Tuesday 12 November 2013

Pirouettes and Wonder

Last night I took my daughter to see 'The Nutcracker' in Bunbury. It was her first ballet experience after starting ballet herself this year. We had the hour long drive to chat on the way. The excitement in the car was almost tangible. McDonalds was her choice for dinner, but we had to go through the drive thru as we were apparently seriously overdressed to go inside. After picking up the tickets and buying the program we sat in the foyer thumbing through pictures that increased the anticipation more so. The announcement that the doors were opening found us at the front of the line ready to find our seats. 

We were in the third row back and the man sitting next to us joked that we could have ballerinas falling on us if they were not careful. Eventually the lights dimmed and the overture began. It was way too long for my girl. 'When will the curtain go up, Mum?' Soon enough the magic began. I would have paid the money for my ticket just to watch my daughter's face as the dancers came to life; close enough to see the detail of their beautiful costumes and the glow on their skin as they floated across the stage.

The real show, however, was happening on my daughter's face. Wonder and awe were written all over her. Pristine pirouettes, graceful arabesques and stunning pas de deux treated us all evening. I wondered if anyone could ever become bored of such beauty. Was it possible to lose the sense of wonder and awe at the amazing skill and grace of these dancers? My daughter certainly had not lost it and I hope she never will. 

How easy it is for us to become complacent and comfortable with such beauty surrounding us. We take it for granted and lose our sense of wonder. Maybe the answer is to spend a little time introducing the children in our lives to these things of beauty. Watch their faces. Delight in their smiles. Rediscover our own sense of wonder at the beauty in our lives. 

Friday 25 October 2013

Fed up with fear

Yesterday, during our Bible study in Augusta, I came across one of those passages that you just don't hear in church. We are working our way through the latter part of Isaiah. There are some beautiful, very famous passages and some absolute shockers. Isaiah 57 was about the people worshipping other gods and doing some pretty awful things to get their favour. Verse 11, after hearing about all their terrible ways, has God asking them, "Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have not been true to me and have neither remembered me nor taken this to heart?"

God knows what motivates us more than anything - fear. It is not that these people have just decided to be rebellious. They are afraid not to follow this path. Christianity is a faith tradition that is motivated by love, but how often has it used fear to motivate people. Many churches have used lines like, "Repent now, or you will go to hell." What better way to fill our church pews with people?

But I see myself getting caught up in similar games also. Fear of not having a job, the church not having enough funds, having a small church that doesn't look successful - all of these fears can become my motivation if I am not careful. I must not let my own personal fears creep up on me like shadows. One of the biggest challenges in ministry is to remain grounded in love. It sounds simple, but it is a challenge that requires taking time to bathe in the presence of God - who is love.

And so, I could hear God's question of the people in Isaiah as a question asked of me afresh each morning, "Whom have you so feared and dreaded that you have not been true to me?" Today I choose to name my fears and not let them become my motivation.

Thursday 10 October 2013

Rachel - Midwife of Change

The theme for the recent Common Dreams Conference was "Midwives of Change". Since returning from the conference a couple of week's ago I have been reflecting on what this theme might mean in my own life. There have also been some moments in my ministry where I have felt like I am playing the role of midwife in people's spiritual journeys. An amazing privilege! Out of these reflections I have written a poem that encompasses some of the feelings and realities of being a "spiritual midwife" at the births in the lives of others. For whom are you a midwife?


Rachel, come quickly,
the moment is nigh.
The moaning and writhing begun.
Gather your healing herbs,
sing soothing songs.
Come quick in the dead of the night.

Rachel, speak sweetly,
while watching the pain.
Stand by and let nature give birth.
Offer your wisdom,
keep light for the lamps.
Speak sweet in the soul's darkest night.

Rachel, hold closely,
the woman bears down.
New life is rearing it's head.
Mop her wet brow,
take the heat of her fear.
Hold close to your heart through the night.

Rachel, leave swiftly,
the babe's wailing now.
Mysteries of child birth realised.
Mother and child
did not notice you leave.
Leave swift, the dawn breaks out of night.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

One with the Wind

Yesterday, I became one with the wind. At least, that is what my certificate of flight says.

"Let it be known from this day forth that Cathie Lambert by means of hot air balloon ascended into the sky above the Avon River Valley in the fair state of Western Australia and became one with the wind. The Aerostat that graciously freed our earthly bonds was so named Rainbow Drifter IV."

I can too easily become critical of some people who tend to drfit through life, those people who seem to go with the flow with little planning or sense of responsibility. On the other hand, as a Christian, I have been known to talk about going where the Spirit leads - a Spirit that we often speak of as wind or ruach. There is an unpredictable nature to this way of living that makes us vulnerable.

