A Pause in Lent N° 4: Self Portrait

I am blogging for A Pause in Lent with Ang, at Tracing Rainbows.
This year I am sharing some poems that I have found on the Internet and which speak to me – particularly as I work through 40 Acts.
Self Portrait
by David Whyte
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong
or feel abandoned.
If you can know despair or see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living,
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequences
of
love
and the bitter,
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard in that fierce embrace,
even the gods speak of God.

Source: “Self Portrait” from

Fire in the Earth
by David Whyte. Washington:
Many Rivers Press, 1992

 

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A Pause in Lent N°4: The Vision

Hello everyone. As you know (probably) I’m blogging about 40 Acts, but also joining in with Ang (at Tracing Rainbows) and other bloggers to blog about thoughts in Lent.

This year I have been sharing poems found on the internet that help to sum up my thoughts. Today’s is long but powerful,  coming from a “Links we Love” from 40 Acts.

The video of the poem is here:

and you can read the words, and a little of the story, on this page

The words that stand out most for me, and which are starting to impinge on my conciousness – just a tiny bit…I somehow think this is the area where God is prodding me this 40 Acts – are these:

they pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on them.

These words are originally from St Augustine  –  although he used the word “work” instead of “live”. I think I prefer it using live, as this indicates one’s whole life is dedicated to God.

But for me the focus is on the first part…I’m not saying I live my life as God would have it, not by any stretch of the imagination ; but I know that I definitely don’t pray as God wants. I need to explore this more, and find out what, how, when I should pray.

Any ideas?

 

Pause in Lent N°3: Are you saved?

I’m joining in with Ang for A Pause in Lent: different bloggers, musing over Lent and what it means, or pondering something that has caught their attention, or how God has touched them this week.

As you may have noticed, I’m blogging about 40 Acts, and what this has meant for me and prompted me to do. For Pause in Lent I am searching for poems on the theme of Lent – or anything else for that matter!

During my searching I came across a lovely poem, called “Are You Saved?” It is on somebody’s blog, and so I don’t want to post the whole thing, as I assume it is still copyright and so forth, but I urge you to go to Michael’s Prayers and read the whole thing

It echoes the themes of 40 Acts so well, and I quote a few lines here:

Don’t save our soul.
Pour it out like rain
on cracked, parched earth.

**

Souls were meant for hearing
breaking hearts, for puzzling dreams,
remembering August flowers,

***

Next time someone asks, “Is your soul saved?”
Say, “No, it’s spent, spent, spent!”

***

(I’m not sure about the grammar in this but I approve of the idea!)

Pause in Lent N°2: Lenten Poem

I am taking part in “Pause for Lent” with Angela, over at Tracing Rainbows  and some other bloggers too. If you go to Ang’s blog, you will find a link to the other blogs taking part.

This year I am posting some poetry that I find, relatingto Lent, to our faith walk, to our lives as Christians. Last week it was Robert Herrick’s “To Keep A True Lent”; this week I bring a more modern poem by Ann Weems

“Lent,” she writes, “is a time to let the power of our faith story take hold of us”. Isn’t that a wonderful line? It is something that I am afraid I don’t do – Perhaps I am fearful of what God will ask me to do, but if I let go of my fear and let the power of my faith story take hold then God can do wonders through us…My faith story – not yours, not anyone else’s but my faith story: acknowledging what God has already done in me, but also welcoming what he is to do. Recognising where I have held back, but also what wonders have taken place when I have just flung myself into God’s arms like a small child trusting in the strength of her father.

Lenten Poem by Ann Weems

Lent is a time to take time to let the power
of our faith story take hold of us,
a time to let the events get up
and walk around in us,
a time to intensify our living unto Christ,
a time to hover over the thoughts of our hearts,
a time to place our feet in the streets of
Jerusalem or to walk along the sea and
listen to his Word,
a time to touch his robe
and feel the healing surge through us,
a time to ponder and a time to wonder….
Lent is a time to allow
a fresh new taste of God!
Perhaps we’re afraid to have time to think,
for thoughts come unbidden.
Perhaps we’re afraid to face our future
knowing our past.
Give us courage, O God,
to hear your Word
and to read our living into it.
Give us the trust to know we’re forgiven
and give us the faith
to take up our lives and walk.

