Big Doors Swing on Small Hinges

 

At the beginning of November we spend a lot of time remembering and looking back, commemorating all saints, all souls, the tragic events of the gunpowder plot and the even more tragic loss of life in past and present wars. Then as November draws to a close and Advent approaches, the emphasis shifts and we begin looking forward to Christmas and beyond to a New Year.

Perhaps we could think of faith as a hinge - keeping the door of our lives open both to what has gone before and what is yet to come, enabling us to celebrate and learn from the the past but to embrace the opportunities and challenges of the future. In many ways faith is a lot about looking back to the events and life of Jesus 2000 years ago but if it's to be real it is about today, about the here and now, the new challenges we face as individuals and communities.

It will take courage to both cherish the moment of now, not missing it's blessings whilst holding the past and future together, So often we idealise the past as if it was a golden age or block it out because it's too painful to remember. We may rush headlong into the future or bury our head in the sand hoping it will just pass us by because we`re just too tired, too busy....

As the darkest time of the year approaches, take time on your own or with others, to reflect on the past and dream dreams for the future. Open the door of your heart and celebrate all that you are. God is the God of yesterday, today and forever. He cherishes each one of us, understanding our regrets, our fears, our disappointments and sharing our hopes, our joys our longings. He is the past, the future and the now and continually oils the hinges of our creaking doors with grace and love.

Thank Goodness!Title Quote is from the writing of W Clement Stone

The London Marathon

The London Marathon

For a lot of people running the London marathon is on their bucket list. It is certainly on mine and I hope one day tocross the finishing line exhausted, but elated! There is something about the sight of all those runners which moves me to tears. So many stories of courage. So many people wanting to raise money, wanting to make a difference. Wanting to show themselves they can do it. They can run 26 miles.

Of course it's not just about the day. There is the training. The going out day after day in wind and rain when you ache and would rather have an extra hour in bed. The dark days when you can't run through injury and the darkest days of all when you lose the belief that you can finish the race and berate yourself for ever believing that you could.

Those thoughts don't just apply to marathon running. We can excitedly start a piece of work for God and there is a great surge of energy and the tiredness kicks in. Things don't go the way we thought and the desire to give up and to convince ourselves that we have failed that God hasn't called us at all really kick in and unravel us. Perseverance, endurance, faith, belief trust are beyond us.

It's then we need to find cheerleaders- encouragers, those who like the crowds lining the streets of London spot the runners who are really struggling and call to them and wave to them and even run along side them for a while. To re- energise them. To inspire them to Keep Going.

 

There can only be one winner of any race. But the Marathon isn't about winning. It is is about courage. It is about taking part. It is about everything that is good about the human spirit. It is about togetherness. It is tough. Very tough. But when the going gets tough..........

 

Is there something on your Bucket List you can begin to make happen? Is there someone you know who needs you to run alongside them for a while

 

 

Life's Marathon

 

The good thing about running the London Marathon is that you know exactly how many miles it is. So you can pace yourself and train accordingly. We don't know how many miles there are in our life's marathon. Should we work like mad in our younger days and then rest when grey hairs start to appear. Should we give everything we have now or hold something back in reserve. How fast should we run? One thing we are called to do is to run our race 'with perseverance. Chapter 12 of the letter to the Hebrews is a great encouragement. It is challenging, reassuring and brings us back to Christ, whose life race was short but a marathon none the less . A marathon with hurdles! This passage is one of my favourites verses 1-5 especially. It is easy to miss the first verse-' lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely' and yet without doing that we are too burdened to run. It is like trying to run in trainers with stones in. it is like running backwards.

Read this passage slowly and reflect on it and make it your prayer today.

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross. . Disregarding its shame and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.'

 

And may God bless our every step, as we sprint, as we jog and as we rest. And may perseverance, endurance and love be gifts we are blessed with and gifts we share in Jesus name

Amen.

Lenten Reflection after the Brussels Bombings


 

As I look out at the moon. I am reminded of the Cathedral in Gloucester and one Ash Wednesday, which by co – incidence fell on the same day as the Islamic New Year. As I walked home from Evensong and looked up at the fragile crescent moon above the pale floodlit tower, peace seemed so real, so tangible. So tantalisingly close. There above me were the crescent and the cross, symbols of two major faiths together in one icon of absolute beauty. A prayer so evocative, so eternal that for a moment everything seemed full of the freshness of new life.

But now as then, a moment listening to the news, more deaths, more violence, more hatred ...... brought me back to the reality of the divided world. Divided by faith, creed, culture, economics......

