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Showing posts from March, 2015

What does following Jesus mean?

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As a child I enjoyed trying to fit my little feet into adult footprints in sand, mud or snow. It was never easy. It meant taking huge strides - not a comfortable way to walk, but certainly a stretching one. I'm writing this on Tuesday of Holy Week. Holy Week is not meant to be comfortable. To enter into even a little of where this week leads takes me out of my comfort zone. It reminds me that Jesus never promised that following him was an easy route.

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Here's a quote that gives one of the implications of following Jesus:
“To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the one who calls us. To follow Jesus means picking up rhythms and ways of doing things that are often unsaid but always derivative from Jesus, formed by the influence of Jesus. To follow Jesus means that we can't separate what Jesus is saying from what Jesus is doing and the way that he is doing it. To follow Jesus is…

What is love like?

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Five Senses of Lovereflection on John 12: 1 - 11 for Monday of Holy Week


What does love look like? Love looks shocking. Love breaks rules, as did Mary of Bethany who rubbed perfume on a rabbi's feet and dried them with her hair - in public. Love shocks when it wastes expensive perfume or destroys a precious body like that of Jesus hung out on a cross to die.

What does love feel like? Love feels good to the one who can receive it like a baby relaxing in its parents' care, or like a lover in the arms of the beloved.

What does love sound like? Love sounds to Judas like 300 coins, a whole year's wages spilling to the ground, rolling away and lost - an extravagant waste. Love sounds to Jesus like the sound of friends, of tears, laughter, music and companionable silence. 

What does love taste like? Love tastes like the best food and drink, caringly prepared, served and shared. Love tastes of friendship, of family and belonging.

What does love smell like? Love smells of expensive fragrance filling the house…

Palm Sunday 2015

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Sometimes you think you know a story you have often heard. I'm familiar with the story of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem that Christians remember on Palm Sunday. I even know the differences between the various gospel versions of that event. In spite of that, when Palm Sunday comes round at the beginning of Holy Week each year, there will be something that surprises or challenges me in a new way. To remind you of the story, here's Mark's Gospel's version:
"When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, 'Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, "Why are you doing this?" just say this, "The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately."' They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As t…

Hanging out the washing with my mother

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One of the joys of spring is there are now more days when I can hang the washing out to dry in the garden. I have done that today. Almost every time I have done that since my mother died in the spring of 2013, I remember her.

As I perform my mother's same actions, taking pegs from their bag, hanging washing on a rope line in the garden, the memories are vivid. Some of those memories are from childhood when I watched or helped her hang the washing, or learnt from her how to count the pegs, "1 peg, 2 pegs, 3 pegs..." Others are from my teen years when I could take responsibility for the task, although my methods of hanging were different from hers. (They still are!) More recent memories are of my mother in her nineties, vulnerable to falling, eager to hang the washing out in the sun or take it in when it was ready to iron or the rain started. Towards the end, when she had a live-in carer, she no longer needed to hang out the washing or take it in, or do the ironing. There w…

The Annunciation of our Lord

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Christmas is only a pregnancy length away. I suppose that is why the church chose 25 March to celebrate the unexpected message that Jesus' mother Mary received from the Angel Gabriel. We mostly hear the story read at Christmas. It is also the gospel reading today, the Feast of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here's the story from Luke's gospel:

"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give t…

St Cuthbert's Day

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Cuthbert is one of the most popular saints of Britain. Today is St Cuthbert's Day. Cuthbert travelled a lot - mostly by boat or on foot. In this image of a bronze statue in Millenium Square, Durham, his body is being carried by monks on one of several post-mortem journeys, before his mortal remains finally came to rest and stay in Durham.

Cuthbert was born around 640 in the Scottish lowlands (then part of the NorthumbrianKingdom). As a child he had a vision and decided to dedicate his life to God. He became a monk at Melrose Abbey. From there he began missionary work, which he continued from Lindisfarne where he became abbot. He became a bishop in 685 and continued travelling and preaching, walking all over the rough hills of his diocese, spending time as a hermit on FarneIsland in between. On 20 March 687 he died in his hermit cell on Inner Farne Island and was buried in Lindisfarne. Due to Viking invasions and threats, his remains were removed and reburied several times over the …

Mothering Sunday 2015

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I love this sculpture of a mother embracing a child because it is beautiful. It conveys the protectiveness of the mother cradling her child in a safe but not restricting space. It speaks of mutual love and trust. I also like it because of its ambiguity. From this image it is impossible to know how either mother or child are feeling - joyful or sad - confident or fearful? Feeling comforted or in need of comfort? Peaceful or suffering? That is why I choose to post it today.

In Britain it is Mothering Sunday, which always falls on the 4th Sunday of Lent ('Refreshment Sunday'). It can be a day of joy or of reawakened grief. The word 'mothering' can trigger so many different emotions, positive and negative. 

Here's a Bible quote for Mothering Sunday:
"As a mother comforts a child
so will I comfort you, says the Lord." Isaiah 66: 13

And here's a Hymn for Mothering Sunday
Mothering God, you gave me birth
in the bright morning of this world.
Creator, Source of every …

5 Ways to avoid destroying someone's repution

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It's worried me that one of the most read posts of the last year on this blog is 5 Ways to destroy someone's reputation. Have I encouraged lots of people who wanted to do just that - destroy someone else's reputation? If so, that saddens me, particularly as on-line bullying can be a life-threatening phenomenon. Encouraging verbally destructive behaviour wasn't the point of the post. The point was to say how easy it is to destroy someone's reputation unthinkingly or unintentionally through unfounded rumours or distorted facts.

These words from the New Testament never cease to be relevant: "the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest fire is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire!" James 3: 5 - 6
I intended to follow up '5 ways to destroy someone's reputation' with a further post on 5 ways to build or enhance someone's reputation, but I never did, in spite of receiving a few helpful suggestion…

How to tell your story

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'How to tell your story' is a dilemma on my mind. Telling the little stories is relatively easy. Our lives our made up of mini stories, the memories we tell ourselves or tell others. These often get unwittingly changed in the telling or re-interpreted by the hearers. It's telling the big story of a person's life that is harder. Anyone who has had to deliver a tribute at a funeral will know the difficulties of deciding what to include or what to leave out.

One of the things I planned to do on retirement was to write my memoirs, not that I am famous or important, or that my life is anything other than ordinary. I got distracted from that task by family history research, which has unexpectedly affected how I see who I am. I have written up some of this. Writing my own life story could benefit me in making sense of my life and also perhaps benefit any of my descendants who are interested in family history, or what life was like when I was young. Should I ever develop dement…