Showing posts from March, 2014

of a space for stillness, silence and story

Psalm 23, sung by The Idea of North.

Silence: one minute, or two.

Story: Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman by the well of Jacob, offers her living water, invites his disciples to see the fertile ground of those yearning for such water, enjoys hospitality and sharing with this Samaritan community.

Wondering: were the disciples as dumb as they are portrayed, or are they caricatured for the purpose of the storyteller?
aren't we all that slow to understand?
is the delight and thirst of the woman and her community, the doubt and short-sightedness of the disciples a refreshing picture of human nature?
what about the storyteller? how much of himself has he put into the story?

Story: Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman by the well of Jacob, offers her living water, invites his disciples to see the fertile ground of those yearning for such water, enjoys hospitality and sharing with this Samaritan community.

Silence: five minutes, or ten.

Response: materials provided for drawing, colouring …

you're welcome

1. promise to break things kept

if there are no boats sinking,
no-one drowning
(for we have stopped the boats);

if there are no parks dying,
no trees to save
(for we have stripped them all);

if there are no rivers drying
up or rising salt
(dam them all!);

if there are no mentally ill,
undereducated, unemployed
first or second Australians
(out of mind the lot of 'em) –

then there is surely nothing left
for us to do but receive your thanks
(you're welcome): and thanks
will be quite enough

2. self - servants

we have no need for placards,
for fact sheets, reviews or reports;
we have no need of any help,
your vote is thanks enough,
for we will do very well to pat
each others' backs, or our own - so save your voices,
don't waste time sending us letters
and emails and tweeting your opinions -
we really have no need of you;
please oh please, what ever you do,
do not remove our blindfolds.

of living inside the Sacred Story

... and speaking of evangelism, and what Dave Male was saying at our Presbytery/Synod meeting, indwelling the story.

Evangelism - sharing the good news of hope and grace revealed in Jesus.
Mission - God's love for the world shown in our words and actions.

These fundamentals of Christian living stem from our indwelling of the story of God. When we inhabit, live inside, the story of God, it becomes our story. So when we tell our story, which as humans, we naturally and necessarily do, we tell the story of God. When we live our story, we are living the story of God.

You might say, when we know ourselves to be loved by God, when we live inside and out of this love, we naturally show this love to others. Showing others the love of God, we show them God.

We need to know ourselves to be loved. We need to know the story. If what we want to be doing is loving, is telling people the story of God.

How do we know this story?

Where is it told?

It is told in the Bible, the Sacred Story that sha…

in which a growing bubble of gratitude finally bursts and overflows

This weekend we 'did big church', as one leader put it in our thanksgiving on Sunday morning. 1000 people, campers aged 7 – 12, their leaders and the huge team facilitating activities, together at the Barossa Valley Tourist Park for 24 hours, or slightly more. This is KCO - Kid's or KUCA Camp Out when I was 7 – 12, KUCA standing for Kids of the Uniting Church in Australia.

For the kids in my congregation, it's a chance to invite friends to hear the story of Jesus in a non-threatening, fun and culturally appropriate way. It's a chance to be together, get to know each other a bit better through play, eating together, worship and exploring the Bible.

It seems like an opportunity to gather with hundreds of other kids their age, from around the state, and including a wider ranging cultural diversity than within our own congregation. But for whatever reason, mostly, I think, trying to stay safe within this organised chaos, we don't take that opportunity; we don't…

Lenten reset week three: sitting with this unfamiliar picture in the mirror

My hair is growing, quite quickly, as anticipated. 
But although people are enjoying stroking my hair as they would pat a cat, its return to natural, and the apparently wonderful shape of my head, I still feel uneasy. 
When I look in the mirror, I still have the feeling of absence, that something is missing, loss. It takes me back, actually, to my early 20s when my body changed shape in response to various medical issues and remedies. It took me years to recognise the body in the mirror as mine, let alone to learn to accept and love my body again. I look in the mirror at my head without its hair and don't really recognise me, don't really like the picture I see. 

But that's not actually complete, because I am feeling so much else when I look in the mirror, or stroke my head as if I was patting a cat. I quite like the feeling of my soft short hair, for a start. And I am loving the simplification of getting ready to go out into the world - I put on a hat if it's cold or…

of the amazing return of balance to my palette

following on from an earlier post.

I am astonished. Blown away.

Slowly, surely, the Blue, the heavy, demanding, needy Blue, retreated back to her place in the palette, allowing balance to be restored.
I don't know what freaked the blue out - a whole lot of things perhaps. But I listened, I paid attention, I sat with the Blue for the time it needed.
I want, I choose, a fuller, richer palette. At one time in my life, it was easier to let the Blue dominate and obscure the other colours - peaceful pink, comforting purple, joyful yellow, loving red, renewing green. It has been a long, hard struggle to learn ways to broaden the palette again, or, to leave the metaphor behind for a moment, to move from ill health to wellbeing as my norm.

