Archive for the ‘A Pause In Lent’ Category

Emmaus Road

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

I always went to Jesus with my problems. It didn’t matter how simple, or how complicated they were: somehow he always helped me to get past my own feelings and to consider the other person. I remember a row I had with Cleopas about his mother coming to live with us: I was so concerned with how it would affect me that I couldn’t see how Rachel would hate the thought of losing her independence. Yet somehow Jesus gently turned my feelings around so I could understand her side too. It wasn’t just everyday problems either; when I had questions about God, about my beliefs, about the way he was turning my whole life around I could go and speak to him…there was the time I questioned him about the Kingdom of Heaven,  what it meant, Jesus reminded me of the time I’d lost a special coin from my headdress.

“Remember,” he said, “Remember how you searched and searched until it was found? Remember how you called to your friends with joy? That is how it is with God when one person turns to him. He rejoices. He laughs. He dances…”

So when Jesus promised us he was the Messiah and that he had come to free us from oppression we believed him. And we were ready to rise up at his word and fight for our freedom. But the word never came. He died and left us desolate. We didn’t know what to do, and he was there no longer. We couldn’t ask him to explain, to help us to understand. We sat, huddled together in our fear, in a tiny oppressive upper room, murmuring, weeping, staring into nothingness. Then two days after, Mary came rushing in, breathless, hysterical, crying about angels and empty tombs; Peter and John went to see what the matter was, to calm her down – she’d always been slightly overwrought – and they came back to tell us that the tomb had been raided and the body taken. They seemed confused, and we all became edgy and the atmosphere became more and more tense.

It was almost a relief when a message came to say that Cleopas’ mother was ill and that he was needed. He fussed about and tried to make me stay in Jerusalem, but I needed to escape. I couldn’t bear the undercurrents and confusion.

We bundled up our belongings and set off on the road, hurrying in the evening chill. It was lonely and darkness was creeping over the sky. Suddenly we were no longer two, but three on the road. A stranger joined us, but strangely there was no surprise or fear. It seemed natural. He walked with us in silence for a while, and then gently remarked that we appeared sad and distressed. I was about to rail at the man, but Cleopas gently touched my arm to silence me.

“We have lost a dear friend recently, “ he said “Our friend Jesus was killed by the Romans two days since”

“Who was this Jesus?” asked the stranger.

“Who was he?” I could keep quiet no longer. “He was our friend, a teacher, a prophet who promised us he was the Messiah, but who, finally was nothing!” All my pain, confusion, misery came pouring out as I wept for the betrayal of Jesus.

The stranger listened, silent yet compassionate, and then simply said

“Oh, Joanna. Where is your faith?” And he went on to explain the scriptures, and the prophecies right back to Moses; he spoke of how the Messiah had to suffer and die, not to free us from the oppression of the Romans but rather to free the world from the oppression of sin; how we could be brought back into communion with God, that death was conquered and the Kingdom of God had been made accessible to all. And as he spoke, with his forceful voice and eloquent hand gestures, it became clear, in the same way that things became clear as Jesus had spoken. We finally could understand; and we were comforted.

By then we had reached Emmaus, and night had fallen. As we paused at the house, the stranger made to continue, but, on impulse, I invited him to stay

“The road is long, sir”, I said, “and you have brought some light to our darkness. Stay and eat with us tonight.”

He smiled and nodded. Quietly he rested near the fire while Cleopas saw to his mother. She wasn’t really ill, just old and confused and worried about us both. I prepared a simple supper and when it was ready, I invited the stranger to say the blessing. And he took it in his hands, and raised it and used the same words to bless the bread as Jesus always had…

And I saw. It was him.

I breathed his name.

Jesus…

He smiled at me and then…he was gone.

I reached out and took Cleopas’ hand. Our eyes met and we realised that had we not invited the stranger into our homes and our hearts we would never have truly understood that Jesus was alive, that he had risen from the tomb, that he had, indeed, conquered the oppression of death. And that is how we live our lives now, remembering that as believers we need to constantly invite Jesus into our lives in order to truly know him.

