Saturday, September 29, 2007

Present-ing Pocoyo - Music!!!

Just had a wonderful afternoon visiting our nearly one year old neice. We bought her a little heap of Pocoyo presents including a book, a DVD and best of all an interactive sleepy bird as featured in this little episode. We did have trouble handing it over as we loved it so much ourselves but our neice really liked it and was exploring all the different sounds it can make including a lovely lullaby (complete with nightlight beak!!)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Set My People Free

We've got a series of evenings coming up called "Set My People Free" which Dave, our vicar, is leading. He's taking the topics of freedom as expressed in the lives of some Biblical characters, namely; Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Peter, Mary Magdalene & Paul.

We've been exploring ways of expressing the whole concept of "Set My People free" in our pastoral team.
We had thought we might do somehting each Sunday to tie in but as a traditional church it's a bit of a challenge to do som
ething which is recognisably linking each of the weeks
but is essentially about freedom - formal liturgy just doesn't seem to cut it.

I'm not sure what we're going to end up
doing but I've been trying to get my head round it by exploring the concept and some key moments of freedom in the lives of the characters through my painting.

Busy busy
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Burning Bush
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Savin yer bacon

Random Market Pigs
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush
ok I haven't TOTALLY lost it but I've just got the youth holiday photos CD from my co-leader and I've remembered this marvellous picutre I took in Chester market. It reminds me both of that day and the fabulous games of Pass the Pig we had a few evenings during the week - ah the days!

I love intriguing signs and this one really was bizarre. A stall selling roast pork baps with apple sauce (yummy - wish we'd not had lunch packed already!!) and in front, rather cruelly I suppose, were these two pplastic pigs... with this sign... possibly more visible in the close-up. WHY OH WHY?

Random market Pig
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

What happens when someone TOUCHES THE PIG - nooooooooo!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Calling

and while we're on videos... here's a great worship intro I used for Yellow Braces which somebody aske me for and I totally couldn't find for AGES so I thought I'd post it so I wouldn't lose it again!!

This is the Truth

Absolutely awesome video that Bishop Alan put up on his blog over the weekend. It seems kinda lame to start with but keep going with it for that "Sixth Sense" moment. All I have to do now is work out when I'm going to use it. I did a "you need to look at things from God's perspective" session on the youth holiday only a month ago so I may need to save it up for a while!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More from the golden mouth

The daily thought on Taizé's site today used some more words from John Chrysostom which were profound so I thought I'd share them. I'm sure there might be at least one Proudhon reading anarchist out there who will appreciate this!

'There were periods in history when some Christians were particularly sensitive to sharing. In the fourth century, Saint John Chrysostom wrote, “Quarrels and wars break out because some people try to take for themselves what belongs to everyone. It is as if nature became indignant that human beings, by means of those cold words ‘yours’ and ‘mine,’ have sowed division where God has set unity.”' from Peace of Heart in All Things
by Brother Roger of Taizé

Interesting Times

The old saying has it that it is malicious to say
"May you live in Interesting Times"

"According to the philosopher Ly Tin Wheedle, chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organized. "

Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times

Tree of Life

Tree of Life
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush
This was a commission for my friend Matt. When I handed it over I didn't actually say what it was but it produced quite a few different interpretations. It makes me wonder whether I should put titles onthem in some ways. I think the interpretations I heard were as valid as those that had been consciously in my mind when I painted it. This picture is all about growth and life. Some have seen people in it, others have see plant life. How about you?


This is to show how my paintings can change so very easily from one day to the next...

Did our hearts not burn within us

This is a commission for my friend Stella based on the words of the two companions who met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus: "Did our hearts not burn within us as he spoke"

Unblogability drive

There are times when there is just too much stuff going on that is not something a person can blog about for various reasons. In such times I fidn it hard to blog about other stuff. Now is one of those times, I'm sorry.

Hopefully normal sporadic blogging service will be resumed shortly but for now you're going to be subjected to some more paintings for a while and some wisdom from the church fathers notably today John Chrysostom:

The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? ‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.

Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together? I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbour. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!

If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web. Indeed, unless you, my brothers, had detained me, I would have left this very day. For I always say “Lord, your will be done”; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.

Yet where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us. For though my body die, my soul will live and be mindful of my people.

You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my brothers, my sons, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. For what can the rays of the sun bestow on me that is comparable to your love? The sun’s light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.

(From the Sermon "Before Exile" Ante exsilium, nn. 1-3, Patrologia Graeca 52, 427-430)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Artisan's Blend

Marvellous news today. I've sold my first painting for actual real money! It's actually one that's still drying and I'v enot even put a pic of it up on Flickr yet! So the £20 has gone in my canvas fund tin which, rather appropriately is one of Michael's old tobacco tins for a pipe tobacco called Artisan's blend.

I also got another three commisions today.

I think a celebratory curry is in order!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Busy bee

The lack of blogging blight has struck again. Apologies. It's that first week of term thing you know.

Had a really good meeting with a local vicar today. It turns out that there are another two churches in our town looking to employ a youthworker. To quote her "not for what it can give the church... it's just what we should be doing... it's the Gospel!" Amen to that! Sounds like it could be a really exciting piece of work in an Urban Priority Area. It's pretty amazing as we've just had two youthworkers appointed in two other local churches. Out of the seven churches in the team we could end up with four or five youthworkers. Just think what the Holy Spirit could do with that!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Prayers of Mother Theresa

These were the prayers written by Mother Theresa that I used this evening:

Breathe in us, O Holy Spirit, that our thoughts may all be holy
Act in us, O Holy Spirit, that our work too may be holy
Draw our hearts, O Holy Spirit, that we love but what is holy
Strengthen us, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy
Guide us then, O Holy Spirit, that we always may be holy. Amen
Deliver us, O Jesus,

From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire to being honoured,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the desire of being popular,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being suspected.
Lead us from death to life,
from lies to truth
Lead us from despair to hope
from fear to trust
Lead us from hatred to love
from war to peace
Let peace fill our hearts, our world
our universe with peace. Amen

O God, Father of every human being, you ask us all to bring love where the poor are humiliated, reconciliation where human beings are divided, joy where the Church is shaken. You open this road for us so that we may be ferments of communion throughout the entire human family.

Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men throughout the world, who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them today, through our hands, their daily bread and through our understanding love, give peace and joy. Amen

Dear Jesus, help us to spread Thy fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that all our life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel Thy presence in our souls. Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus. Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen

Sermon 2nd September

Here is the sermon I gave this evening at evensong. I had quite a lot of trouble knowing what I'd say when I looked at the readings. For some reason, nothing much leapt out at me from these texts. Then I heard about this new book of Mother Theresa's letters, Come be my Light, which revealed some things about Mother Theresa's faith journey which have shocked many people. So this is what I said:

Ten years ago this week saw the death of a woman who set an amazing example to many by giving her life to devoted service. I’m not speaking of Diana who has received a lot of press but of a woman whose life of service was much longer. Mother Theresa of Calcutta died on 5th September 1997 and, following so soon after the wake of Diana’s tragic death, for someone so well-known, Mother Theresa passed away relatively unnoticed by the world much as those people she had served on the streets of Calcutta. Yet her life is still celebrated and recently a book of her letters has been published. However this woman whose life of faith was an amazing beacon to people is now shown to have had periods to deep and sincere doubts of her faith.

In her letters to various friends and spiritual guides, she wrote:

"Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone ... Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony."

This to me sounds so much like something one of the psalmists would say. Indeed in today’s psalm we heard:
"My soul hath longed for thy salvation: and I have a good hope because of thy word.
Mine eyes long sore for thy word: saying, O when wilt thou comfort me?"

