Wondering Wednesdays – giving and receiving

Sunday was the beginning of Advent. However, my yummy Malteser advent calendar sent by a lovely friend thinks Advent starts on Thursday, December 1st! I preached on Sunday and talked about giving and receiving amongst other things as one of the things we are doing at Hodge Hill is having a series of 6 Fruitful Conversations looking at different discipleship themes.

One of the things I talked about is how many of us find receiving quite hard, I have a temptation to want to reciprocate and my first thought was what can I send this friend. I then remembered what I had shared and would acknowledge that we send each other things at different times and it is not a take it in turns thing as she has sent me two parcels in a row! But there’s a bit of me that finds that hard! But we all have seasons in life where where we have more of a need to receive than give and others where we are thriving and have an abundance we can give out of.

Maya Angelou suggests that “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed”. But it can be quite challenging to do either or both of those things at times. I also shared a litany Joyce Rupp wrote, I love her honesty in it, our attitude to giving and receiving can be quite contextual:

When I am asked to go the extra mile and then some

I give generously , I receive gratefully

When I listen to an endless talker with my full attention

I give generously , I receive gratefully

When I open my mind to set aside judgement and bias

I give generously , I receive gratefully

When I turn toward a difficult person I prefer to ignore

I give generously , I receive gratefully

When I take a big risk and speak out for justice

I give generously , I receive gratefully

When I accept another’s help even though I can do it myself

I give generously , I receive gratefully

When I allow my self to be vulnerable instead of being strong

I give generously , I receive gratefully

When I let others take over rather than needing to be in charge

I give generously , I receive gratefully

When I listen to affirmations about the worth of who I am

I give generously , I receive gratefully

I wonder what you would write where the response is I give generously, I receive gratefully…. ?

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Wondering Wednesdays – the art of being

I discovered Morgan Harper Nichols on Instagram and love the poetry. This has resonated recently…

Amidst all the pressure

to keep going and keep going,

may you also take time to learn the art of being;

being Loved,

being Held,

being Seen,

being in the Presence

of the One

who calls you

to rest.

This has been a year of learning these insights at a deeper level, many things have conspired for me to see that I am called to rest. I have a very deep Protestant Work Ethic and too often think about what I could be doing or even should be doing. It is helpful to be reminded that I am called to rest.

Wondering Wednesdays – blessing from the dark wood

I tend to revisit books and this week Eric Elnes Gifts of the Dark Wood came back to my attention. He finishes the book with a blessing which seems particularly apt for me at the moment with all sorts of things going on which are challenging in different ways:

May the Spirit of the Living God Made known to us most fully within life’s Dark Wood: Go before you to show you the way; Go above you to watch over you; Go behind you to push you into places you may not necessarily go yourself; Go beneath you to uphold and uplift you; Go beside you to be your strong and constant companion; And dwell within you to remind you that you are surely not alone, And that you are loved – loved beyond your wildest imagination. And may the fire of God’s blessing burn brightly Upon you, and within you, Now and Always. Amen.

Wondering Wednesdays – prioritising convalescence

I have spent over a week with a really bad cold/flu that isn’t Covid. Paul has it too. I have friends who have had accidents or illness recently diagnosed. I am still being asked about my broken shoulder and still have a hospital appointment to sign it off.

One of the books I read while I was struggling with my lack of capacity to work was Recovery by Gavin Francis, a GP. In his conclusion. he writes this:

So give time, space and respect to convalescence if you can. It is an act that we need to engage in, giving of ourselves; a work of effort and endurance, and to a certain extent of grace. Charge your environment with as much as you’re able to of space, light, cleanliness, greenery, quiet. Remember that healing isn’t a game of snakes and ladders: with each movement towards and away from health we have more than dice to guide us, and with every cycle of boom and bust we gather experience that will help us next time. Learn a new language of the body and listen to it with care… Take care who you listen to, because ideas and expectations are as powerful as drugs and poisons.

I am such a slow learner with this and trying to listen to my body and do what I have energy for and not being too optimistic!

Wondering Wednesdays- picking herbs

Where would you least expect to see a sign like this? Until I saw it a hospital might have been one of my answers!

What a good use of communal space, beneficial for staff and visitors. How often do you need just a little bit of flavour in something and if you don’t have any buying a pot can feel such a waste! If indeed that is possible to do anyway.