That night we ran almost all the seven miles back to Jerusalem, eager to tell our news to the others, to recount our part in the resurrection story. And when we arrived we heard what others had seen too… and with them we rejoiced that Jesus is alive.

(Road to Emmausby contemporary Irish artist, John Dunne.)

 

And, back here as Dormouse, I am thrilled to have found this on YouTube. Listen and rejoice. Jesus Alive!

When it’s all been said and done…

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Good Friday has passed. Jesus is dead. The disciples are heart broken with their hopes and dreams shattered.

The silence and incomprehension of Saturday. Empty souls. Myriad questions.

When it’s all been said and done

The words are beautiful. And challenging. And there is, finally, just one thing that matters…

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love’s rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
That you found purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and in heaven after
For you’ve joined me at my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone..

Pause in Lent 3

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

…but it should be 4. Or is it even 5?! Sorry, Floss, I’ve been less than faithful with my Pauses this year. I meant to try to “get into the zone”, to be spiritual, and thoughtful, and erudite. As usual, I’ve managed none of these things!

A_Pause_in_Lent_1024

On her Pause, Floss asked if the image that she’s used for several years to introduce the Pauses has any resonance with us. She explained where it came from (Saint Génis des Fontaines) and how the photo came to be taken. Angela writes about how she thought it was of Celtic origins. It is entitled “Christ in Majesty” and on Floss’ post there is a better sized photo.

I like it. I’m not sure why, but I see a stern face, but one that is hiding a smile too. The fingers are lifted in blessing, and I feel comforted. Comforted that despite my very feeble efforts to follow him, Christ still will welcome me into his Kingdom. With a stern face, yes, as I suppose I must be judged, and I don’t think that will be a very comfortable experience, but also with a blessing.

I do not deign to judge whether other people are “in” or “out” of God’s Kingdom. Those who tell others that they do not believe the “right” things, or that they have not been saved unless they have spoken in tongues (Yes, that’s what somebody told me as I was a week old Christian!) or had a “conversion experience” – I’m sorry, but I don’t think they are helpful. Only God has the authority to judge, and, being perfect love and perfect justice, I am sure that He will do it just fine without our well-meaning but not always helpful help.

Nobody comes to the Father except by me (John 14:6) is a verse that has been argued about, discussed and unpicked. We don’t really know what Jesus meant. I personally really like the interpretation “Nobody enters the Kingdom without my say-so” Christ,in his Majesty, is the judge. Only he decides who enters the Kingdom. It is not up to us. It is up to us to see the Christ in others, and to stand beside them in unity. We will all be judged. We will all face God’s stern face…but we will be blessed too.

Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling within them.

And as an end note, which is a bit of a tangent, I want to say how amazing and affirming I find it that in these days, when so many of us are feeling the pinch, and trying to save pennies where we can, Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day raised its biggest total ever: £75,107,851 . Brilliant.

Pause in Lent 2

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

(though in reality, it should be No. 3!)

A Pause in Lent_1024

And quite frankly, I think Angela has said what I was thinking, but in a much better way thanI would have done!

She has been struggling with her knee, recovering after an operation; I have been struggling with my back. And I have been trying hard to be as positive as I can about it: thank God that I can move, albeit slowly, that I can work; that I have MrD to do the things I can’t; that we have warmth, food, clothing; that when the cats jump on me and jar my back…well, they want to cuddle and be stroked.  But sometimes I am tempted to just swear and be self pitying.

Why me?

But equally, why not me?

It is tempting to think that being a Christian means that every thing is easy. But it isn’t. Life is indeed shit sometimes: loved ones die, we are in pain, damaged, in dire straits. And it is still shit. And it feels shit too. But somehow we still have a rock to cling onto. And sometimes cling on is all we can do.

