Prayer…

 

DISCLOSURE

 

Prayer is like watching

for the kingfisher.

All you can do is

Be where he is likely to appear

And wait.

Often, nothing much happens.

There is space, silence

And expectancy.

No visible sign.

Only the knowledge

That He’s been there

And may come again.

Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,

You have been prepared.

But sometimes when you’ve almost

Stopped expecting it,

A flash of brightness

Gives encouragement.

 

Ann Lewin

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A blast from the past

I am going to cheat a little on this blog post, and re-post one I wrote on the previous incarnation of The View from the Teapot, back in 2009.

Around here there are quite a few chapels dedicated to St Roch, and various statues and stained glass windows showing this fine saint.

I had previously mentioned St Roch in a post about the death of our beloved cat, Pumpkin. I wrote: If I know Pumpkin, she’ll already be playing Fetch with St Francis and St Roch and his dog. (I really will tell you about St Roch some day. He’s an excellent Saint.)

So a few days later I posted this:

ONE MAN AND HIS DOG

OK, so I’ve promised you the story of St Roch. I thought he was a local saint as he features in many of the local chapels/churches around here, but according to Wikipedia (that Fount of all Knowledge) he was born in Montpellier. He is apparently the patron saint of surgeons, apothecaries, road pavers, furriers,second-hand clothes dealers, wool carders and is the Protector of Animals. (I can’t help wondering exactly how a saint becomes linked to certain trades… I understand the surgeons/apothecary link, as you will after Storytime, but Road menders?! It beats me…)

Anyway, Saint Roch was a rich young man, who was orphaned at an early age. He was studying to be a Doctor, but, as all good saints do, decided to give it all up and become a pilgrim and give everything to the Poor. He travelled through Italy and when the country was ravaged by the Plague he stayed and helped the sick and dying. When St Roch contracted the plague he heroically emulated the good people of Eyam (although as he came first, they emulated him…) and separated himself from the local populace and went to live in a forest. (Edited in 2018 to add: In another retelling of the story, it was the local populaace who rather unsympatrhetically – as he’d been looking after them – rejected St Roch and forced him into the forest.) Unfortunately the sick and dying (and their relatives) weren’t terribly grateful for his thoughtfulness, and shunned him, so he was slowly dying of both plague and starvation.

But, never fear, Gentle Reader, because there was a dog (let’s call him Spot) who decided to help St Roch, providing him with bread taken daily from the table of his master. Without this, St Roch would surely have died. One day, Spot’s master, intrigued by the disappearing bread, followed him into the forest and found St Roch, still, I assume, plague-ridden. Spot’s master took St Roch into his home, and the saint was miraculously cured of the plague.

Although cured, he was horribly disfigured by the plague, and is now always shown demonstrating a plague scar (on his leg) and usually revealing blue undergarments. Spot stayed with him for the rest of his life, and there is apparently a saying “c’est saint Roch et son chien” (“They’re like St Roch and his dog”) when talking about two inseparable friends.

This is a statue of St Roch and Spot at Notre Dame l’Hermitage. He’s got his cockle shell for pilgrimage, his blue knickers and he’s showing off his plague scar. And look! There’s Spot with his barm cake for St Roch.

At Cervieres (mentioned in a post a while back) there’s a stained glass window showing St Roch and Spot. In it Spot appears to be carrying not a barm cake, but rather a Jammy Dodger. So now we talk about St Roch and his Holy Jammy Dodger. I hope that’s not blasphemous!

As St Roch is the Protector of animals, and as I’m sure Spot’s got into Heaven, I reckon Pumpkin will be having fun with them all. I have a picture in my mind of God trying to do God-like things, and Pumpkin around his feet, mithering and meeowing for attention as she always did.

“For Heaven’s sake, Pumpkin, go and mither Jesus for a while. He’s not doing anything important!”

O, taste and see…

Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost, when the Church celebrates the doctrine of the Trinity, the triune nature of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But for many, these almost exclusively “male” terms do not really help define the nature of God. Other terms, such as Creator, Saviour, Enabler, can mean more as they give a clue as to the nature of each aspect of God.

