Sunday, 30 September 2012

Lost In A Labyrinth?

Near Hadrian's Wall - Durham to Iona Pilgrimage, April/May 2011

A 'first,' for me yesterday; I actually got lost in a labyrinth. What an odd feeling! I was caught totally by surprise; a labyrinth has only one path winding in and out from the centre, after all. What confused me, was, I think, the overall shape, which was more of a square, with some sharp angles and meditative prayer stations along the way; a great idea in theory, yes, but in practice this introduced not only the usual need to  step off the path to let other walkers go by, but also decisions as to whether to wait patiently at intervals behind somebody deep in prayer, (which to be honest, I felt might appear rather intrusive to the person concerned) step right round them (intrusive again) or, as I eventually did, walk right off the labyrinth. I'm not famed for my sense of direction at the best of times, and after a couple of these diversions, I found myself totally confused and lost.  Several kind helpers appeared to point me back in the right direction, but I decided to call it a day. 

Though they may not have realised, I was quite happy to step off the installation and sit quietly with my thoughts.  I've been musing a fair bit recently about self-esteem issues and my tendency to let set backs, like the one I had earlier in the week, send me hurtling down a spiral of hurt despair and unhealthy self-absorption; as if I'm in some ghastly, cosmic game of Snakes and Ladders.   From where I am it looks as if The Only Way is Down and the temptation, I find is often to let the  downward pull define  everything else I'm about; surely the blips and set-backs are only an indication of my (abysmal) lack of self-worth and abilities. It's that old Imposter Syndrome: If they really knew how useless I am ...blah de blah...I might as well give up.  The trick, I've found, is to know when to push against this; the old   not in desolation going back on a decision made in a time of consolation bit.  I'm finding this easier of late; though this last has involved a few days snivelling away at a bemused but sympathetic Mr GP and much raging at God during the wee small hours.  Stepping back  now, I'm starting to  see the set-back in context.  This is where the labyrinth comes in again, mirroring, as it so often does, those unexpected twists and turns of life when you think you're travelling further away from your destination, but in reality are still on the path. Old cynic that I am, I sometimes find the old hymn God Moves in A  Mysterious Way,  a wee bit too off pat for my liking, but I do (grudgingly) have to admit there's more than a grain of truth in it. 

So, for all kinds of reasons, some of which won't make it on to this blog, the event that I was involved with yesterday, which I could so easily have decided to back out off at the last minute, has done wonders to boost the Greenpatch self-confidence; I've squared up to and stared down the old Inner Critic (for now, at least) and am back on the pathway.

Now, Don't Get Big-Headed

Advice needed from you blogger types out there. As you can see, I've been on a creative buzz and experimented with making my own Greenpatch Header. Is it just me, or does my blog look big in this? I know that these last months I've experienced a growing awareness of an expansion in my interior being And All That, but this is ridiculous; not to mention embarrassing after last week's aspirations to humility.

Friday, 28 September 2012

'Ever so 'umble:' Aspirations to Humility

In other words, get your brain round another of my 'Recycled Greenpatches'.  I may have had a week during which my self-esteem has  been  sucked down the plughole together with fistfuls of post-menopausal hair but, thanks to Archdruid Eileen and her 10 Most Humble Christians on Social Media, I sense  a strange stirring; feel there is a ray of hope - a light at the end of the tunnel (or to be exact, down the bottom of the overflow system). There is a place for clumsy, inarticulate bumblers such as Yours Truly! I'm inspired...enthused...energised.... to put finger to keyboard and give all you wonderful people, the benefit of some of my own thoughts on the topic, inconsequential and insignificant though they be.... ("I am Not Worthy.") So, here you go - first blogged back in November 2007, the Greenpatch Guide to 'Inverse Self-Presentation:' Genie Wake Up', (complete with the best definition of humility that I've ever come across.)

