13 Jul

Dappled Light & Shared Conversations

I have always loved the way that light and shade dance so beautifully together as a tree responds to the caresses of the wind.  The earth is teased as the leaves let sunshine through first here then there, in fleeting freckles and persistent patches  of light.

As I left breakfast this morning in York University where Synod had become a shared conversation,  I was struck by the beautiful shadow cast on the paving by the tree outside the Vanbrugh building. The rest of the weekend had been overcast, I hadn’t seen the beautiful dance of the grey spectrum on the concrete until that moment.  I felt honoured to be an audience to such unique choreography – only today will the leaves be their current size and shape, never again will the wind sweep and swirl in quite the same way.

I wanted to capture the moment, just one tap on my mobile and the image that fleetingly brought me wonder and joy could be recorded and shared. But there were a number of people inadvertently participating in the dance – those people were entitled to their privacy.  And a single perspective, one view, would not capture anything like the fullness of the dance – there was no angle from which the simple camera on my phone could hold all that space, no position from which I could frame the tree, the sky, the sun, the shadow, the back drop of the lake – too rich, too wide, too expansive, too fluid, too dynamic beyond the scope of my photography.

Deep gratitude has stayed with me through today for that brief moment with God and a microcosm of His creation.  The dancing dappled light was an astoundingly apposite image to take on the journey through our shared conversations.  The sense of it being beyond the scope of one observer to frame, describe, record or capture a helpful reminder that my experience of the shared conversations will not offer an insight into the whole. The huge variance of shade and light, the nuanced shades of grey as the wind changed the pattern of the leaves helpfully reflecting the range of views expressed in our various groups, not simply black and white contesting the space but a seemingly infinite range of shades highlighting one another.

The tree, well established, deeply rooted and yet responsive and dancing in the wind; the newest growth the most agile performers delivering the most astounding choreography. The wind, unseen and yet guiding, energising, inspiring every movement. And the light, none of it possible without the light, too bright to look on directly at its source but beautifully accessible as it finds it’s way to dance on the receptive ground.

Rooted, inspired and reflecting God’s light. The shared conversations were full of hope for me.  Moving, dynamic and accompanied by shadows.  The shared conversations came at some cost and not without pain.

I feel greatly privileged to have been part of this process and pray the next steps in this dappled light will be beautifully choreographed too.

15 Sep

Disturbing hope: Settle down in Babylon

PLant gardens and eat what they produce

My youngest helping to plant potatoes in our garden 2 years ago, he is now 3, the same age as drowned refugee Aylan Kurdi.

 

Most translations of the Bible subtitle Jeremiah 29 ‘a letter to the exiles’ or something similar.  Jeremiah’s words to those in Babylon then exiled from Jerusalem echo down the millennia into our current global situation:

‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’

Back then I imagine this was the last thing the exiles wanted to hear.  The prophet, God’s mouth piece, telling them to make this strange land their home. The exiles opening the letter would be hoping to hear that things were changing, that they should prepare for action in readiness for a return home.  Maybe they hoped the prophet was writing with news that the Babylonians had been overthrown in Jerusalem. Maybe they hoped the prophet was writing with a strategy for undermining Babylonian power. I can’t imagine how they felt when what they read was an Old Testament equivalent of ‘calm down, calm down.’

Unwillingly living in the land of their enemy, full of anger and resentment following the trauma of seeing their own city taken captive, it would only be natural for them to want revenge, to ruin Babylon.  Yet God’s prophet tells them to settle down. Huh, not rise up? To marry the locals. Are you kidding? To seek the prosperity of Babylon. What, not Jerusalem?

How disturbing. I find the Common English Bible’s subtitle for the section the most pertinent, ‘Disturbing Hope: Settle Down in Babylon.’

Reading it now, it is also disturbing to realise that as a Christian in Europe, I am not so much exile but more Babylonian.  So, if Jeremiah was writing to the Babylonian’s, if Jeremiah was writing to those countries receiving exiles now, how would it read?

‘Give them land, welcome them; show them which crops thrive and share your family recipes. Educate them with your children, let them live, learn and love together with you that they might make families full of joy. Do not control their numbers. Encourage and enable their contributions, your future and that of your children depends on it.’

What are you going to do?

http://www.homeforgood.org.uk/get-involved/responding-refugee-crisis/film-refugee-crisis-urgent-call-action

 

https://www.facebook.com/HopeFoodbank?fref=ts

http://www.liverpool.anglican.org/Refugees-Responding-with-Heart-and-Mind

https://www.opendoorsuk.org/campaign/stepofyes/syria_150904.php?src=WB1528&step1=appeal

http://www.tearfund.org/en/refugeecrisis/

 

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s figures for 2014 there are globally 19.5 million refugees and 38.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs), 7.6 million IDPs in Syria alone. In 2014 there were 1.66 million applications for asylum worldwide, the highest number ever. It is likely the figures for 2015 will be similar or higher.

http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-figures.html

 

 

20 Jul

Little Girl, Arise

talitha cumYesterday evening 50 people gathered at St Peter’s in Woolton and we read through Mark’s Gospel together.

As I listened expectantly, prayerfully I was asking God for what I call His ‘holy highlighter’ to make something from His word jump out of the reading to stir the Kingdom in my heart and mind.  I think my prayer was answered with a huge, YES, here it is….