Pause in Lent 1

I’m joining in with Angela, over at Tracing Rainbows for A Pause in Lent

I know I’m also blogging about 40 Acts, but I wanted to try to join in with PiL as well. I thought that this year I would find some poems and post those. This one spoke to me – the language is a tad archaic, and I’m not sure I understand it all, but, I share it with you…

a-pause-in-lent-flossTo Keep a True Lent

Is this a Fast, to keep
the larder leane?
and cleane
from fat of Veales and Sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
of Flesh, yet still
to fill
the platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an houre
or rag’d go,
or show
a down cast look, and sour?

No: ‘tis a fast, to dole
thy sheaf of wheat
and meat
unto the hungry soule.

It is to fast from strife,
from old debate
and hate:
to circumcise thy life.

To shew a heart grief-rent;
to starve thy sin,
not Bin
and that’s to keep thy Lent.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I like this very much, as it reminds us that – although many people do choose to give something up for Lent – this is not the aim. It is not a time to renounce one thing, but make up for it in another (How many times did I announce I’d given up biscuits for Lent, only to gorge on cake or chocolate instead?!) Nor is the purpose of Lent to look miserable.

In the first three verses, Herrick asks us the question: Is this what Lent is about?  – and then turns the question on its head. He reminds us that Lent is not about keeping the larder empty – but rather we give generously of what we have to those in need. We are to fast not from meat or fish,; but rather from raking up old arguments, strife and hatred. And not to starve the body, but rather to be repentant and “starve” the sin that is in our hearts.

40 Acts is about fasting from hate, it’s about giving to the hungry and those in need, it’s about showing we understand that it is our sin, and greed, and lack-of-love that keeps us from a right relationship with God. We give up our sin, and give in to Christ.

Advent Challenges 12 – 17

Hello, dear Readers – whoever and wherever you are. Thank you for popping in, and thank you for your comments and “likes”. I really do appreciate them all (and I’m not just saying that – see 17 below!!)

I have been doing the Advent Challenges – although to be honest, I’ve not really been taking on board the meditations, or Bible passages that accompany them. I’m glad I’ve done this, as it has helped me think about others. As we are going away from tomorrow onwards I won’t be posting about the remaining challenges – & I may not pick up the emails from the Bible Society (it depends on my data roaming package in the UK) – but I will try to consider others more.

So, what have I been up to?

DAY 12: EXIT THE COMFORT ZONE: It’s easy to be kind to kind people. It’s less easy to reach out to those we find tricky or those who are unkind to us. Yet, this is exactly what the Bible calls us to do. Eek. Today’s the day to reach out to the bad-tempered so-and-so you usually avoid. Or how about just reaching out to the people in our lives we have little to do with? If we do the unexpected, people’s reactions might surprise us too!

With 61.6% I chose the challenge to “hand deliver your Christmas cards” to neighbours. Actually, that was a bit daft as we are so behind on Christmas cards this year, & it’s not really a French tradition. But I did take one along to the CCI where I was working today, which I delivered.

It wasn’t really exiting my comdfort zone though, as I get on very well with Frederique, the woman I mainly deal with at the CCI (partly because, during 40 Acts last Lent I gave her a cake as a random act!).

DAY 13: GADGET DE-TOX: Screens and gadgets can rob us of valuable time if we let them. Did you know that the average time we spend on social media every day is estimated at 106 minutes? (Statista, 2015) That’s about one-and-three-quarter hours we could be spending instead with real people. Having a one-day gadget detox might just help us rediscover the joy of a phone call or face-to-face chat and reconnect with people. The Bible calls us to ‘love one another’ and that means spending quality time with people and enjoying their company.

Today I wasn’t really going to be near a screen, so it wasn’t quite suitable as a challenge today! However, I chose the challenge to call someone I would usually email/ text (as did 34.3% of the Advent Challengees) – except I decided that I would write a letter to them instead. This is going to wait until after Christmas though, as time is running out!

DAY 14: PUT A SMILE ON SOMEONE’S FACE: The tinsel and fairy lights can help lift people’s spirits – but what if we went one step further today and brought a beaming smile to people’s faces and deep joy to their hearts? The Bible calls us to encourage people and build them up. How can we lift people’s mood and lighten the tone today? We can be sure that, when one person starts smiling, others will follow suit.

58.1% (including me) chose the challenge to put chocolate through someone’s letter box (although I’m not sure that if I received a random bar of chocolate in my postbox I would eat it…Suspicious minds, and all that!) but in fact I took a packet of chocolate biscuits to the Garage with me when we took the car in for a change of tyres. The Garagistes had choccie biccies with their morning coffee. Alex (the owner) was suitably surprised and smiley!

