Friday, December 27, 2013

Another Tree of Life...

Since our church retreat, I have been able to reflect upon another tree of life @suttonsachurch and how 'love unites all'. A simple art activity that caught something beautiful in us all. The idea that as community we allow our stories to be woven together takes a simple art activity and makes it powerful. It's a journey towards genuine social love, a journey that is not always easy because it involves transparency and vulnerability. 

A community that gathers in genuine love demonstrates what Willard calls four marks of Good Community. 1) They see themselves as God sees them 2) No need for defensiveness 3) Pretence is laughable 4) There is a constant commitment to being realigned to God's purposes. 

Good community is released from self, and knows what it is to be devoted in the service of others, our stories woven together for others! 

"Love unites all, whether created or uncreated.  The heart of God, the heart of all creation, and our own hearts become one in love.  That's what all the great mystics have been trying to tell us through the ages". Nouwen 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

John Bell's "Canticle of the Turning"

Love these words since I found them prepping for last Sunday

1. My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant's plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!

2. Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight,
for the world is about to turn.

3. From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
ev'ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, ev'ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.

4. Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound,
'Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Taking Your Spiritual Pulse...

Since reading Larry Warner's book on Ignatian Sprituality I have appreciated his monthly musings Here are the highlights from October!

"This month I present you with a simple spiritual formation tool that will allow you to take your spiritual pulse, and if needed (and desired) provide you with the opportunity to re-orient your life so that you are more likely to live into and out of who God created you to be. The remarkable tool I am referring to incorporates a particular understanding of consolation and desolation

A simple way to remember the difference between consolation and desolation is this: consolation means that God is on the screen of my life, while desolation means God is not on that screen. When we talk about  consolation and desolation the best way to think about them is in terms of the inner orientation of an individual. The key question is not what do I feel, but rather which direction is my current life situation (emotions, circumstances, interactions, thoughts…) taking me – toward God or away from God? 

The simple spiritual formation tool I spoke of earlier is this; incorporating the concept of  consolation/desolation as defined above, that you from time to time throughout your day internally stop (you could be in middle of a meeting, an errand, a task or just finishing something, getting ready to start something…) and ask yourself where is this (whatever is before you, you are involved in, or just completed…) taking me; to God or away from God? In that movement you will have a good idea of where your heart is and in that precise moment be afforded the opportunity to make a choice toward God or away from God. Over time, you will discern in the flow of your day if indeed your heart is God-focused or not. 

What this simple tool helps us to do is to become internally aware and once aware we can make a choice. So much of life is mindlessly lived. We are swept through a day unaware internally and so are at the mercy of our circumstances, our culture. This simple tool helps to momentarily stop, become aware and adjust accordingly. One important note: when you stop and realize that God is not on our screen, this is NOT about condemnation (see Rom 8:1) but about being invited into freedom, freedom to live the life we want to live at the depth of our being, the life we were created to live, the abundant life in Christ. 

An ongoing awareness of our  consolation and desolation is critical to be free to more fully live into and out of who God has created us to be. This awareness also helps us to live proactively rather than reactively. This simple spiritual formation tool helps us to pause and become aware of where we are internally headed – toward God (life) or away from God (death). Once we become aware we can then adjust as needed and live life as God has intended. 

So give it a try and see what happens. " 

Larry Warner

Saturday, December 07, 2013


Richard Rohr's take on paradox!

"A paradox is seeming contradiction which is not really contradictory at all if looked at from another angle or through a larger frame...Understanding a paradox is to look at something long enough so as to overcome the contradiction and see things at a different level of consciousness"

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thomas Merton, Prayer for Trust

Been thinking this through today...

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this, You will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lyrics for Remembrance forward...!

Thanks Matt Spencer for sharing this .... God!

As with silent hearts we bring to mind
 how hate and war diminish humankind,
we pause - and seek in worship to increase
our knowledge of the things that make for peace.

 Hallow our will as humbly we recall
the lives of those who gave and give their all.
We thank you, Lord, for women, children, men
who seek to serve in love, today as then.

Give us deep faith to comfort those who mourn,
 high hope to share with all the newly born,
strong love in our pursuit of human worth:
 'lest we forget' the future of this earth.

So, Prince of Peace, disarm our trust in power,
 teach us to coax the plant of peace to flower.
 May we, impassioned by your living Word,
 remember forward to a world restored.

 Fred Kaan

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Faith: Verb or Noun?

"Love, love is a verb, Love is a doing word" Tear Drop, Massive Attack.

Faith as a verb was something I dipped out of in a sermon recently, when looking at Paul suggesting he had fought the good fight. Too many teachers in our congregation perhaps! However, having read through my daily Ignatian Reflection for today perhaps this is something for me to revisit.

