the mountains (of Mansfield)

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The muscles of the mountains;

the sinews of the hills

with scars across the ridgeline

… my heart and spirit fills.

Shaded shadows of the clouds

shrouding mysteries untold

Ancient omens from the mountains

tales of long-gone times of old.

Tethered to the earth …

yet reaching for the sky

Dressed with moods of the Creator

‘justice’ … is their cry.

Train travel, seed germination and change

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It started with a jolt … then creaking as the pace expanded … then came a quiet rumbling when the speed increased … and finally, ease and rhythm with a gentle rocking motion.

This describes the beginning of a long train journey we took recently. But, equally well, it could describe the germination of a seed as it cracks open the seed-coat that has held it in dormancy and begins to expand into cotyledons and the first root. With time, the buried plantlet rumbles it’s way through the dark earth and emerges into the light and air above the ground. Once there, the miracle of photosynthesis begins and the rhythm of plant growth and development is set in motion.

Perhaps this sequence of sounds and movement also describes aptly our experience of major changes or shifts in our human lives. As we begin 2021, while still living in the covid shadow of 2020, I believe we will be able to embrace a new normal that will enable us to make many bold changes that need to be made. Changes in the way we care for the earth. Changes in the way we share food, water, land and resources. Changes in how we relate to time, the ocean, other species, the wild places on earth. Changes in the way we regard money, work, progress, sustainability and waste. Maybe even changes in the way we view ourselves, our neighbours and our deity.

Whatever this year holds for you, we hope there is more kindness and that you get to take a long train ride!

What’s the good in Christmas?

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Maybe it’s the gentleness

 of a God who cares

 

Maybe it’s the compassion

of a God who wants things to be better …

fairer …

kinder.

 

Maybe it’s the humility

of God as a baby

 

Maybe it’s the vulnerability

of God entering humanity.

 

Maybe it’s the justice

of telling poor shepherds first.

 

Maybe it’s the miracle

of the unsuspecting virgin giving birth

… her husband confused

… and both misunderstood,

yet bold enough to trust

to trust in an unpredictable

and totally trustworthy God.

 

The God of Love

The God of Comfort

The God of Grace.

 

Maybe it’s the inclusion

of rich foreigners,

who do not  know the Jewish God

who have not heard of Jehovah

have not read the Book

are not expecting the new king to be God.

 

Maybe it’s the peace

of a sleeping newborn,

who promises to save us from our selves.

 

Maybe it’s the joy

of knowing the friendship of God,

a friendship that can’t be earnt

… only received.

 

Maybe that’s the good in Christmas!

 

(by Lyn Beattie)

love; a practice contained in precise gestures

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Place me like a seal over your heart,

            like a seal on your arm;

for love is as strong as death,

            its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

It burns like blazing fire,

            like a mighty flame.

Many waters cannot quench love;

            rivers cannot wash it away.

If one were to give all of the wealth of their house … for love,

            it would be utterly scorned.

O place me like a seal over your heart,

            engrave my name on your arm,

for love is what I search for;

            its warmth and beauty every day.

Embalm me as I wake

            with the dew of the morning,

imbibe me once again in waters;

            in your living streams of love.

If you would embody me with the wealth of your soul … for love

            I would be imbued with your presence.

(The first verse is taken from The Song of Songs, the second verse is original)       

Rowdy in heaven

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rowdy …

It’s getting rowdy in heaven

Angels and elders and mythical creatures

have heard the shofar call

There’s a buzz

God has called for the books;

the records, days of destiny,

purposes, promises

‘Someone pick up a pen’

Creator cries out to the company of heaven

‘write this down, write it down now:

‘from now on, lies will not stick

‘humans will be told the truth

‘my words will be the loud ones

‘my plans will be the blueprint

‘my wisdom will create reality

‘people will see my love

‘hear my voice

‘walk in my ways

‘they will be cherished

‘and led by my hand

‘to pastures of green

‘shalom on the earth

‘our kindom will be established

‘on earth as it is in heaven

Doors are opening

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I was going through some spiritual direction a few years ago and saw my position in life as being on a small boat with the ropes that held me to shore gradually being cut. And the boat was sitting still because it was at slack tide. It was not a negative thing, rather a sense that the old ties that had held me in place for my life’s previous chapter were being cut and I would be free to start moving in a new direction.

Of course, once you see the boat start to move and see all your old points of reference start to move relative to you, a minor shot of panic can course through your veins.

When I was young I travelled to a new country by boat. In those days hundreds of people came to the dock to see you off and the people on the boat threw streamers to those on shore. There were thousands and thousands of streamers. It seemed to my young mind that the sheer weight of streamers would keep the boat firmly attached to shore even when the shore lines were retrieved. Of course, it didn’t happen and the streamers just snapped and fell into the water and we were on our way to a new country.

Well, in the last few months we have been watching doors opening for our (grown) children. It is very satisfying to see them take fresh steps to independence and growth in whatever sphere of life they are moving. And of course it means that our role as parents is changing. And it means that we are starting to see doors opening for us for the next chapter of life as well.

Fortunately the human brain is wired for change.  It is wired for routine as well, but it is designed to cope with change, plan for it and adapt to it.  But it will also grieve for aspects of the past.

I was reading today about people whose homes were being removed for the sake of a suburban re-development.  There was significant pain attached with people losing their community and their known roots, especially as the site had been something of a refuge for people moving away from difficult circumstances.  The article was focused on the role of the developer and of government to provide adequate support and compensation but it captured something of the grief of change when someone is forced to change their circumstances involuntarily.

So today I will be considering the changes that I need to make, and the changes that I want to make, the changes that are a natural part of growth and the changes that are cast upon me as an inevitable part of the variability of human life.  And I hope to recognise that the little boat I am in is not drifting aimlessly.

