Sunday, 19 November 2017

Making space

Perched peacefully on the lamp post in the early light, the portly wood pigeon was sunning his white belly, his small head pulled into his body, dreaming, dozing ...
What a lovely sight to start the day I thought, until, out of the sky flew a large black-backed gull.
And the reverie  - the pigeon's and mine  -was ruined.
There was no kerfuffle; the  pigeon didn't stop to fight for his ground but jumped into the air's embrace and let it carry him away as the stronger intruder perfectly mastered a post-top landing, and, without a feather ruffled, claimed the desired space.

Sometimes it seems as if all over the world, in all sorts of contexts, a similar exchange is playing out - individuals, groups, organisations, regions, even whole countries struggling to claim, grab or retain what they believe is their 'space'. What conflict is not fired by competition for space and what that space means : security, resources, tradition, power, a future?

Even in our own lives, when we reflect on it, we can be space-protective:  sitting in a particular chair in the staff room or pew in a church, booking the same caravan site at the holiday park,  unconsciously guarding 'our patch', and rarely letting anyone into that most secret of spaces - our inner thought-life with its mixture of darkness and light, familiar and forbidden places.

It could be easy to think that stealing, coveting or protecting space motivated all human interaction - on a micro or macro scale. But that's not the whole story.

Later that same day my mate and I ambled downtown to attend a piano recital - we found our seats and smiled at a few people we knew around us before the concert quickly got underway. It soon became apparent that, while his view of the pianist and the wonder of hands doing the beautifully impossible, was unimpeded, mine was not. I spent the first movement of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto wriggling my head first to one side of the back of the woman in front's head, and then to the other side, seeing two hands flashing at one end of the keyboard and then at the other end until my neck got sore and I sat back and closed my eyes and just listened, resigning myself to the reality of our location.

But in that sometimes awkward pause between movements, when the uninitiated or very enthusiastic start to clap, my mate tapped my knee and quietly slipped to his feet, so that I could take his space. And so I did -  with surprise and gratitude for his awareness and generosity. For the remainder of that magnificent composition, I sat  in awe as the passion and sheer brilliance of the pianist unfolded, until the music brought tears to my eyes and I glimpsed the mystical marriage of contemplation and action.

I was blessed that evening - not just by witnessing the glory of God in the  pianist fully alive, but by that simplest of gestures - the selfless sharing of space, as my mate saw my need and responded in love. He made a space for me and I got to thinking that the Loving Presence does that for us too.

Whenever we feel excluded, God welcomes us in.
Whenever things crowd in on us and we feel overwhelmed, Jesus offers us rest and refreshment.
Whenever we are wondering about the uncertainties of the future and the regrets of the past, the Holy Spirit within, reminds us to live fully in the present moment, that space in which we can meet God and ourselves, that space we too often avoid because of the challenge of intimacy it presents.

Just as God makes a space for us in all sorts of ways,
may we make space for others,
and for ourselves.




Sunday, 27 August 2017

Simplicity

We went to a 'silent auction' yesterday.

For those of you who cannot imagine how an auction can function without someone with a gavel, a loud voice, several spotters for crowd bids, several others to monitor online hopefuls and a gaggle of
potential purchasers waiting for their defining moment, let me assure you that it can and does work, just differently.

The hall was set up with a range of desirable items each with its own list on which bidders could write their offer. Over the next couple of hours,  we milled around, caught up with friends, had cups of tea and delicious cake and periodically checked to see if someone else had bid more than we had on our items of desire. At the end of the allotted viewing time, the bids were collated and the person with the top bid for each item was notified - in person if present and by phone / text if not. Simple.

JFK's rocking chair 
I sat - several times - in a vintage wooden rocking chair a bit like the one pictured - testing the angle between seat and back,the degree of rock, and whether my feet could touch the floor - a perennial problem as I am quite short.
I remembered my first and only rocking chair - used over thirty years ago when I was nursing my son.
Happy memories of night feeds and snuggling, of that distinctive milky baby smell; memories too of the anxieties and not knowing and the joys of emerging motherhood.

My partner in crime set his eyes on a coal scuttle and fire-tools, even though we already had both at home. There was a discussion.

We agreed to bid on a picnic basket, an evening bag in better condition than the one I had at home, some plants, a vintage car model piggy bank, an uninhabited cat basket with cloth mouse, and a few other odds and ends - none of which we needed- but not the rocking chair. Not this time.

With house already cluttered we'd actually donated stuff to the auction as part of our 'move it on policy' so what were we doing, subverting our own strategy???

Well it was just fun - simple, convivial  fund-raising fun and we enjoyed it.

