Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year thinking...

How to live life with more rigour?

Is this going to be a good way to sustain prayer life?
Does anyone else use it?

Can I be Roman Catholic in an Anglo catholic sort of way?

I think I am trying to avoid this:

A very large number of the people who attend our services and partake of the Sacraments are disassociated personalities. They are one person on Sunday and another on Monday. They have one mind for the sanctuary and another for the street . . . It is the piety of the disassociated personality. The churchwarden who owns slum property; the devout layman who will not face the problem of war; the earnest brewer who presents a chalice to the church in the suburbs bought with the profits of the drink shops in town; the Christian workman who helps the vicar, and perhaps serves at Mass, and leaves his mates to strive for an improvement of conditions which he knows is short of justice and humanity, and takes gladly when he gets it, though he will not work for it. Don't you know him? The good, respectable fellow who keeps to himself, minds his own business, and is too Christian to be unselfish. All these -- and even the pious lady who attends daily Mass and evensong, and draws her dividends from goodness knows (but she doesn't know, nor care) where -- all these are disassociated personalities, and are not . . . on the road to salvation. (Here)

Role on 2008!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Grumpy Advent Reflections #9 THE LAST ONE

May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.
(Reading from Mass)

Finally the day has arrived – one sleep until Christmas!

But today, Noah (my boy) is not too flash.

He has had a funny tummy for a few days and today it has hit him hard.
He has spent most of the day on the couch.

But the festivities are for him too aren’t they?

They are for the entire world

For children and parents, for young and old.

For singles and families, old friends and strangers.

For followers, and those who struggle.

Especially those who are sick, tired, forgotten, lonely, small, broken, or outcast.

And since of all of us feel that way at least sometimes,
then tomorrows feast - Gods coming and dwelling ammong us - is more than ever for you and me!

Thanks for travelling with me these last few days.
I hope they have been of some help on your journey.

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Grumpy Advent Reflections #8

Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins’ . . . When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.
(Reading from Mass)

Two days to go!

Feeling the pressure yet?

Or are you ones of those ultra mega anally organized folk who had it all done by the end of November?

I think Joseph was one of those really organized ones too.
Especially with a wedding coming up.

Family and Friends invited? Check Synagogue booked? Check.
Met with Rabbi? Check.

Then a rocket to send him reeling out of this illusion of control.

Mary, by all accounts a godly girl, is pregnant.
Completely against the social standards of the time and, no doubt, Joseph’s wishes.

But God yet again turns human values on their head.
Joseph is instructed to act with compassion and love, not by law or worldly wisdom.

His friends probably saw him as stupid or at least misguided.
After all, how can you trust a girl “like that”?

And even then - could one bloke honestly tell another he had been visited by an Angel and expect to be taken seriously. . . ?

I think I’m liking Joseph more and more.

Wants to do the right thing AND listens to God.

Acts with loves and talks only a bit. (Maybe I’m reading into this a bit!)

Seems like the kind of Guy to make up his mind, stick to his guns, and just get on with the task at hand.

I could use a bit of that I think - Bit more stoic and less flighty.

And I could definitely talk less!

Anyway that’s it for today. Last one tomorrow.

See ya

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Grumpy Advent Reflections #7

Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors –of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
(Reading from Mass)

I love a good sing! And when I spend time with my friends the monks, this prayer is sung each evening at Vespers. Often it is sung in Latin.

But however it is recited, I have grown into the Magnificat – this song of praise of Mary.

Mary sees herself in God plan. God is working within history and time to bring in the Kingdom –a plan enacted through prophets and people back to time of Abraham.

I have grown into the Magnificat by beginning to see myself in Mary’s song.

I am the proud who needs to be shown Gods sovereignty.

I am the hungry who God has filled.

I am the one who has received God’s help and mercy.

But the Magnificat is also more than just Mary’s and my song.

It is also a challenge.

It challenges me to live in trust of Gods plan - to see myself in the line of Gods people through history, and as Mary does, to trust in Gods ultimate control.

It challenges me to work for Justice to bring in Gods kingdom through my actions, my prayer and my relationships

But most of all, at this time of year, I can join in Mary’s song, praising God for the birth of Jesus, and all of the hope, joy and new life that brings.