I know that for a lot of people the Trinity is a difficult concept – are we talking about one God, or three Gods?

For me, it’s almost as simple as thinking about a person. Let’s take Morag:

To her children, first and foremost, Morag is “mum”. But that is not the end of it. She is not just “mum”

Morag is a social worker. She helps people find their way off the streets. To her clients, Morag is (perhaps) their “saviour” – she gives them what they need to find a new life. But that’s not the end of it. She’s not just a social worker.

Morag likes to get together with her friends, and she loves chatting, giving advice, helping her friends improve themselves and be the best they can be. Maybe she volunteers for a charity, maybe she works for The Samaritans… But she is more than just these things.

We would not say that Morag is “just a mum” or “just a social worker”. She is all of these things and more.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is trying to explain this about God. S/he (I don’t want to say “it” but nor do I want to use a gender specific term) is not just a Creator-God, as that implies once the creation is finished, then so is God’s work. Nor is s/he just a Saviour-God, nor just an Enabler-God. S/he is all of those things and more. We can’t just pick one aspect of God and say “THIS is God” – however much we might want to.

I once preached a sermon on Trinity Sunday to the Eglise Reformée, in which I compared the Trinity to a Mars bar (Bear with me…) Here’s what I said:

Ici, j’ai un Mars.

Il y a le chocolat, la nougatine et le caramel. Chaque partie est délicieuse toute seule. J’adore le chocolat, j’aime la nougatine et le caramel. On peut manger les trois parties séparément. Mais ce n’est que quand les trois partis sont ensemble que nous avons la vraie friandise qui est le Mars. Sans chocolat, ce n’est pas un Mars, Sans nougatine, ce n’est pas un Mars, Sans caramel, ce n’est pas un Mars. Il est impossible de séparer les trois parties et encore avoir un Mars.

Dieu est un peu comme le Mars – c’est impossible de séparé les trois personnes de la Trinité. Les trois personnes  travaillent ensemble, ont la même volonté, la même énergie. Séparés on a le Père, le Fils, le Saint Esprit. Ensemble on a Dieu, l’inexprimable, qui mérite toutes nos louanges.

J’espère que je ne vous ai pas choqués avec cette petite métaphore. C’est seulement une petite plaisanterie, une autre manière d’expliquer quelque chose qui est impossible à expliquer. C’est aussi un petit rappel, parce que j’ai un Mars pour chacun de vous. Et quand vous mangerez votre Mars, je voudrais que vous pensiez à Dieu, que vous réfléchissiez sur la Mystère de la Trinité, et, avec l’auteur des Psaumes vous pourrez dire :

« Sentez et voyez combien l’Eternel est bon »

(C’est mieux en Anglais, parce que la traduction est « Goutez et voyez combien l’Eternel est bon », mais…tant pis !)

Sentez et voyez combien l’Eternel est bon.  AMEN.

I’m not quite sure what the congregation made of it, but if, as I suggested, they considered the Trinity each time they ate a Mars bar, well…Maybe it wasn’t completely wasted!

Is this my church?

Somebody posted this on FB recently, with the tag line “What I love about being Episcopalian”:

 

click on the image to biggify (or read the text below)

It was taken at Coventry Cathedral (which, I suppose one could argue, is not Episcopalian, but Church of England, but we all come under the umbrella of “Anglican, so who’s that bothered?!). Here is a link to an interview with Rev. Kathryn Fleming, the Canon Pastor at Coventry Cathedral, explaining where the text comes from.

Here’s the text, as the photo is a little hard to read:

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled or down-at-heel.

We especially welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers.

We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You’re welcome here if you’re just browsing, just woken up or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury or haven’t been to church since Christmas 10 years ago. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.

We welcome keep-fit moms, football dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, are down in the dumps or don’t like organized religion. (We’re not that keen on it either)

We offer welcome to those who think the Earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or are here because Granny is visiting and wanted to come to the cathedral.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither.

