Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2014



 I don't make New Year's resolutions any more. This is because I think that the things we ought to do and which form the basis of most New Year's resolutions (eat healthily, exercise, don't smoke, invest in our relationships, seek job satisfaction, manage our money well) require us to resolve to do them on an almost daily basis rather than once a year, furthermore, and this will sound contradictory, radical changes such as getting up at 5.30 to go for a jog each morning are just so much more likely to fail when begun in the grim and arduous month of January. So, it being nearly January, as I always do during that month, I will aim to cherish myself a little more, take the opportunity for some extra hours in bed whenever I possibly can and not to worry about any extra pounds gained over Christmas as these can sort themselves out in the spring.

  But if I were to make a resolution, then it would be to try always to feel grateful for all the good things in my life and to savour them.  You can read here of gratitude currently in the news, and it maybe won't tell you anything you weren't aware of - but then remembering the vital lessons we've already learned is as important as learning new things.
I already know that 2014 is likely to bring fairly major changes in my circumstances. These changes may be daunting but they will also offer opportunities and it is vital that I hold on to the important things, the central things, those things that really matter, not money or status or even stability, but faith and love and hope and a sense of gratitude which goes beyond "counting your blessings" to something more profound (listen to video above.)
I wish you all a blessed start to 2014.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The real meaning of Christmas



Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. 2 Cor 9:15

Registering the birth

Love takes the risk of birth



This is no time for a child to be born,
With the Earth betrayed by war and hate,
And a nova lighting the sky to warn,
That time runs out and the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome,
Honour and truth  were trampled by scorn,
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for a child to be born?
The inn is full on the planet Earth,
And by  greed and pride the sky is torn,
Yet love still takes the risk of birth.

Madeleine L'Engle

Sunday, 15 December 2013

O Sapientia

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the 
Most High,
Reaching from one end to the other mightily,
And sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Tomorrow marks the start of the Antiphons of Advent, the first is on the theme of wisdom. The process of waiting expectantly for something means that we yearn for and wonder about it. To ponder the nature of the God brings greater understanding and wisdom.
One of our wedding hymns was “Now thank we all our God”, and we chose it to represent our thankfulness on that day but also because it has a lot to say about the role of faith to guide us,

O may this bounteous God through all our lives be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us
And keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed
And free us from all ills in this world and the next.

Now some of the sentiments of that verse I cannot agree with- God never offers to free us from all ills, a very misguided idea indeed, but the upside is that He does guide us when perplexed if we turn to Him.  I have certainly had times in my life when I have been perplexed. I remember at one time I was facing a challenging situation and, the church I then attended had as part of the liturgy a phrase along the lines of,
“Be with us Lord when the situation is so difficult that nothing we do seems the right choice
Throughout that difficult time, this single line was something which helped and sustained me and I began to listen out for it each week and felt that I was understood and spoken to through those words. I am glad to say that I was able to find a way forwards and believe that God was with me.
I am not laying claim to being a particularly wise person. I make plenty of stupid decisions, do, think and say foolish things, and behave in ways that are selfish, petty or short sighted. But I do know that the part of me where the greatest wisdom resides is also the part of me where God resides. It is when I seek answers from God, and when I look to that within me that is most Godly, that I find the truest answers and the clearest guidance.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Advent Freedom


Reconciliation seems to be emerging as my Advent theme this year. Advent brings hope, a promise of freedom for the captive, but Christ did not come, as many thought he would, to take sides and overthrow the external oppressor. He came to free us from the prison of ourselves. This does not mean we should not fight injustice and oppression, but to be truly free we must be prepared to be reconciled. As the quote above shows, Mandela's ability to facilitate the process of reconciliation for a nation began first within his heart and soul.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Beautiful variation on a lovely hymn.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Ex-pats and the stiff upper lip


Wonderful! As someone who spent so much of her life in British Army overseas postings this makes me feel almost proud...

Q and A session

At least we've got the Archdruid to answer all our deepest (?) questions about life, the universe and the C of E's (ahem) position on these matters. Enjoy!

Pilling- initial thoughts

It's been a long day today and I've had about 20  minutes to skim read  the Pilling report and form some thoughts. So the following may turn out to be completely wrong! For what it is worth:

- Overall, Pilling's recommendations, if adopted, would be a positive step for any LGBT people in same sex relationships who remain in the Church (and why, oh why  anyone in that position is still there sometimes puzzles me...)


-Thank God, and I mean that fervently, that it recommends there should be no "intrusive questioning" about the sex lives of clergy in same sex relationships. THANK YOU- let's hope this sensible recommendation is adopted. Questioning clergy in civil partnerships about the exact nature of that relationship is clearly cruel and bullying, not to mention surely being a toe-curlingly embarrassing task  for any bishop with half a grain of decency.


-If I've read rightly, Pilling recommends that the blessing of same sex relationships (something which does already happen in parts of the Church) is now acknowledged and permitted. However, it steers clear of anything that would smack of an official sanctioning (such as a formal liturgy of blessing) for same sex relationships.It seems to recommend that  stable, permanent, committed same sex relationships should only be half-recognised (if that) by the Church - that positive pastoral support should be tolerated and allowed. To me this is rather half hearted, but I can't imagine anything  more than this given the situation and context  of the Church and the bitter divisions.

-The word "bitter" brings me to my last reflection, which is a fear  that this report, which at the moment is just that, a report, an analysis of the different thinking and tensions and  a set of recommendations for a way forward, will provoke strong opposition from some conservative elements, more in-fighting between different factions, and the type of language and behaviour which is far from Christ like. Let's hope it doesn't!


Finally the Pilling report is very long and once again you find yourself wondering  if we really  need to expend so  many words and so much energy on this issue.

 Perhaps we should just go back to Wordless Wednesday?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday, if you don't know already, is a trend among some bloggers to simply post a great photo or picture on Wednesday and let it speak for itself. I don't have a great photo, but I have blogged before about this wonderful depiction of our waiting in Advent.
Sometimes it is well worth just looking at an image and thinking about what it says without words:
For more thoughts on the power of silence, I give you the Advent thoughts from the i-Benedictine blog.

Monday, 25 November 2013

God and sinners reconciled



Next Sunday is the start of Advent and yesterday was Christ the King. In the meeting yesterday quite a few people spoke, more so than usual, and many of the themes, or so it seemed to me, circled around the ideas of the power of reconciliation over revenge. I found this striking as I had been thinking about Advent, which is perhaps my favourite season in the Church's calendar, and how the Incarnation speaks to us of reconciliation- of God coming to earth to be with us and to reconcile us to Himself and to each other. Reconciliation is also a key feature of the Kingdom of God. It is a Kingship and Kingdom not based on this world's values of power or of self seeking but rather of the impulse of sympathy towards the other, of giving and not taking.
We so badly need to learn the impulse of reconciliation toward God and towards each other, and perhaps we are called to repent in Advent because of our constant failure to live up to this selfless ideal.  I thought of speaking about Advent during the meeting but I kept silent instead. I felt enough had been said and something I am learning is that silence is often better than words. Words do have their place though and, in the Advent video above, words, music and image combine wonderfully to create the meaning of Advent for me.
If you follow the Celtic calendar then Advent is forty days long and so mirrors Lent that other period of repentance and reflection- so wishing you a blessed Advent for next week, or for now!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Do dogs have souls? (part twenty-two)


OK, maybe I am  getting very old and sentimental, or maybe I'm just feeling a bit vulnerable at the moment, but this one made me blub.  It pushes all the buttons for those of us who believe that dogs have souls. If only every sad story had this sort of happy ending...

