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  • At Home in Lent - Day 13

    I've always been puzzled by the OT story of King Hezekiah who, when told he would soon die, turned his face to the wall and pleaded with God to be allowed to live.  Not only was his wish granted, but, as a sign, time went backwards, or, to be more accurate, the sun moved back 'ten steps' (Isaiah 38: 1 - 8).  As many years have passed since I learned this story as a child, the puzzlement has given way more to annoynace - lots of people are told they are going die, lots of people kow they will die, many people pray not to die, and they still die.  Why is Hezekiah granted a fifteen year extension (though still knowing he will die, and I guess as the years draw on a knowledge that his time is running out) and other people are not?  Already this year I've been connected, to some degree, with five families where a loved one has died, to say nothing of those living with terminal diagnoses or life-limiting conditions.  Many of these are incredibly devout people of faith; most would have loved, or would love, the offer of an extra fifteen years... but the sun does not even stop, let alone move backwards in the sky.

    For eight and a half years now, I have winced when I hear someone utter the phrase 'time to kill,' all too aware that there are countless people who would give anything for that hour, that half day.  Last Friday in New Zealand, fifty people who went to pray had their reasonably expected time stolen from them, it was literally killed.

    All time - and here I agree with the book's author - is a gift.  If there is a gap between meetings, an unexpected delay on a journey, it is a gift, time to be savoured, enjoyed, experienced.  It is no less a gift than the unexpected free time when a long-planned meeting is cancelled as unnecessary, or than the chosen holiday or retreat where we turn off computers, phones and simply be.

    Clocks are useful, they help us order our lives, but we need to be wary lest we allow them to tyranise us.

    Time is precious, it cannot be bought or sold, but it can be squandered or denied.


    God beyond time, the story of Hezekiah troubles me.  It seems so unfair that his wish was granted when countless others are not.  It seems bizarre that he was granted a sign when most of us have to rely on faith alone. I don't understand this story, but I do understand how precious time is, the time you permit me to enjoy, and that you gift to others.  Help me to value that gift wisely and well, and to emply my time so that, longer or shorter, it brings glory to you. Amen.

  • At Home in Lent - Day 12

    So, we've had clothes, we've had wardrobes, perhaps it's no great surprise that today we have shoes! Apparently the average person (UK?) owns 20 pairs of shoes... I am well below average, even if I count in slippers, wellies, walking boots and trainers!  It always feels to me I own too many shoes - it was only when I got down to one pair of 'work shoes' that I felt the need to go out and buy another.

    The purpose of shoes, the author notes, is to walk, to travel or journey.  Yes, 'these boots are made for walking' as the song says.

    He also sees shoes as symbol of hope (and though I struggle a bit with his basis for this, in the pile of shoes under glass in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial centre) it's an idea worth thinking about.  We put on shoes - boots, trainers, sandals, etc. - for a purpose, to go somewhere or do something.  For the most part this is positive, a hopeful thing.

    He notes that we are born barefoot (obviously!) and asserts that we die barefoot (not necessarily) and that these are in some sense holy moments.  He recalls Moses and the Burning Bush, where the sandals had to be removed because this was Holy Ground.

    At the moment, I'm wearing comfy slippers, in a couple of hours it will be work shoes... as I change 'my feet' as we say in my family (we often say 'put some feet on' when we put on shoes) I will step out in hope to share in worhsip, reflecting and more with people I love.

    As one of my favourite children's hymns says:

    'One more step along the world I go - and it's from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.'

  • At Home in Lent - Day 11

    Today's focus is 'best clothes' and one of the wedding banquet parables (the ne where someone is thrown out for not being properly attired)

    Although he doesn't cite the saying, 'fine feathers make fine birds,' the author hints at it, suggesting that if we 'look good we feel better' and assuming, in my opinion, that we all like to dress up.  I don't!  I would happily slob around in jeans and a sweatshirt all the time, but life doesn't permit that.  On the other hand, unlike quite a lot of Baptist ministers, I will 'collar up' for weddings, funerals, hospital visits and other occasions when being 'official' and symbolically 'being church' is important.  For all I dislike dressing up, I endeavour to be reasonably smart on a Sunday, and on high days and holy days will choose my outfits to reflect the mood/season.

    The author's reflection on the person who is turfed out of the wedding feast in the parable is that this is about a refusal to wear wedding cloths, a refusal to recongise the occasion and to show that outwardly.  He's not talking here about what we wear, but how we behave... faith without deads is not faith at all.  I could put on my dog collar and still behave appallingly, I could slob aorund in my jeans and behave impeccably... we have to be wary of taking too literally the clothing aspect of this story.

    If the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding feast, how do we imagine that?  What will we wear? How will we behave?

  • Bible Kitchen

    Sneaky peak of the objects I'll be using this afternoon with our 'Drop In' folk during our time of reflection.

  • At Home in Lent - Day 10

    How much do you spend on clothes and accessories? I was shocked, and sure the author of the book must be mistaken when he said that the average woman in the UK spends £1200 a month on clothes, shoes and accessories - that can't be right, can it? Well, I found the article from which he (without citing it) seems to have got this figure, here and it seems, in a selective survey, it is indeed true.  I also found another survey, which felt more realistic that set the vale at £1042 per year, or roughly £87 a month here. The latter feels more realistic but it's scary to think that there are significant numbers of British women who spend more on clothing etc. per month than many others get paid... For the record, I reckon, on average I spend around £20 - £25 a month, with a few bigger purchases, such as shoes, and many charity-shop finds!

    The object for today was 'wardrobe', and there's a short discussion on the early usage of the word (to ward, or guard, your (expensive/priceless) robes) and how this grew to become a name for  strongholds for valuables guarded by armed guards (think Tower of London).  I had to smile when I learned of a church in London called St Andrew by the Wardrobe because it made me think of Narnia!

    I'm sure Marie Kondo, whose ideas are currently so fashionable, would approve of his suggestion that we go through our wardrobes and pass on to charity shops the clothes we no longer like or wear.

    So - maybe I should head off now and splash my entire month's income on shoes and handbags... what do you think?!


    Generous, even extravagant God, who fills the earth with uncountable blessings, help us, as we enjoy the crocusses and daffodils, and all other flowers of the field to remember that nothing we can make or buy or own can compare with the wonder of your love of, and provision for, us.