Still breathing!

I’ve become very lazy about blogging. I’m sorry…But to be honest there’s not been much to blog about. Work, cleaning, ironing, watching TV.

But, in a month I’ll be trying to blog most days. Why?

Because…

40 Acts is starting again!!!!

I’ll be preaching (or maybe I should say “giving an all age talk”) about it next week, trying to encourage parents to do it with their children, and adults to follow it too. Maybe we’ll have a Lent group too, but I don’t know. We’ll see how interested people are. I will be posting my talk on the Christ Church sermon site if you want to read it.

If you’re a new reader, and you’re wondering what I’m burbling on about, then head on over to here which will explain it a little more. If you’re planning on following, please do mention it in the comments – I’d love to know who else is “playing along”!

I may even write another post this weekend.

But don’t hold your breath!

Youpi! C’est le weekend…

TRANS: Yipee! It’s the weekend! Let’s do the laundry, the shopping, the housework, the paperwork, the accounts, the ironing!!

****

We’re a bit like that this morning – cleaning, and doing cat litter trays. It’s taken all morning.

But thankfully, Mr FD is as unfussy about dust and stuff as I am…so if it’s not done today, we’ll leave it. Saturday afternoon is for more fun things, like cycling (him) or crafting (me)/ Though, if I’m honest, I do have to do some ironing.

Still, this is the reality of being in a house where we both have jobs. And that is certainly something to be thankful for!

A blast from the Past

I’m cheating & sharing an old post, from my previous blog…I used to volunteer to walk dogs at the SPA near work. However, they insisted you “adopted” a dog first, and then you walked that dog. I started with Benji, but he was adopted quickly…It seemed that every time I turned up, my “god dog” had been adopted!!

And then I met Gavroche, who put an end to my dog walking…

Read on, dear one…

 

I think you are all a bit behind me on the God-dog front. When I got back from holidays, WMD had been adopted. So I chose a new dog called Youpi (who was a Bison Frisée (or is that a large cow-like creature with a curly lettuce?!) ) But as there were people looking to adopt a dog, and were interested in Youpi, I took out another cheeky chap, with the unlikely name of Tooraloora – or something equally bizarre. Anyway, yesterday I went to take out Youpi, and found that s/he (I never got to find out!) had been adopted! Never mind, I hadn’t exactly bonded with him/her, so I chose to take out a young labrador cross, called Gavroche.

Getting him out of his cage was tricky enough, as his companion was also determined to come with us. At one point, Gavroche was outside the cage, on his lead, while I was inside, with the door closed, hanging onto the lead, and trying to fend off companion, who was howling mournfully, while pawing at my legs, desperate to join Gavroche. I eventually managed to escape and Gavroche and I trotted off for our walk. He was splendidly well behaved – but a little strong – and was very good when I gave him a treat, sitting and waiting until I handed it to him.

So, as I say, he was well behaved, but obviously wanted to explore the river that we were walking beside. But there was a 4m drop down and no safe way of letting him go. He kept darting off, sniffing and trying to find a way down, and I kept hauling him back. Eventually we discovered a slope down to the river and Gavroche washopeful. I started to gingerly make my way down the rather slippy slope. At one point I went on my bottom, making a spectacular mud slide down my jeans. I struggled to my feet and was just thinking that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, when Gavroche couldn’t hold back his excitement and made a plunge for the river. As I was already a little unsteady on my feet, and the slope was slippery, I couldn’t haul him back and he took me off my feet, pulling me face first into the river. I ended up sitting in the river, waist deep in sandy water, having bashed my face and knees on rocks, and twisted my ankle in the process. I later discovered that I’d hit a rock so hard with the corner of my glasses, that the arm of them was driven into behind my ear, leaving me with quite a nasty gash there, and a red line across the bridge of my nose. I sat, shocked for a second or two and then I just howled for a couple of minutes, while the dog (after his first joyous splashing about) sat and looked at me. After a bit, I remembered my mobile and my watch – both in my pocket. Luckily both were okay. But here I was hurt, shocked and quite some way from the SPA centre.

So what did I do? Phone them? No – I couldn’t explain where I was so I couldn’t. Retrace my steps? No – though why, I’m not sure…maybe my scrambled brain thought I’d gone too far – though as I was on a new walk I didn’t actually know the route back to the centre… I decided to carry on with the walk…So hobbling on my ankle, bawling like a two year old and hiccupping I started to walk.

Poor old Gavroche was trying to have a good walk and kept trying to pull me towards interesting smells; I could hardly walk by now and couldn’t keep up with him. So the poor thing kept getting jerked back on his lead as I sobbed and pleaded “No, Gavroche, no – come back”.Jerk. “I can’t do this”. Pull.

