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  • Remember you are dust...

    ... and to dust you will return.

    A couple of years ago I blogged a reflection on this, which seemed to resonate with some readers... the story of how I had come to value these words, and the comfort of knowing that the atoms and molecules that make up my body will still be here and still part of life on earth long after I have gone.

    For various reasons, recently I've had lots of conversations about disposal (or not) of "cremated remains" also known as ashes.  Should they be buried or dispersed?  Is it OK to divide them into portions?  Is it ghoulish to keep grandma (or Fido) on the mantlepiece?  Ashes converted to diamonds and incorporated into jewellry; ashes smeared on skin and then tattooed into it; ashes launched into space... the possibilties are, it seems, pretty much endless.  I have my views on the various practices listed above, and some would definitely not be "for me".

    Remember you are dust and too dust you will return... this keeps us from becoming too arrogant in life, but raises huge challenges about what happens to our mortal remains after we die.  Within all of the questions and all of the choices people make is, I suspect, a tacit wrestling with what that all means... a need to make meaningful something that potentially destroys meaning.

    I am still comforted and reassured by the knowledge that the atoms and molecules that make me will go on being part of the life of this planet as long as it exists.  I am comforted and reassured by the hope I have in Christ that my life will continue beyond the here and now.  Death and dying are profound mysteries, taboos we rarely speak about depsite their inevitability.  Maybe it is good one day a year to be reminded, gently, of our own mortality and assured that in the end it'll all be OK.

    Oh, and if anyone wonders, when my time comes, just set me free on the breeze.... :-)

  • 40 Acts - Day 1

    Today we are offered this verse from Isaiah, and invited to pause to plan what our forty days might involve..

    I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
    Isaiah 46:10 (NIV)


    Three actions:



    A quick and effective way to prep? Pray. Ask God to be at the centre of your generosity this Lent.  Write down your prayer and pin it somewhere you’ll see it every day.




    Start a journal. Keep a list of all the people you'd like to bless this Lent, and use it to document all the things you learn over the next 40 days.



    Create a generosity kit that you'll keep with you every day during Lent.  Fill it up with things you can use to bless others – a chocolate bar, a spare umbrella and a few pens.



    Does any of these appeal to you? 


    I'll let you in to a secret - the word "journal" made me groan, carrying with it memories of all those years of mandatory journalling.  So I'm going to re-imagine that as "blog", and rather than a list of people I might want to bless, it will be a set of daily reflections on the actions I choose.


    Praying is always good, so I can do that one too.  Not so sure about the 'generosity pack' that feels everso slightly contrived, though I get the intent.  Maybe I'll take a wander round the shops and pick up a few odds and ends?

    Today I will be taking the kitties to meet the V.E.T.  I am aware I never took them a 'thank you' gift for taking care of Holly, so today's "random act of generosity" may take the form of something for them...


  • Lest We Forget...

    Glasgow Uni has undertaken a huge project to remember, on their anniversary of death, all alumni killed in World War I, and to place a poppy cross in the University memorial garden.

    Today it was one Thomas Hathaway, a Lancastrian-born man who never studied there but was part of the OTC.  He was just 20 years old when he was killed.

  • The Brink of Wilderness?

    This morning I was doing Uni Chapel prayers and landed up with Jeremiah 2: 1 - 13 to reflect upon.  As I commented, I always seem to get thorny passages!

    One thread in this reading was of following God into the wilderness... hints of the Exodus story, maybe hints (retrospectiviely) of Christ's temptations.  The wilderness - an unknown, possibly barren, potentially hostile place.  A place of risk.  A place of repentance.  A place of reflection.  (I got a bit carried away with my "r" words).

    Lent is, metaphorically anyway, an opportunity to choose to enter a wilderness period, a place and space entrered precisely for its lack of familiarty and comfort, a place to reflect, a space to review, reconsider and re-evaluate.  A place to meet ourselves and make peace with ourselves.  A place to prepare for the challenges of the Easter season.

    I think there is a risk for Christians of sanctifying struggle and suffering by comparing it to the "wilderness" that I am quite wary of in writing this post.  The lenten 'wilderness' is different because it is voluntarily entered... it is a chosen place and space for a defined duration and purpose.  It is a conscious decision to walk into an unknown and uncharted place, but with a clearly defined point on the horizon towards which we walk... So long as keep our eyes looking forward, we can't get lost; so long as we keep plodding onwards, we will arrive.

    Perhaps, after all, what we do is wander along the brink of the wilderness...?

  • Lent is almost here...

    Shrove Tuesday... that day when tradition dictates that we gorge ourselves on all the fatty, yummy, bad-for-us things in the cupboard before we become abstemious until Easter. 

    From 1978 to 2010 I dutifully kept a "lenten fast", first giving up sugar in drinks (to which I never returned) then sweets and chocolates, cakes and puddings, coffee, tea and indeed lots of other things.  Mostly it was an act of discipline but I also set aside such money as I would have spent on treats to donate to a charitable appeal - I wasn't "just" giving up, I was also giving out.

    In 2011, Lent caught me unawares and, recently released from the dietary and lifestyle restrictions of cancer treatment I didn't give anything up.  Instead, I began a practice of using the Christian Aid "Count Your Blessings" scheme to collect (quite large sums of) money for the charity in gratitude for things taken for granted in this country.

    This year I'm having another change.  The 40 Acts campaign is about generosity, with assorted challenges to be attempted each day.  It's new for me (it's actually been around quite a long time) and I am looking forward to the challenge it offers.  Watch this space to see how I get on!