Friday photo – Grove Youth Series now a teenager

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Paul had the original vision for establishing a Youth series as part of Grove books and we have both been involved ever since. With four published a year we are now a teenager as we have been going for 13 years.

This is our most recent book and one which has had a long lead in and which originated at one of our writing days where anyone is welcome to come and we talk about writing but more importantly give time for writing. Lots of booklets have come out of that and one of the things we love is that it enables good practitioners to get some of their experience out there to be shared much more widely.

This booklet is mainly stories that people have shared with me, from the writing day and beyond and one or two particularly commissioned because I knew of or had read of their story elsewhere. I am grateful to all those who had the courage to share and for their willingness to be named and to be vulnerable. You can buy a booklet from me, they are only £3.95 each or you can order in print or electronic form from the website.

There are lots of other series – why not subscribe to ours or another one…

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Wondering Wednesdays – (still) reflecting on vulnerability

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It is not easy writing a booklet on vulnerability – the stories I have been told trigger all sorts of thoughts in me:

Faced with our own vulnerability, we often experience extreme fear (McFadden 2008:133).

I have increasingly realised that early experiences in hospital as a young child which I don’t fully remember mean that I am overly fearful anytime I think I may be ill or something happens.  My body is vulnerable.  A tear in my retina this year brought that back to me – apparently I did nothing to bring it on – it happens to some of us with age – and not even old age!

What I have also increasingly realised is that my vulnerability is less of an issue if I share it with and allow myself to be supported by others (and God):

In contrast to fear, compassionate love – or agape – ‘links empathy, understanding and justice, promoting interdependence’ (Rumbold 2006:41).

 

References:

McFadden, S. H. (2008).  Mindfulness, vulnerability, and love:  Spiritual lessons from frail elders, earnest young pilgrims, and middle aged rockers.  Journal of Aging Studies, 22, pp.132-9.

Rumbold, B. (2006).  The spirituality of compassion:  A public health response to ageing and end of life care.  In E. MacKInlay (Ed), Aging spirituality, and palliative care (pp.31-44)  New York:  Haworth Press.

 

Friday photo – labour of love

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A treat most Christmases is to go and see the garland at Cotehele (a National Trust Property in Cornwall). Each year a brand new garland is made of dried flowers from the gardens. It is truly a labour of love, it is there only in December, a transient glimpse of summer in the middle of winter.

This year’s garland had honesty in it, one of my favourites, fragile, translucent. A plant that speaks to me of vulnerability. This year I want to take more notice of the beauty around me and act in a more aware way in relation to the vulnerability of all of God’s creation.

Wondering Wednesdays: tender moments

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What constitutes a tender moment? Anything in life that helps make us aware of our deep connectedness with each other, of our common struggle, our common wound, our common sin, and our common need for help: the suffering face of another which mirrors our own pain, the sense of our physical mortality, the acceptance of our own sin, the beauty of nature, the eagerness and innocence of children, the fragility of the aged, and, of course, not least, moments of intimacy, of friendship, of celebration, of every kind of shared joy, pain or vulnerability.  Ronald Roheiser

This week we are on holiday, it is an opportunity for another set of tender moments.  Holidays give the opportunity for some family time that isn’t usually possible because of geographical distance.  The picture is a previous year’s birthday present having a tender moment with the adorable nephew’s teddy bear!  Today the adorable nephew is staying with us, tender moments will include the annual pancake making and the attempts to emulate Paul’s ability at tossing them high in the air!   Yesterday Paul and I had the opportunity to create some tender moments as we did one of our favourite day trips which starts with a bacon sandwich and coffee at one of our favourite seaside cafes and includes fish and chips at a different seaside cafe, walking on the cliff and the beach and dreaming together about some new idea…

The other sort of tender moments are not absent but are perhaps less in focus in a week away.  However, I did post my first ever selfie on facebook and saw the lines on my face and round my neck and was reminded of my own mortality which tends to happen now when I celebrate a birthday.  Facebook, Twitter and Radio 4 mean I am still aware of what is going on in the world which can mean shared tears as well as shared laughter.  As I type this Seve Ballesteros is on the television, we listened to the Carpenters in the car – two premature deaths which bring fleeting sadness along with the gratitude of such giftedness.

We also saw some of the devastation of the storms, wrecked beach huts, sandbags, the sort of rock that could kill you if it hit you strewn all over the promenade, this all seemed so poignant on a day when nature seemed so beautiful, so calm.  I am really challenged by Roheiser’s concept of tender moments – the nice ones are very easy to grasp and to celebrate but I am so aware of the need for connectedness, for sharing, the good and the bad and to enable people to celebrate our shared humanity.  I am reminded of God’s tender moment with Adam and Eve when he clothed them despite of their choices (Genesis 3.21).  It is so encouraging to know we can have our tender moments with God when we need them the most.

Reference:

Ronald Rolheiser Forgotten Among the Lilies New York Image Doubleday p123

Wondering Wednesdays – she collects sea shells on the sea shore

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I love the beauty and intricacy of these little shells.  This picture was taken on Hannafore Beach where there were hundreds of them. As far back as I can remember I have got much pleasure from wandering along beaches looking for shells and beautiful pebbles.   I have often wondered if one of the reasons I like shells so much is that as a metaphor it has bought me solace.   Much of what I write involves metaphors as they are so integral to the way I think and have helped me become more self-aware and reflective.

