One of the most wonderful elements of a trip to California six years ago was seeing giant redwood trees. This one we saw on Sunday and is not quite in the same league but evokes the same feelings of how the passing of time can change a perspective. I can’t imagine what these trees would have seen in a place where different people lived and died and celebrated and lamented and did all those things which make up our lives. Summer is giving me the opportunity to reflect and as I work towards my two weeks holiday I am looking forward to some time and space and a different rhythm.
Yesterday I got to the first part of a conference on Researching the Church of England at Aston University. This picture is from the first keynote by (Rev Dr) Susannah Snyder on Refugees, Arts and the Church of England. I have a few notes from the session which I am pondering on – mostly I didn’t get the name of who the idea originated with so apologies for that – sometimes my brain is pondering something that has been said rather than keeping up with the next bit!
Arts and prophetic or radical amazement.
Arts as a counter to moral distance – arts create an echo in our head which will not go away.
Art as prophetic imagination – anticipation of the shalom that awaits us.
These pictures are of an installation called Critical Mass by Eve Mileusnic – there are feet in different size and shapes representing the movement of people and things and on different days she arranged the feet differently. The visual impact gave people time to reflect and as one person observed the outside world and church world came together.
I am not always a visual learner which is one of the reasons I post a photo each Friday as it means I am paying attention to the environment but I appreciate the capacity of the arts to connect with the emotions and the spirit in a way that words do not always seem to. Thank you God for artists.
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.
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.
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.
Joyce Rupp’s writing has been immensely nourishing for me and this post in her most recent newsletter seems most apt for the week of Pentecost. I sometimes pray for whatever fruit I feel I need most on a particular day, this reminds me that I need to do that more often.
Activating the Fruits of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Come, Spirit, assure us that the turbulent animosity and violence of this era can be lessened when we choose to express your love
in all we are and all we do.
Come, Spirit, plant an emergent joy in the hearts of those who
seek relief from the despondency of drug dependency and thoughts of suicide.
Come, Spirit, weave your peace through leaders of nations whose governance supports and encourages domination and superiority over other human beings.
Come, Spirit, slow us down when we lack patience to be with those persons whose pain and sorrow would benefit from our compassionate presence.
Come, Spirit, soothe our soreness of mind and heart with surprising touches of kindness that restore our ability to be
caring and considerate of others.
Come, Spirit, open our hands and hearts to go beyond a fear of scarcity, to share generously from what might be of assistance to those in need.
Come, Spirit, draw back home to faithfulness anyone who has strayed from vowed commitment and become lost in the illusion of self-centeredness.
Come, Spirit, awaken those who consider gentleness of heart as a weakness; help them see how this virtue reflects your grace-filled, transforming strength.
Come, Spirit, tame our sanctimonious voices with self-control when we get caught in judgmental opinions filled with haughty condemnation.
Rushing Breath of Love, you came into the Upper Room of the disciples long ago, calming their fears, encouraging their vision, and enlivening their ability to be people of valor, compassion and healing.
You come into the Inner Room of our lives today, offering us this same transforming love. Open what is closed within us. Breathe renewed confidence into our fatigued spirits. Send us forth with a passionate desire to be conveyors of your goodness, messengers of unconditional love by the way we think, speak and act. Amen.
I bought a pair of Vans shoes today, given the shop I bought them in I assume that it is a fashionable brand but I have no idea. I have never been Joe Cool. I never really had the attributes to be Joe Cool and I am not sure I ever aspired to be Joe Cool. I have never enjoyed being the centre of attention and generally have been more of a fade into the background type of person. That doesn’t mean I don’t love the different up front roles I have – but they are vocational, they are who God has called me to be and they don’t really require me to be Joe Cool although I do see a little of that in some of the cultures I inhabit. My shoes have all sorts of Peanuts characters on – not fully sure what they will go with but I have loved Peanuts since a young child and so admire Charles Schulz as someone who gave so much to his community and created characters people like me could identify with. At different times I can see how I have draw solace from seeing things I have experienced or felt in Peanuts, I have felt more normal and that has been so important. So I will wear my shoes with great delight remembering how Charles Schulz communicated his faith through his cartoons and lived out his values in his community.