“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 29 April 2016

Delight in Creation

In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero writes: "On Sabbaths we are called to enjoy and delight in creation and its gifts. ... We are to take the time to see the beauty of a tree, a leaf, a flower, the sky that has been created with great care by our God. He has given us the ability to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch, that we might feast with our senses on the miraculousness of life."

When I read this, I realised that I do this all the time. Most mornings I go out for a two-mile walk, either round the village or up into Salcey Forest. And I always have my phone with me, so that I can snap anything particularly lovely that catches my eye. I am so grateful for modern technology, because the camera in my iPhone takes surprisingly good pictures.

When I'm out and about, I try to open all my senses to the world around me, and walk mindfully, which makes it a quiet pleasure to wander alone in God's world, seeing the natural or cultivated beauty around me, listening to the ever-present birds, and sometimes, being intoxicated by the wonderful smell of newly-mown grass, or the roses in one particular front garden in our village.

I am so very blessed to have such beauty on my doorstep. Yet it is also present in the urban environment, as the photos of friends on Facebook testify. As Wayne Dyer writes, our aim should be to  "Recapture the childlike feelings of wide-eyed excitement, spontaneous appreciation, cutting loose, and being full of awe and wonder at this magnificent universe."

Monday, 18 April 2016

Discovering the Source

In the last couple of days, two memes by very different writers have been posted on Facebook. The first was by Richard Rohr, one of my favourite religious authors, who is a Franciscan monk, and Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation:

"Love is the source and goal; faith is the slow process of getting there; hope is the willingness to move forward without resolution."

(image: Center for Action & Contemplation, shared by Contemplative Monk)

The other was by Geneen Roth, whose books about women's relationships with their bodies have had a huge impact on me, particularly Women, Food and God, which taught me to love my body, rather than hating her. She wrote: 

"You already have everything you need to be content. Your real work is to do whatever it takes to realize that."

(image: Geneen Roth)

It strikes me that they are both talking about the same thing. For me, the recognition that God is Love, and that my whole life should be about growing into a more loving relationship with Him/Her - both source and goal, is a life-changing revelation. 

Having faith is the realization that God *already* loves me, just the way I am - I already have "everything you need to be content". My "real work" will be to be aware of this every day, so that I can grow closer to God, and grow into the sort of person who walks lovingly through life, cherishing that of God in everyone, and in the the natural world..

It will take a lifetime, but now I know where I'm going.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Food, Faith, and Fellowship

I came home from our General Assembly of Unitarian & Free Christian Churches Annual Meetings on Saturday, feeling quite uplifted. The Meetings are a wonderful opportunity to see "Unitarians at their best" - to meet old friends, make new ones, and learn more about our beloved Uncommon Denomination.

When you get 300+ Unitarians together all in one space, there are bound to be differences of opinion (come to think of it, this happens when there are 3!) but this year, there seemed to be a spirit of tolerance and respect around, which was lovely to experience and behold.

The title of the Anniversary Service summed up these Meetings for me - it was a Feast of the Heart. A feast of good food, vibrant faith, and good fellowship. From the Peace Fellowship's Opening Celebration to the investment of Dot Hewerdine as our new President, it was a very special few days.

I know that our numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate, but I refuse to give  up hope. I believe that what Unitarianism has to offer is so special that we need to positively articulate what we *do* believe in - freedom from subscription to a particular set of beliefs; an opportunity to share our spiritual journeys in the company of like-hearted folk, a broad, inclusive, welcoming community, and compassion and respect for those different to ourselves. What's not to like?

Friday, 25 March 2016

Still Beautiful

The glowing orange roses I was given on Mothering Sunday have aged in an extraordinary way. They have dried up and withered, but have neither dropped any petals, nor lost their shape. Their colour has darkened from that bright silky orange to a rich old red with hints of dark yellow. They are old, yet still beautiful.

They were bought to celebrate my 25th year as a mother. Like the roses, I am older, a little more dry and withered on the outside. But they have taught me that I am still beautiful, and can still give pleasure. And that it is what is on the inside that matters.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Patience and Trust

As some of you will know, I have recently been called to be quarter-time minister at Northampton Unitarians. This has been a leap of faith on the part of the congregation - we are currently very small in number, but great in heart. We moved to a fine new building at the end of last year, and are hoping that the opportunities for growth from these developments will prove to be a turning point in the life of the congregation.

