I took this photograph this week as I left home early in the morning for work. The combination of the web and the dew caught my eye, so much beauty and intricacy that happened by both intention and chance. The beauty of their creations means that I admire spiders, I don’t particularly like them but I don’t get freaked by them like I do when a mouse appears. There are so many connections I can make looking at this picture but perhaps the thing I want to take away today is the connectedness of life and the blessings of what seem like quite random connections at times. I had a brief conversation with someone I had never met about metaphors and chaplaincy – uplifting, hopefully for both of us.
Last night I was driving home from work thinking about my blog for today. I was listening to Simon Mayo and the phrase “dried up dreams” leapt out at me from Simon’s interview with John Sopel. The context was a book John has written about Trump’s America and why he gained power and he seemed to be saying it was something about giving people hope and the capacity to dream again. Apologies if I have misrepresented anything here, the driving conditions were awful and i was concentrating hard on the road. And sometimes what I hear isn’t what has been said as my mind goes off on a tangent!
The phrase resonated with me as over the years I have had to face dried up dreams in different ways and that can be a very hard place to find yourself in. However, with God’s grace, I have been able to move beyond them and find new dreams or a reshaped dream or to quote a more positive Bruce Springsteen song than the one played in the interview (Youngstown) I have had the capacity to be “working on a dream”.
Many years ago Sally and I went on separate trips with Youth for Christ and Tear Fund. We each were a part of teams that took about 20 British young people and spent a month with the same number of young people in their country . Sally went to Brazil and i went to India. For me it was a life changing experience as we explored what was the Gospel through the perspective, experience, understanding of each other’s culture. What we thought was a universal given, was a cultural perspective.
On TV this week there will be a programme seeking to achieve similar objectives. The difference is these 2 girls live in the same city and go to the same college. As you can guess from the title, the girls are from different cultures. As one covered her hair in public, the other made the most of hers as her ‘best asset’ and could not imagine wanting to cover it. As we will see as they discover their differences, they also find surprisingy similarities and common interests.
As our local communities through to national securities and insecurities ebb and flow, at least some of the way forward must be to at least try and see these issues, problems, grievances, threats, through the eyes of the other.
As many of us have realised, to many others, we are the other , not the norm.
We saw this stained glass window on holiday when it was so much easier to resonate with the Mary role. Now I am back at work I need to resist being too much the Martha in this story although that is not an easy task for me sometimes when there seems to be a multiplying to do list. I am posting this to remind myself that sitting and spending time with Jesus is a good thing to do and that when I do that some of the other stuff gets put into better perspective.
So many different ways to think of this picture! Most of us when growing up would know which of these was actually true. But perhaps it was contextual depending on what it was you wanted. I said to someone on Sunday that I was at church in part because I grew up with the if you were not well enough to go to school you couldn’t magically recover and go out later!
I have this slight conflict sometimes when I am not sure who is being seen – scary Sally or soft Sally – I don’t think either are true descriptions of me but I can’t always control the perception of others! Rules can be funny things and we can make them up to suit us or choose which interpretation we like best or challenge them if we don’t think they are just or right. There are times when rules are really just oughts we impose on ourselves and need to think through a little bit more and try to find out where they originate from. There are also rules which are useful boundaries which help us stay safe, for example or which help communities to co-exist together in relative harmony.
One of the things I learnt in my research on shame is the way that rules are sometimes used to seek to impose compliance, more usually over cultural not theological issues. Those are the sort of rules which need challenging and which can give a negative perception of what it means to follow Jesus.
We have both been immensely blessed by being able to travel to the USA to gatherings of the Pediatric Chaplains’ Network. To be able to be part of such a supportive community of practice is something I don’t take lightly. As different tragedies have taken place so messages are sent and prayers mobilized and you know that you are not alone in whatever it is you are facing. I joined those responding and we are praying particularly for Jessica and James, the local chaplains we know best, but also for all the emergency responders along with some family friends of Sally’s. This is the prayer that one of the chaplains forwarded for those facing Hurricane Harvey:
In times such as these it is hard to know exactly what to pray – but being aware of God’s presence and peace is one I use a lot.
If I were to make a long list of things I wouldn’t expect to find in a Chapel then quail’s eggs should surely be on it! Each summer Birmingham Children’s Hospital does a project over the school holidays, this year it is these amazing eggs which are being incubated in the hope that they will hatch and they will then spend a week in the Chapel before going to a good home!
There are all sorts of activities associated with the project – a quiz, making quails, a quail mask, story of God providing manna and quails in the wilderness etc, egg and spoon races (not with the real eggs though!). As I was in there yesterday a couple of children came in drawn but the posters around the hospital. The eggs evoke curiosity and wonder and provoke conversation about many different things. A sign of new life in the Chapel, perhaps an emblem of hope and an opportunity to reflect on fragility, growth, the vagaries of nature and many other things. It is great being part of such a creative team!
I wore my sticker with pride for the rest of the day! I look forward to hearing some of the stories of what the chaplaincy team get up to with this!