No wonder we find it hard to trust in the Prince of Peace, and a God of love supposedly able to embrace all people, all cultures, all creeds. Suffering and war do knock our faith in a loving God, vandalise it even. But thank God they needn't destroy it, because at the cornerstone of that faith is Jesus. Who on the one hand was himself at the mercy of the world and who on the other was and is the mercy of God FOR the world. For its healing, its redemption. War, hatred, suffering, indifference, cruelty, all these things break the heart of love. But they can't break the power of love.

God was and is passionately interested in all his people and creatures and weeps and grieves more deeply than we can imagine. But the love he embodies in Christ is stronger than the worst we can do to each other. Stronger than death itself and even the many waters of religious hatred cannot quench it.

That doesn't make our faith a passive acceptance of evil. It doesn't stop us raging at God at the pain of seeing beheadings, bombs, refugees drowning, children starving before they have even had a chance at life. If our prayers are to be real or in any way vital then they must at times be as angry as they are reverent, which is the ongoing power of the psalms- which above all else are real. Uncomfortable yes- but real. Real relationships are about real emotions and our relationship with God is as real as a relationship can get, although it has to live with the paradox of the closest presence and the deepest absence.

We are called to look suffering full in the face and to challenge the cries of 'Crucify, crucify' not just during Lent but whenever we see hatred or prejudice or fear. Whenever we see Christs form in the broken and oppressed people and creatures of this beautiful and brutal world. We are called to stand alongside peoples of all faith and none. Not in superiority, but in penitence and humility. We are all in this together, whatever our faith, whatever we call ourselves we are in this mishmash world of joy and tragedy, of wonder and of horror together. Tears and laughter. Pain and hope know no barriers of language. They are universal as God is universal and as our need to empty our hearts of all that divides us is universal.

Each day as I look at the moon and look at the cross I can only pray Father forgive. Not in despair but in hope. Trusting and believing that the crescent and the cross can meet, can embrace, can make peace and can make our world a place we would all want our children and grand children to grow up in and thrive in.

Hope is fragile. Hope is being bombarded. But hope is love refusing to give in Refusing to surrender to hatred.

In the time I have taken to write this, lives will have been taken in the name of religion, in places far removed from the safety of my little cabin. That's the reality. That's the tragedy. That's the choice. Give up or go on.

I commit to choosing to go on......


 

Back to School

Back to School

I didn’t really enjoy school, but one thing I did get excited about at the beginning of each new year was the prospect of a nice clean exercise book. I always pledged to keep it neat and tidy and use my bestest handwriting. It was a chance to make a new beginning. To study harder, get better results and all in all be an ace student! Of course by week two, my new book was as scruffy as my old one and I had slipped back into my old routine of scrawly handwriting, and homework done at the last minute. All the potential of a new start had gone,- like my new year resolutions down the pan!

A lot of school work is done on computer now but a new school year still affords us the opportunity to renew our commitment to one another and to God. To give our best, in our studies, our friendships and our prayers. It gives us a chance to begin again. To renew our determination  not just to  think about ourselves but about the wider world. To help organisations like the Children’s Society in their endeavours to offer every child the opportunity to be fed, to be safe and to learn. To bring every child hope that their circumstances can change, that there can be a new beginning. That they aren’t forgotten.

Making a new beginning isn’t just about trying harder, or even working harder. God wants us to have fun as well. Yes even at school! God wants to bless us through our friends, to refresh us through Scripture and to renew us as we take time out from studying to enjoy the things that excite us. It’s hard not to get ground down by daily life. It’s hard to keep the sense of anticipation a new school year can bring. Tiredness creeps in. Anxiety hovers over our work and the prospect of exams hangs in the air. For many in our world just finding enough food or enough clean water let alone a clean uniform will be a struggle that takes all their energy and all their strength.

So how can they and we refresh our sense of purpose each day and feel upheld by God?

Jesus knew about busyness. Healing, and teaching about the Kingdom, he got exhausted  So early in the mornings he would find a quiet spot and pray. Amidst all the rush he knew he needed to step aside to recharge his batteries, and renew his relationship with his Heavenly Father.

Maybe as a new school year gets under way, we could follow Jesus’ example. Perhaps we could make a moment each day to say our family prayer and  ask Jesus to help us through the day We could hold in our hearts all who are suffering, especially children in places of war and poverty. Those who won’t be able to go to school and those who find school frightening and difficult.

 

As we  say the Lord’s Prayer together may we all know God’s refreshing Spirit in our lives and be renewed day by day as we begin again

and again.

 

Our Father in Heaven

Hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

And lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever

Amen.

 

 

We thank you Lord Jesus that as we meet back at school for a new term you are there with us.

We pray your courage for all those who are afraid they will be bullied

Your companionship for all those who find it hard to make friends.

Your confidence for those worried about their lessons and  keeping up with the work

Your wisdom and grace and encouragement for all who teach and support children in their learning

And we pray your blessing on those seeking to help children around the world unable to go to go school…

Amen.

