Posts Tagged ‘God ‘n’ stuff’

A Pause In Lent.

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

This is our  final “Pause In Lent”. If you want to read what other people hae been writing about during this time you can go over to Floss at Troc,Broc et Recup’ to be directed to the other bloggers who have been taking time out to reflect upon what Lent has meant to them this year.

I hope you will indulge me a little this week. I’m not moaning or agonising over my faith. I’m sharing with you a story about Palm Sunday. I hope you like it.

THE KING WHO WASN’T

Leah was a little girl, who lived in a village just outside Jerusalem, with her dad, who was a blacksmith, her mum, and her little brother Benjamin.

One day, Leah’s dad asked her if she wanted to go into Jerusalem with him.

“I have to go and do some jobs there”, he said, “and then I will go to Bethany to visit your Aunt Rachel. Would you like to come?”

“Yes, please”, said Leah, who wanted to see Aunt Rachel, who was Leah’s favourite aunt.

So, the next day, dad and Leah set out to walk to Jerusalem. It was a hot day, and the sky was blue and cloudless. Leah enjoyed watching the swallows swoop past as they snatched insects out of the air, and she loved listening for the rasping of the grasshoppers at the side of the road. She held tightly to her father’s hand as she skipped along beside him.

They soon reached Jerusalem, and Leah’s dad took her to the market square, just outside the Temple. He lifted her up, and sat her on a wall.

“Now, Leah,” he said seriously, looking at her. “I am going to trust you. I must go and see a man about some metal work, and it will be very boring for you, so I am going to leave you here. Promise me that you will sit here, and watch the people, but not go away. Can you do that?”

“Of course, daddy,” Leah replied, and kissed him on the end of his nose.

Dad waved and set off.

Leah sat happily, watching the people, choosing which of the sweet donkeys she would buy, and admiring the black-and-grey goats, penned up together, next to the donkeys

Suddenly she heard someone shout

“He’s here! The King is here!”

The King? thought Leah. I didn’t know a king was coming today. I wonder what he will look like?

And she imagined the King that was coming ~ he would wear a golden crown, and a rich robe of purple velvet. Perhaps he would carry a whip, or a silver sceptre. What would he be riding? Would it be a jet-black horse, stepping delicately over the cobbles, or perhaps a camel, huge, towering above everyone, and peering down its long nose.

What would the King look like? She wondered. Would he be stern, and fierce, or would he be proud and sneering?

All the time that Leah was wondering about the King, and imagining what he would look like people had been hurrying past her, reaching up to tear branches from the palm trees, or taking off their overcoats and waving them above their heads.

The noise of shouting and laughing which had been growing began to get closer and louder, until it seemed that everyone about her was raising their voices to cry aloud

“Hosanna! Save us! The King of the Jews has arrived!”

Leah scrambled to her feet, and balanced on the wall where her father had placed her. She had a fine view over the heads of the crowds, and she stood on tiptoe to see this proud, strong King, riding on a fine mount.

She waved her arms and shouted too, but her voice died away in disappointment when she finally saw who it was that people were praising.

It was a gentle looking man, dressed in simple white robes; he smiled and looked about him, reaching out and clasping the hands of those people who stretched out towards him. Most disappointing of all was that he rode no camel, no prancing horse, but a soft, silly donkey, with long brown ears and huge brown eyes. The donkey looked scared by the noise, but every now and then the man would reach out, and gently stroke its neck as if to comfort him.

This was no King, she thought crossly. People were getting excited over nothing; it was only a man on a donkey. And she folded her arms and scowled.

As the man gazed about him at the crowds, he looked across at Leah, and their eyes met. He waved at her, and smiled, but she wasn’t having any of it.She scowled at him, harder than ever, and then, ruder than she’d ever been before to a grown up, she stuck her tongue out at him! He looked surprised, and then just raised his hand to her and grinned.

He got off the donkey, there in front of the Temple, and went up the steps. A few minutes later there was some sort of uproar inside, but Leah took no notice, for by then her dad had arrived back and had lifted her down from the wall.