"Faith for Jesus is not a noun, it is not a mustard seed, and it is not yeast.  Faith for Jesus is a verb in today’s Gospel. Faith is a mustard seed that is planted.  Faith is yeast that is mixed.  For us today what this means is that, when our faith is static or sterile, it is in fact not faith at all.  Jesus is challenging us to recognize the active nature of our faith." 

"Jesus reminds us that faith is a gift that is given to us.  But we need to mix and plant this faith in our everyday lives and in the lives of our neighbors and community.  In other words, we could substitute “faith” for “love” in St. Ignatius’ famous quote.  So that, after today’s Gospel, it would read, “Faith ought to show itself more in deeds than in words.”

Adam DeLeon, S.J.

Leaves me wondering whether faith as a noun reduces 'that gift' to something that we are satisfied in giving propositional ascent to, rather than a way of living and being? Faith as a doing word seems so much less brittle!

Tree of Life...

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse...." Revelation 22

Spending time in reflection with @suttonsachurch’s mission group/team recently was encouraging. Weaving together narratives of reaching out, of sharing out and of loving out the attributes of God helped us to speak of opportunities and potential as we developed our own tree of life reflecting upon various initiatives, some fully formed, others in bud. 

It was encouraging to see - why wouldn't it be?

"And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse...."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hungrier than ever: Britain’s use of food banks triples

Hungrier than ever: Britain's use of food banks triples

"people going to food banks had started returning food that needed to be warmed up because they could not afford to switch on their electricity"

It's the panic in the eyes that is different. When we were in Poplar, food parcels were rarely accompanied with the level of panic that there are today 10-15 years later. Food parcels were invariably a support to a particular culture where poor decisions, budgeting and substance misuse were the issues. 

Yesterday I realised the difference.

Invariably the 0% tolerance employed for the benefit of the minority of those that milk the system is impacting those who need support for the season in their lives which is now. Immediate sanctions, changes in benefits that leave families without even for a short period  - devastate. I don't like seeing the panic in the eyes of a mother.

The longer food banks are necessary, the easier their existence becomes acceptable. Foodbanks through their very existence communicate that there is something wrong. The need of Foodbanks is unacceptable, there should be no need for them, we should never be comfortable with their existence and need to work to see their end!

In the meantime bless all those volunteers and the generosity of those who realise sitting back, watching and talking about it, is not an option! The spirit of working together against the common enemy that is poverty and hunger that I see each week is inspirational!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Life will be life....

Another piece of regurgitated Rohr! His book 'Falling Upwards...' was superb and a really helpful read earlier in the year for me.

Not exactly a cheery start to the day but bitingly realistic - life will be life and sometimes it isn't straight forward! Realising this and engaging with life accordingly I think has something to do with a maturing faith in Christ rather than using faith as a talisman that is seen in cliche and platitude.

"It is not that suffering or failure might happen, or that it will only happen to you if you are bad (which is what religious people often think), or that it will happen to the unfortunate, or to a few in other places, or that you can somehow by cleverness or righteousness avoid it. No, it will happen, and to you!" p. xx

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Hard lessons of life...

Richard Rohr in his daily meditations explores what he calls seven Themes of an Alternative Orthodoxy, from what I understand it shapes his prolific writing. Currently he is exploring his sixth theme 'The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines'

Problem as I see it there are not many who want to respond to that faculty of teaching! Thinking back, the teachers that I seem to remember are those who knew how to push me, and actually were not all that cuddly!  Six weeks on Jeremiah has shown how to respond even in the darkest of times, to embrace life with all its complications, unexpected and unwanted turns.

Thinking out loud now, but I wonder if this embrace of life beyond what we want as an ideal creates space to explore life when it is not straight forward. The alternative is to nurture resentment and self-pity, which if it is life giving let's do more of it! Problem of course it isn't life giving in fact it steals from us, I wonder if that is Rohr's point regarding transformation?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Slippery slope of power...!

"Once we idealize social climbing, domination of others, status symbols, power, prestige, and possessions, we are part of a never-ending game that is almost impossible to escape. It has its own inner logic that is self-maintaining, self-perpetuating, and self-congratulating, as well as elitist and exclusionary."

Richard Rohr

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Falling and Failing...

Closely connected to the independent's look at hubris syndrome today. here

 Richard Rohr talks about the necessity of what I is to fail and fall...

" ...politicians, priests, CEOs of anything, know-it-alls, must continue to fail and fall (spiritually speaking) or they never come to any real wisdom.The trouble is that we have to put up with them in the meantime and wait for another growth spurt. Sometimes that very power position makes failing and falling quite rare and even impossible for them. "

 Richard Rohr

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pottery of your heart...

