Thought provoking…

I’ve just finished reading The Good Immigrant which is a collection of essays about what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t trust you and doesn’t want you…

There were a number of heartbreaking reflections but one of the saddest was Musa Okwonga who decided to leave Britain because of such deep-rooted institutional racism. He said:

“Britain was not great because of its papers and politicians who relentlessly denigrated us, it was great in spite of them. Britain was great because of the spontaneous community spirit you saw as soon as a small town was flooded, because of the volunteers who turned out in their tens of thousands to act as stewards for the Olympic Games. But that wasn’t a spirit that I felt my country was doing nearly enough to nurture.”

This hit me between the eyes as I read precisely because of the sadness and hope within it. A growth in our collective community spirit could be the grassroots response needed to tackle a number of issues in our midst, not least the divisions we have a tendency to draw due to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality and disability.

Can we nurture this community spirit in order to look outwards rather than onwards? To welcome the stranger and care for the lonely? This book is a must read, an incredibly uncomfortable mirror to look into, but one which I pray will change hearts and minds for the better. Amen.

Let the eyes of your heart guide

For our patronal festival I preached about letting the eyes of our hearts be a guide to the need within our community – a need which we can meet in a simple way, yet which feels huge to the person on the receiving end!

If we let the eyes of our heart guide, what do we actually see? I have been reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. He writes about trees as social beings with a sense of community and has literally brought trees to life for me! I was incredibly struck by the apparent echoes there are in creation as so much life was created to be in community…and yet it feels like we don’t do community as well as we could. How often do we help for no other reason than for the good of someone else? How often do we forget looking out for ourselves and bettering our own ends? How often do we see need and respond to it?

This led me to think about the film Pay it Forward where a young boy responds to his Social Sciences project of ‘Think of a way to make the world a better place and put it into action’ with the idea of doing something for three people that they would not be able to do for themselves, and asking only that they similarly do something for three other people. The exchange of help becomes about hundreds of people rather than just between a few individuals.

What if we lived more like this? What if we gave for the love of giving and loved as Jesus loves? What if we seek love not war? Would it make a difference? #actofrandomkindness

Mutuality

“As Christians, we have become so fixated on our roles as servants that we miss out on the relationships of mutuality that the Spirit wants to knit between people.”

Craig Greenfield: Subversive Jesus

The Shinkansen Travellers

Traveller life forces on ahead at the speed of light.
The shinkansen practically flying along bullet speed lines.
Moments have passed,
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

There is barely any attention for the present, the here and now!
And yet already travellers have reached Tokyo.
“Tokyo ha shuuten desu”
“This is the last stop this train will make”

Lives once lived and now gone.
And for what – achievements, marks made?
What remains in these once occupied seats?
They lie in wait for the next travellers.
Lost property is moved on to join a throng of impressions.
Allusions to travellers emeriti lie amongst unaffected effects.
Just occasionally one such suggestion is left behind.
A find which causes future travellers to ponder.
“What went before?”
“Or more aptly who?”

Such intrigue is unusual on this otherwise silent journey.
Travellers are lulled by the steady rhythm of the shinkansen.
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

Could such curiosity be imagined?
Or does such an object point to hope for this journey?
Perhaps the unknown destination is not to be feared.
Yet all travellers can do is remain;
reading their newspapers on the train,
littered with everything and nothing, perceived yet rarely known….
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

To ponder…

“The contemplation of things as they are without substitution or imposture without error or confusion is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

Francis Bacon
“Stop looking and…begin seeing! Because looking means that you already have something in mind for your eye to find; you’ve set out in search of your desired object and have closed off everything else presenting itself along the way. But seeing is being open and receptive to what comes to the eye.”

Thomas Merton

Are you busy?

It seemed like a simple question, and yet I was frozen on the spot…how could I answer? It wasn’t the kind of enquiry which might result in a request of some sort, but rather an extension of “how are you?”


Thoughts came crashing all around me like a huge wave…am I busy enough? Or am I perhaps too busy?


“Busy” can be like a badge of honour in our society – the busier we are, the more valid our existence. 


In contrast to that idea, I aim to give the impression of having as little going on as possible – not out of laziness, but rather to be open and available to those who need. 


It can be so hard to keep grounded, remain focused on being present, when there is a reason to daydream and to keep your head in the clouds (to a point)…


…to notice in a new way, or to see through God’s lens.


How can I possibly measure a ‘heaven focus’ with a gauge of this world?


