Saturday, 30 March 2013

Simply waiting

While I was in Italy as part of our devotions we all shared something we were waiting for. Whether it be; news on a church event going on while we were away, news on the health of a relative, waiting for healing, waiting for a suitcase to arrive from the airport. Then it came to me, I could have talked about waiting to find a new job, knowing what God has as the next step, but I talked about waiting for the other side of my future, for when my relationship turns into a marriage.

Last night I went to an act of worship. I’d been involved in setting it up. However I still managed to engage with it, much better than I’d expected. We started by singing then there was space for people to go around the 14 prayer stations. I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts as I went around the stations, looking into some of the characters in the story and taking an item to represent their part of the story.

Take a piece of jewelled cloth...
... to remember Herod dressing Jesus in a fine robe and mocking him.
This led me to ponder on when I mock Jesus, when my faith is a joke, when I go through the motions thinking I’m doing it right, when all I’m doing is going through the motions.

Take a piece of wood...
                                ...  to remember Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross.
Is it me helping Jesus or Jesus helping me? What is my cross, what is my burden, what is it that I have to carry? Who journeys with me?

Take a nail...
                ... to remember the Roman soldiers nailing Jesus to the cross
An everyday item, used in an extraordinary way.

Take a shimmery blue stone...
                                 ... to remember Pilate washing his hands when he handed Jesus over to die
How often do I want to keep my hands clean? Make me dirty in your work Lord.

Take a piece of sponge...
                                ...  to remember the person who offered Jesus a drink.
Let me be the one who feed the hungry, clothes the naked, houses the homeless and quenches the thirsty.

Take a piece of rough cloth...
... to remember the criminals who died with Jesus
What can you say? Those who died with him, one who understood who he was. Jesus’ act of forgiveness while dying beside him.

Take a heart...
                ... to remember the mother Mary’s love and sorrow.
Here I prayed for friends. Mothers who have lost their children, mothers who are pregnant, mothers with new babies. A mixture of joy and sorrow – all surrounded by love.

Take a stone...
... to remember the stone that Joseph of Arimathea rolled in front of the tomb.
I took the stone to represent why Jesus needed to be there, and thought as it is rolled away everything that it took with it – death and sin, thoughts, words and deeds. Gone.

Take a strip of cloth...
... to remember Nicodemus wrapping up Jesus’ body.
A simple bandage. Plasters in children fix many things, in this case Nicodemus did all that he could.

Take a coin...
                ... to remember Judas betraying Jesus
How often do I sell out? How often is money the most important thing?

Take a feather...
                ... to remember Peter disowning Jesus three times before the cock crowed.
The completed bag
A feather, so colourful, so free and so light – I love placing one on my outstretched hand and blowing on it to make it float. Peter, Jesus’ best friend, disowning him,  saying I don’t know him. When it comes down to the line can I stand up and say yes I know Jesus? I hope so.

Take a piece of torn cloth...
... to remember Caiaphas tearing his clothes in anger.
What do I do when I’m angry, or break in spite? When things are out of my control...

Take some cloves...
                ... to remember the women who watched and waited.
I often feel like I’m always waiting for something.

By living simply during lent I’ve tried to live in the moment, not worry about what is next, what I’m longing for and waiting for. But, here we are Holy Saturday. A day of mourning and sadness. Waiting for the dawn. Waiting as we know what we celebrate tomorrow. God who holds us while we wait, be our light. Amen

PS - you may have noticed that was 13 and not 14, the final one was about the people of the world and we took a cut out person to think about where we are in the story and write a prayer on a cross.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Holy Week Journey

When I first started this blog it was meant to be about how my job was changing me. But actually I haven't written much about work at all. However, I'm rather pleased with my Messy Easter Morning on Saturday at my most local church - I have 23 in all across the circuit and love working in all the ones I work in, so this isn't favouritism at all, it just happens to be photos I have.

It was a very snowy morning on Saturday so we didn't get many families - well we got one. But we had a number of crafts covering the Holy Week Journey.