and smell the humus!,'  bleats Robin Williams in the Disney epic, 'Aladdin.'  To which I'd add the warning, 'But don't trip over the doormat on the way out!.'  I can't recall  who or what had caught him out , though I've happy memories of our then four-year old son's virtuoso imitation of Mr William's performance (more little blue Smurf than giant genie!).   I just remember our gales of laughter as the  keeper of the lamp suddenly  swells up to thrice his size in righteous indignation,  as suddenly realises his mistake  and...oops!   As his  pomposity (and his ego) is punctured mid-stream, RW dwindles into an 'ever so 'umble' yet endearing puddle of gooey sheepishness. And don't we just  love him for it!
Well, yes... I remember referring to this 'Inverse Self-Presentation'in one of my earliest posts on this blog - quoting from Susan Pitchford's writings on 'Verbal anesthesia - or 'What's your mask?'  Humility, what is it? How do you know you possess it? And by definition, if you think you're displaying it, surely that then means that you can't possibly be as humble as you think you are. (I can hear Uriah Heep knocking at the door as I type!). Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! What a tangle we get ourselves into at times.
Any road on, if you feel inclined to follow the tangle further, do take yourself over here.  I've recently completed another of those  forms  where you reflect on how you're managing to follow the Franciscan way, hence  the topic is one which looms large in my thinking at the moment.  I'm sure we would love to make ourselves out to be possessed of such humble qualities that onlookers can spot the duraglit on our  invisible halos from several hundred yards.  Sadly, however, I fear that for  most of us:
Humility is what nips you in the ankle when you start dropping hints about the good things you've done that nobody's noticed yet.

(My thanks to 'Pimple' from Shipoffools for allowing me to use this quote!)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Home Grown Labyrinths - Let's have Another Go

My goodness. It does look like an ear, doesn't it!  After my attempts last week and a peek at agracingmaze and a letter from home's reflections on Trinitarian labyrinths, I've had another go. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Autumn Leaves

So, that's it. Summer has gone AWOL, as have all the Greenpatch supplies of hot water bottles; I wore my quilted jacket for the first time this morning, and the opaque tights will be putting in an appearance any day now. 

I've  the perfect excuse to link to one of  my favourite songs, the Eva Cassidy version of Autumn Leaves

And if you want to really get into the autumnal liturgical vibe, pop over and have a peek at Archdruid Eileen's new hi - viz jacket.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Footsteps in The City - Urban Spirituality

Our daughter phoned earlier  this evening for a chat. I'd mentioned  walking the Fen Court Labyrinth earlier in the week as part of the Sacred Spirals course  and she'd sent me a link to this picture of it on Flickr. If you've not visited  before, London Centre for Spirituality and Fen Court are set in the heart of the City. Not the usual setting you (well, I anyway) usually associate with a meditative aid like a labyrinth; most of those I've visited have been in peaceful, rural places like  St Beunos in Wales.

Here, the contrast couldn't have been more marked. I struggled to even begin to explain  the experience;  musing  ongoing in any case. (I'm a slooowww thinker at the best of times). But what struck me  as we stepped out was how much this area reminds me of a visit to New York  5 years ago. Something about the feel?  The contrast between the sheer height..the immensity  of the buildings and the smallness of the people working and living in them?  ( Found myself looking upwards rather than outwards). A sense of 'edginess,' being crowded, of the need to maintain stricter boundaries round my personal 'space,' than I'm accustomed to in our small town? Most of all, awareness of a shadow, slight though no less real for all that, of the events in NY of that September morning in 2001. On that trip in 2007, we visited Ground Zero, boarded up at the time so really nothing much to  see, yet, not surprisingly, it was still a sobering experience.

Going back to last week, as I mentioned,  I'm still pondering the actual experience of walking my first city labyrinth, though I can sum it up as a strangely peaceful time. My first meeting with urban spirituality also (reflection in process); I've much to ponder, much to learn. Where I live is hardly out in the styx, yet I  feel very much like a little 'country mouse,' whenever I venture out of my comfort zones! In contrast to our daughter, who's lived in London for nearly seven years, now and is really energised by life in the Big City. I think she may have her own sense of 'awareness,' though I'm pretty sure she'd hesitated to call it 'spirituality,' urban, city, or otherwise. The animation above, 'Footsteps,' is one she and friends made as part of her college course. Do have a peep at this  'alternative,' look at London. Enjoy.

Franciscans at Greenbelt 2012 (the muddy one) - Walking on Water

Link to a great picture taken by one of the Franciscan team at Greenbelt.

(Scroll down to see the First Order Franciscans in action at Eden, the venue where I was stewarding).

