Showing posts from March, 2014

Mothering Sunday 2014

Today in the UK is 'Mothering Sunday'. For me it is the first one since my mother died in 2013, so it feels bitter-sweet.
The day comes on the 4th Sunday of Lent and was once a day to return to the 'mother church' of your area or to honour Mary, mother of Jesus. Lent fasting rules were relaxed and it was also sometimes known as 'refreshment' Sunday. At one time children employed as domestic servants or apprentices were given the day off to visit their mothers and perhaps take a cake or posy of flowers.
You can find other posts about Mothering Sunday in 'Refreshment', 'Mothering Sunday' and 'Mothering Sunday 2013'.
I resist calling today 'Mother's Day', much preferring 'Mothering Sunday' as a more inclusive way of looking at it. Not everyone is or can be a mother but we can all do what mother's do in the sense of providing a safe space for others to grow and flourish. And we all need to receive welcome, nurture and re…

Fire drill, banns and fans

Last Sunday didn't include our usual Sunday routine. It was the only opportunity we had to hear the publication of the Banns of Marriage of our daughter and her fiancé, so we caught an early train to travel to the parish where they live. We got there in time to meet them for the 'Parish Mass'.

It was our first visit to that church. I thought I knew what to expect - organ, choir, vestments, lots of candles and incense. Having checked the website I even knew what the hymns and other music would be and the names of who would be doing what in the service.

What we had not expected was a (planned) fire drill during the service. This was a first for me - and also it would seem for the regulars. How did I get to be so old and never once had to evacuate a church during a Holy Communion service? It was carefully timed with respect to the liturgy, after the 'Intercessions' and before 'The Peace'. We were warned at the start of the service. There being no fire alarm, whe…

Lady Day and announcements

Today 25 March used to be known as Lady Day in England. It was also New Year's Day until 1752 - a point that historians and genealogists need to bear in mind when considering year dates. The 'Lady' after whom the day was named is Mary, mother of Jesus. Today is a Feast Day in Anglican, Roman Catholic and other church calendars - the Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It celebrates the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she would bear a son conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can read the story in Luke 1: 26 - 38. For obvious reasons this feast is calendared 9 months before the celebration of Jesus' birth at Christmas.

Last Sunday I was travelling on the London Underground and heard an announcement that was completely incomprehensible. Had we understood it we might not have tried to change to the Jubilee Line at a station where that was temporarily impossible. Perhaps we should have taken more care to ponder what it meant and ask …

St Patrick's Day

Not being Irish I don't usually take much notice of St Patrick's Day. I am not wearing green, nor sporting a shamrock, nor taking part in any St Patrick's Day parties. If you are I hope you enjoy today - happy St Patrick's Day to you.

Remembering that as a very young man Patrick was a slave for 6 years, I like the idea of celebrating St Patrick's Day by doing something about modern day slavery. Digitalnun in St Patrick and Slavery drew my attention to the fact that in all that is remembered about Patrick his time as a slave is often glossed over. Her post about St Patrick ends with these words:
"...maybe one of the best ways of celebrating St Patrick today would be to consider some of the things that gave his life shape and purpose. Prayer and service of others naturally top the list, especially during Lent, but I think we should also give serious consideration to the subject of slavery and doing what we can to eliminate it wherever it exists. That beats ‘the we…

May this day be blessed: response to BigRead14

May this day be blessed
with open hands
open minds
willing feet
and loving hearts.
This prayer is my response to today's poem from Barefoot Prayers 'May this day be blessed'. You can see and listen to the poem read by Sian Lawton here.
Image Credit: Flickr, CC License

The to do list

When I was in full time work I could not have done my job without various forms of task lists and time management strategies. 

Now I am retired I don't often make a to do list, except those tasks that I put in the diary. Those are only the 'have to be done'. I have so many other ideas in the mind about things I would like to do, that would be good to do, that I hope to do one day. It is a myth that being retired means more free just depends. More freedom to choose tasks....perhaps.

