Archive for the ‘A Pause In Advent’ Category

A Pause in Advent N°4: The Wicked Fairy…

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Oh, I’m a happy bunny! I was at church this morning – for those of you who don’t know, I’ve recently started going to the American Episcopalian church in Clermont Ferrand each month. Unfortunately it’s too far to go every week, but when I go, it makes me happy! – for the Christingle service…lots of children doing a nativity (with a real baby! And a plump little Angel Gabriel, who leant over the pulpit with a baleful glare at the congregation)  prayers led by the youth group, and rousing carols. Anyway, Father Rob (or Rob, as I call him from my not-quite-that-high church background) is on holiday after Christmas and has asked me if I will preach on 5th January. I’m so happy to be able to do so. Big smile. I’m already thinking about it!!

Pause in Advent Logo

Anyway,  we are here to pause. And for my not-quite-final poem I have another by U.A. Fanthorpe. This really is one of my favourite Christmas poems. However, I found another last week which I also love, so I woud like to share that with you on Christmas Eve…so I hope that you will find time to pop in sometime on Christmas Eve to read it.

 

But for now:

The Wicked Fairy at the Manger

by U.A. Fanthorpe

My gift for the child:

No wife, kids, home;

No money sense. Unemployable.

Friends, yes. But the wrong sort –

The workshy, women, wogs,

Petty infringers of the law, persons

With notifiable diseases,

Poll tax collectors, tarts;

The bottom rung.

His end?

I think we’ll make it

Public, prolonged, painful.

Right, said the baby. That was roughly

What we had in mind.

Really there’s not much more to say, except Thank You.

Pause in Advent N°3: BC-AD

Monday, December 16th, 2013

I’m so glad that so many people found the poem last week so resonant – different people commented on different phrases that rang out for them in particular. It wasn’t a poem I knew, but it has already become quite a favourite for this time of the year. When I have a little more time over Christmas, I may try art journalling it, so I can keep it.

This week and next week I am sharing two poems with you by the same author. Next week’s is an absolute firm favourite, but this week’s is one that is becoming loved. “This was the moment when Before turned to After” – a line resonant with mystery, but which refers to an event which for so many at the time was really a non-event:

BC–AD

by U.A.Fanthorpe

This was the moment when Before

Turned into After, and the future’s

Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing

Happened. Only dull peace

Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans

Could find nothing better to do

Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment

When a few farm workers and three

Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight

Into the kingdom of heaven.

This was the moment when a few farm workers and three members of an obscure Persian sect walked haphazard by starlight straight into the kingdom of heaven.

I love that line . It rolls on the tongue. But also it reminds us that those who first visited Jesus weren’t the high and mighty of the land, but rather lowly farm workers, who had been shivering out on the hillside, and three – well, three what? We don’t really know: were they rich Kings with a large entourage, or were they astronomers? seekers after truth? Whoever they were, they had followed a star that had led them somewhere unexpected.

They had gone, all confident that they knew the right place, to the palace. They had a prophecy, they knew that the baby born to be King would be born in a great house, and so – maybe ignoring what the star was telling them (“No, that can’t be right; it must be here”) – they followed their own line of reasoning.  But they were wrong – and, in fact, their mistake had tragic consequences, as Herod learned of a possible threat to his throne and made sure (or so he thought) that the “false” King was slaughtered.

And then they were led to an unexpected corner of a misbegotten town, where God turned everything upside down, challenged belief that Kings mean power, and pomp and circumstance, and led them “haphazard by starlight” into the Kingdom of God.

If we allow him to, that is where He will lead us too: in our bustle and hurry, and panic, and our long-held beliefs that we must have this and this at Christmas, that it won’t be right if we don’t do this, we need to let God lead us, haphazard, into the moment of peace and stillness and quiet in that dark stable when the Kingdom of Heaven was made open and accessible to all.

