April 2016 - Dwelling Spaces

Wednesday, 20 April 2016


The misty mornings of late have been stirring the poet in me. As a young girl I was inspired by my English teacher and she encouraged me to read Yeats among other things and even after 30+ years it's fascinating how lines pop back into my head. This morning the mist had me reciting 'of night and light and the half-light' from his poem 'He wishes for the cloths of heaven'.  

That phrase 'half-light' got me thinking about my life at the moment. Being in transition between one place and another is a strange time somehow. I know that Bristol and college life is coming to an end, and growing on the horizon is my new home and life as a curate. Neither have yet gone or arrived and yet the presence of both feels very real. And in this place of half-light there are dreams. Dreams about ending well and dreams about what the future holds. And it is a place where you feel a little more vulnerable. So tread softly.

And here is the poem in full:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
WB Yeats

Sunday, 17 April 2016


This evening I was preaching on 1 Corinthians 15.12-34 at church, and we were talking about what it means to live life differently as a result of believing that Jesus rose from the dead. Paul clearly expected that the gospel, the good news about who Jesus is - his life, death and rising again, would make a difference to the way that Christians lived. In fact he says that Christians are to be pitied if the gospel is not true because we have chosen to live a difficult life of loving our enemies, putting others first, forgiving, suffering and even dying for our faith.  So I asked how our lives today as Christians look different from the lives of non-Christians around us.

We had a good discussion, and coming away from it I was struck particularly by three things. First, on the face of it, the lives of Christians day-to-day don't generally look much different. But underneath the day-to-day sameness, I think (and hope) that Christians are holding a shifted perspective on things, asking what God thinks about a situation, and asking God what they should do in a situation. The outcome might be the same, being kind to a stranger, or helping someone out, but the motivation comes from wanting to serve God, rather than feeling better about yourself, or wanting to gain something from another. In a sense Christians have already died. Baptism is a death to self, and new life post-baptism means living for God, not yourself.

Second, Christians are in the process of being transformed into more Christ-like versions of themselves. You may not be the most loving or giving person, but there is a transformation going on that means, as you become more aware of God at work in your life, and ask God to help you change, you gradually become more loving or giving or more whatever it is. Ask any Christian that you admire and they will be pretty clear that there are all sorts of areas that they are changing and growing in. It is a slow process of submitting our lives to being shaped by God through the Holy Spirit, but God is faithful to God's promise to complete the good work begun in us (Philippians 1.6).

Finally, Christians are more likely to play the long game. The life of faith looks ahead to a heavenly home. Someone read out Hebrews 11.13-16 - those who believe in God will not be totally settled on earth, there is a confidence in a final destination beyond death. Whilst it doesn't make pain and suffering in this life any less real or difficult, it does become more temporary. Hope stretches further than the life we see around us.

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Thursday, 14 April 2016


A conversation this morning set me thinking about how we place value or worth on ourselves and others. We live in a society that values 'doing' whether that be producing or consuming; the things that you do give you value. The danger of this of course is that we each become a little cog in a whole system of doing, and the fear is that if we stop our doing then the whole system will break down around us. At its worst this can lead to stress, burnout and actually not being able to 'do' for a period of time because you simply no longer have the capacity.

But if all we see in each other is a producer or consumer of activity, what does that say about how we value each other? What does it say about young children, people with disabilities, elderly people, homeless people, or people living in poverty who cannot get to the point of being part of the system even if they wanted to? I don't want to live in a society that ceases to value people for who they are rather than what they do.

For me this is an area where the Christian story gives a more hopeful outlook. It speaks of a God who creates human beings out of love, and places such huge value on humans that they are even created in God's image and likeness. And it does not stop there, God was not content to let us devalue ourselves through sin and hatred, but choose to make a way for us to regain our value and our status. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus announces loudly to the world that there is a God who loves us, who is abounding in mercy and forgiveness, who has created us to have purpose and value because of who we are. I know that I am only able to properly value myself when I try to see myself through the eyes of God, and when I do that I am more able to value those around me for who they are.

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