Go the distance – preparing properly

When we were out today we saw this circus skills training activity – low wire not the high wire!  It reminded me that proper preparation is often vital for things that can be a bit risky.   Moments before we took a picture a father was walking his daughter along the wire, holding her hand.  Most of what I do in ministry I learnt because someone held my hand or showed me the way before I had to do it on my own.  It is the way we see Jesus doing it in the gospels and while it can sometimes feel a bit frustrating practice helps is be ready for the future challenge and we don’t always know when that will come.

Friday photo – identity, identifying…

teddy hand

This teddy was living in the chaplaincy office at Birmingham Children’s Hospital when I took this picture. I don’t know if it is still there or if it has been given away. The MU make knitted teddies for the team to give to patients and they were asked to create some which were different. As you can see, this one has no hand on one of the arms – imagine how exciting it would be for a child who didn’t have a hand to see this teddy. Images are influential, when we see or don’t see us in different media it can shape our self-perception and our understandings of who or what we can be.

Wondering Wednesdays – wellbeing on the agenda?

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The definition of wellbeing below is 10 years old and from an official government publication – if only the past ten years had been spent by politicians of all parties actually looking at how they might enhance the wellbeing of all their citizens. I rarely make overt political statements on my blog but my first degree was in social policy and I studied in particular social policy in relation to children and as an election was announced yesterday I long to see manifestos which take seriously enhancing wellbeing particularly for those who are the most marginalized. The emergence of the Welfare State in the 1940s was a gamechanger for so many and I grieve so much seeing it being whittled away, the safety net getting holes in it, the hope of wellbeing for all fading as policies seem to privilege the rich over the poor at times. This is not a party political statement at all – but the outworking of theological beliefs – I grew up with verses such as this (Isaiah 1.17) learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow and was taught as a teenager that Christians should always try to make a difference in the world.

Wellbeing:
a positive physical, social and mental state; it is not just the absence of pain, discomfort and incapacity. It requires that basic needs are met, that individuals have a sense of purpose, that they feel able to achieve important personal goals and participate in society. It is enhanced by conditions that include supportive personal relationships, strong and inclusive communities, good health, financial and personal security, rewarding employment, and a healthy and attractive environment.
DEFRA. Sustainable development indicators in your pocket 2007 (London: HMSO, 2007) p 9.

Honest Christianity – when lives don’t conveniently follow the church calendar

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Many years ago at Spring Harvest, the preacher, Tony Campolo, taught on the phrase that has become almost
Easter folk law, It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming. The sermon was full of hope in the light of current difficulties or circumstances. What do we do when we don’t experience resurrection?

Most of us are personally and or personally know people that are still living in crucifixion Friday rather than resurrection Sunday. Life for them is full of sadness and loss; grief in relationships, careers, health, church etc.
the promises of new life, is still that, a hopeful promise, even still a far off one. Even today as I was dressing to get ready to go and lead an Easter Sunday Morning service at the Children’s Hospital, I was called in before I had even got there to support a family with a very poorly child. It might be Sunday but it feels like Friday. Their hope of resurrection is a literal immediate one. “He is risen, indeed, hallelujah” is a muted chant alongside the cry of lament. It is a needed truth and promise but not our only song in a strange land.

Hope is still needed today as much as it was Friday or any other day. We need compassion and patience for those whose lives don’t follow the seasons of the church. It is many times multi reasoned and complex why life is so full of desolation. We live in the hope of resurrection for ours and others circumstances but in today’s celebrations, let’s be mindful, it may not be today.

Friday photo – a little child shall lead them

Adia feet
Last night Adia washed my feet.  She helped me wash and dry the feet of the first person to come forward and then by herself washed and dried mine and the ones you can see in this picture as well as helping with others. We laughed at the way the bubbles seemed to find their way to the back of people’s feet so you had to dry them very carefully!

One of my friends, Keith White, encourages us to do theology with a child in the midst.  Last night it was not an imaginary or notional child, it was a real child (Keith always emphasises the importance of picturing a real child).  Adia served as Jesus did, with joy, in an unselfconscious way and blessed me so much. We have so much to learn from each other, and given what I do for a day job, learn from children and young people. Last night was a great intergenerational event where old, young and in between all contributed in different ways as we remembered, ate, shared, served and waited. I am so grateful to be in a church which creatively helps us to enter into the Lent and Easter story.

I did ask Mum if it was okay to post a picture!

Wondering Wednesdays – Holy Week prayer…

cuthbert prayer

This card is in my journal – it is from the Open Gate on Holy Island and the cross is from St Cuthbert’s island. Holy week is when I pray alone and together (to use a Northumbria Community phrase) every day which is unusual for me. I appreciate the coming together and the capacity to share the journey with others. It is not an easy week and I value in a new way taking it step by step so tonight it is Holy Communion with anointing as we remember the extravagant gift of the woman who anointed Jesus and the story will continue to unfold over the next few days. One of the highlights will be Saturday where we will share stories around the fire, stories that are real, that reflect all that Saturday means but which can never be without the glimpse of what is coming on Sunday.

Honest Christianity – fighting pride with sacrifice

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Whatever one thinks of the role of the Father in either allowing, needing, permitting , advocating, demanding the death of Jesus, one thing is clear, Jesus is willing to be obedient. I love thinking about the interaction of the different persons of the Trinity. OK Jesus, this is for you, Holy Spirit you’re up! Jesus’ fully human time brings us fresh and inspiring insights this week. Jesus is willing to be the accountable servant, to do what is required, tofeel liberated to comment, ask questions of the Father, but ultimately to do what it takes for humanity’s greater good.

This is our initial challenge for this week leading up to the cross and the rest of the year. Not just for the hope of resurrection and new life but for its own sake. But let’s be honest, regardless of how much Jesus knew would happen from persecution, to death, to resurrection, to ascension, we know God has been previously faithful, so we trust God again when sacrifice is required.