Creator of touch
Giver of pleasure.
Transformed by your grace we dance together.
Intertwined in a sacrament of divine love.
Let me explain where the pioneer allotment came from and why. To understand why, I think it might be helpful if you knew a little bit about me. I am a pioneer in the Bath and Wells diocese. My faith has come from a deep spiritual connection with creation. I think in pictures, came to faith early one morning in my garden.
As a picture thinker I find it helpful to draw the words that I am reading. It’s a translation from the written word into a language that I understand. The pioneer allotment is just my personal translation.
Allotments are at their heart a community that shares an individualistic communal environment. Each allotted plot holder (allotment owner) is working within the guidelines set down by their allotment association. Each plot holder translating what these guidelines means to them. Theirs flexibility, and unity in this unique place where people grow together. It’s a place that you grow what’s relevant to you. In a method that’s of your choosing.
Growing seasonal local food means you become more in tune with the land. Plot holders naturally nurture new members. Wanting to share knowledge, share the joy of the harvest, wanting others to feel that joy too.
The allotment holds onto and works with the traditions of the past. It’s an earthy visible process that openly shares its highs and lows with its community. It’s a place open to all, regardless of wealth or knowledge.
Allotments are a place of doing.
As I wander around my allotment, I see a patchwork of creative planting; pumpkins, runner-beans, potatoes, cabbages. My drawn pioneer spectrum comes to life. The rich blended landscape of our differences, from the traditional to boldly different. The pioneer allotment starts with the traditional church plant. Replicating traditional methods and planting.
As we move further along spectrum we find the planting slowly changing. As we change the planting and the methods, so we push against traditional boundaries. Moving further along the spectrum our work becomes more unknown and vulnerable. Working with seeds that have yet to germinate. The harvest is not guaranteed.
It may look muddled. The soil is often poor, requiring a lot of organic matter (manure) to be added. Here success cannot be measured by the fruits of our harvest. My own allotment is very nontraditional. I’m constantly told by other plot holders that my methods are incorrect.
They even take matters into their own hands. Removing the stinging nettles from my plot. They see them as weeds while I see them as habitats for butterflies.
The strange round cucumbers that grow in my chaotic allotment taste no different to the straight green cucumbers grown on the more traditional allotment. As pioneers we see the possibilities a space can offer. We work to Create different holy spaces; spaces that grow round cucumbers and orange carrots, Spaces where God is at work, spaces to meet Jesus. Spaces where the Holy Spirit is active.
It’s in these holy traditional and chaotic spaces that we come together as family. We share memories and a shared hope for the future.
The beautiful words of Pslam 23 have at times prettified me and given me hope on some of my darkest days.
I wrote this poem just to reflect on the pslam and how important it is to me.
As I wander through the green uncut grass
the stories of the garden unfold.
Imprinted into the soil, deep dark tunnels of despair,
My burdens glistened into the dewy footprints of life
I know that I am the gardener, listening to the creator.
With every seed thats sown, I learn more of him.
When I doubt, he lifts me up, reminds me that I can grow.
He leads me through valleys that I never knew existed,
waters my soul with life giving streams, which hydrate me.
Growing in a new place, Where its safe to sit and stay.
With him I am at peace to say no words,
as he knows my every thought,
even the secrets deeply hidden in my heart.
His blessings ignites my reasons, fills my toughest day with hope.
With His spirit I know I am safe.
Humbled by the constant calling of his Creation.
His arms outstretched, always ready to listen to me.
I feel his presence through the earth. vibrating whispers of a calming voice.
Leading me tough the turbulent waters.
To a place of stillness and inner peace.
Shadows nudge a whispered breath.
Danced deep into our souls.
A creative voice
An ingrained tattered prayer
Covering dry bones.
Scratched and bruised
Listen to a new stirring
A global outcry
Flow though us.
On my Grandmothers mantle piece sat a glass bottle containing layers of multi coloured sand. This little bottle was a souvenir gift from the Isle of wight (Alum bay). The sands are made of three minerals – quartz, felspar and mica. In their pure state these minerals are white with other colours being produced through contamination by other minerals.