DAY 15: GIVE ME A BREAK: There’s an awful lot to do in the mad dash towards Christmas, and some people are starting to feel the strain, with deadlines to meet and jobs to be done. It can be a tiring time for many. The Bible describes how Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms in battle, literally shouldering his burden with him. It’s a vivid picture of how God encourages us to help others so we can all reach our goals and win our struggles. Give someone a break today!

I didn’t do this on Day 15, but it’s Mr FD’s turn to change the eight litter trays (EIGHT!!!!) this weekend, but I’m going to do at least four of them, and if I feel really kind I’ll do all eight. The ones in the cellar and the one on the balcony are the worst!

DAY 16: LOVE YOUR PLANET: Our planet is a precious gift from God and the Bible calls us to look after it, for our benefit and for future generations. Sadly, we’ve ignored God’s instruction to care for his creation. Many scientists now believe global warming is manmade, and climate change is making life even harder for millions of the poorest people on earth. This is a huge injustice – and one we cannot ignore.

21.4% of us chose to put on an extra jumper instead of turning the heating up… Well, we don’t have central heating, so instead of not turning up the heating for a while I didn’t use any heating, and kept moving. It did get a bit too chilly in the end though!! I didn’t put the granule burner on at lunchtime, and had lunch in my study instead.

DAY 17: BE GRATEFUL: If we pay too much attention to boastful friends, we can fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others. Social media doesn’t always help in this regard. It’s not long before envy takes the place of gratitude. The Bible tells us God wants us to have an attitude of gratitude at all times and ‘in all circumstances’… for our own good. It’s the key to contentment and keeps us open to receive God’s blessings.

40.7% of us chose to write a list of 10 things we are grateful for…

  1. The real message of Christmas: the incarnation of Christ – God bridging the gap between heaven and earth. Love came down at Christmas, and challenges us to continue his work.
  2. Mr FD…with all his annoying habits! I appreciate and love him for all that he is and does.
  3. Friends – those I see regularly and those I don’t. Those who I’m going to see this Christmas, and those I won’t. For their love, laughter, tears and support.
  4. A new bathroom. It’s been a nightmare getting it done (you can read about it in other posts!) but I have to remember that a warm, clean place in which to shower in copious amounts of hot water is a dream for so many people.
  5. Plentiful food, that we can afford to buy. Use of Food banks has tripled in the past year. Katy Boo wrote a moving post here.
  6. Our lovely cats. We love their cuddles and purrs when they snuggle up to us in bed. We miss our lovely George boy so much, but are grateful for the three who remain…and we still hope George may come back.
  7. ChristChurch, Clermont Ferrand…I am very happy to be a member here. Of course, because the church is made up of broken, hurting people there are tensions and misunderstandings, but we are all members of the body of Christ, trying to spread his message of love. Especial gratitude for our dynamic rector and his lovely wife.
  8. The incredibly generous donation made by the Bishop to Phone Credit for Refugees. I made 200 Christmas cards, which he was going to send to whoever the Bishop of the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe sends Christmas cards to. He sent a donation of 400€ for the charity.
  9. Work. A job I love, and which pays reasonably well. Yes, I’d rather not have to work, but if I have to, I can’t imagine a job that’s much better than this…Except maybe acting, or crafting.
  10. Christmas music – including the bautiful Sol Invictus by Thea Gilmore, Kate Rusby’s cheerful folk music,  Hely-Hutchinson’s lovely Symphony of Carols  and, of course, Rend Collective!

So there’s 10 things…but of course there are so many more.

I wish all my lovely readers a very happy Christmas

Advent Challenges 6 – 11

Goodness me – the joys of the season are really passing me by! I can’t get “in the mood” for Advent OR Christmas – presents remain unbought; those that are bought are unwrapped; cards are unwritten (people are getting the Bishop’s rejects!); the Christmas Round Robin has been abandoned. Even listening to the magnificent Hely Hutchinson Carol symphony has failed to get me jolly and merry…

We have been choir rehearsing for the Service of Nine lessons and rather too many (in my opinion) carols. Our newish organist comes from a Cathedral background and I feel the Carol Service is a bit too “performance-y” and not community carol singing enough. But it’s his first year, and I think the Rector just said “Get on with it” So he did. I hope the slightly scratch Choir can come up to his expectations! But even singing carols hasn’t helped!!!