LENT

LENT 2014

Words matter. We are judged by our words. What we say, what we write, helps others inform their opinion of us. If we use Twitter our words can be the other side of the world in a fraction of a second. Words are powerful, they can build up and they can destroy. Journalists have the power to destroy reputations in one article. We have the power to destroy someone' with one cruel remark. First and last words are especially precious and particularly remembered. Most parents will remember proudly the first words of their children. And if we have ever sat at a bedside and heard someone's dying words we are unlikely ever to forget them. We take notice of the first words of Presidents or Prime Ministers and are inspired by the last words of those who face death bravely and honestly.

The bible is the Christians book of words. But whilst we have Jesus' last words from the cross recorded in the Gospels only Mary and Joseph were privileged to hear his first spoken words as a child. We do have his first recorded words at the beginning of his ministry. In John's gospel they are 'Come and See' In Mark they are 'The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news'

Through this Lent I'm going to reflect on a single word each day starting with the word 'Repent' on Ash Wednesday. As I have suggested words matter. But so does silence. There are often far more words in our lives than silence. But we need silence just as much as we need words. It's the punctuation, it gives meaning to our words, it helps us understand our words. Without it things can go very wrong. The 15th March is Global Day for lions, raising awareness of those bred simply to be shot. But if the headline was 'Lions march for justice on .... Rather than 'Lions, march for justice on …' It could give the impression that lions themselves were going to take to the streets with their placards. What a sight that would be! A simple comma can transform a sentence. A simple ten minutes of quiet can transform a busy day. Punctuation matters. Silence matters. So each monday instead of a word to reflect on I am going to say nothing and invite you to as well!

 

In our Lenten journey this year may we hear the still small voice of God in the silence. Embrace a fresh relationship with Jesus the Word made flesh. And may the Spirit open our hearts and minds to the Living Words of Scripture.

 

there will a daily reflection and prayer on lynnechittypoetryandprayers.com

 

 

Reflection on the killing of Marius the Giraffe

 

You might be thinking “why bother writing about the death of one giraffe?Yes he was cute and yes it was sad and gruesome what happened to him. But hey an elephant dies every 15 minutes, a family are made homeless every 11 minutes and most shocking of all 21 children under the age of 5 die every single minute. So what's so important about one giraffe? What does it matter in the scheme of things?”

I believe it matters for lots of reasons, the most important of which is because I believe it matters to God. I believe it matters greatly to God how we treat one another and how we treat creation. Mahatma Ghandi wrote “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated' I wonder what the death of Marius says about us? It would seem to me that when animals are discarded and treated as expendable simply because they are surplus to requirements or their genes are inferior it is a very sad day for them and for us and one that shames us all .

The gift of life is precious and God given and it is dishonours our Creator when we take a life casually, brutally or just because we can. We won't all be vegetarians, we won't all have been up at the crack of dawn breaking ice for our chickens or horses or sheep. We won't all think pigs are cute or rhinos are beautiful. But please lets all think carefully how we live, how we treat the animals entrusted to us and how we safeguard their future as well as that of our children.

I have written this and the song below, not because I think Marius matters more than children, or his death is more tragic than theirs. But because I think his death asks big questions of us and most of all because I believe every life matters to God, every death matters. It is in the nature of love to care and I believe God is love and extends that love to all He has made.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70biABN3zNQ&feature=youtu.be  

A Song for Marius

For 18 months they cared for me I made them smile and laugh Their number one attraction a beautiful giraffe

Then came the day when all that changed as I watched the rising sun instead of bringing water they brought a loaded gun

Remember me I'm Marius and this is my last song tell the world how I was killed and tell them it was wrong

I was surplus to requirements so they shot me in the head and still the crowds were watching as I lay before them dead

Then they cut me up in public, Cameras honed in on the knife They fed me to the lions Such a brutal end to life

Remember me I'm Marius and this is my last song tell the world how I was killed and tell them it was wrong

They didn't have to butcher me They could have let me go Offers of another home came in but they said No

Don't ever let them silence you Until every creature's free You couldn't save my life but you can save my friends for me.

Remember me I'm Marius and this is my last song tell the world how I was killed and tell them it was wrong

 


 

A thought on love for Valentines Day

'Many waters cannot quench love – neither can the floods drown it.' Words from the beautiful biblical poem Song of Songs . Brave words when so much of the country is underwater and thank God trustworthy and true ones. Love is tough, bears all, overcomes all and is enduring. Soggy love is about as appealing as soggy carpets and there are plenty of those around at the moment. But real love makes a difference and changes lives. But what is love?