As they walked towards Bethany and Aunt Rachel’s house, Leah told her dad all about the King-who-wasn’t, and how people had shouted and called to him, and waved their palm branches. She said how he wasn’t a King at all, and how she had been very disappointed ~ but she didn’t tell him how rude she’d been!

When they reached Aunt Rachel’s house she was very pleased to see them.

“I’m glad you’re here,” she smiled. “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine. His name is Jesus.”

“Where is he, Aunt Rachel?” asked Leah.

“Ah, he’s staying with Mary and Martha and Lazarus, in the village. He is related to them. Come along.”

Aunt Rachel led them through the narrow twisting streets, until they reached the little home, where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. And there, sitting outside in the evening sunshine sat the King-who-wasn’t!

“It’s that man!” Leah cried out.

“It’s that girl!” he replied, grinning. “The one who ~”

Then he saw Leah’s agonised face, and realised that she didn’t want her dad to know what she had done.

“The one who didn’t look pleased to see me!” he finished. “Why was that?”

“Well, sir,” said Leah politely, “They said you were a King, and I expected someone in rich clothes, and riding on a horse. And you were poor, and riding on a donkey and it wasn’t fair, because I’d never seen a King before!”

Leah’s father took hold of her shoulder, and was about to tell her off for being rude.

“No, don’t,” said Jesus, “It’s alright.”

He crouched down and looked deep into Leah’s eyes. She gazed back into his kind, brown eyes, with laugh-lines and dark rings about them.

“He looks tired and a little bit afraid”, she thought, “But he is so nice too.”

“I think other people expected what you expected, Leah,” he eventually sighed. “They don’t quite understand yet. They want a ruler who will bring war and power, but I am not like that. I am not a King to bring hatred and fighting; I am a King who wants to bring peace to people’s hearts and minds. D’you see?”

And suddenly she did. Leah understood that Jesus was a King, a very special King, who rode on donkeys and wore simple clothes and who carried no swords.

“I’m sorry I was so rude,” she said as she hugged him, “You can be my King any day,”

“That’s just what I’d like” Jesus replied, as he hugged her back.

 

A Pause In Lent 5 – On the Road to Faith

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

WARNING: This is a long post. You may need cups of tea, GIN, chocklit cake and cucumber sandwiches to get through it all!!!

I was wondering yesterday what I should blog about this week on A Pause In Lent. I remembered that Floss had mentioned her Gratitude Journal in an earlier post, and I’d asked her what it was, and how it worked. I’m guessing (not too difficult, I suppose!) that it is a journal in which she records the things she is grateful for. (You can just call me Sherlock Holmes!) And the thought popped into my head: who am I grateful for?

Of course, I’m grateful for Mr D, who is my rock, who looks after me so well (doing things for me that I don’t really think of, or can’t be bothered doing!) and for my family. But I specifically wanted to list and remember those who have had a part in my Christian journey.

So there has been my family: my Nana Disley who took me to Sunday School at County Road Methodist Church – a great Methodist church, huge, with a gallery, a basement where Sunday School took place, and loads of offices where Sister Somebody (who I remember dressed like a modern nun, but who can’t have been, not in a Methodist Church!) used to let me play with the things on her desk. Sadly, County Road has now been demolished, and I can’t find a photo of it on the internet. We (my sister, brother and I) used to go over to Nana’s every Sunday for the day, while my parents had a day to themselves; then they’d come over, have tea with us and take us back home.  Of course, my parents – probably more mum than dad, also played a big role, as after Nana moved to live next door to us in Aintree, I went more to Old Roan Methodist Church, which is the church that Mum went to.

The building on the right is a more modern addition. The large church hall you can see is the part that I remember. Here the two ministers that had the biggest effect on me were Eddie Someone and Daniel Someone Else. I feel bad that I can’t remember their surnames, and my mother would be ashamed of me! Eddie was the minister who led me through to my being accepted as a member of the Methodist Church and Daniel was a charismatic speaker. But even through the process of becoming a member, I hadn’t really made a full commitment to Christ. I was still exploring what Christianity meant, I hadn’t actually said a heartfelt “Yes” to God. At ORM there was also a Grande Dame, Betty Crooks. She tutored countless of us through the Scripture Exams, and was an amazing woman of great faith. And Norma & her husband Dave who held a group for young people – giving us the chance to talk about faith and life in a safe, secure environment.