We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throats as kids or got lost on the Ring Road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters and you.

Of course, something like this can never completely cover every eventuality, but I like this addition that someone made, as they commented on the friend’s post i “Please add a welcome to those who converse aloud with voices no one else can hear, those with Tourette’s who shout “shut up!”and other unpleasant things during the service, to those who have autism, invisible disabilities, and the cranky

I’m sure we could think of other things to add…

But my question is: Is this my Church?

I’d like to think it is.

I know it is my Lord – He welcomes everyone and anyone, but do we?

Second Chance: Good Friday 2018

 

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it’s where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven’s heart

My future hangs on this
You made preciousness from dust
Please don’t stop creating me

Your blood offers the chance
To rewind to innocence
Reborn, perfect as a child

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it’s where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven’s heart

When sin and ugliness
Collide with redemption’s kiss
Beauty awakens by romance

Always inside this mess
I have found forgiveness
Mercy infinite as You

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it’s where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven’s heart

Countless second chances
We’ve been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We’ve been given at the cross

Fragments of brokenness
Salvaged by the art of grace
You craft life from our mistakes

Black skies of my regrets
Outshone by this kindness
New life dawns over my soul

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it’s where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven’s heart

 

 

Feeling bad about 40 Acts

For those who have just started following, or reading my blog, 40 Acts is a Lenten challenge – 40 Acts of generosity over the 40 days of Lent. Not giving something up, but taking something on. You can read more about it over here.

I really did mean to follow 40 Acts as well as I could this year, but what with the chemotherapy wiping me out for days at a time I really haven’t felt “up for it” this year.

 

I have also found the challenges a little more challenging – but that could be my state of mind. I remember reading one challenge, Act 12, which read: Hospitality, the real thing, can be a blast: joyful, freeing, and hilarious. But it can also be a sometimes-painful sacrifice: of private space, of our priorities, of our food budget and schedules. Today we’re embracing both sides. The joy of hosting guests, and the pain of some stranger’s socks in the washing machine. Open your hands, open your doors, open your home.

As I had just woken from a long night’s chemo-induced sleep I just thought “Piss off”, turned over and went back to sleep!

But, as I have told a friend who has struggled with 40 Acts this year, it might be that the Act of generosity is to be generous to oneself, and not worry if there has been an #Epic Fail in completing them.

I am doing what I’m able to do – sometimes!

So, I engaged, a little, with today’s Act: ACT 20: Right now, send a quick encouraging text, out of the blue. And I sent a WhatsApp to a dear friend in Milton Keynes, and to my Godson

ACT 19: Yesterday was “Whinge Tin” – Complaint attracts complaint. Put a moaner in a workplace and by the end of the week they’ll have befriended every gossip in the office (and the lunch room will know about it…). So how do we do the opposite, and spread infectiously generous language? Try a simple first step: the swear jar model… I’m not sure about this, but I am certainly trying to show gratitude and thank God for what I have at the end of each day, although I do sometimes fall asleep before I’ve finished!

ACT 18: PERSIST: You’ve been praying. Hard. But you’re tempted to give up. Instead, push in. Rally yourself to pray gutsy prayers. What if today’s the day when your sixth lap of Jericho turns into a seventh, and the walls come down? This one is a personal reminder for me.

Although this is what I posted on the 40 Acts FB page:

As Emma writes: “God helped the Israelites, but not in their time and not as they had expected. ” Oh boy, don’t I know it! I have been aware for a while that I haven’t been trusting God, or feeling as close to him as I should be. And so I prayed that I would be able to find a way to feel closer to God, to learn to trust him more, to rely on him. And look!! I find myself with cancer!! But actually, it has been a good thing because yes, I have learned a little more to trust him, I do feel closer to him. But I can’t help thinking I’d’ve preferred another way of learning!!! Our God is good, but I wonder about his sense of humour sometimes…😏