W.H.Auden asks the same question in his poem that parodies romantic love; “When it comes will it come without warning, just as I’m picking my nose? Will it knock on the door in the morning, or tread on the bus on my toes? Will it come like a change in the weather, will it’s greeting be courteous or rough? Will it alter my life altogether? O tell me the truth about love”

So what is the truth about love for us in our relationships- with family, friends, with God? I is a word that is very easy to say but much harder to actually live What is it that couples are doing when they join hands and exchange rings? What do they teach us about love and what does Christ teach us. Four words come to mind. Commitment, vulnerability, honesty and ordinariness.

Whenever a couple publicly declare their love for one another, their commitment to one another, their cherishing of one another, it is a risk. It is a risk that makes them vulnerable both to one another and to us. They are opening their hearts to us and in front of us and they are opening their lives most fully to one another. There is no hiding in love, no pretence. There is reality, frailty, honesty and of course joy. And there is ordinariness. There are wonderful occasions like a wedding day which will always be part of their life together but there is also the mundane things that make our lives what they are – putting the dustbins out in the rain, clearing up when the cat's been sick... it isn't all chocolate and roses – there are a lot of stale biscuits and stinging nettles as well! They are intertwined and it is love that intertwines them.

It's the same in worship when we express our love for God- there are the highs of wonderful music,in packed churches with vibrant prayers. And there is evening prayer said on a cold dark tuesday with by two or three faithful souls huddled together over a single candle. But the thing is they both matter. The great moments are wonderful, but it is in the routine that we steadily tune our lives to love and worship. It is in the ordinary that love becomes a way of life.

And Jesus in his life and ministry shows us the meaning and power of love in his commitment to the needs of others. He told ordinary parables, ordinary stories about the Kingdom of God, the place and the time where love is most fully itself. It made him vulnerable and it cost him his life. But it is on the cross where love bleeds, where love suffers that we see the truth about love, and we see that it is costly.

The love of God nailed to the cross by and for the very people who thought they knew all about love but they saw only raindrops not the oceans in the heart of God for each one of us and for all creation. They limited God's love to those who were religious and kept all the rules of the law – they didn't see or want to acknowledge the love overflowing for the outcasts, the failures, for the ordinary folk like us. Love isn't limited and it isn't static. It's a journey- it's our life's work, it's God's gift- it's all those things and more and we are not expected to be able to define it or articulate it, we are invited to be drawn into it and to draw others in and to rejoice that love cannot be defeated. Love lives on. Love bears the marks of the nails but it doesn't stay crucified. It rises and it lives on. It cannot be destroyed or diminished,for in the words of Sydney Carter it is a dance and the dance goes on.

On this Valentines day, lets pray for all couples,and for one another that love may bring us joy and sustain us, day by day, in the light and in the darkness of our lives. On the celebratory mountain tops and in the plains of routine. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it – but if they threaten to – turn to those around you for they are walking with you . Turn to Christ who died for you and whose love is your protection and your strength. And we will turn to you as well.

And now three things remain- faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. 

February

February was know in Welsh as 'Y Mis Bach' the little month. It is the filling sandwiched between the two long months of January and March. It gives us an opportunity to celebrate the little things that can be so precious, like a word of kindness or encouragement . To think about the little things Jesus spoke of in his parables, like yeast and mustard seeds. And it gives me a chance to tell you about one of my elderly chickens.

Little Pearl was the smallest and by far the scruffiest chicken on the block. In her four years with me, she has laid exactly 7 eggs, none of them bigger than a table tennis ball and most nearer the size of a marble. But undaunted, every day off she went in search of a good spot, wriggled herself about before getting up and coming back terribly proud of herself. But with no egg forthcoming!

Each day she went through the motions – going off – coming back, not the slightest bit bothered that she is in fact unproductive and in other circumstances may well have ended up as a burger or Macnugget. She's happy, I'm happy, we're all happy. Well all except the cook for the day who on occasions is a couple of eggs short of an omelette. But then aren't we all sometimes!!

 

Sitting watching her in the summer I found myself asking a few questions. Are some of us all show and no end product? What things are we just going through the motions of in our lives? What things on the outside look good but actually have no life in them.? How quickly do we judge ourselves and one another only by our productivity?

 

And then miracle of miracles aged 4 and a half Pearl has laid a full size egg. Her tail feathers have emerged and whereas she looked like a rat bag. She now looks like the Queen of Sheba and she walks around as if she knows she is as beautiful as she has ever been, with poise and a real spring in her step.

I can't explain the change. I can only marvel in it and as I approach 50, rejoice that it is never too late to take life by the scruff of the neck, or to believe in yourself and the possibility of transformation.

May this February bring you little blessings, little glimpses of the you, you can be . Little reminders that God walks with you. And if you can lay the odd egg along the way, well all the better........!!

Happy New Year From Downton Abbey!

