Saturday, 31 March 2012

Let the good blogs roll!

 Probably not the most spiritually uplifting post title I could dream  up for the start of Holy Week, still,  I  just wanted to draw your attention to a new addition to my blogroll, courtesy of Archdruid Eileen, whose latest tealight I  couldn't resist. A Letter from Home, you sound like my kind of blogger. And after reading about the multifunctional purpose of your dining room, I don't feel half as  guilty about the state of ours (aka hubby's glory hole) as I did before. Or the study (cat's pad and craft corner). Creatives of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but: your reading glasses, pen, notes, address book, diary, church giving envelopes...oh dear, never mind.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Space is bad for your eyesight - New Scientist latest

Mr M's summary of the 17 March issue of NS:

·       Space is bad for your eyesight. Astronauts returning from long periods in space displayed some deformation in their optic nerves.
·       Low fat diet boosts sperm count.
·       Researchers on animal behaviour are using virtual worlds for testing. This allows them to carry out investigation in a more controlled and precise manner, focusing down to the role of specific neurons.
·       Primitive nerve clusters, predecessors to our brains, have been found in worms living 600m years ago.
·       Gene loading may be the next method of cheating at sport. Tests on mice have shown that those with a injected with a virus containing gene IGG-1 could swim 3 times further than control. Current testing methods would not detect this.
·       A study testing impact of alcohol on creative problem solving showed a small amount of vodka improved performance on a test linking words to an underlying concept.
·       A fibre optic cable is being laid from between Tokyo and London. It will cross the Arctic Ocean the first time this route has been followed. It should reduce latency between these cities by around 30%.
·       Most of the energy usage for free Android apps is used to power advertising. 
·       One or more of the following fundamental particles may be the next Higgs: Stringballs, Tetraquarks, Glueballs, Inflatons, Pomerons, Leptoquarks, Winos, Anyons, Galileons, Majorana particles, Wimpzillas. 
·       Religion has been shown to predate agriculture in terms of human evolution. This had led to speculation that religion was a key enabler in allowing the co-operative behaviour that agricultural societies need to succeed. Large groups require shared rules in order to remain stable but the larger the group the easier it is for people to cheat. (studies show that feelings of anonymity, even just wearing dark glasses, promote selfishness and cheating) . Coalescing around a shared belief, enforced by an all seeing entity, makes this cheating behaviour less likely.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Spring has Sprung in Sunny Salisbury


What better place to be on a beautiful day like today but the Cathedral  Close at Salisbury. I decided to do one of my spur of the moment trips to Sarum College library; a veritable Aladdin's Cave for the theological bibliophile, (I especially recommend the spirituality section).  I discovered Sarum  (photo top)  three years ago by one of those happy co-incidences: a leaflet I picked up in Sherbourne Abbey one day whilst  we were staying in the town  for The Tour of Wessex cycle race.  If you're interested, you can read about some of my other Salisbury sorties over on my old Greenpatches blog.

Please excuse the 'interesting' composition. Photography isn't a gifting of mine!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

"This is the mystery of faith": Passiontide

 So Passiontide begins.  Rather than my own muddled meanderings on the meaning of Christ's Passion, I'm linking to last Sunday's sermon from what, for online purposes, I've previously  blogged about  as 'Newchurch. ' Here it is, a memorable  reflection on the metaphors we  use as we grapple with the meaning of the mystery that lies at the heart of our Christian faith: Why did Jesus go to these lengths? What was the point of his sufferings? What was the point of his death?

It's when I hear teaching like this that I realise again that Eeyore though I might be at times,  I'm so fortunate to have found a church  now where different viewpoints are accepted, questions are asked and we're  encouraged to expand our understanding of God beyond the human constructs we place on him. As it says in the closing paragraph: 

Amen to that!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Lent Practices: Confidence and Letting Go - Mothering Sunday reprise

  Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.  When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.  After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
    “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[ But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
  Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.  And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
 - Luke 2  New International Version (NIV)

So, the pic above is my reflective take today on the Mothering Sunday talk I wrote about last week.  The snap here was taken in a hurry and rather fuzzy: Basically, I decided to juxtapose Cecil Day-Lewis's Walking Away (pasted  into the heart), against the account of the boy Jesus in the temple.  Simplicity is all. The seed case and dandelion were a last-minute addition, gathered as I walked up to church. Not easy to find at short notice these last two; church is in a 'nice,' area and people keep their gardens and verges neat, tidy and relatively weed-free. (to the detriment of my spontaneous bursts of self-expression!)