Our balloon pilot explained to our team that he had no control over direction, only altitude and speed. He would alter our altitude to make the most of the changing winds at different levels. At one point, when we were very close to the earth, we were travelling at walking pace. Half an hour later, when the people below had become like ants, we travelled at a much faster pace. Despite the unpredictable nature of flying a balloon, our pilot was able to land directly on to the trailer that would tow it away. Amazing!!

Considering the numerous possibilities for something to go wrong, floating above the earth in a hot air balloon has an amazing sense of peace. It was an experience like no other. I had absolutely no control over my destiny or the path of my journey, but felt completely calm. Somehow each moment became sacred and still in time.

What a blessing it would be in my life to live at one with the wind. Not blown here and there with no care for the destination, but working with the wind as I adjust my altitude to make the most of the journey. There are times to travel slowly with my feet close to the earth and moments to pick up the pace with the higher winds. Uncertainty would be a reality, but peace would prevail. Every moment sacred, but surrounded in calm as I become one with the movement of the wind.

Thursday 26 September 2013

What's the point?

This is a question that often arises when hope seems thin. When energy runs low and we wonder about how wisely we are spending each hour we search for results and indicators of success. This is no different in ministry. At times there are so many demands on our time that some activities do not seem like good stewardship. It is at times like these that I need to remember that we do not always see the fruits of our labour.

Today, I had a beautiful conversation with a man at Tea Chat in Augusta. Carers and the elderly from around town come to have morning tea in our church every Thursday. I spend my morning making cups of tea and coffee and sitting chatting to people. Most of the time the conversations are around the weather, families or something that has happened in town. Occasionally, the words cut straight through the layers to some deeper level. This happened today.

I sat down next to this gentleman and straight away he told me there was something he wanted to tell me. "I feel very comfortable in this building", he said. "I feel comfortable talking to you even though you are a minister." He proceeded to explain how his ability to feel calm and peaceful in a church setting again had seen him attend the Catholic church last Sunday after 30 years away.

I asked him how he found it. It was like coming home. It felt good. At this point, I could have turned bitter that he had not chosen to come to our church. Instead my heart felt warmed. I had never dreamt that providing tea and scones would lead to someone returning to their faith tradition after so many years. It was never about gaining people for our church, but about relationship that leads to wholeness.

What's the point? Maybe we will never know. We can only plant seeds in faith.

Sunday 22 September 2013

How do we speak of God?

One of the topics that has arisen at times during the Common Dreams conference is how we speak of God. The opinions amongst the delegates were extremely diverse. Some have gone to the extreme of describing God as a human-made construct, while others want to hold on to a God that is real, perhaps even tangible. This, of course, has implications for many aspects in our faith life. One of these is prayer. 

One of the lectures we had was on the topic of "Praying when God is not a person: Non-theistic prayer". Although it was an interesting presentation, I was left wondering what the purpose of prayer might be and who or what God was in order that we would even choose to pray. Today, I got some clues.

Margaret Mayman, from New Zealand (but soon to move to Sydney), spoke about critical realism when speaking of God. She shared an excerpt talking of God that included the following. "Not as real as daisies, but as real as 'I love you'" God is certainly real, but cannot be expressed or even given evidence for. There is something about this way of trying to understand God that is more... More than I  can get a grip upon. 

Bruce Sanguin also offered a very helpful reflection. He expressed that "God is not a person, but is deeply personal". He concludes that God cannot be less than personhood, but is also more. Sanguin told us about Ken Wilber's "1,2,3 of God". God is described in three persons; the one speaking (first person "I am"), the one spoken to (second person "beloved other") and the one spoken about (third person "source of life, energy, light etc."). What a fascinating way to reinterpret the Trinity. 

Sanguin expressed his concern that the progressive movement has tended to forget about the second person of God, the beloved other. This is the God to whom we devote our attention. To reclaim and remember the beloved is to find a place for prayer and contemplation. This image of God does not have to be like a person, but is deeply personal. This person of God is the object of our love, attention and devotion. This is the God that is more than words can express, but closer than our heartbeat.

Apocaholics and Seeing Beauty

One of the speakers that I have enjoyed learning from here at the Common Dreams Conference is Bruce Sanguin. Before arriving, I had heard of Sanguin but never read any of his material. During tonight's public lecture he encouraged us with some recommendations for moving into the future. He listed and explained ten different points, but a few of them,for me, were centred around a similar theme.

I learnt a new term during the explanation- apocaholic. This describes a person who is obsessed with what is wrong in the world. They see no goodness or beauty around them, only doom and gloom. They see oppression, injustice, pain and suffering almost exclusively. Sanguin encouraged us to open our eyes to the goodness, the beauty and the love that surrounds us. We need to be aware and ready to see. We need to offer hope and tell the stories of beauty from our own life experience.

