Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blog Day

Apparently today is blog day 2006...(you see, I learn new things every single time I visit Jonny's site!)

In honour of this auspicious day in the calendar (and I'm still wondering what FabBishop's take on it would be) all bloggers are invited to link to 5 blogs they haven't mentioned before

To be honest, I've rather lost track as I do so much magpie blogging..So, I'm simply interpretting this as linking in a post to 5 blogs that don't appear on my sidebar, and aren't included via the RevGals webring.
This narrows my scope somewhat, so here's a selection - in no particular order.

Disclosing New Worlds

On Earth as in Heaven


What's for Afters?

Mustard Seed Shavings

Sorry that they are largely God-blogs...that just seems to be where I spend most of my time,- and I have popped Cal in for good measure. There are so many good reads out there, though - I could have gone on for far longer, once started.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Walking the Labyrinth

at Greenbelt is unlike walking it anywhere else, for me.
Here what is usually a solitary activity becomes an exercise in crowded corporate choreography, as people negotiate the space, stepping aside to facilitate the journey of others. After a friend commented on this the whole experience of walking together became a major focus of my own walk late on Sunday night.

We travel together, alone.
Our paths close but not identical
though we make for the same destination,
proceeding laboriously, in weary choreography
Towards the place of Gift.
But there is room for all.
No need to resent or thwart
The fellow- walkers who surround me.
Their journeys match my own
My journey mirrors theirs
And all alike are welcome.

The step by step approach disturbs me.
Will I ever reach the end?
But You are there before, beside, within
My Way, my Truth, my Life.
The twists and turns along the way
Come only from resistent self's
Deferred arrival at the place I know
The place I truly long to be
The place of Gift, of Love, of You.

More about Greenbelt

Unusually this year, I actually enjoyed events in Centaur. This huge indoor venue (capacity 3000) seemed the first year we used it to represent a kind of middle-aged comfort that had far more to do with Cheltenham racecourse than with the edgy challenge of the Festival. Three years on (I think) it worked well in the three different modes I experienced…

Saturday afternoon it was packed with enthusiastic Greenbelters high as kites on Courtney Pine’s wonderful jazz (thanks, Cal, for assuring me that apparently endless queues needn’t mean there would be no room in the venue…and for your happy company there), singing to order in funky harmony and generally having the time of our lives.
I’m reminded reading other blogs that for some people Greenbelt is mainly a music festival…ironically, it was the music that kept me away for many years, when I was resolutely and exclusively classical in my tastes. It was a huge relief to encounter the breadth of everything else that the Festival now provides…so on Saturday night I was back in Centaur, packed to the gunwhales again, this time for Taize worship. To watch a small girl – no more than 6 at the most, bringing a taper with the resurrection light to those around her with the utmost grace and solemnity was perhaps my Greenbelt Moment par excellence this year. Huge thanks to Anne Hollinghurst and co who arranged it.

My third Centaur experience was of the final Last Orders, late on Monday night...with some excellent comedy from Paul Kerensa - and the realisation as we emerged that it was the legendary Snowy the Steward's birthday. Snowy is such a GB icon - it was just right that giving him birthday hugs was almost the last thing I did during GB 06.

Before that, though, the corporate enthusiasm of the Sunday Eucharist touched me in a way that it hasn’t for the past couple of years…perhaps because I wasn’t with my family, so was able to concentrate on the worship rather than worrying about how they were feeling about it. I was with a random collection of teens/twenties, and when we were asked to arrange ourselves into groups of c20 for Communion they could not have been sweeter, introducing themselves as we exchanged the Peace, and full of touching concern that they should break and share the bread at the right moment and in the right way. Most of you will know that celebrating the Eucharist is one of the poles around which my life revolves, perhaps the most precious part of priesthood for me…but it was a joy to simply receive, and to be able to use whatever words felt right as I passed the bread and wine to the boy beside me. No shadow of anxiety about authorised anythings here- and such a joy to make temporary loving connections in this way.

