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Focus

Most of this week I have accompanied a parish retreat with the Community of Saint Mary the Virgin in Wantage. It is always a privilege to take time out of the busyness of life, but even more so when supporting others in that. It has been a wonderful opportunity to explore or embrace a focus which allows for concentration on finer details of God’s calling, where everyday parish life encourages a bigger picture approach.


Focusing in on fine details has to begin with a scan of the overall picture, before considering where to hone your attention.


How close you focus depends very much on God’s leading, and it can be about trying a few things before truly reaching the place where the light leads…


Even when these initial steps seem irrelevant, it can be so important to notice our feelings and thoughts through this process of discernment.


Very often I have found that the destination is the journey itself, observing the intricacies of God’s character through the beauty of creation can only leave us in awe of God as creator, redeemer and sustainer. That awe leads us on.


Sometimes it leads to a change in focus before we fully realise where the light is drawing us.


When drawn deeper into a place of solace with God that is when the focus can really begin to deepen.


As well as becoming more centred on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and focusing on the importance of the Eucharist as a spiritual meal through which we are transformed into the likeness of Christ, I began to experience the cross in a new way.


I was drawn to this particular cross which rested above the altar. Right at its heart was the world, the whole world, drawn in by one huge final sacrifice. Having also been afforded the luxury of reading Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality by Tim Stead, and putting some of that into practice, I began to notice the absolute comfort which came from this powerful symbol, which represented the sacrifice given for the whole of creation through the death of Christ on the cross – and it’s that simple! This is such good news…do we always present it in this way?

Try focusing on one small object or symbol that you feel drawn to – where does it take you?

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The Little Ribbon Tin
As my eyes fixed on the little ribbon tin
Transfixed on the beautiful, paled pattern
I wondered who, before me, had it chosen
Whose fingerprints had been embellished
by the vibrant colours here once settled
on this worn, mesmerising, little ribbon tin.

How long ago had they walked the earth
What sort of person, was there any mirth
vibrance and creativity or more of a dearth
of all that we respect, admire and hold dear
How did they come to lose it, through fear
disregard or death perhaps…and thenceforth?

And what was the purpose of this beautiful
receptacle, before it became slightly dull
Did it always house ribbons, always so full
or was it sat empty? Money, buttons or tea?
Bills, cotton, sugar or another commodity
Something meaningful or insignificant, little…

Where and when did it originally come alive
Somewhere familiar or foreign, with a vibe
clearly oozing opportunity, vitality and life
A world far from our time and knowledge
Yet one which may say much about dredge
and call us to be content with what we have.

And these hands, have they been embellished
Or rather influenced, shaped and moulded?
Positively, gently…maybe abused, oppressed
With expectation; demands to be, say and do
Things fitting for a woman, to have and to hold
Still content to be contained and constrained?

Invitation to Abundance

As I prepared my sermon for today around the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, I was prayerfully transported back to Cuddesdon. Only months earlier we had used this passage for a Eucharist with children. They had designed, or at least had a say in, most of the service; they had chosen to focus on the abundance of God. All week I have been pondering God’s abundance, and signs of that abundance, across the parish.

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If we’re considering material abundance, then perhaps the parish in which I serve does not offer a life of plenty. This week Church Times have included a few articles on the need for the Church of England to become more relevant to people who live in parishes just like mine. Whilst I absolutely support the sentiment behind this thinking, I would also question whether people in more deprived areas are withdrawing from church, or just withdrawing from organised church services. In a little over a month I have encountered so many people who wish to share deep aspects of their lives with me and be prayed for. Material abundance is something that they may be able to see but is completely out of reach, much like these blackberries which grow behind bars, impossible for anyone to reach and benefit from.

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A life of plenty is something in the distance that many will fail to see because they are too busy or too preoccupied with the here and now.

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And yet even in these places where hope is difficult to find, there are small reminders of this abundance springing up in very unlikely places and flourishing on very little nourishment.

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I am inclined to believe that it is not material abundance which God offers, neither is it an abundance which we can see but is far out of reach. Instead God offers a rich abundance which may at first be difficult to identify or describe.

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As Isaiah 55:1 says, “You that have no money, come, buy and eat…without money and without price.” Isaiah and the feeding of the five thousand offer an invitation from God to this abundant life where, in sharing the little that we have, what we have grows beyond all recognition.

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What we have to share may not be material; it might be our time, hospitality, friendship, care and prayers. As small as these may seem, when we offer them out they grow in our hearts and the hearts of others.

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When we don’t offer out the gifts that we have, or share what we have, the imagery of “The Old Shopping Bag” can soon become a reality.

The Old Shopping Bag

Do you remember the time when we met
I was new, vibrant and perfect without blemish
You were much younger then
You hadn’t yet met your man
And the children were mere stars in the sky
Those were the good old days
You would meet your friends and take me too
We would go to all kinds of places
You would give me items for safe keeping
Far more than I could carry – I didn’t mind though
I was just happy to be by your side
Sharing in the joy feeling alive

Do you remember the day the pennies ran out
You had met your man by now
I could see how much you loved him and he you
But things were different
We didn’t go out together so much
You didn’t see your friends often
Giving me items for safe keeping
Almost never led to a day out
It tended to result in a visit to one place
The same place again and again
My sides were rarely bulging when we left
And I was beginning to show signs of neglect

That debt came shortly after your first child
How beautiful she was and so very placid
You spent your days loving and mothering
And he would bring home the bacon
Your man the bringer of happiness and laughter
Came home in the middle of the day
He slung his boots hard on top of me
It was miserable and wet anyway
Yet his return seemed to bring
More anguish and distress
I had never seen you like that before
Little did I know it was to become the new normal

The trips out became fewer and fewer
I was now looking positively shabby
With threads dangling and my once vibrant print
Now scuffed and barely recognisable
To add insult to injury one of my straps hung loose
Even the lighter loads that you now entrusted
Into my care were too much to bear
I was tired but that was nothing
In light of your sheer exhaustion
Desperation and insatiable hunger
You asked and you received but never enough
Kind as people were…it was never enough

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Alone…

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#646 For those days, for those situations, for those people, and for those places, for when we feel alone, today I pray:

Heavenly Father,
in your Son Jesus Christ
you have given us a true faith and a sure hope.
Strengthen this faith and hope in us all our days,
that we may live as those who believe in

the communion of saints
the forgiveness of sins
and the resurrection to eternal life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

(From the 1928 Prayer Book)

Acknowledgements

#645 How often do you look back and acknowledge the people who have helped you to be where you are today, or to become who you are today? #embercards #requestforprayer #givingthanks

“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.”

Saint Teresa of Avila

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Rhythm of Life

#538 #backintherhythm of #communityliving #morningprayer #eveningprayer #lectures #communitymeals #privilege #cherisheachday 

One prayer

#529 Similar to a New Years #resolution perhaps; if you had just #oneprayer what would it be? If you could #askgod just one question, what would you ask? 

Happy New Year

#523 Happy New Year!!! In line with an old tradition of introducing into your home that which you hope will be plentiful, I had to see in the #newyear with my #favouritebreakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs! With love, prayers and good wishes for all those who read these posts – may you find hope and strength through #challengingtimes as well as #wonderfulblessings to rejoice in. Amen. 

Search for wisdom

#510 #thedoortowisdom #spiritualdirection #whereigotoclearmyhead #unpackinglife 

The need to express

#498 #day3 of #japantravels…#prayers outside the temple are evidence of people’s #needs. Provision to seek and ask is so important…perhaps having the #opportunity to express that need alleviates it somewhat?

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