That came after a little more exploration. The Gideons came to our school, and I received, as did all my year group, a small New Testament. In it was the invitation to contact the Organisation if you had questions. I did. Lots of them. So I wrote to the group, and received a lovely letter from a member who lived over in South Liverpool. She invited me to her home to discuss my questions. Although mum was a little embarrassed that I’d gone to a complete stranger with my questions, rather than to her, or to members of  ORM, she let me go to visit. Thanks mum, for giving me that freedom. The woman – I can’t remember her name – helped me still further down the pathway.

Finally, one bright May day (26th May, 1977, I think . I’m sure of the day, but not the year) at the C.U. at school, I said the final “Yes”. Thank yous go to the girl who led the group, and to the member of her charismatic housegroup who was there that day, and who led me to the decision. My friend, Jane, who usually came to CU wasn’t there, but a few days later, coming with me to the housegroup, she also made the commitment. Thanks go to her for her unfailing support and love for me. She is very good at remembering to send me a card on my “birthday” – I’m afraid I’m not so good at remembering – and through the years she has given me much encouragement in my faith. I went to the House Church for about a year – covering my head in worship, singing songs which would probably now make me gag, and accepting that women should remain silent…While I now would find this worship style a complete anathema to me, I am eternally grateful to the group for their welcome and their nurturing of a young Christian soul.

When I went to college, in Winchester – then King Alfred’s College, but now The University of Winchester – I joined the CU. However, as my first year studying Religious Studies continued, I started asking more questions about the very evangelical, non-liberal stance of the group. Because KAC was a CofE college, there was a chapel on site, and a fantastic chaplain, who became a good friend.So, Norman that fantastic chaplain,is another person I want to thank, as he helped me not be afraid of asking questions, and doubting.

Two Ians also helped me in my walk in faith. One has gone on to become a Muslim, which came as a surprise, as he was quite a long way “up the candle”. The other – well, I can’t really say too much, simply as it would reveal too much about him; even though nobody would know who he was, I don’t feel at liberty to elaborate on details. Suffice to say, his struggles taught me how to cling onto God even when going through the darkest of days.But both, in their different ways, helped me shape my beliefs.

After the first year, I started to be less involved with CU, and more involved with the more liberal chapel, although I still would like to acknowledge the contribution that the CU made to my growth. At KAC, there was a silent retreat every year at Alton Abbey

Here is a link to their home page.

At Alton I began to learn to listen to God a little more. Thank you to the welcoming community of monks there.

Leaving KAC, I moved to Maidstone for a year,which is where I met Mr D. He’s not a Christian, but is a theist, but has never discouraged me in any way from my faith. Instead he has been there to support me as I explored my faith and became more involved in church. I think it hasn’t always been easy for him, as some of my Christian friends have not “approved” of the fact that I married a non Christian, and tried, very clumsily, to convert him. so, thank you, Dear Mr D for your support in my Christian journey.

I didn’t really find a church where I was comfortable, but when I went to live in North London, I started going to Lindsay Park Baptist Church where the folk were friendly, welcoming and very, very Baptist (!!) Thank you to Robert, the Minister, and to so many people there for their nurturing – sadly, though, here was where I found people who were quite opposed to my engagement and later marriage to Mr D. A very good friend Tracy who I’ve now lost contact with, was a great support as she was going out with a non Christian too. Thanks to her, to Andrew & Nikki, and to others who were more accepting. It was here that I was baptised by full immersion – now I kind of feel I was coerced into it a little, but at the time it was a powerful experience. Again, thanks to Mr D for supporting me in this.