As a child I would repeatedly ask my grandmother if I could remove the cork from the bottle of layered sand. I wanted to mix the coloured layers, to move them from order into a place of multicoloured chaos.
To pour the layered colours into a shallow bowl. Creating and uncovering unsymmetrical patterns in the coloured sand. To run the textured colours of history through my hands.
Somewhere in my loft wrapped in newspaper this little glass bottle of coloured sand is waiting to be rediscovered.
A static hour glass sitting out time. The separated colours never changing. The sand holds firmly to the stories of the past, tells of traditions and cultures of our ancestors.
We look to the past to discover lessons for the present.
What happens when we change the lens which we see the sand. When we see it’s true uncontaminated colours.
I don’t feel any desire to rummage into the depths of my loft to find the bottle of sand and mix it.
I am learning to see beyond the coloured layers to look at the individual grains, to the true colours/ true self.
During this past year I have started to learn how to see these true colours. To see the sparkle and glitter in each treasured grain ( person ). I’ve learnt the remarkable power of story. The value of spending time just listening. Discerning the gifts of the spirit working in each of us .
I’ve come to realise and acknowledge that I have gifts too. To not underestimate the gift of being myself. The importance understanding my true colours . I’ve discovered how these gifts are working within me, how they relate to my context .
The gifts of the Spirit are being poured out upon us . I’m beginning to understand that these gifts don’t come in coloured uniformed patterns. We don’t have to comprehend them, but we do need to see them as actual, making them real.
I’m learning to see that it takes bravely and courage to mix the coloured grains of sand. Learning how essential it is to hold onto my true colours. I’m becoming more robust in my thinking and actions. Discovering how exhausting life can be when the landscape try’s to fade and erode my colours.
The colourful bottle of sand holds thousands of years of heritage and history. Its colours and traditions alone are not enough to hold the our future foundations.
God pours out the gift of the Spirit upon us, not as the historic re-enactment of static sand trapped in a bottle, but as the lived reality of the revelation of God, who is ever present and ever new.
It is our joy and privilege, not simply to share in those gifts, but to realise them, to see them sparkle, making them real in our lives, and for our time.
They were all excited, because all of them heard the believers talking in their own languages. When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. When that sound came, a crowd quickly gathered, startled because each one heard the disciples speaking in his own language.
Imagine the excitement of being one of the crowd that day, to be included in the conversations that surrounded you.
It’s easy to presume when we read this well-known passage ( Acts 2:6) that the language they all heard was spoken.
For some adults and children, the spoken / written language is not their own language.
For those of us that are wired slightly differently ( neurodiverse ) our first language is not always written / spoken. Some of us are picture thinkers. A picture thinker is someone who thinks primarily in pictures instead of the sound of words . Those with dyslexia, auditory processing, attentions issues like ADD/ADHD are people who might be picture thinkers
For those of us that think in pictures we live in a world that rarely speaks our language. Daily we can feel isolated, excluded and ashamed of our inability to communicate with others. We find ourselves exhausted as we struggle to read, write and function in a world that often perceives us as weird or even stupid.
Being neurodiverse means that we think and learn in a different way to other people. We often have particular strengths such as thinking outside the box, seeing the bigger picture and creative thinking.
When my dyslexic mind walks through what happened on that day of Pentecost.
I wonder how many of those stood in the crowd that day heard pictures being spoken from Peter’s words.
Peter explained to the crowd that everything had been written in the Scriptures about Jesus long before he had ever been born. He told the people that God sent Jesus to save them.
Some of the crowd that day might have seen the story of the messiah. They might have an image that represented their own sorrow and visualised their own forgiveness.
For the first time in their lives they may have felt truly understood. A way that would have seemed impossible only hours before.
The Spirit comes as an companion, a teacher, a Guide, to be with us – to remind us who we are and to whom we belong. To strengthen us for the task of living as God’s people in the world. It is the spirit that transforms us and weaves the gospel into our own language. That gives us a place of peace to go out into in a world that we cannot understand. It is only because we are understood and loved by God that we can be encouraged to let go of our fears and anxieties and walk into a world that scares us.