It is not you who shapes God; it is God who shapes you. If then you are the handiwork of God, await the hand of the Artist who does all things in due season. Offer the pottery of your heart, soft and tractable, and keep well the form in which the Artist has fashioned you.  Let your clay be moist, lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of the Potter’s fingers.

—St. Irenaeus, 2nd century

Restoration apprentices...

The Creator has dreams for us and for the world, and we are apprentices, serving with awestruck faces as the Master Artisan shows us infinite ways to restore the world to the beauty of those dreams.

Fr. Michael Simone, S.J.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Nouwen : choosing life with our words...

"Words spoken in rage will make reconciliation very hard.   Choosing life and not death, blessings and not curses often starts by choosing to remain silent or choosing carefully the words that open the way to healing."

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Prayer to do God’s will... Teresa of Avila

Loving how Teresa of Avila exists in that overlap where mission and spiritual formation makes sense of each other - 'by me, in me and through me'!

Lord Grant that I may always allow myself to be guided by you, always follow your plans, and perfectly accomplish your holy will.

Grant that in all things, great and small, today and all the days of my life, I may do whatever you require of me.

Help me to respond to the slightest prompting of your grace so that I may be your trustworthy instrument of your honour.

May your will be done in time and eternity- by me, in me, and through me.


— St. Teresa of Avila

Monday, September 02, 2013

Four Splits - Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr in his daily meditations has been taking me through what he calls the four splits. I wanted to park them somewhere to mull over sometime, which is why I started this blog in the first place.

"The first split is between myself and other selves. In the first half of life (and for many in the second half also) we spend most of our time accentuating and accessorizing that separate self. I’m better than you, I’m smarter than you, I’m better looking than you, I’m healthier than you, I’m whatever. It’s all about you after this unfortunate split. We choose to over-identify with our separate self and most of our thoughts and actions are self-referential. "

"The second split is the separation of life from death.  We all pretend that we are going to live forever, and that we can avoid all forms of dying. To overcome this illusion, you must come to understand that life and death are not two, but one. They cannot be separated except by blindness and denial—but your mental ego tries to have one without the other. It splits from all necessary dying, losing, and suffering in a thousand ways. This keeps you very superficial.

"In the third split we separate our body from our minds. The mind is given pre-eminence in almost all people. The mind starts steering, judging, analyzing, fixing, controlling, and trying to dominate body and soul. Most people think they are their thinking! That’s what contemplation can help you resolve. It allows you to find the deeper self—prior to thinking about it, prior to the judgments you make and the preferences you have, and your endless mental commentary on everything...You are something bigger than your thinking."

"The fourth split is the split of the acceptable self from the unacceptable self. We use the terms “persona” for our presented and preferred self-image, and “shadow” is our denied and rejected self-image. What humans usually do is identify with an idealized image of ourselves. “What’s going to work in my group? ?... We identify with whatever our group says is admirable.

What St. Francis, and all enlightened ones do, is overcome the four splits usually in reverse order. Normally we have to face our shadow self first, then our split into our mind, thirdly our denial of death, and lastly our very autonomy as a separate human being.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dangerous and Delusional religion...

'I told God that I thought he ought...!' is an interesting but let's face it common approach to prayer. However well disguised within us it is probably more common than we would wish to admit. Some interesting Rohr thoughts on prayer indicate a perception is that it is too easy to allow prayer to become something 'you do to achieve a desired effect.' The result being a putting of the 'ego back in charge'

 "As soon as you make prayer a way to get what you want, you’re not moving into any kind of new state of consciousness. It’s the same old consciousness, but now well disguised: “How can I get God to do what I want God to do?” It’s the egocentric self deciding what it needs, but now, instead of just manipulating everybody else, it tries to manipulate God."

The impact Rohr suggests is a 'dangerous and often delusional religion'. His point? 'If religion does not transform people at the level of both mind and heart, it ends up giving self-centered people a very pious and untouchable way to be on top and in control. Now God becomes their defence system for their small self!'

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Transform or Transmit...

Interesting thoughts today by Richard Rohr... and great application by David Alton

"Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing—that we must go down before we even know what up is. It is first an ordinary wound before it can become a sacred wound. Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as “whenever you are not in control.”

All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If your religion is not showing you how to transform your pain, it is junk religion. It is no surprise that a crucified man became the central symbol of Christianity.

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter—because we will be wounded. That is a given. All suffering is potentially redemptive, all wounds are potentially sacred wounds. It depends on what you do with them. Can you find God in them or not?

If there isn’t some way to find some deeper meaning to our suffering, to find that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, we will normally close up and close down, and the second half of our lives will, quite frankly, be small and silly."

