I couldn't resist this photo, it seems so full of hope and promise, and yet it reflects a beginning ... life is not all smooth shores and sunny days... there will be rocks and storms... and yet somehow hand in hand with one another and with God we make it...
Todays Lectionary reading; Acts 3: 1-10 contains these words:
Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."
I wonder, do we still have what Peter had? Do we have the faith to believe in a God who heals, that as we go about our everyday lives and are surrounded by suffering and needs are we able to reach beyond ourselves and place our faith in a God who has such compassion upon the suffering of humanity that he will bring healing there and then?
I struggle with this for a number of reasons, firstly because I have seen miraculous healing in my own life, in the life of my family and friends, and occasionally when I have dared in the lives of folk that I have prayed for directly. Secondly because the opposite is also true....
Although I do not believe that miracles were confined to New Testament times, and that God is alive and active in his world today, I also believe that miracles are not the point with God; relationship is... and then I begin to wonder if that is simply a cop out....
Perhaps a place of tension is a good place to be... what are your thoughts ?
Following our long journey yesterday we all had a lie in, I had meant to go to my friend Mike's Ordination, but was concerned enough about Chris to decide that I needed to stay at home. He slept for a long time, and although he did feel up to a trip to the beach walked only a short distance and turned down the offer of a beer. We will call the hospital tomorrow. Tim and Joanne had enjoyed a good weekends sailing though finishing eigth in the Eastern Area Championships!
Jo's reward was to be thrown into the sea... life is a strange mixture at times!!!
I was sad to miss the Ordination of my good friend and fellow blogger Mike Bursell today; I have come to know Mike as a kind and wise friend and I know that he will make an awesome Priest. He is one of many folk being Ordained into the Priesthood these days who will continue in his current proffession, being a Priest will add work and responsibility to his already busy life and so for him, and for his family I offer this blessing for a new position by John O'Donnahue.
May your new work excite your heart,
Kindle in your mind a creativity
To journey beyond the old limits
Of all that has become wearisome.
May this work challenge you towards
New frontiers that will emerge
As you begin to approach them,
Calling forth from you the full force
And depth of your undiscovered gifts.
May the work fit the rhythms of your soul,
Enabling you to draw from the invisible
New ideas and a vision that will inspire.
Remember to be kind
To those who work for you,
Endeavour to remain aware
Of the quiet world that
Lives behind each face.
Be fair in your expectations,
Compassionate in your criticism,
May you have the grace of encouragement,
To awaken the gift in the others heart,
Building in them the confidence
To follow the call of the gift.
May you come to know that work
Which emerges from the mind of love
Will have beauty and form.
May this new work be worthy
Of the energy of your heart,
And the light of your thought.
May your work assume
A proper space in your life;
Instead of owning or using you,
May it challenge and refine you,
Bringing you every day further
Into the wonder of God.
Pop over to Mike's blog and leave him a word of encouragement or two.
Saturday began with a call from Chris to tell me that he didn't feel too good; had it been Jo or Jon I would have probably dispensed some motherly advice and thought no more of it, a call from Chris is different, alarm bells start ringing straight away. He had been experiencing arrythmia problems again, these are not unusual for him, but we are concerned because they are becomming more severe and more frequent.
Thankfully I had arranged to collect Jon and Chris today, and so making sure he was going to be OK and that a hospital visit wasn't imminent I set off on my across the country tour, first to Lancaster University and then down across the Peak District to Cliff College.
Eight hours of driving gives plenty of time for reflection, and although the boys chatted for some of the way, they both slept a great deal, Chris because he was unwell, and Jon because he hadn't slept for about 30 hours ( he'd been making the most of the last few days of his first year!). As I drove I reflected on how having children is one long lesson in letting go; when they were tiny I knew all about their worlds, I knew what they ate and where they were, as they grew, going to pre-school and then Primary School their world broadened but I still knew where they were, I knew their teachers and their friends. When they went to High School things changed again, gone was the walk up the village, they caught a bus to the next town, and I no longer knew all of their teachers or their friends... and so it goes on.... and all of this is normal and good for my prayer life, for in prayer I never let go.