It is often said that The Psalms are a good place to go when things are hard. I remember a well-respected pastor in Milton Keynes, who was going through cancer, saying that he always found something in the Psalms that was relevant to his day-to-day experiences.

This interpretation of Psalm 88 from The Message is one that speaks of complete and utter desperation. It is a cry of abandonment, of a belief that God has given up on us.

God, you’re my last chance of the day.
    I spend the night on my knees before you.
Put me on your salvation agenda;
    take notes on the trouble I’m in.
I’ve had my fill of trouble;
    I’m camped on the edge of hell.
I’m written off as a lost cause,
    one more statistic, a hopeless case.
Abandoned as already dead,
    one more body in a stack of corpses,
And not so much as a gravestone—
    I’m a black hole in oblivion.
You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
    sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
I’m battered senseless by your rage,
    relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
You turned my friends against me,
    made me horrible to them.
I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
    blinded by tears of pain and frustration.

 I call to you, God; all day I call.
    I wring my hands, I plead for help.
Are the dead a live audience for your miracles?
    Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you?
Does your love make any difference in a graveyard?
    Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell?
Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark,
    your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory?

         I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help,
    at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.
Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear?
    Why do you make yourself scarce?
For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting;
    I’ve taken the worst you can hand out, and I’ve had it.
Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life;
    I’m bleeding, black-and-blue.
You’ve attacked me fiercely from every side,
    raining down blows till I’m nearly dead.
You made lover and neighbor alike dump me;
    the only friend I have left is Darkness.

This really is a Psalm of desperation crying out to a God who doesn’t seem to be there. As Christians, we believe that he is there: he hears us and he comforts us. And while we might be desperate for him to reach down his almighty hand and pull us out of the mire, he doesn’t work like that. He’s not a “magic answer” that takes away all our problems (however often we might want him to be) But he is there, with us, in our moments when we feel we cannot bear any more.

I’m blessed that, in all honesty, I’ve not really suffered complete despair. I pray that I won’t, but I fear I may. I trust that if/when I do, I will be able to cling to God, and that even when I am at my furthest from him, I will still be able to scream, and cry, and rage, knowing that he is there, in the darkness with me.

I’m not sure how – or even if! – this fits with the Fasting:Feasting theme of this year’s Pauses. I’m not even sure if it makes sense, but it seemed to flow through my finger tips to the keyboard, so maybe it’s meant to speak to somebody who reads it. If it’s you: let me say that He’s there. It may not feel like it but he is. Trust him.

 

Pause in Lent 1

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

A Pause in Lent_1024

I do have to admit to feeling unLenten. I am still avoiding Church like the plague, and to start thinking about Easter (or, at least, preparing for Easter) only 48 days after Christmas seems a little bizarre. I have no inspiration whatsoever, despite Floss posting the following meditation to kickstart our thoughts.

Fast from – Feast on

  • Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
  • Fast from emphasis on differences; Feast on the unity of life.
  • Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of light.
  • Fast from thoughts of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
  • Fast from words that pollute; Feast on phrases that glorify.
  • Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
  • Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
  • Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
  • Fast from worry; Feast on divine order.
  • Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.
  • Fast from negatives; Feast on affirmatives.
  • Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
  • Fast on hostility; Feast on non-resistance.
  • Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
  • Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.
  • Fast from personal anxiety; Feast on eternal truth.
  • Fast from discouragements; Feast on hope.
  • Fast from facts that depress; Feast on verities that lift.
  • Fast from lethargy; Feast on enthusiasm.
  • Fast from thoughts that weaken; Feast on promises that inspire.
  • Fast from shadows of sorrow; Feast on the sunlight of serenity.
  • Fast from idle gossip; Feast on purposeful silence.
  • Fast from problems that overwhelm; Feast on prayer that strengthens.

William Arthur Ward (American author, teacher and pastor, 1921 -1994.)

Actually, fasting is on my mind a lot at the moment, as MrD and I have started following the 5:2 diet (sometimes called the Fast Diet) I have found myself, when feeling hungry, reflecting on the fact that my 500 calorie “fast” day, which seems such a deprivation, would – for so many people of the world – have been a “feast” day.