But I have been continuing with the Bible Society’s Advent Challenge:

DAY SIX: On Your Marks, Get set, Bake! Food plays a big part in our Christmas celebrations and it’s a great way to draw people together. But not everyone’s budget can stretch to festive food treats and the pressure to make meals special can be a real source of stress for those struggling financially. The Bible makes no bones about it: we’re to share our food with the poor.

Together with 65.4% of the challenge-takers, I doinated (or plan to donate) food to a food bank. It was very tricky finding out how to donate – the two websites I found were remarkably User unfriendly – but I will give some food to Rob, our Rector, who has links with the local Banque Alimentaire.

DAY 7: Let Justice Roll On: The Bible is one long clarion call for justice for the poorest, the overlooked, the people on the edges who most others despise. These were the very people that Jesus chose to spend his time with. When Jesus came down to earth, God’s word was made flesh: Jesus demonstrated how we should live just lives. Let’s follow his lead today!

One of the challenges was to buy something Fair Trade – 54.1% of the people took this action. I’d gone shopping the day before – FT coffee!! – but as I had 15 minutes before my lesson in Roanne I nipped into the Artisans of the World shop. I bought two creches – one for each mother – and a beautiful glass dove decoration for friends’ Christmas present.

DAY 8: Take a Deep Breath: Patience is one of those wonderful fruits of the Spirit that we’d all like more of – especially when we’re driving or in a long queue. The good news is that God knows that we are naturally impatient, and sometimes impulsive, and that we need his Spirit’s help to be patient. Let’s ask for his help to slow down and be gracious today: it will bless other people, especially if we’re acting out of character!

The Challenges today were:

  1. When driving, let someone out in front of you
  2. Hold the door open for someone
  3. Let someone go ahead of you in a queue

To be honest, I try very hard to be patient and do all of these things – especially if I’ve got a trolleyload of shopping and the person behind has only a few things. They weren’t really a challenge – but still….One day it might be!!

DAY 9: Give of Yourself: In our busy lives, it’s tempting to take the easy way out: to limit interaction with our neighbours to a quick ‘hello’, and to give gifts rather than spending time with people. But the Bible challenges us to go deeper, to give of ourselves, without expecting a reward. So, today, let’s be generous with our time and our attention. Let’s linger with people and put some love into all that we do. In fact, the Bible says we will get a reward: happiness!

The Challenge I took, along with 70.6% of people, was to handmake at least one Christmas present. At dancing we are having a Secret Santa….I have drawn a zentangle dreamcatcher and put it in a hand decorated frame.

IMG_2496

It’s not this one – I did this for someone else – but it’s similar. Slightly less complicated, but similar. With a 2€ limit on the cost I thought handmade was a good way to go!

DAY 10: Enough is Enough: This time of year brings a relentless onslaught of shopping catalogues, adverts and TV programmes that prod us to have more, look better, try harder. Keeping up with the Joneses (whoever they are) can be exhausting and ultimately fruitless. So let’s take a moment, step back and look beyond the ‘packaging’ around Christmas – and choose to be satisfied. We will be happier as a result and so will those around us.

I took the slightly less popular choice this time – only 24.9% of people chose it – Give all the loose change in your purse to someone in need. Again, I haven’t done it yet…as I’ve not seen anyone who was “in need”. But we had a collection in church today to support the 26 Afghan minors who have been housed near Clermont Ferrand…The plan is to give each of the lads a voucher so they can go shopping and choose some clothes. Not be given cast-offs, but buy stuff that THEY want, and that they have chosen. So I gave to that collection.

On Thursdays when I drive to one of my lessons, there is a guy who goes along the line of traffic waiting to turn left, with a paper cup, asking for spare change. I always avert my eyes, or give an apologetic shrug but I never give money. This Thursday, with these challenges in mind, I rolled down my window and gave him some money. I don’t know if he’s homeless, or poor – or even if he’s scamming us – but I feel that if you spend your day wandering up and down a line of traffic, you can’t be in a particularly good place. So I let my instincts take over, and I gave him a bit more than I might have usually done…

DAY 11: Spread a little happiness: The Bible urges us repeatedly to ‘rejoice’ or ‘be joyful’. Not just when everything is going our way but ‘at all times’. We can be sure if God repeats something it’s because he wants to make very sure we get the message. Let’s make a point of being joyful today and setting the mood music around us, even if we’re facing troubles ourselves. Joy is contagious, even in the grumpiest of offices!

Smile more! This was the challenge! In repose my face is a bit mardy-looking, even though I’m not. So I tried to be a bit more smiley today… I also greeted people cheerily, as another challenge suggested.