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  • Lent Reflections - 3

    Sacred Space today focussed on Matthew 9:14-15, where John's disicples ask Jesus why his followers don't fast when eveeryone else does.  It's a curious thing to ponder at the start of the principle fast practised (in theory anyway) within Christianity.

    This year, I am struck by the, completely understandable, reluctance of people to abstain from chocolate or alcohol or social media at a time when life is hard and monotonous.  Similarly, whilst there are any number of creative and interesting Lent resources and groups to connect with, there is a degree of fatigue and fedupness that makes them less attractive.

    The last time I abstained for Lent was 2010 (something I had done every year since 1978!) because, arriving at the start of Lent 2011 having just come through chemo etc., I felt I had done quite enough abstaining, thank you all the same. I think that this year, other people are discovering the same.

    Why aren't (some/many) of Jesus' disicples fasting/abstaining?  Because, frankly, the abstentions begun last Lent are still going on, and we really don't need any self flagellation to add to the mix. 


    Thy Will be Done moves swiftly from patriachal language to the inadequacy of all language to describe God or to express prayer.  We know that, we've heard it countless times before.  But sometimes we also need to be freed from the (self-imposed?) tyranny of getting the words right and allow ourselves to concentrate on the mystery of this God who seeks relationship with us.


    Can I hold the two together? Can I weave a thread between them?

    Perhaps it's simply this - that the God who loves us is more interested in keeping relationship with us than whether or not our spiritual disciplines and practices are perfectly honed.  Perhaps we should allow ourselves to snuggle up on God's lap (as per Psalm 131) and simply to enjoy being held safe for a while. 

  • Lent Reflections - 2

    Today's chapter of 'Thy Will Be Done' almost perfectly explored the ideas I played with yesterday... so I won't repeat them today!

    'Sacred Space' focused on the idea of 'Take up your Cross' which it interpreted as a call to martyrdom, to suffering with and for Christ.  The text used, Luke 9:22 - 25 makes for scary reading, potentially linking salvation with this denial of self for the sake of Christ.  This seems to go further than anything I've heard preached, but is definitely a valid reading of the text.

    For Arminian/Wesleyan Christians, who lean towards universal or are universalist, all can be saved, all will be saved, and all will be saved to the uttermost.

    For Calvinist Christians, who adhere to the TULIP doctrine, only the elect can be saved (limited atonement) but they cannot then be unsaved again (perseverance of the saints).

    So what do we do with passages that suggest that salvation can be lost?  Is it the case (and I think it may be) that 'once saved, always saved' ideas open the way to 'abundance of grace' views, and life styles that don't align with professed beliefs? It's not, I want to suggest, that our eternal salvation is, or may be, forfeited, but that the quality of our life is directly linked with the choices we make.

    If we lose our 'life' - of self determination, ambition, success, wealth, happiness -  in order to follow Jesus, then we discover a more abundantly fulfilling life.

    If we cling to the life we can build for ourselves, fulfillment will only ever be partial, fleeting... our lives will lack fullness, even if we don't know what is missing.

    If I read this passage as a temporal rather than an eternal truth, then I can separate life here from life hereafter.

    For the record, I have an Arminian-ish theology that verges on Universalism but allows for the possibility that someone might encounter God and say 'no thanks'.  I do not believe in a hell that is eternal conscious torment, though I do have a sense that evil itself needs to be consigned to a 'place' of destruction - perhaps what some have termed 'an empty hell'.  I certainly hope God's a universalist, and that, in the end everyone, Judas included, is OK.    


  • Lent Reflections - 1

    Lent begins today, and so I am beginning a fairly gentle reading schedule with a couple of very simple resources.

    Sacred Space for Lent 2021 is produced by the Irish Jesuit network and provides a daily Bible passage (printed in full) and a couple of questions to ponder

    Thy Will be Done - The 2021 Lent Book by Stephen Cherry is a gentle amble through Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer.

    In a nice synchronicity, serendipity, Holy Spirit hmm moment, whatever it was, today's Sacred Space reading was the context of Matthew's Lord's Prayer (Matt 6).

    Over the days ahead, I will endeavour to keep up to date with the reading, and to share anything that I think might be of interest to others.

    For today, it's the literal translation of Matthew's Lord's Prayer from Thy Will Be Done that gives me pause for thought...

    Father of us, the one in the heavens,

    Let be revered the name of you,

    Let come the kingdom of you,

    Let be done the will of you,

    as in heaven, also on earth.

    The bread of us us daily give us today.

    And forgive us the debts of us,

    As also we have forgiven the debtors of us.

    And do not bring us into temptation,

    but rescue us from the evil one.

    Father of us... means the same as Our Father, but the unfamiliar form perhaps helps me (or us) to notice new nuances... not 'our possession' but 'the one who fathers us'...  or maybe it invites us to ponder just who is the 'us' and how broad or narrow that definition might be. Neither of these, I might add, is where the book goes!

    The Jesusit book begins with the stern reminder about 'practising your piety before people', with emphases on alms giving, prayer and fasting, all of which are often associated with Lent.  Curious challenge then, to share things that might be interesting/resonant without falling into the trap of hypocrisy along the way.

    Whatever you are or aren't taking on as a Lent discipline (and none is required) I do hope you find blessing.

  • Pancakes APlenty

    Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day or evening Mardi Gras, whatever name you give it, it was nice to be able treat myself to some pancakes/crepes for breakfast.

    Lots of batter left over, so I am thinking about making a (veggie) toad in the hole for tea!

    Lent begins tomorrow, and I return to work after a few days rest.  It is more than a tad strange preparing for a second digital Lent, but we have some good things planned. I am hoping to post a bit more regularly, based on my Lenten reading. 

  • Tamoxifen - the Final Countdown!

    This morning I phoned my GP practice to order a prescription - something I always do at least a week ahead of time.  For the first time since I began having to do this, I didn't order Tamoxifen, and it felt weird!  I have eleven more days to go (not that I am counting or anything) and then that's it.

    Some people feel strangely liberated to reach the end of their 'hormone therapy', especially if the side effects have been significant (and mine certainly have). 

    Some people feel anxious, as if a safety net has been snatched away (at the moment I certainly do not)

    Some people stop taking the drug early, for all sorts of reasons, and a very small number take it for life. Most take it for five years (low risk) or ten years (high risk). I am grateful to my consultant whose advice and guidance have informed my decision to stick with it, despite multiple and complex side effects.

    It has been a bit of a love-hate relationship, but common sense has always prevailed, and as I often say, 'I am here to moan about it.'

    I am hoping that in a few weeks the side effects will wear off, and am reassured by the science that suggests the benefit of the drug should last another five years or so.

    In other times, tomorrow would have been my final visit to the breast clinic, but in these times, that appointment was cancelled six months ago.  Looking back over the ten and a half years since my diagnosis, I know just how fortunate I am - in recent weeks, a friend has had a second primary diagnosis, someone I supported a few years back has had a secondary diagnosis, and another friend has news of further progression of her stage 4 disease.

    Yes, it's the final countdown for Tamoxifen, but the vigilence and residual 0.1% niggle will remain for the rest of my life.

    So, if you are offered screening, please take it; if you have worrying symptoms, please report them.  Cancer caught early is almost always treatable and sometimes curable... 122 boxes of Tamoxifen later, I am proof that long term remission, and a fulfilled life, are possible and achievable.