I found it very easy to see the beauty in life today. I was fortunate to be able to catch up with an "old" friend from my days in Tonga. We shared lunch together and I got to meet her husband and their six day old baby. Memories of a beautiful country and a people, familiar smiles and the hope and potential bundled into a new born all lifted my heart and warmed my spirit. For a few hours, any despair I may have felt about the situation in Syria, the plight of asylum seekers, the decline of the church or anything else were put aside as I bathed in the goodness of being in the present moment. 

And tonight, on returning to our apartment we watched the last quarter of the AFL preliminary final. This may not seem such a big deal, but I am not a footy person usually. For those of you unaware, the Fremantle Dockers were playing Sydney Swans for a place in the grand final next week. Fremantle won convincingly! But what came next filled me with hope as I watched the beauty and goodness unfold. The crowd erupted, united in support of their team who were to play in their first ever grand final. The players graciously congratulated each other on a good game. And the winning team payed tribute to an opposing player who was retiring from the game. Goodness, beauty and love abounds!

So lets keep our eyes open to the beauty around us lest we become an apocaholic.

Friday 20 September 2013

Christians without borders

I am currently in Canberra at the third Common Dreams Conference. This is a conference for those exploring progressive theology. We have been blessed already with a myriad of thought provoking speakers and presenters speaking about a variety of aspects. It is exciting to be listening to some of the people I have been reading for many years. Often, when you see or hear authors in person, it can be disappointing. That is certainly not the case so far. 

One of the difficult things in "progressive" circles is finding a way to describe who we are. As it has been pointed out a few times already, we are a group united by what we don't believe rather than what we do believe. The label "progressive" does not really do justice to what we really are on about and is problematic in a number of ways. 

Val Webb, in her address this morning, suggested a possible alternative - "Christians without borders". I like her thinking. She commented that we are defined by who we are at the centre, seekers of the sacred. Marcus Borg said much the same thing the night before when he described "progressives" as having a deep intention at the centre with soft or no boundaries on the periphery.

To have soft or no boundaries can be very threatening and foolish for those who live with fear. Who or what will get in? Will my core, my centre, be safe? I am not sure of what or whom it is that I need to be afraid, but I can only speak from my own experience. The softer the borders of my periphery have become, the deeper my centre has delved. The search for the sacred mystery in my life has caused my soul to whisper constantly, "tear down those walls". And now I can see new horizons and possibilities, now I have a freedom from the fear that I had hidden behind for too long. 

Sunday 15 September 2013

The antidote to cynicism

On Friday I was driving to Perth to attend the annual Synod meeting. Usually, I zone out a bit in the car listening to a CD I haven't heard in a while. I had left in a bit of a hurry, however, and forgot to grab some new music to keep me occupied. Instead, I found myself listening to talk back radio.

As I was nearing Perth a segment came on that looks at the issues around the world and locally and a couple of guests chat with the host about their thoughts on the subject. This particular morning they had an extra guest phoning in from the eastern states - Billy Bragg. I must say I did not know much about this artist, only that my husband has at least one of his CD's on our shelf.

He was fascinating to listen to. At one point the host brought up the fact that in a previous interview he had commented that our greatest enemy was cynicism. I found this conclusion fascinating. I have found, from experience, that cynicism is contagious. If I hang around people who are negative and distrusting it begins to rub off on me and my optimistic, hopeful self retreats under the table. This is, of course, alive and well in the church. 

But, Billy Bragg then announced that he had an antidote for cynicism. My ears pricked up! Activism is the cure! How is it that during growth points in our life everything and everyone seems to be speaking straight to us? Did Billy Bragg eavesdrop in on one of my conversations?

What is the point sitting around whinging about what is going on? Get involved and make a difference. (My hopeful self peers out from under the table and has a look around.) It sounds so obvious, but with a heightened awareness I am surprised at how the epidemic of cynicism can take over. Like anything, it is easy to talk about, but harder to put into practice. 

For me, this weekend, it has played out in getting more involved in the church. I don't know where this will lead or what my role may be, but I am no longer a prisoner to cynicism as I hold on to hope with a firm grasp. 

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Drinking from the well

I had very little to do with the planning of our trip to Israel. I was not really fussy about where we went and what we saw. I guess, in many ways, I was overwhelmed just with the thought of being in these places of which I had only dreamed. I did, however, make one request. If it was at all possible, I would like to visit Jacob's Well. 

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will understand the importance of this place to me. (See this link for a reminder and this one too.) It is the inspiration for the name of this blog and a lot of what I am passionate about in ministry. When making this request I had no idea where the well was or even if it would be close to the roads we would be travelling. Jacob's Well is in Nablus, a town in the West Bank. I was told that we would try to visit, but it may not be possible for us to enter the town. I was, therefore, very careful not to build up my hopes.

