Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Broken then Shared

My confirmation group were talking about this topic last night. Lots of things have to be broken before they are shared, in this context the brokenness we discussed was Jesus on the cross.

This got me thinking of all the other sharing which comes through brokenness.

The people you only really knew when they were so broken and vulnerable they were able to share with you some of their true self.

I sat for some time this morning thanking God for the privilege of sharing in the brokenness of Jesus repeatedly through the brokenness of my neighbour.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Tuesday in Holy Week

"Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour." John 12

This morning's reading and meditation brought me face to face with the great challenge of Christian life. Particularly as this phrase comes within a passage in which Jesus once again alludes to his death.

If I want to serve Him I must follow Him and that involves walking the way of the cross. It involves sacrifice and pain and selflessness. Tough stuff.

Brother Roger of Taize wrote:
"Prepare yourself as well, cost what it may, for that struggle within yourself to remain faithful to Christ until death. This continuity of an entire lifetime will create in you an inner unity which will see you through everything...Far from lighting short-lived blazes, give your life to the end, and day after day it will turn into a creation with God."


Monday, 2 April 2012

Monday in Holy Week

Pure Unbounded Love:

John 12:1-11

"Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus."

Mary anoints Jesus with costly oil, once again an act of devotion different and more understanding than her sister's service.

Jesus’ response to the false piety of Judas doesn't excuse us from caring for the poor, rather it is positive toward Him.

The poor will always need us and we will always need to respond to them, but those people would not always have had Jesus with them. It appears that Mary by way of her closeness to Jesus, was all too aware of this and this act of devotion was a preparation for things to come, for death and burial.

I can easily get my priorities confused and serve God or the poor based on a warped sense of duty, my own guilt, fear of the consequences or pride in my own accomplishments. Whilst doing so I fail to understand that in Jesus, God brings grace the unmerited gift of forgiveness and new life.

When I accept this and recognise and live in Christ, allowing the gospel to transform my life then doing things like helping the poor, making decisions which are routed in Christ, and loving my neighbour, becomes instinctive.

This life is costly, like Mary, I prepare for Jesus' agony and death and to walk with him to the cross, and yet more costly to myself personally I pledge to give my life to the service of God.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Out of your depth?

Today brought a first for Bobby the Dachshund cross - he went swimming.

Well, when I say he went swimming what I mean is he chased Monty and his ball out of his depth, panicked and thrashed about for a bit and then discovered his Labrador genes, webbed paws and waterproof coat meant he was quite good at it, and he glided back to dry land.

It made me think of the Passion narrative I heard read beautifully in church this morning, which once again reduced me to tears. The disciples found themselves out of their depth at many times during Jesus' ministry but so apparent in the Garden of Gethsemane. They slept whilst Jesus agonised in prayer. They stood watching as his betrayer approached and they dispersed into the night terrified, alone and completely out of their depths.

I feel like this a lot, whilst parenting, whilst witnessing to Christ, and just whilst living as a weak and sinful human. During Holy Week, I wish I didn't cry out with the crowds who urged Pilate to crucify Him, I wish I hadn't run away scared and furiously denied Him, I wish I hadn't wept at the foot of the cross, but I do and I did.

In order, for me to have Christ's hope, I have to play a part in His death. Without his death Easter is null and void of meaning as resurrection is impossible. In this too I feel out of my depth, but I am not alone. Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ I reach some depths and doggy paddle my way out of them.

This Holy Week I will be constantly reminded that I am only as effective as my last encounter with the risen Christ. However I can't rest on the last encounter, and must yearn to meet Him daily.

In the words of a hymn we sang today:

And yet I want to love Thee, Lord;
Oh, light the flame within my heart,
And I will love Thee more and more,
Until I see Thee as Thou art.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Tips for School Survival for Adopted Children

Things that helped our Son settle in to school particularly at the scary break and lunch times.

Break time and lunchtime were the times when 80% of inappropriate behaviours happened in the early days at school.

Unsurprising really. Little Bear couldn't self regulate, doesn't cope with new and different things without warning, and was unable to manage imaginative play without a lot of direction from me. He was also scared. Playtime is noisy and Little Bear doesn't cope with excessive noise. It's a large space with lots of people he doesn't know very well and they are running about and screaming.

