Lent blog 2005
Welcome to the third Grace Lent blog. Everyday, in Lent, one member of the Grace community will post a personal thought, reflection, idea, picture - whatever they want! It might directly relate to Lent, it might be more personal or just seem a bit random. Hope you enjoy joining us on this journey.
Posted by harry on Sun 27 Mar 2005
Nun wait so eagerly
...for the big day
Posted by Mother Nunzilla on Sat 26 Mar 2005
O dark dark dark...
O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters.
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away --
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing --
I SAID TO MY SOUL, BE STILL, AND WAIT WITHOUT HOPE
FOR HOPE WOULD BE HOPE FOR THE WRONG THING;
WAIT WITHOUT LOVE
FOR LOVE WOULD BE LOVE OF THE WRONG THING;
THERE IS YET FAITH
BUT THE FAITH AND THE LOVE AND THE HOPE ARE ALL IN THE WAITING.
WAIT WITHOUT THOUGHT FOR YOU ARE NOT READY FOR THOUGHT;
SO THE DARKNESS SHALL BE THE LIGHT, AND THE STILLNESS THE DANCING.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden echoed ecstasy
NOT LOST, BUT REQUIRING, POINTING TO THE AGONY
OF DEATH AND BIRTH.
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go by the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
and what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not...
TS Eliot East Coker, The Four Quartets
SO THE DARKNESS SHALL BE THE LIGHT AND THE STILLNESS THE DANCING.
Posted by Julie on Fri 25 Mar 2005
did you eat lamb tonight?
today is maundy thursday –the night when Jesus did the first ever eucharist/communion/bread and wine thing, with his disciples. They had lamb too cos they were celebrating the jewish passover feast. i guess he knew Lamb would be a bit too complicated and messy to give out every Sunday morning all over the world for millennia afterwards so he just stuck with the bread and wine significance. Maybe he was predicting vegetatianism too.
I read somewhere though that loads and loads of wine was traditionally drunk with this meal. How did it get shrunk down into a small sip with increasing amounts of crumbs and other scum floating in it on sunday mornings when it gets passed round?
action point: this Sunday morning, if a cup comes your way, in celebration, drink a bit more than usual – there’s usually more out the back, and see what happens. It’s the biggest party of the year isn’t it?
Maundy means ‘command’. Jesus’ charge to the disciples was to ‘love one another’. Nice. Even better than lamb and wine.
Posted by merlot the lamb on Thu 24 Mar 2005
Sap suckin squirrel
This squirrel may have been sharpening its teeth but it really looked like it was sucking sap out of the tree outside the window. It was so engrossed it didn't see me 2 metres away. When it had finished there was squirrel spit all over the branch. Nice. It got at what it wanted from different angles - a bit like us and lent.
Posted by Squouse on Wed 23 Mar 2005
Giving up for Lent
I guess if you’ve been conscientious and read the entire Lent blog up to this point, you know all about Lent, eh? Got it all sussed out, huh? When I was asked to post a entry, I had to stop and ask myself, ‘So what’s this “Lent” thing really all about?’ Therefore, being somewhat of a technical nature, I had to go back to first principles.
What does the Bible say (after all, it is ‘the maker’s instructions’)?
First challenge is that the word “Lent” doesn’t appear in the Bible at all (well I couldn’t find it in an NIV concordance). It is one of those surprising words that doesn’t appear in the good book, like “Trinity”. OK, so lets try other sources…
What does the man in the street say?
Having insufficient time and gusto to go out in the street with a clipboard, I sufficed with the opinions from some of my work colleagues.
“Well it’s a period when you give something up” was the answer that came back most consistently. My catholic colleague at work puts me to shame as he religiously follows the Christian festivals in the calendar, including lent. He usually gives up chocolate or beer or both (real ale being the more important of the two in his life).
The common secular answer to Easter being about chocolate eggs doesn’t truly satisfy, just like the chocolate! So onto the next source…
What does the internet say?
After all, if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right? Google provided the usual abundance of answers, but the best definition I found was:
“Originating in the fourth century of the church, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and concluding Saturday before Easter. Originally, Lent was the time of preparation for those who were to be baptized, a time of concentrated study and prayer before their baptism at the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord early on Easter Sunday. But since these new members were to be received into a living community of Faith, the entire community was called to preparation.“ (Courtesy of: Christian Resource Institute)
As usual with the Christian walk, God’s unbelievable rewards (think chocolate eggs) come after the challenges (think fasting).
Remember the old adage? "Less is More"
So what have you given up for lent?
Most of us have full or overflowing lives. Don’t you? I know I do. What are you going to give up? Can you give up something for good, not just for lent? Some thoughts – sin, ways not honouring to our walk with Christ, things that don’t fit in God’s plan for your life?