We left the Dead Sea, visited Jericho and began our journey towards Nablus. We had no troubles entering Nablus and the kangaroo signs on our car (along with our looking very lost) possibly helped the Palestinian people not to be too suspicious of our arrival in an Israeli car. The challenge was finding the well in the town. It was not signposted particularly well. Eventually we arrived at the church that now houses the well. 

Jacob's Well is perhaps the most authentic ancient site in all of Israel. As the guide book put it, "it is very difficult to move a 40 feet deep well to another place". I could hardly believe that I was going to stand in the place where Jacob and Rachel met and where Jesus told the Samaritan woman about living water. We entered the church and descended the steps down below the altar. There it was! It was much smaller than I thought it would be. The man demonstrated how deep it was by dropping a cup of water into the hole. 1 and 2 and 3 - splash. No wonder the woman asked Jesus where his bucket was. 

I took out my camera to take a photo and was told that no photos were allowed. This was okay - the memory would be enough. Neville began to explain to the man that this was the only site that I had requested to visit and it was very special to me. Hearing this, the man quickly changed his tune and invited me to drink from the water and have my photo taken at the well. There was absolutely no hesitation in drinking the water. I didn't even consider whether it was clean. The water tasted wonderful, cool and fresh. 

The visit was brief, but pivotal. Drinking from the well was the central point of our trip. It was the turning point between the hustle of Jerusalem and the peaceful setting of Galilee. Looking back now it was probably a turning point for me personally as well. In the last few years I have described my faith journey as diving deep into the well into the living waters below. There is something about this delving that has left the well itself behind. Visiting Jacob's Well was a timely reminder of the well through which I had travelled, my own faith tradition. But from the depths of the water the well looks a whole lot different. The challenge for me now is to reflect on what it means to look up a well rather than down. 

Monday 2 September 2013

More than Enough

After the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem, Galilee was a breath of fresh air. After the frenzy of tourists trying to touch and kiss the sacred spots of Jesus’ life, walking by the calm waters of Galilee I could actually imagine Jesus loving this place. After constantly dodging crowds of people down narrow lane ways, I needed a “lonely place” to sit and be still for a while.

Tabgha was just the place. A ten minute drive from the holiday town of Tiberias, the roads thinned, the crowds dispersed and I felt my body starting to relax before we even arrived. We turned into the parking area only to discover two large tour buses. My heart sank. So much for Jesus’ lonely place. Were the crowds following us too?

We went inside the old church and saw the famous Byzantine loaves and fishes mosaic just before the altar. And there it was, just like the other churches we had visited in Jerusalem, the stone where it happened right under the altar. This was supposedly the place where Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes. But, no hoards of people madly jostling to touch it or kiss it – it was just there. We spent a little time in the church allowing the last, straggling tourists from the buses to move on ahead of us and then found a path leading down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

It was so peaceful and serene, I could understand why Jesus would retreat to here. Down at the shore was a simple, but stunning outdoor chapel. We had caught up with the stragglers, but as is often the case they didn’t have long before the bus would be leaving and then we were alone. I sat listening to the water lapping on the beach and imagined Jesus sitting here taking a few deep breaths while he was able.

Neville, our “tour guide”, suggested that this would be a great spot for our daily meditation. This had become our practice each day, to spend about 45 minutes reflecting and meditating. In Jerusalem, we had found a semi-quiet corner in the courtyard of our guest house. In Galilee, there would be plenty of places along the way. Today it was Tabgha.

As we were arranging ourselves closer together, a small critter jumped up on the altar table. Someone else wanted to join us for the morning. Our meditation was delayed by the photo opportunity that now presented itself, but once we began the critter became my focal point. It stayed perfectly still for the whole 30 minutes we meditated. More still than I was capable of being on a hard log. Neville often ended our meditation with a simple “amen”, but today he said, “All God’s creatures long for fulfillment.” Then the next tour bus of people arrived.

The little critter, we discovered later, was a hyrax (a wild rock rabbit). The hyrax is mentioned four times in the Bible. Two of these are found in, in Deuteronomy 14: 7 and Leviticus 11:5. These are both eating laws instructing the Jewish people not to eat the hyrax even though it chews cud, because it has a divided hoof. The other two instances are in Proverbs 30: 26 and Psalm 104:18. These instances describe the hyrax as a wise, trusting creature that lives amongst the crags of the rocks.

This little creature, perhaps insignificant and out of sight to many, knew its maker and, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, trusted God . That day, the hyrax reminded me that I had more than enough. I had more than enough to sustain me physically. I do not want for food, or drink or a roof over my head. I had more than enough to sustain me spiritually. Although travelling in the high season, we had plenty of moments of complete solitude for our meditation time before being inundated with people once again. And I have more than enough in my ministry. Five loaves and two fishes, a picnic lunch, caused a ripple of generosity that even left crumbs behind for the local hyrax. More than enough!

