myself above the needs of the town. I will vote for all services to be returned to Redditch asap...and I will invite David Cameron to come and see what a wonderful place Redditch is..."
"Steady on" said the crowd, "don't over do it!"
"Well, that worked quite well...until the end" responded the preacher, "The moral of the story is that I want you all to change!  You lot, stop being mean to your politician, because if they have read the script they will know that they must repay any wrongs 4 x , and they are going to need all the help they can get!"
"Amen" replied the crowd, and the politician.  In agreement for once.
"You see miracles can happen," said the preacher with a big smile. "even in 'the ditch' ".
Then Facebook crashed in Redditch, and Mark Zuckerberg never quite worked out why, because it didn't fit the normal pattern of algorithms on which social media depends...



Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Confession

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have wandered and strayed from your ways like lost sheep.
Yes, that is me - a two legged sheep. 
Freshly shorn as I had my hair cut last week, 
but perfectly capable of wandering of following my own desires, 
wandering into foolishness...
getting trapped of cliffs, where fear of failure paralyses me, 
and getting stuck head first into situations 
that a wiser person would have circumnavigated...  
That's me - a sheep. 
Un-baaa-lievable!

We have followed too much the devices and desires
of our own hearts.
Guilty. :(
 I either think so much that I scare myself into hypnotic inaction
or i don't think at all and blunder about...

We have offended against your holy laws.
The moral code my parents gave me, 
as guidelines for living - I fail. 
Regularly. 
Consistently.
Completely.

We have left undone those things
that we ought to have done;
You shout in my ears urging me to action, 
but I procrastinate....
Maybe I will reopens better tomorrow.

and we have done those things
that we ought not to have done;
Yet, the things you urge me NOT to do, 
I do!
With great eagerness and enthusiasm.

and there is no health in us. 
Spiritual bankruptcy looms
 - yet I am still complacent...
fool that I am.

But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us sinners.
Spare those who confess their faults.
Lord, help me to be aware of the things I do wrong, 
even those of which I am unaware...

Restore those who are penitent,
Do not let my words be empty lip-synch to familiar liturgy, 
but a cry of the heart 
from one who knows that they have messed up 
and wants to get right with you.

according to your promises declared to mankind
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I read your word, 
I claim forgiveness. 
I cannot rescue myself...
throw me a lifebelt...


And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we may live a disciplined, righteous and godly life,
Lord, help me to mature, 
and have wisdom,
ion that is not too much to ask

to the glory of your holy name.
Maybe some day someone may see a little bit of you in me, maybe...

Amen.
Please lord, let it be so.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Making Time for Memories

The sun was shining, the sky was blue...
After admiring the snowdrops at Beoley yesterday afternoon,
we were inspired to head down country
to the tiny city of Birlingham (population 325), which nestles in the crook of the Avon,
just south of Pershore -
and shouldn't be confused
with the significantly larger, and busier city situated about 30 miles to the north...




The church yard at Birlingham is planted with a swath of snowdrops, generously seasoned with purple crocuses (croci?), add a few other flowers including daffs and cyclamen.

When we arrived
the small car park beside the churchyard wall was empty
and there appeared to be only one other couple enjoying the February sunshine
in this beautiful sunny corner of Worcestershire.




By the time we had wandered around the church yard,
passed the time of day with a couple of other visitors,
and taken a the essential photos,
the car park was full
and there was a steady stream of people walking up the path...




We left them to it and headed north to our favourite pub, to celebrate our birthdays :)

Today I planned to do routine stuff - tidy the study, prepare for  Sunday, maybe do some washing...
However my husbands meetings were cancelled,
so we took advantage of the sunshine.
The tasks will still be there tomorrow, soon the spring flowers will be gone, and won't even be a memory unless we make the time.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Come Away With Me

This evening I was at St Peter's church. The readings were from Jonah Chapter 3 (a nation repents), and the Story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector Luke 18:9-14.
The talk contrasted the different attitudes of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector,
one so full of self importance and the other so aware of just how far he had fallen short of perfection.

Pondering on the difference between the two,
I had to ask myself
"How much like the Tax Collector
was I?
How much of me
is filled with my thoughts
and opinions...?
How much space is left
available for God?

It suddenly stuck me that Lent
is a time for emptying myself
of self-centredness,
so that I can make space
for the Holy Spirit
to fill me,
change me,
equip me.

As I write this
I am attempting to download
the beautiful album Rise by Jules Woodbridge,
as I want to hear the track - Come away with me,
yet have I got enough memory left on my computer?
Is there sufficient space to enable me to download and play this song?
Ironic!

Yes, and the song is a worship song, a love song.
But IF I love God,
then I need to Come Away With Him,
worship him
and allow the period of Lent to restore me.
...and that means letting go of that which I have counted as important,
and allow God to reveal to me that which He thinks is important.




Saturday, 13 February 2016

All things Great and Small

I can't do perfect.
Even if I try I will fail.

This morning we were practising.
My skills are mediocre.
I used to be much better, but time has eroded my ability,
so I must remove the dust and rust
and relearn that which I once took for granted.

I could not bother,
after all who will care?
Let's face it - any small triumph will be insignificant.
Could it change the course of history?
No.
Could it solve international disputes?
No!
Would it remove the gnawing pain of hunger
from those who do not have enough to eat?
No :(
Will it provide sanctuary for those who live in fear?
No. :(
I cannot solve those problems,
not on my own.
These are BIG BIG complex issues,
which require the will of many
to bring about resolution,
and I hope I am willing to be part of securing that change.
But God is God of the small insignificant things, as well as these larger scenarios.
A God who knows how many hairs are on my head,
and how long my finger nails are,
cares about the little things too.
By working together in the little things,
we can make the world a better place.
The big problems remain,
but solutions are built on the small insignificant things,
that may not matter much at the time,
but are part of the jigsaw of life,
to which only our creator God can see the picture.

