#Advent20

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Today’s email has a call to be vulnerable, to be fully incarnate (part of the world) …

When the Word becomes flesh and lives among us, we see this in action, in the practical wonder of Incarnation. God is willing not just to touch but to be touched by humanity. Cradled, nurtured, raised. He will laugh, and weep; love, and be scarred. Heal.

Being part of this may not be easy … but head out and look at the moon – it’s the same moon that Jesus looked at..

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#AdventBookClub: Anna

Anna-from-womeninthebible

Source: Womeninthebible.com

Luke 2:36-38

I love the way this first chapter has been written, as a life story (and I’m always a bit of a sucker for those), knowing that ‘today’ she has met the Light of the World.

Anna, an old lady, widowed early, who sits in the Temple day and night (seen as a bit of a ‘crazy’), waiting for ‘the light’ to reach her – initially the sunlight, for which she waits, allowing herself to bathe in its presence … but she knows that she is waiting for something larger.

She sees that many come to the Temple seeing it as the destination, but she dreams that they will understand (or simply remember) that it was built to point to something greater, and not for its own sake.

She speaks of ‘today’, an ordinary day, in which a tired looking couple come in to have their firstborn male brought for the purification ritual. Simeon, who has been waiting for the fulfilment of a prophecy, now knows that his wait is over – he has seen the salvation of God, and the fulfilment of God’s promises to the whole world.

Jesus is described as the light – burning more brightly than the sun, which won’t burn us but kindle the fire in our hearts “a light that warms and consoles, illuminates and cheers” .. defeating all darkness… shining within us and revealing everything.

Anna sees what is to come for Jesus, the sorrows and the shadows, but she grieves that although many see her as the mad old woman shouting praises to God, that they won’t see the miracle in front of them. She talks of hurts and regrets remaining, but that they have been “illuminated, integrated and healed.” After such a meeting, the days following cannot be the same…

Brian Draper, on his #advent20 course, is also dealing with questions of dark and light, although with a particular encouragement to become comfortable with the dark (which Anna did in the Temple at night) – with a challenge to remove as much artificial light as possible and see what we notice, also noticing that in difficult circumstances (e.g. grief), the light that does shine through is even more powerful.

I can remember once, in prayer, soon after being diagnosed with depression, seeing a black night sky, in which one lone star twinkled as if this was the hope to cling on to… faith small as a mustard seed is enough.

#Advent20: No Light without Dark (@BrianDraper)

mount-sinai-sunrise

Brian describes how we often view the dark as ‘bad’, but the light as ‘good’, but:

We need darkness. Imagine if there were no sunsets, no chance to see the last colours of the afternoon flare and fade, or to feel the first cool breeze of the evening after a hot day, or to see the first star glimmering, or to sink into the luxurious depths of pitch-dark sleep.

He then goes on to talk about Moses meeting God on Mount Sinai, when a dark cloud envelops the mountain, obscuring the presence of God, because he’s too much for us to see uncovered. The photo above was taken on Christmas Morning, from the top of Mount Sinai (which I’d climbed over night), as the sun rise … a special experience .. but we’d had to “stumble” through the dark first .. but with our guides leading the way (they seemed to know the uncrowded, but potentially slightly more difficult route).

Also – look out for opportunities for #GivingTuesday (doesn’t need to be cash, suggestions include hugs, encouragements, etc.)

Also checking out @love_theology.

Stephen Cottrell ‘Walking Backwards to Christmas’ #adventbookclub

If you’ve never joined an online book club, well, there’s still time. Pam Webster has pulled together material for #adventbookclub, drawing on Stephen Cottrell’s Walking Backwards to Christmas, published by SPCK.

I have written in the diary to read a chapter every couple of days, but last night I read the introduction. Recently I went to see Simon Callow in That Man Jesus, a one man play that uses the voices of those associated with Jesus to tell the story of Jesus. This was the first thought that came to mind as Stephen Cottrell mentioned that he wanted to retell the Christmas story, telling the story ‘backwards’, through the voices of the different characters involved in the drama of that day.

We become so familiar with “The Christmas story”, that we forget what it’s all about, so I’m hoping with this book to be challenged into seeing the story afresh (in both its light and dark elements) as we move through Advent, and love the promise that we’ll get ‘underneath the skin’ of the story and begin to see ourselves in it.

