Friday, 29 July 2016

CARELESSNESS

Let me begin with something that has surprised me. Each day I see on the screen the number of visits to my blog the previous day. It rarely gets below 25 but can reach 40. Each visitor is a privilege. But on Thursday (yesterday) there were 296 recorded visits. Yes 296. Naturally I puzzled as to why this should be, especially as there was nothing out of the ordinary in the piece I wrote. The only possible clue was the title 'No  kisses in the queue'. I really do find it hard to believe that this would make the difference but there we are. A mystery!

Now an early day cause for alarm, unnecessary as it turned out. Each morning and evening this week I have been cycling over to feed our friend's cats. I had on my rain coat and waterproof trousers as the garden and I were being well watered from above. My small card wallet contains the house key and to save digging it out from below the layers I put it in my anorak pocket. Very carelessly I didn't zip it up and I arrived home with the wallet nowhere to be seen. So it was a return trip, slower speed this time, and there it was lying in the middle of the road the surface the same black as the wallet. Phew! Just to think of the troubling of cancelling cards and applying for some new ones.

It is another lesson in carelessness.We all know about careless driving and careless talk, but what about careless behaviour in the ordinary matters of daily life. We can be too hurried, too easily seek to cut corners and these are actions we often have to pay for- as I did with my moments of anxiety this morning.

The opposite of carelessness is carefulness. Not simply to avoid stupidities as was mine this morning. It is often called by a more positive name...mindfulness. Carefully attending to the matters and opportunities of each passing moment. This is much bigger than helping us avoid life's negatives. It is about seeking to find beautiful things in each passing moment.

We may well be going to Fleetwood tomorrow but this time at the request of Stephen our son. He wants us to collect him a bottle of sea water, which as requests go is a little unusual! He lives in Lancaster and is quite close to Morecambe, but apparently the sea water at Fleetwood is cleaner than that in Morecambe. I do not know why it matters or what he is seeking to do with it but we will do what we can. The only problem is that we need to be able to reach the water and tomorrow the tide times are not suitable to our own timetables. We shall see. I will  report. 




Thursday, 28 July 2016

THE OPTIMISTIC AND QUIET PLACE

We are looking forward to the programme at 9 pm this evening about the huge refugee city in Jordan, and if last week's episode is any guide this will be an inspiration. I think we must never forget that what seems so often to be a wicked world is also a good one. Indeed if we had laid out in front of us a huge map of the world and shaded those areas covered by the news as dark with tragedy there would be many more bright with hope. I am always recommending good perspectives  to others and attempting to practise them myself but they are also necessary for a more cheering view of the world. I have only had half an eye on the boisterous politics from across the Atlantic but it does seem to me that from one corner we are drenched in things wrong and from the other the things that are right and promising.

No doubt they reflect two approaches to life, the one biased to the negative the other to the positive. I know many people find it a struggle to allow the positives to predominate.

We had our monthly meeting last evening when I chose to speak about creating a quiet space in our heads. I linked this with a poem about reaching the edge of cultivation and venturing no further, quoted here a short time ago. The implication for me is that it is all too easy to be satisfied with where we are and our need to go 'over the ranges' into the country of new discoveries. The question becomes how expectant we are of better things, but unless we know there is a country of new discoveries over the ranges, then we will live for ever without expectation. So I referred briefly to guarding our minds by recognising the harmful, and avoiding it, instead seeking out that which is helpful and affirming.

The main emphasis was the quiet place within. But how do we create it, or clear away the tree full of chattering monkeys that stand in its way. One method of doing this I could only mention because I know too little of it...meditation. From a Christian perspective it means finding a quiet space where in our own depths we might meet God. There is so much in St Paul's letters about just this....like diving into a huge ocean of love, never satisfied with where we are because there are so many more delights that lie deeper still. I think a relevant word might well be enrichment.

But how does meditation achieve this? On this I had to be even more cautious knowing so little about it, but it has to involve clearing away the multitude of thoughts that besiege us hour by hour. The usual method, I observe, is to find a quiet place and with eyes closed repeat just a few words over and over hearing them in our own unspoken  voice. Harmless, perhaps even beneficial? I have experimented and it is difficult but it does help create a space. And who knows what might happen in that space?

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

NO KISSES IN THE QUEUE

Stood in the supermarket line yesterday a frail old lady was in front of me, struggling to get the money from her purse. The assistant is very kind and not only helped the old lady (who was deaf in one ear and blind in one eye) get her money ready but packed her bag. Then she left her till to give the old lady a loving hug and kiss. Her final comment was " When you feel lonely  darling, just come and find me on the till". She then looked at me but said to the old lady "He wont get a kiss". What a put down! But the assistant said to me that this was the only conversation the old lady would normally have all day. 

