One of the most wonderful elements of a trip to California six years ago was seeing giant redwood trees. This one we saw on Sunday and is not quite in the same league but evokes the same feelings of how the passing of time can change a perspective. I can’t imagine what these trees would have seen in a place where different people lived and died and celebrated and lamented and did all those things which make up our lives. Summer is giving me the opportunity to reflect and as I work towards my two weeks holiday I am looking forward to some time and space and a different rhythm.
Yesterday I got to the first part of a conference on Researching the Church of England at Aston University. This picture is from the first keynote by (Rev Dr) Susannah Snyder on Refugees, Arts and the Church of England. I have a few notes from the session which I am pondering on – mostly I didn’t get the name of who the idea originated with so apologies for that – sometimes my brain is pondering something that has been said rather than keeping up with the next bit!
Arts and prophetic or radical amazement.
Arts as a counter to moral distance – arts create an echo in our head which will not go away.
Art as prophetic imagination – anticipation of the shalom that awaits us.
These pictures are of an installation called Critical Mass by Eve Mileusnic – there are feet in different size and shapes representing the movement of people and things and on different days she arranged the feet differently. The visual impact gave people time to reflect and as one person observed the outside world and church world came together.
I am not always a visual learner which is one of the reasons I post a photo each Friday as it means I am paying attention to the environment but I appreciate the capacity of the arts to connect with the emotions and the spirit in a way that words do not always seem to. Thank you God for artists.
As Sally wrote on Wednesday, our year three MCYM students spent a day last week drawing together the key values, principles, practices for their leadership and ministerial formation. They produced some inspiring ideas and commitments. I have chosen this picture as it reminds me of much of what I do at the hospital which is making connections to things that are important to those I am working with – theologically reflecting on the everyday.
This was a prayer in my daily notes last week that drew together much of what we sought to express:
Prayer of Claude de la Colombiere SJ
Jesus grant that I may die pursuing you, that I may die loving you, that I may die for the love of you.
A prayer for those of us who pursue an honest and aspirational Christianity.
I live a lot in my head and don’t always notice what the weather is doing – it is one of the reasons I post a picture each Friday as it encourages me to be observant. This is from one of those days when I was being observant as I didn’t want to get wet. It isn’t one of those pictures with a perfect reflection – the image is not a mirror one but I like that. It helps remind me that I don’t always see things perfectly – that perceptions can be distorted, that situations change and that there is always more then one way of looking at things. Important lessons for me to learn…
I don’t do it as much as would be helpful perhaps, but I (S) enjoy playing with colour and getting in touch with how I am feeling deep within – as I sit with a box of oil pastels in front of me and think about an issue or a person or a hope or a Bible passage I take a colour that I am drawn to and begin to make marks on the page. Most often I end up with different blocks of colour, occasionally it is some sort of picture.
It’s another way I do the spiritual exercise the examen exploring what brings me life and what brings me death. It’s an opportunity to confront the dark bits in the context of the light bits. It’s as if I can see the whole picture. When it is just words in my head it can be easy to take more notice of the dark bits that get noticed and the light can get squeezed out, and the proportions not reflect reality. I would love to be a glass half full person but if I am honest the glass is more usually half empty, this exercise brings the too together and gives me perspective.
Our book Tools for Reflective Ministry has lots of ways of reflecting creatively within it, this is one of them.
Someone in missionary work that we have both known for a long time posted the following about some of the work they have been involved in: “There is of course much still to be done and the World Bank titled its 2012 report on poverty reduction in Vietnam, “Well Begun, Not Yet Done.”
This is an interesting reflection for our own country as much for our own lives. So many of our friends are lamenting at the moment that they cannot say well begun with any conviction at this time. So as we reflect on our own spiritual lives as well perhaps as on government policies has it been well begun, started correctly, well birthed? The sacrificial values, principles, choices, that support us in building well – are they in evidence? If not what is it that we can do to change that?
The wonderful gift of honest Christianity, is that even when something has not been well begun, we need not give up hope, because we have a redeeming God and a life where good can come out of bad. So let us take hope that what has or has not been well begun, gives us the opportunity to contribute to not yet done in a positive way.
Lent is often a time for quiet reflection, following Jesus into the wilderness and exploring who we are. However, sometimes the wilderness can be a lonely and disconcerting place, at those times I think of this blessing from John O’Donohue which reminds me that God loves me and has resonances too of the words spoken to Jesus at his baptism – This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3.17).
May you recognize in your life the presence,
Power and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
That your soul in its brightness and belonging
Connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,
That you have a special destiny here,
That behind the façade of your life
There is something beautiful and eternal happening.
May you learn to see your self
With the same delight,
Pride and expectation
With which God sees you in every moment.
John O’Donohue Benedictus London: Bantam Press, 2007, p127.