Saturday, 2 November 2013

To seek and save

The encounter between Jesus and  Zacchaeus is one which appeals to the imagination and emotions as well as further illuminating that ongoing message of grace and transformation which runs through the gospels. It is fascinating to see the way that individuals seek out Christ- some trying to  unobtrusively touch the hem of his garment, some finding him in a chance encounter at a well, some seeking him out at night when nobody will be there to see them. Zacchaeus climbs up a tree, and this act represents his contradictory feelings about the approach of Jesus. On the one hand, Zacchaeus just has to see Jesus more clearly without crowds in his way the and his impulsive act suggests the strength of his desire to seek God; on the other hand, his climbing of a tree might also suggest the way that he is also keeping a safe distance and remaining on the margins- and seeing as he was a tax gatherer, the margins were undoubtedly where he felt he belonged.
 The crowd certainly felt the same. When Zacchaeus is called down from the tree and given a central role in the story there are grumblings and a sense of the unfairness of it all. Once again the bestowing of grace is surprising and extravagant; Jesus does not even give  Zacchaeus a good telling off , he wants to come to his house and eat with him- both an honour and one of the most basic acts of human contact and good will. Zacchaeus's joyful response is endearing. He comes down "at once" and welcomes Jesus "gladly" or "with great joy." It is now clear that Zacchaeus's climb represented his receptiveness and desire to not just see but to know Jesus. Although Zacchaeus is the host in this story, he is also the person who is being invited to the Kingdom of God and welcomed home.
 Zacchaeus also decides to give his money away and repay people four time over and his does this with his characteristic enthusiasm. It all smacks of a man who climbed up a tree to try to catch a glimpse of something he wants, and who can't believe his luck that he has been called down and given more than he would have ever thought possible.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Welby in Nairobi


Welby's sermon to GAFCON is interesting and worth a listen for what it reveals about his thinking. Welby is renowned for his abilities in diplomacy and arbitration, and this sermon, or so it seemed to me, tried  both to speak to GAFCON's concerns about faithfulness, righteousness and obeying the bible while delivering food for thought, or even a rebuke. Welby spoke of how reading the bible in a complicated world is hard work and we cannot settle for easy answers or those which give us power. The extent to which the establishment of GAFCON is driven by the politics of power for its movers and shakers is not something often raised within the Church, even so obliquely, so all credit to him there. Welby reminded GAFCON that scripture can and has been misused and cited the use of scripture to support Apartheid in South Africa, a fairly stark comparison. He said that differences had existed throughout Christianity and that it was not difference, but the way we deal with our difference that matters. The problem arises when we "cannot settle our difference in a way which points to Jesus."

This was a clever sermon, challenging yet affirming. It was as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.  What it will not do is to bring about reconciliation in an unreconcilable situation.

Perhaps Welby knows that because he spoke of the need for new structures within the Anglican communion, and GAFCON itself is a new structure, one hedged with barbed wire barricades.

Two thoughts stayed with me most strongly. The first was that observation that, " we have not settled our differences in a way which points to Jesus." I have seen this so often. The other was that, "we need a new way of being together." The question that kept asking itself here was what he means by together and whether the Anglican Communion can really lay claim to that word any longer.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Foodbanks and frugality

 The news that food bank use has tripled this year should be a cause for concern to everyone. The largest food bank charity, The Trussel Trust, has backed calls for an enquiry into this increase. The likelihood of this happening seems remote given that the Government seems quite confident that the cause is that more food banks are opening (not the changes to the benefit system then?) On the subject of benefits, another idiot Government spokesperson said that their was "no robust evidence (does that mean there was some evidence then?) that welfare reforms were linked to increased use of food banks" and that "90% of benefits are now paid within 16 days." I wonder if the people responsible for making this statement have ever tried not eating for 16 days? I wonder if ten percent of them have tried going for longer than that without money for food?
 If you have concerns that some of those using food banks simply manage their money poorly, or that they have injudiciously got into debt, or that food banks encourage dependency, then you are not alone. I share those concerns. However, I am pretty sure that many people using food banks are desperate and I feel disinclined to try to judge whether they rank as the deserving or undeserving poor. The food I donate to my local food bank is largely cheap stuff, value brands. If anyone is desperate enough to want £15 pounds worth of this kind of food, I reckon they must be in need of one sort or another and they are welcome to it.
   I am in the fortunate position that I have never really felt short of money or gone hungry. However, a few years ago, when Mr M gave up work and we were relying purely on my salary, we did find that we were spending more than we had coming in some months and we had to think about money more carefully. We were used to pretty much spending what we liked and suddenly the big bills that came in, such as the clutch on the car and the washing machine both needing to be replaced in the same month, were a real problem. We had savings, but I began to understand why people without any reserves might resort to pay day loans and get caught up in the  iniquitous interest rates charged by companies such as Wonga with their evil little puppets  masquerading as benevolent old folk.
Mr M soon learnt to economise, he now works an average of two days a week and we have  more coming in than we have going out, but we do still try to live simply as a point of principle. One of the things that I've have noticed about Quaker friends is how simply they live, and this remains a touchstone of Quakerism. It is also true that Christians ought not to value money or material possessions. How anyone can find any justification for the prosperity gospel  given the frankly bloody uncomfortable things Jesus has to say about money, I don't know.
So here are my ideas for living more simply.

1. Recognise that we are pressurised by a consumer society which is constantly telling us we need more and that our lives are not worthwhile without things. This is the you deserve it culture. It goes to great lengths to make you spend money when you will quite often be just as happy and comfortable (more so in fact) without the new clothes, new TV, new computer, new sofa. Really think about whether you need to replace something or whether you need new shoes, or a phone or whatever it is. The "because you're worth it" AKA "we long to rip you off" guff was used to market L'Oreal shampoo. Measure your worth in something more important than a bottle of shampoo anyway and, rather than thinking about what you deserve, think about the fact that L'Oreal shampoo costs anything from 5.99 to 17.99 per 250 ml bottle ( I kid you not) and that any bottle of shampoo ( I like the Creighton's range at 99p for 250ml at Bodycare but that's just one of my little luxuries) will do exactly the same job. Honesty, it will.