As chapter 5 was read the words ‘Talitha cum’ resonated, my soul fizzed and a kaleidoscope of ways in which Jesus is still saying ‘Talitha cum’ unfurled in my mind.

In the Gospel, Jesus says ‘Talitha cum,’ which means ‘Little girl, arise,’ to the centurion’s daughter who has died whilst Jesus was delayed on his journey to her.  She is restored, walks about and Jesus tells those caring for her to give her something to eat.

As I listen, those words echo through the centuries and Jesus says ‘Talitha cum, little girl, arise’ to His disicples, to the early Church, to the Church through history, to us to restore life now.

To His bride, the church, that is being lamented as dormant, irrelevant, dying, Jesus says, ‘Talitha cum.’  Get up church, arise. Don’t listen to the voices saying it is too late.  Live like the kingdom is near. With 50 people listening to the Gospel being read, signs of life are visible and encouraging.

To the women of the Church, as an Anglican my thoughts are particularly focused on the Church of England and the advent of a gender mixed episcopate, Jesus says ‘Talitha cum, little girl arise.’ Get up girls, take the opportunities that are open to us, walk around in the fullness of life, eat alongside our brothers. Shake off that imposter syndrome, don’t wait for male colleagues to ratify your ideas little girl, arise!

With that phrase, Talitha cum, jumping out of the reading I heard the rest of the Gospel with ‘little girl, arise’ acting as a lens, changing what I heard.

Talitha cum, as Jesus warns his disciples to remain alert, to watch out for His return, He says, “Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” Talitha cum. Keep awake, little girl, arise.  Don’t slumber.  Wait but not passively.  Arise whilst you wait, be vigilant, be creative build the Kingdom.

Talitha cum, to His disciples, the fledgling church, who fall asleep when He asks them to pray at Gethsemane. No longer gentle words of healing but a passionate, powerful call to action. “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough!” Tailtha cum.

With Christ’s words calling me to awake and arise, the Bishop’s letter telling me I am ‘ready’ to seek an incumbent status post echoes the call. Talitha cum.

wakey wakey small

15 Mar

Cot Idol

cot idol

Here’s one I wrote a while ago, that has been rescued after the site crashed…

Worship of idols used to be a lot simpler, there was much greater clarity.  A bronze statue, a golden calf, a sacred pole, an altar to a false deity, a beast endowed with holiness by some arbitrary process or decision.  You knew where you were. You chose an idol and sacrificed to it.  You dedicated time, worship, money; whatever the idol demanded. The pleasure or displeasure of the idol incurred by your actions determined your well-being and success.  When Yahweh demanded the removal and destruction of idols back in the day, those idols were clearly identifiable and God’s wrath and His people’s actions had a clear target.  (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+12%3A+2-4&version=NRSV)

Idolatry has lost its brazen and in broad daylight quality. Today’s idols masquerade as normal, innocuous, everyday people and objects. Some of them even good things. But all get in the way of relationship with God. Today’s idols demand worship in much subtler forms, are hard to identify and  even harder to remove.  And yet for our faith to flourish, remove them we must.

So how on earth do you remove the idol that we can so easily make out of the desire to have a child?

I have been wrestling with my idolatry for almost all of my 43 years, with the idol taking greater hold when my fertility became uncertain following traumatic events when I was 17. My now husband’s first declaration of his ‘intentions’ 19 years ago, included proposed names for our children, Tom, Beth and Joshua – so my idol became shared.

Culture and church community often colluded with our idolatry, the desire for a child becoming our focus and purpose.  The idol all-consuming and unrelenting in withholding its blessing.

When we asked for prayer regarding our childlessness, the prayers often appeased our idol. Prayers for pregnancy, prophetic (sounding) declarations of when our idols would appear to us, heart felt pleas that our infertility would end.

It didn’t.

And within the search for the child idol we found ourselves often remote from God, so our idolatrous quest and worship left us battered and betrayed, empty and isolated. We realised we had to restore God to his rightful place in our lives and place our desire for a child as subject to Him.  We had twisted God into becoming a subject of our idol, casting Him in the role of dispenser of children, seeking Him for that purpose, rather than for His glory and the purposes of His kingdom.

The child idol was firmly in place for the first few years as we tried to get pregnant.  I wish I could identify the pivotal moment when we decided that we would ask for prayer to help us remain faithful to God rather than asking God to get us pregnant. Many have struggled to understand, those that pray with us often still prioritise the empty whom over the faithful heart.

Banishing the idol and seeking God has not taken away the grief of infertility, it has however enabled us to embrace adoption and fill our home with delightful sons.  Banishing the idol and seeking God has enabled us to see our brokenness as a gift to be shared, from which fruitfulness can emerge.  It is a great privilege to be traveling alongside David, Lizzie and others to offer our brokenness to seek to equip others to better approach infertility with God in an event that took place in Liverpool on March 17thhttp://www.liverpool.anglican.org/lifecallhomeforgood  Looking to the future we are seeking to develop further resources and events to support those trying to hold onto faith through the journey of infertility… what could we do that would help you?

Our idol has never lived up to our expectations but our God continues to exceed them.