Letting go with Chris though started very early on, when we discovered the complexity of his heart condition we learned to place him in the hands of God and of the surgeons, the doors of the operating theatre are closed to us except through prayer. Next week we will visit the Brompton Hospital again, and hopefully they will have discovered a way of controlling Chris's current problems. As I think on this it occurs to me that Chris as he has grown up and understood the fragility of his life has learned to let go even of that in ways that I cannot begin to comprehend, he places himself into the hands of the surgeons and of God with bravery and trust his testimony speaks of struggles and of depths of understanding that most of us can only glimpse...
...and I find myself challenged afresh by Jesus words:
Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
More expansively in The Message:
34-37Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?
What indeed could I ever trade my soul for?
I love this picture, the tenacity of grass that holds onto the dunes on the beach speaks to me of a life abandoned to the elements.... dare I place myself in the hands of God in this way?
... and yet letting go is a strange thing, one of the joys of yesterday was returning home to a delicious curry cooked by my mum!
Over at Revgals Songbird says: Back in the day, before I went to seminary, I worked in the Children's Room at the Public Library, and every year we geared up for Summer Reading. Children would come in and record the books read over the summer, and the season included numerous special and celebratory events. As a lifelong book lover and enthusiastic summer reader, I find I still accumulate a pile of books for the summer.
This week, then, a Summer Reading Friday Five.
1) Do you think of summer as a particularly good season for reading? Why or why not?
I guess this is a yes and no answer for me; no because I tend to spend time in outdoor activities during the summer, but yes because as our holidays involve camping there are times when a good book makes an excellent companion on a summers evening- those rare evenings when we are not surrounded by family and friends that is!
2) Have you ever fallen asleep reading on the beach?
No, I walk or swim at the beach, and then there is almost always a race to watch!
3) Can you recall a favorite childhood book read in the summertime?
Yes but I don't remember the title; it was the first full novel that gripped my attention so fully that I couldn't put it down, I had to be cajoled into taking part in family activities...I just wanted to read and read. It was about life in Russia at a ballet school! I was so upset when I finished it!
4) Do you have a favorite genre for light or relaxing reading?
Not really, although any decent novel is good, I am not really a fan of short stories, and poetry is another matter altogether, it needs a fireside and thinking space! I find summer too busy for serious reading.
5) What is the next book on your reading list?
Well now I am about to contradict myself because the next book on my list is Barbara Kingslover's collection of short stories Small Wonder.
I am currently reading Brian McLaren's book Finding our way again; he is looking at and calling for a return to the ancient practices or disciplines of the Christian life, because I have decided to read this book slowly ( I often devour books at speed) I have only reached chapter 4. Chapter 4 is entitled "Practicing the way of Jesus"...
McLaren emphasizes how Jesus came not to start a new religion, but came as a Jew proclaiming God's kingdom come, and calling folk to follow a new way of living- nothing too shocking there we might think, until we are challenged to move beyond our own religious comfort zones and into a way of living which disrupts, disturbs and goes against the flow! He looks at the way of Christ as being a movement; a distinct way of living that brings God's shalom into the world. He also challenges his reader to build bridges with other faiths by finding the contact/ connecting point, by really listening, and even by re-thinking our own position. Can we he asks live for a day/ week/year without using the words Christian or Christianity, dare we say that we are Jesus followers or members of the movement that Jesus started? How he asks will this change of terminology effect us?
I have listened to myself talk about faith quite carefully and realise how church centered I am, and how this change in terminology challenges me to be Christ centered. It strikes me that I need to practice being Christ centered, being churchy is easy; being a Jesus follower, a true disciple is more difficult. Following Jesus requires practice and reflection, it demands that I stop and see my words and action in a new light, in the light of the light of the world.