I've been pondering a bit as to whether I'm bringing some of my own 'stuff,' into what's turning out to be a kind of  visual meditation and the appropriateness of so doing. Last week's - which I forgot to photograph -  certainly did. Then looking at it another way; who's to know what  each viewer (most people are too busy drinking their coffee to notice it in any case!) sees in it? That it's rooted in prayer, authentic and from the heart is surely A Good Thing, regardless of outcome... Hmm? That sounds suspiciously like another example of  'letting go,' and, oh dear, I really am not managing very well on that front, am I ?!

The Sound of Silence

As anybody who's familiar with my old Greenpatches blog will know, I'm no stranger to retreats. Silence and solitude have played a major part in my faith journey for a long time  now; it comes naturally to me and I sometimes need to remind myself that not everybody relates to God in the same way. The memories of that first  course over ten years ago when we were (gulp!) asked to spend 15 minutes in silent prayer seem very hazy  indeed.

I do love to hear about other people's experiences as they discover this marvellous gift for themselves though, so was delighted to stumble across Tim of  Nomad Podcast's reflections on a five -day retreat and his interview with Ruth Holgate of Loyola Hall Spirituality Centre. UK readers may remember her as one of the directors on The Big Silence documentary, filmed at St Beunos.

So, if  you're wondering what this practice of silence and retreat is all about and whether it's for you, you might find both of these resources help answer your questions.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Tip-toeing Spiders - New Scientist latest

Following on from  New Scientist monster flea fossil revelations, sit back and enjoy  some more snippets from the 10 March issue, courtesy of Mr GP:

