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Imperfect Advent

December 14, 2014

I love Advent, the waiting, the yearning, the pregnancy. Incarnation. The Holy Mighty curled in Mary’s womb, drawing all He needs from her flesh and blood. Borne in her body, so that He can be born in ours.

I love to light an Advent candle each year, and watch each day burn down to the next. Though in our often chaotic home, the progression is rarely orderly. Sometimes a day slips by and then a few days merge together. And that’s all right, much like life. We always get to the birthday in the end.

So this year, I sat down to order an Advent candle as usual, somewhere back in November, and… I don’t even remember what intervened but time passed and there I was yesterday, 13th December, just catching breath to enter into Advent and no candle to mark the missing days or the coming days either.

But, well, Advent is about a baby God carried inexorably into messy, imperfect, human life, with straw and sheep instead of sheets, and nothing quite how Mary must have imagined it. And if I can’t start Advent on 13th December, when can I start it?

So, no trying to catch up. I find 12 small candle holders, one for each remaining day, and a lantern for Christmas Day. I fill them up with night lights and set them out on the mantelpiece. Thirteen candles to remind me that where I am is where I begin, and where I begin again.

candles

Carried

Hidden in the womb
darkness of waiting,
baby hands and feet play,
feel, touch, kick,
changing Mary from the inside out.
With every interruption,
every moment broken
open, the light whispers, I am
coming.

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bookshelves

February 22, 2012

Almost half the walls in our smallish home are lined with bookshelves – all of the Ikea Ivar variety. Plain and solid – and full – they do the job quietly. For a little fantasy, though, I’m enjoying the delightful inventiveness on display at Bookshelf. There’s a book too… we’d just need some more shelves…

 book cover

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creeds

February 16, 2012

It’s been a while, but I guess the best way to get back into blogging, as with most things, is to just do it and not worry too much about how often.

We had a discussion at one of our church gatherings on Sunday about which beliefs are required to be a member of particular churches, and whether you can still be a member if you don’t share certain beliefs. Many of us are worshipping week by week together with one heart, perhaps, but very different thoughts. I think that’s the same in most congregations but perhaps it’s more extreme in a place like Tiree where a wide range of Christian traditions are represented in each worshipping community.

I’ve been thinking about this, trying to catch hold of the essentials that make up my faith. It seems to me that faith doesn’t have much to do with the kind of beliefs that we were talking about on Sunday – all the doctrines that the various churches hold dear, the credal statements. How can they be essential when all the churches interpret them differently?

So here’s my mini statement of faith. Like me, it’s a work in progress and maybe it will be different next year, or even next week…

Jesus has done, is doing and will do everything that is needed.
I do not need to understand or believe all the right things about how or why.
My part is simply to trust Him when he says that I’m forgiven.
All He asks of me is everything.
He will continually take me in a new direction, remake me, love through me and grow in me.
Where He leads I must follow.
His people shall be my people.
I live in a Kingdom whose only rule is to love without limits.
To love God with whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, whole strength.
To love my neighbours, who include strangers and enemies, as much as  I love myself, which must be as far as laying down my life.
I am loved like that by the One who made the stars.
When I welcome anyone, I welcome Him.
Children will show me how.
We are reborn into total dependence and wonder.
Grace is free and costs everything.
This is the best news and it is for sharing.

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incarnation

January 2, 2010

At church on Christmas morning I was asked to take part in the following Sunday’s service, by choosing a carol or reading and talking about what it means to me. I would have loved to say no! But it was a moment to be obedient, so I said yes. I thought about choosing ‘Cradled in a Manger Meanly‘ because I love the words and the tune, and you only get to sing it if you spend Christmas in a Methodist church.

But in the end I chose the beginning of John’s gospel, wanting to express something of what incarnation means to me; and we read it from the New Living Translation, which translates verse 14 as “So the Word became human”. And this is what I said.