Palm Sunday - this was a mixture of Weaving Palm leaves (from Baker Ross) and painting Jesus on a donkey and a crowd.

Maundy Thursday - more painting, the last supper scene painted by the mum of the family and mine and two of the kids favourite meals: theirs was both Pizza!

Good Friday - three simple crosses on a hillside.

Easter Sunday, the empty tomb surrounded by beautiful tissue flowers to represent new life.  As well as the only craft that didn't end up on the wall, and disappeared before I photographed it - chocolate nests. yummy!

Unlike Christmas which seems to last months, Easter is a blur, there is so much in the story to tell, we often skip from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. Or worst still tell the story of death without the joy of new life. For me the whole journey is so important.

So may you know the journey, from celebration and jubilation, to a meal with close friends, to confusion and change, to death and finally to resurrection.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Simple Extravagance

For lent I’ve tried to focus on simplicity. However the past few weeks have seemed to be more about extravagance.  Now I realise these aren’t exact opposites but they do seem to be at least partially opposing of one another.

Extravagance has come up in a number of ways.

March is a month of two halves. Though the first half has been what I’ve thought about when I talked about March. The first two full weeks of March I was meant to be in work for 4 days out of 14. Not that I was off work the rest, but I’ve been up and down the country / continent. The first obvious example of extravagance was at Connecting Disciples, the Connexional lay employees conference. I don’t mean the freebies or even all the sweets. I might mean the food, which there was a lot and it was very good, but the extravagance of love and friendship. Spending time with friends and colleagues from across the country as well as in the office in London. We were spoilt in the variety and brilliance of the speakers, workshop leaders and general team who provide the top notch conference that it was. I’m blessed that work send me to Connecting Disciples and the time of rest, fun, friendship, worship and learning. Maybe that is something simple.

The second full week in March included in it “The trip to Rome.” Memorable for having my purse stolen on the way home – as well as all the flight delays. Like my most recent post about my love of MWiB, I do have to say thank you for the incredible experience. I was in Rome when the white smoke went up and Pope Francis I was decided upon.  I then had two full days where I worked very hard as secretary, but that did include a trip to the hotel and my first Italian cappuccino. Lots and lots of food, with a pasta dish and another dish at every meal and lots of bread and oil on the side and fruit for afters. Again the fellowship of those 7 other women was powerful and made all the hard work easier. Next year’s Joint Area Seminar is going to be fab. As well as the extravagance of food, and a trip to Rome – and even the air company who gave free chocolate on every flight as well as meals, there was also extravagance shown from work letting me have two weeks away from the circuit next to each other.  I also got to spend a morning wandering in Rome. I had breakfast in a cafe, after being asked if I wanted to sit down or stand up – they don’t seem to do take away! I got to see some beautiful buildings, fountains, churches and parks. A glorious morning, despite the awful way the rest of the day panned out.

In between those two remarkable weeks was a weekend! The Saturday of which was spent with MWiB at the Connexional forum. The afternoon session started with a bible passage, the story of the perfume being broken over Jesus’ feet and the woman drying his feet with her hair. This was also the story Mum used on the Sunday morning after Rome when I was at her church unexpectedly. The conversations at the Forum were about extravagance. What can we give to Jesus, worth a whole years wages? In what ways do we give things to Jesus. Though our families, our churches, though MWiB. Our love, our time, our experience. To listen, to share, to grow, to love. It may be extravagant, but that sounds pretty simple to me.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Why I love MWiB

One of the recent times I’ve been grilled about Methodist Women in Britain (MWiB) I was asked about what difference the movement has made to me. That along with what does it offer to under 60s is a gift of a question. There are many things I love about being a part of MWiB. Now I just want to clarify I love men. I have a wonderful boyfriend, some great male mates who are very supportive. However there is something very special about women only movements.