·       Scientist in Japan has made violin strings out of spider thread. Thickest contains 15,000 filaments
·       A robot called Cheetah has set a new speed record for 4 legged robots, near 30 km/h
·       Seeds are being imported to Antarctica unwittingly. Every visitor there has an average of 10 seeds on their clothes, the worry is some of these may take root.
·       An eel like creature 550 million years ago looks like it was the forerunner to all vertebrates
·       Spiders have 3 tricks to avoid getting stuck in their own webs: hairy legs, anti-stick chemicals and elegant tip toeing.
·       SpaceX Dragon spaceship is scheduled for launch in April.It will be the first private shot to the international space station.
·       Mammalian tissue generates complex and sophisticated electrical phenomena similar to those used in computers. This opens up the idea of building complex electronic devices from tissue for use in medicine or other uses.
·       DNA from the last of the great apes, the gorilla, has been decoded.
·       Bonobos have been shown to demonstrate high levels of caring. A group was observed to go back and help a trapped male, behaviour quite different from other species who would abandon them. Speculation is that this is related to bonobos being matriarchal. The female leaders of the group put more emphasis on group unity.
·       Enzymes are capable of working at an incredibly fast speed, reacting at a femtosecond - one quadrillionth (1/1000000000000000)s. Understanding this process is leading towards new drugs that are capable of reducing virulence of pathogens without killing them. This should reduce the problem of pathogens becoming drug resistant.
·       Brown bears like a good scratch. They have been seen using barnacle encrusted stones to sort out an itch. This is first time bears have been seen to use a tool.
·       Snakes can exercise fine control over each of their scales to help them move and stick as firmly as possible to a surface. This explains how they are capable of moving up a smooth sloping surface. 
·       Exercise has been shown to have a direct impact on your genes. In a study sedentary males did an hour of exercise, afterwards the genes in their thigh muscles had changed from fat processing to protein production.
·        Video games special feature
·       An AI computer game designer Angelina has been developed. It can only create rudimentary games atm but may be a sign of things to come.
·       Prom Week trials the use of a social physics engine that captures rules about character behaviour/interaction to create games with more realistic interpersonal behaviour. 
·       Snake, the Planet is a new variant on the old game that allows you to project snakes and play the game on real world surfaces.
·       Outerra is a world engine. Capable of generating an entire world using fractal algorithms you can zoom in from space to walk around it. 
·       Expect new developments in virtual reality. The Kinect can now works with PCs and applications developed to take it beyond gaming e.g. video conferencing and virtual shopping. Next generation devices will be more immersive. Research shows that experience through virtual reality can lead to changes in behaviour.
·       A game controller using a bowl of water has been developed. Moving your hand in it passes signals to the computer that can be used to interact with it.  . 
·       Article on the very first digital camera. Built in 1975 it weighed 4kg and took 23 s to record a 0.01  megapixel black and white picture on a cassette. The cassette was then transferred to a custom television where it could be viewed.. The developer worked for Kodak but his colleagues were sceptical asking "why would you want to look at photos on a TV?"!
·       Wormholes: new research shows these may be easier to create than was previously thought. It is now theoretically quite plausible to imagine a wormhole that would allow instantaneous transfer between points in a universe or even between universes. However for this to be capable of allowing an object as massive as a human to travel it would need to be tens to hundreds of light years across. Nonetheless these wormholes may exist naturally and they are now being looked for, though will be hard to spot. 
·       Language: Two theories exist for why humans uniquely have language. One is the "nativist" idea that language is predetermined and has a universal grammar set by our genes. The other is that language is as much determined by culture as innate abilities. The former idea has been favoured but a study on the Piraha Amazonians shows their language lacks certain aspects that would be predicted if grammar was innate.
·       A new look on middle age. From an evolutionary point of view there is a strong argument to suggest that middle age provides a benefit to the species and is one of the reasons for human's success. Even in ancient hunter gatherer societies a number of individuals survived to middle age and these people were capable of being super providers (hunting/gathering far more than required for their own survival) and being master culture conveyors passing on learning and nurturing youngsters. So middle age is not a stumbling deterioration but rather a key part of human development, liberating women and their partners from the unremitting demands of producing children to do what they do best, live long and pamper. Without the evolution of middle age human life may never have existed. Hear hear!
Scientific thought existed pre Renaissance. In particular a remarkable man, Bishop Grosseteste, born in Suffolk, published a book in 1220 that gave a remarkably sophisticated analysis of colour theory that is consistent with our understanding today. (An interesting side note which illustrates the importance of going back to original evidence. Grosseteste's writing were disregarded because they seemed to have a basic error in saying there are 9 ways colours can be combined, while the correct answer is 14. Researchers tracked down an early version of the article and found that Grossetese had been an early adopter of the Arabic numeral system. He had written 14 but later transcribers, only aware of the Roman system, had seen 14 and misread it as IX so transcribed it as "nine").   

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Mothering Sunday - Cutting the Cord

                                            credit: idea go at

I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show -
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.
- Cecil Day-Lewis from 'Walking Away'

I am brainwashing my children not to want to smoke cigarettes (dirty, smelly, they kill you), climb mountains (high, cold, they kill you) or ever get on the back of a motorbike (far too fast, far too dangerous - and - did I mention?  - they kill you). Their father, on the other hand, has now introduced them to the concept of speed as a god to be worshipped.
 - Judith O'Reilly, Wife in the North

Sunday morning -  all-age service and, empty-nester though I am, the 'presentation' of the loving mother nurturing and protecting their child, teaching, comforting, advising and step by painful step making themselves redundant, made me smile and weep (inside) in equal measures.

The poignancy brought a lump to my throat.  I glanced around at the young mums and thought: You really don't know the half of it, do you? So, you worry non-stop about child-proof medicine bottles, buggy hinges that nip little fingers,  bike stabilisers, bike helmets, car seats, SATS results, GCSE results, Piano Grade III results, Stranger Danger, cyberbullying, Parental Advisory Lyrics and computer games,  Uni entry, the job market. Oh and sex and drugs and rock 'n roll of course...