On to Milton Keynes, and the Ecumenical Church movement. In the new city churches were working together – so the church I went to was affiliated to the Anglican, URC, Methodist and Baptist churches. Here it is

Here was where I think I really grew. I owe a huge debt of thanks to the Minister who was there at the time, Dorothy, a URC minister who was very wise and supportive, and to her husband Keith. Both of them challenged me enormously, maybe Keith more than Dorothy, but both had a real “doing” faith. I always felt that there was something “edgy” about Keith’s faith, and this really made me think. It wasn’t always comfortable, but it was always challenging. Also Keith shared my love of acting, and he starred opposite me in a production of “Educating Rita”. I was Rita, he was Frank – we were great!!! With him, I performed in many plays, including “A Man for ALL Seasons”, “Lark Rise”, several versions of Mystery plays, and a play, the name of which I’ve forgotten, about Julian of Norwich.

Dorothy was the one who supported me as our marriage went through a rocky patch, giving me someone to talk to. She also encouraged me to train as an LLM (Licensed Lay Minister) and who supported me as I learned and grew. The LLM was the ecumenical, “new” name for the lay ministers in the Diocese of Oxford. We trained using the Methodist Lay Preachers course, but our work was recognised by all of the 4 churches.

At Holy Cross there was Phyllis who was a Reader (definitely a Reader. Not an LLM. A staunch & proud Anglican, but very open to ecumenism too) She was a pocket dynamo: I believe she was about 65 when I met her, but she had the energy, the get up and go of a person half her age! When Dorothy left, and there was an interregnum, she & I led all the services. But she did everything else that a Minister did, as well. An amazing, kind and honest person. Thank you Phyllis for your love and support.

Thanks go to those who organised the trip to Iona. Oh! That was a real time of growing for me. I’ve mentioned it in another Pause, I think. A real “thin” place, Iona. If you’ve not been, I really would recommend it. A beautiful place of reflection, history, creativity. Fantastic. Thanks go to the team who made us so welcome and the people who led the group meetings that were thought provoking. And to my God Son Joe who shared the week with us.

Later on, I moved parishes and started going to a different church, at Woolstones:

Unfortunately the church went through a very difficult time, with a real split in the congregation, a destructive Vicar and a danger that it would be closed down. In my opinion, one man who held the church together at that time, a retired Methodist (I think) minister, James. He joined the church with his wife, and managed to be peacemaker, despite the Vicar turning against him, and so many terrible things that had an effect on his health. A huge thank you to (and for!) James and his encouragement of me. He kept me sane in the maelstrom that was going on at the church.

And then we moved here to France. And through a strange series of coincidences (or maybe there’s no such thing as coincidences!) I ended up at the Eglise Reformée in Thiers.

So many people here have encouraged me and blessed me, but I think my biggest Thank You is for Danièle and Paul. If you follow this blog, you will have read about Paul’s death early this year, which was a great blow. But he had a great influence on me, showing what a true Christian is. As he suffered and faced death he was never afraid, but always trusted God.

The congregation at Old Roan Methodist are still amazingly welcoming when I go back and continue to encourage me. The congragation is dwindling a little, but they are still strong in their faith. Sothank you to the members at ORM for your welcome, and your faith.

And now, there are some Blogging friends to add to the list. Thank you for your wise words, insights and encouragement through this Pause in Lent. Thank You Floss for leading my thoughts towards  gratitude for those who have directed me along this path that is my Christian faith. And thank you to all fellow travellers, those who walk with us for only a short distance, and those who are by our side for a long time. May God bless us all.

A Pause In Lent 4

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

From last week’s poem you might have gathered that the symbol of God holding our hand is quite a powerful one. Today I went to church, because I wanted to ask the Pastor’s wife to do something & it’s always easier face to face. At communion, we were all gathered as usual around the table, and suddenly Sophie (the Pastor’s wife) gave a message.

Listen to me.

I am here, next to you.

Look for me. You will see me.

I have not let go of your hand.

That’s all.

A Pause In Lent 3

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

So here we are again. Pausing. Thinking. Wondering what insights I have. And deciding it’s very few at the moment. Sorry.