Yet her words are rooted not only in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament but in her Christian faith as she said in a letter to a friend:
"Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak."
The psalmist and Mother Theresa both show times of seeking for God but not finding what they seek. I’m sure all of us have times when we seek but do not find. Times when our faith is tested. Times when our doubts speak louder than our faith. This is why Desmond Tutu, among many, has not seen this revelation of her times of doubt as any kind of disaster. He says:
“Mother Teresa wonderfully was no plaster cast saint. She has helped to affirm many who are passing through this period of desolation and dryness when God seems so remote. St Theresa of Avila after one such bout cried out in frustration to God, ’No wonder your friends are so few given how you treat them!’ My regard for Mother Teresa has been enhanced. Doubt can be an integral part of faith, when the evidence is never so overwhelming, so incontrovertible. St Thomas is our patron Saint for doubters. We live by faith not by sight and frequently the evidence does not make the leap of faith redundant.”

So the woman who was able to write these words:
"So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?"— addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated
Is also the woman who was able to live out her faith so tangibly in the service of others, as she herself described it:
"As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."

St John of the Cross in his great work, “The Dark Night of the Soul” describes how people sometimes face times of doubting God either through the distractions of the world and our own sin, or in the case of some, because of the great depth of their faith have focused so much on the non physical and sensory experiences of the world that they no longer feel things as they used to do. Feelings are something of the world, even feelings which might normally draw us to God; love, mercy; gentleness.

In her dark times, Mother Theresa did find some comfort. She wrote to one spiritual adviser:
"I can't express in words — the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me — for the first time in ... years — I have come to love the darkness — for I believe now that it is part of a very, very small part of Jesus' darkness & pain on earth. You have taught me to accept it [as] a 'spiritual side of your work' as you wrote — Today really I felt a deep joy — that Jesus can't go anymore through the agony — but that He wants to go through it in me."— to Neuner, Circa 1961
This reminds me of that passage in John 1.5:
"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."

Sometimes we find God in our darkest times but that does not mean that we should be overwhelmed by the darkness. God is in the darkness – as the psalmist says
"For darkness and light are both alike to you" (Psalm 139)

St Paul when writing to the Christians at Philipi encouraged them to
Shine as points of light in this dark world (Philippians 2.15)

God does not expect us to find our faith journey easy at all times. God travels with us in dark and in light. God encompasses both.

For a journey of faith is just that; one which moves and grows. In a life of devoted Christian service as long as that of Mother Theresa, hearing that she had times of doubt is no startling revelation at all but a reaffirmation of the greatness of her faith.

Even through all that she persisted to seek after God. She did not find reassurance and self satisfaction but challenge and a longing for Christ. What more should we expect?

Isaiah says
"if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58.10-11"

In her own darkness, Mother Theresa was able to shine her faith out to others

In 1968, British writer-turned-filmmaker Malcolm Muggeridge visited Teresa. Muggeridge had been an outspoken agnostic, but by the time he arrived with a film crew in Calcutta he was on a full spiritual search.

Mother impressed him with her work and her holiness and she wrote a letter to him in some two years later:
"Your longing for God is so deep and yet He keeps Himself away from you," she wrote. "He must be forcing Himself to do so — because he loves you so much — the personal love Christ has for you is infinite — The Small difficulty you have re His Church is finite — Overcome the finite with the infinite."

Muggeridge certainly did. He became an outspoken Christian apologist.

"Overcome the finite with the infinite."

These were Theresa’s words. Our own strength, faith and feelings are all finite. When we have our doubts, we may try to overcome them through our own faith but there is only one thing that can overcome them and that is a surrender to God’s will for us. Only God’s infinite power can have authority over her dark nights. Our darkness, our doubts our troubles are all finite. No matter how vast they may seem. Only God's infinite power can overcome our finite troubles and doubts. As John the Baptist:

“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven”
He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath.

It is not easy for human beings to accept it but we need to submit our wills to the will of God; to lay down our lives including our troubles and our darkness. We cannot overcome them on our own. Only when we submit to God's will can we - or rather God - overcome the finite with the infinite.