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM DOWNTON ABBEY

I spent most of my Christmas at Downton Abbey! That is to say Jane bought me the complete box set and I sat hour after hour, episode after episode transported to the world of the Crawleys and Granthams. The Bates and the Bransons. High tea and trenches. Prison and parlour games. Love and loss. Triumph and tragedy. All beneath the roof of a Yorkshire Estate in the early years of the Twentieth Century.

I wept as Lady Sybil died in childbirth, when the footman William succumbed to injuries sustained in the First World War and when Matthew Crawley died well I was inconsolable.

Mixed in with that was the wonderful wit of Maggie Smith – wouldn't we all like permission to be as rude as her. (yet beneath it lies a deep caring for her offspring- oh yes there does!!) The dramas in the kitchen with Mrs Patmore and Daisy, the deplorable Thomas, the love story between the brooding Mr Bates and the beautiful Anna. The reliability and the developing friendship of Carson and Mrs Hughes, oh I could go on and on. I do know by the way that's it's just a programme but while watching it - it becomes real and can move, delight and enrich It might not be real life as we know it. But the emotions, the longings and the pain of the characters are real enough and ones we can in some way relate to. I have to say I think I'm probably most like Lady Edith- a bit of a disappointment and not quite fitting in. But even she has her moments – not many admittedly but one or two! And she does give and receive love, do her bit in the war and even learn to drive, much to Maggie Smith's disdain as she wonderfully says when she hears about it: “Edith dear you're supposed to be a lady. Not toad of toad hall!”

It might just be a programme, but watching the real characters emerge – seeing them fail and triumph. Seeing them overcome great sadnesses,great disappointments. To watch them grow in mutual respect is inspiring and encouraging and challenges me at the beginning of this New Year to ask some serious questions about my life. Their hopes, the things they put their faith in, the love they strive to be true to all batter at the door of my being and demand that I take seriously the business of life without trampling over the things that are precious by self importance, or lack of self worth. The best and worst of humanity lives under the Downton roof. Often beating in the same heart. And that gives me the courage to look into my own heart and not fear what I see. Because I am not alone in my struggles and in my contradictions.

If my life were dramatised – what would the TV viewers see in me? What would come across to them? Who would play me? Would my life be an object of ridicule? Or sympathy? Or would it be so boringly ordinary that I would be invisible as Lady Sybil is always saying she is in her family. Would I be seen to be petty, jealous, unloving? Or would people cheer me on as I picked myself up and tried again. And laugh fondly at my silly habits and irritating self righteousness.

What would I like others to see?What do I really value? What so matters to me that I want the passion to burst out across the screen and touch others. I have to say the clergy figures in Downton were disappointing stereotyped. Fat, boring and bigoted. But that's an aside. What makes me me? And what does that look like to others? What does it look like to God?

And what matters to you? What is most on your heart at the beginning of 2014? Who in Downton Abbey would you like to be and why? Are there any characters in Downton who can inspire you to be truly the person you know yourself to be but are afraid to be proud of, or to grow into.

Silly ponderings perhaps? Or profound questions as we step out into a new year. The world is changing as the Downton characters knew. The world is always changing and yet some things must and do remain. St Paul's letter to the Corinthinas may have been penned 2000 years ago but for the characters in Downton and for us we can rejoice that three things do still remain. Faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.

 

A Final Downton Scene.......      (with apologies to Julian Fellowes)

Lord Grantham: Where does the time go ?

Bates: I can't rightly say Mi'Lord.

Lord Grantham: No, no man can, can they.

Bates: No but every man can respect it's going and enrich it's passing.

Lord Grantham I'll drink to that. Thank you Bates that will be all for tonight. 

Bates:Happy New Year Mi'lord

Lord Grantham Happy New Year Bates. And Happy New Year to you Mother

Dowager: Don't be silly dear. How can a new year possibly be happy for someone as old as me. There will be just more disappointments, more falling standards and God help us more liberal politicians. No Robert I don't anticipate that this year will bring anything other than tiresome troubles and indigestion.

Lord Grantham: Well I hope you're wrong.

Dowager: I'm never wrong dear. I thought I was once in June 1897. Only thought mind you and of course I wasn't. No being wrong is bad for one's health and I don't intend to start seeing a doctor at this late stage of my life. I've got better things to do.

Lord Grantham: What sort of things might they be and what's your new years resolution?

Dowager: Well. I'm glad you've asked . I've decided this year to be more forthright and to speak my mind.

Lord Grantham:God help us.

Dowager: Yes Robert God help us all.

 

May God help you in 2014 to be the person he has called you to be and may their be laughter as well as tears. Triumphs as well as failures and always, always family and friends to share them with.

Blessings

Lynne

 

 

MORNING EUCHARIST

Morning Eucharist

A blackbird berrying A robin at a fat ball, Another looking on, wondering whether to squabble or wait. He waits!