Bon voyage…

Dwell

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To dwell, like Linger, means to delay or tarry but it also means to live within. We can dwell on a subject or we can dwell within a building. It is not hard to imagine how these two meanings might have arisen from a single word – if you delay or linger long enough in a place, you can certainly end up living there. But what is the extra significance when we choose to dwell?

(And for the nostalgics amongst us, who can remember setting the “dwell angle” on our car’s distributor after we had changed the points? During every rotation of the car’s engine, the points had to dwell in the closed position for the correct amount of time before opening to ensure the ignition of the fuel mixture in the cylinder occurred at the optimum time.)

A lot of “dwelling” goes on in the Bible. We are told that God dwells in light, dwells in heaven and in the church. Christ dwelt on earth in the days of incarnation; he now dwells in the hearts of his people. And the Holy Spirit dwells in believers. Clearly it is an important word for us to dwell upon! In these cases it is clear that to dwell is more than just to linger but is also to inhabit – which is lingering to the furthest degree.

It is illuminating to think that God dwells both in heaven and in the church. The Creator wants to be a part of that which is created. But more importantly, for those who accept it, the Divine wants to dwell in us and that is the most significant thing of all.

The final use of dwell in the Bible is when we are exhorted to “let the word of God dwell in us richly”. I always take this to mean that we are to ponder and to consider these things that show us what the character of the Divine is like. Not to let them rush past us without consideration but to chew them over to gain wisdom from them.

I hope you get a chance to dwell on the fact that the desire of the Creator is to dwell within those who have been created.

Happy dwelling!

Linger

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This verb means ‘stay in a place longer than necessary because of a reluctance to leave’. If linger has a ‘great aunt’, it would be the old-fashioned word ‘tarry’, and ‘loiter’ would also be part of the family (albeit an outcast due to their criminal associations).

We do not see/do much lingering these days as we moderns are much too busy to tarry or ‘waste time’ with things that do not seem productive or lucrative. However, there is an event recorded in the Greek sacred text that may challenge us to reconsider the importance of lingering when appropriate. When Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane, tormented by the reality of his impending death, he said to his friends, ‘Could you not tarry with me even for one hour?’ His disciples had fallen asleep and Christ yearned for their comfort and companionship in his most difficult hour. Always full of grace, he excused them saying, ‘The spirit is willing but the body is weak’.

When is it appropriate to linger? Perhaps when someone is grieving? Maybe when playing with a young child or listening to an elder tell their stories of long ago. Or, when you visit with a friend who is sick or struggling. What about when we are in nature awestruck by the wonder of the detail, the grandeur or the beauty? Perhaps there are many reasons to linger. Maybe the most important time to linger is in prayer. Maybe we can answer the Divine One, ‘Yes, I can tarry with you’.

Happy lingering.

Scorn

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I felt this verb was an unlikely candidate for our current series but here it is requesting our attention.

Scorn is defined as ‘contempt or disdain felt towards something (or someone) considered despicable and/or unworthy’. It can be a noun or a verb. My interest in this emotionally ladened word is entwined with a verse from the Christian sacred text. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, wrote: ‘For the joy set before him, Christ endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’

Christ scorned. The God-person scorned the shame of the cross while he endured this hideous process of death at the hands of the Romans egged-on by his own people. Christ despised the violence of humans crucifying other humans. It was done publicly and cruelly. This form of punishment (and death) was used especially for dissidents and those who opposed Roman-rule, and the perpetrators were hung at eye-level to be seen and made an example of to others contemplating revolt. This loving and wise human (Christ) was filled with the difficult emotions of contempt and disdain while being subjected to this cruel human practice. He endured this suffering while scorning the shame, cruelty, pain and injustice of this experience, no doubt fully aware that others were also experiencing such intolerable deaths .

Those of us who believe in the redemptive nature of Christ’s death, and resurrection, need to be careful that we do not disregard the importance of his scorning of shame while he experienced the sting of death.

Christ also expressed scorn, or a similar emotion, when he saw that the area set aside for foreigners and sojourners in the temple had been taken-over by Jewish money-changers. On this occasion, Christ did not endure the injustice and shame felt by non-Jews having their sacred space stolen, but acted swiftly to bring correction.

Maybe we need a reminder of the necessity to scorn shame and injustice if we are to also sit down at the right hand of a loving (and just) Deity.

redeem

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We have decided to do a series on verbs to celebrate ‘doing’ words and to acknowledge the activities that can be enjoyed regardless of the level of restriction we experience.

Our first contender is ‘redeem’; re-deem.

The word ‘deem’ comes from the old English word ‘deman’ – meaning ‘act as a judge’. Other connotations include: to decide whether a characteristic is present, to regard and hold an opinion, to consider something or someone to have a quality, to define worth or lack of worth, and to give value to.

So, to redeem someone or something is to re-deem them; to determine their value afresh.

This word, redeem, is used often in Christianity but it has become apparent to me that it has lost its true meaning and beauty. It usually conjures up images of a Divine superhero who is focused on cleaning up the messes we make of our lives and saving us from our well-deserved punishments.

Today, I wish to redeem this word in its spiritual context; to redefine it and ascribe new value to it. The sacred writings tell us that we are made in the image of the Divine One, that we are loved and lovable, that we are cherished and respected, that we are called (deemed) ‘friends of God/dess’. We are assured of our significance, our value, and our worth by Eloihym (an ancient name for Deity which means ‘the powers’).

Regardless of how our friends, families, partners, parents, acquaintances deem (value) us, God/dess alone knows us perfectly and deems us loved and honoured. Therefore, to be ‘redeemed’, means to be re-instated into our rightful position of worth and belovedness. Apart from ourselves, Creator alone has the right to define us, my friends, and delights to redeem us! Be loved.