Meantime, daily, I will be also be reading Brian Draper’s Advent 20, which today encourages us 2-3 times per day to:

1. Stop. Bring yourself to a halt. A proper one. Be still.

2. Relax. Notice if you’ve any physical tension, and let your body relax.

3. Breathe. A little more slowly and deeply. It will reconnect you.

4. Smile. This is a good and important thing you’re doing.

Today we’re encouraged to take some time to ‘be in the dark’ (if possible getting away from light pollution), as we await the light.

I’m also completing the Simplify plan on YouVersion – thankfully short and simple itself, with just one thing to think about each day…

#BigRead13: Day 20: Humility

#LentPhotos: A Journey

Well, that’s an easy one – almost exactly 24 hours ago I took this photo as we prepared for 9ish hours back to the UK – thankfully I slept for most of it (good journey in my books), and watched Life of Pi

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#BigRead13 Thoughts

C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

Bree. “Slavery is all I’m fit for. How can I ever show my face among the free Horses of Narnia? … Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that. It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another.”

This is a really interesting insight into “pride” – and I know we so often look for things that we can do that others will praise us for … and sometimes being a ‘big fish in a small pond’ can go to the head… Accompanied by the idea that we have been encouraged to remember in Uganda – everything we have is a gift from God (material goods, and skills..) and therefore whatever we do – we’re nothing special… but we are all special! Makes sense?

Bible:  2 Timothy 1:7

New Living Translation (©2007)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
http://bible.cc/2_timothy/1-7.htm

Makes me think what does “power, love and self-discipline” look like in the service of God.

 

Pray: We thank you that we are all equal in your eyes, and that we would remember that we are special to you, but no more special than any other.

@40Acts

Bit disappointed again in today’s – another post that says that with social media we have lost ‘real relationships’ and that all surprises need to be done face-to-face – I get some great surprises, and the biggest encouragements, from friends who I see more often online than anywhere else.. But yes, look for opportunities to surprise people!

And another inspiring thought from Brian Draper which ties in well with today’s #BigRead13:

I don’t have a life, depending on whether I’m successful or not. And it’s not ‘mine’ to do with what I like. It is life. I am life. As you are life, too.

We are life, and have been given life – regardless of whether we are successful (particularly in the world’s eyes)…

#BigRead13: Day 16: Guises

Ha, #lentphotos today is on “Food” – I’ve just pre-set a whole post on Ugandan food for tomorrow afternoon, so look out for that. Meantime, decided that today’s slightly odd photo would be about being prepared to expect the unexpected – particularly in foreign climes – I love trying a bit of foreign food – but I really thought these were going to be salty/Krakawheat type thing – good to replenish salt in hot climes… but no – they are more like cream crackers with sugar on them – very tasty, but unexpected – so if we were being ‘deep’ would we say that often things you don’t expect bring great blessings … or shall “we” just the enjoy the crackers?!

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#BigRead13: Thoughts

In a country where we are treated like royalty – interesting to think of the many guises that we appear to others – and in this extract from The Horse and His Boy where Aslan makes it clear that he has appeared to them at many points on the journey – but they haven’t recognised him .. we think at what points have we not recognised God appearing to us – and how we can pray for it to become clearer where he has intervened, or prompted us to do something – without waiting for lightning bolts!

So – when I was setting this up – it seemed an obvious link to the story of the Road to Emmaus – where the disciples walk alongside the man they have spent years with – without recognising that it is Jesus. My brain is clearly still swirling around these links – including the phrase that ‘we may be the only Bible that people ever read’ – so we may be the only guise in which people may see Jesus – what does that do for our behaviour?

@40Acts

Ruth Valerio today encourages us to think about the clothes that we wear, and to look beyond the price-tag to ensure sustainable production, and a fair wage for those who produce the goods (having seen the efforts at sustainable business in Uganda over the past few days, very apt) using sites such as Ethical Consumer, charity shops and thinking whether we need so many changes of clothes. I have to admit having been to Primark occasionally (although that’s a bit of a knee-jerk obvious company to pick – and I’m currently checking out their ethical statement) … but part of me thinks “at least the company’s not making a huge profit – unlike e.g. Nike (also easy target?) – cheap labour and high prices (clearly most of their money goes on TV adverts!)

Brian Draper: Lent 40

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is an offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ (Psalm 139)

This, in my head, ties in well with Ruth’s blog post above – “But Lent is about being stripped back – not so that we can judge ourself, or analyse, or critique – but to become aware.” – we need to become aware of our every actions… and the thought processes involved in that, so that we can fully embrace the Christian life (not through works, but by being the person God made us to be, in the situations he has placed us)… and Pam’s post earlier today also brings this out:

Jesus has come to implore the people to turn back to God.  Not because if they don’t God will be angry, but because he knows that God’s ways are the very best ways for people to live – the way to get the best, all that was intended, out of life.

