Thursday, 31 May 2012

Pointer to...Fr Richard Rohr: Unpacking Paradoxes

Just pointing folk over to a new series beginning  on Francisican  Fr Richard Rohr's blog Unpacking Paradoxes.  The Ego's Four Splits, based on his Franciscan Mysticism webcasts,  kicks off  this week. Part 1 - "The split between myself and yourself".  I love his definition of mysticism; one of, if not the best I've heard.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Scaredy Cat's Comfort Zones, Confidence and Catnip

"Shall I? Shan't I?" - Greenpatch Cat deep in thought

I spent a pleasant half hour or so earlier sitting outside on the patio with Greenpatch Cat. Trying to persuade our resident mini-tiger that the outside world is  a friendly place hasn't been the easiest of tasks so far. As we live near a busyish road all of our moggies to date have been semi 'indoors,'  'Outdoors' being a large fenced and wired off section of the patio, with an arbour, platforms to climb, catmint and other greenery, wind chimes and I don't know what else. I remember GP Cat MkI 'Gothcat's ' favourite route out there was up over the kitchen sink and out onto a ramp via the window. It could be more than a little hair-raising at times, especially if you were cooking or busy with the washing up when a hairy streak of nothing with Dracula-style fangs suddenly jumped in front of you!

The latest GP feline's been with us nearly three months and as yet has hardly been out. To be fair to him, getting past the dog doesn't help matters. And we wonder if some of his hangups - about vets and venturing outside  also stem from being run over when he was younger.  Last time Mr GP tried sweeping him up and dumping him outside, he insisted in sitting right outside the doors looking so pathetic that my hairy hubby relented and let him in after a few seconds.

Today, I tried sitting outside with him in the late afternoon sunshine. Hallelujah! After a few minutes he  came over to me to investigate; took a cautious nip of catmint - then rolled in it....verrryyy slowly nosed his way round the enclosure, hid behind the arbour, peeked out, checked the place once more, before coming back over to me and snuggling up against me.  "Hmmmm...?" That last's for both of us. I'm currently musing over some possibilities that could...will  be liable to take me out of my comfort zones. Maybe tonight's episode with Scaredy (oops, nearly typed 'Sacred') Cat might have something to say to me...maybe...Hmmm...?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Talking about faith online/listening skills

My stats show that lately there've been a few visitors to GG from my favourite site Shipoffools. com .  I thought I'd highlight a couple of current discussions: First up Talking about Faith VR v. RL - do we find it easier to talk about our faith online than in 'real life? ' Then, picking up from my musings on digital technology, social media and communication, I began a thread on the place of professional listening skills in initial ministerial formation. Worth a look.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Tea and cucumber sandwiches - Summer is Icumen in 3

Treated myself to a proper straw sunhat yesterday. Well,  I had to keep up appearances, didn't I, after a weekend of gracious living. Daughter came home for a flying visit, insisted on cooking for us: a great chicken, feta and blueberry salad on Friday evening, barbecue on Saturday, Eurovision Song Contest and a box of chocolates in the evening, (Three cheers for the Russian Grannies!). Another high spot  - we took ourselves out for tea and cakes at our favourite cafe by the canal where I'd been with  our TSSF small group only the previous Saturday. Sunshine, real china, good company and the chance to sit in the sunshine watching the swans and ducks drift by. Wonderful. 

Being a glutton for punishment, daughter and her cronies went back to the teashop for yet another tea drinking session at Saturday breakfast time. 

One day I will start that teashop blog.


Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.  These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.
      Acts 2 (NIV)

Friday, 25 May 2012

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Technology and social media. Are you listening to me?

image credit:

A big thank you to Tractorgirl for drawing my attention to another thought-provoking and challenging TED talk.  Sociologist Sherry Turkle's Connected, but alone? reflects on whether our  increasing use of digital technology and social media, designed as a means of connection, is, paradoxically  hindering authentic and genuine communication with each other.  From Ms Turkle's own site:

Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere. In a surprising twist, relentless connection leads to a new solitude. We turn to new technology to fill the void,but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down.

Now I'm not one for knocking modern technology; I'm in agreement with many folk, Tractorgirl included, that social and digital media has been a wonderful means of enlarging my horizons beyond my own little corner, and yes, I've also made connections with people online that have later matured into   friendships 'in real life.' The plus side's been covered pretty well elsewhere and I'm not intending to add to that here.

No, what really caught my attention were the assertions of the effect our use of  the media is having on our ability to  just 'be,' by ourselves, alone; to give ourselves space; above all to give that 'safe'  space to others where they're truly heard and accepted. We are, Ms Turkle says, increasingly unable to listen, really listen to each other.

“If we're not able to be alone, we're going to be more lonely. And if we don't teach our children to be alone, they're only going to know how to be lonely.”