How we view something does depend so much on our circumstances, doesn’t it?

Aaron, the young man from Nor’n Ireland, who came to stay with us on his epic cycle ride, posted this on his Facebook page: First World Problems Read by Third World People

Some of the comments that follow this are surprisingly vitriolic :”This is stupid and you should feel stupid if you feel anything from this video. If I’m not part of the problem, why should I be part of the so-called solution?”/ “I hate when these videos make those who are born into privilege look bad and selfish”/”Am I supposed to feel bad after watching this? Sorry, I don’t. Sorry for being born the way I am!! Next time I’ll make sure to be born the lowest of the low, so I won’t have to feel bad for having the things I have that someone else doesn’t”

slideshow_donate2

Personally, I found it so moving and profound, that I’m going to donate the contents of my “sealed pot” to the charity “Water is Life“. I started my sealed pot, like various  other bloggers, as a thrifty measure,saving towards the cost of Christmas next year – but considering what I have and considering what others have, well…I can easily cut the cost of Christmas without losing the pleasure. My small amount of money will count for more for these people than it ever can for me.If I used it, I would be saving money; if the charity use it, they will be saving lives. There’s no contest really, is there?

I am not stupid for feeling something when I watch that video: I am part of humankind, just as these people are and so I am linked to them by God’s love as inextricably as if they were my next door neighbours or part of my family. I am bad and selfish if I watch this and feel nothing and do nothing; I’m not sorry for being born into privilege; I am grateful…but I think that if I can watch this and feel nothing then I’m not being grateful: I’m being greedy, and selfish and heartless.

slide_07

Well, goodness me! I came up with a Pause in Lent post!

 

Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.

 

You can join other who are pausing in Lent over at Troc, Broc et Recup’

A Pause In Lent No.5: Humility (or Donkeys)

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

I don’t feel terribly inspired today…nor do I feel like I’m anywhere near “ready” for Easter. This week is due to be quite hectic at work (good for the pay packet, but maybe not so good for my sanity!) so I won’t have much time for pausing and reflecting. I’ve decided not to go to the Good Friday service at church, as it’s a talk by a preacher who is not of my persuasion (I’m not a very evangelical type of believer, and he is, I think). I’m hoping I may be able to visit some friends of mine who can share a short time of reflection with me on Friday evening…but maybe I’ll be so tired that I’ll just try to spend a quiet time by myself. We shall see.

So, I think I will just share a picture or two with you, and a poem that seems very appropriate for today. Make of it what you will…

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

According to this legend, Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem and to the hill at Calvary, where he was forced to carry the cross on which he would later be crucified. Being a beast of burden, the little donkey wished he had been able to carry the cross for Jesus. Upset at the tragic event that was taking place, the donkey turned his back on the sight, but because of his love for Jesus he could not leave until it was all over.

It is told that as the sun was setting on the day and on Jesus’ life, the shadow of the cross fell across the donkey’s back. Since that time, donkeys have carried the mark of the cross as a sign of love from God. The reward the humble donkey received has forevermore been shown for all to see.

A Pause In Lent No. 4: Patience

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

I continue to think – with others – during Lent about the “Cardinal Virtues”, as listed on Floss’s site

