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  • Encompassed by God

    Today's focus on Psalm 91 seems, on the whole, to have been well received and helpful for those who listened.  It is a well-known and easily skimmed psalm but one which, when we read it properly is rich in metaphor and meaning.  The subject matter - God's faithfulness in a trying and bewildering world - is not so different from Psalm 90, but its tone is totally different.  If Psalm 90 is a 'vertical' (Godward) rant, Psalm 91 is a horizontal (human to human) encouragement.  Interesting metaphors - again, God as a place of shelter and safety, and then, as one who releases trapped birds from snares, as a mother bird protecting her young, as a pair of shields, one small (buckler, hand to hand combat) and one large (perhaps like a riot shield).  All metaphors that involve risk and possible injury on the part of the protector - the battle-scarred shield, the mother bird unable to fly to safety, the one who risks the wrath of the fowler by freeing the trapped birds...  Thus we have a suffering God rather than an impassive one.

    We also had a bit of a play with circling prayer - the ancient Celtic caim or compassing prayer which has regained popularity in some parts of the church.  The physical tracing of a circle around ourselves and invoking God's protection... not everyone's 'bag of mashings'  but I think everyone gave it go.  The idea of being surrounded by God's love - above, below, beside, around, within, outside, in joy, in sorrow, is failure, in success - is both simple and profound.  I think western protestant non-conformists are a bit wary both of the physicality and the almost charm-like nature of the circling prayer, but perhaps as a result we lose something of the mystery that our forebears enjoyed?

    One of the songs we used was Timothy Dudley Smith's 'Safe in the Shadow of the Lord'.  Finding a recording of the 'right' tune has proved tricky, but here it is on an organ in Wales!  The words then follow



    Safe in the shadow of the Lord,

    Beneath His hand and power,

    I trust in Him,

    I trust in Him,

    My fortress and my tower.


    My hope is set on God alone,

    Though Satan spreads his snare,

    I trust in Him,

    I trust in Him,

    To keep me in His care.


    From fears and phantoms of the night,

    From foes about my way,

    I trust in Him,

    I trust in Him,

    By darkness as by day.


    His holy angels keep my feet

    Secure from every stone;

    I trust in Him,

    I trust in Him,

    And unafraid go on.


    Strong in the everlasting Name,

    And in my Father’s care,

    I trust in Him,

    I trust in Him,

    Who hears and answers prayer.


    Safe in the shadow of the Lord,

    Possessed by love divine,

    I trust in Him,

    I trust in Him,

    And meet His love with mine.


    (c) Timothy Dudley Smith

  • Grand Total!

    Today I am having a blog tidy/rearrange and removing the Justgiving link, though the donation page will remain 'live' for one more week I think.

    I am 'highly diluted' (as my mother would say) to have raised the amazing sum of £1800 for Breast Cancer Care.  I have benefited a lot from their work these past two years, through the execllent leaflets provided to NHS GGC, through the online discussion forum (which I have never quite managed to escape as everytime I try, I get another lovely message thanking me for being there... I seem to have become some kind of unofficial virtual chaplain!) and through a couple of specialist events.  Along the way I have made some real world friends from Perth (Scotland) to Mozambique, and all stations in between.

    The money will be put to good use, of that I have no doubt.

    Huge thanks to everyone who sponsored me, came to my coffee morning (and extra huge thanks to those who helped to run it); your generosity will help many, many, fearful women and men find hope and strength to live with, through and, in many cases, beyond breast cancer.

  • Soy Free Chocolate... Yum!

    Thank you SB for today's surprise parcel.  Very, very, yum!


  • When in Rome...

    Another 'I never noticed that before' moment about Luke-Acts.  I was reading ahead the Roots Advent material which begins Luke as it's Yr 3 of the RCL.  The preliminary notes observed that, as well as a deal of parallelism (Jesus & John, Peter & Paul) Luke's narrative is firmly set in the context of Rome... beginning pretty much with the Roman census (we'll not divert into historicity debates) and ending with Paul in Rome.  Interesting as 'brackets' or 'bookends' for this narrative.

  • Hypocrisy and Authenticity

    This morning's PAYG centred on Luke 12: 1 - 7, not exactly the most straight forward passage one has the privilege to ponder.  As I listened the first thing I noticed was a detail I'd never before spotted - the crowd was so big that people were tripping over one another or trampling one another (or words to that general effect).  Hardly a nice Sunday service!  More the sense of fans trying to reach some pop idol.  Interesting.  But not actually where the reflection went.

    Hypocrisy was correlated to inauthentic behaviour, of hiding the truth and pretending to be perfect, holy, sinless.  As I pondered this, it seemed to me that this could be read more generally as about hiding behind the mask of 'FINE' (Feeling Inadequate, Needing Encouragement) when life is anything but; about burying our questions, concerns, fears or lack of comprehension in order to be accepted as 'proper Christians'.  I try to be honest and open about stuff, but even I keep some things hidden.  There is a challenge, I think, a balance to be struck that combines authenticity with responsibility.  How do we remain pastorally sensitive without denying our own truths?  How do we be honest and open without damaging others?  I think that maybe hypocrisy is about self-centred self-protection, about how we think others might view/treat us if they really knew us.  Responsible authenticity recognises that sometimes me telling you how I feel, what I did or what I believe might actually be harmful to you.  It is important to be truthful - but not every truth has to be told.

    Hypocrisy compared to yeast - as a tiny hidden ingredient that spreads its influence through the whole - that's a challenge to self-awareness I think.  To spot the moments when I am tempted to be dishonest with myslef, never mind to others.  When I am tempted to portray myself as more sorted or holy or virtuous (or more unsorted or unholy or unvirtuous for that matter) than I really am, I need to ask myself why I am doing this.

    Tricky stuff!  But to end on a lighter note, comparing Matthew and Luke, we see that special offers existed even in the first century - Matthew has two sparrows for a penny, and Luke has five for two pennies... bargain!