2. Given the frightening cost of fuel and energy, not to mention the impact on the environment, turn the heating off and put on a jumper! David Cameron can't admit to saying that with his millions but I can. I do admit to being a bit of a wimp when it comes to the cold, but I live with a family of hard men (... they wish...:) "What cold, Me? No I'm fine" is the standard response in our family when I am shivering. As a result we don't usually put the heating on until the October half term, but Mr M (now also known as Scrooge) has vetoed it this year due to the weather this half term being so mild. When it comes to the lights on, the whole situation is reversed and I am the one who goes around turning lights off and giving lectures about the environment.

3. Don't waste food! I get really passionate about this one and I constantly try to curb food waste in our family because I hate  throwing away food when so much of the world is starving and food prices are rising across the world. Plan out your food use for the week. Write a menu. Go out with a shopping list and stick to it. Use up the stuff in your cupboards and freezer. Check your fridge for stuff you could use lying unloved at the back. Think about how to use up leftovers creatively. Don't worry too much about best before dates and be aware that some food can be eaten after the "use by" date - use your nose and your common sense and read the advice on Love Food, Hate Waste. Cook more vegetarian meals because this reduces your carbon footprint. Go foraging and make nettle soup (OK, I haven't done this yet, but I will if we fall on hard times...)

4. Keep on giving to charity. Unless you are incredibly short of money/ heavily in debt then always aim to give. See frugality as a means not just to save more but also to give more. If you don't give, or if you begrudge giving, you will become a miser. Then your life will be impoverished. God loves a cheerful giver, and giving should be a source of joy.

5. The same goes for yourself. Don't become so obsessed with saving money that you deprive yourself of the things that you need or truly enjoy. Don't be pressurised into spending money, think about what you spend and whether you really want or need what you buy, but enjoy your possessions and treat yourself and others sometimes! If you have lots of precious things in your life that aren't money,  you enjoy what you do have, you are in the incredibly fortunate position of having enough to live on, and you have enough to be able to give to others, then you are truly rich.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Finding our rest in God


I'm not a great fan of modern worship/ Christian songs as I find they all sound much the same. But this one, taken from the wonderful Blue Eyed Ennis blog, just reminded me of my recent thoughts about where we find ourselves at home and the idea of finding our rest, our refuge- and indeed ourselves- in God.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Update

 I have been crazily busy with work, with the odd domestic crisis thrown in for good measure, since...gosh, must be since St Bernard's day on the 20th August! This is a quick summary:
1. I was tasked this year with organising the Lower Sixth introduction day to College, complete with "fun activities" (for them, not me), talks and stalls for visiting local employers, institutions and college clubs, all set up in our Sports Hall.
2. I've been so busy that I've hardly facebooked, blogged or browsed the web for anything non work related for almost two weeks. I actually feel quite proud of this and have been thinking about how much time the Internet can take and about its negative influence on so many of us.
3. Our boiler has broken, we've had no hot water for several days. I've had to make do without baths/ showers - I am not sure that is so positive for anyone...
4. The boiler chose the same day to break as Mr M went to Ireland on a business trip. Sod's law. At least he has work coming in though.
5. I am trying to do more house work, this is largely because Mr M seems to be getting more work coming his way and I feel I should. Oh, and there are things to be ironed that now don't get done unless I do them.
6. My teaching groups are absolutely delightful and include a lovely A level literature group (really important, especially as my group last year were a bit silent.)
7. The Church in Wales has voted to have women bishops. It's good really, still overdue by about forty years so I'm pleased but more "should-bloody-well-think-so" than "wow-how-wonderful".
8. I will soon be forty seven. That is the sort of age that you realise that, yes, fifty is not far away and that is a bit weird.

Anyhow, due to some of the above, I'm not sure I am going to have that much time to blog this year (not because the boiler is broken or because I am nearly 47 obviously...)
See you when I see you :(

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Happy St Bernard's day!

Today is St. Bernard's day and apparently he was a pretty interesting guy who was nice to Jews and didn't believe in the immaculate conception of Mary and had debates in which  people were compared to troublesome frogs. He also founded or promoted the foundation of many Cistercian abbeys,  Buckfast in Devon being a fine example. He also had a wonderful breed of dog named after him- what a tribute! On the down side he did support the second crusade and had hairy ears...OK, I made up the bit about his ears...
Best of all though is the name Bernard, which we all know is unisex (see below) and just a great name and can be shortened to Bernie which arguably sounds even better.
 Yes,I have had a stressful week... and it has been a long day...how ever did you guess?

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Sad doggie!

Poor Bessie is not very well at the moment. A few weeks ago we discovered a lump on her tummy which turned out to be a mast cell tumour which the vet said had to be removed. Bessie has been left with quite a large wound and has to wear a collar, which she loathes, to stop her licking and scratching. I have commented before that Bessie does not make the best possible patient. She is very sorry for herself indeed so I am hoping the collar can be removed next week and we might get our cheeky little dog back again.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

How do you find that one?

Have fun watching David Cameron trying to answer the question about whether Christians should sell all their possessions and give all their money to the poor!
 Let's be fair though, although I can't stand the Tories (...and, oh dear, didn't Jesus say something about loving everyone, even your enemies...) I'm not sure I could answer this one without squirming. I might not have Cameron's millions, but does that let me off the hook when I am much wealthier than the majority of the world's population and possibly much wealthier than many of those struggling in my own country? So, how do you find that one and, if you believe you'll meet your maker face to face, what are you going to say? 'Cos I sure as heck don't know...

Friday, 9 August 2013

Sexual abuse and gender stereotypes

There has been quite a lot of coverage today about the judge who described a 13 year old girl as a predator. It is a depressing case but the ensuing outcry has at least reassured me that there is a greater understanding today of the complex effects of sexual abuse and a clearer understanding that culpability has to lie with an adult rather than a minor. It is not uncommon for children who have been abused to display sexualised behaviour and I would expect a judge who deals in abuse cases to understand this and exercise caution in the use of his or her language.  I remember a conversation I had over twenty years ago with a survivor of abuse who told me that one of the effects of her abuse was that she would "target" men, not, as she explained, because she particularly wanted them but more because this was all she knew and also because she was "testing" them to see if they would take the opportunity to abuse her.  I think this made her lost and damaged rather than a predator.
Many commentators have expressed an opinion  that the judge's language reflects sexist attitudes, whereas others claim the comments do not reflect misogyny and  if a teenage boy had been sexually provocative with an adult woman would it be misandry to call him predatory? I think this misses the point and I feel that gender stereotypes and expectations do play a part in this case. Firstly, it is  less likely that a teenage boy would be described as predatory (and equally wrong if such language was used about a male victim), secondly  boys who are abused are also often described in ways that reflect gender stereotypes - arguably more so than women are.