I received in a different way from some stunning seminars… Sadly, Walter Wink was unwell (that’s the last time I publicly air my excitement about a particular GB headline…it has happened once too often) However at least this relieved me of one or two agonising decisions…though there were plenty more. Try as you might, you simply cannot manage to get to everything that excites you…Which leaves me with the annual question of whether to order any seminar recordings…and if so, whether those I attended and want to mull over, or those I most regret missing. Now I’m not commuting to work daily, I have less opportunity to listen, so I’m really not sure. Something fresh to dither about, then!
Of those I managed, James Alison and Lucy Winkett were perhaps the highlights. I'm very excited that Lucy is willing to come and talk to Gloucester WATCH, - she was hugely inspiring. But of course there was so much to reflect on and inspire…
John Davies (if you don’t know his blog, add it to your lists now….though I have to say he talks even better than he writes and reminded me of my ambition to really live in the place where I’m working, to know and love it thoroughly, to read each and every message of the everyday)…The award for the most personally courageous speaker should go to Sarah Jones,- who simply shone, and had her audience eating out of her hand before we were half way through. I was hugely impressed that she placed me in our brief conversation afterwards...we have people in common, and a very short email exchange this time last year,- phenomenal memory for detail, clearly. A pleasant surprise was Andrew Motion (who can write prose possibly even more engagingly than poetry: his new In the Blood is definitely on my wish-list,-and I loved his description of his official role as "A two edged chalice"!) while my own beloved Bishop was no disappointment. Wish I’d been able to mesh his seminar In step with the rhythm (on the feasts of the secular calendar and the Church could interact with them) with Maggi’s on the Rhythm of the Saints…but there were so many people eager to hear her that I simply couldn’t get in. I heartily approved her selection for God's ipod, though,- and the New Forms cafe was a great venue...specially good to hear her sing one of her own songs to a Greenbelt audience who lapped it up.
Time to reflect while walking the Labyrinth late on Sunday...and while seeking Sanctuary in a humble shed. I always thought I needed a prayer shed at the bottom of the I'm sure of it!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

City of Clay

Wish I were the sort of photographer that could do it justice...You'll just have to believe my hyperbole!

Greenbelt 1

So many things to so many people.
Sitting here in a sort of gentle decompression chamber, while the rain beats down outside, I’ve been looking at the photos posted to the GB website and I’ve been reminded again of the incredible variety of experiences that make up the Festival…
For me, it’s the place where I’m not simply allowed to think outside the box, but (as Stewart observed last night) the place where I can discard the box altogether.
The place where I can dip into music far outside my usual listening.
The place where new forms of worship delight and inspire me to try something different at home.
The place where each of my family is totally engaged and at home, though we are rarely together.
The place where I encounter an extended family with whom I can laugh, cry, share secrets and deam dreams
The place that challenges me to live for Christ in his world,- singing songs of freedom for all his people
I arrive on site filled with the sort of fizzing excitement that characterised the best sort of childhood Christmasses…Uunlike some childhood Christmasses, I’m confident there will be no disappointments as I begin to unwrap the Festival.
So…not a lot for it to live up to then!
But as always, it manages triumphantly.

Weather not too kind this year, but nothing like bad enough to dampen our joy. It was actually more like April than August, with torrential showers followed by brilliant sunshine (these two piccies were both taken in the space of one 45 minute seminar on Monday - please note the determined souls who weren't going to miss a second of Timothy Radcliffe, come what may).

That afternoon, youngest offspring (who is reconsidering his blog persona...suggestions invited) and I were playing around in the City of Clay tent. With c20,000 on site the invitation to all Greenbelters to contribute to the urban sprawl resulted in an incredible architectural extravaganza, complete with model railway... Neither of us has much talent as a potter, but we were happily engaged, while outside an intriguing array of vaguely oriental percussion was attacked by a diverse group of adults and children. Suddenly their sound was drowned out by the noise of rain hammering on the tent, and we were instantly engulfed in a crush of dripping people, seeking shelter as bathloads of water were hurled from the sky.
Minutes later, the rain stopped, the percussion resumed, the covers came off the stalls, and everything was restored to colourful optimism, despite the developing quagmires beneath our feet.
The unquenchable spirit of the Festival! I love it so much.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The future's bright....

the future's purple!

This rather jolly campaigning card arrived with a letter from "Priests for Women Bishops", announcing their merger with WATCH. It cheered up my Thursday somewhat...things are a bit stressed here, with too many irons in too many fires and a definite lack of focus on the part of the Curate, who really wants to stop work and join TW and LCM in preparing for Greenbelt.

