Friday photo – the sea remains the sea

I posted this 6 years ago and it came to mind today as I looked to find a picture and thought which encapsulated our holiday. I love being by the sea and our tidal Tamar view and it is so often a time when I feel close to God. I am blessed to be able to take such a break.

Dear Lord,
Today I thought of the words of Vincent Van Gogh “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained, and to your love I am always called back.
There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love. My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of myself as beyond the reach of your love, to remove myself from the healing radiance of your love. To do these things is to move into the darkness of despair.
O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know that there is ebb and flow but that the sea remains the sea.
Henri Nouwen

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Honest Christianity: God blame and credit

Doubting aloud
We are relaunching our “Doubting Aloud” group at Church next month. One of the issues that has been suggested is “if we give God credit, thanks and praise when things go right, well is it not logical that we give God the credit, blame when things go wrong?”

On the surface, it seems a reasonable, logical question. I am sure many of us have similar questions, I know I have continually engaged with this question, issue, hypothesis especially since I have been in chaplaincy at the Children’s hospital. Personally I want to ensure I want to praise God, give thanks to God, for God’s blessing upon my life. It has not always been clear that I have been able to discern past the obvious, what is direct, indirect, natural, consequential, good and evil. If i thank God for healing my child, then surely I hold God directly responsible for when my child is not healed or dies. Where is God, how is God involved? Good honest questions.

We are keen to engage with this issue in our first evening, but I have feeling, it could take up the next year, at least! We will keep you posted with how we get on.

For anyone local to us 7.30 11th October 2018 Old Rectory, Hodge Hill – all welcome

Go the distance – celebrating NHS @70

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It was a great privilege to be on Llewela Bailey’s Radio WM Sunday breakfast show this morning in the ‘in conversation’ slot to talk about my work as chaplain at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital. If you click on this link you can listen – it is the last 45 minutes of the show. I was asked to choose three songs and I tried to have very different songs which reflect different dimensions of the work. The first was Jess Glynne’s I’ll be there, which reflects the work of a chaplain. The second was the hymn I cannot tell which speaks of some of the mysteries of our journey and the final one was Good good father, Chris Tomlin’s song. This last song I have also chosen as part of the Songs of Praise I am speaking at on Mawley Town Farm in Cleobury Mortimer tonight. This song speaks to me about who God is in the midst of struggle. The farm is next door to the place Sally and I moved to in January 1986 when Youth for Christ located there for a period of time. It is good to catch up with old friends and to be able tho share something of the ministry I am involved in now. One of the family’s children is a long term patient of the hospital.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06b4l98

Wondering Wednesdays – alternative psalms

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Sometimes fairly random second hand books arrive through the post long after I thought I wanted them.  Sometimes I do put things in my wish list and go back to see later.  But when books do arrive I don’t always remember the source of the suggestion for looking at a book.  Today’s extract is one such book although as I read it I find the poem I read out on Easter Eve and remember again why I ordered it.  It was first published in 1981 but the writing speaks to me powerfully today as I imagine I did back then.  I sometimes get frustrated at work when people comment about how old some of the books students quote are – if they are not from the same discipline it can be hard to differentiate between classic and out of date.  This book is a classic.  It is Psalms of a Laywoman by Edwina Gateley.  The one I want to share is Let your God Love You.  I have thought a lot about God’s gaze, through my own study on shame and also in Stephen Pattison’s book Saving Face.

Be silent.

Be still.

Alone.

Empty.

Before your God.

Say nothing.

Ask nothing.

Be silent.

Be still.

Let your God

Look upon you.

That is all.

God knows.

God understands.

God loves you

With an enormous love,

And only wants

To look upon you

With that love.

Quiet.

Still.

Be.

Let your God –

Love you.

Edwina Gateley Psalms of a Laywoman Franklin:  Sheed and Ward 1999 p59

 

Honest Christianity – spiritual democracy or dictatorship

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There are so many ways in which we seek to make sense of miracle blessings and inconceivable evil. As some of you may recall, I am a big a fan of the book The Shack, and while away recently away reading, I read Randal Rauser’s reflections called Finding God in the Shack.
In one part he reflects on the thoedicy of the story.
“By the same token, God could have created creatures that could not choose evil. But instead He created free creatures with the potential for evil, recognising that ultimately the good of truly free creatures would more than offset the limited dissonance……Papa explains that ‘all evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice. If I were to simply revoke all the choices of independence, the world as you know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning’” (p109-10).
This is one of the ways in which I can at least, if not go as far as say’ng makes sense of suffering, enables me to go back to work tomorrow ready and prepared to come alongside those in some of the saddest situations life can bring and be able to say that the God of love is with and for you.

Honest Christianity – justice cannot sleep forever

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I recently watched a film based on the true story about an American slavery uprising, The Birth of a Nation . Before the film really got started, up on the screen came a quote by Thomas Jefferson:

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.

I am too tired with jetlag to do justice to this theme, but for the time being to say we trust and pray in the face of injustice that God will continue to raise up people of courage to act and speak out in the light of obvious long term grieving against humanity and our world.

Friday photo – taste and see

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This is a picture of what was laid out for us as we entered chapel for our Midlands CYM worship led by a second year student, Tonia. There were different stations to reflect and share stories in relation to aspects of food and drink in the Bible. I started at the quail and manna and she had cooked a quail which tasted wonderful and was a new experience for me.

The time, the care, the thought that went into this worship was a real blessing. I am more often leading worship than being led in worship so it is very special when I get the opportunity to just participate. The manna was particularly delicious – pistachios in it – not quite what I have always pictured the manna we read about in Exodus but a contemporary interpretation more based on what it meant perhaps than what it was. Tonia finished by leading us in a discussion where we thought about how this activity was worship and built community and then we prayed short prayers of thanks for all that God gives us. A privilege to be a part of it.

Can you guess what all the stories are from the food you can see?