When girls are abused, it is not uncommon, although thankfully rarer than it was, for them to be depicted as temptresses leading men astray, or as one judge put it, "no angel." I think this does reflect the idea that women should be moral guardians, that men can't help themselves and that women are more culpable if they are involved in a sexual act that breaks social mores. However, boys and men who are sexual abuse survivors also suffer from terribly damaging stereotypes based on notions about gender. It is not at all uncommon for men who have been abused to be told that they should consider themselves "lucky" because a woman initiated sexual contact and that this was an exciting opportunity. So, some men who come forward about abuse are dismissed, if they are believed, they can then be regarded as "weak" for not having been able to control or prevent the abuse. 

 A man seeking help because they were  abused as a child  will typically describe the same feelings of shame, self loathing, loss of identity, as well as anger and rage which can result in depression, self destructive behaviour and the abuse of drugs and alcohol to blot out pain. As a society, we are not particularly aware of the abuse of  boys, or of the fact that gender stereotypes contribute massively both to the fact that men are much less likely to report or seek help for abuse or to be able to speak about it freely.  Is misandry to believe that men must always be tough, in control and sexually voracious? Well, yes, just as much as it is to believe that women must be either whores or angels and must be sexually inhibited. We will not achieve gender equality until we challenge our stereotypes about men as seriously as we do our stereotypes about women, and until we teach men that it is alright to be vulnerable and that they need not be afraid to be tender.

Fortunately, attitudes to those who have been abused are changing, although this case does make you wonder if we will ever quite get there... A further point I do want to make though is that adult survivors of abuse can face to a range of stereotypes and misapprehensions. People can be suspicious when they find that someone has been subject to sexual abuse and may fear that they will be scarred for life, volatile and unpredictable, manipulative, needy, have broken relationships or mental health problems. All of these are, of course, common effects of childhood abuse, however people are sometimes less aware that survivors, if they have had support and love, can often be very stable, resilient, empathetic, and even display post- traumatic growth - something I have become very interested in recently although it is perhaps the subject of a different blog post.

In short, there is little room for stereotypes or for sentimentality but a great deal of need for sensitivity and common sense when dealing with and talking about this difficult and painful issue.

Friday, 26 July 2013



At the end of the retreat we were asked to choose a postcard and write a message home recording our key memories of the weekend. That postcard dropped through the letterbox this morning, it had my own comments and also an additional message of encouragement added by the sender. I thought it was a lovely idea and it was very meaningful and I kept thinking of it while I was packing to go away on holiday.The song above has also been in my mind recently and so I post it here as well.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Searching for home

While I was in Devon this weekend, I was aware that one of the other events/ gatherings taking place was a reunion at the school I attended in the army base of Rheindahlen (BFPO 40.)  We  lived in Germany from 1975 until 1981 as my father was a Forces teacher and padre, and the school provided for children living in the new NATO Headquarters and adjacent British Garrisons and RAF Stations. When I returned on Monday, my face book page was awash with status updates and photos both of the retreat and also of the reunion in Germany. Many of the photos evoked strong memories from over thirty years ago, and many of the messages and comments were moving and made me remember little details I thought I had forgotten.

One thing I noticed was that people had taken photos not just of the teachers who had attended (they look really old... but come to think of it they always did...) and of now adult school friends, but also of seemingly insignificant details, the benches and bins, the turn of a staircase, the old path to where we used to catch the buses!  I wonder if these seemingly mundane details are maybe the most important because they are invested with personal memory? As  one person wrote, "Goodbye RheinD, a part of me will always be here", and maybe it is the child walking and laughing with friends on their way home on an afternoon to which no date can be ascribed that is more real and evocative than the school photo or the leavers' ball which were largely planned to fix the memory and moment in time.
 I don't think I particularly live in the past. That time did have happy memories for me, but also less positive ones and I think I am a happier person now than my pre-teen/ teenage self ever was. I could understand the nostalgia though; many Forces children move frequently, different stages of a childhood can often be strongly marked out by different postings. This week  the old school and many buildings in the base are due to be demolished. There is a service at St Boniface, the church we attended. Inevitably there is a petition on face book to "save" JHQ (Joint Head Quarters Rheindahlen) to save what is to some their past and a childhood home - as the video in this link shows.
 The whole thing, coupled with the experiences of the retreat, now turning into precious memories, made me think about where we find our sense of identity, our sense of a place where we belong/ feel at home, the places, times and people who hold a key to who we really are. When we revisit times past we meet our changed, our ghost selves, our former selves which are now like different people, although they play such a crucial part in our story or our journey. The more you have changed and developed in your life, the more you will recognise this feeling. I thought of the famous saying of St. Augustine that,
      "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."
One of the things someone said in our discussions this weekend was that we carry within us that image of the divine that offers us a completeness for which we continue to yearn. God is ever old and ever new, transcends and encompasses every place and time, is our beginning and our end, travels with us yet  always waits to welcome us home. Until we find our place in God we are never fully home.










And so it is with our past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it; all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realms, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object which we do not suspect. (Proust: The Remembrance of Things Past.)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Time out in the sunshine

I've just come back from retreat down in Devon and feel enormously blessed by the worship, activities, conversations and fellowship that I've enjoyed. I don't know if it was the focus on healing or just the fact that we had glorious sunshine instead of the customary rain showers, but there was such a  remarkable sense of peace and joy this weekend and everyone I spoke to commented on it. This retreat was a bit different for me as well because I was helping with worship sessions, but not too many, so I did still get plenty of time for myself.  On Sunday morning I decided for the first time to go to the monastic mass rather than the retreat worship. I was glad I did because the singing was incredibly beautiful.


We also sang Forth in thy name Oh Lord I go as the final hymn and it seemed very appropriate.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Shoring up the family

 I heard on the news today that David Cameron is going to introduce an £150 tax break to" incentivise" marriage, perhaps because some sectors have been very bitter about the fact that the Coalition Government has been rather tardy in carrying out what was a manifesto pledge whilst moving ahead with the matter of same sex marriage. However, even this simple tax concession has stirred strong ideological feelings as shown by the don't judge my family campaign which accuses the Government of "using the tax system to promote their fantasy Fifties family" whilst discriminating against, for example, women who have left a marriage to escape domestic violence. Those who support this  move argue that the emotional and financial cost of family breakdown in Britain is too great a cause for concern for the Government not to take steps to promote marriage. Those who oppose it speak up for those who are not married but who are still in committed relationships.
One of the problems at the heart of this kind of divide is that human relationships and circumstances are of necessity so varied and diverse that we fall into the trap of generalising and often judging unfairly when we do not consider each and every person and situation for who and what they are. I am sure I was not the only person who was pretty appalled to hear that nearly a million children live in fatherless households, at the same time, I am someone who is acutely aware that not all households with fathers are safe, happy and stable environments for women or children. Moreover, there are many single parents doing an excellent job of bringing up children, same sex couples who are great parents, many parents who are single because they are widowed, step families who cope well with the complex relationships. Statistics, such as that children do better educationally from married families, seem compelling until we realise that most married people are more qualified/ educated and so this is to be expected. Real people lie behind statistics, and real people are not so easy to categorise.
I suspect that there are truths on either side of this particular divide- perhaps we do need to act to mend a "broken Britain". Undoubtedly though the issue is not simple and it seems very unlikely that the qualities and attitudes which lie at the heart of strong relationships and stable families can be bought or bribed for £150 pounds, or indeed with any amount of money at all.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Looking forward to the weekend!