And do you know? It never lets up; you just learn to cope with it differently, you have to, else you'd go crazy: The first all-nighter, Reading, Glastonbury, driving lesson, solo  motorway trip, depression, the post GCSE jolly to Ibitha (or Newquay!), failed job interview, solo packpacking to far-off lands, the angst-ridden phone call when they're far away and you're in no position to help, the darker, seamier stuff you'd rather not think about or begin to imagine. It's a wilderness out there. 

It's also a big, wide and wonderful world and the only way they're going to be able to find that out for themselves is for you to let them cut that cord. Pass on your wisdom, morals  values and faith, yes, let them know you're there for them, yes, 'Ponder and consider these things in your heart,' after all, you're in distinguished company; the mother of Our Lord had to, but like her, you have to let them make their own way eventually.

This is in no way denigrating or glossing over the experiences of those families, where, tragically, a beloved child - and they're your children whatever age they are - did not make it... Words, especially glib words are inadequate...

I chose the two quotations at the start of this post because between them  they so perfectly capture this tension all parents have to live with. To be fully human is to struggle  to live true within our   vulnerability; to risk the heartaches along with the joys and to equip our children and other loved ones to do the same. I might be a grumpy old Mummy a lot of the time and am certain I've made no end of mistakes along the way,   but on Sunday,  as I looked out over the little ones, I remembered my 'big ones,' and felt so, so, proud...

                                                    Saying what God alone could perfectly show - 
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Quirky Creativity and Snail Racing

Aloof Lord Palmerston
looks down
Upon the ceaseless
traffic in the town.
Inscrutable as the
Egyptian Sphynx
I sometimes wonder
what he really thinks.

After spotting the the sad tale of the untimely demise of young Henry West, here's another of those hidden 'gems,' spotted in Romsey last Saturday. This plaque - part of the town trail, refers, of course, to the statue of the 19th Century Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, pictured here. Yes, I do wonder what he thinks. He must have seen a fair few changes in his day. 

Anyway, to creativity; the object of the expedition was not to admire  Lord Palmerston. I was in Romsey for a day with the Winchester Spiritual Direction Network at Wisdom House, home of The Daughters of Wisdom (Sisters of La Sagesse). We had a marvellous time exploring all kinds of creative resources and tools to help resource   our own spiritual journeys or   those we're working alongside.  There was really only time to offer  a taster of such delights as story-telling, collage and watercolouring and to pool  a few other creative ideas with each other. But no matter. I was thrilled, thoroughly enjoyed myself and took away a few 'creations,' to muse over and sit with. Plus a socking great chunk of modelling clay, bought in the town's proper toyshop (why are there so few nowadays, I wonder?) which I needed for something at church the following day. (Ouch, my poor back!)

Another exciting discovery: the centre has a labyrinth. Sadly -  I had a long journey back home, so didn't get a chance to walk it this time round. I must find an excuse to go back some time soon.

In case anybody wondered, no, the day's programme did not include snail racing! This last was from an advert I spotted in a shop window en route back to the railway station.  A night of snail racing, organised by Romsey District Scouts. The mind boggles. Only in the UK!

To celebrate or not to celebrate - St Patrick's Day

They're back! The three little  pilgrims whose angst-filled peregrinations had a honourable mention over on my old Greenpatches blog, courtesy of Roberta on Spiritually Directed.  Now, over on the bathroom shelf, they're experiencing a spot of bother with a certain Green Gentleman of a Celtic Persuasion.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Lent Practices - Sin

Psalm 51
If I view sin as woundedness, how will that change the way I deal with it?

          Once you see that your "sin" and your gift are two sides of the same coin you can never forget it.
           - Richard Rohr
          Sin is a refusal to keep growing up.
           - St Gregory of Nyssa 

Lent Practices - Finding a Quiet Place

"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
 6"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace."
 - Matthew 6 - The Message
Turn your speakers on, log out of Facebook, Twitter and I don't know what else-er and spend just 90 seconds with The Quiet Place Project. Thank you to Jesuit Post for this one.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Gothic Tails

Departing from Lent for a moment, at the request of Crafty Green Poet,  here's a classic tale of the adventures of the late, great Gothcat: Stable Vandalised. Holy Family Scattered! From my wibsite blog, December 2005.