“We all really need to listen to each other, including to the boring bits.”

“The feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ make us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us.”

(Well, sorry, but if people think that when I'm old and grey I'll satisfy my social, emotional and spiritual needs by talking to a robot, they've another think coming! )

'No one is listening to me.'  That shocked me. Sadly, it didn't surprise me in the least.  I guess I've a vested interest; being involved in spiritual direction where listening skills are key.  As they are in so many of the helping professions.

So where does that leave us?  For myself, it's a timely reminder - if I needed one - of the need that is out there. And for anyone- I'd suggest, take a step,  doesn't need to be a huge project, just a small step will do, to once in a while switch off the laptop/phone/insert device of your choice.  Then call a friend (oops - alright, I'll let you have the phone back as long as you promise not to text or tweet). Speak to that elderly neighbour; the person next to you on the train, in the bus queue, the chap at the supermarket till, the elderly lady walking her dog in the park. And do it with no other agenda other than to offer the other person that precious gift of unhurried  time and space.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Monty or Monica? Reptilian revelations

Our family's track record on the naming of reptilian parts is not what it should be. Daughter phoned the other night with the Good News that she'd at last managed to find a good home for 'Monty,' her pet python. ('Monty,' 'Python,' geddit...) The Bad News, as spotted by the new owner - 'Monty,' is in fact, a 'Monica!'

Shades of the goings-ons three years ago when we learned the dreadful truth about Ridge! our  son's 'Beardie.' Well, if 'Blue Peter,' made a mistake, back in The Good Old Days, so can we.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Sumer is icumen in...

 File  Wikimedia Commons licenced under The Creative Commons Attribution -Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

"Lhu-de sing cucu!"  according to the latest BBC weather reports.


Sunday, 20 May 2012

Oh Pooh!

Like poor old Edward Bear, I'm partial to a "little something" now and then.   Those pesky widgets don't half pile on the virtual calories though; a few idle moments spent tweaking the Greenpatch layout and horrors, my blogroll's girth has inflated to Michelin Man size!  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially in the hands of a GP with Very Little Brain and even less technical know-how.

Never mind. I'm sure you'll all appreciate the extra "coverage."

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Ascension of Jesus

Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
 - Acts 1:6-11 NIV

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Journeying in the City


Whilst we're talking labyrinths and journeys, I couldn't resist posting this short animation, made by my daughter and friends.

Journeying with God - Praying the labyrinth 2

Thanks to A Letter from Home for her response to my post on labyrinths and my discovery of the blog a gracingmaze. It's great to learn about other people's experiences with this way of prayer. 'A Letter' tells about a way of adapting the labyrinth that's entirely new to me and such an apt illustration of our journey with God.

I'd love to hear about other readers' labyrinth journeyings.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Self-esteem: That old internal parrot

Dave Walker has done it again! Judging by the responses to his latest post You are not good enough, there are enough 'internal parrots,' critics, censors, (tick your metaphor of choice) around to fill an aviary. Sadly, many, too many, of us struggle with poor self-esteem.  Miracle of miracles, I'm in a good place at the moment; yet there've been times when  it only takes one or two negatives to knock me off my perch.

Is there any cure?  From my own personal experience, I'd say time,  prayer, yes, but combined with a listening, non-judgemental ear; somebody who'll welcome me into a safe space where I can indulge in an attack of verbal diarrhoea  tell my story without someone rushing to fix/firing scripture verses at me willy-nilly. Who'll meet me where I am, not where they think I 'should' be.  If you search carefully, there are people around who're trained to do just that; they're  known as spiritual directors or spiritual companions.  Three cheers for them, and that host of retreat leaders, clergy, counsellors, pastoral people, prayer partners, and friends. They're worth their weight in gold.

Oh, and  an extra three cheers for the commenter who said: Sometimes the only thing that can help when you are lost in your own life is the sight of someone else jumping up and down shouting “help! I’m lost!” So, so true.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The long and winding road - praying the labyrinth

St Columba's Bay, Iona, labyrinth, May 2011

The labyrinth at St Beunos, retreat October 2011

Made one of those happy discoveries this evening when I stumbled across a labyrinth blog for the first time: agracingmaze, which  title I reckon deserves an award for both aptness and the most apalling pun ever! Looks to be some wonderful resources and a chance to share reflections on this means of prayerful walking.

As I've written before in my old Greenpatches blog, the labyrinth has played a significant part in my own walk; sometimes affirming, always challenging. Yet, do you know, it's only as I was pondering earlier on the struggles of somebody else that the realisation is  dawning a) of the tremendous distance I've travelled (spiritually as well as physically!) since those first, hesitant steps, and b) an emerging pattern: each time the labyrinth symbolising a time of transition,  liminal space, a turning point, a call to go deeper with God.  And yet I'd not always appreciated this at the time. I guess when you're in the thick of a situation it's easy to feel that you're going nowhere, trudging  round in an endless circle. Only time, space and perspective reveal  that this circle, is, in fact, a spiral. Quietly breathtaking.  Cue imitation of a (happily) stranded guppy...