I’m feeling as though I shouldn’t really be doing this. I feel a bit of a fraud: I’m not thinking about God in any real way at the moment, and Lent has actually made no impact on my life, spiritual or otherwise. I’ve not given up anything, I’ve not taken on anything (except this!). I feel a vague sense of guilt – but only very vague – but also a vague sense of not caring. I think I’m going through A Gloomy Sunday Afternoon Of The Soul (I can’t call it a Dark Night Of the Soul, as that title gives it more importance than it has.)

So. Maybe in my spiritual growth I’m going through through those difficult teenage years, where all they seem to want to do is mope about and sleep. They’re not interested in their parents, they heave great sighs of ennui and teenage anguish, they drift about not doing anything, and get grumpy if their parents suggest they might be wasting their life.  But every now and then they deign to join in with a family occasion, and can suddenly be quite charming.

I hope that my Father in Heaven will stay steadfast to me. If earthly parents can manage to love their difficult teenagers through these years, then I’m fairly sure God will be able to love me as I drift and mope and sigh. And I hope that I will finally come through the teenage Spiritual years a more rounded being.

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful father. He died far too young of cancer, but I have fond memories of a dad who loved and cared for his three children. There were rarely rows and arguments in our household (except possibly between me and my brother!) and I remember many many happy occasions. I don’t think I was a difficult teenager (although mum may disagree with that!) but I certainly did my fair share of moping, and staying shut up in my bedroom, but I never had a sense of my parents losing faith in me. Thanks to both my parents, I believe I’ve grown into a fairly well-rounded, reasonably feet-on-the-ground person. (although Mr D may disgree with that!)

So here is a poem, dedicated particularly to Dad, but also to Mum, who has spent too many years than she should have done without her Helpmeet at her side. I love you both.

A meditation on Psalm 37, verses 23 & 24

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,and he delights in his way.When he falls he shall not be hurled headlong because the Lord is the one who holds his hand

 

Father,

You know the way you want us to go;

Planned and perfect,

Complete and right.

 

You take us by the hand

As a  father takes his child,

and you delight in teaching us.

You show us your glories,

You teach us your way,

and you share your love with us.

 

But,

as children often do,

we will slip our hand from your loving guiding grip,

and wander on a path that is not yours.

We are tempted away from you

by the glitter and gaudiness of the world.

We ignore your warning cries

and we fail so many times

to listen to your voice.

You do not force us.

You do not pull us.

You do not leave us.

Instead you watch for us,

you wait for us,

you love us.

 

And,as a child who does not hold his father’s hand

has no protection when he falls,

so too do we have nothing to save us when we fall.

But as we lie,

battered and bruised by life,

and crying for help,

you are there

there to pick us up,

to hold us in your arms,

and to tell us that you love us

 

And maybe next time we will have learned,

learned to hold your hand a little tighter,

learned to follow your ways a little closer.

For if we walk with you

and hold your hand

We know that we are safe,

and that you will not allow us

to fall.


A Pause In Lent 2

Saturday, March 19th, 2011


So this is post number 2. Thank you for your kind and encouraging responses to my first pause.

I’m actually writing this on Saturday, as I may not have much time tomorrow or Monday. So I hope nobody minds that I’m a little in advance: if you do, you could not read it until tomorrow, if that would help!

All this week I’ve been, on odd occasions, wondering what I should blog about in this pause. I wondered whether to continue my rambling from last week, or to go off on a tangent. I had lots of ideas, but there is a poem that kept coming back to me, so I’ll share that with you. I was going to write something about what the poem meant to me, blah-de-blah. But then something happened last night that I really want to tell you about.  I want to tell you about a doctor that I met.

You may have “met” this doctor at the same time as I did. He is a man, who, time after heart breaking time, has to make the worst decision a person could ever have to make: which child should be given the chance of life, and which will have to die. And every time he has to make this choice, he also dies a little inside.