Jesus gave up his life on the cross. Now that’s what I call giving up a lot.
Posted by Tim on Tue 22 Mar 2005
During the night I had a vision— and there before me was a man riding a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses.
I asked, What are these, my lord? The angel who was talking with me answered, I will show you what they are.
Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, They are the ones the LORD has sent to go throughout the earth.
And they reported to the angel of the LORD, who was standing among the myrtle trees, We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.
Zechariah 1 vv 8-11 (Pictures by Jack B Yeats)
This prophecy initially sounds like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in Revelation, but the action of these horses is completely different. What might it represent in real life?
Posted by rebecca on Mon 21 Mar 2005
a desert planet
I was recently takling part in a training day and sue wallace led some worship. she did this neat piece which drew a parallel between the passage about Jesus journeying into the desert and the place the church is in now. She kindly gave me permission to post it so here it is...
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan.And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
A desert planet....
Once we stood by the clear waters, knowing who we were, who the church was and where we were going....
...now we’re in the desert....
...severe and bleak.
...but full of Eastern promise.
...the rules are different.
The old ways don’t work.
...it is a lonely place,
There are snakes and scorpions.
we have been stripped of our illusions
and we are in the desert.
for God to speak.
Turn these stones into bread.
the instant solution.
the quick fix. If we just..if we just...
change our chairs, change our prayers, fix the roof.
Then everything will be lovely.
The tempter said. Go on. Turn these stones into bread
bread. like the bread used to be, in the old days...
in a warm hearth in Nazareth.
It was so good then. I can almost smell the yeast.
A quick-fix and they’ll all come back.
But it is written. You can’t live by bread alone.
We need more than that. In this desert planet.
Every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Living God, we need you here, to tell us what to do.
Feed us with your words, we are hungry!
Show us the next step. How to be your church in this undiscovered world.
As we sit in the sand and try to hear you.
And the tempter said. Look. Here are all the kingdoms of the world.
I’ll give you all of this. If you just worship me.
Yes. Maybe that would be easier.
Maybe we should give up. And join the others.
Worship at Ikea, religiously.
Or Kylie, or Microsoft, or Visa,
I believe in the Holy Catalog Church.
You can have it all. Worship me.
Everything we’ve ever wanted.
At a price. But that price would be too high.
Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.
Who else can we turn to.
You’re the one who gives us life.
And though we may we walking in the wilderness.
You are here with us.
Let us glimpse a burning bush somewhere on the way.
This is a lonely planet.
He will command his angels. They’ll protect you. You needn’t even stub your toes.
Our attendance is plummeting but we needn’t fear
the angels will catch us.
Someone else will fix it. We’ll leave it up to them.
An evangelist with a funny name, or the parish next-door.
This desert is too difficult. So maybe I’ll just sleep.
Jesus answered the tempter. Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
Jesus Help us.
Its hard to find the energy. When the sand pushes against us.
When we stumble in the wilderness. When we can’t see the way.
When the old signposts have disappeared
And all we have are sand-dunes.
But we know...
We can’t do a quick-fix
We can’t give up
We can’t leave it to someone else.
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit returned.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.
Because he has anointed me.
To bring good news to the poor.
Good news came from out of the desert.
There is good news.
God has brought us here to hear it.
And God will lead us the Promised Land.
Posted by jonny on Sat 19 Mar 2005
In the Orthodox tradition, sin is seen as an ailment, a chronic sickness, with which we all inevitably live. In that way, it's not unlike HIV or MS -- some days are better and some are worse, but we've always got it.
So, I guess we're all "sin-positive." And Lent is the time when we check into the hospital for our sin treatments. Like any treatment, sometimes it sucks, it hurts, the medicine is bitter, and the therapy is too hard.
But in the end, we can live with this illness, because we don't bear it alone. That's really good news.
Posted by Tony Jones on Thu 17 Mar 2005
After moving everything out of the flat yesterday, today I spent the whole day cleaning it from top to bottom. Neither me or my flat mate are particularly into cleaning, so there was lots to be done! I discovered the wonders of window cleaner on the windows.. and decided to have a go at using it on our bathroom mirror. After I'd finished, I looked in the mirror and nearly jumped with fright at how different I looked...I suddenly looked more healthy and clear than before...infact the whole room looked better! I realised I'd been looking at myself through a whole load of dirt and dust. No wonder I'd been looking a bit off colour the past few weeks....!
When you look at yourself, and the world around you 'in the mirror', are you looking at it through grime and dirt....check out God's dirt-kickin' mirror cleaner..for a healthier view of yourself, others, and the world..and if you feel inspired to clean your bathroom mirror for real:
Posted by Hannah on Wed 16 Mar 2005
Urgent: Do Nothing Now!