The stuff of my life is material, physical, visual. I love colour, pattern, light, and texture, the feel of wool, silk and velvet; dancing reflections; the warmth of skin. I want to touch everything. And I love words with all their meanings and their ambiguities. I’m constantly amazed by the imagination expressed in this complex, delightful world that Jesus created for us to live in. Genesis says he looked over all that he had made and saw that it was excellent in every way. All this variety and beauty springing from the mind of God and spoken out in his eternal Word Jesus Christ. His love and creativity embodied in earth and water and teeming life, in language and symbolism and poetry, in sights and sounds. Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.

But we messed it up, and God could have abandoned us, yet instead he did this incredible thing – he actually became human and lived here on earth among us. The word ‘human’ shares its roots with ‘humble’ – Jesus showing us the way to strip away our pride and self protection, and step into the lowest place, to live in the dark with messiness and contradiction, so that light can shine there.

As I like thinking about the way words grow and the links between them – I looked up ‘human’ in the dictionary and found it’s also related to humus – earth, ground. Jesus didn’t just come to be with us, or to be like us – though that would have been awesome enough – he came to be one of us, formed from the same stuff of earth and dust of stars as we are. He’s born vulnerable and has to trust his family to nurture him to adulthood. He eats and walks and sleeps and he touches people. He’s a craftsman, shaping wood. He notices birds and flowers and rocks. He cries. He shares our physicality, experiences our boundaries, our separateness – even, in the end, he shares our estrangement from his Father.

Paradoxically, by laying aside his glory he made it possible for the people with whom he lived to see that glory with their own eyes, to touch it with their own hands, and to share it with us through the witness of their words – the glory of the only Son of the Father, the light streaming into our darkness, the light that is for everyone – for me, and for you.

John 1:1-18; Genesis 1:31; Psalm 34:8; Mark 15:34; 1 John 1:1.
New Living Translation (1996 edition)

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a stripy visitor

July 12, 2009

Getting close enough to take a photo without being close enough to make her move and scare me into dropping the camera was a bit tricky, but I’m glad I did because she’s gone now. She’s a big garden cross spider who was lurking in her web by the door of the Linen Shed when we got back from church. (It’s just a shed, really, but we call it the Linen Shed because it was once a laundry delivery truck and still has ‘Linen Rental Service’ emblazoned on the side.)

garden cross spider

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what’s in a name?

July 11, 2009

I’ve been very quiet on this blog, and it seems that keeping a journal about Tiree isn’t working for me, so I’ve decided to shift focus, and so a new blog name seems more fitting.

I chose spindrift because I love the sound of the word, and because it describes what it feels like inside my head most of the time, veils of foam torn from a gale-swept sea. And because I watched it often, enchanted, in the quotidien winds of our first winter on Tiree.

I thought about starting a new blog, but I have too many already! So the same blog, but a shift in emphasis from ‘life on Tiree’, to – just – life, both the marvellous and the ordinary (who can tell which is which?).

waves

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seeking balance

February 5, 2009

Six weeks have shot past and I still feel welcomed and at home, though of course still very much a stranger too. Last week I seemed to be out almost every day – church and prayer meeting, Pilates class, ceilidh dancing, craft workshop. A couple of things were cancelled this week so it’s felt a bit more peaceful – time to walk on the beach and wonder at the beautiful sky.

Finding the right balances between activity and stillness, between rest and responsibility, between work and art, between solitude and being sociable – I’ve always found it a challenge, sharpened by coming to the island. A small community and a wild landscape both mitigate against evading the challenge by simply letting some facets of life take precedence until they all but obliterate the others.

This has been a very snowy week for most in the UK. We had a few sleety flakes on Tiree this morning – and I see the Met Office is forecasting “light snow” at midnight (but I’ll probably miss that!). Monday was cold and sunny, and yesterday was one of those days when endless variations of light play on clouds and sea and land. These photos were all taken at Crossapol beach around 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon.

Tiree skies

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