Loneliness and kindness in a couple of minutes. And how many folk are simply lonely for a bit of company, a friend to take an interest in them, someone to share any bit of news? And the kindness of strangers that streams out to meet those most vulnerable. Very precious is the gift of kindness. St Paul describes kindness as one of the fruits of having God's Spirit inside the individual. But how might we define it? I would suggest something like this: a generosity of attitude and action wrapped in warmth.

It would be more than a year ago I commented on a book just read about a British soldier in the Second World War. The man was only of middle rank then but later became head of the British Army. He recalled being taken in and hidden by a Dutch family who risked life and limb to keep him safe. He described that as the kindness of strangers, which indeed it was.

This afternoon I have cycled to the creek of the River Wyre. Hazardous to get there, same to get back but enjoyable in the middle. The Creek lane comes off the roundabout on the very busy dual carriageway, but within 200 metres it is as if I had time traveled back to the nineteenth century, perhaps  even earlier. Along the water line are old jetties and older ships, many the size of small fishing boats. But they are in a state of decay. It was from these very places ships set sail for the New World

 And in this lies a valuable illustration for life itself. We live in the rush, noise and tumult of life, but all it takes is a few purposeful steps to escape it into another age, another realm and dimension of being. Surely this is something we all must seek?

And one other thing. During these last few days, quite tense for a number of reasons, I had forgotten all about the pleasure of cycling by the creek. In busy-ness we can forget what gives us refreshment. We need to forget some things but not this.


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

GETTING LOST

We never know who we are going to meet, and even recognise them when they seem to know us quite well. This is what happen this morning when lunching in Fleetwood, to where we had taken two hairy dogs for haircuts. A man across the cafe smiled and said a cheery hello, but at that stage there was no recognition on my part. Eventually he came over and hesitatingly asked 'Mr Haywood?' Of course I replied in the affirmatively (mischief suggests I should sometimes say 'No, I'm Jimmy Jones'.) as he followed with his name. Then I knew who he was, drawn from the memory of years ago.

This man had a sad history.Two years before I arrived in my first appointment a young teenager had finished her teaching in the Methodist Sunday School, left the church caught a bus and was never seen alive again. It took some time to find her body, even longer to find her killer, meanwhile the entire population of males were held suspect. It was deeply tragic for the family and traumatic for community and church.

We never know who we might encounter or what great sadness has followed them all their days.

Whilst in Fleetwood we visited one of those cut price bookshops and I found a bargain. It was about drawing and painting by one of our most famous political journalists, who is the presenter of a Sunday morning tv programme. Some years ago he had a serious stroke and among other activities and encouragement it was drawing and painting that were part of his healing. He had loved drawing from an early age but in recovery he found it even more essential for his wholeness. So the book is only partly about the experiences, benefits and techniques of drawing and painting. It is also about beauty, happiness and contentment.

There is much that will interest me but today I choose what the author calls 'Flow'. Actually that is not his word . It seems to mean this: the proposition that we are happiest when concentrating as much as possible on something that is both quite hard and for which we have an aptitude. It is " being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, your whole being is involved and you are using your skills to the utmost.." 

My only doubt about this would be the need for skill or aptitude. I hardly ever paint, have no talent for it whatever, but can feel those emotions described as 'flow'

Some months ago I ventured into similar territory but I called it focussed contentment. Different words for the same thing, both might lend themselves to the condition of 'getting lost in what we are happily doing'.

Monday, 25 July 2016

COMPASSION CAN HURT AND DELIGHT

 Looking after a small fund dedicated to people in need brings both positive and negative reactions. I think this has been true from our beginnings and has continued through 36 years and the £700,000 that has been entrusted to us. First the negative aspects. There is never enough money to meet the opportunities that arise within the community of those we know and assist, let alone the appeals from those we do not know but whose needs are equally valid. It gives a clear and painful sense of how much need there is but also how there are so many opportunities.

But I am pleased to say the positives surpass these negatives. The good news of progress made and people helped, especially with the help of the money we can give, is inspiring. Only today I received the newsletter from the L'Arche Community and how much is being done for people with learning disabilities. There are 12 Communities in this country and 149 Communities worldwide caring for over 4000 vulnerable individuals. The newsletters tells of work being done to enhance the work in Preston, Bognor, London, Manchester and Flintshire.

There is news from development in India and Haiti, the latter following the terrible earthquake in 2010. I was pleased to read that the Community in Damascus is in a relatively unscathed part of the city. And every one of these people likely to be neglected, spurned by society.