In this age of activism, of aggressive corporate tactics and fast-tracking, it’s good to rediscover the rebellious nature of a genuine Lenten abstinence, an abstaining from doing.
I’m not advocating a passive acceptance of the way things are, I’m pleading for a desire to see real change.
The seeds of destruction for the Roman Empire were sown in the desert by Jesus. Within three centuries, the most powerful and ruthless Empire the world had ever known, had embraced the faith of the Christians who had refused to take up arms against it.
Gandhi said: “The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall. He frees himself and shows the way to others. Freedom and slavery are mental states”
The ministry of Jesus began in earnest, not with the glittering launch of a manifesto for social change, but with a retreat from the impulse to act. Forty days of nothing, but questions about being.
Maybe sometimes it’s good to just stop, to close down operations, to shut up shop, to refuse to do anything………but question:
What are the chains that constrain, the ties that bind, the acts which distract?
Put off til tomorrow what you could do today, there’s always manana, just don’t do it…….be it!
Posted by Mark Poulson on Tue 15 Mar 2005
The pearl of great price
I was really moved by Simon's entry and it made me think of this....
“I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had the treasure in it. I realise now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.” R.S. Thomas.
What would it take for you to ‘turn aside’ today, even for a couple of moments, and enjoy the pearl of great price?
Posted by anna on Mon 14 Mar 2005
Celebrity Flame Academy
As I watch Vivien sing punk rock songs and spend an evening watching suffering that I can hardly imagine, I flick through the paper. How fascinating to read that Bill Gates is still number 1 in the annual rankings published by Forbes Magazine. He is now worth $65bn. Nearly as exciting is the news that the chief of Ikea, purveyor of Billy bookcases and Wonka shelves, is up to number 6 with $23bn.
Alternative worship has a lot to answer for, $23bn worth of tealights! It makes you wonder.
'What does the fire ask but to burn?
What does the earth ask but to grow? What does the air ask but to breathe?
What does the water ask but to flow?
What do the living ask but to live?
who are the giver of life and of being,
who is called by various names,
and yet who remains unknown and ineffable....
Reveal your face
and all peoples shall be saved.'
(St Nicholas of Cusa)
Posted by Mike on Fri 11 Mar 2005
As some of you may know, I recently lost my brother Edd to cancer. He was 19 and a very talented musician going from beginner to grade 8 in just four years and so became his piano teacher’s ‘special star’, the same teacher that teaches me. A couple of weeks ago I had my first piano lesson since his death. As you can imagine it was an emotional affair in which I struggled to hold back tears knowing I would have to get the bus home afterwards. I was walking down the road with my head down still feeling sad when I glanced up and saw this piece of graffiti.
This simple scribbling of a probable drunk seemed to hit home somewhere inside me. Life’s only short and you have to make the most of it. How are you going to do that if you're sad all the time? Don’t get me wrong there is a time to be sad, but if that is all the time then we’ll never move on and never achieve anything.
My school motto is: “I have come that you might have life to the full” from somewhere in John and it used to make me cringe whenever it was said at the start of an assembly. Now I reckon it’s something we could all do with taking on board.
“Enjoy life. There’s plenty of time to be dead.” Anon
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever” Gandhi
Posted by simon burrell on Thu 10 Mar 2005
Uncertainty and certainty in your journey of faith
Most of us probably in our lives, have taken paths more or less travelled, It is a natural human condition. Whether it is a geographical journey or one taken in time and experience we do it for many reasons:
getting away from the family home…
choosing our own path or fulfilling the expectations of others……
looking for study, work and love…..
frustration, rebellion or mild dissatisfaction. The prodigal child storming out of the house with or without the inheritance money.
simple wanderlust – wanting to explore for the sake of it.
Escape from poverty and persecution, death, divorce, job loss, illness
How often it is that these journeys can end in a certain puzzled disappointment?
The successful professional who has trained and worked all his or her life, to a top position in a top firm, only to discover emptiness and an inner sadness,
or the immigrant, who has escaped persecution, who finds that after all the struggle, there is alienation from the old, and lack of acceptance from the new country.
Or people discover that the anger, rebellion that propelled them in their journey but cannot shake it off through their lives.
Or very simply journeys just end, and you are back in the place you were before but with a lot more memories or photographs, or a bigger blog.
The journey of faith, often doesn’t look that different but it is…A journey of faith can start in very much the same way. It’s OK to go in for all the wrong reasons and through the wrong doors
but the journey on which Jesus invites us IS different.
It combines certainty and uncertainty.