I struggled past a house where someone watched my faltering progress as his dog barked for France. He worked out something was wrong and came over to me. I tried to be very sensible and spoke in my best French. He offered to drive me to the centre, but I’m too wary of getting in cars with strange men -although having seen the state I was in when I finally got back, I can’t imagine he had any designs on me – mud/tear/blood streaked face, filthy dripping jeans & T-shirt… I was also concerned (for some reason) that he had bare feet. So, refusing him, I hobbled on, taking an hour to walk the 1.5 or so km back to the centre – all the while hoping that he’d drive up behind me and get me in the car – because by then I’d’ve accepted a lift. Or that he would’ve phoned the centre and they’d come for me. But no. I finally got back, whereupon several volunteers appeareded, clucking over me, taking Gavroche and guiding me to sit down . And I collapsed into a weeping pile of uselessness.

Somebody ( possibly a vetinary nurse!) strapped me up and washed me down a bit, and decided that I could well have torn some ligaments in my ankle. And said could I get someone to collect me? Er, no – we live 70 km away. I’m afraid I’m on my own here! Luckily we’ve got cruise control on the car, so driving the motorway wasn’t too difficult. My braking was occasionally a bit hard as I couldn’t press gently, but on the whole it was

fine. Our friend, the nurse, has checked me over, and while I’m still sore, I’m generally not too bad today (much less stiff than I expected, to be honest) Sleeping was a bit uncomfortable, as I woke everytime I moved positions, but thankfully it was not worse than it could have been…

Next time I’m taking out a chihauhau.

*** FIN  ***

 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite fine, and have struggled with a swollen knee ever since (it was 5 years ago!) Hey ho. Cats are much less trouble!!

 

Do not fear: Sermon for Epiphany

Here is the sermon I preached yesterday – as I read it, and came to the end I thought (and said as much to the congregation) “That was shorter than it seemed when I wrote it!”

I was right! I’d forgotten that I’d printed it double sided, so I only read the first and the third pages, missing out everything between the two asterisks… I don’t think it mattered terribly, but I still feel a bit of a muppet!

Jeremiah:31:7-14 Psalm 84 Ephesians:1: 3-6,15-19a Matthew 2: 1-12

Today’s Gospel reading starts with fear and ends with joy. At the beginning the Magi, the Wise Men, the Seers from the East arrived at Herod’s palace and spoke of a baby, born to be King. And immediately Herod felt threatened. He feared that everything he knew would be taken from him, and that he would lose his power and his riches. And all Jerusalem was afraid – for they knew that if Herod was angered he’d no doubt take it out on them. And isn’t this so often the way today – the leaders of our countries want to hang onto their power, and their status, and because of this the ordinary people seem to be the ones who pay. Whatever your politics, I am sure that you can think of an example for yourself, for regardless of political beliefs this appears to be the way of the world.

From his very birth onwards Jesus challenges people. He turns worlds upside down. Perhaps now, we don’t quite realise how the incarnation, the idea that God has become human, was such an earth shattering notion for those living at the time. Although the Jewish people had an idea of a God who saves, a God who would, one day, come again as the Messiah, the thought of him breaking into humanity was unthinkable.

But the question that faced Herod is the one that faces us: how will you react to the child who has come to bridge the gap between the Divine and the human? Of course there will be fear: as Herod was afraid of losing all that he held dear, when facing the Almighty we too might fear losing control, losing security, of being asked to give things up. But we can choose to enfold ourselves in this fear, and close ourselves off from the wonders that Jesus offers us, or we can choose to stand, naked and shivering before God, afraid yet open to all that he will give us.

For if we recognise that Jesus is God’s outrageous gift of generosity that changes lives, then we can begin to move from the restrictive fear that Herod felt to the liberating joy that the Magi experienced as the star led them to the place where they could meet God. If we accept that Jesus is the bridge of hope and redemption we can move from despair to hope, from emptiness to fulfilment and from darkness to light. Jesus, Word made flesh, the physical presence of God, takes us from the reality of the incarnation to the unfolding realisation of who and what God is and does as we approach Epiphany. Without God’s inspiration and engagement, humanity would have remained stuck in a place far from hope and far from heaven.

God’s gift to the world was his taking flesh, being born, but we need to accept that gift. We must recognise our need, before we can understand the wonder. As Denise Levertov writes in her poem “On the Mystery of the Incarnation”: It’s when we face for a moment the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart.