All of which is a good cure for grumpiness.

Travel safely friends!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Grumpy Advent Reflections #6

The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you
as on a day of festival.
Zephaniah 3:14 – 18
(Reading from Mass)

This is not a cop out!

God is in our midst.

That’s enough for me today.

Bit tired.

Hope you’re well.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Magi Video

What I did yesterday

Grumpy Advent Reflections #5

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her,
‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour.
Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus.
(Reading from Mass)

Here she comes . . .Mary!

Mary? Pretty hard to have the Christmas story without her.

Mary? The reason people most often gave me as to why I should NOT become a Catholic.

Mary? Do I really understand her, see behind the history, see the woman?

I chose to write about this today because Mary doesn’t have much of a place in my theology or my spirituality.

In Catholic tradition though Mary features fairly prominently – but Marian devotions (Eg the Rosary) have never done much for me.

I’m not anti or aggressive. More ambivalent.

After selecting the reading today, I dug out my commentary and tried to get in behind the text.

Nazareth was a town of about 150. Talk about small. Talk about insignificant.

Talk about an insignificant fifteen-year-old girl in an insignificant place being propelled into the big league of changing the world!

Mary then is the model believer who says “yes” to God, despite her circumstances and her physical/social/political position.

And (I love this bit) she is the beginning of the rogues gallery of believers, like sinners, women, little people, the outcasts, who no-one of that time would have considered suitable to respond to Gods revelation.

Perhaps then Mary can be become a starting point of inclusiveness for me.
If God can include Mary in his plan (and we rightly remember her for this) then maybe I can really believe that God can include me too – and those other who give me the whoops!

Hail Mary!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Grumpy Advent Reflections #4

Nothing grabbed me from the readings today.
But I read this :
A Benedictine Monk who writes a daily reflection. Set me thinking

For me as a Christian the assurance that God cares for us, that life has meaning, all this is inseparable from belief in Christ. The basis for my hope and trust is what God has done through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. I know that there are people who are hopeful, positive, able to face whatever life brings without that belief.

I wonder how you negotiate this time of year with those family and friends who are not “Christian” – even in a nominal sense?

I guess I am assuming that since you want to read this stuff that the Christian faith is relatively important to you!

It is very easy for me to set up a ghetto faith for most of my life - where for most of the time I don’t have to dialogue with people outside my belief system.

But when it comes to those closest to us, especially at big festivals like Christmas, the issue becomes more complex doesn’t it?
It can be harder to ignore the divide between those involved in the “religious activities”, and those who aren’t.

If we are going to celebrate with integrity then it requires us to know the “Whats” and “Whys”
and to be able to communicate with others if (and hopefully) when they ask.

The problem for me is that this can lead to “evangelism” in the traditional sense of
“we have the answers – come follow us and you’ll be right mate!” - which really doesn’t work for me.

At a deeper level, I have a lot of trouble believing in an “in/out” God who would co-create a life, a brain, a soul, a wondrous creature capable of incredible feats, only to say “There’s one way only to me”

Its not about my “doing” this work anyway.
It’s about God - God becoming fully human so we can know God better.

Does all of this wondering prevent me from being happy to talk about why Christmas is special
and from celebrating it with gusto (and the odd High Mass if I can get it?)

Of course not.

My part is to know myself, my tradition and be ready to listen and speak with love and honesty and openness.

Does it lead me to want to understand other peoples traditions and thinking and beliefs?

You bet.

And if God can become a baby so we can understand what its all about,
then I can lean to be quiet long enough to do the same to my fellow humans!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Grumpy Advent Reflections #3

I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near.
Philippians 4:4 - 5
(Reading from Vespers)

HA! So much for Grumpy reflections!
I’m supposed to be happy all the time? AND Tolerant?
WHAT THE ?!?!?!?!

Actually right now, Happiness and tolerance are easy.
Coralie has taken the kids to swimming lessons and all through the house is silence and peace . . .

More seriously, I often find myself getting grumpy at this time of year.
Maybe it’s the pace at which December accelerates.
Maybe it’s the shopping.
Maybe it’s just the end of the year.