The path can be scary and uncertain. God propels us out of our safe certainties and takes us to places we don’t expect and can't control.
– but he promises to be with us until the final destination.
God IS with you on your journey. And will be.
That's the certainty bit.
Posted by Jackie Elton on Wed 9 Mar 2005
Help me to Celebrate
I’m one of those unfortunate people who has a birthday every year during Lent. In fact it’s my birthday today, 8th March (39, thanks for being interested!) Whilst we are all being encouraged, for our own good, to ‘fast’ each year, I get this urge to want to party half way through Lent! Thankfully Jesus is a great help. He said…
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father” (Matthew 6:16-18)
This year I’ve given myself something of a challenge for Lent – to hide my fasting behind so much gratification and luxury that no one can guess what I have actually fasted from (except my Father in Heaven, of course)! So far it’s working brilliantly and I’m having a ball! That’s not the point, I hear you cry (“That’s not the point”). Well maybe not, but Jesus so often encourages us to partake of God’s abundance, that it seems churlish, whilst we’re fasting, not to continue to do so.
So I encourage you to continue your fasting today, but also, please join in my birthday celebration with a huge dollop of God’s abundance.
Posted by Andrew Sillis on Mon 7 Mar 2005
lives in the balance
The following song, by Jackson Browne, was written about the Vietnam war, but it could just as easily have been written about the Iraq war. Is it possible to learn at all from the mistakes of the past?
I’ve been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you’ve seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war
There’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs
On the radio talk shows and TV
You hear one thing again and again
How the USA stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can’t take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
There’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can’t even say the names
They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they’re never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
Posted by rebecca on Mon 7 Mar 2005
I am part of a Lent Group looking at the Beatitudes and last Wednesday we were thinking about “Blessed are the Pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Or as Eugene Peterson has it in The Message “You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your heart and mind put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
Pure means unalloyed, or unadulterated or of one purpose and focus. So to be ‘pure in heart’ would mean to be wholly focused, with a single ‘minded/hearted’ devotion, to living in a God honouring way, at all times. Double standards or double motives, self interest, greed, manipulating others, deceiving ourselves about reality, what’s in it for me’ism, falsehood, deception, spin and guile all lead to double vision, or blurred vision, when it comes to seeing God.
One of the surprising conclusions we came to when working this out in discussion was that being pure in heart always means seeing the best in another person or situation, the God honouring potential in them or the situation. It means seeing the God possibilities rather than only the human failure. How different would our world be if there was less cynicism around? Just imagine it! Of course that doesn’t mean suspending our critical faculties, and calling a spade a spade when there is wrong doing or failure which should not be ignored. To be pure in heart is to see into the heart of things, beyond the immediate and obvious and to make a fair assessment. It is cynical to write off all politicians and the political process on the assumption that all politicians are in it for what they can get out of it for themselves. That may be true of some politicians but not all! Cynicism is a powerfully corrosive agent in our society, eating away trust, relationships and good will. The pure in heart must seek to treat each person fairly in their own right, and not give way to a cynical labelling of sections of humanity, simply because some people behave that way in that group.
As a member of our group said last Wednesday evening “can cynicism ever actually be something which is compatible with Christian living?” The answer seemed to be an emphatic no! Without becoming naïve, or simply lacking in good judgement, we must seek to try and see the good in others and in situations if it is truly there to be found. Once again Jesus is our model, calling a tax collector, political zealots, a Samaritan women in serial relationships, and many others to follow the good that was in them, rather than the bad. He somehow saw their God given potential, rather than their unredeemed broken humanity and showed faith in them. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Do we write people off, or whole groups of people, in our community, at work, or college, or at church, or in the church as a whole, because of unfair assumptions we find it convenient to maintain?
We have a general election not far away and the levels of cynicism around will be rising sharply. Can we seek to keep both a wise and a pure heart when the debates are raging, without simply giving in to cynicism as a way of saving us the hard work of thinking our way through to the heart of the matter.
How can we contribute to a cynicism free zone among the people with whom we live?
Posted by Steve Paynter on Fri 4 Mar 2005
LIGHTER OF LIGHTS
Lighter of lights – illumine us
Fire of fires – thaw us
Power of powers – strengthen us
Lover of lovers – warm us
Teller of tales – encourage us
Destroyer of darkness – save us
Touchstone of truth – examine us
Summoner of stars – amaze us
Wellspring of wisdom – weather us
Water of life – refresh us
Dancer of days – delight in us
Breath of the universe – bless us
Posted by Harv on Fri 4 Mar 2005
My latest ‘hobby’, as it were, seems to be downloading remixes from the internet. There seems to be something particularly pleasing about finding a great song and then tell all your mates about it. Only for them to go, “that’s rubbish” (in not so many words), to which comes the reply “ahh, but have you heard this version.”