Sparrows on the ground

Gleaning rich pickings

Feasting on crumbs from under the table which previous messy eaters have flung out.

Water trapped beneath the ice in an old bowl, waiting to be released.

Plenty of early morning drinkers

But no bathers Not yet!

Such are the congregation on this raw march morning Sw

elled by families of tits Great and blue.

That zip in and out.

And as I pray 'Thy kingdom come, … on earth as it is in heaven.'

Just for a moment, I think it already has. 

Photograph shows Lynne  receiving 3rd place in The Jack Clemo Poetry Award with Ruth Gledhill and Dhallin Chapman.

John the Baptist and an Advent Calendar

 

Opening Prayer Lord Jesus, you came as the living word, to be the voice of the voiceless. You came as the word made flesh to clothe the outcasts. You came as the light in the darkness to reassure the afraid. You came as the lamb of God, to redeem the brutal. You came from the womb of the Trinity to the womb of the earth, to sanctify all creation. You came and you come as the servant of love, at Advent and always Amen

 

 

Advent can be a very evocative, and reflective time as we make our way through the darkness of a year coming to an end, towards the light of a star hovering over a stable at Bethlehem. It is the beginning of the Church’s Calendar year and can bring a sense of anticipation, and permission to make a new beginning ourselves. It is a time of waiting of preparing, of reassessing. But just as we are about to settle down into a nice gentle rhythm and pattern in bursts John the Baptist with no manners and even less finesse!

Of all the people in the New Testament (excepting Jesus) John the Baptist is probably the most dramatic, the most dynamic and the most compelling and disturbing. He is the great Herald, the booming voice of Advent and speaks with alarming and provocative authority.

Prepare the way of the Lord. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the Good news.

There is no mistaking his meaning not like some public figures who say a lot and yet say nothing. John doesn't mince his words and he doesn't ramble. He is earthy flesh and blood proclaiming the divine. He had waited in the desert- perhaps having battled with his own temptations as Jesus did before his public ministry began and now his moment had come and he gives it everything. He put his whole heart and soul into his message and his sense of urgency, his sense that the time is now counter balances the waiting and preparing side of advent and this wake up call, this living invitation is John's great gift to us.

Repent now he says. Believe now. Follow now.

And not only does he in his ministry preach some of the most urgent words of scripture but also some of the most inspired. 'Behold the lamb of God' he says when he sees Jesus and glimpses something of the cost of Christ's calling

And he speaks too some of the most honest words and the most humble words- the one who comes after me is more powerful than me – I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals.

And with great insight he says I must decrease and Jesus must increase.

John the baptist had it all- the urgency, the obedience, the vision, the humility, the grace to be who he was truly called to be- no more- no less. Yet he too faced doubt later in his life when imprisoned and suddenly overwhelmed asks Jesus 'are you the one who is to come or should we expect some other?' He wasn't perfect, he didn't get it all right and he certainly wasn't Mr popular amongst the religious of his day but in fulfilling his vocation he challenges us to ask ourselves this Advent what is our vocation?

And it is a big question for us to ask – who are we truly called to be? And how do we balance passion and urgency and make time and space to reflect and look forward. How do we live in the now at the same time as looking forward. How do we make sure in our rush to get to Christmas we don't miss the gifts Advent has to give us.

We might make a little desert time each day, time when we sit silently and ask God to show us the way he wants us to take and how to empty our hearts to receive the gift of the Christ child. Who might reflect on who we could invite to journey to the crib with us?

We might too do something practical and creative – if we have an advent calendar (and I have to confess that I have Thorntons one with a chocolate behind each window) as we open a window, we could take time to reflect on the picture whatever it is or the verse of Scripture behind it, mull it over and see where it takes our thoughts. Or we could go and look out of one of the windows of our house and pray for the people and the places around us. Praying peace into the homes and hearts of the people we live among. Or we could find a quiet little spot and open the window of our heart and offer to God all that we find there. Inviting Him to dwell in a new way in our lives, amidst all our muddle and clutter, all our longings and good intentions, all our pain and regret. Setting aside some time each day, even if it is as short an amount of time as it takes to open the window of an Advent calendar, may make our journey to Christmas, more poignant, and more powerful. Especially if perhaps we light a candle and allowed its tiny flame to remind us at this dark time of year that Christ is the Light of the World and that when he was born though it was the middle of the night, the sky was ablaze with light and glory. We could pray that light into the places in our world where the darkness of violence and hatred and poverty destroy, demoralise and diminish.

We could even make time together some days and share the views from our windows, share our thoughts, share our prayers- maybe even our chocolate although that might be a step too far!but it might teach us something new about God who is both the generous giver of all gifts and who longs to receive the most precious thing we have which is ourselves.