I can still vividly remember a conversation I had with God when on a retreat with a friend a few years ago. God was saying to me there were times when it was fine to look to the protection that a shell gives and not to feel there was something wrong with me because this was so – this was liberating.  While I try to live according to the availability and vulnerability rule of the Northumbria Community for me this has to be done with wisdom. There are some situations and people where I need protection. For me it is a bit like putting on sun tan lotion on a sunny day – without it I will get burnt and be in pain.  I am not trying to eliminate pain from my life – that is part of being human and I have grown through pain but what I will not do is offer myself up as a tasty dinner to a predatory seagull who might like the creature without its shell.

So there are times when I am very happy to go out with my shell and not feel guilt or shame because God made shells too, and they are beautiful.

Wondering Wednesday – Tomorrow starts the night before or the hour of questions

cornwall-2011-071.jpgMany of my heroes as a child and young person were from the world of sport. One of them was also a poet, John Snow, the Sussex and England cricketer. Thirty plus years on I can still remember the beginning of the first poem of his I ever read called The Lord’s Test:

Tomorrow starts the night before

lying looking through the blackness

wondering about the hidden day

’til falling forward trackless

unknowing down the slope,

you’re sitting in it,

you and hope…                                                                                                                                                                                    

This poem resonates with me so much as I have often had concerns about tomorrow, the night before. Usually without any real reason, most of my days don’t hold anything scarier than teaching, meetings, church or study which are nothing compared with the challenges faced by so many.

So why does tomorrow start the night before so often?  Perhaps because it reminds me to commit my day to God and be aware of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life leading and guiding me. Perhaps because I don’t always have the confidence that past evidence suggests I should have in my own capacity. Perhaps even because I have become a habitual reflective practitioner and know that processing things before, during and after they happen can help me learn, understand and apply.

Tomorrow can also be early today as this quotation from Chaim Potok’s The Book of Lights so eloquently describes:

This was the hour he had learned to dread, the hour of questions.  No time of the day or night seemed so filled with the weight of darkness as this hour before the twilight of morning when there hovered about him what he had come to call the four o’clock in the morning questions…

Whether before we fall asleep or when we wake up very early thoughts can race around our head distracting and sometimes distressing us.  This is not helpful!

But I need to remind myself that tomorrow there is hope, there is love, there is joy, there is peace along with other fruit of the Spirit and that those things are real even if there are some days I only fleetingly experience them.  I am helped with this by spending some time with God every morning sitting in a chair looking out over the garden.  I see the birds and am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6 when he encourages us to look at the birds of the air and see how God feeds them.  The passage then goes on to say “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” I know the answer to this is no, but that doesn’t always stop me from doing it.  Tomorrow starts the night before but that can also mean the excitement and anticipation of a new day, a new experience, a new challenge to be faced with the hope that faith in God can bring.

References:  John Snow,  Moments and Thoughts,  Kaye and Ward, 1973.

Wondering Wednesdays – the shape of our life for the sake of the world

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The question is asked:  “What is the shape of a contemporary way of life that truly is life-giving in and for the sake of the world?  And how can the church foster such a ways of life, for the good of all creation?” (Bass 2008:23).  I am a bit of a news junkie and always at least start and end the day listening to the news, radio in the morning, television in the evening.  Day after day I listen to stories which demonstrate that the contemporary way of life is far from life-giving for so many people.  I am particularly sensitive to stories which talk about the oppression of women and children and some days it seems like story after story shows how the often marginalized and vulnerable are suffering because of the way of life adopted by others.  I have just attended a safeguarding session as part of my curacy training, that just adds to the feeling that our way of life brings such desolation at times.

I am not always very good at being the answer to the questions that I am asking but I want to be and part of my commitment to education is to try and help facilitate people discovering what is life-giving for them and to help them find the life in all its fullness that Jesus talks about (John 10.10).  I am also aware that I am not as much of a global citizen as I need to be and can have a narrow local focus rather than being aware of how my choices impact God’s creation.

When we were researching the Faith of Generation Y one of the things we concluded was that young people were asking “Does Christianity work?” rather that “Is Christianity true?” as was the case when I was a young person.  My hope and prayer is that increasingly churches can show that Christianity does work, that churches can offer life to communities which are having life squeezed out of them through economic malaise, short sighted policies, mistrust and neglect.  I am so grateful for the signs of spring I see when driving along country lanes, snowdrops and primroses blooming in hedgerows.  But most of all I am grateful for the signs of life I hear about at church, from the students I work with, from colleagues I am training with and I have hope that the world is seeing glimpses of a church which offers a life-giving alternative way of living.

References:

Dorothy C Bass. (2008) ‘Ways of Life Abundant’ in Dorothy C Bass and Craig Dykstra  (eds)  For Life Abundant.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p.23.

Sylvia Collins-Mayo, Bob Mayo, Sally Nash with Chris Cocksworth. (2010)  The Faith of Generation Y.  London:  Church House Publishing.