Valour: Pursuit of Knowledge
Generosity: Pursuit of Charity
Liberality: Pursuit of Will
Diligence: Pursuit of Ethics
Patience: Pursuit of Peace
Kindness: Pursuit of Love
Humility: Pursuit of Modesty
Today I’m considering “Patience – pursuit of peace”
“the pursuit of peace”  I find this an interesting addition, as whenever people talk about “patience” I think the first thing they think about is the idea of waiting for something, as illustrated above. But, of course, as any child who is looking forward to their holiday knows, one can wait, but wait impatiently.
The point about patience is the attitude in which one waits. If the soul is at peace, then the waiting is done patiently.
I need to be “at peace” whilst I am waiting…whatever it is I am waiting for. Whether I am waiting for a child to complete his homework, for the late train, for the old lady in front of me to stop talking and pay for her bread…it won’t happen any quicker if I’m tutting, or tapping my foot, or swearing under my breath. Nor will it help the person I’m waiting for if they hear my noises of agitation and impatience. In fact, often it will make matters worse.
And while I find it difficult sometimes to find that “right attitude”, to find the peace within me that I need to be patient, I should remember that Christ said: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Christ has made it possible to at least begin to grow the fruits of the spirit, one of which is patience
…we need to try to be the fertile ground in which these fruits can grow.
Though, let’s be honest: that’s easier said than done!

Pause In Lent No. 3 – Diligence (or lack of it!)

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

I’m cheating a little with my Pause this week…I said I would follow the list in order, but I actually want to skip over to the fourth in the list, which is Diligence. Angela, over at Tracing Rainbows, and others, have already spoken very eloquently about diligence, but I was pondering this today, during the sermon that I couldn’t understand about John 2: 12-25 (the Bible reference is just for information, and to show I at least understood that!)

Diligence: constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.

I was pondering it, because I am very aware that my Lenten disciplines have rather gone down the pan this week. I have not constantly and earnestly made any effort to accomplish what I have undertaken!! In fact, I didn’t read this week’s chapter of “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” and I have written no cards/letters since last Sunday! It took me a week to post the ones I had written – I didn’t have the opportunity to get to the Post Office – and now I still have one for the USA which needs to be taken to be weighed.

My Lent disciplines were hardly onerous but even so I still didn’t manage to complete them…through nothing more than laziness. “Oh, it doesn’t matter,” I thought. “It’s only reading/writing a card. I can do it tomorrow”. But somehow, tomorrow came, and the task still didn’t get done.  It made me think a little of the scene in Gethsemane:

Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. “

 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them,” Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

I guess that, while they started off with really good intentions – I will stay awake. Jesus needs me, and I’ve promised I will do this one thing. It’s not much. Stay awake. Watch and pray. I can do that, easy! – soon their eyes started drooping and their heads hit the ground. So when Jesus came back and chided them, they must have felt terrible! Like them, I started off with great intentions – the first week, I wrote all my letters each day. However, the second week, I found myself playing catch-up, as I missed one or two days, and this last week – nothing! I’ll have to write two a day now!! Even if it’s only letters, I feel I’ve let him down.

If Lent is a time to be closer to God, to think about our relationship with Him, and to watch and pray with Him, I am so like those disciples! I am falling asleep (or watching the TV!) while Jesus says “Could you Dormouse not keep watch with me and write one letter?!”

Still, as Jesus gave his disciples a second chance (and a third!) I will pick up my pen this evening, and start writing.  Though I may just stick to postcards until I’ve caught up! But, practically speaking, I’m running out of people to write to – would anybody like a card? Please email me with your address if you would.

***

On another note, I shivered a little when, searching for images to illustrate this post, I came across this one:

It’s a set of CDs you can buy from a Church Website that tell you how to prosper (in a monetary way, judging by the cover) through diligence to God!  “Prosperity will not come by desire, but by hard work, planning and acting on the Word of God” Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr! How I hate the Prosperity Gospel preachers!

A Pause In Lent No 2 – Generosity

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

So, here we have a rather frustrated Dormouse (see earlier post) trying to remember what it was she said, because, actually she was quite pleased with it……..and –BREATHE!

This week, I have been (on and off) thinking about the first chapter of “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” which I’ve chosen as my Lent reading. I’m not sure I’m keen on the author’s style – although it is a little harsh to make such a judgement after just one chapter!