One of my roles at work is to forge links with the  local businesses which employ many of our students. It was for this reason that I found myself heading out to a Business and Industry exhibition this afternoon in order to "network" and gain an insight into the wider community. It was wet, grim weather and it wasn't much fun lugging table and banners and promotional materials into the draughty warehouse in which this auspicious event was held.

After setting up and consuming flapjack/ coffee which was provided, I started to chat to the other exhibitors. There were all sorts of companies there, office furniture, alarm systems, a stall promoting a local animal charity - but the guy next to me was running a company which...well...largely dealt with the mess after dead bodies are taken away from crime or accident scenes. There were some posters and promotional literature which detailed the fact that this company would deal with various bodily fluids, it listed blood, vomit, faeces, amniotic fluid (OK, shall I stop there?) and explained the problems of not getting in  a professional to deal such "bio-hazards" ( I was easily convinced!)

Moreover, the guy on the stall (... and, yes, I now know that I shouldn't have asked...) was  loquacious  on the subject of the macabre and talked with enthusiasm about  some unpleasant details of his job which I didn't really want to hear. "I bet you don't talk about this sort of thing in college, do you?",  he enquired. For a fleeting moment I was tempted  to tell him that our conversation had brought to mind Webster-

"Thou art a box of worm seed, at best but a salvatory 
Of green mummy. What's this flesh? A little cruded milk
Fantastical puff paste. Our bodies are weaker than those
Paper prison boys use to keep flies in; more contemptible 
Since ours is to preserve earthworms. Didst thou ever see
A lark in a cage? Such is the  soul in the body."

I also felt a bit like I was a character in a David Lodge or Tom Sharpe novel- you couldn't make it up! I briefly returned to work to drop off table cloths and brochures and bumped into a colleague who asked me  had it been very dull  and was I looking forward to the weekend?
Answer: "mmmm, mixed" and "YES, definitely!"

Monday, 24 June 2013

Thinking about July

Yesterday's reading from Galatians made me think of this post from the Blue Eyed Ennis site ( I can only link to it as the video is not available to post but it is worth watching.)
 Reflecting upon the "in Christ there is no male and female" verse inevitably made my mind turn to York Synod this year and wonder what the weekend after next will bring. First of all, I am not going to Synod this July; the decision not to go was partly because we originally had a family occasion planned that weekend, but, when I found that this event had been rescheduled, I still felt that the right thing to do was to bow out this year. I felt this despite the fact that the deliberations of Synod Chamber could well lead this time (I hope) to the admission of women to the Episcopate. In retrospect, the defeat of the legislation in November may well turn out to be the single most helpful thing that those opposed could have done to bring about the admission of women on equal or near equal terms.  Opponents are very likely to find they have been hoist with their own petard in that November represented the most generous offer ever likely to be on the table and there is every indication that the Church is now going to proceed only on terms which are much more palatable to supporters of women bishops.
One reason I chose to bow out this year was that I have lost any real enthusiasm for working within the Church of England to change it. November revealed something to me about the inflexibility in certain parts of the Church and I can't see any major movement on this. If, despite the support of the majority of the Church, we cannot achieve an equal position for women at a point when this is so widely accepted as right and proper by most of society, then what hope is there for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the foreseeable future? I don't see much hope on that front.
Regarding the inclusion of women, I do hope that the legislation will be approved this time (I think it is only due to be approved and then it is voted on at a later synod - but I haven't been closely following this, so am not quite sure.) More than this though, I hope that there will be healing or at least not too much bitterness and that both sides will know that they are "all one in Christ Jesus". The weekend after Synod I am going on retreat- this year I am involved in helping to lead worship and prayer sessions, something I feel quite nervous about but am glad I am doing because it seems a positive thing to do.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Having it all

For anyone who can't decide between their yearning for old style BCP Anglicanism or flowers in your hair (see post and comments below)...these are for you. (Sorry, it's clearly the silly season! :))

Just when you think it can't get worse...

I heard an item on the news yesterday about the Church of England embracing paganism in a bid to attract members and be more relevant. OK...I can think of more sensible things it could do first...but never mind...
 I suspect this is a fine example of the way that the media will run with any daft news story about the Church. I do just want to say though that if churches start to fill up with kaftan clad hippies talking about shamanic healing, spirit guides, or recipes for nettle soup, then I definitely am  leaving and never coming back.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Doctor Whoess?

I was deeply shocked today to hear rumours that the next Doctor might be a doctoress. I hope that readers will join with me in strongly opposing this complete redefinition and consider the dangers and unforeseen consequences which this tampering may bring. For a start a female doctor goes against all our established understanding of time travelling itself. A dashing, deep voiced male is the right and proper figure to be striding across the centuries, not some girl batting her silly curled eyelashes. This ridiculous pandering to contemporary ideas will not do; how is some female going to have enough natural authority to command the respect of previous generations or to quell alien races. I think she'll be too busy putting on her make up!

Readers can all observe the clip below in which  the doctor regenerates properly into a man. He does have a  moment when he thinks he might be a girl and his distress should be enough to demonstrate that Doctors, just like the rest of us, are happier when they don't face any nasty surprises which go against the natural order. I sincerely hope that, should the unthinkable ever happen, there will be proper provision for those of us who know that the Doctor can only ever be a man. By proper provision, I mean a completely separate programme on another station so our world can stay unchanged.

In any case, you can't change the rules of regeneration. Tradition and experience tells us that the Doctor always comes back male. We'll completely open the floodgates once the Doctor's  meat and two veg morph into lady bits and there will be no going back and no knowing where we are. And if the Doctor can become a girl, what's to stop him regenerating into two Doctors, or three, or four? We could have poly-Doctorism on our hands before we know it. Just imagine the confusion and the potential for disaster.

 We rely on the Doctor! He has saved the world in the past. Don't let them do this! It could be the end of life and the universe as we know it...



Sunday, 26 May 2013

Wisdom, Love, Might



As we were reminded in church this morning, we spend a lot of time trying to explain and define the Trinity - a process which can be  fascinating/confusing/ boring/ or often apparently heretical (delete as applicable according to your own understandings), but we don't perhaps focus enough on just being aware of the power of the Trinity. To me, the Trinity speaks of unity in diversity, a Godhead that is about relationship, creativity, flux and yet which works with such unity that it is also changeless and eternal. (NB: if this is heretical then I don't care.)

The hymn "Thou Whose Almighty Word" draws on the Trinity as described in Genesis and beautifully draws on the biblical images of the spirit moving over the face of the water "bearing the lamp of Grace" followed by breath taking images of the Trinity:

 Blessed and holy Three,
Glorious Trinity
Wisdom, Love, Might
Boundless as ocean's tide
Rolling in fullest pride
Through the Earth far and wide
Let there be light!