Pause in Advent Logo

Pause in Advent N°2: Bells Ringing

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

 

Another Sunday in Advent; another poem. I said I was going to share some of my favourite poems: well, this one is not a poem that I knew before yesterday. I was searching for another poem when I came across this one, and something leapt from the page and made me say “Yes!”

So today I bring you:

 

BELLS RINGING

by Leonard Clark

I heard bells ringing

Suddenly all together, one wild, intricate figure,

A mixture of wonder and praise

Climbing the winter-winged air in December.

Norwich, Gloucester, Salisbury, combined with York

To shake Worcester and Paul’s into the old discovery

Made frost-fresh again.

I heard these rocketing and wound-remembering chimes

Running their blessed counterpoint

Round the mazes of my mind,

And felt their message brimming over with love,

Watering my cold heart,

Until, as over England hundreds of towers trembled

Beneath the force of Christmas rolling out,

I knew, as shepherds and magi knew,

That all sounds had been turned into one sound,

And a single golden bell,

Repeating, as knees bowed, the name EMMANUEL.

“watering my cold heart”…”the old discovery made frost-fresh again”…”the winter-winged air”…”rocketing and wound-remembering chimes”

What beautiful words, knitted together to form a poem that shakes me a little from my torpor, that starts the chiming of that one insistent bell to echo through my insularity: Emmanuel: God with Us. The time of his coming is near and we should shake off our world weariness and ready ourselves to welcome him here. Let us tremble “beneath the force of Christmas rolling out”… Let us recognise that once more the Lord of Life comes leaping and dancing into our world to bring joy and peace and vibrancy.

A Pause in Advent #1: Eddi’s Service

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Pause in Advent Logo

Like several people, I’m joining in with Floss’s “Pause In Advent”. You can go to her site to read other blogger’s takes on the Advent season – some thinking about their family traditions, others taking a theme to follow through the weeks leading to Christmas.

 

Over the past years I have taken various themes – last year I blogged about my favourite secular songs, plus associated art journalling, other years I chose a word, or a decoration to blog about. This year, I have decided to blog about my favourite seasonal poems.

Today I want to introduce you to Eddi’s Service by Rudyard Kipling.

Eddi, priest of St. Wilfrid, in his chapel at Manhood End, ordered a midnight service for such as cared to attend.

But the Saxons were keeping Christmas, and the night was stormy as well. Nobody came to service, though Eddi rang the bell.

“Wicked weather for walking,” said Eddi of Manhood End. “But I must go on with the service for such as care to attend.”

The altar-lamps were lighted, an old marsh-donkey came, bold as a guest invited,and stared at the guttering flame.

The storm beat on at the windows,the water splashed on the floor, and a wet, yoke-weary bullock pushed in through the open door.

“How do I know what is greatest, how do I know what is least? That is My Father’s business,” said Eddi, Wilfrid’s priest.

“But — three are gathered together — listen to me and attend. I bring good news, my brethren!” said Eddi of Manhood End.

And he told the Ox of a Manger and a Stall in Bethlehem, and he spoke to the Ass of a Rider, that rode to Jerusalem.

They steamed and dripped in the chancel, they listened and never stirred, while, just as though they were Bishops, Eddi preached them The Word.

Till the gale blew off on the marshes and the windows showed the day, and the Ox and the Ass together wheeled and clattered away.

And when the Saxons mocked him, said Eddi of Manhood End, “I dare not shut His chapel on such as care to attend.”

I first came across this poem when I was searching for inspiration for a school play. It lent itself well to a narrator, and a few actors, with the others being Saxons, wassailing away in the background. I think I also used it for creative writing as well.

*****

I like it for the imagery, for the picture of a quiet, wind swept chapel with guttering candles, welcoming world weary beasts into the warmth. I imagine Eddi a little like Derek Jacobi in “Last Tango in Halifax”* (incidentally, that is a series well worth catching up on, if you don’t know it) –

(though, obviously not in a suit and tie!)