I recall our early support for this wonderful organisation many years ago. The United Kingdom part of the operation was operated by an Anglican lady whose husband was the Dean of a Southern Cathedral. I recall her expressing delight that this largely Roman Catholic Community was administered by an Anglican and (in our case) supported by a Methodist Minister.

The entire ethos of L'Arche is the particular and loving care of the individual, very precious in God's sight and in those who love and care for them. Of course we get our ethos from He who welcomed children, said God watched the sparrow fall to the ground, was like a Samaritan traveler binding up the wounds of a fellow human being. It is a lesson the world needs to learn again, or discover it for the very first time.


Sunday, 24 July 2016

DISCOVERIES


  • I have enjoyed a pleasant cycle today, but you may not have thought it such. The rain was falling gently , a slight breeze blowing and the Creek was full of water, it being high tide or thereabouts. Mind you part of the joy of the ride was impaired by another tide, that of the traffic, made worse by the young driver shouting some obscenity through his window because (presumably) he had to wait a few seconds for me. Never mind- the central part of my excursion was happy.

  • We live with life's dilemmas every day. On the one hand I have this deep longing to be in the midst of green and blue, green fields or seaside. If not in them close enough that to reach them I do not have to put my life in daily jeopardy. But we are close to supermarket, library, doctors, church, about 5 minutes walk away. My sister has to travel 35 minutes to hospital. We can reach ours in less than 10. Dilemmas you see? But how do we deal with them? We live with them and strike the best bargain with our life's circumstances  we can. I have not finished my bargaining yet, even if that young lady said 'Wow' when being told my year of birth!
         Some of you may recall my quoting a Kipling poem about the challenge to climb over            the ranges and resist the tempting voice that says 'no point of going further' because it           is 'the edge of cultivation'. Having rediscovered the poem ('The Explorer') I find it      haunting me still. It seems that in many places the norm is to assume there really is nothing further to be discovered. But the voice keeps coming to me- climb further, over the ranges. Into deeper experiences, into a more compassionate relationship with the poor of our world in all its needs.The focus is " Go further" and " Go deeper". But it is difficult and  remains at the  heart of my searching. 
Perhaps some of you want and need to go climbing.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

FINDING NEW WAYS ?

Our elder daughter, never one to dumb down, rang me to tell me of a dream she had last night. I was 95, in a wheel chair and she had taken me to the Isle of Man. The sea was rough and I got quite wet from the spray, but as I couldn't speak she did not know  how I felt. Then someone- a stranger- came on the scene and complained angrily at the way I was being treated. Interesting isn't it, after the 'Wow' statement of yesterday! But it was a lovely dream really because she was recognising my great love of the sea, and her enormous loving care for us. But did it also mean it was time for me to stop talking!!!?

Anyway, to defy the age thing I have been cycling this afternoon. I was aiming to get to the River but the road was closed for roadworks alas so a detour was necessary. Actually it took me on rather a pleasant route down a road that led to a grassy path that led to the water where I was going. But I turned back. Newly cut hawthorn hedges never give me confidence among them.

You can never tell in life either. One way ahead- the route we choose to take- is blocked but new scenarios open up for us. Better ones as far as we know. But as with this afternoon's cycle I accepted the road  closure and enjoyed what I could of its alternative. Besides, who knows, had the original route been open I might have met with a mishap. The word is 'Be thankful where you are' which is an ideal and by no means easy.

Saturday is often a time to look back over the week just past and today I look back at the previously reported Mustard Seed visit. It was exciting simply because it still thrives after 25 years. It gave me real pleasure that it was so. But not just its existence but its attractive appearance as well, and the long list of the many causes supported. And out of it came something else, aided and abetted by the Refugee Camp programme on Thursday; quite simply that I need something idealistic to fight for. It has been the mark of my ministry (some challenges lost, some won) and this week it was as if a light shone into my mind and I realised I had been 'sleeping'

Fairtrade is a challenge worth fighting for but I do think the very word is now rather stale and losing impact and meaning. I think it needs refreshing. Another programme I watched this week was of a vast national park in America where attention focused on a man whose life was snow. He loved it and lived for it and made his living cutting huge weights of snow from rooves that might break under its weight and impact. What is relevant here is the fact that he said we had only one word for snow when it needed many. The fluffy, feathery stuff that falls gently, the big flakes, the huge drifts, the frozen blocks of snow.

This is what I am thinking about 'fair trade'...we need new words and approaches for new impact. Theologically we need many a new name simply to guide us into bigger, deeper truth.