All I have to offer is the little I have.  It may not be much, but once it is offered it can become more than enough. On leaving Tabgha I found a lovely postcard of the loaves and fishes mosaic. I didn’t buy it for the picture of the mosaic, however, it was the saying that inspired me. “Love is like Five loaves of Bread and Two Fish. Always too little until you start giving it away."

(Tabgha is the place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus was thought to feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish. See Matthew 14: 13-21, Mark 6: 31-44, Luke 9: 10-17 and John 6: 5-15)

Monday 12 August 2013

Uncovering treasure in Jerusalem

I am about to begin Day 6 in Israel. We have been going none stop seeing all the sights and soaking in the atmosphere of this place. I have struggled to keep up with writing in my journal and really have not had a lot of time to process what is happening in me while so much is happening around me. Today we are leaving Jerusalem to venture further afield. As we move into the desert and then to the shores of Galilee I am hoping to have a little less of an assault on the senses to start to try and reflect on what this place, the experiences and the people have given me.

I feel a little like I have been given a precious gift, but have not unwrapped it yet. This is the sort of gift that you cannot rip the paper off, it needs to be uncovered in time with care. I have written down some headings of some stories that I know have special significance. I don't know how long it will take to discover the story beneath the story. I guess it is a bit like many of the archaeological sites I have seen. Little by little and with patience treasures are found.

So as I leave the magnificence of Jerusalem behind, my bags are a little heavier and my heart is certainly richer.Farewell Jerusalem!

Sunday 4 August 2013

Return of the Reluctant Blogger

It has been quite a while since my last post. I could rattle off  list of excuses, but I won't bore you. I guess sometimes life just takes you by the hand and says "run". You don't want to miss out on the ride and you certainly don't want to let go of the hand in case you get lost. And so you take on the pace set before you and before you know it five months have passed. Its not that I haven't been reflecting, it has just happened more while I am driving or in the shower or in the garden. 

I guess there is part of my personality that wonders why anybody what want to read my ramblings. I have been encouraged by a few people that have asked recently why I haven't been posting. I guess if one or two people get something out of my sharing then it is worth it. I know deep down, even though I tend to be a private person, that sharing is also good for my own soul.

In church today we read the parable about the farmer who built bigger and better barns and was tied up with his own success he forgot about others. Well, I can't say I have the wealth of this farmer, but I can certainly be stingy and greedy like him in other ways. For me, I am stingy with my sharing of myself and knowledge. I have a tendency to keep things to myself and feel I can do it alone. Sharing on a blog is not a natural thing for me to.

And what has spurred me on to begin sharing again. I am about to embark on a journey of a lifetime. Tomorrow I leave for a study trip/ pilgrimage to Israel. I am excited, curious and expectant. I am expecting to meet God in different and real ways while I am away. I am not sure if I will be able to post while I am away, but will certainly be able to share some of the stories on my return.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Wounds of Love

This afternoon, as part of Mandala a Month, I created my March mandala. This month the meditation focussed on the words of Teresa of Avila from her "Interior Castle". As I started working on my mandala I began at the outside and worked inwards. It was not until I had finished the circle that I decided to make the wounds of love. St Teresa says that wounds of love in our life pierce our spiritual life and take us deeper within our interior castle. This has certainly been my experience. It is the difficult things that happen in life that help us to grow and be transformed.

As I created my wounds of love and stuck them proudly on my mandala, I realized how perfectly I had made them. They were actually quite beautiful. I titled my mandala, "Perfect wounds of love". I sat and reflected on my mandala for a while and decided that I am very quick to make everything perfect in life. Even the hard stuff I manage to analyze, compartmentalize and store away as some significant learning experience. As I reflected on my perfect wounds of love, I decided they need to be less perfect.

Yes, it is important to integrate and learn from our experiences. It is, however, also important to experience the pain and suffering and not push it aside too quickly. This mandala has shown me a side to myself that would have taken years to discover on my own.

Monday 25 March 2013

Walking the Labyrinth

I was first introduced to the Labyrinth in 2006. The first time I walked one was not a startling experience for me, but I came away feeling at peace and feeling like the worries of life were in perspective. Since that time, I have walked countless labyrinths. There are some that I revisit,  but the experience is never the same. 

There is a labyrinth on a friend's property that is very simple and made out of rocks. I have walked this labyrinth a handful of times. In the Winter it is green and has flowers scattered amongst it. In Summer it is dry and more desolate. Funnily enough, the condition of that particular labyrinth has often mirrored the condition of my soul at the time of walking.