Actually, I’ve just realised that this reason I picture Derek Jacobi as Eddi is because he played Brother Cadfael in the TV adaptation of the novels. And there he played a monk:

…so I wasn’t far wrong with my mental picture!

An old man, a gentle, white haired monk, with cassock hitched up and work-worn hands. Disappointed that he was not preaching to the pagan Saxons, who were not interested in hearing about the Christian God, he instead opened his church and his heart to those who came looking, humble as they were. He gave them the Word that they were looking for: that they too are important to God, that they too were able to serve him, that they too were as welcome to come before Him who was born that night as any other.

Isn’t it strange how Christians, who claim to follow the source of all Love, often seem to be all too willing to spend time judging others and deciding who is and is not “entitled” to enter God’s Kingdom. How many of us would have shooed away the ox and ass as not being “worthy” to receive God’s love and largesse? How many of us today look on others and judge them, as being “worthy” of our time, our money, our charity?

“No-one can come to the Father but through me” is something that Jesus said, and so often, this is taken to mean that only Christians will be welcomed into Heaven: only those who have accepted Christ as their Lord. But what if it meant something different? What if it means “No-one can come to the Father except by my say-so, except those who have been welcomed by me”…

And what if God welcomes everyone? What if Christ says “Yes! You’re here! Welcome to everlasting glory!” to everyone. What then?

And this is how I see my God: welcoming to everyone who comes searching for the Truth, whether they are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, agnostic… I cannot imagine a God who is all-loving, who is justice incarrnate, who has a heart full of love and forgiveness and compassion turning anyone away from Glory, because they didn’t have the opportunity to hear the Gospel, because they were full of questions, because they were brought up in another faith, because …because…

Eddi did not judge whether the ox and the ass were “worthy” of knowing God. He welcomed them, saying: “How do I know what is greatest, how do I know what is least? That is My Father’s business”

We are not put on this earth to judge. We are put on this earth to serve.

 

Pause in Advent 3: “Driving Home for Christmas”

Friday, December 14th, 2012

This is just a little early. But I’m sure you’ll forgive me!

I’ve had some positive comments about the last two songs that I’ve posted, as they have been new to many of you. This next one is probaly not new: it’s one of those that is fairly ubiquitous at this time of year. It is on all the Christmas Compilations, with its jaunty tune and sleigh bells – but there is a poignant quality about it too.

Chris Rea’s “Driving Home for Christmas” was released in 1988, and I think my memories of it must be from that year, or maybe the year after. I have related this before, but as it is the reason I am including this song, I think it bears telling again. Mr D was working in London, and we lived in Milton Keynes at the time: one Christmas we were going up to see mum and dad in Liverpool for the Christmas weekend, and Mr D had to work on the Friday. So we decided that, rather than wait for him to arrive in MK, mid afternoon, and then do the journey amidst all the late evening traffic , I would drive to Liverpool by myself and he’d take the train. It was the first time I’d driven any great distance by myself, and I was nervous, but everything went reasonably well, until hitting the M6 around Birmingham. Traffic ground to a halt and frustration set in – but this song came onto the radio:

watch?v=uey6VktC5ms

The words were so apt: as Wikipedia relates: In a live interview on the BBC Radio 4 programme Today on 16 December 2009 Rea said he wrote “Driving Home for Christmas” many years before he first recorded it. His wife had come down to London to drive him home to Middlesbrough in her Austin Mini to save money because it was cheaper to drive than travel by train. Inspiration for the song came as she and Rea were stuck in heavy traffic heading out of London with a long drive to Middlesbrough ahead of them. Rea said “Driving Home for Christmas” is a “car version of a carol”

Driving home for Christmas
Oh, I can’t wait to see those faces

The words sum up the anticipation I felt; I always get excited about seeing people I love and don’t see that often. Sometimes, it must be admitted, the anticipation is better than actually seeing them, as arguments, niggles etc get in the way, but it is a wonderful thing to have a family to share with.