Friday, 11 May 2012

Holy Mackerel! It was this big - honest!

If Holy haute couture is your thing, hop over to Simon (aka "The Captain") Jenkin's blog and feast your eyes on his catwalk debut at the Christian Resources Exhibition this week.

When Mr GP and I visited Rome last month, I stumbled across a clerical outfitters and was astounded to read in our guide book that the city has an entire shopping district devoted to holy haute couture.  You learn something new every day! I'm no tat afficionado;  even so, it was a surreal experience rounding a corner and finding ourselves gazing at a chasuble with so much gold embroidery it could have decorated a Christmas tree;  and two nuns (in a separate window to the chasuble wearer of course) attired in a tasteful shades of grey.

I really wish I'd had the nerve to whip out my camera and take a pic for   a friend who's being ordained in a couple of month's time, but there was a rather rotund monk walking right behind us, and it seemed a bit of  a cheesy, touristy thing to do, so the moment passed.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Social Media and Introversion

Hot on the heels (oops, nearly typed 'hells!' ) of my post on Procrastination and them pesky widgets, comes Ian's reflections on Slate's assertion that opting out of Facebook and other social networks could prove detrimental to one's reputation.

This is  a topic to which I've not given much thought, to be honest. My age and situation at  present relieves me of much of the pressure to see and be seen; nevertheless  I'm very much aware that whatever I post once out there, stays out there. It's a small world, even in cyberspace and I'd hope that if anybody who knows me does stumble upon my inane ramblings, said ramblings will reflect positively on me. To misquote the judge at the Lady Chatterley trial: " Is this something you would want your husband/children/friends/fellow tertiaries/church members to read?"

I agree about the overwhelmingness of it all and an introvert's need to maintain their own personal space. Paradoxical, isn't it? Social media and the internet is such a boon for  those of us who need time to reflect before we 'speak,' who draw strength from our own inner world and who find overmuch interaction with others draining. We can gather our thoughts rather than be 'put on the spot,' reflect on what we really want to say. And oh the wonder of being able to explore new horizons, ideas, people that we'd simply never have the chance to encounter otherwise.  Yet 'online,' as 'offline,' I know I can quite easily go into overload and have to pull out.

Funnily enough, my shyness and the behaviour patterns associated with that also show up on line. I'm definitely still in the cyber-kitchen at parties.

Any solutions? Well, being a Franciscan tertiary with an intentional way ('rule') of life, including a focus on simplicity,   helps. I have a mobile, not a smartphone and choose not to give out my number to all and sundry. Folk know that my landline is  the best way of contacting me.  So don't e-mail me to change arrangements once I've left home because I'll not get it. I kinda regret not tweeting; I do feel out of the loop sometimes, especially at places like Greenbelt, but heigh-ho, you can't have it all.

And lastly...(phew!) and I'm preaching to myself here - intentionality in how you  contribute online is part of the simplicity rather than drift. Plan that blog post; on Facebook  - let's visit that new spirituality group today, make yourself comment, (just one will do); leave those endless news updates for now, they'll still be there tomorrow....and the next day. Oh, and is there anything you've learned online today that you could take offline or vice versa, an idea for a new project, something with which to encourage others? Why not drop them an e-mail, a letter,  a phone call, even (gasp!) ask them out for a drink or a cuppa?

What do readers think?

Now I just know I'm going to regret clicking 'publish' here... :)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Blessings - 100 Things that bring me life

Now what will I do with the ten extra blessings?

47. Bluebells! We have bluebells poking their heads up through the grass in  the meadow front garden.
48. ... where did that tiny clump of forget-me-nots come from?
49.  And after a long, wet, muddy sploshy walk with GP dog this morning, the GP vertebrae are back to their normal selves...almost.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Why oh why, especially after all the fuss I made last year about using shopping trollies, did I set out to buy two heavy cans of paint armed only with a bag! Mr GP had to give me a lift home in the end, my back muscles, if not out are certainly clustered glowering  in a corner planning a go-slow, and above all, I feel  a right twit.  I'm hoping that all the good work brought about by sleeping with a board on my half of the bed under our mattress topper hasn't been undone. 


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Dreaming of sunny days - Greenbelt 2012

Who'd believe we're officially in Spring? I've  the heating on, a freshly-brewed mug of coffee beside me, a bowl of porridge whirling round in the microwave ( Mr GP's shirts are probably standing to attention on the line  by now) and I'm still freezing. Time to dream of sunnier times and the annual opportunity to chill out - often in the original sense of the word (brrr!) at Greenbelt 2012; theme  Paradise Lost & Found. That's my trusty little tent pictured.