The basic idea of a remix is to bring new light to a song. Maybe take one or maybe everything from the original track and rearrange, recraft and reweave the whole thing adding in your own bits on the way. Remixes can make a good song sound great or a great song sound crap. Sometimes they take a song and change it so it appeals to a totally different bunch of people, this way the artist gets more money for one song. Sometimes they can bring new light to a song that’s been worn out at the edges. Or they can take a basic idea of a song, maybe an idea that seems good but doesn’t quite fit, and then make it work.
Now forget music.
Remixes don’t have to be of music. Books, pictures, things, places, etc. Think back to the second Grace Psalms service last year. Think Rob Lacey’s street bible.
What has grown tired around the edges?
What needs shedding in new light?
What needs to appeal to a new audience?
What has a good idea but doesn’t quite work?
Go on ‘remix something…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
First off, nothing. No light, no time, no substance, no matter. Second off, God starts it all up and WHAP! Stuff everywhere!
Posted by joel on Thu 3 Mar 2005
And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved,
to feel myself beloved on this earth.
Posted by Jen on Wed 2 Mar 2005
I've been going to a mid-week Communion service over the past few months and during Lent the service sheet has the following quote from Bernard of Clairvaux on its cover. Food for thought for those of inclined to spend a bit too much time navel gazing.
"Sorrow for sin is indeed necessary, but it should not involve endless pre-occupation. You should dwell also on the glad remembrance of the loving kindness of God."
Bernard of Clairvaux.
Posted by Sue on Tue 1 Mar 2005
Anyone for coke?
What have you given up for lent? My little 8 year old son announced that he’d given up coke. A worthy effort knowing how much he loves it. We don’t exactly have it flowing from the taps at home, but he didn’t have any for a few days. And then he just quietly relented.
What have I given up? Nothing really. I’m still the same fallen sinner today as I was at the start of lent.
But I’m still the same loved child of God.
If you, like me, are struggling with the everydayness of your humanity, giving up coke for a few holy days is not going to get us very far.
We maybe need to keep drinking after all, and something a little stronger than coke.
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34v8
Posted by Matt on Mon 28 Feb 2005
Finding God in all things
From “A Week of Simple Offices”, by the Community of the Resurrection – an exercise you might want to try.
Finding God In All Things
Each day, perhaps at midday or in the evening, it is a good thing to reflect over the day and see how we have answered the call of God to love him and serve him in every part of our lives. This helps us to see more clearly where God is usually to be found and gives us confidence that he is with us wherever we are. This exercise can be done anywhere and only takes a few minutes. It consists of five steps:
God gives me life
Everything I have comes from God. Without him I have nothing, am nothing. Everything I see, the beauty, the friends and the life within me comes as a gift from God. I am utterly poor but God makes me rich. So I let thankfulness for God's goodness rise up within me.
God, send me your Spirit
As I look over the day I need the Holy Spirit to show me where God has been. In a few words I ask for that grace.
God in all things
I let my mind wander over the day, recalling things I have seen, people I have spoken with, feelings that have come to me. Have I seen God in each of these? Have I responded generously or have I turned away from him? I remember and experience again the feelings I have had – joy and sorrow, delight and boredom, fear and confidence, excitement and anger, irritation and affirmation. Do these tell me how I was answering the call of God in the people and the world around me? It is good to remember the moments of grace, the happiness or even the sadness when God was in it. The world comes alive and people are seen as children of God bringing him to us.
God, I am sorry
I may remember silly things I have said, hurt I have given, and a failure to see God around me. I am sorry for that. Yet I give thanks too because God has been with me and I have often heard him and felt him and seen him in others. I pray for a deeper contrition and a greater thankfulness.
What next, God?
I look briefly at the rest of today and tomorrow. Where may I expect to see God? I go out into my day in confidence that God will be with me. How can I serve him and show him my love?
Posted by Lee on Sat 26 Feb 2005
scones for tea
It's snowing outside and I'm baking scones; expecting some friends round for tea. Rang my mum up last night to get the recipe.
What are the three inventions that have totally transformed human society? Wheel? maybe. computers? not really.
I reckon fire, fireplaces, and central heating.
Fire we can sit around, cook, eat, talk, swap stories. Fireplace, aha, now the heat moves up to the end where the lord of the manor sits- or even into a separate room. Central heating - now we can all sit isolated in our separate rooms, nobody talking to another person. Without radiators, even if we all had our own private PCs we'd have to all sit in the same room (the one with the fireplace) to read our emails.