In the first chapter Keller looks at the theme “The Lord is my Shepherd” – he talks about how the demeanour of the flock can demonstrate what kind of shepherd it is who owns those sheep. A well loved flock are fat, and content, and not cowed by their surroundings; a flock with a shepherd who does not care are thin, down beaten and afraid. I’m not too sure that I am very good at showing what kind of Shepherd I am owned by – perhaps I am like a sheep who has been bought from a harsher shepherd, and I haven’t quite learned that my new Master is different. If I can learn to have more confidence in him, then I would lose my fear of what He might ask me to do.

Another thing that Keller mentioned was how it is customary for shepherds to mark their sheep in some way, often by clipping their ear. This shows who is the Owner of the sheep, who has purchased the sheep. I have been purchased with the blood of Christ – he paid a great price for me – and so I’ve decided that I will wear something that declares who is my Shepherd. I will wear a cross around my neck. Now I realise that this isn’t very radical, and many people won’t even notice it, because for them it is simply a piece of jewellery. But, at the moment, it’s not for them; it’s for me. It is to remind ME  who my Shepherd is, it’s to remind ME of the price that he paid so that I  might be part of his flock.

I am lucky enough to own many crosses, all with a different meaning for me, all special for different reasons. So I thought I’d share with you some of these.

I don’t wear this cross very often, as it’s quite large – 4 cm  – but it is special, because I bought it on the day I was licensed, in ChristChurch Cathedral, Oxford, as a Licensed Lay Minister in the diocese. This was in October 1996, and the cross was a birthday/Licensing gift from Mr D. I used to wear it when I robed to preach – rather like a Bishop’s pectoral cross! – but now, when I preach at church, I certainly don’t robe. And my License in the UK has expired…but it reminds me of a very important day and a special ministry that I had for 9 years in Milton Keynes.

And now we come to the second of Floss’s Cardinal Virtues – well, not hers, you understand (!) but the list that we are using as inspiration for posts throughout Lent. And today’s theme is “Generosity – the Pursuit of Charity”. Actually, I don’t really know quite what to write, but while I was “researching” (that is, trawling the Internet to get a good idea!) I came across a variety of quotations, which actually, I think, are thought provoking enough by themselves… (all the quotations are either from Wikipedia or from the website of The Science of Generosity )

  • Generosity is not solely based on one’s economic status, but instead, includes the individual’s pure intentions of looking out for society’s common good and giving from the heart.

SOURCE

  • Generosity is the habit of giving freely without expecting anything in return.

SOURCE

  • …more liberal giving could accomplish world-transforming change…

 

  • Generosity always intends to enhance the true wellbeing of those to whom it gives.

SOURCE

  • What exactly generosity gives can be various things: money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, and more.

SOURCE

  • The Quran states that whatever we give away generously, with the intention of pleasing God, He will replace it. God knows what is in the hearts of men. Say: “….whatsoever you spend of anything (in God’s Cause), He will replace it. And He is the Best of providers.” (Quran 34:39)

SOURCE

  • For Christians, to be generous is to be conformed not just to Christ but also to the loving divine Parent, whose sacrificial self-gift into the world makes possible human fellowship in the divine life; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

SOURCE

And there we are, back to the beginning: my demeanour should reflect that of my Shepherd.

 

Pause In Lent 1 – Valour

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

For this year’s “Pause In Lent” Floss and Ang have suggested a list of the Seven Cardinal Virtues for us to ponder. While I vaguely know about the Seven Deadly Sins (enough to recite them – I think!) I know nothing about the Cardinal virtues.

Floss gives us the list as so:

Valour: Pursuit of Knowledge
Generosity: Pursuit of Charity
Liberality: Pursuit of Will
Diligence: Pursuit of Ethics
Patience: Pursuit of Peace
Kindness: Pursuit of Love
Humility: Pursuit of Modesty

But – of course! – it seems that different commentators call these different things, and so I ended up getting rather confused by what they all meant!