It all began yesterday evening when Miffcat jumped up on to the table and hurled himself at the birdcage with an evil glint in his eye. Mr Miff uttered a shriek of horror – leapt up, snatched the would-be assassin and plopped him down on the floor. After checking the cage door he flopped back down on to the sofa with a sigh of relief….that turned to another shriek of horror as he realised that there was a black furry cushion underneath him that hadn’t been there a second ago! By some miracle (or maybe because the beloveds lost so much weight lately), the cat wasn’t hurt, but after that no amount of coaxing would persuade him to take up his usual perch on my lap. Instead he turned his back on us and started stalking round the room with the look of a creature that has Things On His Mind. Next, he’d leapt up onto the dresser, and before we could stop him, tried  to insert himself into the little alcove where our Nativity figures are displayed – and began pulling at the straw.
Horrors! We had visions of many year’s worth of lovingly collected Santons de Provence being smashed to smithereens. Sacrificing theological and historical accuracy for the sake of safety, I hastily organised an emergency evacuation of the Holy Family and assorted hanger- ons to the far end of the alcove. It’s traditional in these creches to include not just shepherds and magi, but the butcher, baker, candlestick maker, priest, mayor and whoever else you can think of. At the last count ours has a duck, pig, pottery hippo from Disneyland, and two camels, one with a broken leg propped up by the rock wherein resides the Angel of the Lord. Another regular visitor used to be a super dooper reindeer pooper, only this year Ms Miffy put her foot down. Although in the spirit of inclusivity, one of her friends had slipped in a couple of Karma Sutra gingerbread reindeer and it was these that had attracted the cat. With Mr Miffy pulling at his hind legs, he held on for dear life with his forelegs whilst simultaneously trying to ram his head into the stable where one ‘couple’ of KS reindeer  were lurking. (I managed to catch the infant Jesus just in time as he was sent shooting out into the cold together with the other reindeer (still clasped in a lascivious embrace) which landed under an armchair, much to the delight of the dog!)
What could it all mean, I wonder? ;) No doubt daughter and BF would say it was a judgement on me for having turned away one overfriendly and plump little cat which followed me home one night recently. ‘ I bet you she’s pregnant,’ said Ms Miff. ‘And (accusingly) she’s probably called Mary.’ On the other hand, the scene bore a remarkable resemblance to The Goodies ‘Kitten Kong,’ that we’d been watching on TV just minutes before. I shall be watching Miffcat’s viewing with great care in future.

Lent Practices - Putting Down and Taking Up

Is it a prayer station or is it Godly Play? Both maybe?  Either way, after a shaky start,  my inner child has  been having a whale of a time recently. I've been running the church's lent library book swap scheme which we had for the first time in 2011 as part of a special Lent program of Putting Down and Taking Up. We're encouraged to press the  'pause' button on   the  busyness of  our daily  lives by putting down something, be it an activity, way of being or  behaving;  in particular clearing our schedules of all but necessary 'churchy' meetings,  replacing them by practices that draw us closer to God. To explore new types of prayer, journaling, maybe painting, reading (hence the book scheme), or getting out and about and walking in the countryside. 

To date, I've little idea how this is working out in practice. Maybe I should ask...

Getting back to the library, the joke of it is that I  get 'booked out' quite easily nowadays. And I'm finding that as I get older, the very  thought of  the  plethora of Lent and Advent resources churned out by Christian publishers  brings me out into a sweaty panic.  Simplicity is my watchword; I am Franciscan, after all! And to remain open to what calls.

So a week in, I was rather taken by the use of imagery and symbolism in   the Sunday sermon,  when  bingo! I mean - Hallelujah! (Oops! Sorry, it's Lent). There it was - my Lent 'practice.' : Each Sunday I  wait to see what speaks to me from the talk and create a  library display round it for the following week. The one in the pic here was inspired by The Cost of Discipleship. Advantages: well, first of all it ensures that I listen to the sermon! Secondly, it helps focus me as I  sit prayerfully with it* during the week. Lastly, to translate it into another, non words-based medium is, as I've discovered with my experiments with art journaling, a wonderful means of helping move those truths from head down to heart. 

