Friday, December 28, 2012

Leaving for a Better Space!

As we are about to enter a new year, I have decided to concentrate on my other blog, "A Contemplative Space". I hope you'll join me there and not only read the posts but contribute your own thoughts and comments as we live out our faith and walk through life with Christ.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Love and blessings for 2013.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

St. Crispin's Day

It's today, and honors St. Crispin and St. Crispinian, twins who were martyred in about 286. The Battle of Agincourt occurred on this day in 1415, and also the Charge of the Light Brigade on the same day in 1854. Truly, a historic day.

So here's Shakespeare's speech with one of my favourite actors. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pirates and Pilgrims

Wanderlust. It's a feeling that has been gripping me more and more just recently. Perhaps because I've been exploring  'street view' in Google maps and found myself touring places where I used to live. Homes in my childhood, places we vacationed, dives rented in college, and then all the houses in the US that we've lived in during my married life (nine) - I can see them all as though I was right there.

Perhaps that urge to travel is in my genes. I come from a country that was settled by many sea-faring peoples and used to "rule the waves". Could it be that I have pirates in my ancestry? I definitely have an affinity for the ocean. At the end of a vacation we took in Maine years ago, my husband had to drag me away from the shore to return home. It reminded me so much of the cold, blustery beaches of the North Sea that fill my childhood memories.

Perhaps my itchy feet feeling is due to the fact that our daughter just moved to Guam for a year, my son has gone to college in New Hampshire and is planning a volunteer trip to Fiji, a friend just went to Ireland, hubby travels frequently to foreign parts, and my Mum is moving to Arizona. In short, everyone is going everywhere ... except me ...

Perhaps this feeling of wanderlust is a reaction to some other aspect of transition in my life. This may be a common feeling for many empty-nest mums: a feeling of disconnectedness from a familiar environment that has undergone change. The desire for physical change as an antidote to emotional change?

Perhaps it's all of the above!

And then I think of my name ... Palmer is thought to mean Pilgrim. Going on a pilgrimage means going on a physical journey that has spiritual significance. And I can certainly say that our many physical journeys have been a means of deepening our faith. Being an alien in a foreign land changes a person's view on life, and their view of community. Being a newcomer gives new meaning to friendship. Being in transition creates a new awareness of stability. And, as Calvin's dad would say, " it all builds character!"

So, perhaps the new normal for me, being used to moving every five or six years, is to stay longer. Perhaps the next part of my pilgrimage is to spread deep roots in my community here and find the spiritual truths of growing in place. Perhaps my days of riding the waves are over?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cherishing Community

I have had the privilege to share quality time with some very special people over the last year. They are my fellow students in the Spiritual Direction program. And the gift they have given me is a true experience of joy, fellowship, and God's love. We have studied together, eaten together, sung and worshiped together, walked and talked together. We come from different backgrounds, have varied work experiences and different personalities. But what cements us in a strong bond is that we are all walking the same journey - wanting to be close to God and share that experience with others. 

A vital part of our bond is honesty, with each other and with our God. We are open, and feel safe in that openness. Sharing our worries, concerns, and joys helps understanding and reveals that deep down we have matching frailties! And the neat thing is we can rejoice with each other, even in our frailties!

A month ago, I was part of a more temporary community, in that we were together for just a long week end. I was fortunate to be able to travel to South Carolina to a Christian Writers' Retreat where we shared our writing and learned to improve and hone our gift. There we ate and talked together, worshiped, laughed and cried together, shared in each others endeavors and successes, gave advice and received it. What a great experience it was!

It always surprises me how much a group of "strangers" can coalesce so quickly into a small community, a little church, a part of the body of Christ. What a blessing! 

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2: 42

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Personal Connection

There’s a drawer in our kitchen into which I throw any phone chargers, computer cables or anything vaguely resembling them that I find lying around the counter tops. Even though we have a study upstairs and my children have fairly large bedrooms, everyone seems to prefer to be on their laptops at the kitchen table.  So, of course, all the accoutrements that go with the laptops end up cluttering my kitchen space! Well, if I find any cables that are not attached to anything, into the drawer they go.

However, the tables are turned when it’s my computer charger that I’m looking for, and I have to pick through a drawer full of what looks like black spaghetti. All the cables seem to have a different connector, and you can guarantee that it’s the last one I disentangle that is actually the one that fits my laptop!

At our church, we have a wonderful library with shelves filled with books on different aspects of our faith. There are many books written on a variety of ways that we can enter into a closer walk with Jesus, no two espousing exactly the same method. For example, in the books written on prayer there are ones for daily devotions, praying the labyrinth, praying contemplatively, praying with scripture, praying the lectionary, praying the psalms, making prayer gardens …  It’s like looking into my kitchen drawer, trying to find the connection that will actually connect me to what I need.

Don’t misunderstand me – I am so grateful for this abundance of books that deal with living a Christian life and I realize that we will walk through different scenery in our life of faith and need different approaches as we enter different seasons.