Little Bear was either inside on time out or hiding under a big bush in the playground, until with the school we worked to make playtime better for everyone.

Little Bear (fairly quickly and surprisingly for an adopted child) transferred his attachment from me as his main carer to his wonderful YrR teacher and TA. Therefore they were key to his settling down in school.

I worked with LB to identify 'sad feelings' which led to 'thinking that wasn't good thinking' and worked on a process of avoiding meltdown with the teacher.

When LB had an 'angry feeling in his tummy' he would ask for Miss P or Mrs D and without fail they would come out into the playground to him. He learned that his safe people in school would ALWAYS be there for him if he needed them.

Then a learning support took him out of the playground at lunchtime to work with other children (of his choice) on social skills using quiet games.

He was gradually reintroduced to the playground and buddied up with some older children who would lead games and organise participation with an learning support supervising from a distance.

This was a very gradual process and it is by no means complete in Yr1 but LB knows he can rely on the school staff.

I am posting this because, together with our Adoption Support social worker who was involved at the beginning of Reception, we see Little Bear's school as an example of good practise with an adopted child and hope these pointers could be of use to other adopters.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Out of the mouth of babes...

I have the immense privilege if preparing two children for confirmation at Pentecost.

At our last session one of the girls raised a beautiful insight. We were talking about the parable of the prodigal son.

I was saying how wonderful it is that God was always there for us with outstretched arms waiting for a hug, and no matter the mistakes we make this will always be available to us. The girls thought about this for a while and then one said

"It's like Jesus on the cross isn't it, his arms out wide like this (she demonstrated) for us. Just like the dad in the story."

That 9 year old made my week with that insight. Yes she is 9. An insightful and mature insight for a nine year old I think, don't you?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lent Reflection 8

International Women's Day

Every minute, around the world, there are over 240 babies being born. Pray for the mother's who are giving birth. A vast amount of these mothers giving birth are not in sterile, safe and warm maternity units. Pray for them.

Even in the year 2012, there are still areas of the world where women are not allowed equal rights and opportunities to access education and work. Pray for them.

According to Amnesty International:
"Around the world, women are:
■Missing: More than 100 million women are missing from the world's population - a result of discrimination against women and girls, including female infanticide.
■Illiterate: Two thirds of the 774 million adult illiterates worldwide are women - the same proportion for the past 20 years and across most regions.
■Forced into marriage: More than 60 million girls worldwide are forced into marriage before the age of 18.
■Dying in pregnancy and childbirth: Each year 358,000 women die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.
■ At risk: An estimated 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of female genital mutilation/cutting each year." Pray for them.

In this country women are underpaid, undervalued, will always have to work harder to prove themselves in employment, and continue to work the dual life of the lion share of housework and childcare combined with employment outside of the home. Young girls are encouraged to be decorative, and conscious of their appearance from a young age.


My fellow sisters and I can vote, have a voice with which to argue our case, can seek and gain employment, can choose (based on income) whether to stay at home or go out to work, can give our children a different message and instill a different sense of self to the ideal portrayed by the mass media.

All this considered, this International Women's Day, I give thanks for the generations of strong, upright, successful and determined women who paved the way for us. I give thanks for the women, who offered me role models and guides.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Lent Reflection 7

I would like to give you some song lyrics I have been using for reflection. I am not embarrassed to admit they are Cliff Richard lyrics, not my usual choice of music but worth sharing. The musical arrangement's cheesy dated nature will put you off so no YouTube links here!

I don't know how to love you,
Where do I begin?
If helplessness is sinning,
Then here I am a sinner.
I'm guilty of the sin.

I don't know how to help you,
Your trouble goes so deep.
You're about to lose your life.
And here I am dejected,
'Cos I lose a night of sleep.

Love one another You said,
Come together as one.
I'm just a servant, Lord.
Yet you made me a son.
Sometimes I'm troubled,
By the things You make me see.
But no matter how I feel, Lord,
Here am I send me.

So I leave my world behind me,
Enter this domain.
And I'm staggered by the gulf between us.
I can see your sickness,
But I don't feel your pain.

