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  • At Home in Lent - Day 17

    After the shower, the bath... and some interesting social history and a complete omission of Jewish hygiene rituals that involved bathing/immerision (hence why synagogues often have 'baptisteries').

    Bathing as 'me time,' as pampering as well as cleansing... actually I think that's quite a good focus!

    I'm not good at leisurely bathing... once in a blue moon I'll fill the tub with scented bubbles, maybe light a few candles... and after five minutes, ten at most, I've had enough!  But it doesn't stop me liking the idea.

    So perhaps the thing for me to ponder is what serves in a similar way for me?  Pampering for me is absolutely not about hair or makeup, massage or mindfulness. I'd much rather curl up with a book, listen to music or cuddle the kitties.  Perhaps the challenge is to make the time for these, then.

    God of rest and relaxation, show me what sabbath looks like for me... dare I ask you to pamper me with your shalom-giving rest?  Perhaps I dare!  Amen.

  • At Home in Lent - Day 16

    We remain in the bathroom today (and the next couple of days). Today it's the shower which is our focus, and the idea of ritualised daily ablutions.  The social history bit is again fascinating - showers not really catching on until the 1960s and then the daily shower starting to replace the weekly bath.

    A parallel is made with prayer... Sunday worship as the 'immersion in a bath' (very Baptist!) and private prayer as the daily shower.  Perhaps key to this is that showers are generally quite quick, and at the start or end of the day.  The idea that private prayer doesn't need to be protracted or elaborate is important.

    I'd also want to say that, just as sometimes we take more than one shower, and sometimes we may not take any, so it is with private prayer... legalism isn't what this is about, helpful routines is.

    God whose Spirit may come as rushing, clear water, to cleanse and refresh us, help us to enjoy routines of prayer and reflection that are helpful and healthy for us. Amen.

  • At Home in Lent - Day 15

    By now, anyone following these posts will be under no illusion that I don't always agree with the thoughts/trajectory of the author of this Lent book.  For all that, there is much a appreciate about it...

    I enjoy very much the forays into social history, which today are about the origins of the toilet (object for the day).  Evidently Elizabeth I was the first to have a flush toilet, designed by a nephew who seems to have been quite a rascal.  The French King, Louis XIV was persuaded to install a 'lieu a anglaises' - hence the name 'loo' still popular today!  And of course every school child knows about Thomas Crapper, 'nough said.

    I also enjoy the fact that the book provokes thought - if I don't blithely agree, then I have to think about why that is, and what I do think.

    Today's focus is decidedly lavatorial (did I really read this chapter whilst eating my porridge!!) and links to the idea that it is what comes out of a person that makes them unclean.  Comparing confession to [not his words but his intent] 'pooing and peeing' is not without merit.  Stepping into a private place to clear out the waste, the rubbish, the dirty stuff, and then emerging feeling fresh and clean.  It's a powerful - if not entirely 'nice' image.

    The author also notes our reluctance to see a doctor if our nether regions aren't behaving quite right, or if what we expel is not 'normal', and compares this with a reluctance to seek help for inner spiritual - and I would add, mental - dis-ease.  In traditions without priests or confession, where do we find the 'soul doctors' we may sometimes need? What 'medicine' might we need to ease pain or heal inner wounds?

    So today I get permission for a nag about screening and body awareness.  And today I also get a reminder to take care of my own inner, spiritual and mental, health.

    As the old song expresses it - There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul...

    God of Gilead, anoint us with the balm of your Spirit's touch, that we may be healed of the sickness of the sin that clings, and the regrets that scar. Amen. 

  • At Home in Lent - Day 14

    So here we are, a third of the way through Lent!

    My 'dairy free'endeavours are not going too well! Yesterday it was a choice of cheese, egg or nothing for a lunchtime sandwich, so I had one of each (quarter sized triangles)... They were nice, but today it's back to dairy-free.  For once in my life, it is proving a real challenge, not because I lack the will power but because other factors are sometimes more important. Less legalism, more intention.

    Which sort of, with a bit of torsion, connects with today's object and theme...

    The object is the wrist watch, and the key point is that it is something we wear, a timepiece (and nowadays perhaps a whole lot more) that is strapped to us and, as well as allowing us to keep track of the time of day, has the potential to control our behaviour (especially if it's a smart watch of some description).

    The author compares the wristwatch with the phylacteries worn by devout Jews - small boxes, either tied to forehead or strapped to the upper arm, in which key words from the Torah are held.  A visible reminder of the Law, meant to be a prompt for the wearer, reminding him (and it is a male only thing) of God's Law and the expectations that demands. In Jesus' day, phylacteries were sometimes a flamboyant statement of orthodoxy and power.  I guess the same can be true of watches too.  I've never paid more that £30 for a watch, and genuinely don't understand why I might wish to spend more... to me it is solely a functional object.  Others enjoy beautiful watches, gifts and heirlooms, and why not, it's just not for me!

    To link a wristwatch to spirituality is a bit tortuous, but as visible reminders of the previous gift of time, then maybe it's doable.


    Loving God, help me not to focus on the outward displays of my orthodoxy and piety, but instead to let your Spirit live deep within me, enabling me to live your law of Love. Amen.

  • Evening Reflections in Lent

    As usual, we are adapting the CTBI Lent study material for our evening reflections.  This year's theme is 'The Mystery of God' and the material is really excellent, with thoughtful questions to accompany scripture, poetry, stories, video clips, meditations and much more.

    We adapt the material for use in a service lasting 45 - 60 minutes, so introduce some hymns/songs and, perforce, omit some of the options.

    Last night it was my turn to lead, and I had the theme 'The Mystery of God's Glory.'  As a visual focus, and based on the use of the poem 'God's Glory' by Gerard Manley Hopkins, I had 'shining shook from foil' - or at least foil, both aluminium and shiny coloured foil-covered eggs, and some candles.  This photo, taken by B and sent to me, gives a hint of that 'shining'... light reflected and diffracted, dancing beyond the confines of the physical space, hinting at something more, something exicting, something beautiful, something beyond.

    Always a privilege to lead worship.  Always a joy to share with our ecumenical freinds. It was a grand end to a good day.