We have started regular Tuesday Gatherings, a different one for each week of the month - Discussion Group, Happiness Project Group, Meditation Group, Heart and Soul Gathering, and also regular Friday Gatherings to walk our splendid new labyrinth. Some people are coming along, which is super. It is early days yet,

But I am finding that, like Ce'Nedra in David Eddings' splendid books The Belgariad,  I am "not emotionally constructed for waiting." So it was good to be reminded that my focus has to be on my call to provide spiritual ministry in Northampton, and then to let go of expectations and outcomes. It is only three months since we moved in, and there is plenty of time yet for people to discover us, and the wonderful faith that is Unitarianism.

So I was so pleased to come across this quote, by Leon Brown:

"You cannot expect miracles to happen overnight. 
Be patient, be loving, 
and little by little the change you seek will come."

I am going to take this for my mantra in the days and months ahead.

Friday, 4 March 2016

A Break in the Clouds

I was driving back home from Evesham yesterday, when I noticed this dramatic sky ahead of me. It spoke to me so much that I found a parking space (fortunately I was on a dual carriageway, not the motorway), parked up, and took a picture.

I'm not sure whether it will show up on your browser / phone, but the contrast between the dark, rain-filled clouds and the brightness of the unchanging blue sky behind was remarkable to the naked eye.

In fact it reminded me of a metaphor much used by Martin Laird in his book Into the Silent Land, which is about learning how to do contemplative prayer. He says that our thoughts and feelings are like the weather, but that there is something deeper within, which is not affected by changes in that weather, that is deep, and luminous, and aware. Laird refers to it as a mountain, Mount Zion. Which is that-of-God within each of us.

Seeing that bright blue sky behind those menacing clouds helped me to understand that although our thoughts, moods, and feelings may change from day to day, or even from moment to moment, there is a deep, peaceful, sky-blue awareness behind and above them, into which we can sink, if we just have the patience to sit in silence for a while, and let our passing emotions do just that - pass by. It's not easy by any means - the chattering monkeys are loud and clear; the inner video is always there, ready to seduce our attention away.

But fleeting moment of peace are possible, and the knowledge that this deeper, calmer centre is there may help us in our everyday lives.. It surely helps me.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Convenient, Fun, or Horrifying?

It was my birthday yesterday, and when I logged on to the internet in the morning, to my surprise and delight, the Google logo wished me Happy Birthday.

I posted about this on Facebook, and was surprised to get some mixed reactions. One comment read: "Quite nice, or very scary, depending on one's level of paranoia."

By coincidence, a couple of days earlier, I had shared another post which got similarly mixed reactions. The post read: "Place of birth! Play along, if you'd like. It will be fun to learn where all of our Facebook friends are from. Comment with your answer below on this post, then copy and paste this onto your own page. Be sure to put your birthplace at the end. -- Liverpool, England" And again, people were anxious; "D'you know what? I think I'll not put that on the internet." and, in response to that comment: "I was thinking the same given how often that's used as a security question!"

I went out for lunch with a friend, and mentioned this, and we got on to the subject of the wonderful clock in the Harry Potter books in the Weasley household, which could tell by magic where the members of the family were. There had been another post on Facebook recently, to say that somebody had succeeded in making one in real life. I was puzzled as to how that could be, and my friend told me about an app she had on her phone which could use GPS to track where her children were. Oh.

Then I got to thinking about how you can control your heating and oven and TV via an app on your smartphone, and about how, if I log on to Amazon, a list of recommendations come up, based on my browsing history, and  I began to wonder ...

Until now, I have found such things convenient and/or fun. But I am beginning to feel the stirrings of alarm in my soul, and to wonder just how much information there is squirrelled away about me deep in company computers owned by the likes of Google and Facebook and Amazon, to name three much-used websites. I read something on Facebook the other day about the new emoticons - that they are going to be used to tailor what I see in my Facebook feed. I'm not sure I like the sound of that at all.

I would be interested to hear other people's reactions to this - fun? convenient? or horrifying?