For a couple of hours we could leave behind the horrors of terrorism destroying lives and tormenting our screens; we could briefly forget about elections, politics, natural disasters, death and dying, house affordability, and our children's well-being; we could escape the routines of our live, lived largely within the confines of our home; and we could shelve life decisions such as wills and whether  - or when  - to move as we and our house grow more decrepit with age.

We could just take a break from it all ... just for a little while.

And when the end of the auction came and we found ourselves with things we didn't need, we just smiled at each other, and paid the money to the good cause. It was worth it.


Saturday, 22 July 2017

WINTER WILDNESS

There's a verse from Psalm 23 that's familiar to many - 'He leads me beside still waters ...' a reminder that our God knows our need for rest and refreshment and is always willing to help us find a way of taking some time out.
But it wasn't still waters that spoke to me on my walk today.  Instead the waters were wild, wavetops swept back like a certain president's hair, foam popping up in the shallows, water crashing  as sea-surge met reef.

I've always been drawn to the sea when it's wild like this - perhaps it's because I've never been 'wild' and I can see in it a freedom and chaotic beauty which I did not experience for my first few decades.
I was a compliant child, keen for approval, not wanting to step out of line in case the emotional support I so needed dried up. I never had hair long enough to be blown all over the place in the wind; I never put myself at risk of being in seas too hard for me to handle, in water  - or in situations - which were out of my depth.

 But over the last twenty years or so, actually since I was ordained priest, something interesting has been happening - the  fledgling wildness within - tiny by some people's standards, has been growing :  expressing itself in more of a willingness to stand up, to speak out, and not to worry overly about what others might think. I've repeatedly been invited to step out  beyond the cliched 'comfort zone' and pick up opportunities that test me and sometimes frighten me but which always push me further in my trust journey with Jesus. Time and time again, I've found the faithful provision of  his Loving Presence is  enough to get me through. And the wildness within - the desire to play - the appreciation of others' capacity to work on the margins - continues to draw me, challenge me.


It's not plain sailing of course. I can still be influenced by others not to 'walk on the wild side' - I noticed it when I was on holiday recently - there was part of me that REALLY wanted to try the flying fox - a 250m journey quite high up through the rain forest in Queensland.  I'd never done anything like that before but I looked at the others enjoying the adventure and I was ready to give it a go, until I let myself be persuaded by someone who loves me and wants to keep me safe, not to take the risk.   But I did try out the children's version later that day!

As we explore some of the riches of the contemplative Christian tradition, as we allow the Spirit to transform our inner being, we discover more of our true selves and begin to know the glorious freedom of the children of God.

In the New Zealand Prayer Book  [p.186] there's a lovely blessing that reads :

The blessing of God
the eternal goodwill of God, 
the shalom of God, 
the wildness and the warmth of God, 
be among us and between us, now and always. 

The 'wildness and warmth' of God - now there's something to contemplate. Enjoy!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

BALANCE and BEAUTY

BALANCE and BEAUTY

The walkway by the Tasman Sea is a favourite place - always a different combination of sea conditions, sky, birds, people, dogs, wind, prams and bikes. One thing that seems always to be the same however, is the rocky edge, countless boulders put in place to repel the wild power of the waves and only occasionally breached by a super strong storm surge or king tide. 

But I was in for a surprise a few days ago when I was walking with my husband and dog and discovered that someone had been rock-scaping, building stone sculptures along the sea front.

Stone on stone, no glue, no wire, 
just stone on stone. 

Balance and beauty.

Over a hundred examples of two young men's careful selection, imagination, patience, and persistence, all imbued with a sense of joy and delight, playfulness and pleasure - for the makers and those who wandered past and marveled.

And as I stood and took it all in I was reminded of my own need to play and the challenge of maintaining balance in the midst of a full life. It's a common plight - too much to do, and too little time. It would be easy to work all the hours that God sends, but I'm finally beginning to discover the value of little practices such as turning off the laptop at 5pm and the freedom a Sabbath day on a Wednesday [Sunday's often a 'workday'] can bring. Better late than never!

As I write this now, I'm also a bit more aware of the joy and delight with which the divine energy , whom I name as God made visible in Jesus, spoke the Creation into being. And what a blessing it is - to us - and to the 'Love which makes the world go round' - when something as seemingly simple as stone upon stone, can reflect the creative energy with which we are all born. 

That creativity - whether it's expressed in making music, gardening, quilting, writing, cooking, crafting, problem-solving, making a little go a long way, building something large or small, or in countless other ways - can help us nurture a balanced life, because creativity comes from God who wants only what is best for each one of us.

Time for me to go and start a new quilt!

What will it be for you?




