We drove for miles up this little road in California, deep into the forest to find a monastery with a little shop selling things to support the ministry of the nuns there. This is one of the things I bought. I am sometimes distracted, my head full of things I need to be doing and I am not always as fully present as I would like to be. I regret this as it means I don’t always do these smallest things which make such a difference when someone does them to me.
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books students quote are – if they are not from the same discipline it can be hard to differentiate between classic and out of date.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
A selfie with my friend Liz Dumain who is one of the Assistant Directors of Mission in the Diocese of Birmingham as we wait for the launch of the love your neighbour campaign this morning. See https://www.loveyourneighbour.org/ for full details and to order posters like the one Liz is holding. This is the introduction from the website:
Over many generations people have made Birmingham their home, built it up and found they can belong here. Birmingham is a great city because of its diversity but we cannot take that diversity for granted… We cannot love our neighbour if we do not know our neighbour, understand them and their culture, faith and identity. We all need to build friendships that cement our city together, crossing those differences that can become barriers such as age, social background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and faith – working for peace alongside all people of goodwill.
We must meet hate with love, confusion with hope, anger with peace and fear with joy.
The ‘love your neighbour’ campaign is owned by us all and seeks to draw people together and to believe the very best for our city and region.
It is rare for work to be flexible enough to get to things which are announced with less thsn 24 hours notice but I am very grateful that I was able to be at the launch of this today and to see a diverse group of people gathering together to say we need to love one another and show kindness towards one another.
I have taken a poster into our local cafe and asked them to display it and Hodge Hill Church will have a banner outside as soon as we can get one although it is a message we have been trying to communicate for a long time!
Love your neighbour, do something kind – a message for all times and all places, not just Birmingham.
Did you ever play loves me, loves me not with daisies when you were young? There were always far too many petals on daisies to fix it to get the right answer! That is why we love this cartoon of David Hayward’s so much – no ambiguity here! This is our 250th post and we wanted to mark it by sharing one of our favourite images. Sally used it the first time she preached at Hodge Hill Church and gave out magnets which she occasionally sees on fridge doors! I have it on a postcard at the hospital and use it as part of our spiritual care activities.
There is perhaps nothing more life-enhancing than knowing that we are loved unconditionally by God. Sadly, many of us will have grown up hearing a message that God’s love is conditional – if we do or don’t do… fill in the blanks for yourself! It was often not said in quite that way but we somehow picked up the idea that it was the case.
As we have journeyed in ministry we have become more aware of the need of two things – to believe this message for ourselves and for it to be the essence of what we share with others. If we know and live in the truth of God’s unconditional love that can be helpful in having healthy relationships where we don’t expect or need to receive all the affirmation we may want from a particular person or ministry setting. God never loves us not…
“Are people born Wicked? Or do they have Wickedness thrust upon them?” is the question that comes at the opening of the musical Wicked which we saw last week. The author of the musical suggests the latter I think. Elphaba – the green witch (who becomes the wicked witch of the west in the Wizard of Oz according to this musical), is misunderstood, the object of prejudice based just on her appearance – she is green! Many of us will have struggled with people who make value judgements about us with just one look or a very short encounter, it may be appearance, it may be our clothes, the place we are, the team we support or one of a myriad of things. We have probably also all done this too – made snap judgements on a flimsy premise which when we get to know people better often turns out not to be true. Elphaba ended up being tricked into things, labelled, scapegoated and regarded with hostility and suspicion – a look around the world shows that this is another story which contains truth for today.
Elphie was my favourite character – and she found someone who saw beyond the difference and loved her uniqueness – Fiyero, who preferred her to the good (traditionally pretty) witch Glinda. On a bad day I sometimes see myself as green – shorthand for odd or different or not like others – but I remember that there are those that love me even when I feel green and that helps me to have hope and I am grateful that my faith means that I don’t see myself as wicked and encourages me to reject wickedness if I might be tempted in that direction!
Last week I had a singing lesson and since then have become much more focused on my breath and have been practising trying to breathe better. It reminded me of something I read on one of my train journeys:
Living in the Spirit is like breathing. Spiritual practice is the in-breath while our loving action in the world is our out-breath. One flows from the other.
So what happens when we do not attend to the in-breath? We begin to become short of breath, ill even.
We may not notice that we are less than fully alive but we have no puff left for the out-breath of our witness in the world.
I like the simplicity of this metaphor, it reminds me yet again of getting the right balance in my life – as a new academic year starts, that’s important!
Ginny Wall Deepening the life of the Spirit London Quaker Books 2012 p1