What anybody else makes of it, again, I have no idea...

For now I'm off to muse over last Sunday's topic: Sin.

*[ whenever new GP cat condescends to let me onto my comfy armchair, that is. You don't mess with him, as the vet who gave him his vacc this afternoon will certify.] 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Giant Fleas and Tyranosaurus Rex - New Scientist latest

Mr GP, too, is into lists. One of his latest exercises is to post a summary of the latest snippets from his favourite mag New Scientist. Here's the latest, for 3 March issue. Am I thankful that new GP cat isn't a dinosaur. It'd take a sight more than a splash of Advocate to see off Freddie the Flea then!

- T rex had the most powerful bite of any animal that has ever lived,
some 60 times greater than a human.
- It was thought women are born with all the eggs they will ever
produce. However stem cells have been discovered which suggest eggs
continue to be produced throughout life.
- Neutrinos: some errors in the equipment may explain the faster than
light neutrinos.
- Neanderthals were mariners, evidence being found of them colonising
islands in the Mediterranean 100,000 years ago.
- The "Bruce" effect has been demonstrated in wild monkeys. (not a
tendency to emit strange sounds at high volume btw. Its the fact that
after a new male takes over a pack of females causes them to abort any
foetuses they may be carrying)
- Fossils of a 1.3m tall penguin have been discovered, making it the
tallest ever.
- As has the fossil of the largest ever flea, 20mm long, which may
have lived on feathered dinosaurs.
- Near 25 billion apps have been downloades from AppStore. The user
who downloads the 25 billionth itself will get a $100k dollar reward.
- is faster hittng 10m users than twitter or facebook.
- An underwater equivalent of streetview for the Great Barrier Reef is
launched at
- Special issue speculating on the future of humanity over the next
100,000 years. Key points
-- We will still be here. Its hard to imagine an event so catastrophic
that it would wipe out all human life. The only event likely to do
this is a nearby supernova that would cause an extreme gamma ray burst
which would wipe out the ozone layer. However these only occur once
every 300 million years or so.
-- Left to nature, human beings will not have evolved to an extent
that they would be unrecognisable. However the impact of cybernetics
and genetic engineering is much harder to anticipate.
-- No consensus on what will happen to language. May become simpler
and more universal, may become more fragmented.
- If global warming continues, some parts of the world around the
equator may become uninhabitable. On the other hand barren tundra may
become fertile and access to the Antarctic bedrock may encourage
- We are unlikely to send people beyond the solar system without a
breakthrough in space travel speed.
- We are unlikely to run out of natural resources, as history has
shown new alternatives are found more quickly than old resources run

Monday, 12 March 2012

Whiskers on Kittens - 110 Things that Bring Me Life...continued

At the (totally embarrassing) risk of sounding a dead ringer for Maria in The Sound of Music:

45. The blossom laden trees in the park as I walked GP dog in the park earlier. So delicate; try and grasp the blooms and you risk crushing them.

46. The arrival in my in-box of the St Beunos newsletter;  bright, springlike and bursting out all over.

I'm not so sure about our own resident 'big kitten,' pictured above. Leastways - when he plonks himself on my desk between the printers and sits there looking stern/shoves his whiskers in my face. We've not had to cope with such goings-ons since the reign of the Late Great Gothcat. Was that really three cats ago? How time flies!

[Hmm..Who can spot the typo in the post title first?! ]

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Waiting - Interim Time

If there's  one thing I've learned about myself from these last couple of year's vocational wanderings, it's that I find waiting sooo difficult. The frustrating  process of one step forward, two steps back, hopes raised, then dashed as once again a new path followed up leads to another seeming dead-end. On a good day I joke wryly about learning curves and the need for Prayer, Patience, Pro-activity and Persistence in equal measures; during the bad ones, it's all I can do to stop myself flinging myself down in the middle of said road and howling in frustration.

Then every once in a blue moon,  just as I'm on the point of giving up, as earlier this week, somebody or something happens; in this case some practical  affirmation from a friend  that they at least, see me as being on the right path which gives me renewed hope,  albeit a tiny sliver, but just enough to help me up and onto the road again.