Tuesday, 23 May 2017

THE STICK INSECT

The sun was warm on my back as I returned from a morning walk  - it had been the coldest night so far this autumn and everyone I'd seen had been bundled up in layers of merino, with scarves, hats, and gloves, their breath little puffs in the cutting air.

As I reached home there it was on the letterbox, the largest stick insect I had ever seen: a very impressive 6 inches / 15 cm. So I stopped and stood to one side, not wanting to block the sun, drawn to its size and stillness.

I was enjoying the thought that, like many of us that morning, it was seeking warmth and had come out of hiding into broad daylight to find a sun-baked spot. But then, as so often happens with my mind, I found my thoughts flicking over into 'rescue mode'and the interior struggle began.

Should I move it?
What if I dropped it or hurt it?
Should I leave it alone?
What if the cat got it?

And so on ...

Some of you may recognise this pattern: 
the compulsive concern for the well-being of others;  the hand-wringing wondering about our responsibility to 'help' or 'save' or 'solve'; and the at times painful anxiety about consequences if we don't act. 

It's a childhood pattern of course, set up in my case by my attempts to maintain the well-being and equanimity of my emotionally needy and unpredictable mother.  I know now that where  'rescuing' people is concerned, good intentions can easily morph into 'controlling' the other and 'smother love' can take over.When I'm at risk of falling into that unhealthy pattern - whether it's about a stick insect or a person struggling with a major issue, I know now that I need to find a pathway through to a healthier conclusion both for the object of my concern and for myself.

And I knew I would find that pathway in silence, giving space for  inner wisdom to emerge as I listened to the Spirit.

So I focused on the stick insect, and slipped into a companionable stillness. 

It wasn't long before my soul quietened and I knew what was mine to do.

A moment's prayer for this creature with whom I share the planet. 

I left it where I found it, thankful.








Thursday, 5 January 2017

Ancient of days

It's been a long time since I last blogged.

There have been beginnings and endings -  deaths and deterioration, a book finally completed, an easy ride to Christmas turned upside down.

And now here we are in the heat of the Kiwi summer, the hammock swinging in the breeze - idyllic, peace-full, welcoming, healing.
Time to relax, read, and rest.

But it's also time to explore, to do those things we often don't have time to do when life is full and there are so many calls on our time. 

And so we headed off to Opepe reserve, a remnant of virgin forest, left behind by the loggers who'd stopped their unthinking colonial rampage on the other side of an old track which has since become the road linking Taupo to Napier.

Warm and noisy by the road, within a few metres there was forest cool, speckled light, birdsong and a sense of stepping back into history, into the visible reality of life being given space to grow to its fullest potential - massive trees - matai, rimu, miro, totara ... all reaching their full majestic height.

I dawdled behind the others, inhaling the moist air - it's hard to put a finger on what was going on for me - but tears began to surface, there was a sense of sacred connection, of deep peace  as if I were in a holy place as I touched the ancient wonder of trees standing for centuries, knowing they would remain long after my earthly life comes to an end.

And I was reminded that within each one of us lies  our potential to give unique expression to the divine - God living, loving, suffering and creating in and through us. 

And what beauty and joy there is for others when we do just that. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

silly and scammed

I am embarrassed to relay this tale of my own stupidity but from it I learned a lesson and perhaps my experience might help prevent someone else from falling prey to online scammers.
During a particularly busy week, I was looking online for a piece of music for a service I was due to take - I found the song - not on iTunes - and downloaded it.
BUT - then warnings started to pop up on my screen - a bug had been found with dire consequences to  my computer if I didn't ring ...
And so I rang.
I didn't think
I didn't pray
I rang

And the foreign man at the other end was plausible and patient, and persuasive ... long story short ...
I ended up purchasing expensive virus protection which later turned out to be available without cost.

My dear husband was remarkably kind - he talked me through the indicators of scamming and what I  needed to do.
So it was off to the bank to cancel my credit card.
And it was off to my computer man to check the laptop for any 'search and destroy viruses' 'they' might have planted.
But most of all it was to my knees to pour out to God my regret for not pausing long enough to seek God's wisdom before I acted.

As I write about this incident now, I can see that there were other  factors apart from busyness that contributed to my being sucked in -   my pride (a misplaced sense of being 'computer-savvy' - just because sometimes I can do computer things that my husband can't) and my habit of managing by myself, going it alone.

Pride, self-sufficiency and busyness-  three classic barriers to the grace of God. I was behaving as if rushing would lead me to good decisions, as if I knew more than Wisdom, as if I could work better alone, instead of in Relationship.

I was wrong.


Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy


Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
Mark Twain