Post Scriptum thanks to David Alton

Kintsugi (金継ぎ?) (Japanese: golden joinery) or Kintsukuroi (金繕い?) (Japanese: golden repair) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold. ...... a tube of No Nails and some gold airfix paint isn't quite as effective or meaningful.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Prayer of Thomas Merton...

Saw this as a benediction on 'the work of the people' website...

I have no idea where I am going. 
I do not see the road ahead of me. 
I cannot know for certain where it will end. 
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. 
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. 
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. 
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. 
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

For what we are about to receive...!

I came across this little prayer which has got me thinking today about what it is to be content.

"Lord, our prayer is simple, our desire is great. Teach us to give glory to you when we receive what you want to give us, when you want to give it to us, and to the extent that you want to give to us."

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Practice of the Better

Any new structures of emerging Christianity cannot be in opposition to any existing church structures or anybody at all. Any antagonistic action merely creates an “equal and opposite reaction.” “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better” is one of our core principles at the CAC. Just do it better yourself, and don’t waste any time criticizing others or the past! This, in fact, purifies your own commitment and motivation. Don’t bother being against anybody, anything, any group, or any institution. That will only keep you at a low level of ego, while falsely feeling superior. It is a most common mistake. You can, however, practice simple avoidance or quiet noncooperation with immature organizations, but don’t waste time or energy being oppositional to anything. We need positive energy now over negative criticism of anything. It is almost as if consciousness has now grown up to see this—and do this!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius...

Today was the last day and I am feeling a little bereft!

Back in January I started a journey with Larry Warner's interpretation of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, Journey with Jesus and pretty much everyday has represented a challenge and has had me facing myself and God in new ways. Naively thinking I would have it finished while away at the International College for Officers the journey has only just come to an end, eight months later. Although the reality is that the journey hasn't ended at all as I feel the new rhythm that has been the consequence of the exercises' prodding and probing!

This book was totally right for me and totally the right time! So I've decided to start again! This time spending more time on the 'prayers of examen' that are an integral part of relaxing into the 'believing, being and becoming' that underpins both Larry Warner's ethos and the exercises.

So twice a day this week the questions are:

When and how did I experience God's love for me today?

How did my awareness of God's love for me affect the way I interacted with others, my circumstances and myself today?

So here we go - the journey continues!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Nouwen on spiritual dryness...

"Sometimes we experience a terrible dryness in our spiritual life.  We feel no desire to pray, don't experience God's presence, get bored with worship services, and even think that everything we ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is little more than a childhood fairy tale.   


Then it is important to realise that most of these feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts, and that the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts.  It is a great grace to be able to experience God's presence in our feelings and thoughts, but when we don't, it does not mean that God is absent.  It often means that God is calling us to a greater faithfulness.  It is precisely in times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God" 

Henri Nouwen

Richard Rohr points out that 'Early-stage religion is largely driven by ego needs: the need to be right, the need to feel morally superior, the need to be safe, and the need to project a positive image to others. At that point, religion has little to do with any real search for God; it is almost entirely a search for oneself'.

Seems to me that there is a connection there somewhere?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Voluntary and Joyous simplicity #2

Here Rohr is saying be careful....!

Really could have used this material in a paper I recently presented with Andrew Grinnell and Bev McCombe .... Oh well ... Guess we were on the right tracks!

"Once we saw the clerical state as a place of advancement instead of downward mobility, once ordination was not a form of initiation but a continuation of patriarchal patterns, the authentic preaching of the Gospel became the exception rather than the norm—whether Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant. The first human “demon” that normally needs to be exposed is the human addiction to power, prestige, and possessions. These tend to pollute everything."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

@abcjustin competing Pay Day Loans out of existence...

In 1891 The Salvation Army opened its safer and fairer match factory in East London and put an end to  less equitable and unsafe production in an industry that was destroying lives. It competed with the match making industry and won, safe match production became the norm. Exploitative practices exposed and ended. 

I like the idea of competing wrong out of existence that ABC Justin Welby communicates applying the same match factory principles to the payday loan industry. 

“I’ve met the head of Wonga and we had a very good conversation and I said to him quite bluntly ‘we’re not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence, we’re trying to compete you out of existence.’" Archbishop of Canterbury

I am really interested to see how this develops as one look down Sutton high street says we have a huge issue developing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Voluntary and joyous simplicity #1

Richard Rohr makes an interesting point about simplicity ...

"Shortly before he died, Lenin is supposed to have said that if the Russian revolution were to take place over again, he would have asked for ten Francises of Assisi rather than more Bolsheviks. He eventually realized that something imposed by domination and violence from above only creates the same mirrored response from below. It is just a matter of time. He realized that the only communism that would ever be helpful to the world was the voluntary and joyous simplicity of a Francis of Assisi. "

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bridging the Gap Between People...

