God’s ‘Bubble wrap’

Bubble wrap ..!

bubblewrap

It is addictive when you hold it .. you immediately want to pop it … to feel the round spheres  and their pressure under your fingers.  It has many uses, and having received quite a bit of bubble wrap over the years. It made me think of three ways in which God uses bubble wrap for us.

Firstly as a protection … as we protect items of value in transportation with bubble wrap, so God protects us in bubble wrap of Love… buffering us from the sharp edges of life which could hurt us, gossiping , fear, and doubt. Bubble wrap also is used as a pest deterrent, so as well as God protecting us from the sharp edges, it can protect us from the slow nibbling of pride, arrogance and power. Its buffering qualities are strong, yet if we are attracted to the forces outside the bubble wrap, the spheres can puncture and leave us vulnerable.

Secondly as a warm blanket … Bubble wrap is used to cover new born infants, athletes, and people who have been exposed to the elements of the weather and so retain heat. Our Bodies respond to the warmth, a change happens…a positive reaction to the heat.  As we feel the warmth of God’s love and strength surrounding us, we are mindful of the times when the chilly winds of life have battered us about…of disappointments, redundancy, debt and illness. To be insulated and cocooned in a blanket of God’s Love for us, a rich treasure, one that we loathe to discard.

Thirdly to make us seek the child within us. Even though God delights in protecting and warming us in Love, God also delights in our laughter and enjoyment in the little things of life. The revelation we seek from popping the thin plastic circles, is an instant distresser and comforter! However, If we hold the bubble wrap up to the light, our vision is clouded and we cannot see directly through the wrap. We know there is air inside, we can feel it and hear the air explode out, yet sight is distorted. Paul writes about’ seeing through a glass dimly’. Life is a constant revelation where through relationships , physical, sexual and emotional we can start to encounter the God who dwells in life itself.

To understand God in the fullest sense, we need to seek the face of God…. not through the Bubble wrap, but in Jesus, together with the guidance and reflections of spiritual mystics of the early church Fathers and Mothers, and in spiritual contemplatives and theologian throughout the centuries.

God, be in my head, and in my understanding.
God, be in mine eyes, and in my looking.
God, be in my mouth, and in my every speaking word.
God, be in my heart, and in my thinking.
God, be at mine end, I pray.
God, be in my heart, and in every breath I take

Adaptation of a medieval prayer (from the Sarum Primer 1538)

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The fragrance of memory

Over the last few days I have undertaken pastoral visits for funerals.

I have always found it a privilege to conduct funerals, and on a visit, I always ask what memories they would like to share with me about the person who has died; about the character , personality and sense of humour. Sometimes we end up laughing, sometimes they are painful and tears come, and sometimes the memories can bring a warmth to the room as they talk fondly and lovingly about them.

Memories are like a scent, a fragrance, we encounter a fleeting smell, that ignites a memory, then it can be over as quickly as it came…… Yet it leaves a lingering aroma.

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Memories can lock us into a time a place.

The people who encounter Jesus, would have shared memories, about his character, his voice, his eyes, his touch and even his conversation.

We tend to forget that the gospel stories only give us a glimpse of Jesus. The Bible has only recorded accounts that the writers felt served a purpose to describe the nature and purpose of Jesus ministry, yet those memories still linger on, because those same Bible stories still speak to us today, for example, the story of the God Samaritan , the woman at the well , the Easter stories.

Memories are like fragrances, they can be heavy and oppressive, and also light and suble.

As we recall memories of situations and people, some painful and others joyous, may we be mindful that Jesus was also present, that memories enrich who we are , memories have shaped our sense of identity , memories have left a mark on life itself.

They can come anytime Lord,

they bring me to laughter or tears.

I can be washing up plates at the sink,

or looking at a beautiful view,

then my mind floods with pictures dancing in my mind.

Memories can be breathing spaces

where I can rest and remember

they can sustain me in my hour of despair

and bring a light into my life

Occasionally memories are painful

buried deep within many layers of my psyche

too frightened to come out of the darkness

Jesus and the disciples had many memories,

like me…… some painful and others joyful.