And I like being well. I enjoy my wellbeing. So when Blue tips the balance, as it does from time to time still in my palette, being well means I can sit with the blue, sit with down days, days when depression rises, and let those days be. I keep moving b…

interlude: The Idea of North

North Adelaide. St Peter's Cathedral. A cool, wet autumn evening.

The Idea of North.


I could stop there, and perhaps, really, that would be best.

What was sublime?

Nick's versatility.

Sally's control of those super high notes.

Naomi's clarity.

Andrew's resounding bass beat.

The arrangements that bring out the best in the individuals, the group, the song.

The delight of all four in the music, each other, the moment, space, audience: the gift.

The German folk song about a tragedy but so beautiful in its melody, its harmonies.

Amazing Grace revived for a 100th birthday, sung with love.

Sting's poetic story.

Paul Kelly's 'Middle of the Air'.

Putting the microphones down, and without them seeing how effortlessly the music flows through these vessels, instruments, artists - like breath, which, of course, it is.

The sacred space. A sacred moment. My soul is restored. In the middle of the air indeed.

in which my needy blue comes back for more attention

I could say it is because I shaved my head, confronted myself with the frailty of my humanness.
It is the challenge of calling myself to account and refusing to continue living in fear that I don't have enough, paying a cost in order to find ways in which I have enough to share.
Perhaps I am tired of living in a liminal space, a waiting space for something to unfold.
This sarah tells stories 'ministry' might be making me feel vulnerable, on the edge again, as I put myself out there with the gifts I have to offer; the edge, where I know I've been wounded before.
Or maybe it was the death of a congregation member; grief alone, or as the final straw on a loaded back.

For two days I have been flat, lethargic, blue. The depression. It comes and goes; usually it comes back just when you begin to think it has finally gone for good.

There is a temptation to analyse - why has it come back? And the list I've noted is a very good list of potential triggers. What would be the…

Lenten reset - finding the still centre (at last)

Morning. Day off. Sleep in.
Tai chi breathing & stretches.
40 days of centring prayer.
Read Psalm 46.

The very well known line (to those of Judeo-Christian faith) 'Be still and know that I am God' is in this psalm. And I have always heard it as a calm, gentle, peaceful 'be still'.
Reading it today, I discovered that is is a much stronger, commanding 'Be still!' The surrounding verses speak of storms and tumultuous upheaval, and God's voice in the midst of it assured and assuring for the psalmist, his audience - for the storm itself. Stop. Listen. I am. I am.

It may not appear to be the most reassuring statement to hear as the world feels like it is crashing around you, or you are imploding in on yourself having stripped away an element of your identity - but, strangely, mysteriously and, yes, calmly, this statement stilled my anxious self. My discombobulation at having shaved my head and been shocked at my frailty and fragility, eased. The uphe…

of story, silence and surprise

Twice into the wilderness, twice into temptation for the beginning of Lent today.

Our first Sunday of Lent in the congregation included an invitation to take a 'G' and remember gratitude, God and generous giving each day through this season; the stories of Adam, Eve and the serpent, Jesus and the Tempter, and a Cherokee tale of the two wolves within each of us. You can read more about that here.

This evening I was joined by a small group who entered the story, silence and creativity together. We heard the story of Jesus and the Tempter, wondered about how Jesus encountered the 'satan' (voice, body?), what the wilderness was like.

We heard the story a second time then entered a long period of silence.

From the silence we allowed our creativity to roam:
moulding the stones out of playdough (yes, folks, it's not just for kids)
inviting mandalas to show us Jesus' breadth of vision and our temptation to focus narrowly, and to represent the sun and heat the seeking o…

Lenten reset : day three

I don't know if I will have something to observe, a discovery to report, or feelings to explore here every day in Lent, I suspect not, but these first few days have been profound.

These were my thoughts at the end of the day yesterday:

I look in the mirror and see what looks like a cancer patient looking back at me.
It reminds me of how any one of us could be struck down next. How everyone of us is touched by this plague, experiences loss at its hand.
I see my mortality. Our human vulnerability, fragility.
I have just got used to seeing my strength, claiming wellness as my normal after a lifetime of fragile health - migranes, back pain, depression, susceptibility to injury and every winter bug.
The return of such stark awareness of fragility is a shock.
But the strength is not invisible. It's still there. In my eyes.

I am so nervous about going out in the world. About other people's reactions.
Is this how a person feels, having lost their hair through cancer treatment?
Is …

Lenten reset: day two

1:00 am. I lay in bed, continually unclenching my jaw, rubbing the shoulder where the ache in the nerve from jaw and neck ended up, awake.

I had not expected to be so shaken up by the experience of shaving my head - of challenging myself to enter the stories, actually respond, and take on considerable cost to do so.