For those of you of a Franciscan persuasion, I've noticed that Ian Cron, author of, amongst others,  Chasing Francis - A Pilgrim's Tale, is down to talk this year. It's not clear what his topic will be, but I'd like to go along and listen anyway. Cron's novel about Chase, the megachurch pastor who loses his faith then rediscovers it after a pilgrimage to Italy is a good and accessible  introduction to the saint, supplementing the 'meatier' writings about Francis rather well IMO. 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Procrastination rules - Them pesky widgets

Procrastination of course, being a practice that your typical Franciscan tertiary never indulges in; especially of the more 'techy' variety. I gave up IM'ing years ago; multitasking gets me into more of a tangle than a game of cat's cradle. Tweeting I leave to the birds, (those few who've the guts to venture into GP dog's domain), and, as for the dreaded Facebook timeline - "Did she fall or was she pushed?" I vowed to hold out until the last possible moment, but it's just amazing what a girl will do to avoid getting to grips with Excel.

All this being a long-winded prelude to my confession to having succumbed to the lure of the 'Popular Posts' gadget. Do I have any popular posts?  I'm trying to keep NGP slimline; the old Greenpatches blog was beginning to develop more extraneous bulges than Yours Truly's burgeoning spare tyre. I may belong to a bells and (occasional very occasional) smells church, but for my own peace of mind, I'd prefer to keep my corner of the blogosphere as free from bells and whistles as I can. Popular posts looks to be a more than acceptable substitute for the Linkwithin widget on the old blog. The latter's logic came over rather hit and miss to me. I wonder what its MBTI profile might be?

I'll  make an exception for  the nifty little Friend's connect gadget, even if  its title conjures up an 'Upstairs Downstairs' scenario for me, with some aristocratic employer shrilling "Absolutely no followers allowed!" at the assembled household staff!

Heigh ho... simplicity is a strange beast. Would Christ have bothered with 'Followers,' I wonder?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Music for a while...

...doth all your cares beguile, especially when it involves a trip to see those Grandaddies of prog rock Jethro Tull. Last night's trip to see Ian Anderson et al perform TAAB and TAAB2, was every bit as enjoyable as the last one was and also fulfilled a life's ambition for Mr GP, who was too young to be able to be able to go and  see the band when the original TAAB was released.

Unlike the 2010 tour though, we enjoyed a grandstand view in the second row from the front, hence I've no idea if 2010's pattern of  audience wandering in and out to spend a penny repeated itself or not. I think the band must have noted this one, though, given Ian Anderson's brief but...ehrm...effective prostate cancer awareness spot.  I'll admit to nearly splitting my sides and worse besides laughing at this point, but seriously, given the average age last night, what better way to get the message over to your target audience.

Though yes, showing a colonoscopy video might have been a step too far!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Weather - Whatever?

"Information temporarily unavailable." Yes, it's official. We have no weather round these parts. The BBC says so, so it must be true!

We'll just have to resort to the traditional strand of seaweed hung up outside the back door method of meteorology then.

(Photo plucked at random from our travel collection is intended to give an impression of the nothingness of the elements, although it may actually be a) a failed  study of  the interior of a Scottish bothy which I forgot to delete, b) Venice at night or c) Sunset over Oban harbour taken as the camera battery ran out of charge. Take your choice. )

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
 - Psalm 139

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Singing a new song

Daydreamer's reflections on the joys of singing, made me smile yesterday, as I went back to my weekly singing session after a longish break. I'm not sure that Mr GP is quite   as appreciative of my warbling of Purcell's "Nymphs and Shepherds;"the words "earworm" were mentioned,  my voice  not being anywhere near these two performances here - by Robin Hendrix and of course, the famous 1929 recording  by the Manchester Children's Choir accompanied by the Halle Orchestra.

Never mind, I'll continue to sing on. As I blogged a few years ago:

 I’ve found that half hour really important in all kinds of ways, not the least in the confidence stakes. And even more as something which I do just ‘because,’ and not because I ‘should.’ More especially back last year when I was going through a bit of a bumpy patch. Singing on your own of course, means having to focus (no sitting back and letting the others do the hard work). I quite often come out with if not always a spring in my step, at least a smile on my face and whistling away not so much like a nightingale as a slightly demented sparrow.

As they say (cue  more blatant linking here), Music for a while, doth all your cares beguile. Especially for Yours Truly. I have -  after all -  renamed my favourite psalm The Heffalump.

Grain of Wheat

                                              -  Dorset, May Bank Holiday 2009

...unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit. - John 12

God's call to any individual is the most perfect for that one, and our integrity stands or falls by our endeavour to be true to that call.
 - Elisabeth CSF in“Corn of Wheat - the life and history of the Community of St Francis” 
Becket Publications Oxford 1981