say what you see

Some of you may remember Audrey 3 from a couple of weeks ago. She’s a venus flytrap and I bought her to deal with the small flies that seem to like annoying me while I am in my office. Since her arrival the number of annoying flies in my office has dropped significantly and it looks like Audrey 3 has eaten some of them because several of her ‘mouths’ have been closed recently and have now reopened.

I wasn’t around when the flies got caught so I can’t confirm whether there was a loud ‘whump’ or ‘om, nom, nom, nom’. The trap is triggered when a fly moves one of the tiny hairs inside the mouth and I really would like to see it happen. The temptation is to use a cocktail stick or something like that to trigger the trap. But the advice given to owners of venus flytraps is that you should not trigger them unless there is food in their mouth. Apparently it takes a lot of energy for the plant to trigger the trap and that needs to be replenished by the energy obtained from absorbing the prey. Unnecessarily triggering the trap can lead to the plant’s death.

There’s a real temptation to make a comment about the consequences of triggering Article 50 here but I am going to resist it and allow you to make your own jokes. But there are times for all of us when we have to go to extra effort because of someone else.

It could be as simple as someone leaving the toilet seat up, or leaving the lid off the toothpaste. But there is lots of scope for us to have to take extra effort in life because of the actions of another person.

Do you get frustrated when someone is dawdling along the pavement in front of you and start to go around them and they change direction right in across your path? You then have to stop suddenly and change direction to avoid knocking them over.

Or what about if you have a dishwasher and someone has thoughtfully brought their dirty dishes and placed them on the surface in the vicinity of the dishwasher rather than in the dishwasher? They may think they have been helpful but you have to finish the job.

Or maybe you have trodden in something unpleasant on the pavement that was left behind after someone had a takeaway, or even worse, after their canine friend had done what it had to do? There’s some serious cleaning up needed then.

How about when someone’s having a barbecue in a neighbouring garden and you’ve got washing out drying?

Most of the time when our hairs are tickled and we have to make the effort to react and respond to others they are unaware of the effort we have expended. Of course we would like them to know (and that’s why car horns were invented I think) but ask yourself for a moment how many times are people doing that for us and we are unaware of it? Because we are unaware we won’t know.

We human beings almost always live in communities with other humans. Sometimes they are informal, like towns or cities, and sometimes they are more formal like places of work or places of worship. In every case I think we would be better off if we all put into practice some of the most overlooked advice in the Bible:


Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4.2 NIV)

or


Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3.13 NIV)

The emphasis is mine, but the opportunity is there for all of us. How different would life be if we all bear with one another? (Say what you see)

Be blessed, be a blessing

one another

A while ago I created some visual clues to a series of phrases from the Bible that all relate to ‘one another’ – how we should treat one another and be with one another. I remembered this recently and offer them to you for your amusement and perhaps edification. The answers are at the bottom of the page and I apologise for any brain strain this may cause…

Enjoy!4-give

 

serve

lettuce-spray-4practice-hospital-teafellow-ship

bee-de-votedconfused-voleon-her

bear with.JPGharm-on-kneea-gry

forgive one another; serve one another; let us pray for one another; practice hospitality to one another; live in fellowship with one another; be devoted to one another; love one another (it’s a vole); honour one another (on her); bear with one another; live in harmony (harm on knee) with one another; agree with one another (angry with ‘n’);

 

An ant called Declan

antDeclan was a busy ant, as were all his friends. He spent his day scampering around the countryside looking for food to forage for the rest of the ant colony.

One day Declan crawled across a picnic table and came across a jam sandwich. A child had dropped it on the ground and although the child had been quite willing to eat it, earth and all, their mother had told them to leave it and left it on the table top. Declan was drawn to the sticky, sweet jam and thought to himself how the sandwich would feed the whole colony for days.

He rushed back to the nest and told the foreman, who sounded the alarm. The message went out to all of the foraging ants, who all came back to the nest. The foreman told them that Declan had found a jam sandwich and the rest of the ants cheered.

Declan felt very proud as he led the ants in a long line back along his route and up onto the picnic table top to the sandwich. When they got there the rest of the ants swarmed over it excitedly.

Then one of the ants said what most of them were thinking: “It’s a big sandwich, isn’t it?”

“I can carry fifty times my own body weight,” said another, “but I could never lift that on my own.” Lots of the stronger ants agreed with him.