I love the idea that those disorderly items "swirling and arching" in the mind that have nor yet been captured in a 'to do list' are like fishes. Thank you Stephen Cherry. To do List is his poem/prayer for today on #BigRead14 read by Sara Batty. Some of the 'to do' fish need to be captured, worked through and sorted. What is important? What is not? The prayer ends by asking for help to focus attention, time and energy to where it can be most effective and to le…

Enjoying each moment: response to 'Important Commission' #BigRead14

When you think about what an 'important commission' might be what comes to mind? A significant role, project or task given to you by someone in authority as a privilege or for generous payment? Something which takes priority over other things on your to to list?

What stood out for me when I saw Stephen Cherry's poem 'Important Commission' and heard it read by Bex Lewis this morning were these words:
"Let me enjoy each moment as it passesand hold me back when I beginto try to do, or say, or achieve too much."The 18th century French priest Jean Pierre de Caussade wrote of how the present moment is a 'sacrament'. Relaxing in the holy moment of the present is the way to encounter God. Many spiritual writers refer to 'the grace of the present moment'. Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is 'here'. The trouble is I'm often too caught up with what happened yesterday or worried about what might happen tomorrow to full enjoy the prese…

Psalm of the Dawn: response to #BigRead14

As often as I can this Lent, I'm attempting a blog post in response to the poem/prayers published daily in #BigRead14.

The theme for the 2nd week using Stephen Cherry's 'Barefoot Prayers' is 'Awakenings'. In his book, in the introduction to this week's meditations, Stephen Cherry writes:
"Who can fail to be touched and renewed when they take the time to sit at a window, or in the open air, and watch the dawn happen?...To witness the dawn is to connect not just with the earth but with the universe. No wonder the Christian faith points and draws us to the dawn of dawns, the rising of the light that scatters all darkness."
Yesterday's poem, called 'Awakening' and read by Miriam Bier can be found here.

Today's is 'Psalm of the Dawn' read by David Wilkinson.  The psalm ends with 3 'beatitudes':
"How happy are they who see the dawn; those for whom night is gone.How happy are they who feel the warmth of the sun; those who …

Welcoming the stranger

Rather late in the day, here's my response to today's BigRead14 poem, entitled 'Hospitality'. You can listen to it read by Merry Evans and read the words. It's about meeting new people, taking a "keen interest" in the person as yet unknown, an interest that can move to respect then reverence. It ends with these words,
"O Christ! many found you to be strange, and yet the most vulnerable found healing and peace in your presence. Make friends of us that we might be ready friends to strangers as strange as ourselves." It reminds me of these words from Hebrews 13: 2,
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." (NRSV)
Now there's a challenge for Lent!

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On being bread

While waiting for an exercise class to begin yesterday, I got talking with someone who said she had given up bread for Lent. This is because she especially enjoys bread and hopes that not eating it for a few weeks will help her lose weight. I like bread too, but I'm not giving it up for Lent.

Today's prayer/poem at #BigRead14 is called 'Bread'. You can listen to Amy Boucher Pye reading it, or look at the words, or preferably do both. I think poetry needs to be heard as well as silently read. I tried reading it aloud, allowing my gut responses to colour the interpretation. This resulted in a long pause after the first three lines:
"Abba Jesus,you ask me to follow.Let me follow you as bread."
I think I'd expected the prayer to be about receiving or giving bread. The idea of being bread came as a bit of a shock. "No Jesus, I don't want to follow you as bread" was my initial spontaneous response. Then I avoided thinking about that further by retrea…

Breath of life

After the miserable rain-soaked winter we've had, I'm longing for summer. 

Nothing says summer has come better than a rose in full bloom, so here is a rose - a foretaste of summer. 

This one is called 'breath of life'.

Today's poem for Lent from 'Barefoot Prayers' is 'Breath of God', a gentler image than that of the overpowering ocean waves of yesterday's poem 'Repentance'. You can listen to Toby Carson reading 'Breath of God' or read it yourself here.