A bit of Nouwen on what it is to be a neighbour....


"To become neighbours is to bridge the gap between people.  As long as there is distance between us and we cannot look in each other's eyes, all sorts of false ideas and images arise.  We give them names, make jokes about them, cover them with our prejudices, and avoid direct contact.  We think of them as enemies.  We forget that they love as we love, care for their children as we care for ours, become sick and die as we do.  We forget that they are our brothers and sisters and treat them as objects that can be destroyed at will.


Only when we have the courage to cross the street and look in one another's eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family"

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A difference in emphasis...

An interesting thought from Richard Rohr today worth a mull!

"...Jesus tended to emphasize very different things than present organized Christianity tends to emphasize. Present organized Christianity (in all denominations) tends to be preoccupied with things that Jesus never talked about ever, and sometimes even disagreed with..."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Enslaved and shackled...

Larry Warner has written a book that I have been helpfully journeying with all year - 'Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius'. I'm also finding his website helpful. His monthly email particularly is worth receiving. Here is part of this months...

"We live in a world that runs at high speed. We live lives crammed with activities, distractions. We crave the rush, the newest, the fastest, the sleekest. We are producers, social climbers, accumulators, prestige hounds, experience seekers, adrenaline junkies. We are enslaved by and shackled to busyness, whether at work or play, believing it to be a gateway to all we need to feel significant, valued, even loved. And our culture, and sadly even the Church, seems to affirm this lie, applauding us for the frenetic pace and overloaded schedules. However, this hectic living does not bring health, healing or wholeness to our souls, but violence, robbing us of the ability to experience God in the now of our lives. For when we live this way we are not present to the present or the Presence, but instead we are continually transitioning from one kind of doing to another kind of doing. It is this e-v-i-l pace (evil = live spelled backwards; so as I use evil here I am referring to living life in a way that is the opposite of the life God created us to l-i-v-e) that severely hinders our experiencing God and that which God has provided for us through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. "

Friday, July 05, 2013

All in a day...

Funny old day...

Hall full of friends from London Borough of Sutton ... friends from the Sutton Volunteer Centre... packed Coffee House ... Sermon prep ... Blocked toilets ... food bank... in-touch cafe ... Unblocking unsuccessful  ... Plumber just takes a latte in payment .... Free bike service from Halford's courtesy of O2 ... Now up to the Royal Opera House's Linbury theatre ... Later picking Bethan up from a party!

The misery of April 1: Susie

Everyone seemed to know Susie. Her energy drive for building community would put most churches to shame; the vanguard of transformation in so many ways, the bastion of local justice, standing up and against all things unfair in this part of SM1. In the few months I knew her, I saw nothing but investment into others around her, no doubt about it - a pillar of this community beyond it's cliché.

Well Susie is no longer here. She went very quickly. She has moved on, taking her young family away from the support structures and friends they knew. Now in a different but unfamiliar part of SW London, all thanks to her misfortune to have, in old money, a boxroom, deemed now a bedroom. So unable to withstand the 14% cut to her housing benefit, Susie has gone. 

Watching BBC's QuestionTime last night made me wonder how many of the Susie's of this world while shoehorning their families into new communities and schools really feel that they are all in it together?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Appreciative inquiry...

Got to say that discovering Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations has been good for me. Here is some classic Rohr.

"The deep intuitions of most church doctrines are invariably profound and correct, but they are still expressed in mechanical and literal language that everybody adores, stumbles over, denies, or fights. Hold on for a while until you get to the real meaning, which is far more than the literal meaning! That allows you to creatively both understand and critique things—without becoming oppositional, hateful, arrogant, and bitter yourself. Some call this 'appreciative inquiry'"

Holding on for a while is difficult but nevertheless well worth it. 

Borrowing from Walter Wink I was always keen to teach about the importance of 'withiness'. It just helps when engaging with an ancient text, knowing that beyond the ancient worldview there is a connective withiness that's lives on. But it also seems important to exercise 'appreciative inquiry' with each other, perhaps a key to living out Shalom?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

17th Century Nun's prayer

Big Brother read this to me this morning - made me smile!

"Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself, that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessing cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint - some of them are so hard to live with - but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nouwen on spiritual rootedness...

I've just had a great telephone conversation with a friend that speaks frequently into my life. We laughed at the dangers of seeking validation and how with age that seeking shifts but is still seeking affirmation. It reminded me of a Nouwen nugget and a picture I took on a walk!

"Trees that grow tall have deep roots. Great height without great depth is dangerous. The great leaders of this world - like St. Francis, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., - were all people who could live with public notoriety, influence, and power in a humble way because of their deep spiritual rootedness.