Another special labyrinth is one at a retreat centre where I stayed as part of my Spiritual Direction course. This course was a time of great growth and each time I walked the labyrinth there it was almost like a crystallizing experience. All of the doubts an confusion which had been swirling around in my head became clear and tangible while walking the labyrinth. Again, each time was a very different experience and a gift in my spiritual journey.

I have created my own labyrinth based on the pattern of the labyrinth in Amiens Cathedral in France. It is painted on gym mats and is put together like a jigsaw puzzle. Every time I set it up for people to walk I get excited with the anticipation with what might happen for people. I almost enjoy watching other people walk the labyrinth as much as I do walking it myself. 

You would think that after seven years of walking labyrinths I would be ready for the magic of the experience. No - each and every time I am surprised and touched by how the Spirit can work through tools like the labyrinth. I guess that is why they are still relevant and being used today. My hope is that the people that come to walk in the next two days in Margaret River will experience some of this mystery also.

Friday 22 March 2013

The Importance of Listening

I had a good reminder today of the importance of listening deeply to people. A person came to chat with me about an issue in their life at the moment. I thought I knew what we would be talking about, but we actually ended up discussing something completely different. The presenting issue of the person was actually hiding a deeper yearning that was waiting to be discovered.

I wonder how often we really listen to each other. I know I am often guilty of hearing what I want to hear. I wonder how many times I have missed the point and people have gone away feeling unheard. Our discussions with people are often two way and we can be so busy coming up with our next comment that we do not hear with clarity what has been said. 

The person I spent time with today went away thanking me for my "words of wisdom". I don't think there was anything particularly wise in anything I said. The real difference was that I had heard this person on a deeper level. I was reminded of the gift that I have received from others in the past - the gift of being heard.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Dreams, dangers and distractions

It has been a while seen I have posted on this blog. I could make up lots of excuses, tell you how busy I have been and have a good whinge, but none of this would be taking responsibility myself. The truth is that sometimes I need a wake up call, an alarm system that monitors my emotional and spiritual health and gets my attention. Well, lucky for me - I do have one.

I am a great believer that our dreams are our subconscious' attempt to get our attention. If we can be aware of our dreams and befriend them, they may just have a lot to teach us. I have read some of the books of John Sanford who describes dreams as God's forgotten language. It is a very valuable book, moreso than 10 dream decoders or symbol books. The first battle is to actually remember your dreams, but sometimes they are so vivid that we cannot help but remember them. I could write a novel or two based on some of the dreams I have had. 

Two nights ago I had a dream that I now call my "alarm system". I discovered, a few years ago now, that when I dream about a particular person, who for me symbolises freedom, vitality and life in its abundance, this is a message to myself about my deepest yearning. I used to be disturbed having dreams about this person, but now I know that all it means is that I have lost the love of life and have become too busy with the stuff of life. 

I have not had this dream for a long time, but was not surprised when the other night it cropped up again. It appears to me like a warning sign. It is a siren blaring out in the fog of life. Life had become super busy and, in my opinion, full of all the wrong things. So many things were distracting me from what I feel is the core of my life. I was spiritually dry and exhausted. Its difficult to write a good blog on Spirituality when you are in this place. So, now I have two warning systems; my dreams and the inability to post in this blog. So, if you don't hear from me for a while feel free to ask me how things are going :)

Monday 18 February 2013

January Mandala a Month

Many of you will know that for 2013 there are a group of people who have committed to creating a Mandala a Month. This community has been engaging via a separate blog, but I thought I would give you all a little sneak peek at what has been happening. There are about 25 people signed up for the group, but participants are not required to share their mandala every month. Sometimes the mandala experience can be very personal and difficult to share immediately. The image here shows 12 mandalas from those who were willing to share what they created. You can see from the image that there is a great variety. Some are very simple, others are very intricate. Some are colourful, others are more plain. The differences in media used is extensive. 

Each of these mandalas tells a story. It is a story of the person who created it at the time they created it. Each mandala is a treasure, not only to the person who made it, but to all of us. It is a sharing of self. This is such a rare and beautiful act in a world that encourages individualism. I encourage you to take the time to have a look at each one and take a moment to think or pray for those who made them. If you'd like to join us for February - just let me know.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Growing Old Gracefully

This morning, Augusta's Tea Chat started up again for the year. Tea Chat is a ministry of the Uniting Church that provides a morning tea and a social gathering space for the elderly people in town who make use of the HAAC bus to go shopping each Thursday. This year we have decided to provide a "Thought for the Day" each week. It was up to me to provide the first one!

I thought a lot about what words of wisdom I could possibly impart to these people who were at least twice my age. It caused me to reflect on the more elderly people to whom I minister. Most of these people are absolute treasures and are certainly growing old gracefully. I wondered what it was in people that made the difference between growing old gracefully and being a grumpy old woman or man. 