How often are we inspired by the glory of the Trinity? How often do we consciously celebrate or worship God as Trinity? Theology is important, but faith is not a theological exam, it is a lived experience. We should remember that.

Monday, 13 May 2013

The knowledge and love of God

There seem to have been so many items in the news over the past few weeks relating to the abuse of children and young people. Every day there's a new and horrific revelation from the guilty plea of TV presenter Stuart Hall to the sheer scale of abuse in children's homes in Wales, and then the harrowing accounts of the murder of Tia Sharp today. And this is to name only a few.
One of the hardest things to acknowledge is that human cruelty is an everyday event. One of the most revealing details came when the neighbour of Ariel Castro struggled to get his head around the fact that an average bloke who attended backyard barbecues and made small talk was also capable of abduction, abuse and torture.Finding out that someone you assumed was basically decent can carry out atrocity shakes your faith not only in them but in your own judgements and ultimately in human nature.
If, while listening to these cases on the news, you have had a fleeting moment when you have asked yourself whether it is safe to trust anyone, or safe to assume that most people are decent, imagine how much more of a challenge this poses to those who have been abused. Those abused as children have grown up with that disconnect between appearance and reality because they have experienced what a trusted and seemingly decent adult, who goes about their everyday life in an ordinary fashion, is actually capable of. Survivors of abuse are rarely very surprised at what goes on behind closed doors.
Yet trust is an essential part of human life, without it you close down and emotionally you die. You can't let people get close to you. You can't be honest with others or be yourself with them. Because you are unable to develop a sense of who others are, you may lack a sense of self and show a casual disregard for your own needs or be unable to identify your own emotions.
We all need to be able to trust others and I think that to have a faith can be an enormous blessing for those who have been abused and for all of us in our doubts about goodness in ourselves and others. If you can truly grasp that God is pure goodness, pure holiness, pure love, and can be utterly trusted, then this provides that still centre in a turning world. If you have this, then the knowledge that evil is real and everyday is balanced by the knowledge that goodness is also real and everyday- and you will begin to  find it, and even to expect it, in yourself and others.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

TLC

Today, as I heard on the radio this morning, is Good Shepherd's Sunday in the Catholic year. We can learn a lot from reflecting on the different images we have of  God as Father, Mother, Creator, King, Judge, or of Jesus as brother, Saviour, friend, lover, advocate. I think the concept of God and Christ as shepherd is one of the richest with its connotations of being guided, tended and valued so much that he will rise and seek for us to bring us home. No-one has so little worth that they can be dispensed by the Good Shepherd, and the more we are in need, the more imperative it is to Him to reach us even at great cost to Himself. There is also the idea of Christ as the Lamb of God which reminds us of the God in Christ who comes to be among us and be utterly vulnerable as we are.
This beautiful metaphor for God and God in Christ should comfort us and help us to trust, even if our capacity to trust has been damaged by our experiences or individuals and even if we feel we can no longer put our trust in institutions or ideology. We can always trust God to meet us in our needs, or as one of these songs says,  God shepherds us beyond our wants and fears. Both of these hymns are about TLC _ not just tender loving care but trust, love and confidence when we approach God.  I've posted them before - still I hope you find them meaningful.



Sunday, 14 April 2013

Stress bears

I recommend these stress bears which a friend sent me today. A quick click of your mouse and you can send the little devils tumbling down. You can imagine they are anything/ anyone you like - iron ladies, certain bishops in the Church of England, cold callers, those difficult neighbours,  your colleagues...your congregation....
Possibly not very christian... quite therapeutic though...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Remembering



Dunno about you but the death of MT has had two effects so far in our household. Number one is that I've had to say "Calm down" to Mr M on an even more frequent basis than usual as he rants angrily at the radio (he didn't like her...) The second effect is that hearing about the miners' strike, the Brighton bomb, the Poll Tax and so on has brought back vividly what was happening in my life at those particular moments. It is a weird thing the remembrance of things past. So for anyone feeling nostalgic - enjoy the above.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Sorrow and Love


Good Friday is the day on which my faith makes most sense to me. This is because, although I have never heard a completely satisfying intellectual argument as to why a loving God would allow so much human suffering, the image of a God who suffers along with us seems the most compelling emotional answer to that question. The cross is a rich metaphor; it does not really matter that it means different things to different people, more that we are prepared to search for meaning in it. In the clip above, Justin Welby describes how when he faced his daughter's death, he had a strong sense, alongside his grief, of the presence of Jesus that filled the room. That image of the simultaneous presence of love and grief recalls the words of Isaac Watts:
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Or as it says in the liturgy,

“He opened wide for us his arms on the cross.”
Or in the words of William Blake:

“Until our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.”

The type of love which stays with us when the chips are down, when have reached rock bottom, when nothing can really be said or done other than to offer love itself, is something very precious. It is precious because it is then that we realise that love is valuable, not because it can sort our problems out, but because love affirms our dignity as human beings. Love asserts that our human life, even in its last futility of weakness, pain, despair and death, still has meaning and value.

The triumph of the cross is not a triumph over weakness but a triumph through weakness. It holds the message that an all powerful God loves us enough to be totally defenceless and that this in itself is triumph and power.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Brick walls

Giles Fraser, who only recently announced he was giving up anger and moving on, has now managed to upset a lot of people with an article about banging his head against a brick wall over "Cheesus Christians" which shows a level of evango-phobia which unfortunately doesn't seem to be tongue in cheek or satirical. I have to say that I do think the offence Fraser has caused is justified in this instance, he does peddle some appalling stereotypes about evangelicals, describing them as, "patronising, superior and faux caring all at the same time." Perhaps even more toe-curlingly, Fraser makes some apallingly sweeping statements about what he refers to as the theological illteracy of evangelicals, saying that their theology has no capacity to address suffering and pain.
 I suspect that Fraser fully intended his readers to understand that he is talking about a certain type of evangelical or a tendency that can sometimes be found in some strains of evangelical thought. If so, he doesn't make it clear, he just seems to lump the whole evangelical world - which is a very broad spectrum anyway-together as Cheesus lovers. I also didn't feel that Fraser's observations were particularly theologically literate themselves. He criticises evangelicals because  "the cross of Good Friday is actually celebrated as a moment of triumph", and not, as Fraser describes it, as failure and crisis, without pausing to take breath and consider whether the work of the cross, a work that involves embracing the failure and despair of humanity, is not the paradoxical strength-in-vulnerability that lies behind the power of the Resurrection. Seeing the cross as a work of triumph is not necessarily theologically illiterate.
But leaving aside the fact that the theological comment might have been more nuanced and astute, what that really made me want to  bash my head against the wall is that Fraser is president of Inclusive Church - and God loves and uses all sorts of people, not only men and women, black and white, gay and straight, but also liberals and conservatives. Also most people really do defy labels. Most people who might be described as "liberal" (such as myself) don't like to be characterised as not-beliving- in-the-bible, anything-goes-types any more than most evangelicals like to be characterised as either ranting -bible-basher or cheesy-fake-and-shallow.We have to get beyond the sort of "them and us" labels that can cause us to fail to see and relate to others, because that way we might just have a chance of bringing down the walls that can divide us rather than just bruising our heads on them.