Without deep roots we easily let others determine who we are. But as we cling to our popularity, we may lose our true sense of self. Our clinging to the opinion of others reveals how superficial we are. We have little to stand on. We have to be kept alive by adulation and praise. Those who are deeply rooted in the love of God can enjoy human praise without being attached to it."

Friday, June 07, 2013

Patient Trust...

Not being big on poetry didn't stop me finding this salutary and powerful!

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something

unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability-

and that it may take a very long time

And so I think it is with you.

your ideas mature gradually-let them grow

let them shape themselves, without undue hast.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances

acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow

Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

-Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nouwen on purity of heart....

Here's a daily dose of Nouwen...
"Jesus, the Beloved of God, has a pure heart.  Having a pure heart means willing one thing.  Jesus wanted only to do the will of his heavenly Father.  Whatever Jesus did or said, he did and said it as the obedient Son of God:  "What I say is what the Father has taught me; he who sent me is with me, and has not left me to myself, for I always do what pleases him"  (John 8:28-29).   There are no divisions in Jesus' heart, no double motives or secret intentions.  In Jesus there is complete inner unity because of his complete unity with God.
Becoming like Jesus is growing into purity of heart.  That purity is what gave Jesus and will give us true spiritual vision."

Here's a wish list for the day!

:: willing one thing...
:: no double motives or secret intentions
:: complete unity with God.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The misery of April 1: Jannice and her Benefits reassessment...

I'm no doctor, I wish I had had the application and aptitude when I was younger but I didn't, so I have the utmost respect for the hard work and dedication of those who are.

However, while it takes one look at Jannice's make up, resemblant of Jemima from BBC's Play School, perhaps 10 seconds of conversation, maybe 5 minutes to detect her fear of any male, it takes several years to understand the life of brokenness that has contributed to who she is and make it obvious to realise why she receives the benefits she does. We know because of the time our hospitality  coordinator / community development worker has spent with Jannice.

Here is why the benefit's changes of April 1 are no joke. Jannice is required to undertake reassessment and is deemed fit for work, why? because in one interview she happened to mention that she looked after her mother. I'm no doctor, but that does not make Jannice a carer and open up new opportunities for employment.

When it comes to the welfare state I'm not denying that something needs addressing, it does seem strange that Lord and Lady Sugar receive the winter fuel allowance and are eligible for a freedom pass.  But equally, I refuse to be nudged by this government into thinking that Jannice represents a problem when tax avoidance is running close to £30 billion, and that spending on welfare has risen less over the last two decades than overall government spending.

The impact on people like Jannice remains, I believe, something that should not be taken for granted. Is it right to be proud about being being part of a team at @suttonsa that marches with Jannice by sitting next to her at subsequent assessments and pointing out that which is obvious? 

Someone recently asked me what The Salvation Army does - well ..... that's what we do! Not as a quasi government social service, but by seeking to live out that attribute of God that is justice and equity. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Preparing for Pentecost...

Ascension day just behind us, Pentecost just before us reminds me of something helpful I read in Ronald Rolheiser's Seeking Spirituality: Guidelines for a Christian Spirituality for the 21st Century. We should try and not to forget the journey from Good Friday to Pentecost - the Paschal Cycle. Rolheiser puts it like this:-

Good Friday: 'the loss of life - real death'
Easter Sunday: 'the reception of new life'
The Forty days: 'a time for readjustment to the new and for grieving the old'
Ascension: 'letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to cling'
Pentecost: 'the reception of new spirit for the new life that one is already living'

Or in other words...

'Name your deaths'
'Claim your births'
'Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality'
'Do not cling to the old, let it ascend and give you its blessing'
'Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living'

This cycle is something we can engage in daily in reflection. Rolheiser suggests different areas that represents a death, whether that be our youth, wholeness, our dreams, our honeymoons even certain ideas of God and the Church.

Today is Ascension Day - Rolheiser would have us reflect on what we are clinging onto that we need to let go of as we prepare for Pentecost.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The misery of April 1: Barry and his loan...

I felt complicit, if not a little dirty. I was witnessing something brutal.

Barry a recent but frequent visitor to TSA either through need of the foodbank, our computers or simply in need of a chat, was completing his application for a loan. So this guy who needs help to get through his chaotic life misses his benefits appointment and is sanctioned. No money for two weeks. First solution a bit of reduced label swapping in ASDA's failed, so a loan with an eye watering 4124% APR it is.

I stood watched, and was powerless. What I have slept walked into?

