Saturday, 31 October 2020

What are shrouds for?

Isaiah 42:9-10

See, the former things have come to pass,

and new things I now declare;

before they spring forth,

I tell you of them.

Sing to the Lord a new song,

his praise from the end of the earth!

Let the sea roar and all that fills it,

the coastlands and their inhabitants.

Shrouds are for the dead

For covering up decaying remains

They do not transform

They only mask

And underneath, erosion continues

until, in time, only an outline endures,

a hint of something once treasured and loved,

remaining only in memories and myths

that have become another form of shroud

through which it is impossible 

to distinguish truth 

In a season when our rituals of faith

are shrouded in mystery

weighed down by tradition

dare we peel back those shrouds?

Dare we lift a corner

to peek beneath

and recognise, 

before it is too late,

those things that may have served us well

in a dim and distant past

but that should be left now

to their natural demise

Dare we name aloud

a new truth for a new season?

A light for today’s darkness?

Dare we step away

from tiptoeing around the dead weights

and chart a new direction

that heads towards light and life?

Brush off the stray threads that still cling,

whose filaments, though slender, hold us back?

Dare we take good, long, freeing strides

that carry us on to a new threshold

where we are greeted by joy

and carried in love?

And, resolving not to look back

or yearn for the comfort of the familiar

by which we were weighed down

discover the new territory

that awaits with the promise

of a new course

for a new world

where these three remain:

Faith, hope and love.


Sunday, 18 October 2020

Practice makes perfect


Romans 12:9-10
Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. (The Message)

The seconds occupy

a space inside 

usually sandwiched between

more vocal parts

Their role to enhance 

and amplify

all the beauty around

Contributing to the whole

in a nuanced, subtle way


Bringing harmony

Interpreting another perspective

Providing a different insight

 Navigating tricky rhythms and intervals

The seconds bring depth

and focus

Occasionally coming to the fore

but mostly remaining hidden

Often overlooked

and underestimated

More noticed by their absence

than their presence

Their gifts and skills

may be misunderstood

deemed less than

by those who lack perception

A cost they are willing to bear

secure in their calling

not settling for less

but bringing more

And those who take the time

to affirm their gifts

and seek their accompaniment

are enriched by their giving

Caught up

and encircled

by a love that is fierce

in its passion

and clear in its mission:

To contribute to the creation

of something whole

and worthwhile

a thing of beauty

birthed in playful improvisation

delivered in wondrous accord.

The gift of second fiddle.

Monday, 5 October 2020

The other side


Luke 8:22-23

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger.

Do I really want to get to the other side?

Who knows what is waiting there?

The other side

is not a destination

but another threshold

to the unknown

Who knows who - or what will meet us there?

(Jesus encountered a Demoniac on the other shore)

Sometimes, even in a storm,

hunkering down in the stern of the boat

seems a better prospect

than venturing to the other side

Turbulence brings its own kind of security

It’s when the storm abates

and the other shore is within reach 

that a whole new drama begins

and we long to be back in the storm

with Jesus asleep in our midst.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Grief’s Embrace


Someone has written

something new

in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.

Even as the light fades quickly now,

you are arriving.

David Whyte - The Journey

Every year I find myself

yearning the loss of summer

resisting the onset of autumn

I’m never ready

for shorter days

and colder nights

or for the darkness

that wraps itself around

curtailing outdoor activity to fewer hours.

Even though I appreciate the beauty of the woods

in all its many hues

and the carpet of fallen leaves

through which to crunch and look for conkers 

And the wind on the beach

where I can gulp clean, fresh air

even as it whips up the sand

and re-lays it in unfamiliar patterns

“Not yet,” I want to cry.

This year the passing of summer

is just one more loss

in a landscape of grief

with all it’s crevices and craters 

It’s taken me a while to realise that I was sitting with grief

For she comes to us in many guises.

Yet in the knowing

there comes a companionship

a forging of friendship

an intimacy

with the emotions she releases

with the knowledge she uncovers

with the wisdom she reveals.

