Finding free space and time

Finding free space and time

Jun 2, 2019  |  Ascension, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Finding free space and time

Grace to you

Every seven years Methodist ministers are given a three-month sabbatical. My sabbatical starts tomorrow and I will be away until the middle of August. This is my third sabbatical and each time I realise that it is not only a gift to myself but also for the congregation. For a congregation who listens to me preach week in and week out, I think it is important to hear different voices telling different stories from different perspectives. If there is anything that I say that is truthful then at most it is just a tiny slither of a much larger and brighter Light. Listening to varied voices will thicken our faith and stretch our understanding. So over the next 10 weeks there will be a different voice every week – my hope is that we will be open to hear new truth.

I can’t easily imagine life without the rhythm of sermon preparation each week. This discipline is so engrained in my being which is both a gift and danger. The gift is that it keeps me rowing out into the depths each week – even when I would prefer to splash around in the shallows. The danger is that the rhythm is so engrained it can be little more than a habit on auto-pilot or a task to tick off each week or perhaps even worse, a show to put on for your entertainment.

The purpose of a sabbatical is not only to relax and rest which is of course crucial for renewed vitality – but also to revisit areas neglected and review areas of focus: Basically to unplug and push the reset button to be ready for a new season.

In the past I have filled my sabbaticals with much activity and new experiences. This time round when I have tried to make plans they all felt like an avoidance strategy. So I have no plans. And I am hoping to stick to that plan. To embrace emptiness. To welcome nothingness. To face boredom. To wander the wilderness.

In the Bible the people were instructed to let the fields lie fallow every 7th year. One definition of fallow is: land left unseeded after being ploughed and harrowed to regain fertility for a crop. Renewed fertility is the aim of fallow.

Winnie the Pooh puts it simply: “Doing nothing leads to the best kind of something”. This is my hope that nothing will lead me to something. I look forward to returning fertile for a crop…

Grace,
Alan


“O persistent God,
deliver me from assuming your mercy is gentle
pressure me that I may grow more human,
not through the lessening of my struggles,
But through the expansion of them.

That will undamn me
and unbury my gifts.
Deepen my hurt
until I learn to share it
and myself
openly,
and my needs honestly.
Sharpen my fears
until I name them
and release the power I have locked in them
and they in me.

Accentuate my confusion
until I shed those grandiose expectations
that divert me from the small, glad gifts
of the now and the here and the me.

Expose my shame where it shivers,
crouched behind the curtains of propriety,
until I can laugh at last through my common frailties
and failures,
laugh my way toward becoming whole.

O persistent God let how much it all matters pry me off dead center so if I am moved inside to tears or sighs or screams or smiles or dreams they will be real and I will be in touch with who I am and who you are and who my sisters and brothers are.

O God, help me to believe in beginnings and in my beginning again, no matter how often I’ve failed before…help me to make a beginning and to be a beginning for others.”

~ Ted Loder

In the end it's all about love

In the end it’s all about love

May 13, 2018  |  Ascension, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on In the end it’s all about love

Grace and peace to you

Here are a few ‘love’ quotes from Bell Hooks’ book: All About Love that I referred to in last week’s message:

Love is as love does. [p14]

No one can rightfully claim to be loving when behaving abusively. [p22]

Without justice there can be no love… The heart of justice is truth telling, seeing ourselves and the world the way it is rather than the way we want it to be. [p33] Estrangement from feelings makes it easier for men to lie… [p39] When men lie to women, presenting a false self, the terrible price they pay to maintain “power over” us is the loss of their capacity to give and receive love. [p41]

It is no easy task to be self-loving. [p54] Simply learning how we have acquired feelings of worthlessness rarely enables us to change things; it is usually only one stage in the process. [p54] When we see love as a combination of trust, commitment, care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility,… we can learn to extend them to ourselves. [p54]

In an ideal world we would all learn in childhood to love ourselves. We would grow, being secure in our worth and value, spreading love wherever we went, letting our light shine. If we did not learn self-love in our youth, there is still hope. The light of love is always in us, no matter how cold the flame. [p68]

I know of no one who has embraced a love ethic whose life has not become joyous and more fulfilling. The widespread assumption that ethical behaviour takes the fun out of life is false. [p88]

The choice to love is a choice to connect – to find ourselves in the other. [p93]

Domination cannot exist in any social situation where a love ethic prevails. [p98]

The will to sacrifice on behalf of another, always present when there is love, is annihilated by greed. [p117]

Greed subsumes love and compassion; living simply makes room for them. [p125]

The more genuine our romantic loves the more we do not feel called upon to weaken or sever ties with friends in order to strengthen ties with romantic partners. Trust is the heartbeat of genuine love. [p135]

Like many men, he wanted a woman to be “just like his mama” so that he did not have to do the work of growing up. [p149]

Sadly, love will not prevail in any situation where one party wants to maintain control… At least when you hold to the dynamics of power you never have to fear the unknown; you know the rules of the power game… The practice of love offers no place to hide. We risk loss, hurt, pain. We risk being acted upon by forces outside our control. [p153]

The practice of love takes time. [p162]

…was I able to give the love I want to receive? [p172]

The heartbeat of true love is the willingness to reflect on one’s actions, and to process and communicate this reflection with the loved one. [p185]

Many men, especially, often turn away from true love and choose relationships in which they can be emotionally withholding when they feel like it but still receive love from someone else. Ultimately, they choose power over love. To know and keep true love we have to be willing to surrender the will to power. [p187]

No matter what has happened in our past, when we open our hearts to love we can live as if born again, not forgetting the past but seeing it in a new way, letting it live inside us in a new way. [p209]

Grace, Alan

 

Blessed Mothering Sunday!