“How would we fit it down the hole into the nest?” another asked. Some of the practical ants had been wondering that themselves.

“It’s very sticky jam,” objected another. “I don’t want to get covered in jam.”

The mood changed from excitement to despondency. It had been a lovely idea. Slowly but surely the ants decided that it was too difficult a task to carry the sandwich back to the nest and went back to what they had been doing beforehand.

The foreman looked at Declan. “Sorry, Dec,” he said, “It is a brilliant sandwich, but it was too much for us to manage.”

Sadly Declan agreed with him and left the sandwich. But he couldn’t help, wondering what might have been possible if they had thought about working together.

What might God be saying through this parable?

Be blessed, be a blessing

a compromising position?

You know how it is, you are having a perfectly normal day when all of a sudden, unannounced and uninvited, your mind is invaded by a song or a piece of music. It is not necessarily something you hear, but it’s been in your subconscious and chooses to surface into your conscious awareness. And you can’t get it out of your head once it has made its home there for the day.

That happened to me today, and if you don’t want it to happen to you I suggest that you stop reading this bloggage and look at another one, or do something else altogether.

You have been warned.

This song just jumped into my brain this morning. It’s by Paul Simon and was released by Simon and Garfunkel before I was born:

A winter’s day, in a deep and dark December
I am alone, gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock, I am an island

I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty that none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock, I am an island

Don’t talk of love well I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
And I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock, I am an island

I have my books and my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor, hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock, I am an island

And a rock can feel no pain
And an island never cries

Thatcher’s Rock, Torbay

Although it is a lovely melody sung with lovely harmonies I find it an incredibly sad song. The singer has been badly hurt by someone and has decided that they are going to go it alone. They don’t want or need anyone else. They are a rock, and island.

It’s awful when someone has been hurt so badly that they cannot trust, they dare not risk becoming vulnerable again. The pain of betrayal has become too much to bear. However, at the risk of offering some amateur psychology, the problem with this approach is that the pain and hurt remain on the island with you. And if not dealt with they will grow deeper roots into you and perhaps also start to dominate the way in which you relate to other people even at a superficial level. Please forgive me if I have touched on a raw nerve, but if I have please do get some professional help. You don’t have to remain as a rock or an island.

We are created to be in relationships. We cannot exist on our own. That is why one of the cruelest punishments or tortures is solitary confinement. We need interaction with others, and perhaps that is why some people react in the way that the song describes when we are badly treated by others. We’re about to take one of my slightly unexpected twists and turns in my train of thought at this point, so if you are not ready for that feel free to leave us at this point.

I believe that the way in which we are created makes rock / island self-sufficiency a myth. If you remember the British TV series, The Good Life, Tom and Barbara decide to become self-sufficient by growing their own food, farming their own animals, making their own clothes (and awful peapod burgundy wine) and even generating their own electricity. But one of the consistent comedic themes through the show is that they were not able to be completely self-sufficient. They constantly needed the support of their neighbours Gerry and Margot. They needed to barter and trade with shops for things they could not supply themselves. They needed to interact (bizarrely) with what passed for normal suburban life. They were not a rock or an island, they needed other people (and one another).

Self-sufficiency is not only a myth for people and households, it is also a myth for churches. Baptist churches are independent – in the sense that each church has liberty under God to decide how they do things. But sometimes as churches we hold that independence as a virtue and value that trumps interdependence. We proclaim that we are a rock, and island. We don’t need anyone else.

But the danger of taking that approach is that churches can become isolated. They can become insular. They have nowhere to turn when the storm around them rages and threatens to overwhelm them. Are we actually at our weakest when we think we are being strong by asserting our independence? Yes, like for individuals, it means risking that others will disagree with us. Yes, like for individuals, it means that we will be vulnerable. Yes, like for individuals we might need to compromise* (I’ll come back to that word in a moment) for the sake of relating.

*Compromise is often seen as having negative values – if we compromise our beliefs we water them down. But if you break the word down it is about promise and ‘com’ as a prefix means ‘together’. It is about promising together where focus on what we gain more by being together rather worry about what we might lose. It is about sharing, mutuality, dependence, respect and integrity not being wishy-washy. It is a very strong activity that strengthens the participants.

Are you a rock, an island, or are you compromising?

Be blessed, be a blessing.