Tag Archives: greeting

22 August: J is for junctions

 

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I’d rather show you this than a motorway junction! We are at Ashford International station in Kent, where I change trains on my way to work most weeks, and where occasionally we change trains en route to France, Belgium or beyond.

A junction on the motorway  does not give chance to stop and stare, as one can at Ashford International. Where is that woman going, I wonder? My son’s friend from school greets me as he goes about his work on the platform.The sparrows chatter over a few crumbs tossed around one of the benches.

The non-stop Eurostar roars through to Paris, a life-changing trip for some. And those alighting from the inbound Eurostar: will they feel welcome on English soil? I once met a former pupil who had completely changed his name – not even using the same initials – to start a new life here with his young lady, forty miles from where he had lived with a neglectful mother and stepfather. Every day is new!

And always there are the anxious ones who do not trust the departure boards or announcements, sometimes with good reason. They ask the platform staff, is this the right train? They get on board, they ask their fellow passengers, is this the right train? If the guard comes by, they ask, is this the right train? On the train they make for the door as soon as their station is announced, unaware it is five minutes or more away.

My friends, there actually is time to stop and stare, so sit back and relax!

Oh, there’s my train coming in: I’d best make sure I ‘join the correct portion of the train’, or who knows where I’ll be! Safe home!

MMB

 

 

 

 

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3 March: Going through the motions

open-hands-prayerSometimes people make an outward show of action without their heart being in it. They are ‘going through the motions’. But before we dismiss the ‘motions’ in favour of the purity of the inner spirit, it helps to remember that we are bodily people; physical actions can help make our spirit ready. This is certainly true when it come to prayer. Choosing a regular place, posture, and way of beginning and ending our prayer can provide a supportive framework for the building up of our openness to God.

Place: Making a particular room, or seat, or walking route a habitual place for prayer. Of course we can pray anywhere. But through repetition the mind and spirit begins to recognise that in entering this place I am setting myself to pray. Your ‘place’ might be your kitchen table at a quiet time of the day, a bench in a park where you walk your dog, your seat on the train on the way into work, or a corner of a room in your home that you set aside as a meeting point with God.

Greeting: To you O Lord I lift up my soul. [Psalm 25.1]

Words or gestures you use to acknowledge that you have entered God’s presence. This might be the lighting of a candle, the bowing before a cross, or the saying of a particular prayer or a verse from one of the psalms.

Regular usage helps us move more quickly into prayer. We understand we are here for this purpose and for no other.

Posture: A physical way we set our bodies: sitting with hands open and resting on our laps, or, if walking, a slower, measured pace that begins to settle us down.

As these physical settings become familiar, our spirit begins to work in unison, helping us be relaxed, open and attentive.

Ending and moving on: Just as we have greeted God at the beginning of prayer, so we choose a way of closing this time, whilst remaining open to God’s presence and leading as we go about our day. Again this might be a physical action, words of prayer or a combination: blowing out the candle, bowing to a cross, or words from a psalm.

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24 January: The Gasman Cometh

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‘Twas on a  Monday morning the gas man came to call.’ (Flanders and Swan). But this one knew just what he was doing, changing the meter and leaving all safe and sound.

He called me to witness that all was safely sealed at the end of the job by observing the manometer connected to the equipment. ‘We don’t like excitement,’ he said, as the level stayed exactly the same for the required times.

‘Those rubber washers are possibly the most important part of the whole thing, they guarantee your safety. Yet they are cheap, so cheap that they send them out in packs of a hundred. They wouldn’t do that if they cost pounds each.’

Who do we rely on but never give a thought to? Make sure you acknowledge them, pass the time of day, give them a smile. I am very glad our house is safe from gas leaks and all appliances are working; thank you, Martin the gasman!

As long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me. 

Matthew 25:40.

 

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15 January: Laudato Si – for Robin!

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After a big Christmas meal among a crowd of adults, some of them unknown to him, 18 month-old Abel was getting restless so he went and found his wellington boots. It was time for some fresh air.

By the corner of the park he stopped. He pointed at the lilac tree and shook his finger – a gesture he uses if he hears a loud noise like a siren – or grandad sneezing. Grandad’s sinuses were not challenged on this occasion; the noise was coming from the tree: Robin playing his part in the dusk chorus.