Pity's got no power.
Compassion has the heart.
Jesus, keep me mindful,
That it's You who does the giving.
And it's we who need to play our part.
Help me play my part.

Sometimes I'm troubled,
By the things You make me see.
But no matter how I feel, Lord,
Here am I send me.

So I leave my world behind me,
Enter this domain.
And I'm staggered by the gulf between us.
I can see your sickness,
But I don't feel your pain.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Lent Reflection 6

Luke 11: 29-32

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it  except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nin'eveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to  hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nin'eveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

What would Jesus say to our generation? A generation which desires worldly wealth, whilst others go hungry. A generation quick to comment on the misdeeds of others, without looking at ones own sinfulness. A generation which fights wars based on power and greed, which kill innocents.

Is this generation really that different from the one which Jesus is addressing? God is in our midst and we are so caught up in the world that we miss Him.

So this is Lent, recognising our sinfulness, drawing nearer to God with open hearts, and through any means available proclaiming the Kingdom in an unjust world.

God, the Holy Mystery,
Help me to stop trying to manage you, and rather leave myself open to your direction. May I, albeit reluctantly at times, let you direct my life this Lent and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Lent Reflection 5

Imagine the scene: A small child is playing hide and seek with their parent, the child hides (probably not very successfully) and the parent goes to find them.

The parent feigns surprise "Where could s/he be?" this last for as long as the child can manage until the suspense is unbearable for the child in question (a couple of minutes max). Then the child bursts from the hiding place and calls "Here I am" with pure joy at both the game and being found.

The child is open, desperate to be found, desperate to fix the separation which has occurred through the natural course of the game. I'm here, I'm available to play again/have a cuddle/enjoy your company is implicit in that 3 word response. So simple yet so powerful.
1 Samuel 3:4 Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am."

Lord God, teach me to be open of heart and mind and spirit. Give me the courage to respond "Here I am" when you call. Amen.

Lent Reflection 4

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 38:9

Yesterday I was talking with someone whose relative had experienced a great loss and pain, they were expressing their annoyance with another family member's way of offering comfort to the person concerned.
"You are in a dark place, but you will get through it."
My acquaintance was annoyed by this suggestion, as she saw it, that God was far away and retorted:

"She is not in a dark place, she has always been a child of the light, she still is even in her grief and pain!"

I was quite taken by this, and I think I agreed that even in loss, pain, grief and hardship, the light of Christ has still been there for me. I may have been angry, I may not have been able to recognise and respond to it but God's love grace and light has always been there.

Interestingly in the situation described above the sad, grieving, anguished person's responses to this were not reported to me.

Christ be our light, shining in the darkness which can never overcome it. Amen

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Lent Reflection 3

Luke 5:27-32

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus answered, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance."

Ever had the feeling you are not good enough? I certainly have!

What's good? How do we qualify that?

Society certainly wouldn't have classed Levi as good, or his friends at the banquet. Jesus, on the other hand, saw them all as worthy of his attention.

So Jesus requires our openness to connect with Him, our willingness to listen to Him, and our honest desire for forgiveness from the things that separate us from Him.

What's wonderful for me is that God; Father, Son and Spirit doesn't require "good" in the sense that human society views it. As all the secrets of our hearts are known to Him alone, simply being good on the outside is a shallow and insufficient response to His inestimable grace.

Lord Jesus, help me by your grace to be forever open of mind and heart and open to and for you.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Lent Reflection 2

There are very few people who realise what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands,
and let themselves be formed by his grace. (Saint Ignatius)

My Lenten reflection today has centred on this quotation from St. Ignatius.

It's wonderful, abandoning all to God, terrifying and makes a person vulnerable, but wonderful.

As Michael Leunig the Australian poet wrote:

"Let it go. Let it out.
Let it all unravel.
Let it free and it can be
A path on which to travel."

I pray for grace, this Lent and always to abandon self and allow myself to be formed by God.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Lent Reflection 1

I plan to blog my bible reading daily during Lent. Blogging particularly on the line in each passage which speaks most clearly to me.

I'm hoping this will help focus my thoughts and prayers on the word and instil a sense of discipline in my study of the Holy Scripture - well one can but hope ;-)

Today Luke 9: 25

This is the verse that spoke most to me this morning. The verse I came back to, used for further meditation, and used as memory verse today.