But why not dream dreams – if you could have exactly what you wanted behind each window what would it be. What are your most urgent prayers. What is our world in most urgent need of? It might be that the picture you dream is a little child laughing, walking, hand in hand with another child and you might pray for the raising up of more Mary and Josephs to love and nurture and protect and for an end to the tyranny of the Herods of this world, who crush the innocence of childhood. It might be that behind a window is a lamb frolicking in a field and you might pray that all creatures might be blessed with freedom and be safe from cruelty and abuse. You might see behind a window, a group of people kneading bread together and smiling and you might pray for an end to hunger and poverty. And as we dream let us imagine John the Baptist opening a window as well and lets look out onto his dream...

.John is the belligerent but blessed voice of Advent. His vocation was a great one. But he was only to prepare the Way- he was a signpost pointing to Jesus 2000 years ago and he is pointing to him today as he proclaims his message afresh to us and as we are called to proclaim it to others-

Repent Now, Believe Now Follow Now

For Jesus is the Lamb of God.

The Kingdom of God is upon us

Christmas is coming and the time is Now.

So individually and together, this Advent, lets listen,lets really listen to the voice of John the Baptist, lets allow him to shake us out of our complacency .That when Christmas does arrive, it may find us at the crib, not tired or stale, but excited and ready to welcome our Saviour, who is both Christmas Child and Easter King. And who one day will come again to redeem all creation. Amen.

ADVENT

Wordswithoutspacesarehardtounderstand

And so is life....

What words are on our lips as we begin Advent? What jumble of words are in our hearts and heads crying out to be separated and sorted and silenced? How can we use the four weeks of Advent to craft out some space? How can we prepare our hearts to receive the Living Word Jesus Christ, both as the Bethlehem baby and as our beloved Saviour?

This collection of prayers are the words that are in my head as I think of Advent and Christmas and reflect on the coming weeks, from my little caravan in the grounds of Mill House. Preparing is one of the great themes of Advent and looking and listening are two of the most precious aspects I have been given as this new stage of my journey unfolds. Whether it is looking at the vivid stars in a sky so dark it is ablaze, or whether it is listening to rain drops dripping on the roof, or pigeons settling down for the night, or an owl out hunting. The sights and sounds are God’s gift and are a way of receiving more of God as I become entwined with creation, her times and seasons, her colours and decay, her struggle and all her joy.

I pray that as we look and listen day by day, drawing closer to Bethlehem and preparing for the birth of Christ, we may both see the sights and hear the sounds around us but also the sights and sounds of the outcasts, the suffering, the abused, the abandoned, the addicted. Or else we will settle in the inn of complacency and miss the cry of the stable. The cry of life new born and eternal. The cry of Emmanuel, God with us. The cry of Christmas, every moment, every day.

God of the stable, whose cry is love,

guide our steps to Bethlehem.

Empty us of all our noise

And Be the space between our words

That is silence and in seeking, in looking and in listening

We may find your gift

Which wrapped not in tinsel, but in hope reborn, is truly Christmas

Now and always

Amen.

to see the prayers go to www.lynnechittypoetryandprayers.com  or email me on lynnechitty@fsmail.net and i will email the collection to you 

 

Remembering

 

November is the month of remembering. We commemorate all the inspiring people we call Saints on Nov 1st. We remember ‘All Souls’ – all those we have known and loved on the 2nd. We light bonfires and have fireworks as we remember the tragedy surrounding Guy Fawkes on the 5th and then there is Remembrance Sunday itself, when we come together in silence to remember those who have died in conflict in Two World Wars and in many others since.                                                                                                                     Why do we set aside days and times to come together? Why is it important to  remember together?  It’s not as if we ever really forget those we love. But remembering is more than just the opposite of forgetting. And it isn’t about rooting us deeply in the past. It is about helping us to live our lives today. It is to make new, to put back together, to ‘re- member.’ And that is what Jesus did. That is what is at the heart of the Christian faith at the Eucharist. On the night before he died, Jesus gathered his disciples, around a table for a simple meal. He broke bread and shared wine, and said to them ‘do this in remembrance of me.’ The church has gathered ever since, sometimes in hundreds, some times in twos and threes to commemorate that Last Supper. Our faith is both living and an act of remembering. Enabling us to both look back and to look forward.

Jesus knew he was going to die, but he gave his disciples something to remember individually and as group of friends. At one level, when we have lost someone, we all remember and grieve alone. Yet remembering  as a family, as a community, as a congregation can bring us closer together in a profound way. Shared memories can make us cry, they can make us smile, they can give us the courage to go on amidst all the confusion and anguish and anger that loss can generate. In our aloneness and in our togetherness remembering is precious, painful sometimes yes, but precious.

So whenever we find ourselves remembering this month, on our own, or together, as we wear our poppies, or as we quietly light a candle. Let’s remember the past with courage face the future with hope and encourage one another to live life to the full. That when the time comes for others to gather to remember us , their memories of us, might bring them closer together . 