Abel watched and listened till Robin changed his perch, then said, bye bye. Off he went into the park and straight up onto the old abandoned railway line. At the top he paused again, listening. Singing close by were a thrush and blackbird as well as another robin. After listening for a while, it was bye-bye to these birds too. We were unable to see them.

We did see the gulls flying below the clouds on their way to the coast: bye-bye to them too.

It was dark when we said bye-bye to Abel, but he pointed from his car-seat to our own robin, still singing, still patrolling his boundaries by street-light. Bye-bye Abel, thank you for listening with me!

Laudato si!

WT

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20 September: Intergalactic Discoveries: VIII – Pampered Pooches.

Alfie and Ajax 2

After a night in the back porch – no fleas welcome in Mrs Fox’s house – the dogs’ bedding was stuffed into the washing machine, the boys themselves into the car, and off to the vet at the local pets’ emporium. An ordeal not to be repeated or commented on!

‘Why did she do that to us?’ wondered Ajax.

‘Who was scratching himself? You got too close to that English Setter when we stopped at the massive car park hostelry place. She was a walking flea bag. Mrs Fox does not want a houseful of parasites, and I’ve had enough bites already.’

Alfie sensed that Ajax was getting emotional now. ‘Don’t sulk,’ he said. ‘Combine thinking, now. NOW!’

Mrs Fox was in front of the tinned dog food, stroking her chin. ‘Left a bit, next shelf down,’ they beamed, and a bracelet laden wrist hovered for a moment, then swooped forward. ‘YES! Yummy variety pack!’ Ajax’s sulk evaporated before it took him over.

Suddenly the Ossyrian changelings realised how dependent they were on the humans around them; thought beams were all very well, but not everyone was responsive. Over the next weeks they began to notice the webs of connections: Mrs Fox’s neighbours depended on her, even if only her cheerful good morning – a cheerful greeting even when the boys knew she was not feeling cheerful.

‘She is a good woman. Why does she say that which is not?’ wondered Ajax. ‘But it is a good morning,’ countered Alfie. ‘We’ve been fed, walked on the beach, eaten abandoned ice-cream. The sun is shining. The young seagulls are making a racket, but that’s all that’s not perfect. Mrs Fox has a headache. She knows the day is good, even if she feels bad. So she says good morning and she means it.’

‘Will we ever understand humans?’ Ajax asked.

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26 August. Reflections on Living Together, VI: Enough to Communicate.

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Mary meets the Lord: York Minster

The distance imposed by not sharing a common language does not excuse acting as if the French virtue of Fraternity is not our vocation. In Psalm 133 David extols Fraternity: ‘How good and pleasant it is, brothers dwelling in unity.’ He compares it to the extravagance of precious oil running down the head and beard. We can think of sun tan lotion applied to hot, cracked, dry skin. In David’s time olive oil was precious: it represented hours of physical labour by man and beast to harvest and press the fruit.

Think, too, of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment (Luke 7: 36-49) or Mary Magdalene with her spiced oil, hurrying to the tomb on Easter Morning (Luke 24:1-10). Jesus greeted her (John 20:15) and she knew her Lord; he gave her her mission and filled her with joy.

While on holiday I knocked on a door for directions. My ‘dzien dobry’ and ‘djien kuje’ – ‘good day’ and ‘thank you’ – led the elderly gentleman who answered the door to commend my few words of Polish as ‘enough to communicate’. His English was impeccable; his encouragement of my stumble into his tongue both humbled me and lifted my spirit after a long day’s travelling.

Let’s pray that the Spirit of Pentecost may be on our lips when we need to speak.

MMB

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August 23: Reflections on Living Together, III: Armchair Travel and Richard of Chichester.

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NW Tower, Chichester Cathedral.

The spirit of discord and hatred that is evident today needs God’s grace to overcome it. With God’s grace we can be instruments of his mercy and peace at a personal level. A simple ‘Good Morning’, in whatever language, is a word of peace. A smile, a compliment, a helping hand, a joke.

And perhaps we should travel to broaden the mind and heart. If we cannot leave home we can travel through the printed word or the television screen. And Christian, Jew or Muslim can pray these words of Saint Richard of Chichester:

May I see you more clearly,

Love you more dearly,

And follow you more nearly,

Day by Day.

MMB.

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