“Our experience of mystery comes in all the variations of our longing for something better, something different, deeper, more abiding than we know and have only glimpses and inklings of in our life in this world. Our experience of mystery is what Augustine called the restlessness of our hearts until they find their rest in God”. Ted Loder.
Mystery can be both engaging and frustrating! We often look for answers we can’t find, wonder why life isn’t different…
Most of the time I have a deep inner peace from God that means I know God walks with me through the mystery or in the mystery. I don’t often expect answers and realise I need to live more easily with contradiction.
So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God, one of which was you. Mary Oliver (So every day from Red Bird)
Yesterday was our 36th Wedding Anniversary, the photo is from our meal out. If you know us in real life you are aware that we are quite different in lots of ways although we are now both Reverend Doctors which is quite fun when you see post arrive! Being quite different means that it can sometimes be challenging to work out the best way to do life together and frustrations can occur on both sides. We have jokey conversations about which one of us in the luckiest!
I love this quotation from the poet Mary Oliver. So many of her phrases are so evocative and this is perhaps one which resonates with me the most. As I read it I imagine so many scenes where we have been together, so many places which cry forth the ideas of God.
But I remember too many others who have accompanied me a long the way, who I have learnt from, who have encouraged me, who have been present for me at difficult times. I am not the greatest at communicating my appreciation, it is easier in writing than verbally sometimes. But today it is a focused thank you to Paul who has accompanied me through a couple of more stressful years than usual culminating in the broken shoulder where I was helpless for a while.
Who comes to your mind when you read this line from Mary Oliver?
I saw this beautiful waterfall yesterday, swollen by all the recent rain. Roar is an apt word to describe the noise it made. Ezekiel 43.2 suggests God’s voice is like the roar of rushing waters and again I have experienced a closeness to God in nature. The wildness and power of the water was overwhelming and helped me experience the glory of God in a Devon garden.
I took this photo yesterday morning on my arrive at work walk to free my body and mind after an hour in the car. I love dawn, it is my favourite time of the day, the stillness and calm, the birds singing and the emerging light. At this time of year you can see the wood not the trees, the structure and beauty of the often hidden shape emerges. I am spending time praying for clarity over different things at the moment, I am a big picture person and like to see the structure before the detail. There is so much I can connect with on my little walks and God speaks to me in the every day. It helps keep me rooted.
One of the activities Paul’s team has been doing at the hospital is personalizing wooden tree decorations that are displayed at a local church Christmas tree festival. One of the things I noticed about the way that Ruth decorated the tree was that real feelings about Christmas were easy to see, not just the positive ones saying things such as the best time of the year. I am mindful that many people find Christmas difficult but cannot always find places where it is safe to express that in a way that is helpful. At Christmas we celebrate a God who became fully human, experienced the sort of range of emotions that we do and who came to be Emmanuel, God with us and is with us through the sort of feelings expressed in this picture even when we don’t feel it.
Yesterday we had out annual meal with Keith White and after a little miracle in a tunnel on the A38 with the clutch we joinwd Paul for a meal. We have shared aspects of our lives for several years now and one of the best parts of my clergy training was my placement at Millgrove which he and his wife Ruth run together. One of the most interesting parts of the conversation was around trauma. All of our lives are touches by it and I know from a quick look at social media that I have traumatized friends this morning. I had not really considered before the Good Samaritan as a trauma story, it was he who met the traveler at their time of trauma, not those you might expect to. The context was partly Paul’s chaplaincy setting and the connection that sometimes exists over years between the staff member who was there at the crucial time. Trauma studies are growing in prominence and it is an area I want to read more about but I am aware that I experienced God positively in a very traumatic event which is not true for all but another time my faith took a bit of a bit and there are tendrils which still reach out from that time which can catch me unawares. I pray for hope this morning, hope we can hold on to.
I took this photograph on holiday last week. We were wandering through a forest on Dartmoor with this amazing canopy of trees. While it doesn’t quite compete with the giant redwoods we have seen in California it helps me get a sense of the greatness of God and the smallness of me. I mean that in a healthy way as opposed to a woe is me way. It was a nurturing walk as I felt sheltered more than I felt lost given the lack of connection which rendered Google maps useless!
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.
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.
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
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.