Grief becomes for us 

a stepping off point

from which and in which

we are reconnected

with who we are

and with whose we are

We are strong enough to embrace

each new season with the gifts it brings

and the truths it reveals

Strong enough to let go of what has defined us

and, with gratitude,

embrace the freedom

to be changed for a new season

of love and fruitfulness

borne up by the unrelenting

love and persistence of God

who joins us to rake through the ashes of our life

sitting with us until we discover

that the new was there all along.

Together, we can do this.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Breakfast encounter

 John 21:12-14

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

“Come and have breakfast”

An ordinary invitation

issued in an extraordinary time

A smidgeon of normality

in a world turned upside down

An invitation

to much more than breakfast

For as you nourished bodies

worn out from working all night

As you whetted appetites

dulled by grief and confusion

As you went about the ordinary tasks

of cooking and serving fish and bread

you also soothed troubled minds

and tenderly cared for bruised spirits

And, as the smoke from the fire cleared

so that your friends could see you

the wounds of your suffering

clearly visible

they knew you

their risen Lord

calling and commissioning them

to new life

characterised by radical love

and infinite compassion

calling and commissioning them

to feed others

and to care for their spirits

calling and commissioning them

to allow their wounds

to be means of healing the world.

Risen Lord,

if today

we should encounter you

accompanying us at breakfast,

making yourself known to us

in this strange and disorientating time

may we know our appetites whetted

and our doubts and confusion 

tamped down for a bit

at least enough for us to hear 

your call and commission to us

to feed your sheep.

And may our hope be reborn

and our passion renewed

for the healing of all creation.

Friday, 11 September 2020

A prayer for grace

God give me grace

Grace in bucket loads

Grace to deal with rules and regulations

that make no sense

Grace to deal with the closing in

that comes from an institution in crisis

Grace to recognise my own stress reactions

that exacerbate already difficult times

Grace to stop and breathe

so that, in the midst of conflict

I may exhale peace

And, in the heat of irritation

I may exude calm

God, shower me with grace

Grace that dissipates resentment

Grace that soothes hurt

Grace that brings courage

to speak truth calmly, with love

Grace that always looks for good intentions

rather than seeing annoying bureaucracy

Grace that chooses gentle humour

rather than aggressive confrontation 

Grace that finds a way

and doesn’t fall at the first hurdle

Grace that hunkers down

and calls forth love

Grace that confounds every effort

to diminish the spark of God

in one whom God declares beloved.

Grace - enough - and more


Wednesday, 2 September 2020

A new normal


1 Corinthians 13:13

And now three things remain: faith, hope, and love;  and the greatest of these is love.

What if there is no new normal?

What if this is it?

A constant surge here and twist there

What if we cannot find a new routine?

And all the stages of grief continue to assail us

from moment to moment?

How then shall we be pilgrims without way-markers?

There is an echo of something familiar

In constantly moving on, learning as we go

In adopting new ways, temporary rituals

The difficulty is that we like to nail things down

We like our establishment

We like to write tradition on tablets of stone

We like to frame our practices about with solid pillars

even if it makes their toppling all the more grievous 

The lightness of following

a whimsical God

who playfully calls us

to become like children

open to adventure

seeing every new day

as an opportunity

and being grateful for its potential

for the potential of learning new things

for the potential of discovering new wonders

for the potential of each day becoming “the best day”

What if we relearned

that our productivity is not the measure

by which we are judged

Nor our steadiness

or predictability

But, rather, creativity, gentleness, kindness, hope

become signs of health and wealth

And, our sharing of those gifts with those who struggle

bearing one another up on the days when we own our abundance

And being borne up on those days when we need the strength of others

Taking what we need, giving what we can

Co-creating temporary new normals together

and holding lightly to that which we may need to discard

when another new normal comes along

Called by God

to keep on moving

transformed and transforming

by faith

by hope

and by love.

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