(*) One of the phrases that Jesus said often during his ministry was: Do not fear. And it is that fear that he came to take from us.

Fear is the source of so much that is evil in this world: because people fear what will happen to their jobs they begin to abuse those who they think are to blame, because people fear what they don’t understand there is a rise in Islamophobia, in anti-Semitism, in homophobia… , because people fear they don’t have enough money, or possessions, there is a downturn in generosity, in caring for others. Fear breeds fear… When we forget that God is in control, it is then that we too feel fear, and that fear begins to cause us to become what we do not want to be, we recognise “the taint in our own selves” and we build walls between us and God, between us and others.

But Jesus tells us time and time again: do not fear. Even his name, given to Mary at the Annunciation, is a reminder that we have no cause to fear: Jesus, meaning God Saves.

Sometimes as a preacher there is a mystery as to why those who put the Lectionary together chose certain readings to go with certain others; but today there is no real mystery. The reading from Jeremiah is one that speaks of the hope for a future when God brings his faithful people home from exile. They will need to fear no more, for God is with them, he is faithful and true, and will fulfil his covenant. Human helplessness and hopelessness will be transformed by the unshakeable presence of God. The Psalm too speaks of the joy of knowing that God is close, and the Epistle reminds us that we – you and I – are adopted members of God’s family and it celebrates the belief that in Jesus, God plans to embrace all people and the entire created order.

The good news is that God chooses humanity. God is on our side, and will travel with us throughout history. We have not been left on our own or to our own devices. We have not been left without meaning to our lives, or directions to travel. We have choices and hope, because God chooses to identify with us. God chooses to accompany us throughout the journey of faith and life.

This is what the Incarnation is about – Emmanuel, God with us. God with us through the turmoil of life. God with us in the joys and sorrows. God with us when we don’t feel close to him. God with us in the valleys and the mountaintops. God with us at the start of a new year, full of uncertainty and confusion. Do not fear.

And that is what is at the heart of Matthew’s story of Jesus’ birth: the promise that it is precisely this world that God came to, this people so mastered by fear that we often do the unthinkable to each other and ourselves that God loves, this gaping need that we have and bear that God remedies. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, the living, breathing, and vulnerable promise that God chose to come live and die for us, as we are, so that in Christ’s resurrection we, too might experience newness of life. (*)

Whatever our fears may be, Epiphany reminds us that we can live our lives in a new light. Epiphany reminds us that Jesus, the light of the world, has arrived in all his rule-breaking, table-turning glory, helping us to see all things, and even ourselves, in new ways.

It is the greatest news that ever was, is, or shall be. “Take heart,” Jesus says, “It is I; have no fear.” May you and I always seek to live in the light of his promise.

Almost time…

I tend to be quite “regimented” with my Christmas decorations – I always put them up on the afternoon of the second Sunday in Advent, and they come down on the Sunday nearest Epiphany. I almost always put them in the same places too, only changing them if they are in an inconvenient place. For example, my little sitting angels migrated this year from the edge of the mantlepiece (where they got bashed every time we filled the granule burner) to perched on the edge of my candlesticks.

This year I didn’t feel “in the mood” for Christmas, so the decorations didn’t get put up until the third Sunday in Advent – it was also because the second Sunday was quite busy with visitors coming for tea – but once they were up, with the fairy lights twinkling, I felt quite festive.

Here are various decorations from blog swaps over the years. I thought I had other photos but I can’t find them.

But tomorrow is the closest Sunday to Epiphany, and so they’ll be coming down for another year – except for a couple of sets of lights which stay up all year, and some stars that I received as Christmas gifts. Originally we called the house “La Maison des Etoiles” – but dropped the name eventually (although we do have a name plaque up on the gate post) – so, even though we don’t use the name it’s nice to have the stars up.

Words for the Year…or the decade…

…or for life!!

I was reading back over omd posts and discovered that I had, in past years, had “words for the Year” which I promptly forgot about after each January had passed!

I was mulling over the possibility of choosing another “word” when three words popped into my head

Do Not Fear

It strikes me that these are actually really important words – with the craziness that is world politics, and the terrible fires from hell in Australia, and North Korea’s dictator talking about new strategic weapons, and the recent US attacks on Iran, and the rise in poverty and hate related crimes all over the world, and the climate crisis…well, there is a lot to fear.

But, despite it all, we have to trust that (unlikely as it seems at times!) God does have a plan.

So, the long version is the verse from Isaiah, which was my touchstone through my cancer (two years ago!!)

For I am the Lord your God,

who takes hold of your right hand

and says

Do not fear: I will help you.

And the short version is:

Do not fear