Practice is not lip service, practice is real hard work; both of my daughters are musicians, Emma having completed her degree is now a professional musician and teacher, Joann is currently studying music at Sheffield University; both of them practice for hours everyday. This morning Joanne set her metronome and played one phrase over and over again until she was satisfied with it. Sometimes the music comes easily, at other times it is a struggle which requires perseverance- it occurs to me that prayer is like that, some days we slip easily into the presence of God, while at other times our prayers seem to bounce straight back at us unheeded or unanswerable, how easy it is to give up, and to fall out of the practice of prayer deserting the lover of our souls.... we are so easily discouraged and disheartened. I am one who struggles with prayer, sometimes I forget, at others if I am honest I don't want to pray... but I need to, for prayer is a lifeline for a living relationship with God... when it is hard I need to practice. My prayers will not be perfect ( if such a thing is possible), but they will be real...
Perseverance is also a quality I need to nurture to within myself, I am a stumbling follower of Jesus at the best of times; but false views of who Jesus is and how he reacts to my stumbles have often left me sitting at the side of the road refusing to move. I need to remember words like;
Mtthw 11: 28-30"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
To hear Jesus calling me away from those things that burden me, to walk the pathways of recovery, keeping company with him- the one who does not condemn me for my failings. Indeed to persevere in looking into his eyes, at his face and seeing there compassion and forgiveness, I need to persevere in turning away from false and unhelpful views of God...
I am enjoying this book so far and will probably blog more on it.... but as a Methodist who is keenly aware that the denomination I serve began not as a denomination but a movement I will probably spend a bit more time mulling over another question; the reader is asked;
The author contrasts Christianity as an institution on the one hand with being disciples and being part of a movement on the other. What do you think would happen if the institutions of Christianity became more focused on forming disciples and forming a movement?
I feel that this is a very important question for the future of the church; another person who attended the R.U.N. Conference puts it like this:
For me listening to Brian was like soaking in a bath of salt water & hope that, whilst washing off surface dirt that had begun to cling, sully my appearance and cause infection, was also a balm to my soul.( ..and I didn’t go all crinkly from being in it 3 days!). At times I felt I was being anointed, at others it cut me to the quick; for both I am very grateful.
It is my guess that ministerial training in this country needs this kind of ‘surgery’ , huge doses of this teaching, in order that the church’s sickness gets healed and the body of Christ in this nation might spread the gospel instead of dis-ease. My hope is partly that the church instead of anesthetizing itself to reality & the nation’s pain, might embrace it as Christ did the cross and indeed as He embraced me….even me.
What was this teaching? It was a call to radical discipleship, to become a part of a movement that turns the world upside down once again with the Good News of Jesus, to be numbered amongst those who dare to live and to do differently... moving away from the institution the church might just find itself again!
...two suggestions for todays church from Brian McLaren;
Stop discussing sexuality
Stop seeking revival ( by this provocative comment he was calling for a depth of spirituality- the making of true disciples rather than the "froth and bubble" which so often accompanies "revival" meetings)
Today I gave Joanne a lift to Penguin Foods for an interview for a summer job- she will spend the summer grading and analysing peas- ( did you know that there is a grade of pea known as a twinkle?)....On Saturday I will collect Jonathan and Christopher from University, like Jo they have completed their first year. They have all passed and I am very proud of them. Paul their older brother who has begun teacher training has also passed his first year... again I am very proud of him.During this year I have also watched ( from a distance) my older daughter Emma begin to build a promising career as a cello/ violin teacher. Emma begins a Masters degree at Newcastle in September. I too checked on my MA results and am relieved to have passed all of the units so far. I will enter my final year of training for Methodist Ministry before I am "Stationed",... this time next year I will be thinking about moving house.
Where has the year gone....?
When did all of my children become adults?
I don't feel any older you see, I feel as if life is still full of promise, and that I have the energy, and now (praise God) a bit more wisdom to tackle life with! I am looking forward to having some of my children home for the summer, and intend to make the most of every moment because it seems to me that life has gone rushing by this year....
and so my prayer is...Lord be in the details, and help me to savour them.... be in the moments and help me to enjoy them... help me to see you in the time that seems to rush by, help me to slow my mind and heart to be aware of your presence, and your love....
Come Holy Spirit, invade my rushing, bring your calm and your peace....