Jesus uses language that the disciples are familiar with. He uses language of the time; that of traders. "Gain" "castaway" will have been used in the context of trading. It is therefore probably unsurprising that this verse speaks easily to me as a child of the 21st century. Jesus is as accessible to me as he was to the disciples and I have the double benefit of hindsight, and many brilliant Biblical scholars to fall back on.

On social media recently, I have seen some friends and acquaintances bemoaning their financial situation. They, like many others myself included are feeling the pinch of this government's financial decisions. All are on a low income or no income, existing on benefits, most are young adults. They feel cheated by the government, they feel their future financial situation is in jeopardy, they fear for their future. They're watching the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

This Sunday, the first in Lent, Rupert Murdoch returns with Sun on Sunday, it appears to my cynical mind at least that those with money and influence can buy their way out of trouble. I can only pray that it doesn't sell, that the piles of the Sun on Sunday remain stacked on the shelves, and the general public makes a conscious effort to avoid supporting this venture.

These two not unconnected present day situations are what has been brought to my mind from that verse in Luke chapter 9.

I can imagine the conversation:

Rupert Murdoch: "Oh goodie, I have a new Sunday paper, just another branch of my global empire."
Jesus: "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?"

This is not the end of the post, this verse issues a challenge. Not just for the big business of this world but to us all. Keep a handle on that love of worldly possessions, that greed, that self interest Siobhan. Do you need those shoes? That book? That CD?

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Abstinence, got me thinking...

I have just had a course of antibiotics for an abscessed tooth, and as a result I have abstained from alcohol all week.

This got me thinking...why not ditch alcohol in Lent? OK, I thought, sounds straightforward.

A friend from a few years ago used to give up alcohol every year, but didn't abstain on Sundays. This sounded even better! Sundays are busy in this house, and they are also the evening before my husband's day off. A glass of wine/beer/gin/whiskey is very much appreciated on a Sunday evening.

So I started to think about the Lenten fast a little deeper. Why are Sundays ok? Is it just an easy get out clause for me? Will I not be fasting 'properly' if I have a cheeky Rioja on Sunday nights?

I have decided that for me, the answer to all of these questions (except the first obviously) is no.

These are the reasons for my decision:

1) When I attend a Eucharistic Celebration, Christ is present. When the bridegroom is present the guests do not fast. Mark 2:19-20 "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast."

2) Each Eucharist is for me a celebration of Jesus' resurrection. We proclaim "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again". Therefore each celebration, although muted in Lent, is a mini celebration of the Resurrection, a mini Easter so to speak.

3) I will not be abstaining from receiving the consecrated chalice, I receive Christ's blood and as such participate in His once for all sacrifice.

4) As Canon law dictates that communion wine is to be alcoholic. I shall already have (very technically) broken my fast on a Sunday morning. I realise this is the weakest part of my argument as my aforementioned cheeky Rioja is rather different to consecrated communion wine.

They are my reasons, only mine you understand. Your interpretation of the fast must, most importantly be yours, and is like mine, answerable only to God.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Pray and Let God Worry

My daily Bible reflection seemed to fit beautifully with my current state of mind.

My husband is away for a few nights, I am unsettled, my son is unsettled, my dogs are unsettled. Added to this temporary state, there are changes in the midst for my family in the coming months and years.

It's so easy to get caught up worrying about the future, and forget that each morning God gives us the grace to make it through that particular day in the best way we can, if we only accept it. We are in the here and now, and so is God.

So today, I said my morning office, and left my cares and concerns with God. Already this has blessed me, I have been able to allay some concerns I was having with a short simple chat, and I feel empowered.

My tendency to pessimism doesn't sit well with my trust in God, and true prayer shouldn't be a last minute emergency measure but a foundation of grace for the whole day.

I pray we all have a day in which we can sense God's presence and feel his guiding hand in our lives.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

New Year New Blog

I have decided a change is as good as a rest this New Year. So I have changed my blog title and altered my profile to reflect this.

The previous title didn't reflect the blog content at all really. So a blog mainly about God, dogs and home life should be so titled.

So Happy New Year one and all, and a return to blogging for me.