'Breath of God' is a calming image of God breathing life into places of "despair and desolation" and flowing too "where life is coming to an end", a phrase that took me back to the time spent sitting with my mother in hospital last April, watching and waiting as she took her last breaths and the breath of life flowed peacefully "into the kingdom of death". I've just re-read what I wrote about that a few weeks later in 'Severing the umbilica…

Ash Wednesday 2014

Why have I posted an image of a surfer for Ash Wednesday? I hear you thinking - isn't today about feeling miserable and gloomy and having a cross traced in ashes on your forehead as a sign that 'you are dust and to dust you shall return'? So why post such a joyful exhilarating image? Read on and you may understand - or not - tell me.

During Lent I will attempt a response to each day's reflection in the book 'Barefoot Prayers' by Stephen Cherry. I may write a blog post each day - or not, but will read each day's poem and see what it sparks off. The poem for Ash Wednesday is called 'Repentance' and has powerful images of walking into the ocean, getting deeper until
"...each wave becomes a body blow, athud on the bellya crash on the chest."If the surfer took no risk in facing the sea, there would be no joy in riding the wave on the return. What is Lent for? I think the main point of Lent it is to reconnect with God. That usually means changing …

Shrove Tuesday 2014

If it's Shrove Tuesday then it must be the day for pancakes.

We have the eggs, flour, milk, fresh lemons and sugar all ready for tonight's pancake feast. 

And I'm still as undecided as yesterday about how to observe Lent which starts tomorrow. Maybe the pancakes will help.

Stephen Cherry's poem 'Feast', a reflection on making a pancake, is giving me food for thought. It is from his book 'Barefoot Prayers'. You can read the poem and listen to Ron Glusenkamp reading it here. I particularly like the central stanza:
A few more secondsand it is done.sugared and soured, it isready for the feast...that initiates the fast.The long, slow,rambling fast,the map-less fast where norecollection can find the way ahead.Rambling without a map and not knowing the way ahead? Perhaps being too organised about a Lenten discipline can be restricting, like setting out on a journey with too much baggage. What might be needed is to travel light keeping eyes and heart open to the Sp…

Preparing for Lent - or not

Lent starts on Wednesday 5 March this year. I should be preparing for how I intend to observe it. I haven't got far. Reader - I am not prepared - I am undecided. I will be doing something or giving up something or not.

I won't be ignoring Lent, but I can't decide how to do Lent this year. A local church Lent challenge is to go deeper with God and grow in discipleship. That's a useful big umbrella idea. I have bought a Lent book, Stephen Cherry's 'Barefoot Prayers' which has a meditation a day for Lent and Easter. I have started to use that as the first meditation was for yesterday, but I only remembered that today so I am already behind. Will I continue or not?

If you are as undecided as me but have an urge to do something for Lent here are some links which may help:

What is Lent? This is a short post by Bosco Peters from New Zealand with useful links to other posts.

40 days, 40 acts of generosity is a UK based Lent challenge you can join up with.

Count Your Ble…

St David's Day Reminiscence

It is a bit late in the day I know, but 'Happy St David's Day' to you, especially if you are Welsh. I'm not. I can't claim any Welsh heritage. My personal associations with Wales are with Welsh friends and with many happy holiday memories. When I think of St David my mind goes back to many holidays near the town of St David's, but today I'm remembering my first visit to Wales.

I was 10 when my parents took my brother, sister and me for a summer holiday at Tresaith. Here's a photo of  its lovely sandy beach in the shelter of Cardigan Bay. In my childhood days it was a small hamlet with virtually no facilities that I can remember - but oh what a wonderful place for playing on the beach, swimming, rock climbing and exploring rock pools. We spent most days on the beach with a picnic lunch. 

At low tide we would move beyond the exciting waterfall to the adjacent smaller beach, having to remember to climb back around or over the rocks before getting completely …