I wonder what would happen if I moved the herb pot in my front garden nearer the gate and added a sign! Not sure it will happen but perhaps I need to think why.

Wondering Wednesdays – 9 types of silence

Paul Goodman in Speaking and Language talks about 9 types of silence. In what feels like a really noisy world at the moment I perhaps have the radio on too much and would benefit from greater periods of silence during the day. I sometimes want noise to block out my tinnitus but those first few moments when I get up and the house is silent is perhaps my most peaceful time of the day. These are his 9:

the dumb silence of slumber or apathy;
the sober silence that goes with a solemn animal face; 
the fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul, whence emerge new thoughts;
the alive silence of alert perception, ready to say, “This… this…”; 
the musical silence that accompanies absorbed activity;
the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear;
the noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination, loud and subvocal speech but sullen to say it;
baffled silence;
the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos.

What is your favourite type of silence?

How might you build in more silence in your life?

Wondering Wednesdays – support phone!

We were teaching at Newman University on Saturday anad this phone was in the lecture room. I had never seen anything like it!

I am not sure which ones were working on Saturday, hopefully security but how great for students to be able to access support in a straight forward way. I wonder if we could completely re label it what we would add?

Newman are offering a make yourself a simple free breakfast Monday to Friday too because they understand the importance of being fed to focus on study.

Sad how much practical support is needed in a society where there should be plenty to go round for everyone. When will we become a fairer and more just world?

Wondering Wednesdays – walking forward

I use the BRF book of 365 Bible reflections at the moment and as always with these things some are so apt.

Margaret Silf, in writing about Jesus and Mary in the garden in John 20, says this:

‘Don’t hold on to what has been and all you think you have lost’ we might hear him say, ‘but walk forward, with me, to everything that is still to be, for you too, like Mary, have seen me and known me’.

Yesterday we were at a retirement lunch for a colleague and inevitably conversation on the table turned to what might be next as several people there were in times of transition as well. Sometimes all we can do is see faithful to the next step, the piece of light we have. I wish we knew more of what happened to Mary Magdalene after this garden encounter, I wonder what the rest of her life looked like. I wonder how she walked forward?

Saturday sees the start of a new academic year for our PGCert in Paediatric and Maternity Chaplaincy, more people taking the next step, some transitioning into a new expression of their vocation. We will walk forward together as a group, companions on a journey of learning together.

Wondering Wednesdays – what difference did it make?

So often I only know a part of a whole, that is true of Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken. I really only know the line which talks about choosing the path less traveled by. What fascinates me reading the whole thing is the final verse where I knew only the last two lines:

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.

When we look back at our decisions, are we telling the story with a sigh or a smile? Reading this I wonder if the difference has been positive and negative. On reading just the two lines it sounds so positive to me. But when I read the word “sigh” earlier in the verse, I wonder.

Making choices can be difficult and challenging but can make a significant difference. I try not to have regrets and live with my choices but some of my choices I make very carefully. I am mindful of trying to follow where God is guiding but sometimes I have a sense that I can choose either option. I have written before about not having a plan a, b, c, d etc theology and believe that free will means I have choices. But I also want to make choices that enable me to fulfil my calling and become more of who I believe God created me to be. Perhaps not everyone understands those choices or agrees with them but I need to live with them and hope that more often than not I will be talking of those choices with a smile.

Wondering Wednesdays – pieces of puzzles

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I am reading through the final edit of a book I have co-written on liberating learning. This struck me:

                        ‘Everyone carries with them at least one and probably

                        Many pieces to someone else’s puzzle.

                        Sometimes they know it.

                        Sometimes they don’t.

                        And when you present your piece

                        Which is worthless to you,

                        To another, whether you know it or not,

                        Whether they know it or not,

                        You are a messenger from the Most High.’[1] 

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

I love this metaphor, we get all sorts of insights, encouragements, solutions, support and so much more from others. Sometimes we do not realise it at the time but they offer a piece of a puzzle which we are grappling with or which we are not even aware of. Our interconnectedness to one another is something I only grow in awareness of and am so grateful for those pieces of my puzzle that I have received from so many.

[1] Kushner, L. (1977). Honey from the Rock: Visions of Jewish Mystical Renewal. New York: Harper and Row.