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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Nativity round the world

I have inadvertently become a collector of Nativity sets! I brought home one from Nigeria after my years living there. It is carved from the wood of the Thorn tree. The craftsmen sit by the side of the road with a pocket knife and tube of Uhu glue and produce amazing figures. Most of them are about daily life in Nigeria. But the Nativity set (and a Chess set) are also frequently on display.

A few years later missionary friends of mine working in Krygyzstan had the idea of encouraging  a local family to raise money to rebuild their house which had been badly damaged. My friends advertised this among their contacts and supporters. It was definitely a win-win! The money raised helped a needy family and the Nativity set is a beautiful work of art and a labour of love.

Then another friend gave me one she brought back from Bolivia. I don't know the history behind this one but the image of a broken clay pot with light shining through is symbolic in itself. The expressions on the faces of Mary and Joseph suggest that this was an amazing experience!

By now I was on the lookout for other international depictions of the Nativity. I spotted the next one in a shop run by the Good Shepherd Sisters (a bit like a Trade Aid shop). I was told it came from Peru and seems to be intricately carved out of a single piece of marble-like stone. It is the size of a large egg.

Recently Anthea was given a Nativity set from Rome. This one is even smaller and set inside a tiny cup shape.

Finally, another gift which I think was made here in NZ and is intended as a paper serviette holder.

It's a pity these only have a short time on display in our house but I hope they give pleasure to you as well!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent: Season of Joy

Advent is a time of "waiting for Christmas". This can mean a frantic time with long lists of things to do, presents to buy, excited children, parties to go to... excitement and anticipation, yes, but so much stress and hurry as well.

Advent - waiting for Christmas - can also mean a reflective time of thinking about what Christmas actually celebrates: the coming of Jesus, a fragile baby born into a politically dangerous situation. Insignificant as that sounds it is the turning point of the world. Even our calendar counts the years since that day! Traditionally the four weeks of Advent focus on Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
Today I'm thinking especially of Joy. I've recently finished reading a book I may have quoted from earlier: The Book of Joy. 
Two amazing men in their 80's talk together for a week about joy. It is one of the best books I've read and certainly the best one to make joy a realistic experience even in the hardest times. They have both been through great challenges both personal and political. Nothing they say is glib or simplistic. They come from two different religious traditions. What greater hope can there be than hearing from these two seasoned spiritual practitioners about the ways joy can be the deep foundation of even the most difficult life. It would be a wonderful Christmas present to give to someone you love - and I hope that includes yourself!

Table of Contents includes:
The Nature of True Joy
Obstacles to Joy
  Fear, Stress, Anxiety
  Frustration and Anger
  Sadness and Grief
  Illness and fear of Death
The Eight Pillars of Joy
Joy Practices
  (This section is very practical with six specific ways to implement what has been written about.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Simple beauty

Stay rooted beside the water.
Absorb and reflect
the sunshine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Before I Forget

I have just listened to this half hour Podcast on All in the Mind:
"Imagine being in your 40s and having a diagnosis of dementia—at the prime of your life. Twenty years ago this happened to Christine Bryden.
Despite having difficulty remembering what she’s doing—often from one minute to the next—she’s applied her extraordinary insight into the disease for the benefit of others.
This diagnosis doesn’t automatically mean you are an empty shell, she says, and she’s discovered the joy of truly living in the moment."
I was particularly interested in Christine's comments about three levels of being and communication: cognitive, emotional and spiritual. She makes the point that the cognitive dimension is the first to decline for people with dementia, then the emotional level becomes more difficult. But even to the end the spirit of the person is still real and connection can be made on a spirit to spirit level without the need for words and cognition.

This is an excellent interview for all of us to listen to! It has great wisdom for those suffering from any stage of dementia and for those who care for and support them. Both the audio and the transcript are available here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bee breakfast!

This bee having breakfast
right outside my house
brought a smile to start my day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Shocking Statistic

Some quotes from a longer Blog by Rachel Held Evans which you can find here.
"The stark reality is that most white Christians, including more than 80 percent of white evangelical Christians, supported Donald Trump for president, despite his evident immorality, bigotry, and disregard for the dignity of women, (not to mention complete lack of qualification or competency)."


"The good news is that Jesus is already on the margins. Jesus is already present among the very people and places our president-elect despises as weak. When we stand in solidarity with the despised and the suffering, Jesus stands with us. We don't have to abandon Jesus to abandon the unholy marriage between Donald Trump and the white American Church. In these troubled times, a prophetic resistance will certainly emerge, made up of clergy, activists, artists, humorists, liturgists, parents, teachers, and volunteers committed to partnering with and defending "the least of these." "

Saturday, November 12, 2016

It's a wake up call

The result of the American Presidential election is a wake up call to all of us. There is no point in continuing to wring our hands and say "How could this happen?" It has happened.

I recently posted about the Welcoming Prayer. Let's be clear - this practice does not invite us to welcome injustice, discrimination or hate. It invites us to know that the reality in front of us can be welcomed into the presence and resources of God. The Serenity prayer makes very clear the difference between accepting (ie welcoming) the things we cannot change and changing the things we can. Here lies the wake up call.

We may think that here in New Zealand, far from the epicentre, there's nothing we can do. Wrong! We live in a global village. These are our brothers and sisters. This our world. I am as shocked as anyone about the thought of Donald Trump as President of the USA. But I am very grateful that I am already part of many organisations that stand for justice, equality, human rights, care for the environment... People joining together in non-violent ways does have an impact. This is especially true in this age of digital communication. History has plenty of examples. It has examples of what happens when "good people do nothing". It has examples of "good people who did something" even at great cost to themselves. You can fill in the names.

Let's meaningfully pray the Welcoming Prayer and the Serenity Prayer and listen for the wisdom to know what contribution we can make to a world of love, peace and security for all. It always starts right where we are!

Here are some of the organisations that I belong to that have values I am happy to support. You may want to check them out.
Amnesty International NZ
Action Station NZ
350 NZ
Green Party

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dominoes anyone?

If you've got three minutes watch this amazing YouTube of a triple spiral of 15,000 dominoes.
You can watch it just for fun... or for a modern mandala meditation... or for the sheer amazement of the skill in creating it!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Challenging invitation

This morning on the Gratefulness site this quote was the "word for today":

If your everyday practice is to open to all your emotions, 
to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, 
without closing down, trusting that you can do that — 
then that will take you as far as you can go. 
And then you’ll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught. 
– Pema Chodron 

This says more briefly the same thing as the following Welcoming Prayer which was our call to worship in Church yesterday. The Welcoming Practice is a deeply powerful (and challenging) way to pray which has been made more well known by Cynthia Bourgeault at the end of her book Centering Prayer. I find it helpful the way it is worded here as an actual prayer.
The Welcoming Prayer
What we are “welcoming” is the Indwelling Spirit’s Presence amongst the ALL of life.
 Gently become aware of your body and your interior state.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment
because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions,
persons, situations and conditions.

I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.

I let go of my desire to change any
situation, condition,
person, or myself.

I open to
the love and presence of God
and the healing action and grace within.

––– Mary Mrozowski 1925-1993 The creator and spiritual mother of the welcoming prayer practice

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Hang in there!

Sometimes your strength and beauty
is even more obvious
in hard places!