Friday, 21 September 2012

Home Grown Labyrinths - Here's One I Made Earlier

Hmm...I fear I'm rather better at walking labyrinths than drawing them. I had a go just then; not too bad, thanks to A Letter From Home's   brilliant  how-to guide. But as for the second, Trinitarian version, using a Y as the centre, something must have gone wrong somewhere: I seem to have one of the six points left over with nowhere to join it to. The final product (no, I'm not posting it here!) looks more like an abstract representation of a champagne cocktail that's slipped its moorings! Help me, somebody!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Musick Hath Charms

So, after our little 'interruption,' yesterday, I'm back to what I'd intended to blog about: yes, my first singing session of the new term. My weekly 'work- out,' and banisher of the 'blues,' which I've waxed lyrical about on numerous occasions on my various blogs. Here are a couple of clips of the piece I'm learning: Should He Upbraid, words by Shakespeare, music by Henry Rowley Bishop. Neither of these are me, as you'll have guessed; but oh, to have a voice like theirs'! Well, maybe minus the hiss and crackle. The first singer, Frieda Hempel (1885-1955) probably sang from the same music  edition as the one I've borrowed; ancient, minus its covers and missing the last twenty pages or so. It reminds me so much of the scores I remember seeing at my grandmother, aunt and uncle's house as a child (the latter taught music and was also organist at a local church, and Grannie herself was a fairly accomplished pianist). She must have inherited much of her music from her parents (who owned a music shop). In my mind's eye I can picture the scene: aspidistras, waistcoats, handlebar moustaches and the whole family gathered round the piano of an evening. Wonderful.

My own efforts tend more towards the Sage The Owl and Parsley The Lion school of song. But I don't half have fun along the way!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Bosom Buddies: Another Recycled Greenpatch

Plumbing the depths - Don't burn your bra, recycle it!

The best laid plans of mice and men...This post should have been entitled: Musik hath charms to soothe the troubled breast; however, thanks to Daydreamer's Knickers! you'll just have to wait to hear about this afternoon's singing lesson  til later. 

How and where can you recycle those...ehrm...'items,' that we all possess but which aren't normally accepted by charity shops?  On a more serious note, enter another Recycled Greenpatch: the Church Times ran a double appeal a couple of years ago, to collect unwanted bras both for Bosom Buddies (a organisation working for homeless women) and Yorkshire Air Ambulance Service, who were sending undies out to Africa.  Maybe they could help? More details via the links. [note - if you're not a CT subscriber you may need to do a googlesearch for the two organisations].

Of course, for more recycling ideas, you could do no worse than follow the advice of Victoria Wood.  (I promise this post wasn't just an excuse to link to one of my favourite comediennes, really !)

"Every gusset a memory..."

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

“No me mueve mi Dios, para quererte”

Christ Crucified

I am not moved to love Thee, 0 my Lord,
    By any longing for Thy Promised Land;
    Nor by the fear of hell am I unmanned
To cease from my transgressing deed or word.
Tis Thou Thyself dost move me,—Thy blood poured
    Upon the cross from nailed foot and hand;
    And all the wounds that did Thy body brand;
And all Thy shame and bitter death's award.

Yea, to Thy heart am I so deeply stirred
    That I would love Thee were no heaven on high,—
That I would fear, were hell a tale absurd!
Such my desire, all questioning grows vain;
    Though hope deny me hope I still should sigh,
And as ray love is now, it should remain.

Catalan poem  Soneto a Cristo crucificado author anonymous, trans Thomas Walsh

Monday, 17 September 2012

I Was Glad

Heading into the Pentland Hills, Royal Wedding Day 2011 - Durham-Iona Pilgrimage

 I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord.
2. Our feet shall stand in thy gates: O Jerusalem.
3. Jerusalem is builded as a city: that is at unity in itself.
6. O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
7. Peace be within thy walls: and plenteousness within thy palaces.

Shades of pilgrimage today when I revisited these verses from Psalm 122;  link here to my favourite setting: Sir Hubert Parry's Coronation Anthem "I Was Glad" re-popularised of course, by last year's Royal Wedding.  No TV coverage for us, though we caught up later. As the bride entered, we were heading up into the Pentland Hills, and whilst  the happy couple were exchanging vows, Mr GP and myself were taking a hard-earned break. We toasted William and Kate with a swig of Lucozade!