It’s the miracle of language. God showed himself willing to step into our individual space and verbalize a message in a language that we could understand. God showing his love to us. And maybe the greatest miracle, and the best explanation, of God happens when we take that love, given freely to us, and share it without reservation with each other.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.
Simone Weil was a French Jew who died of hunger during World War Two.
Simone was extremely well educated and came from a wealthy family.
She worked in the factories and lived on tinned rations. Simone was so affected by what was happening to others she decided to live as they lived.
Simone was drawn strongly to the sacramental life of the church . Her desire to be baptised became overwhelming to her.
Yet she declined, and spent the rest of her short life regarding the bread and wine of holy communion without ever eating them.
Regarding them was enough for her, determination to stay hungry gave her strength.
During this time of lockdown I’ve been hungry too.
Experiencing those familiar unsettled feelings often felt during the first few weeks of a new diet. The longing to find chocolate and cheese in the fridge . Only to find precooked jacket potatoes and a withered salad .
After a while you start to understand the answer to satisfying your hunger cannot be found in the fridge.
It’s about a change of attitude.
As the world endures the worst imaginable suffering . The hunger I feel pierces a bright light in this dark storm.
It’s from these pains of hunger that I take a new fresh bearing. Discovering worship in a different timeless dimension. Worship that does not start at 9.15 on a Sunday morning. Nor does it end after 45 minutes.
Worship is barren of rules, no dress code, no words. A sacred intimate place of mystery. Time stands still as struggle with the pain and sorrow . Tears roll uncontrollably as I find joy in this creative hunger.
An empty glass move my thoughts from hunger to freedom. I become more aware of my own personal rhythms of prayer. Awareness of the frailness and pain of the earth.
It’s taken me back to the story of Simone Weil. I am reminded that is important and ok to be deeply affected by what’s happening around us.
To weep each day does little to ease the pain. The tears have an energy of their own. A salty unity that partners with a overflowing love for each other.
During lockdown we have literately fed each other. Prepared meals for neighbours and friends.
Our combined hunger is woven and twisted into a strong soft blanket. A blanket that hugs me into Gods waiting arms, sharing sorrows of the world.
The alters maybe naked, the candles extinguished and the church doors locked. My spiritual diet has changed.
I’m hungry; the hunger pains are real essential and fruitful.
Today life is like a humming spinning top that has become unbalanced. It no longer spins, putting all its energy in trying to stay upright. The forces that surround the spinning top, say STOP.
Its coloured blur and constant hum have slowed down and will eventually fall over. The brightly coloured pictures that adorn its sides are starting to become clear.
As our blurred world slows, we find ourselves uncomfortably falling onto our sides. Dizzy and disorientated we have stopped spinning . We become aware of silence. Void of the absent non stop hum.
It’s almost as if the world has become united in the inevitable decision to stop.
The normal patterns of life have dissolved into the pain and grief that surrounds many of us.
The days of the week become blurred, time is set by the raising and setting of the sun. Lunch time is when we are hungry.
Life is different, dislodged but it’s still happening. It’s still Holy Week.
Over 2,000 years ago this week also held a dark chaos .
The week when Jesus died on the cross for us. The week when the world went dark because of Jesus’s sacrifice for us. This week they buried Jesus and the world lost hope.
We know that on the third day he rose again. We know the rest of the story.
We know that in today’s chaos it’s this story that gives us hope.
And Just like over 2,000 years ago, God is still in control . God feels our pain and knows what lies ahead of us.
We don’t have to sacrifice Easter because of Covid 19. Easter will happen simply because it has already happened. The sacrifice has already been made.
On Easter Sunday I will be out of bed before sunrise. Standing alone in the silence I will witness the dawning of a new day.
Before leaving for home I will shout out “Alleluia he is risen”.
Through the lopsided stillness of the silence that surrounds me ‘ he has risen indeed ‘ will be echoed back to me.
Luke 23:44-47 Good News Translation (GNT)
The Death of Jesus
44-45 It was about twelve o’clock when the sun stopped shining and darkness covered the whole country until three o’clock; and the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” He said this and died.
Back in the early 1990’s a Uk animal laboratory went into liquidation.
The beagles they used for their research needed to be rescued. This was to be a massive undertaking, with the beagles being transported to RSPCA animal shelters across the uk.