Ang, over at Tracing Rainbows, has chosen to start with Diligence. However, I think that I probably need to follow the list in order. If not, I will choose the easiest to start with and then run out of enthusiasm! So I start with Valour. Which doesn’t appear on many lists!! However, “Prudence” does appear, and as one commentator says Prudence is primarily a virtue of the mind (intellect),  I guess this may be Floss’s “Pursuit of Knowledge”

I wonder if I was the only person, who when they saw “Valour” on the list, started singing the slightly out-of-fashion hymn “He Who Would Valiant Be”. The original words to this hymn were written by John Bunyan, and appear in “Pilgrim’s Progress”

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound;
His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
He’ll with a giant fight,
He will have a right
To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit,
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away,
He’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.  *

I remember singing the hymn that is based on this at school. To me then, it was just another boring hymn from the little blue hymnbook that we all had, although I did enjoy the mental image of “hobgoblins and foul fiends”.

But now, as we enter Lent, I do think it is a poem worth considering again…particularly for me in my present situation. You see, I’m not being very constant towards God, and quite frankly, it only takes a bit of metaphorical wind and weather and I’m off, not exactly losing my faith, but doing very little to hold onto it! My intent to be a pilgrim, so strong in the past, has dribbled away, like sand in a sack with a tiny hole in it. Little by little, almost so you don’t notice that the sack is getting lighter, until there is almost nothing left.

It hasn’t been the hobgoblins, it hasn’t been “what men say”, it hasn’t been lions or giants. Perhaps if it had been, my faith would still be the most important thing to me. What I think has been missing, what has been the tiny hole in my pilgrim’s sack, is my lack of commitment to learning more about God and my relationship to him. Because I’ve not really understood much of the sermons/Bible study groups here in France, I’ve not had the regular teaching that I used to get in the UK. Because I’m no longer preaching, I’ve not challenged myself to think about God’s will for the world and for myself. Because I’ve never ever had a strong commitment to reading the Bible, or other “spiritual” books, I’ve not had the input from that.

So, I shall try…though baby steps are required on this pilgrimage, I think! If I make grandiose gestures (I shall read a chapter of the Bible every day) I won’t do it. So, looking on my bookshelf, I spy “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23”, a book I bought, according to what I’ve written inside, in Winchester, on 21st February, 1984, when it was wet and windy.

It is a slim volume, and perhaps it is a good place to start. I shall read a chapter of this every week (every day is a bit too much!). The introduction to this book reads: “I ask that the reader approach the pages that follow with an open mind and an unbiased spirit. If he does, fresh truth and exciting glimpses of God’s care and concern for him will flood over his being. Then he will be brought into a bold, new appreciation of the endless effort put forth by our Saviour, for his sheep. Out of this there will then emerge a growing admiration and affection for The Great Shepherd of his soul.” As “Valour” has been tagged “the pursuit of knowledge” then this seems an appropriate way to start!

Finally, to finish, a commentator on the hymn that started these thoughts says: “Bunyan’s burly song strikes a new and welcome note in our Hymnal. The quaint sincerity of the words stirs us out of our easygoing dull Christianity to the thrill of great adventure.” I need to be stirred out of my easy going, dull Christianity. But, at the moment, please God, stirred…not shaken!

 

Actually, that isn’t quite my “…and finally…”, this is. I have stolen the idea of another Lenten discipline from A Left-Handed Housewife. I’m going to write a letter or card to someone I know (or don’t know!) every day of Lent. The LHH sees this as a way of making space for people I’m not obligated by family ties to make space for. I know that it’s more traditional to give up something for Lent, but I did some research, and all sorts of spiritual disciplines may practiced during the Lenten season, not just fasting. In fact, an emphasis on hospitality is one of those disciplines, so writing a card or a letter every day will be my practice of hospitality.  So, the same for me. While I can write to some people that I know twice, I still don’t have 40 people in my address book. So if anyone would like to receive a card/letter from me, please contact me with your address, and I’ll try to fit you in!

* I’ve just popped back, as I forgot to add this link for anyone who doesn’t know the hymn. It’s to a version sang by Maddy Prior with the Carnival Band. A good “folk-y” version.