So on I plod. The other week, I  was congratulated on my excellent (for my age) blood pressure reading; the practice nurse remarked that she could tell that I  was a walker; it's reflected in my level of physical fitness. Look on the bright side: the current trials must surely be having a similar effect on the spiritual.

Borrowed my own book back from the church Lent library today just so that I could look over this old favourite from Benedictus by the late John O'Donahue. These lines are from For the interim time.

...You are in this time of interim
          Where everything seems witheld...

           As far as you can, hold your confidence.
           Do not allow your confusion to squander
           This call which is loosening
            Your roots in false ground,
            That you might come free
             From all you had outgrown.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Good Samaritans - Street Pastors

                                                             - Street pastors on patrol

We were put in mind of the parable of the Good Samaritans today during our TSSF small group meeting. One of our tertiaries told us a little about his role as a member  of his local area Street Pastors team. This initiative  has  spread all over the UK; the town where I'm based is due to launch the scheme at the end of this month. So - what is a Street Pastor? Well, to quote the Street Pastor UK site:

A Street Pastor is a Church leader/minister or member with a concern for society - in particular young people who feel themselves to be excluded and marginalised - and who is willing to engage people where they are, in terms of their thinking (i.e. their perspective of life) and location (i.e. where they hang out - be it on the streets, in the pubs and clubs or at parties etc). 

Street Pastors will also be willing to work with fellow activists, church and community leaders, and with agencies and projects, both statutory and voluntary, to look at collaborative ways of working on issues affecting youth, and initiatives that will build trust between them and the Street Pastors.

As the Street Pastor gets to know people in the community he/she will find out their needs are and what can be done to help. A presence of Street Pastors will earn credibility in the community, so that people know that the Church is there for them in a practical way. The role is not about preaching heaven and hell, but one of listening, caring and helping - working in an unconditional way.

Listening, caring and helping - working in an unconditional way; sounds very familiar and so Franciscan. It doesn't surprise me one bit that our fellow tertiary feels called to take on this role.  As mum to two adult, but still young people it's reassuring to know that the Street Pastors are out there. Our place isn't exactly the inner city either, but it so needs its good samaritans.  The town centre is a pretty scarey place at nights; over the years I've picked up on stuff from my two that would make your hair curl. And this is just  what they've told me about...

With all the debate recently about the  marginalisation of Christianity in public life, it's great to see a Christian-based initiative that's presenting a positive image and that truly seems to be accepted and appreciated by wider society. It seems that there've been reports of a drop in crime rates in many of the areas which have taken on the SP scheme. It's going to be very interesting to see how it fares in our neck of the woods.

Friday, 9 March 2012

God in All Things - 100 things that bring me life

I've been inspired by Emma's challenge in Count Your Blessings to revisit a similar exercise which I heard about at a prayer workshop last year. The leader recalled being challenged by her spiritual guide to list 100 things which enlivened  and helped her become more aware of God's presence in her everyday life. She didn't tell us how many she clocked up but I was inspired enough to rush home and begin my own list over the next few days. It all trailed off after a while - maybe now's the time to have another go. So here, with some editing to protect the innocent and tone down the personal is what I came up with.