It’s gonna take some time
But I’ll get there
Top to toe in tail-lights
Oh, I got red lights all around

Oh yes, there really were red lights all around as I sat in that traffic jam, but the next line

But soon there’ll be a freeway
Get my feet on holy ground

Yes…soon traffic would start moving again – and I love the idea that being with loved ones (wherever that might be, whoever that might be) is like being on “holy ground”. Where love is, there Christ is also.

And for me, particularly poignant are the words

So I sing for you
Though you can’t hear me
When I get through
And feel you near me
I am driving home for Christmas
Driving home for Christmas
With a thousand memories

We all have those we have loved and lost; Christmas is a time when perhaps, more than ever, we feel the pain. People who should be there are there no longer; people we loved we can only remember. Christmas is a time of memories, when we feel them near.

And it is this idea that has inspired my journal pages this week: family and those we have loved and lost:

On the left hand page I painted some trees in black, sparkling with snow, as if one is driving through the dark. The photo shows most of my family – actually taken on a family holiday about 10 years ago – sharing a meal together. On the right hand page, I’ve taken parts of the song that resonate with me, and stuck photos of two members of the family who have died: my dad (not necessarily his best photo!! I took this one Christmas, as you can tell from the paper hat, worn at a rakish angle) and my brother’s first wife, mum to Rose and Ruth. She died quite some years ago, and now Mike is happily married – so I  have included a photo of him with his new wife, her girls and Rose and Ruth as well. Life has its tragedies, but there is also love and beauty that come from these losses as well.

This is probably my last Pause – I fly to the UK tomorrow – so I want to wish you all a very happy Christmas: be at peace with your memories, be blessed by our Living Lord and be joyful with the Christmas angels.

Pause in Advent 2: Sol Invictus

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

In my Pauses in Advent this year, I’m revisiting some favourite secular Christmas songs, I’m art journalling them and thinking what they can say to us from a spiritual point of view as well.

This week, I’m listening to a song from one of Mr D’s favourite Christmas albums,”Strange Communion” by Thea Gilmore

This has some great Christmas/winter songs on it, both jolly and fun, and also hauntingly beautiful. It is one of the hauntingly beautiful songs that I have chosen for today “Sol Invictus”

According to Wikipedia, Sol Invictus – which is Latin for Invincible Sun – wasthe official sun god of the late Roman empire, and scholars believe that the choice of 25th December for Christmas was to correspond with the Roman festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of Sol Invictus). Whether December 25th is, indeed, the real birth date of Jesus is – to me, at least – immaterial. The early Christian fathers chose a date that had meaning to their listeners, as they linked the Roman god, the Sun who can never be defeated by the wintertime and who rises again victorious in the spring with Jesus, the Son of God, who defeats death and rises from the grave.

Thea Gilmore’s song reflects the belief in the return of the sun, as she sings of “day stretching weary wings”.

Here are my journal pages.

I’m not sure I really need to say more – the words are there for us to reflect on, but the lines “Rise up, rise up! Ever victorious!” are for me a great shout out of victory for the baby who was born to die, and to rise again, victorious over death.

The YouTube video of the song is worth watching, as it was put together by somebody for a church service. The pictures used are very thought provoking, and as the person him/herself says: For some reason marrying a secular / pagan song about being halfway out of the dark with transparently Christian imagery seemed to work.

 

Pause in Advent 1: Run with the Fox

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

WARNING: This is a bit of a long and rambling post.

Together with a few other bloggers, I am joining in with Floss’s “A Pause In Advent” – an opportunity to pause in the rush up to Christmas, and to blog about whatever is personally important  in this season. If you’d like to read other blog posts “in the series”, then go over to Floss, at Troc, Broc et Recup’ to find the links.