As always, the prospect of the Festival makes my heart sing, and the thought of so many wonderful people already on site is almost enough to make me abandon the parish and rush up there instantly. If you read this, and are travelling tomorrow, though, I fear that a burst water main has close the main A40 into Cheltenham and there are assorted other road works in you find the last leg of your journey a bit fraught. Leave your details in the comments if you want to meet up and I don't have your mobile already...
If you're elsewhere, and can spare a prayer for the Festival, for good weather, good encounters and the wild and glorious mixture that makes up the programme, that would be very kind. I'll report back later.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

Just in from supper with a couple in the congregation, and trying to persuade myself that I really do feel like organising food for 5 disparate parties at Greenbelt (TeenWonder, who is stewarding, departs tomorrow..his father on Thursday, while the rest of us go on site on Friday) while wondering how on earth to square the circle of disaffected but ultimately harmless yoof and anxious and over reactive little old ladies...Could blog about any of that,- but too depressed by the last conundrum right now, so instead I'm joining the herd as they stampede down the valley, and have been playing with the Random Quotes Generator (which is possibly related to the infinite improbability drive...but in that case, why I am not yet a penguin?). The idea is that you trawl through the quotes and pick 5 that resonate with you and your here are mine, for today only.

God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.
Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997)

Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.
Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)

Facing a mirror you see merely your own countenance; facing your child you finally understand how everyone else has seen you.
Daniel Raeburn, The New Yorker, 05-01-2006

It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.
John Andrew Holmes

I cannot live without books.
Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

You're all much the wiser for reading that little anthology aren't you? No??? Well then, go and pick 5 of your own. It's an entertaining way of passing a few minutes, and has definitely diverted me from the yoof issue.


Just a week ago, the Curate's household discovered just how excellent blog friendships can be, when the Songbirds arrived here.Since their only other destinations in the UK were the Edinburgh Fringe (the main goal of their trip), and the seething metropolis of London itself we felt hugely honoured...but more important, we had a wonderful time! Everyone fitted together just perfectly...LCM and Pure Luck indulged in impassioned political discussion without any blood loss, the assorted teens discovered that they had many musical tastes in common, the Princess was a hit with all concerned - perhaps most of all with the dreadful Dillon, who basked in her attention and at last found an audience for his performances of "I'm such a sweet dog really". As for the two revgals,- we were so comfortable together, it seems very hard to believe we've not been dropping in for coffee with each other for several years. Lots to talk about. Lots of laughter. Lots of grounds to lament the width of the Atlantic.
We were all agreed. Somehow, we will have to do it again before too long...even if I have to take in washing to fund the air fares!

Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the objects of our attention in the official blogger photo above were butterflies - the inhabitants of the rather charming Butterfly House at Berkley Castle. The contrast of extreme antiquity in the castle itself with these delightful symbols of ephemera made for a good day's entertainment- specially when the rounded off with honey and ginger ice-cream in the rain! An authentic British experience!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

[Almost] anything to oblige a friend

WonderfulVicar is away this weekend, so things have been decidedly manic,- today featuring a wedding and 4 baptisms (3 daughters and 1 dad...which I am more thrilled about than is reasonable!), tomorrow celebrating at both Eucharists, another Baptism and a vaguely alternative Evening Prayer (for which I still have no sermon) and then on Monday 2 funerals in swift succession. Currently I'm high as a kite on it all. The wedding was the first I've seen through all the way from initial enquiry (on BOXING DAY!!! what else might clergy do with their lives, after all?) to the Marriage service...and I've become very fond of the couple, and their families and friends. As for the Baptism - the Dad in question was the guy I blogged about here, whose view has changed from complete opposition to baptism for his children to the wonder of today. It was the most enormous privilege to be part of his journey, and theirs. Just wonderful, really.

However, all that prevents me from any sensible blogging,- so instead the lovely C has requested and required (see, I've been held up at airports, and reduced to reading the front of my passport) that I revisit the Four Meme, which I suspect I may have already played a wee while back...
All goes to prove that these exercises are utterly pointless and even more ephemeral than most of my blogging, but just for her (and Cal, and anyone else subjected to the process);/./

Four jobs I have had in my life
1. amusement arcade cashier
2. TEFL teacher
3. bookseller
4. piano teacher (oh how I HATED that one)

Four Movies I have watched over and over;
1. Truly, Madly, Deeply
2. The African Queen
3. The Snowman (what else do people do while recovering from Christmas lunch, before it’s time for prezzies?)
4. Notting Hill (one of those things about having a teen aged daughter…)

Four places I have lived:
1. St Leonards-on-Sea
2. Cambridge
3. London SW11
4. Great Rissington

Four TV shows I love to watch:
1. Inspector Morse (yes, I know he’s dead…doesn’t make any difference)
2. Holby/Casualty
3. Miss Marple (Joan Hickson version)
4. The Clangers!

