Honest Christianity – blessing to participation in the Kingdom

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We used this blessing at the end of our harvest cafe church this morning. I don’t think I have come across it before and was particularly struck by some of the imagery. It seems earthy and honest:

Be a gardener.
Dig and ditch,
toil and sweat,
and turn the earth upside down
And seek the deepness.
And water the plants in time.
Continue this labour
and make sweet floods to run
and noble and abundant fruits
to spring
Take out with you what you have received here
and carry it to God
as your true worship

Be a gardener, Julian of Norwich
Return Blessings p.117

I thought it was a great way to end a service and I sensed an equipping to get on with doing good. I find gardening, pruning, planting sowing metaphors helpful in exploring how my faith and service can grow, they engage and focus me. I think it is because they are natural, therefore organic to how nature works. What metaphors work for you?

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Friday photo – creativity and community

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I was delighted yesterday to be working form home – unusual for a Thursday – as this gave me the opportunity to go with a friend to the Real Junk Food Kitchen lunch that is part of the community work in our parish and part of a wider initiative https://trjfpbrum.com/.

I love the creativity of the project where those who are cooking see what food turns up and devise a menu from it. You can turn up and have a three course meal and pay what you feel or can afford. It was a wonderfully eclectic group there yesterday and the room was buzzing with chatter. The volunteers create a welcoming and hospitable atmosphere and the quality of the food is great! You also get the chance to buy some groceries that would otherwise be discarded by major supermarkets. I came home with avocados – a real treat! I also came away full of admiration for the volunteers who work so hard to make a hospitable community space where people can gather and be fed. It is such a blessing.

Wondering Wednesdays – with suspicious minds

I took this photo on Monday on my way to a CYM Board meeting. I am conflicted going to London. The title of this blog is from an Elvis song – we can’t go on together are the words that precede it. On the underground I suddenly realised I was standing by what looked like an unattended suitcase. I don’t like the suspicion that goes through my mind for what is a regular sight – someone travelling sits in an end seat rucksack on their lap and case alongside but design makes it look detached. I can’t stop the instinctual feeling but I don’t like it. How do we go on together with suspicious minds? And what is the difference between suspicion and caution? Do they look different? Do they feel different? I am at least mindful of my assumptions and prejudices and can choose to act differently but I am sad that things have happened that have planted those seeds of suspicion and am immensely grateful for colleagues and friends who plant seeds of hope and offer a different narrative.

Honest Christianity – no rules life

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This morning I was doing my first storytelling in our children’s group at church. I was looking forward to it but would have preferred a different story to start this opportunity. We are doing a series on Exodus and it was the story of God giving Moses the 10 commandments in Exodus 20. As I chatted to a children’s worker at work she told me they often used the idea of no rules sports to help show the usefulness and essential need of rules. Given several of the kids are seriously into football (soccer to those in the US), we started the session with a discussion on how useful rules are to them on the pitch. One of the lads eloquently demonstrated this with an imitation of a studs up sliding tackle on someone! Fortunately there were no studs and no contact but as they had a go at no rules football they, they enthusiastically thought how much fun this will be with no rules! the game quickly begun to resemble rugby, one of the lads came up from the bottom of the pile, realising first hand why his favourite game was better played with rules. I thanked him for his sacrifice in illustrating our point of how useful most rules are for our wellbeing, safety and how life best works for us .

Friday photo – young and crazy

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Wise is a word people use about me sometimes, I don’t always feel it. There are times when the young and crazy still seems there. I think it would be fair to say that people don’t always see the craziness but although I am ageing chronologically there are so many times when I feel as I did when I was in my teens. A piece of music can evoke it or a smell or a memory. So as we go into the weekend I am looking forward to those moments and glimpses of the young and crazy Sally as I spend a lot of my week being old and wise!

This post may in part have been inspired by booking tickets to see one of my long ago favourites, in part to hear him sing “A long, long time ago, I can still remember…”

Wondering Wednesdays – Las Vegas – a chaplain’s response

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I am posting this message from Lavender Kelley, the President of the American Pediatric Chaplains Network, as it offers far more eloquently that I can a perspective on the tragedy in Las Vegas:

We are pained by the tragedy in Las Vegas and send our prayers and healing intentions to all the victims, their families, first responders, and healthcare providers.

We are especially aware of the spiritual and emotional impact that such an event can have on the children in our lives—children of the victims of this terrible shooting, both directly and indirectly, as well as children that hear about these events in the media and wonder about how it affects themselves, their family and friends, the world around them and how it affects what they believe about the Holy and humanity. Truly, this incident is one that will have ripple effects far into the future. All of us will be touched in some way because of the insidiousness of gun violence and the way it breeds hopelessness. Unfortunately, we have witnessed this on a daily basis in too many places. Moreover, this tragedy comes at a time in our country when communication and support have grown increasingly difficult because of social and political polarization. Yet, it is in the midst of that pain and hopelessness that chaplains must bring light.

Our answer must be to hold on.

We must hold onto one another, hold onto hope, hold onto relationships, and hold onto love. We must make our arms wider and help others learn to hold on as well. Our faith practices and calling as a chaplain compel us to this. We must tend to one another so that we can return to our work full of vitality.

While I am not a chaplain, I resonate with this final paragraph, there are many other tragedies at the local personal or community level as well as more nationally and globally.  We need hope and we need to learn more about how we help each other hold on.

Honest Christianity – allowing time and space for despair

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I am a big fan of the film Four weddings and a funeral (I love most of the films actually, see what i did there!) Watching that film was the first time I came across W H Auden’s poem, Funeral blues or otherwise know as its first line, stop all the clocks.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

When I heard it eloquently read I was struck by its honesty. It does not say to me, lack of faith and hope, but this loss, this death is crap! In much of my bereavement support, I seek to give space, if not permission, to dwell for a time in the reality of tragedy. Hope of eternal life, a new next life without pain and suffering may be celebrated in time, but this is only one reasonable response in the grief and loss of love and presence of a loved one. In faith, hope as well as compassion and graciousness, let us take death seriously on all fronts, remembering in the words of a bereaved parent,”it’s not your loss to make sense of, it’s mine”.