Due to my plans for Christmas, I won’t be able to join in all of the weeks. We are spending Christmas at MiL’s in Kent, and we were not going to be able to get to see my Mum at all, due to time restraints, and travelling (It’s quite some distance from Kent to Liverpool – and back again!) However, Mum’s had some physical problems recently, and when I last spoke to her, seemed quite down  -which is not like her at all! – so I’m taking time out from my busy schedule (note the heavy sarcasm there!) to fly to Liverpool a week earlier. I’ll spend the week with mum, and then take the coach and train to Canterbury (via Milton Keynes, giving me a chance to catch up with some old friends). Mum is not very computer-savvy, and so I won’t be posting from there. I may have a chance to sneak in a final post from MiL’s on the fourth Sunday of Advent though.

I don’t really have to “pause” to be honest: I haven’t got myself in the holiday spirit (whatever that may be!), and I’m not rushing round doing anything! I’ve bought most of my presents, I’m not sending many cards, and we’re not decorating the house. Because we’re not going to be here, and the cats are completely bonkers (especially Bib) about new things, I’m not going to decorate the house. If we did, I fear we would return to baubles rolling around everywhere, swags completely destroyed, and stars mangled, not to mention, the creche shattered on the floor and Baby Jesus nowhere to be seen. So the “Christmas Spirit” is not very evident.

But what always helps me to smile about Christmas is the music. The favourite carols, for example. When I was teaching, I would be heartily sick of carols by mid-December, as we’d been practising them for weeks on end; I would sigh heavily when the first notes of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing..” struck up. But when I paused and read the words properly, – oh boy! They really hit home. That is one of my favourite carols now: I will belt it out at top volume, voice cracking on the high notes, often with tears in my eyes (yes, I do cry easily).

Mr D spent a good few hours a couple of years back, compiling a CD with over 50 Winter/Christmas themed songs on. This always makes me smile, as my very favourite secular songs are on that.  And it is actually some of these that I have chosen to use as inspiration for my Pauses this year

I don’t know if they will be spiritually thought provoking. We will see.

I have been intrigued by PomPom and her SMASH journalling. This is the recent craze in the US, which I think developed out of Scrapbooking. But instead of concentrating on the  beautifully positioned, agonised-over last sequin which creates a well considered, beautiful page, SMASH journalling is about rapid creating, “smashing” your mementoes into a journal, not taking so much consideration, but creating a page that is beautiful for its immediacy, for its impact, for its “now-ness”. On this post of PomPom’s you can see how she is SMASHing.

I have a beautiful Travel Journal, which was given to us one Christmas, which we never used for its original purpose. So I took time to cover the printed pages with pretty paper, and I have started to use it as a mix between an art journal, a prayer journal and a SMASH journal. I can’t bring myself to “smash” stuff into it – I have to make it look good. I can’t quite let go and not worry about what it looks like.

But I’m going to use the Pause in Advent to journal some of my favourite secular Christmas songs, and to think about why they mean so much, or how they touch my heart.

Now the season, Now the question
Time to breathe a moment’s grace
For the Hunter and the Hunted
Taking time to break the pace

One such song is “Run with the Fox” by Chris Squire & Alan White from the band “Yes”. Here is a link to a You Tube video of the song – if you don’t know it, do listen: I think it’s lovely.

When I hear it, it always makes me smile: it is such a hopeful song. The lyrics are in full here.And here is my Journal page:

Are you hopeful? Are you haunted by the ghost of Christmas past?

Advent has always been a hopeful time. I am lucky that I have not had tragedy, as such, in my life. Of course, I have lost people I love, but I have never had to face utter despair that others have. At this time of year, I am always able to keep a kernel of hope in my heart; however far from God I have been, however much I have wanted to shake Him out of my life, I can’t, because there is that seed of hope, of love, that rests deep within my spirit. For those who are haunted by past tragedies, or by present ones, I pray for the comforting and the springing green shoots of love.

Leave your sadness by the river, giving love and given time.