What does it mean to be full of grace later in life? My husband has a T-shirt that says, "To be old and wise you must first be young and stupid". I showed the shirt to the elderly folk who came along today and asked how many of them had been young and stupid. Most of them agreed that they had done foolish things and made mistakes in their lifetime. I suggested to them that the grace or undeserved love we receive as we mess up throughout life is what makes us age in a grace-full way. 

One humble lady admitted that she was not old and wise, but old and stupid. When I protested at her seemingly negative view of herself, she laughed and announced she is becoming more graceful each day. Growing old is not an exciting prospect, but I only hope that I can do it half as gracefully as some of the wonderful people with whom I am privileged to work.

Thursday 31 January 2013

Living with tweens

Those of you who know me well know that I live in a household that contains two tweens. What is a tween? It is a child between the age of 9-12. The term is a play on the fact that they are be-tween childhood and adolescence or the teenage years. The term seems to have been developed by the world of marketing as it was discovered that this age group is very susceptible to outside influence and advertising.

My tweens are at an interesting time in their development. They swing between wanting to be independent and given responsibilty to being childlike and innocent. At times they push the boundaries and at other times crave for more guidelines and structure. There are moments when they are carefree and playful and then everything can turn serious in the blink of an eye.

Dealing with this day in and day out throughout the holidays has made me wonder if we go through a tween stage in our faith life also. We don't magically progress from accepting everything our parents believe to having our own faith. There has to be a transition. There needs to be a time of uncertainty, a time when we might swing between the certainty of Sunday School and the certainty of our own experience. It is no wonder that this is the time when we lose most people from the faith traditions. Of course, this is not restricted by age and can happen at any stage throughout life.

I haven't worked out how to handle my two tweens. I am sure that I mess up at least once a day. I do think, however, that half the battle is recognizing that this is where they are at the moment. I wonder how easily we recognize where those around us are in their faith development. Would we even recognize the signs of a tween growing up? Those who push the boundaries and question authority can often be frowned upon in the faith traditions, but what if we were to see this as a normal part of growing up in faith. We need to learn to help people to explore and find their feet in a safe and accepting environment.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

God is a cruise ship!

This morning I helped to lead worship at our local aged care home, Mirrambeena. We had a lovely crowd of people squished into a very small room. We sang a few hymns together (the good oldies) and listened to the story of the calming of the storm. I shared with the group a current affairs story that my family have been following closely.

At present, my father-in-law and sister-in-law are about to finish a three week trip to Antarctica. This has been a trip that both of them have been looking forward to for a long time. Their trip was cut short this week, however, as their cruise ship was contacted as the nearest vessel to a French sailor who needed rescuing. The passengers were called together and informed of the situation, to which there was a resounding agreement that the life of this man was more important than their dreams of stepping foot on Antarctica.

And so, not far from Macquarie island, the ship changed course and headed back towards Tasmania to save the life of this man bobbing around in his life raft in extremely dangerous conditions. The news reports tell of how amazed the man was to have been rescued by this luxury liner. He was able to sleep that night in a pretty plush suite and have a delicious hot meal.

This story reminded me of the story of Jesus calming the storm. When we call to God for help, the answer is a resounding "Yes!". God wants to be there with us, in the thick of the storms of life. I don't know that God always calms the storm for us, but the presence of God may calm our fears and anxieties. And when God is with us, it is not only a "Yes" that we receive, it is a "Yes" with abundance. God's love is not only sufficient, but overwhelming. That is what grace is! 

I can relate to this French sailor. Imagine how humbled he would have felt when he found that these passengers had sacrificed their dream of stepping foot on Antarctica for him. Imagine his awe when he received much more than just his life, but a banquet and a 5 star suite. So, there we have it, another image of God. Our God is like the MV Orion rescuing us sinking sailors.

Friday 18 January 2013

It's not too late

For those of you who have been thinking about engaging with a Mandala a Month - it's not too late!! The special blog for this groups has been set up this week and we are only just getting started. So, all you need to do is send me an email at cathielambert@hotmail.com and I'll get you signed up. The more the merrier!!

If you have no idea what I am talking about have a look at the Mandala a Month link.

BEING on holidays

I am in the last few days of my annual leave. I have taken three weeks just to hang around at home, be with my kids and complete some projects in our new house. I have enjoyed the break. A change in routine is always good from me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

In the next week, as I start to meet people I haven't seen over the break, I am sure I will be asked what I did in my three weeks off. For a person who can at times be quite task oriented  this is a hard question. I could list off all the little DIY projects I've completed. I've painted the kids rooms, installed two Ikea wardrobes, put up some pictures, hanged some curtains, unpacked boxes and thrown out rubbish. I could list all the things I've done as a mum. I've done numerous loads of washing, cooked a few batches of pancakes, washed thousands of dishes, been a taxi driver and social secretary and fought a few battles. 