The alienation that we all feel as a result of the fall - from God and from each other - is intensified by the alienation of modern city living. Yeah, ok, we get freedom with it, but the other edge of the sword is isolation. So I'm trying to reverse the tide with a few scones.
Posted by Sarah on Fri 25 Feb 2005
lent seems to be passing by
I'm busy, the past 2 weeks seem to have been very busy and lent seems to be happening to other people, I don't seem to have time!
so it's time to stop and reflect, time to make some space, get comfy and work out what I've missed in my haste and distraction.
time to try to focus, time to try something new.
fancy joining me? I'm trying this.
get comfy, relax and examen.
Posted by Adam on Thu 24 Feb 2005
‘No man is an Iland, intire in itselfe; every man is a peece of the continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promonterie were, as well as if a Mannor of my friends or of thine owne were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.’
John Donne (Devotions XVII)
I find Lent a bit introspective. My response to this time of year is often to think individualistically. To ponder about myself in a desert, or to deny myself something as an act of discipline.
It seems that the individual’s right to choice is one of the assumed ‘goods’ of our society. Our involvement in mankind, our solidarity with the whole human race and it’s history is not something we are strongly aware of.
As I reflect during Lent on my part in the story, I have used images from play-create . I love the flowers. The constant branching out helps me feel less like an Iland and more part of a whole.
Posted by Mike on Wed 23 Feb 2005
View from a very high mountain
I know you won’t tell: just our little secret
I want it all…….. and I want it now!
Not just a little bit, but the whole shebang: living it large
Style comes at a price, but it’s worth paying not to be mundane.
Power is not always corrupting and I could use it for good
And you might thank me…and you know how giving you pleasure, pleases me
Call it a mutual thing
Call it fun
All this could be yours…….
At a price
You’re in good company…..
Posted by Mark P on Tue 22 Feb 2005
The Tale of the Three Trees
Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed about what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree thought, I want to hold treasure, to be filled with gold and precious stones and be the most beautiful treasure chest in all the world. The second little tree thought, I want to be a strong sailing ship, to travel the mighty waters carrying powerful kings, and be the strongest ship in all the world. But the third little tree thought, I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all, I want to grow so tall that when people look at me they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God; I want to be the tallest tree in all the world.
Years past and the little trees grew tall. Then three woodcutters came along. The first thought, this tree is beautiful, it’s perfect for me. The second thought, this tree is strong, it’s perfect for me. The third little tree stood straight and tall and looked bravely to heaven. But the third woodcutter said, ‘oh, any tree will do for me’, and with one blow of his axe, he knocked the little tree down.
The first little tree was taken to the carpenters shop but, to his disappointment, he wasn’t made into a treasure chest but into a feeding trough for animals. The second little tree was taken to a ship yard, but to his disappointment he wasn’t made into a strong sailing ship but a simple fishing boat. He wasn’t even strong enough to sail on the sea, so he was dumped on a small lake and every day he was made to carry lots of dead, smelly fish. The third little tree was taken to a wood yard, cut into beams and left there.
More years followed and the little trees had almost forgotten their dreams. But one night, a young woman placed her new born baby in an animal’s feed-box and said, ‘this manger is beautiful’, and the first tree knew that he was holding the greatest treasure in all the world.
Another night, a tired traveller and his friends crowded into a little fishing boat. The traveller fell asleep as the second little tree sailed out onto the lake. Soon a thundering storm arose, the little tree shuddered, not realising he had the strength to carry so many passengers through the wind and the rain. But then the traveller woke up, held out his hand and said ‘Peace’. The storm stopped and suddenly the second little tree knew that he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the beams of the third little tree were yanked from the wood yard. She flinched as she was carried through an angry crowd and shuddered when a man’s hands were nailed to her. She felt ugly and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the ground trembled with joy beneath her, she knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the first tree beautiful, the second tree strong, and every time people thought of the third little tree, they thought of God.
In gratitude for the late Mike Yaconelli, who told this story at Greenbelt a few years ago.
Posted by Anna on Mon 21 Feb 2005
si smith has done a comic strip 40 of jesus journey into the wilderness. this was used by revive at greenbelt last year. i missed it there but first saw it at the IASYM conference in january when simon hall led some worship. he used the comic strip in a powerpoint presentation played over a track off revive's first album beautiful day (can't remember which one). si used to be part of the group that has become maybe (an understated name if ever there was one) in oxford, though he has now moved to leeds and joined revive.
maybe are posting one of si's illustrations every day during lent which is a wonderful idea. by the end of lent you will be able to download them all. i am of course making this a worship trick on my blog [no 12 second series]...
a slight warning - the images haven't been that compressed for the web so if you are on a phone dial up, as lent goes by the page will take a while to load - worth the wait though. add your suggestions for an accompanying music track in the comments...