We all need to learn to leave our sadness behind us – whatever that grief is for. Grief for the loss of loved ones…for the person we are, the person we fail to be…memories of things we have said and can’t now unsay…of actions done..ofmissed opportunities and regrets …

God has given us time: time enough to do all that He wants us to do. But we need to use that time wisely – giving love, being who we are, becoming what we should be, making amends…

Advent is a time to prepare for God’s coming, both to earth and to our hearts. Things can change; things will change.  We can face the future undaunted, with God on our side and at our side...

Let us live to tell a story, here on Earth and out in Space
Forward on the road to glory…

Let us live to tell God’s story, perhaps. To move forward on the road to glory, we are together as pilgrims

Run with the Fox

My final Pause In Advent

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

I want to apologise – my plan to have a “character” post each week has gone down the pan, as they say… I can’t find my book wherein I wrote several of my characters. I have some on my computer, but most were written by hand and I can’t find them. We’re going away on Friday, and I really don’t think I’ve got time to write another. However, I do have an Epiphany character – one that sends shivers down my spine when I read it, even though I  wrote it and I know the ending! I hope you might join me for a “Pause In Epiphany” round about 6th January.

Meanwhile, today I put up my decorations. Usually I do it on the second Sunday in Advent; I don’t know why I am a week behind. Maybe it’s because we’re going away I’ve not really been able to get into the “groove” of preparations, but even so, yesterday I did some baking (I’m delivering some mince pies to a friend today) and today I decorated. The presents are wrapped, and sitting on the dining room table, the cards are written and waiting till we arrive in the UK for a catch-the-last-posting-date dash to the Post Office on Saturday morning! I have to pop to Cervieres, a local village , today to buy a Santon for my friends. They have one King, I need to buy another. Then next year, they’ll get the last!

I love decorating the house. I particularly enjoy decorating the tree, as I hang decorations from our first tree when we were married, and the ones I’ve added each year. Each year I buy one decoration, either for the tree or for the house. This years is a garland of Norwegian style snowflakes which have got put up in my study, and I don’t think they’ll be moving! But for the last two years, with the Very Bad Kittens, we’ve not risked a tree. Pumpkin and Pomme used to regularly climb the tree; I think George and Milly would wreck it…but some of the decorations I’ve not put up this year are:

the blue and white china star I bought in Amsterdam in 2000

My "Peace" and "Love" star and moon.

The flying reindeer, bought at our first Lyon Festival of Light

The lop sided, one winged bird I bought for Mr D one Christmas

The olive wood carving that mum bought me from her trip to the Holy Land

The angel with pan scourer hair made for me as a Christmas gift when I was still teaching

The slightly manic looking cat, sent from Canada

 

And here are some of the decorations I did put up – mostly out of the ways of cat paws (although we’re not sure about the bells under the mirror!)

Not a very good shot of the Mexican creche

My little tiny Mexican creche has the addition of various animals coming to worship…a very mixed bunch of sizes – you can see the tiny lamb, the bull, the cats which tower over Mary and Joseph, and in the background the scary, earless, size-of-a-house donkey. There is an angel who really does tower over everything, but I think that’s OK. After all, I think angels are magnificent, huge creatures, so my shell angel fits.

Here is a view of the whole creche set-up

Candles and Christmas pot pourri. When I open my crate of decorations the cinnamon/cranberry smell of this wafts out. It's beautiful!

Mum gave me this decoration a few years ago. I love the way it stands out against the black of our mantelpiece

So, there we are. My decorations are done! Outside the house I have shiny stars on twisty wire, which I thread through our railings. Tre are strands of different colours – pink, gold, red, ice-blue and silver, but sadly, every year a few more stars drop off -some strands are looking quite bare. And unfortunately, the silver ones have a slightly bleak look of barbed wire about them! I sometimes have a wreath too, but that has disappeared into the chaos that is our cellar.

I think for my word of the week, I offer you the word that is on my star: “Peace”. Admidst all the last minute hustle and bustle may we all find time to pause and experience the peace that Our Lord can offer even the most troubled heart. And I ask your prayers for my friend Danièle, who is facing her first Christmas without her beloved Paul who died last January. May she truly experience God’s presence and peace in her heart.