I watched the Comic Relief programme last night, and while so many of the short films they showed were shocking, I think it was watching this man that affected me most. He no doubt entered medicine because he wanted to make a difference, to save people’s lives, but, because of the poverty of the hospitals where he works, he doesn’t have enough equipment to do what he so desperately wants to do.

The film showed him, in his terribly under resourced hospital, with 4 children, each with malaria, each held tightly in the arms of their weeping mother, each needing life-giving oxygen…and only three portals to the oxygen machine. He had to choose which child would not be treated. He had to choose which three would live, and which would, in all probability, die. And as he explained this to camera, his voice broke and he turned away, overwhelmed by the enormity of what he had to do…and what he has to do every day.

Apparently, there are a good percentage of people who watch the Comic Relief programme, and don’t donate. Let’s be honest, I’ve been in that percentage, but today, after watching that young man weep as he contemplated the choice he had to make, I can’t not donate. I have to. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a link to the Red Nose Day site. If you’ve not donated yet, please think of that young doctor having to choose which child has to die, and get out your credit card.

£120 could enable four volunteers, living in remote villages in Uganda, to get the training they need to give life-saving medical treatment to children with malaria.

£8 could pay for ten Ugandan children to be tested for malaria so they can get a quick diagnosis and receive life-saving treatment. Yes – 10 children…the tests cost 80p each. I spend 80p on a chocolate bar and think nothing of it. I lose 80p down the back of the sofa. And it could save a life!

And now, here’s that poem. I first read it at secondary school, as we studied the Metaphysical Poets. I can’t tell you much about them now, but certain poems, this one by George Herbert, and others by John Donne, have really spoken to me through the years. When I re-read this as I post it, I don’t think I need to write about what it means to me. Because it’s what it means to you that is important.  I have posted this on this blog before, but I think it bears repeating.

LOVE (III) – by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.


A Pause In Lent 1

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Joining with Floss over at Troc,Broc et Recup and several other bloggers too, I’m pausing in Lent. I think the idea is that once a week we blog about Lent: what it means to us, how we are keeping Lent, our thoughts and our prayers. I have joined in because I thought it would do me good: my spiritual side is a weak and wan little thing at the moment.  I’m not taking part in any Lenten discipline, nor reading any Lenten books, nor doing anything – I guess this is my Lenten discipline, but I’m fairly sure it’s going to be rather incoherent, and rambling.However, for other, more inspiring posts, try going to Floss and her list of other Lent “Pausers”.

Where am I spiritually at the moment, I ask myself. Well, basically, I seem to be avoiding Church. I make excuses: it’s a long journey, my friend isn’t there at the moment, I can’t understand what the sermon’s about, I don’t want to go, it’s too wet, I’ve got up too late. However I dress it up to myself though, I know the truth: I am avoiding going to church. Or maybe it’s God I’m avoiding – I don’t know. Nor do I truly know why. But church is not calling me at the moment. I’ve not been for 5 weeks and I’m not missing it.

I am still praying – in a fairly low-level way, generally. I am still “chatting” to God.  I had a couple of days ranting at God about the total unfairness of a friend’s son’s cancer, and praying, whenever I could the arrow prayer “Please God, not malignant.” For a hold-your-breath few days it was looking like God couldn’t give a shit, but he came through with a diagnosis (described by the specialist as “incredible”) of Hodgkins lymphoma. I was grateful and thankful and back-on-God’s-side (for a couple of days) then it all just dribbled out of me again. Then there is the world shaking news of earthquakes in New Zealand and now in Japan. While I don’t exactly blame God for these – they are, after all, natural disasters caused as the techtonic plates go about their business and the earth continues to evolve as it has done over millions of years – I still am horrified by the enormity of what has happened and the helplessness I feel.

Maybe this is my problem: I’m feeling insignificant, useless, helpless in the face of such horrors – both personal like cancer, and global like the earthquakes. I was talking to my mum about the first of Dr Brian Cox’s new BBC series “Wonders of the Universe” She said that the effect of watching this for her was to realise how, in the grand scale of things, we are nothing but mere specks of dust. In fact a million billion times smaller than mere specks of dust. We are insignificant. And I argued that while we may be insignificant in terms of the universe, to those around us we are significant. We do have an effect. We can change things….because if we think that we are insignificant, we then are in danger of believing that everyone is insignificant and unimportant. And that surely will effect how we interact with them and how we see the world. If nobody matters then we don’t need to worry about them.