Horsley & Siberman point out that within Jesus' life he suggested that God was establishing his kingdom by creating an alternative society pp54. He was speaking...
...into a society under the pressure of debt and taxation,
...into a system that had efficiently transformed close knit villages into badly fragmented communities of alienated frightened individuals pp55.
...into a people who may previously have felt a responsibility to help their neighbours in times of shortage but now themselves were debtors' pp 55

The problem Horsley & Siberman identify is that Roman legal standards not the Torah had begun to take precedence pp55. No longer were they shaped by God's dream for kindness, justice and righteousness (Jeremiah 9:24). Into this Jesus spoke shalom and jubilee.

The benefit cuts, bedroom tax, cuts to legal aid, increased community charge, universal payment, on-line applications for computer illiterate and poor, benefit sanctions, esa reassessment, increased demand at foodbanks, increased homeless, increased displaced families is a perfect storm of poverty that we will need to be prepared for. Ready to incarnate the life of Christ as we reject injustice and offer practical resistance to the darkness of rejection, isolation and loneliness that will come for the most marginal, vulnerable and unwanted. Those demonised by the papers that have allowed us to sleep walk into an intolerable society. Those that Brengle called 'lost sheep that have no shepherd'

"Our musicians will play meticulously and will revel in the artistry of song that tickles the ear but will leave the heart cold and hard. Officers will be accepted by Mayors and officials and be greeted by outsiders but God will not be among us. We shall still recruit our ranks and supply the Training College with cadets from our own young people, but we shall cease to be saviours of the lost sheep that have no shepherd."

Barry was lost and I'm afraid I didn't feel much of a shepherd! What kind of shepherd stands and watches when the cliff edge is far too close?

Horsley, R. A., & Siberman, N. A. (1997). The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformation. Putnam Pub Group,

Monday, March 25, 2013

Psalm of Love

Just been asked to pen a psalm of praise at the launch of our prayer room at Sutton. I want to share something I wrote with days of having arrived at ICO, and it came back to me this evening.

I don't want to just feel your love I want to be your love.
A love that reaches out, punching holes of light into the darkness of rejection, isolation and loneliness.
A love that seeks relationship beyond what I get out of it.
A love that brings life shared, a playful inter-relationship of wholeness.
A love beyond me, that is more than my wants, needs and demands.
A love that is you in me and me in you.
A love complete!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Listening as Spiritual Hospitality

"To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.

Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you."

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Freedom from Judging, Freedom for mercy...

This was a little challenging from today....

We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people. Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her. We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot. The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive.

The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one. Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy. Let's remember Jesus' words: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged" (Matthew 7:1).

Friday, March 01, 2013

Looking for 10:10

A new word for me - commensality.

Aspect of hospitality around a meal table, concept of not competing while residing in or occupying the same area as another individual or group having independent or different values or customs.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Looking for 10:9

This popped up on a slide this week. I see it as quite a challenge rather than any pat on the back!

"If the world despises a notorious sinner, the church will love her.
If the world cuts off aid to the poor and the suffering, the church will offer food and healing.
If the world oppresses, the church will raise up the oppressed.
If the world shames a social outcast, the church will proclaim God’s reconciling love.
If the world seeks profit and self-fulfillment, the church seeks sacrifice and service.
If the world demands retribution, the church dispenses grace.
If the world splinters into factions, the church joins together in unity.
If the world destroys its enemies, the church loves them."

Philip Yancey - So what's so amazing about grace

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Looking for 10:8

Nearly ten years on Hirsch and Frost have much to remind us of!

"... by attractional, we mean that the traditional church plants itself within a particular community, neighborhood, or locale and expects that people will come to it to meet God and find fellowship with others.… By anticipating that if they get their internal features right, people will flock to the services, the church betrays its belief in attractionalism. … If we get our seating, our parking, our children's program, our preaching, and our music right, they will come. This assumes that we have a place in our society and that people didn't join our churches because, though they want to be Christians, they're unhappy with the product. The missional church recognizes that it does not hold a place of honor in its host community and that its missional imperative compels it to move out from itself into that host community as salt and light." (Hirsch and Frost 2004)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gordon Leed -Thurso - 5th seaforth highlanders

Just trying to establish a google presence to see if Alison Leslie who left a message on Forces Reunited googles this.

5th Seaforth Highlanders WW1

I’ve just found out the a didtant cousin was in the above battalion. Gordon Leed was killed on 15 June 1915. He was a drummer in the Seaforths. Can anyone help with information,especially on drummers(for example, would they be leading the troops into battle with the pipes?)

Looking for 10:7

It was good yesterday to be reminded that central to all that we do as church is integrated mission, it was also challenging to be reminded how easy it is to forget and lose that sense of being. It reminded me of van Gelder's work and becomes #7 of my looking for 10! Thanks for an encouraging day IHQ Programme department!

Van Gelder points out how important it is to maintain an understanding of the relationship of the 'nature - ministry and organisation' of church. The order has to be right when considering the development of a missiological ecclesiology. In other words it is important when considering who we are, that we don't get hooked up on what we look like and how organise ourselves before we understand first who we are and what we have been called to do!