Slowly, slowly........

 

One of the most precious tasks I have at Mill House is looking after the chickens and collecting the eggs. And whilst they might not come out wrapped in chocolate like the ones I was given for Easter. It is a wonderful moment when I hold a freshly laid, still warm egg in my hand. A nun from Ghana once shared a proverb with me

Kakra kakra akoko benum nsno - Slowly, slowly, the hen drinks water

And that has stayed in my mind and my heart especially when I watch our hens drink. It seems to be saying something very profound and offers an opportunity to look at our lives which are so much about rush and busyness and to think about stillness and space and peace. Our world seems to be the complete opposite, full of rush and anxiety and noise. Some days even when you first get up there’s an overwhelming sense that there is just too much to do and you are tired and defeated before you even start. And a retreat house is no different, we are blessed with a wonderful setting, and opportunities to find space and silence but there are still a million and one practical things to do which can eat away at any peace of mind and threaten the sense of God’s presence that we try to rest in and enjoy.

Stilling the space within ourselves, drinking slowly, doesn't just happen, it comes from deep longing, deep thirst, even sometimes deep pain. So how can we nurture, protect and rejoice in a sense of stillness within? What does it mean to be still? It isn’t about sitting idly doing nothing. It's savouring the moment. It's being blessed with a sense of our place in the world, of being safe in the hands of the Creator God who made us. Of being connected with the mystery of life.

So if you get an opportunity to collect eggs this month or to watch a bird in the garden drink or even when you drink a glass of water yourself. Think about the mystery of life, the joy of life. Not cheap joy. But the joy that had to first endure the cross. The joy of risen life, the joy of hope.  

Living Together

Another non paying guest has moved into the caravan with me – Willow the wasp. She joins Archibald, Harold and Sesame spiders and Mildred the moth.

I first noticed Willow about 3 weeks ago and promptly shooed her out. This went on for a couple of days and I thought I had won that particular battle when I noticed her emerging from my packet of chocolate limes. She went out and came back about an hour later and dived straight back into the packet where she stayed all night! I peered in one day when she was on her morning constitutional and spotted one chocolate lime with a hole in – obviously breakfast, dinner and tea!

She wouldn't be my first choice of house mate and I don't suppose I am hers., but we have come to a working agreement that suits us both. If I want a chocolate lime I gently tap the bag- she leaves - I take one and she goes back in again! Meanwhile the hole in her sweet is getting bigger and bigger and presumably she is getting fatter and fatter!

I am slightly worried that I will forget she's there, put my hand in and get stung and a bit concerned  that she will forget about my candles, fly into them and go up in smoke. But that apart  Willow and I live side by side not exactly bosom buddies but not enemies either.

Perhaps a little reminder that we can't always choose those we live and work with but we can come to an understanding with a big slice of tolerance and if we tread carefully. And if we look to our differing needs then you never know we might even surprise ourselves and grow to respect one another. Not easy but perhaps possible. Flare up points are ever present but just maybe we can manage to co exist.

Of course there are limits and if Willow turns up one day with her children, Uncle Joe and six second cousins then they will all be immediately transported to the cider orchard across the road ! But for now we live side by side, munching on our chocolate limes and watching the autumn leaves change colour, heralding dark nights and short days.

I'm not quite sure what I will do when the chocolate limes run out. I guess I'll have to ask her if she likes sherbert lemons! 

Treasure in the field

Stinging nettles don't have many redeeming features but one is that they are a breeding ground for butterflies and a source of food for their caterpillars. One of the joys of summer is watching them chomping their way through leaf after leaf leaving only the skeleton behind and getting fatter and fatter in the process.

Looking from the main house, the field they call home (and in which my caravan nestles) looks like a neglected overgrown wilderness, but if you walk carefully through and look closely you will find these wriggling communities of tiny black creatures- treasure easily missed. Dozens and dozens of them journeying into a new way of being embracing colour and flight as they emerge from their cocoons. Leaving behind bits of carcase no longer needed in their lives as peacock butterflies. And although they don't go far from their beloved nettles, their whole experience of life has been transformed as they prance and dance in the air with an abandonment I can only marvel at.

I'm reminded of a story....

'The man whispered: 'God speak to me' and a meadow lark sang.                                       But the man did not hear it.

So the man yelled: 'God speak to me' and the thunder rolled across the sky.                                            But the man did not listen.                                                                                                                        

The man looked round and said 'God show me a miracle' and new life was born.                                    But the man did not notice.                                                                                                                       

So the man cried out in despair 'Touch me God and let me know you are here'                           Whereupon God reached down and touched the man.                                                                             

But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

 

For more blogs from around Mill House go to www.lynnechittypoetryandprayers.com