Four places I have been on vacation
1. Connemara
2. Italy
3. Denmark
4. Cyprus

Four of my favourite foods
2.gravad lax amazing Venetian black spaghetti dish made with cuttlefish, whose name I can’t remember
4.pad namman hoi with prawns and broccoli (sadly, TTG failed to learn to cook this while in Thailand – waste of money her going, clearly ;-))

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. The Llan (favourite retreat spot)
2. Gillan (the bit of Cornwall we visited a couple of weeks ago)
3. In Thailand with TTG
4. Venice

So there you have it, Kathryn hung, drawn and above all quartered.
If anyone who's not already done so wants to play,- let me know and I'll come and read your responses.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Things fishy .....and flowery

It occurs to me that I've been somewhat rude about Madeira on the whole, - so let me share with you something that was a source of unadulterated delight. The fish. Whether consumed in the assorted excellent restaurants that we discovered (not a day passed without TW or his mother enjoying calamari in some form or other) or encountered through the windows of the glass bottomed boat we went aboard to celebrate WN's birthday, they were an absolute and unqualified success.
The boat trip also provided an unexpected treat when a female fin whale appeared, and let us get within a few yards of her, doing all the right whaley things (to my lasting credit I resisted the urge to yell "Thar she blows" when I spotted her doing just that)...So huge, so alien, so much at home in her element. The birthday treats of earlier years seemed rather insignificant in comparison.

The other joy of the island, though, was the plants and flowers, even in dry and unpromising August. Hydrangeas, hostas, red-hot pokers, - things that can too easily look naff when they are planted in suburban gardens, flourished in generous profusion at every turn in the wild. Here they looked absolutely right, so that plants I usually dislike had me stopping and searching for my camera...Weeds, they say, are simply flowers in the wrong place. But these blooms, that seem so excessively contrived and pretensious when placed "just so" in Privet Drive, are transformed when they find themselves at home. Agapanthus is on my "A" list in any situation,- and the banks of them lining the roads up into the mountain were, quite simply, stunning. Eat your heart out, Kew Gardens!

I do apologise for wittering on so about my holiday...but I promised Songbird I wouldn't talk about her stay till she was safe home at a bloggable computer...and that wonderful camera from HongKong has simply forced me to take far too many pictures. Just for good measure, this is a view from the balcony of our horribly concrete and unbeautiful apartment. Straight ahead was a busy road, cutting us off from the more salubrious parts of the complex, and from the sea as well...but if you leaned at the right angle, this more attractive prospect was in view.

Slow learners

We visited this cliff-top statue, a replica of the more famous ones in Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon, fairly early in the week. From land it is quite impressive, and the pools of melted wax from votive candles left around the base is very moving, a reminder of who knows how many heart felt prayers...We imagined what a wonderful sight it must be when viewed from the sea, with Christ's open arms welcoming home fishermen weary from storm and danger.
On our penultimate day, though, we went on a boat trip ourselves, and were disappointed at how very small and insignificant the figure of Christ seemed from the water.
He seemed to be in the wrong place, too. Not even at the edge of the cliff.
Then TW pointed out that we were all making the same old mistake again,- demanding an imposing Saviour, whose majesty is evident and unmissable...and not the God who arrived in our world almost unnoticed, and whose glory came on a cross.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Another glass - maybe slightly bitter.

In the village of Camara dos Lobos, poverty is the constant companion, walking beside the mangy dogs as they skulk around the gaming tables down by the fishing harbour.
Yet here there is not one but two churches, each plastered in bling.
To walk inside from the world of rotting fish and cigarette ends is an experience rather like visiting Santa's Grotto in the department store of a run-down industrial city during a general strike. All is tinselled disillusion. On the high altar celluloid dolls masquerade as Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Outside, children made in God's image run, scruffy and painfully thin, through the alleys.
I think of all the horrors perpetrated in God's name, from the Crusades to Northern Ireland and add this to my list...

