Sunday, 25 October 2020

The helium balloon

 Seven weeks! I don't know how much longer I can expect the helium balloon to last; it came as part of a present at the beginning of  September, splashed with the words 'Thank you' across it. It has hovered above the television now, a little slimmer, a little dented, slowly losing gas, but essentially at the same height as when it was newly installed. 

At this rate, it may be some weeks yet before it starts to lose height, ready to be disposed of. It has a certain staying power which I had not expected. I'm not ready to part with it. 

Staying power. It's one of the qualities we, adherents of the faith, are asked to exhibit. But that staying power is not the same as immutability. Like the helium balloon, I've changed. I hope I'm less of a gas-bag than when I first came into the faith; I may be a little dented, less able to float above the cares of the world, less of a shine to me, but I hope too that I'm still in some way broadcasting a message of thanks to God for his goodness.  Still up there, still there. 

We cannot account for the future, but hope that the trajectory taken so far, that long walk in the same direction of the way of the cross, finds us with staying power to the end. 

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Years versus grace

 You know you're getting old when the case of medications is as big as the case you pack with clothes, when you go away. This sardonic thought struck me as I unpacked my stuff last week when we were away in Whitby- although let it be said that I take relatively few potions, and I recognise that multiple medications are not solely the province of those of us who are, shall we say, more mature in years. Okay, elderly.  

Numbers of thoughts crowded my head after this thought. 'I don't feel old/what is old anyway?/there is a vision of old age in the Old Testament as the crowning glory of a life'. And it is this last thought which is so intriguing, and which asks us to change our mind-set away from the number of years a life has lasted, to focus instead on its richness in wisdom and grace. 

Certainly this is a potent insight lighted upon by Richard Rohr, notable Franciscan monk and teacher; most clearly in 'Falling Upwards' a book about the 'second half of life' , Except this 'half' can be entered at any age, and marks the balance of life changing from the getting of 'stuff ' (position, status, wealth etc) towards the getting of wisdom. That ability to look beyond 'Does my bum look big in this?' to the serenity of 'Life has taught me...'   

There is something to be said for growing old disgracefully. But there is much to be said too for later years whose hallmarks are wisdom, serenity and grace. Like most folk, I commute between the two poles. But the compass points to a true north of wisdom, of grace. All I have to do is follow.      


Saturday, 10 October 2020

Packing up for winter

 The garden is in retreat, as expected. The bedding plants and other annuals, which have been wonderful, are way past their best, and I'm gradually replacing them with winter pansies. The 'Judy Dench' rose is still giving its all in what I guess is a last show of orange and apricot, but the rhubarb has finished, and leaves are falling from the young apple and plum trees. That notorious thug crocosmia- but let's be generous, it does add a lot of vibrant orange and green to late summer-has been thinned out, to give breathing space to plants which surround it. And that's just the beginning......

Seasonal changes come in our lives just as surely as in the garden, although perhaps not with the same regularity. We blossom here, and wither, or winter, there. TLC is applied here, weedkiller, in a metaphorical sense, there. Newness comes and spreads, and self-control , or worse, limits what might unreasonably take over. 

The only constant in life is change. For some this represents a challenge- the unchanging certainty of the faith is what draws them, although I have not found unchanging certainty in the church. Nor would wish too. It is 'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever' who is unchanging, although our perceptions and ideas about him change. The church, bound by its contexts in time and place, mutates and grows and withers. 

It's a challenge, navigating the changeability/unchangingness of our beliefs and its contexts. Armed with metaphorical pruning shears and fertiliser, we tend the garden of faith as best we can, rejoicing in the beauty and work each season brings.    

Sunday, 4 October 2020

different perceptions.

 'Congratulations; you have completed a light training regime'. Thus the message as I finished my session at the gym. 'LIGHT TRAINING!?!- I gave my all for the last hour!!!' Thus my reaction. Okay, I am very unfit after a six month lockdown and no visits to the gym;  I am just doing, as Mary and I start up again, half the times I used to row/stretch/pull etc, in twice the times I used to do, but there's no need to rub it in.

Different perceptions.How I think I'm doing and how you think I'm doing.Who I think I am, and who you think I am. There will always be differences, but maybe the gap won't be as wide as this one, from which I am still smarting. I suppose most of us have something of an informed perception of ourselves and it comes as a rude awakening when that is shattered. 

I come up across that shattering each time I hear the two great commandments; to love God with all our passion, prayer, intelligence and energy, and our neighbour as ourselves .I don't measure up. But I guess God and I agree, have the same perception, about my need of his grace.