These dogs had never seen the outside world, never walked on a lead. They had spent all of their lives in living kennels. They where regarded as a product, one that produced puppies as part of a profitable business.
Although not badly treated the dogs lacked any life skills and had no idea what a dogs life was all about.
Some of these beagles both young and old came into my care ( I was working at a RSPCA animal shelter) .
The puppies took well to their new environment.
As with most puppies they responded to human interactions. They learnt quickly from each other, finding huge joy in playtime and meal times.
The older breeding bitches, many of which arrived in pup had a long difficult journey of adjustment ahead of them.
As time moved on they slowly allowed me to love them.
To be with them as they gave birth to their puppies . Very Slowly they started to trust me.
They learnt to bark and loved the sound of their own voices. Their individual cheeky personality’s started to shine.
With a lot of patience they leant to walk on a lead, Soon they where enjoying lunch time walks along the river bank.
The beagles that arrived cowering and petrified soon started to greet meet with excitement, tails wagging.
The time came when not only did they TRUST me but I started to trust them.
All but one. LIBBY.
Libby found all this trust thing hard, she refused to walk on the lead. She was deeply sad and traumatised . The stress of the move from the laboratory kennels to the animal shelter had caused her to loose the litter of puppies she was carrying .
I often wondered if Libby could / should be rehomed. I wondered if the world even had that special family for her.
Libby was liberated from the kennels that robbed her confidence and released her into a life she could not understand.
Reflecting on the word TRUST this morning I thought of Libby and her beagle friends. The image of her sad pale face came to mind.
Reminding me how trust transformed the lives of these traumatised beagles. How their confused and dull faces, become colourful expressions of playfulness.
Trust not only transforms, but it’s visible.
When we come to know the trust of living with Jesus the changes in us can also be visible. The trust we put in Jesus enables and equips us to get through the hard times.
In the midst of this pandemic. I find myself speaking to God full of worry. I’m worried for the families that have lost loved ones. Worried about going out in a world that is full of anxiety and fear.
I’m afraid of losing our friends and family , afraid that our business won’t survive.
The moment is fearful, but in this fear their is hope for the future. The world no longer seems safe, it’s drowning and struggling to breathe. I feel it’s been struggling long before the pandemic started. The world is confused insecure and frightened .
The breathless world is still to be trusted. God still loves us. This love liberates us to live as God’s gifts to others, bringing refreshment and relief to those who suffer. And we are freed to welcome others as God’s gifts to us, receiving all the richness they can bring into our lives.
It was magical moment when Libby trusted enough to hide behind me while I introduced her to a wonderful family that would love and care for her. Except her just the way she was.
Trust is visible, we experience a joy so great that our tails wag. As we overcome our fears we learn to live out our faith to draw on the strength that comes from trusting in Jesus.
Psalm 27:5 Good News Translation
In times of trouble he will shelter me;
he will keep me safe in his Temple
and make me secure on a high rock.
Soil and soul.
The circle is broken and I cannot raise a tune
The fairies have left and they will not return
When the fairies danced on the land the circle was whole
And then you could raise a tune.
Words from a Gaelic song translated into English and published in Alistair Mcintoshs book soil and soul.
There’s a deep well of love that connects the tunes of the heart to our souls.
Our hearts have the capacity to feel vision, to write poetry, to raise a tune so powerful that it must be sung.
When we sing these tunes we do so with an energetic unashamed joy.
It’s so natural that I do not doubt the acoustic rhythms of my soul.
I find this fusion of heart formed notes when I cycle. The rhythm of pedalling, infuses with the seasons of my life, until a tune overflows into fully formed words.
These songs are different to the tunes we sing in church, different to the music that is played on the radio.
A tune so unique that doesn’t conform to the rhythms of life. The songs of the heart are so much more than musical notes.
You don’t sing these notes; you embrace them, you ride into them, you feel them in your hair. They give you balance, stability and freedom.
During this huge time of uncertainty and stress we must look for the songs that unite us. To the tunes that build communities, the melodies of Gods grace .
To equip our hearts and voices our first duty is to STOP and listen to the whispering earth.