Sylvia rethinks Lent.

Sylvia rethinks Lent.

Sylvia sat in church the week after Ash Wednesday. She was feeling a bit disconnected, not really able to get into the stories about ashes, and pancakes, that had been part of the week. She wondered, why make pancakes and eat up all the eggs and milk, when you just had to go to the supermarket and get some more. What a silly tradition. And what if her grandchildren asked her to make her special blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes for them when they stayed the night with her? She felt that giving things up like pancakes just seemed artificial and irrelevant.

Sylvia started to wonder about Lent. The words of the opening hymn were sticking in her mind – ‘forty days and forty nights, thou wast fasting in the wild’. Well, fasting for forty days was obviously not going to work, not when she had to take her pills with food, and keep her carbohydrate intake even.

But the idea of being ‘in the wild’ for forty days, now that was appealing! Imagine a time of having none of the usual distractions, none of the shopping and the housework, or those phone calls where they said there was something wrong with the computer she didn’t have, or the noisy kids next door, none of the worry about the bills that kept coming through the letterbox, none of the doctor’s visits… Sylvia started to contemplate how she could find a wilderness to escape from her daily grind.

Well, she thought, I can get rid of the distractions. And the weather seems to be helping there – it’s getting darker in the mornings, it’s not so appealing to rush into the garden. Even the garden was winding down for autumn, flowers were finishing, leaves starting to turn..

Yes, thought Sylvia, that’s it! I’ll copy my garden! I’ll drop my leaves – get rid of what I don’t need in my life, like, like,… like chasing after friends who never call me back, and who seem content to go through their list of woes without once asking after mine. I’ll give up reading the junk mail from the shops where I never go, looking at things I don’t even want, and couldn’t afford if I did!

Yes, I’ll drop my leaves.

And then, she thought, maybe I’ll  tend myself as I tend the garden – after taking away the dead and finished  stems, I’ll mulch and compost.

How can I compost myself? She started to giggle as she thought about the last time she had turned the compost, and a shovelful had flung over her head. She remembered the worm that was still in her hair two hours later which had given her granddaughter such a fright.

Shh! Glared the couple in front of her at church.

Well, let them, Sylvia thought. They’re listening to the sermon, but I can’t really concentrate.

Yes, compost , that was it. I’ll feed my soul. I’ll read things that make me grow, I’ll listen to music that will build my faith, I’ll stop and let my roots grow deep and let God feed me. And then, maybe I’ll be like my apple tree, looking barren and lifeless but knowing that deep inside life is there, gaining strength, waiting to bring beauty and fruit.

Blackbirds and trust


Blackbirds 3 Oct 2012

This is the view from my son’s window – first we saw a nest, then Mama blackbird, then chicks, and then Dad feeding them. I was so surprised that they nested so close to the house- just 4 feet away. I started to think about trust.

These birds must trust the humans if they are prepared to nest so close to us. They must know that we won’t harm them, and that there will be food for them.

If we want people to trust us, and come close to us, they need to know that we won’t harm them. Is this something we do in evangelism? Or are we so keen to get people in the church door and ‘saved’ that we don’t ensure trust is part of the picture? This is what ‘friendship’ evangelism is about – building up relationships before we start to tell the great story of God’s love. Or maybe, building up relationships is how we share God’s love. For many  people these days, finding someone they can trust and rely on is difficult. Families are spread throughout the country, and it’s easy to get isolated.

The church has a reputation in the community, and it’s not a good one. There is a mistrust of the institutional church, because of past abuses, and a sense that the church is just out for money. These are areas that are being dealt with, and having recently been through the discernment process, I know how robust is the testing to see if candidates for ordination are ‘safe’ people.The challenge is, how does the church then re-establish a sense of trust, so that people will want to ‘nest’ close to us, or even with us?

In my garden, I am often digging the soil, in vain attempts to remove dandelions, and make a loose structure to plant something. The blackbirds know that whenever I am doing this, there will be worms and other tasty grubs for them. In our churches, as we turn the soil of our local communities, maybe we expose the food too – the areas of interest and concern, things to think about, thinks to rejoice about, and things to fight against.

I encourage you to look around your ‘garden’, till the soil, and let the birds nest.