Wondering Wednesdays – the work of the Holy Spirit

We had a message on Facebook this week from a friend who described something that had happened to her and was wondering what it was. The wisdom that she was given was that it may well be the work of the Holy Spirit. The next day I was catching up with some of my reading and came across this in a journal article in Practical Theology and it reminded me again of how significant that element of my spirituality was. I will forever be grateful to a Church Army student named Graham who gave me a copy of Nine O’Clock in the Morning which set me off on a journey exploring a new dimension of spirituality for me.

Donal Dorr writes this:
To sum up, inspiration from the Holy Spirit is a share in the ‘life-breath’ of God, which comes to us as a free and unpredictable grace. Because it is truly divine we cannot express it adequately in any single phrase. We can, however, describe various ways in which it finds expression:
It often comes as a new insight or vision, or a deep understanding and wisdom, or a vivid conviction of some truth.
It frequently finds expression in a new spiritual energy, commitment, zeal, eagerness, the healing of psychological and spiritual wounds or addictions, and the bodily endurance which comes as a grace to keep one going when ordinary human resources have been exhausted.
The Spirit also inspires deep feelings and sensations such as wonder, awe, joy, sorrow, love, trust, fear, strength, fragility and hope.

Reference: Donal Dorr The Holy Spirit as Source, Power and Inspiration for Spiritual Practice. Practical Theology 10(1) March 2017 5-19.

Go the distance – evolved, natural or inadvertent resilience: not like a duck to water, but like a duck to mud


Have you every wondered why ducks (and waders) can walk on mud? It seems it is not just about web feet spreading the weight, but what ducks can or can’t feel to be able to stand in mud all day? Yesterday we went to an open day and food festival at an agricultural college in Cornwall. The photo is of the ducks and there was an accompanying information board. I am a very amateur bird watcher, and didn’t know anything of the science that keeps their feet cool so they can safely stand on ice (see http://askanaturalist.com/why-don%E2%80%99t-ducks%E2%80%99-feet-freeze/ if you are interested in this. My ministerial and theological reflection is how did ducks and birds develop web feet so they could flourish, live and feed on mud flats and what can we learn from this for our resilience when we find ourselves standing in mud?

I am not sure that we want to advocate becoming immune and not feeling things so we can get on. This does not feel very healthy or empathetic. But we do want to be able to flourish when the going is not solid underfoot. We need to be to adapt to our pastoral contexts, others maybe up to their necks in it, but that does not mean we can not look after ourselves. We can learn to build up our physical and mental resources and approaches to spend the with people without getting emotional or spiritual pneumonia.

Not like a duck to water, but like a duck to mud.

Friday photo – which cone?


It takes around an hour for me to drive to work in Nottingham and with my body getting older and creakier I go for a brief walk on arrival to ease the stiffness. One day this week I came across these two cones. One was in the middle of the road – one of may squashed by the cars that come up and down the road. The other was underneath the tree. I did a show and tell with the two cones as part of a prayer/reflection at the beginning of a meeting. I reflected that there have been times recently when I could identify with the squashed cone but that I believe in a restorative God who shows me the other cone and that in the ebb and flow of life both are part of our experience.

Wondering Wednesdays – the faceless priest

faceless priest
On Friday I was at a gathering exploring research into ministry practice. One of the presentations was on understandings of leading worship and the faceless priest was one metaphor. I cannot be a faceless priest. While I do not want to be a distraction when I lead worship to say that I am doing it as anything other than Sally for me is a denial that God called the whole of who I am. I appreciate that others have a different understanding but it has taken me many years to get to where I am now and my ordination was part of becoming who God had created me to be not an opportunity to withdraw from it. I am mindful that in the next couple of weeks friends are being ordained as deacons and as priests, my prayer for them is that the unique gift of who they are has the opportunity to flourish and that they can be a deacon or priest in a way that feels authentic, that is shaped by God not by the expectations or pressure of others.

Honest Christianity – when liberal is not liberal enough

Pilgrims steps 2
There has been another devastating event again this week with the fire in the block of flats in London. Of all the individuals and groups criticized, the local churches were not among them. Their doors, hearts, hands and pockets were open within minutes of the gravity of the situation being realised.

How sad that while this tragedy was being outplayed, a Christian declared that they had to resign because they could not see how they could reconcile their personal faith and their job. the person was Tim Farron and his job was the leader of a national political party, the Liberal Democrats. In his speech he said:
“I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in….In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.
That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.”

There is always more going on than what is seen or reported but how sad that someone who has sought to publicly serve their country and joined a party which has inclusive values and a Christian heritage, could not balance and integrity, their personal beliefs and their public role. His voting record did not seem as important as his beliefs and or struggles as a basis of being judged.

Although not on Tim’s scale, I sympathise with his dilemma. In the early days of being a NHS senior chaplain in a multicultural city, reconciling as someone from an evangelical charismatic background and leading a multi faith team and service, was not an easy place or position for me. How to hold these with integrity, transparency and consistency was a challenge and at first did not seem possible. It seemed something had to give. Did Paul help in l Corinthians
9 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 New International Version (NIV)

Through prayer, reflection and wise counsel my way forward was found in being the best Christian I can be, to love those I lead and serve. The criteria cannot be about agreeing, as we have such a spectrum of beliefs in our team but to respect and to seek to serve the wide spectrum of values and wellbeing of our patents, families, staff and reputation in our community. My own integrated consistent universal mission is to seek to live out and show the love of God with whoever I am with and in whatever I am doing. I am still trying to
work this out to Paul’s lifestyle. At the moment I am concentrating on being authentic and seeking to be and be better at, a Jesus loving Christian.

Friday photo – 31 years

Recently we celebrated 31 years of being married!  I saw this mug yesterday and it made me laugh.  While we have both tried to adapt and make changes there are still some things in each other we find annoying and I am not sure that will ever change – at least for me, Paul may be more gracious.  But we have also tried really hard to focus on the idea of different not wrong even when different does feel a lite bit annoying!

Wondering Wednesdays – the freedom in good enough

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I am a big fan of Donald Winnicott’s concept of ‘good enough’. Originally he wrote about it in relation to parenting – before I was even born (hence the picture). But it has been used in many different contexts since then. The link at the bottom of the blog is to a short article using the term in relation to doctors. At first I found the idea a bit odd as medicine is an area where we tend to think about wanting the best not just what is good enough. This is the concluding paragraph which I am still mulling over but think I have seen in other fields including my own…
Good enough is not mediocrity. It has to do with rational choices as opposed to compulsive behaviour. The good enough approach is a way to drive ongoing improvement and achieve excellence by progressively meeting, challenging, and raising our standards as opposed to driving toward an illusion of perfection. A best practices approach to any endeavour is to start with good enough and raise the bar to achieve excellence—because being an excellent doctor should not
compromise a good enough personal life.