"In developing a more fully-orbed missiological ecclesiology, three aspects of church life must be defined and related to one another: what the church is - its nature; what the church does - its ministry; and how the church is to structure its work - its organisation. The interrelationship of the three aspects is clear. The church is. The church does what it is. The church organises what it does" (Van Gelder 2000:37)

Getting the order wrong can reduce the perspective of church from that of a unique community of God's people to that of merely a series of ministry functions administered designed to accomplish certain goals (2000:23).

Gelder, C. (2000). The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit.
Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Becket, W. sr (2007) Sister Wendy on Prayer. Continuum

If I were to recommend one book on Prayer for anyone remotely interested in discovering what on earth it is all about it would be this one!

A couple of highlights...

"God wants you to be the fullness of what you could be. You cannot become this if you do not allow Him to enter into you. You do your feeble search for Him, and He will do His mighty search for you. 'seek and ye shall find' The 'you' God seeks may not be the 'you' of whom you are aware. it is the essential you, the real you, the fullness of your potential. The transformation from one to the other, the realising of that potential you, may take a lifetime. Few of us will ever wholly achieve this complete surrender. But all God needs is your desire." pp 22

"Prayer is essential an attitude. We trust God, we believe in Him, we turn to Him. An attitude is something permanent. So how could prayer stop when we , as it were , stop praying? It would be as if your relationship with your parents only existed when you were in actual contact with them" pp 29

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Looking for 10:6

This prayer of Ignatius has cropped up several times while away.

Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will.

A Prayer of St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)

Music that speaks....Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus

I've listened to nothing but classical music while at the ICO. Listening to Vaughan Williams' Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus moved something deep within me this morning!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lost lyrics - my song is love unknown

Looks like Coldplay beat Matt Spencer to a tune refit of this classic from 1664

My song is love unknown,
My Savior's love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh, and die?

Samuel Crossman

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Looking for 10:5

I have been working my way through a self study retreat based on Gordon MacDonald's book 'Resilient Life'. The last few days have been defining the essence of what a resilient person looks like.

Resilient people
:: run free from the weight of the past
:: understand the importance of repairing the past
:: respect the power of memory
:: practice repentance
:: are quick to forgive
:: overflow with gratitude
:: squeeze the past for all it's wisdom

The guiding questions are not without challenge and are humbling as I dig deeper into the core of who I am. As I sit in the 24/7 prayer room I find myself praying and asking what would a resilient church look like?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Looking for 10: 4

Ashbrook in his book Mansions of the Heart - points out Two dimensions of our community life that he says should become intentional as a minimum.

:: We need to instill a 'climate' of openess, vulnerability and journey - requiring transparency from leadership

:: We need to be intentional about helping people establish meaningful relationships. 241

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Looking for 10:3

A rehash from last week but on reconsideration these three points have stayed with me and so represent 10:3

:: a commitment to serving the whole person, to helping the marginalised, to fighting for justice
:: a call to a lifestyle that counters the societal pressures of consumerism
:: Holiness teaching as a lifeline to a generation that has become disillusioned by societal and moral failures.

"We must find the words to articulate that teaching ... and the language of our lives must be spoken particularly loudly"

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Finding the words...

I've just returned from the welcome to the new Chief of the Staff for The Salvation Army, essentially the new second in charge! Which means Commissioners Clive and Marianne Adams must be on their way to take over the leadership of the UK.

I'm hopeful that people will not hold anything against him due to some warped sporting allegiances, but will remember three ideals that he highlighted in his paper to the International Leaders' Conference last year.

:: a commitment to serving the whole person, to helping the marginalised, to fighting for justice
:: a call to a lifestyle that counters the societal pressures of consumerism
:: Holiness teaching as a lifeline to a generation that has become disillusioned by societal and moral failures.

"We must find the words to articulate that teaching ... and the language of our lives must be spoken particularly loudly"


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Looking for 10: 2

... community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4). The question, therefore, is not "How can we make community?" but "How can we develop and nurture giving hearts?"

Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Books 2012

I seem to be reading less as I get older, or is it that I am reading slower. If I am reading slower I wonder if I am reading more!

Anyway - while I loved the Book Thief, the book of the year for me.....

Cain S (2012) Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. with the revelation that you can be a non shy introvert!!

Looking for 10 :1

I set myself the challenge of finding/ hearing ten appropriate messages over the next couple of months.

Here's # 1 before I am supposed to start! From Jesuit Prayer App!

Patient Trust

Above all trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages
of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you:
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. —Excerpted from Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits, © 1993 Institute of Jesuit Sources, St. Louis MO