Friday, 14 March 2014

A story never to be told?

I love nature and could watch it endlessly.  Last weekend while I was at home I heard a huge  commotion.  A great squawking and screeching.  Looking out of the window I saw  two magpies embroiled in a fight watched on by a third.  It looked brutal.  The third bird even joined in at times,their sharp beaks plunging at each other.

Then from all around came other magpies. The noise level grew even more but these ones stayed on the roof tops like a baying mob and observed the fight from a distance. I counted seven in all - hence the title of this post!

Nature is brutal though but we have become removed an remote from that reality.  We were reminded in church on Wednesday evening that the beautiful spring lambs that gambol in the fields across our land will eventually become cutlets!  That is the harsh reality and is why many in good conscience choose to be vegetarian.  We have lost that connection with the roots of our food.

Maybe that is a story that should be told...

As for the magpies? They were disturbed by a passing car and flew off to continue their fight elsewhere.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

I can resist anything but temptation !

Well, a couple of days into Lent and its not going too badly!  I managed lots of exercise and minimal alcohol for the last two days because we had friends visiting from Austria.  London is such a vibrant city to show off. We only scratched the surface really though we didn't rest for long.  The weather certainly delivered with warm spring sunshine making the whole city sparkle!

I realise that I'm pretty poor at self-discipline, hence the title of this post. Its one of my all time favourite quotes!  However, if I can manage a couple of days there is hope!

The Lent book is a fertile source of things to ponder. It doesn't contain any new ideas or novel theology but its written in different styles and language which combined make for a provoking read!  It also has ways to surprise. For example I'd worked out that God is not into punishment on Thursday only to read that thought the following morning in the daily reflection.

Life is rarely about a new discovery. Its all about being reminded.  We joke about the attention span of  a goldfish when the truth is that we're not much better at times!  Unless its something we are carrying a grudge or a desire that we know we shouldn't...

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Six weeks to rescue my life?!

Its Lent! Last night we had a super sermon from Fr Philip North which has had me thinking all night!  Lent is all about setting aside time to reflect and ponder.  Yes, some folk abstain from something they enjoy and others add something into their lives for the season. But the real focus should be on self-examination. Where we are with God. How healthy our faith life is. A sort of spiritual MOT!

So what exactly am I going to do? The obvious one is to give up alcohol - I know I enjoy it too much... but I could just take something on...  I want to spend more quality time reflecting on the Word and I shall be using our own Lenten booklet to do that.  I also want to record what thoughts the daily text has prompted. So far, so good!

As  I read the first day's offering I decided that an alarm clock was just what I needed!  I realised that I take my physical health too much for granted, not enough exercise, too much food, not enough sleep, too much booze!  Not all the time admittedly but more than is good.

This all comes over rather "heavy" but the truth is, as I pondered abstinence I got a strong sense that this is NOT about punishment. God loves us. He wants us to have abundant life - but maybe not quite so abundant as at  present!! So, the deal has been agreed - its about learning to love and care for myself as God would have me do...

So its less or better food and a single glass of wine combined with more sleep and exercise.  I know I'll feel so much better for it... So,why is it so hard?!

Monday, 18 February 2013

It's all around!

I find silence in the most unusual places!! I reflected on that over the weekend because it struck me on my journey home on Friday night that the two hour train ride is an oasis of silence for me! OK it is punctuated by emails - if I choose to open them - and the chatter all around me but generally speaking I can block that all out and find real solitude and refreshment.

I've known I cherish the weekly commute for a while now. I use it to write. I use it to just stare out of the window and drink in the enormity of the created order and its subtle changes. I use it to ground myself in the comfort of the changing seasons. The first signs of spring are now beginning to show. Catkins hang from slender twigs, their fluffy bright yellow beauty standing out against the drabness of their surroundings. They catch the eye and warm the heart.

I also found silence in my garden on Saturday - though the noise of my neighbourhood was a constant. I was unaware of the hustle and bustle of transport and families going about their business. Instead I was absorbed by the wonder of nature unfolding all around me. Determined spear-like shoots pushing through the sodden, caked ground. Buds on branches fattening and some even beginning to burst. The optimism of spring shrouded me.

Silence is a source of refreshment for me in so many ways...