Prayer for Holy Week

God as we walk through Holy week may we remember,
Beyond sin there is love inexhaustible,
Beyond death there is life unimaginable,
Beyond brokenness there is forgiveness incomprehensible,
Beyond betrayal there is grace poured out eternally,
May we remember and give thanks

From Godspace

Monday, 11 March 2013

Down memory lane



I was a Forces child. I was born in Singapore in 1966, my father had gone there to work as a teacher in a forces school. He may well have  gone as a response to seeing this video or one similar to it. Life was pretty good for British Forces personnel in Singapore; I think the pay was quite good as was the social life. I still have faint memories of the place, in particular my Amah (who was called Ar-Wah, although I guess this means her real name was “Wah”.) The Amah looked after the children, rather like a nanny nowadays. My husband always teases me about this and says I was born into the twilight of Imperialism.


When I was five, my dad decided to train for the priesthood and we went to a deprived area of South Wales with high unemployment, we lived in an icy cold house with no central heating. Only a few years later though he decided to return to work in a Forces school, this time in Germany. The above promotional video will be of little interest to anyone who was not a Forces child, but for me it features many of the scenes of my childhood, for example I remember the rubber plantations and I am sure some of the later clips show my school in Germany.

My mum will also no doubt be interested, so it could be a sort of belated Mother’s Day gift... Yeah, we did get flowers as well...



Rubber plantation

Street scene Hong Kong


Slums close to where we lived. There was great poverty for many

Street altar in Singapore
My Christening day- the ears are still the same!



Saturday, 9 March 2013

Women Bishops Plan B

As I understand it, Parliament is  to debate whether it should force through a bill which will enable women to become bishops- presumably simply on equal terms to men- but I have to say I am unsure on this point.
A report from WATCH runs thus:


On Wednesday 13th March Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull, will introduce a bill under the ten-minute rule that would enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. In this way she will remind the Church of England that it lies within Parliament’s power to legislate for this, if the Church cannot do so quickly and in a way that is acceptable to Parliament.

After the disastrous vote last November when General Synod failed to support women bishops legislation, bishops were called to Westminster to explain to MPs how they planned to bring a speedy resolution to the problems this vote had caused. A House of Bishops Working Group has now consulted widely, and from the responses to the consultation that have been made public it appears that there is even less common ground than before between those in favour and those against women bishops. Nevertheless WATCH remains committed to the Church of England’s process of reconciliation and continuing conversations.

WATCH believes that Diana Johnson’s bill is timely in reminding the Working Group, and the House of Bishops, that legislation for women to be bishops must be passed by the Synod sooner rather than later, and in a form that allows no discrimination against women.

I am so out of patience with the Church of England on this point that I hardly care whether Parliament force through a bill or not - except that I would be glad for the women I know who are priests. For the Church it would be humiliating and embarrassing. Why can't it see that the writing is on the wall?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Tempation of Christ

 Pictures sometimes convey more than words and this depiction of Christ in the Wilderness by Eric Armusik is one I find compelling. As a child, I had an illustrated bible with a fantastic picture of Jesus and the devil. Jesus, blond, blue eyed and clad in white robes was standing on top of a cliff looking very disapproving and the devil, a magnificent winged creation, was hovering in the air, gesturing to all the dominions of the world, or perhaps making the suggestion about Jesus chucking himself off the cliff. The devil really did look to be having more fun, and maybe that was partly the point of the picture! The more subtle depiction of the devil in this picture is as a dark and corrosive presence whispering in our ear, more like the brooding inner voice, an aspect of ourselves, than a discrete enemy we can easily banish. This picture also has strong connotations of death, the hooded figure, the ravens in the background, the darkness with only streaks of light. It makes me wonder how much the wilderness is about God coming to terms with mortality and of the ways in which Lent and Easter asks us to look at our mortality, and then perhaps beyond it. The temptation Christ rejects in the wilderness is the temptation to cast off mortality, the choice he makes is to embrace the human condition fully, and all it says about hunger, insignificance, vulnerability, failure and death.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Wilderness

 I'm not too keen on the wilderness, don't know about you?
I do understand the principle, the idea that in the wilderness we have to completely turn to and rely on God just as the children of Israel did, and to be tempted and resist, just as Jesus did. I just think that most wildernesses, not the ones we play act in Lent but the  real ones such as  loneliness, pain, depression, bereavement, poverty or failure aren't actually that good for us. When you are going through a real wilderness, I suspect it is as common to feel abandoned by God and fairly useless as it is to experience any great deepening of faith ( though I think when we look back on a wilderness patch, we can sometimes learn from it.)
It was interesting this morning to think about the idea that Jesus was baptised just before going into the wilderness and how much he would have needed to hear that he was God's beloved son with whom he was well pleased. Maybe the biggest danger when going through a wilderness is that we can forget we are beloved and that God is still with us?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Confession for dogs



Anyone who thinks dogs are not capable of guilt has never owned one. A Lenten video for all dogs with souls:) It's also hilarious!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Women Bishops and new ways forward

The Church of England has published, for those who still have the heart to engage with it, a consultation document called Women in the Episcopate: a new way forward.
It acknowledges that a way to admit women to the Episcopate must be found as a matter of urgency and that outcome of the 20th November vote has left the Church of England in a profoundly unsatisfactory and unsustainable positionThe majority of the rest of this document set out the considerable problems faced in resolving the differences over the proposed legislation.It was only published on Friday and I've already read frustrated comments that the working group don't seem in a position to get things any further. One section did really make me sit up and read more carefully though. It was this line:
"It was recognised in those conversations (of the new working group) that a different mode of discourse was now needed, to avoid the mistake of expecting Synodical processes to be able to carry all the weight. "
It is quite clear that whatever legislation is placed before Synod will be unsatisfactory either to traditionalists opposed to women bishops or to those in favour and so will be in danger of not being voted in. Perhaps the Church will say, "We have to have women bishops. These are the three proposals on the table. One is more suited to traditionalists, one more suited to those campaigning for women bishops, one is a middle way. You can vote for which you prefer, or you can abstain. The way with the most votes wins. Period."