This simple question whirled around in my head, as I tried desperately to feel my way to the truth and find a sense of peace. 


A light had been shone on my need to reconnect  with God who calls me to minister amongst the people, day after day, and to find my peace there. 


As I walked out into the city the next day, on my day off, I ways struck by this street art, which for me depicted the hands of God breaking through, drawing me to rest. Busyness is such a complex concept – but do we dare to not seek it?

Shifting the Focus

DSC_0100 copy

Sometimes we think we know exactly what we are looking at, and where we are heading. A simple distraction can lead all of that to change!

DSC_0100

Things can seem slightly less clear or blurry round the edges!

DSC_01002

This can lead to greater disorientation….

DSC_01001

Returning to a place of harmony, at least, can involve shifting your focus or looking at things a little differently.

DSC_0103

It might mean focusing more closely on aspects which identify who we are, or where we are.

DSC_0105

Perhaps trying to see these things in a new light will be helpful.

DSC_0108

Or shaking off our own preconceived ideas in order to really see.

DSC_0114

The more intently we refocus, the more likely we are to see beyond those preconceptions and misconceptions, and discover something quite different from our initial assumptions.

DSC_0053-Edit-4

That is when we will really have shifted our focus to a lens which enables us to see well beyond what we think is possible….How can you become more God focused?

Impatience is a Virtue…

I’ve been reminded of an advert from about ten years ago which claimed that patience was for yesteryear, now impatience is a virtue. This advert has come back to me a number of times as I have thought about how telling it is of our society in some ways. The immediacy of communication has made us impatient for news and information, as well as for material items – why wait when we could have it now? I am beginning to realise how ingrained this perspective has been in my own attitudes, despite understanding myself as a fairly patient person…well, with some things!

As I walked around part of the parish earlier in the week, I felt the impatience of others so keenly, and it began to surface in me as well.

IMG_3935

Impatience of parents, trying to get through the tasks of the day with children who are also impatient as they would much rather be doing something else; older children playing out, struggling when things do not go their way; the impatience of many with a welfare system which affords them very little, despite hard work or ill-health and; even the impatience of those providing services because it is the twentieth time someone has complained to them about x, y or z this morning. These are just some examples…

IMG_3937

My own impatience manifested itself through a deep desire to act now, to do something –  anything – for those who were struggling. Why wait on God when I could just roll up my sleeves and get cracking? I could do some practical things to make a real difference in some people’s lives here and now…. But what about tomorrow, when I couldn’t do those things, when I wasn’t around?

IMG_3947

This building site as a symbol of the early stages of building and the need for strong foundations reminded me that those things that are worthwhile cannot happen overnight, as well as giving an echo of the impatience that those waiting for their houses to be built may feel!

IMG_3946

Ministry is not like a game of pool, when whoever pots all of their balls followed by the black wins. I was thinking about how much easier that would be, as I played pool with our 13+ group (not that I was so skilled, sadly!).

IMG_3985

There are times when the phone rings, and it is appropriate to drop everything to be where you are needed. It is a real privilege when that happens and people let you into their lives in all of their grief and sadness, and I am so grateful for the times that that has happened this week.

IMG_3984

More often though, I wonder whether ministry is like ironing shirts – it takes time and patience to do it properly, and even when it is done another shirt will not be far behind!

IMG_3971

I perhaps had not realised how impatient I can be sometimes, and there has been much to reflect on around my approach to ministry this week. No longer am I an ordinand, in one place for a very short time. I am not chasing ideas for portfolios, essays and presentations. This is the long haul, and it is essential to wait on God and capture God’s vision and God’s ministry in this place. Afternoon tea on my day off stopped me in my tracks and reminded me of this…God did promise the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey!

IMG_3986

So what does God’s place, or the Kingdom of Heaven, look like? People running to catch buses, frustrated when they miss them, children screaming at one another, people shouting at one another? Or people showing love, care, joy, peace, patience and kindness? How can we encourage this, rather than reacting to the impatience in our communities and wider society?

Impatience is a Virtue

Impatience is a virtue
Did no-one tell you
Patience is so yesteryear
Just for those who fear
All that is exciting or taboo

What good can come
From a patient hum
A steady stroll through life
Avoiding fun and strife
You might as well be numb

Get out there and live
You have to give
All of yourself to the cause
Sing until you are hoarse
Let go of all that is negative

Then you are caught
In a cycle fraught
With danger and dis-ease
Ceasing to please
All around who thought

Impatience is a virtue…
Patience is a virtue
Possess it if you can!