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.
This weekend we have continued to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary by making a
Coracle together at the Mercian Centre in Leicestershire. For those who have not come across one, a coracle is a small round shallow boat in the style that would have been used for the adventures of the early Celtic church. We started saturday morning with a pile of of wood, some nails and a sheet of canvas and today we brought home a boat! We are looking forward to getting it finished by covering it in bitumen and getting out on the water in Cornwall.
As we reflect on 30 years of marriage and ministry the adventures and risks with God, in Worcestershire and Birmingham, with YFC, having an open home with an extended family, training, ordination (x2), CYM, church and chaplaincy, writing etc, our coracle is an indication and commitment that the adventure continues. We want the next 30 years (or however many!) to continue to be led by the Holy Spirit, life is still an adventure, we are still learning about one another, God and so many different things. Learning to paddle a coracle will be just one more!
I can’t really imagine what it must be like having a sick child. My Mum has talked a little bit about me as a child when it looked like I was seriously ill – I think my aversion to having blood taken comes from then. However, I did some editing on this book and it has so many experiences from families in it that I am getting a little bit of a glimpse of what it must be like. Rachel who wrote this book has experience as a chaplain, a local church priest and being the mother of a child who gets to go to hospital regularly. It is a helpful book for people in pastoral teams to read or for families who have a sick child to give to friends or relatives to help them get a fresh perspective on the situation.
These are a selection of the quotations:
Living over a prolonged period of time with a child with a disability impacts your hopes and dreams of family life, your independence, your marriage. Living with unfolding loss at different ages and stages in painful. Finding pace to process ongoing loss is needed, understanding this is important.
We have to look after ourselves in order to help our daughter and grandson. Part of that is getting used to several ‘new normals’ along the way. Great advice because it gave us permission to share out our time at the hospital and not fee guilty. We didn’t both have to be there all day everyday.
Ongoing care through eg a caring text message of support with reasonable frequency can be very encouraging. Don’t ask lots of questions in it, or expect a reply, just offer care eg Thinking of you as you continue to care so faithfully, Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.
One lady made our family a beautiful prayer quilt which had pockets on it. Those who prayed had written prayers and words of encouragement and put them into the pockets. It was such an incredible gift to our baby and to us and we returned time and again to those pockets to remind ourselves of God’s promises and the support we had.
There are also lots of practical ideas in the booklet and sections on schools, the wider community, ideas for prayers and resources which are helpful.
The booklet is available from Birmingham Children’s Hospital Chaplaincy £5 – http://www.bch.nhs.uk/cpsc