9:30 am. I awake, having fallen eventually away from the thoughts and emotions for a blissful seven hours.

Tai chi, centring prayer practice, skip breakfast and go straight to lunch. Blog last night's experience. Sit in a daze, or perhaps in contemplative reflection, for the rest of the day.

Affirmations continue to flow in: a congregation member is inspired by my courage to find courage of her own and let go of something she wants out of her life. Facebook 'likes' and blog comments of thanks for the link to the blog post, comments that celebrate my courage and motivations. A message to encourage me in this wilderness experience.

If Lent is about acknowledging …

Lenten reset : day one - evening

For Ash Wednesday, I borrowed a portable labyrinth from a neighbouring church, printed the words composed by Cheryl Lawrie in her hold this space pocket liturgy, put on a cd mix of appropriately reflective music, and opened our church for any who wished to walk and be still, to pray, to take on the sign of the cross in ash, and enter the presence of God.

Before others arrived, I walked the labyrinth. Standing at the centre, I suddenly felt the vulnerability and exposure of having shaved my head. Of having removed something of myself, my outer skin. Of having laid open my flawed fearfulness, my loving solidarity, my humble devotion.

In response to my previous post and the photos, I had heard much in the way of affirmation: beautiful, amazing, you can pull any hair cut off. Others have been confused, bemused, or shocked.

After a dozen folk had come and gone through this Ash Wednesday contemplative space, I took out my notebook to record what I was feeling. I suppose I could shape it int…

Lent reflections : day one

Driving down the hill from Belair my stomach felt like it wanted to come out my mouth and go back home.

Sitting in the chair at Verve in Hawthorn, my hands were shaking.

Are you ready? Razor on. Razor off.

Are you ready? Yes. Just do it.

And so Bek turned the razor on, and off came my hair. (see this previous blog post for why)

First response: another Verve customer gave me $10 towards my own donation to the cancer council.

Hairdressers: it suits you, you have a great head for it.

My responses:
1. There's me. I can see me.
2. I can't believe I actually did it.
3. Running my fingers over the remaining stubble - that feels really soft.
4. I may stick with natural. Even though it's still the grey blond I didn't like when I started colouring my hair.

Walking outside, the first thing I noticed was feeling the air on my head.

Sitting at home, stomach now upset only because lunch was so very long ago, it feels good. Another thing on my 'one day' list actually done, ex…

taking my artist on a date

In a workshop four weeks ago, Rebekah encouraged us all to take ourselves on an 'artist date' - a day, an afternoon, an evening, doing something to pamper and delight the artist within. 'Do it within two weeks,' she said.

It's four weeks now since then, and finally, I've been on my date. It wasn't what I had originally intended. It stalled several times on days when sleep or money-earning was the greater need. But, at last, today, I went ahead with my plan. I looked at the work that needs doing and decided there is sufficient time without this afternoon; I looked at the temperature rising and decided it was not going to keep me indoors. I picked up my bag, notebook inside, put my sunglasses on and walked to the train.

Beneath sails as blue as the sky from which they shielded us and leaves beginning to turn with the season's change, sitting on not very comfortable plastic chairs, my artist's soul took a deep breath in, and out. My inner artist today …

in which I blow my fuse at offensive comments

This one has been building for a couple of weeks, with another election campaign full of ads just short of abuse, comments on facebook and elsewhere about cricketers as morons, and today a tweet about the movies of a particular actor as a waste of space.

I have had enough.

I have had enough of humans talking about humans who are somewhat removed because they are a public figure of some description as if they are removed - animated, fictional, not real.

It may come as a surprise, people, but these politicians, sports people and actors are people too - and I, for one, am going to make a concerted effort to eradicate those comments from my mouth, pen and keyboard that denigrate another human being. If I would be hurt by what I am thinking of saying, I will not say it about someone else. I can not speak that way about other human beings any more. It makes me feel ill when I hear / read it from others - more so from myself.

I can not change anyone else. I can only change me. So I will. But…

of shaving my head for Lent

Many of you will have come to know my penchant for changing hair style and colour quite often, and often in crazy, edgy ways. It is something of a 'thing' for me, to play with my hair - or invite my hairdresser to treat my hair as her canvas.

Well, now I am shaving it all off.

The church has a seasonal rhythm to its life, with liturgical colours for ordinary time, preparation time and celebrations.
Preparation seasons lead up to our two major celebrations - Christmas and Easter. Purple is the colour for these seasons - a colour for the church that symbolises penitence, or a turning back to God with honesty about our having turned away. The penitential mood is stronger in Lent, as we remember the flawed nature of our humanity, and also its goodness, which is affirmed in God's choice to become human with us in Jesus. We remember also the cost of following God's Way of Love, as we see in the story of Jesus in his journey towards the cross.

The penitence of Lent has been e…