1. Painting garden trellis and furniture (in tasteful shades of green and buttermilk)
2. aha! moments of insight, ideas and connections
3. Helping other people make connections with God
4. My nightly bath!
5. Completing and turning in a piece of writing.
6. Watching Soap and other DVDs with Mr GP
7. Laughing and joking.
8. Admiring the garden through the kitchen window.
9. Sitting on a garden bench with a cup of tea.
10. When - and - (friends and prayer partners) come round.
11. Frame it moments
12. When all the clutter and gunk clears and prayer really takes off.
13. Just sitting and gazing.
14. Coffee with -- before work.
15. Walking GP dog in the park on a sunny day.
16. Looking outside after a snowfall.
17. Walking through soft snow.
18. art journaling
19. Singing classes
20. Spotting the first snowdrops.
21. Julian prayer group
22. Setting up for communion in a quiet church on a sunny Friday afternoon.
23. 'Revisiting' in imagination places like CSF Compton Durville or Iona where I've felt God to be so, soclose.
24. Lent library - planning and doing
25. Creativity - when I've a sudden inspiration to add an imaginative twist to a project, a finishing touch that just seems 'meant.'
26. Traveling  - by train or walking - with Mr GP; cups of tea, arriving at our destination for the day and 'setting up home,' exploring and planning for the trip.
27. Silent retreats
28. Visiting a favourite place within a place, like the font in Salisbury Cathedral.
29. Strolling through the streets on a Summer's day or in the cool of the evening and smelling the scents of the flowers, trees etc
30. Moments of 'like-minded' connection with other people, however fleeting.
31. Wearing a favourite, old, cosy garment.
32. Planning and list-making for retreat or holiday.
33. My 'Kelly,' 'Volcano' kettle!
34. Laughing with -- and --- at the stall at church over something that happened during the week.
35. Herman the Amish sourdough starter. No, I never did manage to pass him on.
36. Walking into church on a Friday afternoon; smelling the polish and saying hello to person on the cleaning rota for the week.
37. The times when I'm brave enough to be authentic and able to share where I really am spiritually.
38. Group meeting: Being able to speak up for myself and correct a point where I felt I'd been misunderstood in a polite yet firm and clear manner and having this accepted.
39. Arriving home to find Mr GP in the kitchen making the meal  and chatting together.
40. Unexpected invite to the cinema with ---.
41. Walking out of a ----meeting feeling weary yet energised at the same time.
42. Gathering conkers on the way up the hill to church of a Sunday morning and going back in my imagination to my first ever retreat at CD.
43. Gathering beechnut husks on the walk home from singing. Reminded of the Joyce Grenfell sketch: Useful and Acceptable Gifts!
44. Sitting in the sun in ------churchyard on a TSSF quiet day, art journaling and pondering over prayer when another piece of the puzzle drops quietly into place as I draw.


To be resumed.,,

What about you, dear fellow-bloggers?

Counting Blessings

Emma at LLM Calling's been asking us to share our top ten blessings. Here goes:

1. Family
2. Our furry friends, past and present - GP dog (currently under the weather - get well soon B) and our new cat.
3. Health
4. Creativity - art journaling, singing and my ability to spin ideas around, make connections and dream dreams.
5. My sense of humour puts everything in perspective. When it begins to slip I know I'm losing it...
6. Being in a fortunate enough position to have the freedom to do what I love doing.
7. Friends
8. Wide open spaces and the freedom to explore them - like our Grand Pilgrimage last year.
9. My faith and the discovery of the contemplative path. Folk like my church and spiritual director who've  supported me in my meanderings along it.
10. No list of blessings  would be complete without my mainstay: A Nice Cup of Tea!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Pilgrims to Sacred Places

                                             - St Beunos, North Wales

Connect with generations past

Visit sites which have been associated with the sacred for centuries.

Now that's my kind of retreat! 

Not that I'll be going; we're hanging up our walking boots for the time being. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

TED: Susan Cain - The power of introverts

From the brilliant TED Talks:  Susan Cain makes an introverted call to action. When I first listened to this, I just had to cheer! (In a suitably restrained kind of way, of course).

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Counting the Cost - On return from a Far Country

 Another Lent blogger: Andrew Proud, Bishop of Reading reflects on Facebook about life in Ethiopia.

On return from a Far Country 12
Sunday 4th March. Lent 2.
Mark 8: 31-end
36 and 37 catch my eye. The average life expectancy in Ethiopia is 46 for a woman, 47 for a man. More than half the population live more than a days walk from the nearest asphalt road and only 35.5% percent of the adult population is literate. We probably live 30 years longer on average and most of us can read and write. But of course, the truth is that all life hangs by a thread. Yours and mine as well as theirs. We’re just so protected we forget it much of the time. We have a fantastic NHS, an education system that is the envy of many and we can insure ourselves up-to-the-hilt if we wish. But it doesn’t change anything. Our life still hangs by a thread, but it is pure gift from God. Give thanks for being alive today and use the day to be a blessing to others.