Later in the week, we visit Curral das Freiras, an amazing hidden valley, named as the refuge of a religious order who fled there from the depradations of pirates on the coast. Having spent the morn in the company of a very charming latter day pirate, complete with gold ear-ring, dreads and the statutory gap between teeth to allow him to test the authenticity of gold dublooms, I'd rather question their judgement in fleeing...but then, we've already established my attitude to mountain roads. The valley is best approached by the old route, which includes 2 chillingly narrow roadtunnels, cut through the rock, and enough hair pins to control a junior ballet class.
We snake down, down, to the tiny square at the centre of the village, - and are greeted enthusiastically by a passing local, who begs us to visit "our so beautiful church".
So, here we are in a crater surrounded by breath-taking psalms in rock, expressing God's majesty and creative genius as perfectly as anything can here on earth...and we bow to pressure and enter one of the ugliest churches I've ever encountered,- complete with piped organ music to welcome tourists.
How bizarre is that?
Outside everything shouts praise...inside is artifice, the gilding of lillies, darkness and constraint.
Why? Why do we still insist on containing God, on fashioning the ark of the presence for ourselves again and again? How long will it take us to learn that, in the face of our own inadequacy we might do better simply to celebrate his gifts? It was a relief to emerge into sunshine, to sit and marvel. I hope those 16th century nuns had opportunity to do just that, and to really see.

Somehow, it's much easier to do that when I'm away from my normal environment. Perhaps that's what holidays are really for.

Part the second - in which a spot of diversification is identified.

whoever would have thought it?
The Trinity take up banking....
It amused me, anyway (and not much in highly commercialised, alarmingly touristy Funchal managed that)

How do I look with grey hair?

Just been to collect TW's A/S level results...and realised just how long a 21 mile drive can be when you are on such a mission. TW sets himself appallingly high standards, which made disappointment a definite possibility, but thanks be to God (and some genuine hard work on the part of TW), not this time.

5 A grades.

Not a cloud on the horizon, despite torrential downpours as we came home, singing along to "City of Blinding Lights" at the tops of our voices. Now we can relax till university interviews start....
I do hope today has been equally kind for all those awaiting results,- it's a fraught time of year.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Have some madeira, m'dears! part the first

It's official.
I am a complete and unregenerate lily-livered coward.
This means that the first 24 hours of our holiday were not an unmitigated success.
Flying has always been an affair of shut eyes and fervent prayer on take-off and landing...but arrival in Madeira, where the runway is a on a causeway across the sea, with sheer cliff on one side, shifted those prayers to a whole new level of intensity.
Then came our first journey in a hire car with a husband whose driving motto is "Death or glory" - on the "wrong" (right) side of the road, in a car with everything else back-to-front too...Fun!
I never even enjoyed the dodgems as a child(who in their right minds would want to replicate the feeling of a car smash? and why??) - and it didn't take long for me to realise the excellent opportunity that Madeira provides for far more significant damage, as we followed a narrow road round hair pin bends up into the mountains.
Ever now and then the views were too spectacular to miss, LC stopped the car and we struggled out, legs shaking, to look at a landscape clearly fashioned by a model railway buff with more papier mache than sense of proportion. Those mountains are just so unlikely with stands of pines precariously and randomly balanced on jutting outcrops of rock- juxtaposed with terraced vineyards and luxuriant banana groves.
I began to be annoyed by my persistent fears. Why can't I just sit back and enjoy the view?
Then, bizarrely, just as we approached the island's 2nd highest peak (the only one reachable by road) my mobile rang. I'd even forgotten the thing was on (no expectations of a call here in the middle of nowhere) and collapsed into giggles when the screen showed S (owner of a blog less ordinary ,-partly at least because it's less written in).
S tends to vanish from my life for months on end and emerge when least expected - but rarely less expected than last week.
Was I free for lunch on Thursday as he would be in Cheltenham?
Amid semi hysterical laughter (at that moment I would have paid huge sums to be safe in Cheltenham and available for lunch) I somehow stopped being thanks for that, S. Not the first time you've rescued me, but surely one of the strangest.
After that, I was mostly able to marvel at the different from anything here at home.
I did wonder, as the days wore on, if I lived among such majesty, whether I would ever manage to see it....and what other splendours I ignore at home on a daily basis?
(Having had very special visitors here the past couple of days, the answer to that seems to be "quite a few")

Safe home

despite the best efforts of any concerned...Lots to tell and far too many pictures (flickr, here I come) - but for now, we're busy partying with the Songbirds. Boys going hiking today, while the girls explore Berkley Castle. More later,- this is such fun

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Blogging birthday

Home from the morning round (lovely 8.00 Eucharist, and- thanks be to God - the sermon went down very well at the 10.00) and about to start putting together lunch packs for the OpenHouse version of feeding the 5000, I suddenly wondered when this blog's birthday might be. I knew it had been born towards the end of my first few weeks of ministry here two years ago, so I dropped into my own archive (how self-absorbed is that!) and lo, today is the day.
So the iced gems and jammy dodgers that will be part of the picnic bags this afternoon can also be a birthday tea for the blog. Just wish that the many wonderful people I've met in the blogging community in the past 2 years could be there to share it. Thank you for your friendship, all of you.
One day I'll have a blogger party irl, and hug each of you in person.