Lord whatever memories I may raise,

may I know that you are with me,

in my hurtful or joyful moments,

Holding me tenderly,

like a mother comforts a child

Amen

Sunshine and showers

sunshine and showers

The summer weather has been a mixture of the two S’s …sunshine and showers.  Mostly the sun has been shining, and when this happens, everyone seems to be happier and more positive, yet when the showers did come … gosh did it rain !! Dark clouds, thunderstorms and the rain pounding onto the pavement and grass….. much needed water for the plants and crops.

For most people, the weather can affect us quite significantly. We feel positive and optimistic when the weather is sunny and warm, however wind, cold and rain can bring gloomy thoughts – even despair. Like the weather- each of us as individuals, has a sunny side and a shadow side. Many of us feel we always have to put on a ‘sunny’ face, always be cheerful and positive  ….and yet yearn to have someone listen to us, to tell them of our fears, worries and doubts.

God knows us intimately, the sunny side and the shadow side, and with his unconditional love and grace he always will love and treasure us. After the heavy shower and the sun starts to peek through the clouds we sometime get a rainbow, or beautiful rays that shine through the dark clouds, a reminder of God’s promise to us and bless us with abundant love.

If life is treating you harshly, or you feel that you cannot allow people to see the real you….if you are fearful of being judged or feel excluded in some way from society and community, remember there is one loyal and true friend you have who loves and totally accepts the whole you, the real you , the you that no-one else sees or knows …and that is Jesus.

 

Prayer

 

God of the sunshine and showers .

In the days when I feel depressed , and full of despair

When the dark clouds loom ever closer

And all I feel is emptiness

Enfold me in your tender care

 

In the days I feel unworthy and excluded

When my loneliness pulls me to greater depths

And hope is replaced by fear

Enfold me in your tender care

 

In the days when I feel uplifted and full of joy

When the sunshine lifts my Spirit

And every moment brings a smile

Enfold me in your tender care

 

Enable me Lord to see beyond the rain

To bright skies and a soaring Spirit

As the eagle rises on currents of warm air to glide high above the earth

May we who are part our your body

Rise to new heights within us

To capture the essence of your Grace

so we may forever bathe in your goodness and light.

Amen

 

Small boy reflecting on Good Friday

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I have a had a very interesting Good Friday.The service went well , ecumenical , quiet and reflective with some music from Keith Duke from Lindesfarne; only one reflection from Mary Jesus mother, and then each person took a nail to the cross and laid it down before the candle was extinguished.

How ever the most powerful image that will remain with me, is the image of my 8 yr old grandson on the floor gazing at the cross( see picture). When I asked him if he was OK … he said yes .. I was just thinking about the pain that Jesus must have had once nails were in him …..he then told me that he liked the red cloth as it reminded him of the blood , but also of the pain the world we live in.  I said that many people live in Good Friday and Holy Saturday mode … that all people can daily see and feel is pain and terror and fear, never getting to the resurrection hope that Easter Day brings.

Even though I obtained have a first class BA honours in Contextual Theology, and Masters in Theology, this simple act and conversation with my grandson that I witnessed spoke to me much more that words can imagine.

He knew pain, from his short life and personal experience, and knew it was part of life and living …yet he sat here thinking about how Jesus had helped him.

Thank God for children , who minister and teach us !!

Good Friday God,

When we can be immersed in Liturgies and words ,

The simple act of a sitting and reflecting in a childlike way …is all it takes ..

As we gaze at the cross, let us be aware of the pain of others

As we see your arms outstretched holding the world in an embrace.

Heal our wounds by your love for us

As we hear the cries of  friends,  families and strangers  who stood  before you .

Help us move from

the pain of living …..to the hope of abundant blessing.

In Jesus name …..we  pray this today Amen

The ‘scent’ of Love

 

annointing woman

 

My favourite perfume is Green Tea, by Elizabeth Arden … Not that I ever wear it a great deal, apart from special occasions, however I also love to have aromatherapy burning in the house. I adore the many scents and fragrances and often will mix them up and see what will develop. Although it has been a while now, I used make bread, which can evoke such memories of warmth and comfort, yet I feel one of the most tangible ‘scents’, is the scent of Love. I have been in a room where I have felt the magnetism in the air between two people, and again when I read the reading of the woman who anointed Jesus from the Gospel of John, I wondered what the atmosphere would have been like.