Such a solution would, of course, have its own serious pitfalls, not least the danger of split votes, very close votes and of something voted in that the majority in the church had not agreed to. Really a simpler option might to change the way Synod works and not require a two-thirds majority and I wonder if this is what is being considered? One thing is sure and that is that creative and genuinely new ways forward need to be found if there is not to be a repeat of November's fiasco.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Start as you mean to go on

When I say, "start as you mean to go on", I refer to the media and not to Justin Welby. We are told that Welby used his first public address to confirm his opposition to gay marriage ; I rather think he had little choice but to speak on the issue given that he was immediately asked this question by journalists. I do wonder what they expected him to say? Maybe something along the lines of, "Actually I rethought that one last night, and d'you know what, I'm pretty cool with it." (Now that would be fun! Can you imagine the fuss?)
A much more thoughtful journalistic response to today can be found  this article by Robert Piggot which considers the burden of this role. The idea of him as taking a huge burden on his shoulders made me think of someone taking up their own particular cross- perhaps a daunting and lonely task. I really think a constructive thing the  church could do is pray a bit more. In particular they could pray for Justin Welby as I suggested here . God knows he might need it.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Forgiveness and emotion

 I have been looking at a video about the mass shootings at Sandy Hook entitled, Forgiveness doesn't happen overnight . Forgiving others is an important part of christian teaching yet there is often not enough understanding that forgiveness is a journey. When people have been on the receiving end of  very serious hurt or atrocity then to demand or force forgiveness is extremely unhelpful. It also puts us in danger of judging - how many of us would find it easy to forgive if we were a parent whose child had been killed?  I've known people who have told me that forgiveness is not so difficult because forgiveness is not an emotion, it is simply an act of will. All I know is that the way I forgive is from the heart, so this doesn't make much sense to me. Indeed we are told in the bible that forgiveness must come from the heart.
The problem with forgiving from the heart is usually because those trying to forgive are experiencing extreme anger or even hatred. Most of us can relate to this. A problem people are less aware of is that sometimes it can be hard to forgive due to a lack of emotion. This can be particularly true of some survivors of childhood abuse  because it is common for abused children to build up a barrier between themselves and their emotions as a coping mechanism. As an adult it may be hard for a survivor to identify any emotion connected with the abuse- let alone say whether they have forgiven.  A social worker I knew told me that one of his clients had been so damaged by a childhood during which she both witnessed and was on the receiving end of appalling physical and sexual abuse that she would laugh quietly while recounting horrendous events and once told him that, "she didn't give a shit" about what had happened to her.  Some survivors of abuse have had their own identity and emotional foundations so damaged that naming or even completely "feeling" emotion can be difficult. It is  also quite possible to be generally emotionally literate and functioning but to find that you experience an emotional void when it comes to the area of the abuse.

So what should be the attitude toward  forgiveness in christian thought and teaching? It is important that we do not sideline forgiveness. The ability to know ourselves as forgiven and forgiveable, and in turn to forgive others, is the huge liberation at the heart of Christianity. When we can truly forgive from the heart then the thing we have forgiven has no more power over us and we begin to bring about healing in others as well as ourselves.

Any teaching of forgiveness must though be handled with care and sensitivity. Perhaps we cannot forgive from the heart until we have reached a place where we are emotionally secure enough to do so and the journey is a learning and healing process that needs to run its course.

Simplicity


I Taught Myself to Live Simply

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life's decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966)

I've thinking recently about simplicity and mindfulness. We cannot dismiss or turn our backs on all the issues and stressful things that we hear about on the news and experience in our lives, however we can achieve a distance from them and let go a little more. This poem seemed to sum it up.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Arch definitions

The Archdruid and her words of wisdom this evening. I do quite like what I've seen and heard of Justin Welby but I still think the Archdruid as ABC would be more fun. And we're a bit thin on fun.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Room at the Inn

Someone told me recently that they were involved in the Inn Church project. I googled it and was interested to read about it here. No doubt I will be told about the drawbacks and negatives and ifs and buts of this type of endeavour, I have to say though that I am always impressed to see and read about the level of service that people of faith offer to communities. I was talking the other day to someone whose partner is struggling with various problems as a result of having had a very difficult life and how the church has supported him and how someone in his congregation acts as an advocate on his behalf. Many years ago, I used to sometimes attend a Gurdwara (Sikh temple) with a friend. The temple always served a meal to its worshippers and I was struck by the considerable numbers of homeless people who arrived and ate at the temple. They were never turned away and they were always treated with the utmost courtesy.
Much of the work done by people and organisations of faith is done unobtrusively; this is as it should be and  yet it is a shame we do not see and hear more about it  it as that might lead to a greater appreciation of faith as a gift to society.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Evango-phobia

A while back, I attended a gathering of some Christian friends. Quite a few were from London and attended Holy Trinity Brompton, but one told me that he went to "Steve Chalke's church". I could tell by the way he uttered the words, "Steve Chalke" that this was something momentous and I was meant to be impressed.
" Oh yes", I said, "he's some sort of evangelical pastor, isn't he? I've vaguely heard of him."
"He's Steve Chalke", said my companion looking aghast, "you know Steve Chalke!"
"Right", I said, "That's good then."

The fact is that I'm not very up to the moment on evangelical writers and pastors. I've heard of Nicky Gumbel, of course, and of Rob Bell and of a few others but I'm just not really terribly interested. The reason I  even mention this at all is that Steve Chalke has written an article saying how he now supports same sex relationships-  and this has caused waves in the evangelical world.  I just mention it in case you happen to be interested in things evangelical.
Now, I actually know quite a lot of gay evangelicals. I find this a bit weird and freaky (them being evangelical, not the gay bit...) but that doesn't mean I'm prejudiced against them. In fact, some of my best friends are evangelicals and even some of my family. As long as they keep it private and don't go flaunting it by saying things like "Praise the Lord", I'm just fine! I wish that they would change their ways, of course, in fact I used to be in that sort of lifestyle, I left it and so anyone can. I just wish they'd realise that they could sing psalms in a dirge like way and avoid mentioning Jesus outside of the actual service if they would only make the effort to control themselves.It's not that hard  if you only try.

 I have to admit that I might have some teensy prejudices -  as a 100% solid Anglican (ex-Anglican?...it's the same thing anyhow!) I find the thought of people waving their hands in the air and speaking in tongues rather repulsive , but you don't have to think about it- that's the point. Most of what they believe is utter nonsense, of course, and they've got quite an agenda going on,  but for me it's a case of love the believer, hate their beliefs. I'm also fascinated by the way that they have their little signs to tell each other who they are, the fish symbol in the car, the use of a strange lexicon including words such as "sanctified" and "backslidden" and "convicted". We might also think they are so full of themselves and their bloody status-among-the-elect / saved-by-grace/ washed-in-the-blood/ baptised-in-the-Holy-Spirit or whatever term they use to make it clear they are a better class of Christian - but in reality they also feel quite beleaguered, a persecuted minority facing prejudice and misunderstood in larger society. So, just think about what that feels like that next time you are tempted to judge! Finally, they're not all bigots who hate women and gays, in spite of what you've read in the papers. It's a stereotype and a lot of them are as tolerant as the average middle of the road Anglican and generally a lot younger and they give a lot more to the church.

So, next time you are about to make some shallow, prejudiced assumptions - don't! Remind yourself that, despite your instinctive disgust, lots of them are lovely, lovely people and remember that it's just the way they were born again!

With heartfelt apologies to any evangelical readers...:)