But sometimes the hardest thing for us in our faith walk is to find out how to walk the walk today, now. We get distracted by trying to find the “best” way to do it, the “holiest” way to be close in our relationship with God, and we get pulled down into the trends and fads of modern Christian life. Do we go to the Contemporary service or the Traditional service, or the Taize service, or just listen to a music CD and a sermon online? Our cup of choices overfloweth and, more often than not, threatens to drown us.

What can we do to stay true to where we are in the present? When I read the gospels and see Jesus in his ministry in those whirlwind three years, he is often surrounded by crowds of people.

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.  When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and  Sidon.  Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.”  Mark 3: 7-9

 They are calling to him, tugging on him, trying to catch his attention … All the adulation and need from the people surrounding him could have been a huge distraction and overwhelmed him. How did Jesus deal with this?

 “After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”  Mk 6:46

What was his advice to the disciples when things got hectic and they were constantly surrounded with people wanting to be with them?

 “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Mk 6:31

Jesus knew that the most important thing in his relationship with his heavenly father was to spend time alone with him, in rest and prayer. Jesus knew that he needed to do this, and that his disciples needed to do this. When we are overwhelmed by all the choices around us, and perhaps confused as to what’s important for us spiritually, I think we need to hear Jesus telling us that we need to do this: to be by ourselves and come to God and pray.

But, in today’s Western society 21st century Christian life, I think we have lost an important part of the meaning of prayer. Prayer to most Christians is turning to God, remembering (usually) to thank him for the blessings he has given us and then reciting our “worry list” (which I’m an expert at) or “shopping list of wants”, sorry, scratch that, “needs”.  But perhaps the most vital part of prayer, which, after all, is a dialogue, is to listen, to be quiet before God and to listen.

I don’t think Jesus went up the mountain on his own to rattle off a list of what he needed from God. I picture him spending a lot of time, in quiet, listening to his father. Quietly listening. We’re not very good at this. We’re not very good at resting, we’re not very good at silence, and, we’re not very good at listening. When my son says, “But I’m not very good at that …” my answer is always the same. “Well, then, you need to practice.” We need to practice listening to God. This, after all, is the most personal way we can have a relationship with him. We don’t need a work book, a DVD, a check list, or a small group to do this. We just need to spend some time in quiet, conversing with God. We talk, then we listen, then we may talk some more, and we listen.

Jesus says to us, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and rest”.

God the father says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Be quiet, be still, and listen.

Copyright 2011 Sue Palmer

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Edible Tea Party!

As "Alice in Wonderland" seemed to take over the last post, I couldn't resist adding this photo. Our local book store "Loganberry Books" has an annual Edible Books festival, and this was my entry a couple of years ago. The cup cake says "Eat Me", and  the Tea Pot is made of Pound Cake and marzipan.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Treacle Well

I went back to England a couple of years ago with my mother-in-law on an Elder Hostel tour. It was about World Religions and was fascinating, but that's another blog post! Anyhow we spent a week in Oxford and I saw some wonderful things that related to some of my favourite authors: CS Lewis, Tolkien, JR Rowling, and also Lewis Carroll. I'd always found the Alice books a tad strange, but apparently, Charles Dodgson (Carroll's real name) was a Math tutor at Christ Church College and so I learnt quite a bit about him while we were there.

Do you remember the Mad Hatter's Tea Party? I think, actually, that most of what I remember is from the Disney version rather than the original. Well, the Dormouse, I think, talks about a 'treacle well' between naps. In England, treacle is a refined sugar syrup, like corn syrup but nicer, and Treacle Tart is a popular dessert. So, I always thought the idea of a 'treacle well' was somewhat ludicrous, but it seemed to fit in perfectly with the general madness of the tea party.

During our stay in Oxford we got to see the actual treacle well Dodgson was talking about! It turns out that 'treacle' is an Anglo-Saxon word for 'cure-all', and as folks had been cured by water from this well, it had always been referred to as the 'treacle well'. The picture heading this blog is the well itself which is outside St. Margaret's, a tiny church (with no electricity) in a village just outside Oxford. And the photo of a walled garden with a delightful wooden door that serves as the background to this blog, is the walled garden that the real Alice played in by herself, overlooked by the library where Dodgson spent a lot of his time.

Wells and water have been important throughout the history of humankind, so I can understand why ancient Celts, and then Christian folks would want to show their appreciation for a pure source of this life-giving liquid. It's something I took for granted until I moved to Arizona! I take a lot of things for granted, my family and friends, my church, my easy access to books, knowledge, and art, my freedoms to worship, work and vote. So I am trying to live more intentionally now, to thank God for everything, even the stuff that I wouldn't want anyone else to go through - it has made me who I am. And with God's help I can use every experience of my life to reflect Him, and share with someone else every blessing He has given me. I am going to 'dress' the well of life that God has given me as an act of Thanksgiving.