  I'll always associate  this psalm with those happy memories of one  never to be forgotten journey.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror

Image courtesy of Simon Howden:

...then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Cor 13:12

And no apologies for re-posting these reflections by St Clare:

Look into this mirror of Christ daily,
ponder there your own face,
see what you need to become ready for God,
contemplate in this mirror Christ and his stupendous poverty,
look at his work on our behalf
consider his humility,
contemplate his love,
consider, look and contemplate
- from Clare of Assisi's letters to Agnes of Prague

Consider, look, contemplate....then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known...I'm on sacristy duty this weekend; these were the thoughts swirling through my mind as I was setting up on a peaceful, gloriously sunny morning.

Ponder there your own face? ...scary stuff... breathtaking...

Friday, 14 September 2012

I Will Lift up Mine Eyes

Southern Uplands Way: Durham-Iona Pilgrimage April-May 2011

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
   from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
   who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let your foot be moved;
   he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The Lord is your keeper;
   the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
   nor the moon by night. 
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
   he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
   your going out and your coming in
   from this time on and for evermore.
Psalm 121 NRSV 

My favourite musical version here with thanks to John Rutter

Glllppp! My calendar for this autumn is crammed with new challenges, beginning next week. All things I've chosen - or which have come about via choices I've made. All potentially life-giving, yet daunting at the same time; it's going to involve not a few 'firsts' which are likely to streeeeetcchhh this introvert  out towards the edges of my comfort zones. I Will Lift My Eyes to The Hills - well, what other response can I possibly make?!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

With Love From Uganda

 A link well worth following:   With Love From Uganda, a short film telling the story of Lucy and her four grandchildren,which is being used to launch the 2012 Tearfund Christmas Appeal.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A Rushing Mighty Wind - You Make Me Feel Bran New

You know, sometimes I feel a twinge of guilt at not always living up to the 'Ecological, Theological' promise of the Greenpatch strapline. (No problems with the 'Totally Illogical', you'll not be surprised to learn). It's at times like this that I'm heartened, encouraged and yea - challenged by the cutting-edge innovation of The Beaker Folk: always the first to explore the volatile  interface of theology, sustainability  and liturgical nuttiness. It gives  a whole new meaning, vibrancy even, to the concept of 'Fresh Expressions!' Keep right on in there, Burton. And if you should falter,  just remember this: 1)We're right behind you, (about 10 miles, preferably), and 2)'The Old Prunes are The Best Prunes.'

Monday, 10 September 2012

Greenbelt 2012 (the muddy one) - Blobology

There just had to be...Greenbelt 2012 (the muddy one) according and thanks to Pip Wilson. I do love Blob Theology; likely because I grew up watching Tony Hart and Morph.*

* Stretching the definition of 'growing up' here; according to Wikipedia I was 18 when Morph first appeared on our screens. Never mind...'Except you become like a little child...' and all that...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Greenbelt 2012

or as it's becoming known: Greenbelt (the muddy one). How did it go for me? Well, if squelchilly [sp] Would I go back? Now I really wasn't expecting to write this a month ago but yes - against all my expectations, this year's festival, my first as a volunteer, surpassed my expectations, which, let's face it, after some less than positive experiences last year weren't exactly set high. Cut to a dialogue on  good old Shipoffools for some background -  basically, GB can be a lonely place if you're not there with a group or partner. Volunteering is a good way to alleviate at least some of this.

Yup, you've said it. This year's volunteering was a calculated risk for me; if it hadn't worked , I'd decided to take a rest from GB for a few years. Happily the outcome was positive. I'll Be Back. 

Agree that the dynamics change when you're not attached - to partner or group. (My other half no longer 'does' Greenbelt). With just one exception that I knew of, 
all my team were there either with their church or partner to go back to, although I felt quite sorry for the couples who were working different shifts in different venues and so hardly saw anything of each other all weekend!

I found that not having that ready-made network to fall back on I really needed to push myself forward more than I'd normally do and valued those brief meetings I had all the more because of that. Ironically I went straight on to our annual church pilgrimage soon after GB - four days of enforced togetherness - the two complemented each other quite nicely! 