Posted by jonny on Sat 19 Feb 2005
He had no money
He wrote no books
He commanded no army
He wielded no political power
He never travelled more that 200 miles in any direction
He was executed at the age of 33
Jesus taught us to trust in a loving an merciful father and to pray to him in faith for all our needs. He taught that we are all infinitely precious, children of one heavenly father and therefore we should treat one another with love, respect and forgiveness. He lived out what he taught by caring for those he met and by forgiving those who put him put to death.
(notes from Bath Abbey info sheet)
Posted by Deborah on Fri 18 Feb 2005
tree of life
The Transforming Arms into Tools project have found a literally creative solution to the problem of arms left over from the civil war in Mozambique. They offer to trade weapons for valuable items such as farming tools (swords into ploughshares), and then, after decommissioning the weapons they have collected, they make them into works of art. They have just made the appropriately named Tree of Life out of guns.
"We artists want to turn the situation around, change the story. Changing these instruments of death into hope, life and prosperity." – artist Hilario Nhatugueja.
Posted by rebecca on Thu 17 Feb 2005
A Reflection on the Lenten Journey
This is a reflection and meditation that was used at St John's church West Ealing on Sunday (13th Feb) for the evening service at the start of Lent. It was initially inspired by a text from Steve Collins.
We've not had much experience of the desert – just an encounter with a rattlesnake on the edge of the Texan scrublands and a climb up Mount Sinai on cold February night when there was still ice in the cracks of the rocks. It was hardly a moment of solitude, since on the top were there were Muslims, Jews and Christians all keen to experience dawn of Sinai. But these experiences are enough to let us know that the desert is a place where the stars seem bigger, humans seem smaller and life is risky.
At the beginning of his public ministry, after he had been baptised by John the Baptist, Jesus went into the desert to find out who he was if he wasn't going to be a carpenter anymore. Interestingly Luke, in his gospel, puts in Jesus' genealogy, his family tree, at this point - this is how Jesus' fellow Jews defined who he was - later, when Jesus starts preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth, his fellow Nazarenes are outraged at his presumption - who does he think he is, they say, isn't he just Joseph's son? In their society, where family defines who you are, they think they know all about him by knowing his family.
So Jesus goes out into the desert, away from the pigeonholes of job and family, to ask God who he really is. And by the end of the 40 days, Satan's repeated question 'if you are the son of God...' tells us that Jesus had found out. So what sort of a Messiah do we think he is?
Stones into bread?
“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” Jesus was hungry, starving after days in the wilderness – what better way do use his powers than to turn the stones littered across the desert into warm and delicious freshly baked bread.
What better way of proving who his love and concern than to feed the world with a single action.
But Jesus replies:
‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Our Messiah will not act simply for his own benefit.
“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Alone in the desert – how could Jesus show the world that his Father loved him and cared for him? – How could he prove his special relationship?
What better way of doing it than falling to earth in a cloud of angels.
But Jesus replies:
“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Our Messiah came to save others – not himself.
Power and Dominion
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” What an easy route to power and kingship – surely then Jesus could sort the world out? Just one easy bend of the knee. But Jesus replies: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Our Messiah is a servant king.
Who is Jesus?
What should our Messiah look like?. A People's Messiah who could stones in to bread to feed the multitudes? A Torah Messiah standing tall at the lofty pinicple of the temple? A King Messiah, ruling over not just Isreal but all the kingdoms of the earth? In short Satan was offering Jesus the chance to be the thundering Mesiah that we think we want... We want anything but a suffering Messiah.
We therefore have a Christ a Messiah ..... Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Posted by Richard & Sue on Wed 16 Feb 2005
Take a risk
A quote from Gordon Brown
Courage is not the absence of fear, because we are all afraid. Courage is the belief that there is something more important than safety.
When Jesus sent out his 12 disciples in Matthew 10, he asked them to walk away from safety - to be adventurous, to take risks, to put themselves in new situations where they needed God and other people, to leave security and go to dangerous places.
When was the last time you did something risky?
Posted by Jenny on Tue 15 Feb 2005
Love really is...
On Valentine’s Day mostly only the beautiful, chocolate, warm, good looking side of love seems to come over. But there’s more to love than that.
Lent is a time people start to think about the fact that Jesus died a horrible death, major sacrifice, so we can have life in all its fullness. He did it cos we are loved by God. A perfect example of true love.
True love, whoever that is directed towards can at times be a reflection of Jesus’ example - self-sacrificing, painful and even as gruesome, as well as beautiful and warm.
