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.
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books students quote are – if they are not from the same discipline it can be hard to differentiate between classic and out of date.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.
Before your God.
Let your God
Look upon you.
That is all.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.
Let your God –
Edwina Gateley Psalms of a Laywoman Franklin: Sheed and Ward 1999 p59
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.
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.
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?
There was a very stimulating reflection in my daily reading book this week. Its source was what was described as Ignatius’ most famous prayer, called the Suscipe:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast give all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me, Thy love and Thy grace for this is sufficient for me. (Spiritual Exercises 234)
The application of this prayer was
“In it we give God the only things he doesn’t have- our freedom, our intellect, our memories , our very selves”. I am not sure this is how I would answer this question, what is it that I have that God does not? My free will, freedom if you wish, my focus, my purpose, practical things like my time, money are not always given. I could certainly do with giving to God all the crap I continually pick up and carry around!
I find it interesting to think of God being complete and perfect but not having everything ! I have previously given my life to God, but I am sure he does not have it all, all the time.
October 13th entry an Ignatian book of days.
Our psalm for our Psalm Sunday communion reflection today was psalm 46, God is our refuge. As we discussed it over breakfast, (yes I know, very civilised) my mind went to our retreat the previous week. As usual we walked the pilgrims’ way. Over the last few years we have noticed that a few of the marker posts were missing. This year there were even more and also some rot damage to the shelters. Some of the rungs on the ladders were gone and in the one we went up into for lunch, there was damage to the floor. How long will it all last without serious repair? Whose responsibility are they?
When we think about what are the marker posts and refuge shelters in our lives, this
observation begs the question, which ones need some repair, what ones have been worn
out in the wear and tear and storms of life?
Whatever they are, I suspect it is my responsibility to check and oversee repairs. God is my refuge, but some of the resources God has given me, are less perfect.