ACT 17: STICKS & STONES. Ever caught yourself saying something that sounded nothing like you? Then stood shocked as you thought, ‘Did I really say that?’ We get over-familiar with our words, and sometimes miss the impact they have on people. So, we’re doing a review. What words do you find yourself using more than you realise? How can you flip the vocabulary table over to generosity? The GREEN challenge was Write some sincere, kind Post-its to put around the workplace or at home. Or, write one to someone specific, with words and compliments that mean something and show them they matter.  I think my constant Ninja note leaving might fall into this category. While I was at Lyon airport I scattered these around the departure lounge and washroom areas. The campaign continues…

ACT 16: INDIFFERENT DIFFERENCES: Awkward small talk. Just not your kind of person. Today we’re making an effort to challenge our perceptions. Most of us imagine we’re not the sort of people to make snap judgements or assumptions, just that, you know, we’d get round to talking to them tomorrow… or the next day. Well, today’s that day. No, I think you’ll find it isn’t. This just didn’t float my boat in any way. So I’m afraid I ignored it!

ACT 15: IMPACT: Is there a verse or passage that’s transformed you? Got you through a rough patch? A song that gives you a bit of hope every day? Share that with someone. Even at our low points, we always have something to give away. Jesus takes that as a given: in fact, he said he’s already ‘blessed us… with every spiritual blessing in Christ.’

Oh, yes, if you’re a regular reader you’ll already know this, but for my newer readers let me repeat it:

I shared this on FB.

ACT 14: HOME GROWN: It’s far easier than you’d expect to find a great local cause, and so worth it – this day has some amazing opportunities for you to connect in to your community in a way that sticks. Find out how generosity is already breaking out in your neighbourhood and get involved. You’re already where you need to be.

Sorry, 40 ACTS, not now. I can’t commit to anything at the moment…but maybe in the future. I make no promises!

ACT 13: INSIDE: Jesus is the original chain breaker. Freedom’s high on his agenda. So, that changes how we look at those stuck in physical captivity. How can you help those in a local prison? These are people who are often given up on. Can you extend hope to them – those furthest from most people’s kindness list?

Again, this felt like an enormous commitment, which I couldn’t face, but in fact, that day, I had an Amnesty International alert for a petition to release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe ping into my inbox. When we moved here, I was unable to continue supporting Amnesty: however with online petitions gaining weight, I can be involved again. So I signed this petition, and will be exploring the other Amnesty “Take Action” petitions. Here is a link to the Amnesty International page should you be interested

ACT 12: FLING THE DOORS: I’ve already written about how this one really did seem just “too” beyond me. I couldn’t contemplate how I could possibly face this challenge. It’s one to be put aside for another day.

ACT 11: FAIR TRADE: Generosity doesn’t always feel dramatic and hopeful, particularly when we can’t see the effects, and we aren’t at the centre. But the generosity that shifts the course of history isn’t just spontaneous – it’s strategic, and structural. It’s the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight. Jump in, buy fair, and help bend the arc of history towards justice. There’s always a Fair Trade challenge, reminding me to try to buy FT whenever possible. But not now, thank you.

Yes, you can haz coffee – As long as it’s Fair Trade…

ACT 10: PROMPT: Faith is everything. In fact, if you look in the Bible, the only two things that amaze Jesus are people’s faith – or people’s lack of faith. So today, act in faith. Ask God how you could be generous, and listen for his prompt. But be ready: faith like this might mean a bit of waiting, and a bit of risk-taking.

Choose how you’ll complete today’s act: One option today: Purposefully walk slowly and prayerfully today. Ask God to show you what he sees and ask him to lead you into an act of generosity – ‘Lord, what do you want me to share today? How do you want me to share it, and who with?’

Sorry, I wasn’t walking anywhere today! But, in amidst the sleeping, dozing and zizzing, there were some garbled and jumbled prayers. Who or what for, I have no idea, but I trust God was able to sort the wheat from the chaff!!

ACT 9: STREETS: How much do you notice when you’re out and about? The walk to work, to school, to the shops can become an adventure in generosity. Step out of your ‘bubble’ and pay attention to the people and places you pass. Spot those opportunities to offer a helping hand, be a friendly face or offer a listening ear.