I ought not to write any more today, (which probably guarantees at least one further post!) as we're off on the morrow for a week in Madeira, and I'm as far from ready as it's possible to be. Not only is today busy even by Sunday standards, but LoudBoy (who wishes, apparently, to be known henceforth as WillyNilly) returned from Scout Camp last night with all the attendant washing, and is in the throes of swapping bedrooms with TeaThaimGirl....who is also indulging in a spot of redecoration along the way. Packing? You must be joking!
In any case, I'm approaching the trip with mixed feelings, not least because TTG is staying at home, minding dogs, cats and geraniums,- the first time we've done a family holiday without the entire family...I know she'll be fine,- it's me I'm wondering about!
Anyway, if we don't speak before, I'll catch you later.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Transfiguration sermon

(with humble and hearty thanks to both Dylan and Rick) is posted here

Questions, questions...

A long long time ago (well, actually about 2 weeks) I was whingeing about the level of inertia which arose from hot weather, children on holiday and general silly season feelings. I happened to say to a friend, (whose Best Friend is Mr Giraffe) that I couldnt even think of anything to blog about. MGBF saw this as a challenge, and instantly produced a whole raft of questions which deserve more intelligent answers than I suspect I'm currently capable of. As a general intro, let it be known that MGBF is cheering up the curate considerably as a member of the congregation who’s actually interested and excited about matters of faith. MGBF definitely thinks about these things, and her questions are the sort that make me tremble over the gaps in my brain, though…Right now, my latent theological inadequacy syndrome seems to be particularly rampant, possibly because we have a very well qualified potential ordinand arriving with us on placement tomorrow, so I’m going to post the questions here, together with the beginnings of my answers, in the hope that readers will correct my latent heresies and contribute to the debate. MGBF has found the Christian websites she’s explored to date rather unhelpful, with but one answer to any question (usually "Jesus" , even if the question did involve an animal with long ears and a short fluffy tail) but I’m sure we can, between us, do better.
So, here's our starter for 10

- It is said that to go to heaven you must acknowledge Jesus as the
Lord, and try to follow him to the best of your abilities. Many people in
the world do not have the opportunity to know Jesus, or even hear his name-
and even if they do wish to follow him, they may not feel able to due to the
society they live in. "But whoever denies me before men, him I will
also deny before my Father who is in heaven." For many people, it would not
be possible to openly state their faith without large amounts of
persecution, and though many people in the past have been willing to suffer
for God, does this not seem unfair?

Short answer: YES!

Longer answer: I don't believe that God, in his infinite love and mercy, is going to penalise anyone who is constrained by personal circumstance. I know you're not specifically engaging with "No one comes to the Father except by me" but I'd say the issues are well and truly entangled. For me, this means that what Jesus achieved on the cross opened the way for the whole of creation to be restored to wholeness and happiness with God. Simple as that!
But I wouldn't say that it means that everyone has to have prayed the sinner's prayer, signed on the dotted line and explicitly given their lives to Christ. Rather, I'm inclined to go with the idea of unconscious Christianity which, to my mind is best expressed by C.S. Lewis in The Last Battle

A young Calormene soldier has died in the battle, gone through the stable door and found himself confronted not by the terrible Tash whom he has served all his days, but by the Great Lion, Aslan himself...
"the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he had truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek."

The other important thing I'd want to say is that we must never assume that people who appear to be rejecting Christ are actually rejecting his reality. It is probably the unhelpful way that his followers have presented him that is causing the trouble...the caricatures that the church has offered from time to time, the language of patriarchy for some, of middle-class conservatism for others will distort the picture...and if you can only glimpse through a glass darkly it can be hard to discern just who it is you're encountering.
We make his love too narrow by false limits of our own, as the hymn says...but ultimately I believe we will all have an opportunity to see him face to face, to recognise that Love for the boundless tide it really is, and it is at that moment of true encounter that we must commit ourselves. I cannot conceive that anyone will choose to turn away from the infinite Love they see then. Love so amazing, so divine...