My music for this week is the music I was listening to yesterday as I made my mince pies: perhaps a little early, as we are still in Advent, but who can resist the arrangements of the carols in Hely Hutcheson’s Carol Symphony The photos of the Lake District are beautiful too.

I’m leaving for the UK on Friday and won’t be near a PC until we return. So I won’t be pausing next week – in fact I will be plunged into the glory of clothes shopping, as a friend is taking me round the shops to “Gok Wan” me with my birthday money! No pausing there, I fear!! Our route goes: St Just, Calais, Dover, Canterbury, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Scunthorpe and back to Dover. Then back home for New Year with friends. Judging by the long range forecast, we are happy that we went with the slightly more expensive choice of the tunnel.

I wish everyone who has been sharing in a Pause In Advent a very happy Christmas and a peaceful 2012. May God bless you richly

 

A Pause In Advent: Sarah’s Story

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

This wasn’t the story I’d planned, nor the character, but I’ve struggled a little this week writing the story I was going to tell. It doesn’t “sit” well at the moment, so I have decided to go with a story that I had already written. It  fits quite well with the Advent Pause for two reasons: One of my Words of the Week is TRUST  and in Sarah’s story, trust is very important. The other is that I know one year in church, we used different themes for preaching in Advent: The Prophets, The Patriarchs, the – Oh, dear, I can’t remember the others! But luckily, I do remember the Patriarchs, and this story today tells the story of how Abraham and Sarah trusted God. Another baby story!

 SARAH’S STORY

I’m getting old now, and to be honest, I thought I’d seen all the excitement in my life. Abram and I were settled here, happy and content. Of course, there have been sorrows in our lives – as there is in everyone’s – but we’d muddled through, with the help of God and we had reached this stage in our lives, where we thought perhaps we could rest a little more, take things easy.

We’d always hoped for the blessing of children, but it was not to be. Sometimes the other women made cruel comments about me, suggesting I had been cursed by God. And while I knew in my heart that the God who had been so good to us would not have made this a curse, it still cut deep, and I cried out to him in the night. It took me a long time to come to terms with my childlessness, to admit the impossibility of carrying a baby. Still, we thought, it is not to be.

However we couldn’t be more wrong, it seems. You see, last night Abram came home, looking all pale and shaken. To be honest, I thought he was ill, maybe dying. I fussed around him, asking him where it hurt, trying to press herbal medicines onto him, but he just brushed me away and told me not to be so silly. Silly? I ask you! Here I was thinking death was knocking on our door and he tells me not to be silly!

Well, after a while he recovered a little, and told me what had happened. It seems he had been out in the courtyard, meditating in the sunshine, as he liked to do, when he heard the voice of God speaking to him. God told him that he was to leave this country where we had settled, leave his people and his home and move to another land that God would show him.

Well, when I heard this I’m afraid I made some rather derogatory remarks about the mentality of a God who would send a 75 year old man off to another country for no reason that I could see.

Abram told me off, and then said that there was more. Apparently God had told him that he was to be the father of a great nation, through which all people would be blessed. That’s impossible, I said. I don’t believe it, I said. If God had wanted to do that he would have chosen someone young and fit and fertile, not somebody like you who’s over 70 with a barren wife. God doesn’t ask the impossible.

But Abram’s faith is greater than mine will ever be. He took my hands and gently told me that our God never asks the impossible, that he is always there, and that we should never fear that we cannot do what he is asking. He said that we were about to face the greatest adventure of our life, that everything was going to be turned upside down, and ~

But what will happen? I wailed. How can we go through all that turmoil, not knowing what will happen? I can’t do it.

You must, my dear husband replied. You must trust God. Put your hand in his. Remember how it was with your own father, how you held his hand and he never led you into danger? Remember how you knew that you were safe with him, even if you didn’t know where he was taking you? Remember how he never let you come to harm?  I nodded uncertainly.