Ok, that's got the navel-gazing out of the way, so what were my GB highlights this year? To be honest, between stewarding, helping on the TSSF stall in G Source, feeding, watering and resting, there weren't huge amounts of time left for galiavanting. I made it  to a grand total of two talks and half a Franciscan Eucharist, the Sunday morning mud-fest (open air communion) and Last Orders on the Monday evening. So, in no particular order of merit:

1. My one and only shower on Friday afternoon after two days on site. I felt A New Woman.
1b. Volunteer welcome on arrival by Tractorgirl. Great to see a friendly face.
2. Dave Tomlinson in Jerusalem on the Friday evening on How to Be a Bad Christian: and a Better Human Being. Never did get that half pint of Bad Christian though.
3. Veronica Zundel, Jo Swinney and Hazel Rolston talking about their experiences of depression and how our church communities can help, rather than hinder sufferers -  up against a background of the Iona Community's Big Sing and a wonky heater that couldn't be switched off! I reckon a copy of this talk should be compulsory listening for all church leaders and congregations.
4. Helping at the TSSF stall in G Source, even if this was more limited than previously because of my volunteer shifts. I just love the variety of people there; you never know who's going to pass by, what kind of conversation you're going to have: the mundane, the quirky and the totally unexpected. Chatting to the other stallholders: Who knew there was an Association of Christian Motorcyclists? Where else can you corner a (quite senior-looking) clergyman  and bore him with your pet peeve about Vocation Not Only Being For Those Who Are Called To Ordination? Or  have the chance to engage with Inclusive Church, PCN and Modern Church all in one place?

5. The brief meetings mentioned above: particularly the friend and her husband who offered to take me into Cheltenham to buy dry clothes after Saturday's mudbath. (Luckily I didn't need to take them up on their kind offer!) The fellow tertiary who invited me along to The Franciscans - I took shelter in their refectory during the cloudburst.
6. The volunteers' lounge: Oh the joy of having a dry, quietish place to retreat to with copious supplies of tea, coffee and biscuits!
7. The distinctly Franciscany ethos to many of  the events - even if I didn't manage to get to some of them, and others which tantalisingly took place in the venue I was stewarding in but which I wasn't able to hear properly due to noise pollution and the heavens opening: at times we wondered whether Eden should have been renamed Noah's Ark. No pics of the venue from me - only took one photo throughout the weekend - so will link readers to another blogger who did  - hello, Inverted Commas and thank you! It was a great place, and it'll be exciting to see how it develops over the next year or so.
8. The young chap who struck up a deep, theological conversation with me one evening as we struggled through the quagmire outside the Big Top. Only at Greenbelt!
9. The other venue volunteer who let me tag along with them to Last Orders on the Monday night.
10. And last, but not least - the  driver  on Tuesday morning who drove me all the way back from the gate to mainstage to collect my luggage and get me out to the car park - even as the golf carts were being called back in by taxi control. Without her, and the site steward who kept an eye on my stuff, I'd be heading to the physiotherapist by now.

So there you have it. Can't close without leaving you with another glimpse of The Mud and puddles: The Flood in G Source (thanks Banksyboy) and the err... not sure if iconic is the right word to describe it - image of Greenbelt (the muddy one) and lucky subject of last week's Church Times Caption Competition. I've been having a field day!


Friday, 7 September 2012

Doggy Tales - Accidents Will Happen

The Sad Tale of the Nectarine Stone

Who has eyes bigger than his stomach? Greenpatch Dog, that's who.  As if my various ailments weren't enough, he decides to wolf down a nectarine, ends up with the stone stuck in his guts, ("Blocked bowel - no traffic either way and a lot of gas,") resulting an  op ("We're going in!"), an overnight stay at the vets, and now, home and convalescent, much doggy angst and pathetic "bleeping," (We've not seen him that subdued since he had The Snip as a pup!). Here he is pictured a few minutes ago, feeling very sorry for himself.

Given the number of vet's visits he's had over the years with tummy troubles, it's a miracle this hasn't happened before now. 

If I was  having problems coming back down to earth after Greenbelt and pilgrimage, I'm over it now. There's nothing like pet ownership for keeping you grounded, is there?!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Traveller Returns

Yes, I'm back, albeit peering at the world through sticky eyes and with a mini Mt Vesuvius and Bob the Builder vying for position in my internal plumbing system. The washing machine is still talking to me...just, though I suspect it may be heading off to the nearest therapist if it has to cope with many more loads. As always - I wish I'd the guts (unfortunate choice of wording!) to sneakily keep the out of office notice on my e-mail up a few days longer. But Growing Greenpatches seems to have been pottering along  nicely in my absence. It's amazing what a bit of benign neglect can do.

Although - horror of horrors - I've just spotted that two of my most 'popular' posts, flagged up there for all to see point to that  distinctly dodgy biblical material: Song of Songs. Gracious me, we can't be having that; folk'll get the wrong impression entirely! I must get writing again.