Friday, August 04, 2006

"Other people's holiday snaps"

is almost a synonym for boredom,- but oddly enough, looking at other people's pictures on blogs is usually anything but dull. Which category these fall into I'm not sure, but it's my party and I'll post if I want to! At least you have the very easy option of departing hence rapidly,- which was seldom the case when George and Mildred produced their packets of happy snaps from look away if you need to. I'm just playing with my new toy.

Beach art in progress .....

and completed

And time to stop and stare,

even as we drove home.

(TTG took this on the M5 between Bristol and Gloucester - a kind of consolation prize in case we thought we'd left all the beauty behind us)

I think it must be time to sort out flickr...too many pictures I want to share,- and at least that way you only have to visit if you actively want to engage with them!

Happy times

As I’ve said already, Cornwall was sublime. We drove down
(a long journey by UK standards,- 5 hours plus,- so my reluctant decision to leave dogs at home was probably wise) in teeming rain, but by the time we reached the cottage, right out on the Lizard peninsula, the evening was clear and still.
Rapturous welcome from N and her labradors, time to breathe then a walk down to the bay. All utterly perfect.
TeaThaimGirl, who is a true Romantic, has had a yen for Cornwall for years and years (probably since her early exposure to the tale of The Mousehole Cat) so she was in seventh heaven…N and I were just thrilled to be together in such a beautiful place, with none of the time pressures that usually characterise our meetings. And the dogs managed that big-dog balance between joyful exuberance and companionable stillness which Jack Russells just don’t do.
The cottage is a lovely converted barn…not at all polished but comfortable and homey. N and her husband have been coming there since their grown-up boys were tiny. Another family who own the main house also holiday there each summer, so there is a wonderful community feeling with people surging from one house to the other for coffee, gin, conversation at regular intervals…TTG was adopted by adoring small boys, who were willing slaves when she created beach art, and even found me enough "mermaids tears" (those bits of broken glass turned by the sea to polished magic)to transform a rather tired candle-lamp at home

The next 2 days were an amazing blend. Walking the coastal path, flopping onto the springy turf to gaze and gaze (no seals in sight, but egrets, cormorants and the sun on the waves to enthrall us);
seeking out standing stones to find their way into one of TTG’s novels; fresh crab sandwiches and clotted cream ice-cream; raucous singing of half remembered sea-chanties; the sort of prolonged comfortable silence that can last between good friends without any anxiety; hysterical laughter as TTG and I realised just how hopeless we were at rowing in a straight line. Is that the ENFP coming out again, I wonder....infinite diversions, no matter what!

I spent a wee while feeling sad that my children hadn't had this sort of summer relationship with a place whose familiarity is part of the joy of rediscovery each year. (indeed, because we ran a B&B all the time we were living in our old house, we didn’t really do family holidays at all)…
Then I realised (bright woman, Kathryn) that we’d had the same rituals attached to the annual mother/children visits to see Eirene in Sussex,- but because, for me that was "going home" I'd simply not seen it. In the same way, I thought for a wistful moment “My childhood wasn’t like that either”…
Errr, no…because the sea was on the doorstep…there was no need to go anywhere…eating sun- warmed cherries from a brown paper bag on the beach was part of life. I just didn’t notice it was special, because it was always there,- but there are so many happy memories waiting to be woken when I find myself in the right conditions,- and these past days have been absolutely right!
Those summers in Sussex have stopped now, since Eirene has moved away – at about the same stage in my children's lives(though less drastically) as my own long summers ended...
I’m hoping I’ve given them enough memories to key into for the years ahead. For me, summer childhoods need to be full of that easy, lazy rhythm of the waves on the shore…
Thank you, N and F for the gift of these days away. Thank you, God, for introducing us on our first weekend at vicar-school. I feel very blessed.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Home again to a new address

from a wonderful 3 much happened that it felt far longer and was wonderfully relaxing and purr-inducing. I'll hope to tell more later, and share the zillions of pictures, but sadly our wireless router died while we were away, so this is currently the only computer with internet access in a household of internet junkies.As a result, my time is too short for blogging.
Meanwhile, I'm moving my email to gmail so if you have my old address and haven't yet received the new one, please do email me and I'll let you know where I've gone. Old one still active for a wee while longer. Sorry for any confusion this may cause!