A quotation from Dr Who which kind of sums this up…As Kazran describes Abigail as “No-one important” (when in fact she was the most important person in the world to him) the Doctor responds with: “Nobody important? Blimey, that’s amazing. Do you know, in 900 years of time and space, and I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”

But while I’m with the Doctor here, while I believe what I said to mum: that  in the place where we are, in the here-and-now, we are important, and we are not insignificant, I do start to wonder about how significant we are to God. As creator of not only this Universe but every universe to the end of infinity, it seems nigh on impossible to me that he can care for every creature within those infinite universes (human, or whatever other life form they may be). And presumably, if Christ died for the creatures in this world, then did he die multiple times for creatures in other worlds/universes – or maybe they didn’t need it, because they hadn’t “fallen” quite so spectacularly as humankind.

Does he care if I don’t go to church? When thousands of people have just been washed away by a tsunami, worrying about my lack of attendance at a small Eglise Reformée in central France seems like a non starter. I can’t help thinking God’s got bigger fish to worry about frying…

But then I guess that I am always, inevitably, going to be thinking from a finite, human point of view. I’m trying to make sense of a world I don’t understand because it’s too big for me. And if the world’s too big I haven’t a hope understanding the Universe and beyond… I am trying to squeeze God into a box that is too small to contain him. I’m trying to make him comfortable, and easy-to-understand, and I am forgetting that he is GOD. Huger than the very hugest thing. Creator of infinity. That isn’t comfortable. That isn’t easy-to-understand. So maybe I should stop trying…

The soul in its littlenness looks on God in his greatness and loves Him.

God in his greatness, looks on the soul in its littleness and loves it.

Trite? Profound? Easy to say? Difficult to grasp? I don’t know.

Oh, dear, I don’t know if this is what Floss was hoping for…It’s not exactly encouraging. It’s not exactly inspiring.But it’s where I am. I suspect that my Lenten discipline may be to try to spend time mulling over what I’m saying here. I’ll maybe try to hold onto that quotation (from Augustine?) above, and meditate on it a little.

I really wanted to share a poem with you, by Joyce Rupp, entitled “May I have this Dance?” which really spoke to me, some 12 years ago, when I went to Iona with a group of people from the churches in Milton Keynes. I had a great time, spending time with my Godson, but also meditating on my relationship with God. This poem summed up my feelings at the time so magnificently well and I think it sums up what I am yearning for now. But I cannot find it available on the internet, and I’m sure it will be in copyright, so I can’t quote it all here. But maybe I can be allowed to quote a small part, which still speaks to me:

the Voice stretches into me

a stirring leaps in my heart

lifting up the bones of death.

then I offer my waiting self

to the One who’s never stopped

believing in me,

and the dance begins.


 

For Paul and Danièle

Friday, December 31st, 2010

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1llIIhBMCjU[/youtube]

Another walk

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Yesterday I had another enjoyable walk – this was through the woods above Clermont Ferrand. I didn’t see quite so many signs of spring as on Monday, but I did hear a cuckoo. There were lots of other birds too, but I didn’t recognise their calls. On Monday I heard a woodpecker drilling, as well as disturbing a flock of bluetits, who chattered in alarm and flitted from bush to bush.

Here are the photos from yesterday’s walk:

Here's a view of the city. Oooh, I'm high up!

And here's Puy de Dome again - and yes, there has been snow since Monday's photo was taken.

Here’s Puy de Dome again – and yes, there has been snow since Monday’s photo was taken.

Now I must go and get myself organised for tonight’s Good Friday service – collecting Stuff, making a crown of thorns (but it will probably be made of broom), and printing off the little leaflets for the service. But before I go, here are one or two of the things for meditation that are in the booklet:

Think how easily you can tear bread: think how easily a person’s body can be hurt and broken.