Now I think it’s time to go and be #notbusy before some sleep – as we have about 4 hours of bumpy roads & another village to see tomorrow…

#Do1NiceThing Lent Challenge today Spot ways of helping people and do it #OthersRWorthIt

#BigRead13 – Further Reflections

So, looking around on Lent stuff that’s appearing all over the web – I still want to find ways to bring it all together … the web allows us both to be super-niche (which seems to be current model) or really make an impact by getting all together…

#NotBusy

So – I sat still for 10 minutes … I had set the timer on my phone … and had to resist the desire to check how much longer was left! I sat on my sofa, wrapped in a blanket – starting off head down – but my head was filling up with half-conversations, deadlines, and all the other things I know I haven’t (yet?) managed to do… I then started staring at my bookcase, but that made me wonder when I was going to engage with that stuff… FYI it’s mostly full of books on coaching; body image; travel (lots!); consumerism & propaganda posters! As they say – 28 days to develop a habit (& I found this daily blogging habit helpful on #adventbookclub) … so let’s see what further days bring!

Brian Draper: Lent 40

I’ve been on retreat with Brian a couple of times – and he’s managed to get me to sit still (maximum of 15 mins I think we got to!) – and I’m looking forward to his daily emails – see what it starts with:

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.’ Albert Einstein

Are we feeling challenged by the 40 days ahead as Jesus was on facing the desert? How is what I am choosing to do going to make a difference to me in my discipleship journey (it’s a bonus if others do too!).

Powerful words from Brian himself:

The point of this journey is not to get through it, but to break up our busyness-as-usual routine, and to discover what happens when we make time for what matters most.

What have we been missing in our rush to get somewhere else? What we do is less important than the HOW (by which I’m thinking our attitude to it)… do you agree?

Spotted on Facebook:

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From: http://godspace.files.wordpress.com

@40Acts

‘Create a Generosity Kit’ – I think I might look at my handbag tonight and see what I tend to carry … ensure I have some spare coins, first aid type stuff, some cough drops/tissues … although I’ve been trying to de-clutter my bag too! Maybe I should look at good stuff for the car… e.g. Mars Bars/Ropes/Jump Leads, etc. and ensure that they’re all in good condition – that may be more of an ‘action’..

Stephen Cottrell: Christ in the Wilderness

Checking into @pamjwebster & enjoying this simple thought… and the one above for me sums up what I’ve said to many … yes we can spend too long on social media – but does that require ‘cold turkey’ or a healthier way of living?:

@pamjweb on Twitter

@pamjweb on Twitter


And I’m keeping an eye on Cybersten’s #lentphotos … is adding taking a photo a day too much?!

What is this life if, full of care… #Retreat

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont/

On Wednesday I took a guided retreat day with Brian Draper. I don’t feel the need to share all of it, but despite the weather forecast, the rain held off from the minute we walked into the grounds of Mottisfont Abbey to the point at which we headed for hot chocolate (and without my mobile devices, so no checking in on Foursquare, or taking a photo of the magnificent building/grounds). Having just read Brian’s Less is More, been de-cluttering, and looking for better work-life balance (although I’ve often talked in terms of work-life integration), and worked through a lot of difficult stuff, I’m seeking to find what Brian describes as ‘making my soul sing’. 15 minutes on a bench with W.H.Davies poem …

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass. No time to see, in broad day light, Streams full of stars, like skies at night. No time to turn at beauty’s glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance. No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began. A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

from Songs Of Joy and Others (1911)
Time to consider the well, without which none of the rest would exist … but which many bypass for the big showy rose gardens (it’s not all about how it looks/big showy events, but how deeply are you living day to day? was what I took from that)

mottisfont well

A look at The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working – how do I manage my energy – where is my renewal zone? Lots of pictures of colours seeking to burst forward, no longer squashed by many of the painful things that I’ve worked through recently.
I have re-joined The National Trust (slightly annoyingly, if I’d joined online beforehand, I would have got 3 months free, but it’s a charity, so…), so one of my challenges is to carve out time to go and sit in what will now become ‘my gardens’ (I don’t have one, and had got a bit ‘bored’ of the houses), whether to work or sit.