I could also list the things I haven't got done. I haven't read the books I thought I might read, I haven't gone for a walk each day, I haven't done any scrapbooking, I haven't created any mandalas and I still have a long list for the next three days. How do you judge the success of a holiday? Is it about how exotic the place you visited may have been? Is it about how relaxed you became? Well, I can't say that I went anywhere exotic (some people would say I already live in paradise) and I can't say that having the kids and their friends racing around has been especially relaxing. This has been a holiday of being. I am being a home renovator. I am being a mum. I am being a house keeper. 

My challenge is to stop my critical, overthinking mind from saying this is not enough. It is enough! There is no need to get the list of jobs finished. There is no need to read all those books. It is enough just to be. And on Monday when the busyness starts to build again, maybe I need to keep my holiday list going. It can be a reminder for me to sit occasionally and read a novel or get the paint brush out start on another room or not to moan as the kids social calendar seems to take over. How easy it is to get caught up with doing things and completing tasks that help us to feel valued and worthwhile. If this self worth was inbuilt, how much easier it would be to just be.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Epiphanies in the Night

Today the Christian church celebrates Epiphany - the time when the maji followed a star to visit the infant Jesus. There is a magic about Epiphany. For me this year, it is about focus, guidance and direction. Quite often, the guiding stars in my life are my dreams. Dreams have a a special language that tell us what is really going on in our life. I have always had very vivid and significant dreams. Some I remember in such detail that I could write a book about them.

How appropriate then, that last night I had a dream that reminded me of my focus and direction for the year ahead. It began with me receiving a written profile from a congregation in the Metropolitan area asking if I would come and be there minister. (My dream didn't follow the correct procedures of the Uniting Church!) This particular congregation was very diverse. It had people of all ages. It had at least two cultural groups worshipping in their own languages. It had mission outreach programmes, playgroups, kids' club, youth groups, young adult groups and much more. The range was exciting and the possibilities endless. 

In the dream, I decided to go to Perth and meet with these people to find out more. It was at this point that I got caught in a rollercoaster ride. It was like a blur. I was totally caught up in the frenzy of meeting new people, talking about the future and the whirlwind of activity that it came as a shock when I discovered that the decision had been made that I was going to move. 

It was like the world stood still, but I was so dizzy. I felt physically sick and had to retreat from the action to find my feet. Once I had regained my composure I returned to the large crowds and gave a passionate speech about God's calling on my life. I explained to the people that I was not meant to be torn in every direction, but to be loyal and focussed on the people of Augusta and Margaret River. Funnily enough, the people were not too disappointed or disgruntled. It was like it had all been a game, a ploy all along. All the bells and whistles were an attempt to distract me and pull me away. All they would do is move on to the next victim.

What a timely reminder to focus and not be distracted. Just to allay any concerns from my congregation members, I am not in any way thinking about moving on. It is easy, however, to become distracted from the task at hand. This dream has come at a time when I am reflecting on the year ahead. What will I focus upon? Where will I direct my energy? What will my priorities be? Maybe in my daily life I can take heed from my Epiphany in the Night and take the time to retreat and reflect first rather than get myself into a dizzy spin.

Friday 4 January 2013

A New Year

“It's New Year's Eve,
and hopes are high
Dance one year in,
kiss one goodbye
Another chance, another start
So many dreams to tease the heart”

These are some of the words from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Perfect Year’ from the musical ‘Sunset Boulevard’. There is a kind of magic about the way our calendars work. Every day the sun sets and we can begin afresh the next day as the sun rises. Each year we can kiss the previous year goodbye and make promises to ourselves about how things will change in the year to come. 

I only just saw the New Year come in this year. It turned midnight as my hubby and I had just got comfy in bed. With a quick, 'Happy New Year' we were off to sleep. It has been a few years since we have bothered to stay up, pop the champagne and sing 'Auld Lang Syne'. Part of this may be that we have children and it is not practical, but I think it is also because we have become used to the rhythmn of life. Yes, one year has gone and another has started.

But as I struggle to get used to writing 2013 on everything, I don't want to get too complacent about the blessing that each New Year can bring. A fresh start, a clean slate - this is an amazing gift of grace. No matter how 2012 has been for you, 2013 awaits full of potential, full of dreams to ‘tease our hearts’. 

The New Year is full of the unknown. It is a mystery to us all. None of us can tell what is ahead of us. We can make plans and promises to ourselves, but really it is about dealing with whatever life brings us each day. I am excited about the year ahead. I am looking forward to 'A Mandala a Month', to an overseas pilgrimage later in the year, to a year free of formal study, to living in my new house, to seeing my kids continue to grow and much, much more. 

I hope and pray that the dawn of 2013 will bring you much joy and hope for the year ahead. Happy New Year!!