Think how easily wine can be spilled: think how easily a person can be made to bleed.

Think how hard it is to undo the damage.

And…

So many accusing fingers…denouncing, destroying our fellow men… How ready we are to blame others for our own calamities, our failures, our sin… How easily we point the fingers at those who cannot defend themselves…And yet, as we make others suffer, we diminish ourselves. Our threatening hands bind us with new chains…





I’ll see your Donne and raise a Herbert…

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

LOVE

by: George Herbert (1593-1632)

    • OVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
      Guilty of dust and sin.
      But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
      From my first entrance in,
      Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
      If I lack’d anything.
      ‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
      Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
      ‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
      I cannot look on Thee.’
      Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
      ‘Who made the eyes but I?’
      ‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
      Go where it doth deserve.’
      ‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
      ‘My dear, then I will serve.’
      ‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
Ian reminded me how much I loved the Donne poem he posted. So here’s another metaphysical poem that I really like.

Apocalypse Now…or maybe Later

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

My feelings about going to the prayer group were justified. I wish I hadn’t gone.

They (we?) are looking at Revelation (or as it’s known in French, Apocalypse). Ever since I was a youngish teenager and we were shown a film about What Would Happen In a Nuclear War I have had a low level fear of talking/thinking about the End of the World – be that through the Second Coming or nuclear war. This includes reading Revelation – partly because it all sounds as though things are going to get very nasty before they get better. It’s no good saying “Ah, yes, but everything will be lovely” – we still need to get through the nasty bit first. The thought of pain and burning and all other unpleasant things scares me – threaten me with such things and I will probably be scrawling my own big 666 on my forehead and right arm, before the Beast could do any forcing.And then that’s me for the Eternal Lake of Fire when God finally triumphs, isn’t it?!

Of course, that is if we take Revelation to be The Truth. Which I’m not truly sure I do. I’m not an Every-Word-Of-The-Bible-Is-Literally-True kind of gal, but several of the group are, and I struggled between being scared and trying not to laugh as there were attempts to try to decide exactly what was meant.

Apparently the current thinking is that the 12 stars mentioned in the passage in Rev 12:

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

is meant to represent the EU…A good thing? Or a bad thing?There was mention of Turkey wanting to join the EUbut I’m not sure how that fitted into the story. Was it the dragon? The baby?  I’d lost the thread by now: they were talking in fairly rapid French by now and I was retreating into silence (and getting IBS because I was so worked up. Yes, I know it’s stupid, but…)  The Beast is Gorbachev, or so The Book That Deciphers Revelation says. Presumably because the poor man has a birthmark – well, of course, everyone with a port wine birthmark is inherently evil, aren’t they?

It all seems so silly to try to decipher something that may not have been meant to be deciphered anyway – I’m sure that every generation has tried to make links between the visions retold in Revelation and their present. Probably Henry VIII was identified as The Beast by the Catholics of the time (and Mary I in the same way by the Protestants of her time) And, in any case, I am of the Ostrich Persuasion: I won’t be able to change what happens, so why think about it? Why not just let it happen…?

But despite my telling myself all this, I still get myself screwed into knots by thinking and worrying about it all.

I sometimes wish I had the unswerving faith that some of the members of the group have. Everything is very much black and white to them. You’re Saved, or you’re not. And if you’re not, then it’s the Burning Lake of Fire for you. I don’t want to seem like I’m mocking them: I’m not, at all. They are lovely people, and their love and zeal for Christ is truly admirable.Maybe it’s that that I wish I had, rather than the black-and-white view of the world. Their faith is so strong, and in a way, it seems an easier faith than mine – which is all questions, confusions, doubts and really not-sure-about-anything (which seems very wishy-washy) In fact, I’m not sure some of them really think I’ve “got there” yet! In fact, I’m not sure myself if I’ve really “got there”!

sigh

Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be going again until they’ve moved onto a different book. And as they’re only on Chapter 12 that may be quite some time…