The onlookers would have been shocked and disgusted, that Jesus allowed her to anoint his feet; not a slave, but a woman of status, and her hair not bound and tied up like a good obedient Jewish woman would do, but let down, flowing locks for all to see, so she could wipe the excess oil from his feet. This act of true devotion has been discussed many times, and yet again, I too am reflecting on it. Recently, I thought that the smell of the oil would have been with Jesus for a long time. I know when I spilt aromatherapy oil on my fingers, the smell lingers for ages. Jesus knew that this caring and tender act would be a ‘final goodbye’, for now he faces Jerusalem; the city that is full of betrayal, deceit, bitterness and death.

He can smell the tension in the air, yet…. The overpowering scent which he will take with him is one of Love.

A scent which will sustain him through the difficult days ahead.

A scent which will calm his nerves

A scent which is just for him

And what does Mary get in return?…As she anoints his feet with oil, and the fragrance permeates every pore between them, she wipes his oily feet with her hair, and as the oil sticks to her hair it becomes drenched, so she unwittingly anoints herself on her forehead with the same oil . That simple, yet important act of courage and faithfulness, has been blessed by God.

As disciples, we serve the God of Love, and it is that Love which will be our ‘scent’ in the world, a scent which will linger, a scent which means devotion, a scent which will carry us through our difficult and sometimes tortuous journey of life.

God who is Love

whose Love for us is overflowing,

whose Love for us is eternal whose love for us is seen in the act of a woman

Bless us with the oil of gladness and faithfulness

So all may know that we are your disciples

Amen

Aside

Warm up this winter with a Prayer shawl

shawl

 

 Shawls … made for centuries universal and embracing,

symbolic of an inclusive, unconditionally loving, God.

They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace,

mother, hug, shelter and beautify.

Those who have received these shawls have been

uplifted and affirmed, as if given wings to

fly above their troubles…”

Whether they are called Prayer Shawls, Comfort Shawls, Peace Shawls, or Mantles, etc., the shawl maker begins with prayers and blessings for the recipient. The intentions are continued throughout the creation of the shawl. Upon completion, a final blessing is offered before the shawl is sent on its way. Some recipients have continued the kindness by making a shawl and passing it onto someone in need. Thus, the blessing ripples from person-to-person, with both the giver and receiver feeling the unconditional embrace of a sheltering, mothering God!

 Many groups that I have been involved with, have taken up the challenge of knitting prayer shawls. They are given out to people in the community, free of charge.

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Shawls can be used and given for people undergoing medical procedures; mental health crisis; as a comfort after a loss or in times of stress; during bereavement; prayer or meditation; commitment or marriage ceremonies; birthing, nursing a baby; a wedding gift; leading ritual; during an illness and recovery; ministering to others; graduation, birthday, anniversary, ordination, holiday gifts; or just socializing…there are endless possibilities!

 In the last five years, we have distributed over 50 shawls, knitted by men, women and children. We hope and pray that the recipients will feel the warmth of God’s love around them and feel treasured. If you have not thought about doing this , then please consider it..  it is a very practical and symbolic act to illustrate God’s love for us.

Prayer

 God who wraps us with love

Enfold us in your embrace,

So we may nestle our wounded spirit,

Within this garment of healing.

 Amen 

waiting …

I am quite frustrated ..as I am waiting for some personal news. However the waiting has come to the end for women Clergy in the Church of England as they have received the results for the Synod on Women Bishops . It is over .. for the moment … but many in the Anglican communion will be feeling hurt , sad, angry and disillusioned with the result . It means that women will have to wait a bit longer to have their rightful place alongside men in the hierarchy of the Church of England .Let us remember ..’ in God their is no difference with gender or  sexuality only that we are all made in the image of God , and that all are called to disciples. The woman in the Early Church were crucial t0 Paul’s ministry  and indeed Jesus’ too. I pray that justice will prevail and that true equality may happen in the one establishment, that has a woman as the head of ‘the Church’.