There’s something special about singing and worship. I grew up going to church with my Dad and Brother. I know my Mum must have been around before I was ten, but then she preached a bit then. Most of my memories of church as a child are when Mum was a minister and therefore I sat with Dad and Brother. It is for this reason I get confused in hymns with a split mens:womens part. Anyway when I’m at an MWiB event the worship and singing is something rather beautiful, the different tones of women’s voices. I know the first time I wasn’t impressed as I had just come straight from Spring Harvest but now I love the sensitivity of it. 

There something special about the way they care. Again this is not an anti-man thing as I know I have male friends who care – as a wonderful Boyfriend, Dad and Brother. And in the case I’m going to come to later it was a male friend I text for advice first. But knowing that on a certain day of the month women all over the connexion are praying for me is rather special. The sisters, mothers, aunties, cousins and friends I can call or go round and see when I’m upset, or happy. When life goes my way, or when God’s plan isn’t obvious just yet. When my purse was stolen in Italy – I was there for a Methodist and Uniting Church Women in Europe Seminar Planning Meeting, but more about that in another blog later in lent (I will go back to simplicity soon), it was a random stranger, an angel disguised as an American women who came to my aid and gave me the money to get a new train ticket. It was my friends who I had spent the week with who texted and called later to check I was home, and even emailed telling me how excellent I had been at the planning meeting.  These are my sisters with whom I cry and laugh, sing, pray and smile.

There’s something special about the way they enable me to grow. These women are the ones who give me incredible experiences – travel to South Africa and Rome, speak to hundreds of women, introduce me to a baroness, suggest my name to go to Irish Methodist Conference. The way they support me when I’ve had a grilling about the exclusiveness of a women’s group – or the history that is older than me. They even trust me to use the twitter account. 

MWiB isn’t about members, its bigger than Methodism, bigger than women and bigger than Britain. Next year we get to meet with women, from all over Europe, in July we finish our rubber glove campaign about world wide child domestic workers when we hopefully go to Vince Cable’s office. Whether you are a man or a woman you can find out more at the MWiB website or please ask me questions.

Its special because it engages with anyone, just as they are, accepts and loves and helps us all to grow together.

And  if you still don’t believe we have anything to offer to the under 60s check out my video 

Monday, 11 March 2013

simply being - so many words

Living simply has led me to think about a number of things.

Maybe the fact I’ve not been blogging has actually fitted in as I’ve been trying to concentrate on what I’m doing – being present and in the moment.

Other friends have been doing a photo a day, which I’ve loved checking out and reading the reflections but I was without my phone at the start of Lent. But this is what I’m doing!

I do now have a tv. Though so far have just watched things that I’ve really wanted to watch and this evening I’ve also been sewing while watching Mr Selfridges – housewife practice! Not that I think I’ll be a housewife.

I’m doing a session at the MWiB Swanwick Conference in April and I want to talk about multitasking – something women are known for being able to do. Living simply in Lent is the opposite.

I went on retreat in half term, a time of prayer, food, sleep, mass, (I was with Catholic Nuns) and quiet. I went to find silence, I hardly spoke aloud for 48 hours, just little bits of chit chat at meal times and communal prayer and singing softly. The repetition of a certain chant after every reading “praise to the Father almighty, to his son Jesus Christ the Lord, to the Spirit that dwells in our hearts, both now and forever, amen.” There was one thing that I had a problem with though. There are too many words. I took books to read, I wrote poetry which I never do, shutting my brain up is hard work. Not multitasking is like not using words. Simply being.

At the World Mission Forum, of which I am now a member, we talked a lot about being. A mission partner told us of the advise she was given - just to be.

We’re about half way through Lent.  So I’m sure I still have loads left to learn.
But here is the first poem I wrote while with the nuns, when trying to escape the words.

Words, So many words
Hello, how are you?
How’s your day?
So many words
What’s going on?
What are you up to?
Can I join you?
So many words
Books and texts
Emails and phone calls
What’s going on?
So many words
Where, what, why, when
So many words
So many