This is a “put on the back burner for later” challenge. I was in bed. Asleep.

ACT 8: I CAN: Don’t think your side hobby/ability is a gift? Take another look. It comes easily to you. There’s not much pressure or effort around it. When you step out with it, things happen faster than you expect. Sound like it might be a gift from God? And if it’s something that God’s put in your hands, then it’s something for you to give away.

This one is something I have been doing – sharing my zentangling. The most recent one went off yesterday to someone, but that’s a surprise, so I won’t mention it now. I sent this one to Floating Gold a few weeks back

and the offer is always there: if you’d like me to do a zentangle for you (almost any subject, not just wildlife!) then just let me know.

ACT 7:BRAND NEW: When was the last time you stepped into something new? Wasn’t it a little terrifying – make you feel inexperienced and maybe a little insecure? Well, we’d bet that right now you know a few new parents. Or someone in a new job, new to church, moving into a new house. Think back to what would have helped you, and offer it to them.

This strikes me as a slightly strange challenge, which may, for many 40 Activists, have been difficult to complete…but it’s certainly worth bearing in mind for the future. We went to our new neighbour’s restaurant on Monday – does that count?!

 

So, there you are: a catch up on how 40 Acts is/isn’t going with me!! And I will be generous to myself and say that All things considered, I’m not doing too badly!

 

 

 

2018 40 Acts :: 6 :: Chocolate Tuesday

Hello dear ones.

I hope all is well in your world. We had a lovely meal out with Louis and Odette yesterday: I’m rather lucky, as Mr FD does quite a lot of sorting-out-of-other-peoples’-computers, and sometimes, instead of paying him in cash, they reimburse in kind, as it were. So last night Louis & Odette took us out, Traudel -who co-owns a restaurant with her Michelin starred husband – owes us a meal, the hotel round the corner also says that we can have a meal there…Thank you Mr FD!

So, last night I had feuilleté des escargots (snails in a lovely buttery sauce, in puff pastry), followed by magret de canard au miel et figues (duck breast with honey and figs). Then I had fromage frais, instead of ordinary cheese, then finally pannacotta with a raspberry coulis. Very delicious, and lovely to be out with good friends.

And now, it’s Chocolate Tuesday on 40 Acts.

Lots of people in the 40 Acts community seem to love “Chocolate Tuesday”, but I’ve never really taken to it. Maybe because I’d be a bit suspicious if I discovered random chocolate bars left on trains or park benches…There’s also the language barrier, trying to explain what I’m doing. Michelle left a comment saying: I’ve gotten the impression in reading about your 40 Acts over the years that the French are befuddled by “random acts of kindness.” Is a correction assumption? Is it totally absent from their culture or thinking?

To be honest, I don’t know! It could simply be that I am very poor at explaining what I’m doing, or why I’m doing it; also, I’m very shy about approaching strangers anyway, which makes it harder. Certainly when I look up gestes de bonté spontanés on Google,there’s nothing dated later than 2015 so maybe this isn’t a “thing” in France.

Anyway…

Giving away chocolate. Maybe it sounds a bit less radical than the last few days. But small, overlooked acts of generosity achieve big things. Today, take a bunch of chocolate bars with you wherever you go – five, ten, or twenty – and fling them, carefree, to anyone you come across.

Green, Amber, Red: You know the drill. Chocolate everywhere.

I have to go to the chemist today, to fetch my drugs for after chemo, so I will take them some chocolate. And I’m going to make some healthy meusli bars for me & Mr FD, full of dried fruit and seeds. I’ll make a few extra, and take them to the Hypnotherapist man this afternoon. A sort of thank you, as I get the feeling it was a bit inconvenient fitting me in today. Whether I’ll be able to explain why this strange Englishwoman is bringing him meusli bars I don’t know.

So, here in St Just, it’s not Chocolate Tuesday. It’s

Healthy Meusli Bar Tuesday!