Friday, 15 February 2013

It can be scary

Silence that is!  I sort of touched on that yesterday as well, but before I go any further I meant to put the link to the whole series into yesterday's post so here it is:

I awoke in the middle of the night last night - its not unusual for me so I wasn't anxious or worried but I didn't go back to sleep immediately.  My mind had been pondering on the the reflection and the link that is sometimes made between silence and death.  The silence can be quite deafening in the middle of the night.  Somehow it gets compounded by the darkness and has the potential to become menacing.  Illnesses always seem worse during the dark hours and I am sure I read somewhere that death 'snatches' people away in the wee small hours more than it does in the bright light of day.  Our bodies rhythms are at their low ebb and we feel/are vulnerable.

When I was a child the house we lived in had a strip of wood in front of it and half the road had a HUGE, dense holly hedge along the path.  It did seem huge to a child but in reality it was probably only 8ft tall.  I got used to walking down the road on my own and then when I went to high school the shortest route home was through another piece of woodland (I suspect they were once all one). I loved the sense of being at one with that piece of wood as I walked through it on dull evenings and dark nights.  I was a strange child!  But it never felt silent - there was my footfall for a start, the rustle of leaves on the ground and the sighing of the twigs and branches above me.

maybe its because I'm an eternal optimist... but silence always seems pregnant to me.  Full of possibilities.  Redolent with potential abundance... as the reflection highlighted the silent death of winter hides the plentiful promise of spring.

Silence doesn't have to be scary...

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Silence - and listening to it!

No, I haven't gone mad, though I do know there is a whole record that is devoted to silence, the concept of "hearing" silence is quite a bizarre one! 

My London church has a tradition (well its been doing this for about 7 years now) of writing its own Lent booklet and this year our theme is "Listening to..."   Yesterday was Ash Wednesday (or the day after Pancake Day as I suspect many may now refer to it as) so we started our Lenten journey with the theme for these next few days being Listening to Silence.

Its odd how little things happen during the day that suddenly all add up by the time you're in bed and about to go to sleep!  I started the day VERY early (I'm looking for accolades here!  Not!) I went to Mass at St Mary's Willesden at 6.30am with my friend Sarah.  The little sermon (aka homily) was great, the priest talked about the silence of the Judean desert and his own experience of that on a pilgrimage.  He also talked about how difficult it was to find silence in our lives but how that was less tricky than carve out some solitude.

Turn the clock forward just over 12 hours and I was back in church - at St Andrew's Holborn, where I am to be found most Wednesday evenings - listening to more pearls of wisdom from our Guild Vicar, Lyle. He was, of course, speaking directly to the theme of silence and how hard it is to still our minds and eradicate any stray thoughts so that the sounds of silence can creep into our consciousness (I'm now interpreting his words in my own way!).  He went on to expand that to illustrate how important it can be to listen to our inner self, one of the sounds that is often drowned out by our busy world and crowded minds.

Then in the pub afterwards, a friend reminded me that I wasn't always able to clear my mind and just 'be'...  There was a time in my life when the demands of young family and all the other paraphernalia I had in my life at the time stopped me clearing my thoughts; actively prevented me from listening to silence.  It was also a time when, had I stopped to actually clear my mind and allow the silence to 'get to me' that I might have crumpled and not been able to carry on.  The thought of confronting some of the things I was burying deep down was too scary.

Silence is a gift and a balm but only when we are strong enough to cope with all that we will hear...

Sunday, 30 December 2012

On the cusp of a new year

This is sunset over Point Loma from Coronado Beach... a stunning display almost pyrotechnic in its splendour and depth of colour.  We have been experiencing the festive season on the west coast of America. Its rather strange in some ways - scenes of snowmen and lights in the shape of snowflakes adorn many front gardens and houses - and yet the nearest snow is a short plane ride or long car journey away.  Most days are sunny and balmy - high 60's - low 70's sort of weather - but the nights are quite chilly and refreshingly so. 

We have both our 80+ year old mothers with us so that they too can see where their granddaughter calls home.  Both will have a birthday whilst away and we reflected as the first passed that when she was born the thought that this new baby girl would spend a birthday in her 80's watching the sun go down over the Pacific would have seemed impossible for her parents to imagine let alone comprehend.

But time passes and society 'advances' - though I use that phrase to imply that our understanding of technology and the scientific wisdom that underpins it is what moves on. In reality our basic instincts remain the same.  The world is still scarred by misuse of power and injustice, diminished by poverty and greed.  We still witness the destructive forces of war and watch on as innocent masses are displaced or, worse, injured as a consequence.  We watch on impotently as the pain of centuries are perpetuated into the present day.

With each sunset there is the promise of a fresh new day.  With the passing of the year is the hope of a bright new dawn for our world.  Yet we rarely seem to learn the lessons of the past and step out bravely into the future with resolve to improve...

May 2013 be a year of joy and blessing for you and yours