Am I “Happy” at this time of year? Often not.
Do I need to be? What does “happiness” mean anyway?

The NRSV translates happiness into “Rejoice” and tolerance into “Gentleness”. I like it.

The NJB (often referred to as the One True Bible in our house…) translates happiness into “Joy” and tolerance into “Good sense” – Even better!

It is too easy for me to start feeling guilty about not being “happy” at this time of the year. But if I can be joyful, rejoicing, gentle or occasionally even show good sense, I can do these things even when I feel grumpy and exhausted.

However, I need to choose to.

It’s about being. Not doing.
Perhaps even about an action, not feeling.

I’ve always been someone who has to “act into” a new way of being.
Pretend to be something new while I work out if it’s me or not
Think in a new way until I see if it fits.

Perhaps if I did a bit of rejoicing, spread a bit of joy, and was gentler –
even if I didn’t feel like it - my grumpy December self might have less of a chance to get in.

Christmas is a time for all these things:
Rejoicing. Happiness. Tolerance. Good sense. Joy. Gentleness.

However we get there, I hope we all can feel at least some of them this year.

For these might just be the best gifts we can receive.
And they seem to be what God would like to give us!

Peace to you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Grumpy Advent Reflections #2

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 - 24 (Reading from Vespers)

Preparation. Don’t you love it?!

Baked the Christmas cake yet?
Finished the shopping?
Got the cards out?
Cleaned the house/ bbq / kids/ Dog ?

Over the years I have heard a few homily’s about how preparing ourselves for Christmas is somehow like preparing for the birth of a new baby.

However for me, the only similarity is that no matter how much you are prepared, you really don’t know what you are getting yourself into and no matter how much you do it usually isn’t enough!!!

I know I can fall into the trap of seeing the preparations as the main event, and of putting my trust in “being organized” rather than allowing joy and love to unfold naturally and beautifully.

If the tree becomes more important than the children,
The meal more important than the guests
The present’s more important than love
Then I’ve really missed the point haven’t I?

In tonight’s Vespers reading, the writer asks that we might be prepared for the coming of the Lord in spirit, soul and body.

Not a bad wish for ourselves at this time of year is it?

Think I might take this challenge today. Do a quick stock take to see how I am going and look after my physical, spiritual and psychological self in these busy days.
Get enough sleep. Take a walk. Read a book. Talk with a friend.
Write an Advent reflection …

Its not avoiding what needs to be done, but finding balance within it so I can be present to those I love and the God whose coming we celebrate.

Worth a shot I think!

Grumpy Advent Reflections #1

Chris decided to write some Advent reflections for the week or so before Christmas, based on a Reading of the day from the office.

Here they come!!

‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see?
(Jesus was asking this to John’s disciples)

Christmas is 9 days away.

Now you’ve stopped hyperventilating, this is a challenge for us isn’t it?

The closer we get to the actual day, the busier we seem to become, the “magic” of Christmas just disappears, and celebration becomes a chore.

Often in the days just before Christmas, I find myself feeling flat and asking myself,
“What was I expecting anyway?”
“What do I hope to see?”


Of course this question can come from many places:

Am I just too busy?
Am I fed up with all of the commercialism and wanting that seems to go with this time of year?
Do I allow moments for the divine mystery to touch me?

I remember being a kid and how Christmas was all lights and fun and magic and love and presents and joy.

I want that again.

So this year I am trying something new.
I am ignoring my usual big picture way of thinking and trying to see life in the small and insignificant moments:
A smile from a child when I’m out shopping.
The chance to sit and have a drink with friends.
Trying to cherish each and every card that I receive.
Making 5 minutes possible to sit still and wonder

If at Christmas I keep my eyes open and my heart loving, Jesus, vulnerable and needy, will appear, in each moment, event and interaction of the day.

If I forget my expectations, and allow moments to speak, then perhaps the “magic” of Christmas will return –deeper and richer than before, not from outside in lights and gifts and Santa, but inside with love and hope and thankfulness.

If I allow some moments for silence, then maybe the peace of a newborn sleeping, the peace of friends together, the peace of God with us, might just a little bit, touch me.

Seems I need some new expectations this Christmas.

Peace friends.