Well, then. God is like that. Trust him, Sarah, hold his hand and trust him.

Abram wiped the tears from my eyes and went into the house. I’m still not sure… but what I have to hold onto is that God has been so good to us in our lives, and I can’t believe he would abandon us now. I have to go with Abram trusting that God will not ask the impossible… and if I do have a baby, well, I think then I will believe that God can do anything!

I suppose I had better get on with the packing….

A second Pause in Advent

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Remember, if you want to read other posts of other bloggers, as we “pause in Advent” please go to Floss‘s blog. There you can find a link to everyone’s posts. Also, as I have two blogs, I’m joining in twice. You can read my other blog at Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner if you should feel so inclined.

Today, I’d like to reflect a little on last week’s word: JOY.

What is joy? I’ve pondered this through the week, trying to decide how it is different to “happiness”. I’m still not sure! Is it deeper seated than happiness? Being happy is perhaps more fleeting?

How is joyousness connected to my belief as a (slightly wobbly) Christian? Floss commented that despite her everyday problems of ill children, dogs and so on, joy was still there in her heart. Maybe it’s like the Celtic Christians of old, who had prayers for every moment of the working day: prayers for when they were milking the cows, for when they were sweeping the floor, and presumably for when they were clearing up sick, as well! Perhaps, if we can “dedicate” everything we do to God’s service, then it becomes somehow more “joyful”. My sister used to say how her MiL, a devout Northern Irish woman, would speak about “offering up” her trials and tribulations (as though God would be happy to deal with them on her behalf, I guess. Do you think he sends troups of angels to clear up after sick children?!) but that sounds a little bit too like being a martyr. “Offering up” conjures up images of washed out young women, clasping their hands to their bosom, and rolling their eyes heavenward.

But being joyous in one’s life, in everything that one does reminds me of the George Herbert poem, which is well known as a hymn, “Teach me, my God and King”

Teach me, my God and King,
in all things thee to see,
and what I do in anything
to do it as for thee.

A man that looks on glass,
on it may stay his eye;
or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
and then the heaven espy.

All may of thee partake;
nothing can be so mean,
which with this tincture, “for thy sake,”
will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
makes drudgery divine:
who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
makes that and the action fine.

This is the famous stone
that turneth all to gold;
for that which God doth touch and own
cannot for less be told.

If we look beyond the drudgery – or at least, the ordinariness – of our lives, then we will indeed find joy in what we do: joy because we serve God, we serve others, or just because, when it comes down to it, life itself is very often quite wonderful! It may be quite terrible too, or awesome (in the more original sense of the word), but it is the life that we have been given to live, and so perhaps we should try to seize it and to really live it for all we are worth.

And so, maybe we can apply this to Christmas and to Advent. As many of the bloggers are posting, we find the commercialism of Christmas can be quite distressing sometimes. We need to try very hard not to let our eyes stay on the “glass” of Yuletide, but pass beyond it to see the wonders of Christ’s Mass that lies beyond it all.

 

This week’s word: I’ve hummed over this. I have two words. one is and the other is

I’m not sure which I’ll end up thinking about this week. But my piece of music is one which, unlike last week’s, is not an “Advent” piece of music in any way. What it is is a beautiful song that reminds us that life is full of moments of pleasure and joy, and that we should hold onto these. It is Kate Bush’s masterpiece “Moments of Pleasure”. Please don’t think “Urgh, Kate Bush, she sang that squeaky song Wuthering Heights” and not listen. This is a poignant song which she wrote in the year following her mother’s death, and refers to friends and family that she has loved and lost.

Two parts of the lyrics I love. One, I am guessing, refers to her father, but it could be anyone:

…On a balcony in New York
It’s just started to snow
He meets us at the lift
Like Douglas Fairbanks
Waving his walking stick
But he isn’t well at all
and the other, well…

Just being alive
It can really hurt
And these moments given
Are a gift from time

I give you: Kate Bush, singing Moments of Pleasure