Meanwhile we just do our bit,
and continue to take the stuff that is beyond our control,
to him,
in prayer
and await instructions.
Amen



Friday, 12 February 2016

Exploring

At the end of the day when all is quiet and still
I sit and reflect on the day that has been.
roads that we have travelled,
vistas we have seen,
buildings we have passed -
who lives in a house like that?
What is it like to be part of this community - it it close knit,
or are many people lonely?

Who travels this road day after day?
...goes to that school,
...walks along this way.
... walks their dog
down that muddy track?

Who lives in this town,
less well known that the Palace
with which it shares a name,
but not a location.
Are they grumpy,
or full of elation?
Why is the main building in the town a jail?







Why do the rivers run green?
Is it algae, or a problem upstream?
The rivers back home
when turbulent are brown,
like a cup of coffee, stirred wildly!

Is that flood supposed to be there?
Or did it just one day randomly appear,
Why does this person think I am from Guinness,
and have some insider knowledge
to the provisions for this place,
because he thinks they are a disgrace!








Why is that bird on that roof?
I really need the truth,
not some fabulous tale,
an alcohol inspired concoction,
incredible in construction.

Who lives behind the pink door?
Who chose the paint for that?
The wisteria in flower
would look stunning as it drapes its blooms artistically
Looking casual bright and floral...







And now the day is done.
Time for bed
before the dawn
creeps secretly
from the east.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Strange Flowerbed Fellows

The morning dawned frosty and glorious.
Over on the allotments, shed and greenhouse roofs sparkle
in their overnight coating of polar glitter,
Beyond the ash trees, the muddy fields are transformed into winter whiteness.






After breakfast, I sneak out into the garden. in my slippers
the air is bitter
but the ground is dry,
I will only be a minute....







Who can resist venturing out,
when the world looks so beautiful,
despite our attempts
to tame and constrain -
a paving slab here, a plant there...
We fool ourselves that we are in control,
while Mother Nature bides her time,
and unseen weaves a counter offensive of vegetation.
Guerilla germination
underground
silently sprouting in response to the call of the season.
Vigorous growth,
deep rooted
strong shooted
Mocking the frail flora of my foolishness.
Shouting "I know best!" as battalions of bind weed
and companies of couch grass
form the future resistance movement
that will run rampant through my foolish endeavours.

I try to capture the contrast of frosted petals against the shroud of leaves from the denuded oak.
However, Mother Nature prefers appreciation
to her images to be savoured in the moment,
rather than locked away in digital files
never to see the light of day ,
or night.
One minute I am admiring the flowers,
the next my view
is somewhat askew,
as I travel
from the vertical to the horizontal.
Mother Nature has the last laugh
as black ice causes me to come a cropper -
My lens cap flies across the frosty sward.
Whilst at the feet of the french doors
lies a slipper,
with no Prince Charming
appearing to claim his reward.

My lens bearing the brunt of my downfall.
Bent and broken beyond redemption.
New, only a few weeks ago.
I learn to my cost,
that Mother Nature has subtle weapons up her sleeve,
and isn't afraid to call upon Jack Frost.
Adversity produces strange flowerbed fellows
as Mother Nature wins the battle,
and undoubtably the war.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Reflecting on Ash and Gatherings on Ash Wednesday

I have discovered two separate photo projects for Lent, one organised by the United Methodists and one organised by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and being me I cannot resist attempting both!  It will be interesting to see where the journeys are different, and where they run concurrently.

The first project gave me the word 'gather' and I took a photo of part of my daughter's newly completed Christmas Where's Wally jigsaw,'    
with a multitude of Father Christmases and a very well disguised Wally, which of course my daughter spotted as she carefully added the pieces of jigsaw.  She added the final piece yesterday evening, but I waited until today to take a picture of the completed puzzle in daylight.  She made sure I didn't forget!



The second project gave me the word Ash so I included this photograph of my husband at church this evening after the service of Imposition of Ashes.  If you look closely you can see the bump where he head butted the corner of the cooker hood earlier :(







I was tempted to post this picture under 'gather'.  This is the view out of the vestry window at the Crematorium - a place where many people gather, to say farewell to those they love.  At the moment I took this picture no-one had yet arrived to gather on this cold but gloriously bright February day, but this is where they stand, and wait for the funeral party to arrive. I was there to assist with a service, which was a great honour.

In the evening we went to the parish Ash Wednesday service, which included the Imposition of Ashes, a sombre time to reflect on the purpose of Lent, and our reluctance to make costly sacrifices, when we have the option of buying our repentance, thorough donations to worthy causes.  Does our reluctance to fast diminish our charitable offerings?
Life has become more complicated :/

At the end of the service it was announced that tea and coffee would be available in the room next door, but as it was Lent, there would be no chocolate cake...
My daughter, who does not eat cake, mopped her brow, theatrically
"Phew!" she declared, before noticing the black smudge on her hand
"Oh no! What will God say when he finds out that I have wiped off my cross?"
"He already knows!" I replied.
She continued to look horrified so I pointed out that God would have expected her to wash the cross of before she went to bed.
"Why?"  
"Because otherwise you would get oil and ash all over your bedclothes, which are clean!"
Maybe she thought the cross would remain on her forehead throughout Lent...
Actually that would not be such a bad idea - an outward visible sign of repentance and a desire to draw closer to God.  Oh well, I will endeavour to live my life as a demonstration of this.
The question is, 'Will anyone notice'?