Read these words. They are more than slush and describe what true love is more wholly about…
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…
The Bible: book - 1 corinthians. chapter - 13
Posted by moya on Mon 14 Feb 2005
Come Back to Me
Tonight Grace presented a series of installations looking at the minor prophets. The presentations were all inspiring and here I pick out just one. Summing up the book of Zechariah in a sentence:
You come back to me and I will come back to you.
All were invited to use the shredder to dispose of the guilt we carry around with us.
We are are ready to shred some of our baggage. We are ready to let go of some weight. We want to come back to you God.
Posted by Mark on Sat 12 Feb 2005
Big Brethren Lenten Special!
From the makers of "Vocation, Vocation, Vocation" and "Anglo-Catholic Eye for the Evangelical Guy"
Throughout Lent we have a unique reality TV-styled exclusive.
Grace has put a webcam inside the head of Grace regular "Nasty but Nice" Ben. We will be featuring live and uninterrupted coverage of his innermost spiritual musings and seeing how his multiple personalities are co-operating on a series of increasingly pointless Ignation spiritual exercises.
Let’s see what’s going on inside the BigBrethren head…
…I can’t believe those poxy people at the Council charged me *four times* for the same parking offence…four times!... I’m sure I’d be fined less for malicious damage than absent mindedness … ooh perhaps I could just firebomb the offices oh good grief I can’t believe that date on Wednesday went soooo badly she looked totally underwhelmed I’m going to have to learn some decent small-talk and quickly perhaps I should get working-out and come to dates oozing gym-induced endorphins that’d show her oh hang I’ll never see her again oh a**e, ooh my ego’s hurting where’s that note from my shrink?… here we are… repeat “I am a worthwhile person I am a worthwhile person I …” good grief it’s getting crowded on top of my wardrobe it’s those stupid boxes that come with computer accessories; I’ll never use them again but I can’t throw them away… perhaps if I put some of the bits in the suitcase that would tidy things up a bit ooh my throat still hurts I’d better get a doctors appointment for this one I’m such a typical bloke I never get around to things like that and I’ll end up dying horribly of something preventable and I’ll look so stupid on a date if I can’t swallow my food without grimacing …Hey, what’s that camera doing down here? Go and point it at Jesus Christ instead, He’s down here somewhere… I think he was fixing the grouting last time I looked… go on; off with you!!... Perhaps if I tried moisturising I’d look a bit more youthful and stuff I wonder if this one has sun factor 15 in it as well … b***dy Hounslow Council a hundred and sixty quid…
(CUT TO COMMERCIALS)
Every day you will be able to see edited highlights of the inside of Ben’s head and, once a week throughout Lent, you will be able to vote one of the deadly sins displayed by Ben off the show. (Please note, for the viewer that tried to vote off “All-round irritating self-absorption” yesterday; it’s not a deadly sin…)
Alternatively, you can just find some solace in the fact that however much the inside of your head feels like the above at times, you are not alone. And, to the best of my limited theological understandings, God is still at work in there somewhere; He doesn’t throw up his arms and go “How can I be expected to work under these conditions?” He just carries on patiently trying to fix the grouting.
Though don’t take my word for it about the grouting. In fact last time I walked past the bathroom I’m sure I heard the sound of drilling…
Posted by Ben Cohen on Thu 10 Feb 2005
Given up chocolate for lent?
"...We would eat chocolate and smoke cigarettes and read the Bible, which is the only way to do it, if you ask me ... the Bible is so good with chocolate. I always thought the Bible was more of a salad thing, you know, but it isn't. It is a chocolate thing."
Quote from Blue like Jazz by Donald Miller. Which I'm only in the middle of reading so no book review or recommendation yet. The quote just amused me when I read it yesterday at the start of lent! :)
Posted by Adam on Thu 10 Feb 2005
You may or may not have noticed that the colour of the grace website changed over night to purple due to the fact lent is starting today.
Colour is used to signify different things that often mean completely different things.
- Red could mean love or romance but at the same time could mean anger or blood.
- Yellow is the colour of that duck that’s supposed to mean new life at easter but could also be the colour you look when you don’t feel too good.
- Green is meant to be nature’s colour however your supposed to turn green when your jealous.
The church changes its colours throughout the year. Only twice is it purple; during advent and during lent. Both are a time of preparation for different things. The purple is meant to signify the darkness of the world without Jesus in it.
The fact that purple is used is in itself a contradiction – purple could be interpreted as wealth or royalty but at lent and advent the church use it to signify darkness.
Below are a couple of optical illusions involving colour…
Maybe this lent colours are pretending to be something they're not (like the optical illusions.) Maybe this lent colours are surrounding other colours and making it hard to see. Maybe this lent when we’re in the desert those colours are pretending to be that bar of bread that looks oh so tempting.
Posted by joel on Wed 9 Feb 2005