Home is a tricky concept. I once told someone that I had a homeless mind – a mind that isn’t root anywhere (geographically speaking) and so finds it hard to root itself in the world in general. One of my favourite writers, the great Czech Milan Kundera, writes: In the mind of a woman for whom no place is home the thought of an end to all flight is unbearable’. For years this sat like a personal mantra but there is one fundamental problem with it – at least, when you start to look through the lens of a Christian and a Theologian.
Home is not a spatial entity, nor is it a temporal one. That place you go to every night and go to bed is a home, sure, but at the same time it isn’t. If you buy a travelcard on the London Underground it comes in a small wallet that looks like this:
It’s a lovely sentiment. I live in a student block, in a room that’s a bit like a cupboard. I’m working hard to make it less clinical – posters, fairy lights, family photos, personal trinkets – but it really is still a university room that I will move out of in a few months time (and into another similarly clinical cupboard). For now, it’s ‘home’. It’ll do.
But I don’t agree with it – not ‘ultimately’. How fleeting and transient is our time here, in our little homes. We’re killing time until we go Home. Capital H. Our home is in the love of the Lord. Wherever we are we are home if we love and trust in Him. Consider Psalm 91:
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”
To me, God can be a duvet – warm and comforting, wrapping me up safely. He’s also a bubble. We are safe and protected in Him.
He’s our home. Home is where you can always run to, you can always feel safe, you can always, always find love and complete acceptance.
But above all this God is love. Pure and unadulterated. Raw and unconditional. Incredible, terrifying and true.
When I am having a bad day I wear my rosary beads around my wrist. I am not a Catholic, but I still have a rosary to comfort me, to use in prayer, to hold onto. It was a present from a good friend of mine, who picked it for me in St Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal. I’m not sure if the picture is clear enough to see, but each bead is a small red love-heart. I love that about it.
My rosary is, to me, a source of great comfort – to have something in your hands to touch, to knead, to cling to. I wrap it around my wrist, hold the cross tight in my hand and pretend it is a bracelet, knowing it is not and I am not wearing it as one. I would like to mention now, so as to make this point clear for my Catholic brothers and sisters, that I do not think of my rosary as a fashion accessory. That is not my intention.
We cling to strange things sometimes. Rosaries, holding crosses, the small silver saints medal around your neck… it’s all the same. That small piece of comfort that reminds us of the massive comfort that is to be found in Jesus Christ. I took Communion earlier. Wafer and wine – not what I’m used to (Methodists tend to go for bread and grape juice). I am not a fan of wafer but I was in Durham Cathedral. I held the wafer in my mouth as I took the wine. The two mingled. I held them without swallowing for a long time. I have never done that before but I felt the need to today. The wine and wafer became sweet in my mouth. I thought of Ezekiel.
A friend of mine – not a Christian – carries a set of Greek worry beads (or κομπολόι) in her pocket. They jangle beautifully and she uses them to calm her mind and meditate when times get stressful. She counts off her worries and stresses, her thanks and blessings on them. κομπολόι are a secular object; to her they are almost religious.
We all need something. To hold, to cling to, to remind us that we can take a moment to breathe. My beads give me pause to stand in the presence of Christ and say nothing, be nothing but myself. And be completely naked in my silence.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you asthe world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
It is only now I am fully learning how desperately I need the peace that the Lord Jesus offers. I cannot carry on in this life without it. I wonder how anyone does.
A night prayer:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the lord my soul to keep
Thy Love protect me through the night
and wake me with the morning light.
This is not a particularly theological post but I love art and this is something that’s been playing on my mind recently.
I have fat days. Oh, don’t we all? Being a young woman in the 21st Century West it’s almost impossible not to. We are told we are the wrong shape or height or dress size or bra size or pretty much anything else about our bodies from the time we’re old enough to think! Magazines, websites, films, music… it’s all image-obsessed. Someone once told me that, in order to be considered beautiful I would need to lose at least 3 stone. 3 STONE?! You’ve got to be kidding. I’m 5ft8.5 with a broadish frame . I’d look ridiculous if I lost 3 stone. I don’t even think I could do it. Incidentally, here’s a photo of me taken at New Year. I don’t include it for vanity purposes, but to illustrate why (to my mind) that person was wrong to think me obese.
I used to care – because I used to think it was important. Now I realise it does not matter one jot if you are bigger or smaller or whatever. No one whose opinion matters cares and anyone who does care doesn’t matter. If you are healthy and happy then what’s a few wobbly bits?
God doesn’t care. He does not care one bit. He cares that you are good to your body, that you love it and care for it and treat it right. But dress size? Bra size? BMI? Nah, that’s not important.
But what I really wanted to say in this post concerns a Flemish artist by the name of Pieter Paul Rubens. Working in the 17th Century, Rubens painted some of the most beautiful and sensual scenes I have ever seen. His work is exquisite, he paints women with a passion and sensual intensity that few other artists seem to manage. I am a big fan of Rubens. But there’s one thing above all that stands out for me about his work. We praise it, we coo over how beautiful his women are. Take a look at these paintings.
See what I mean? Beautiful and sensual and utterly exquisite women… with wobbly bits. Briliant. A lot of Rubens’ pictures are based on works by Titian, who also painted his women as a similar shape.
When you have a ‘fat day’, remember these few things:
1. Rubens painted some of the most beautiful women ever and they wobble.
2. God doesn’t care how big you are and His is the only opinion that matters. He’d love you whatever you looked like. BUT! He made you and you are beautiful in his sight BECAUSE you are a God-made creation, perfectly crafted and wonderful just the way you are.
3. We all get fat days – that’s normal. Blame the media, put on your big girl pants and get over it.
4. The best way to hide tubby bits is to smile. My mum told me that and it’s remarkably effective.
Suggested age range: Teenage and up.
Suitable for: Individuals or groups.
Pre-requisites for effective use of the resource: A basic knowledge of Facebook. No prior knowledge of Biblical texts is needed.
This resource aims to encourage Biblical Literacy by asking the participants to read a text in depth and to understand the text on a level that will allow them to then rewrite the story. As this activity is, understandably, much easier with texts that are mostly narrative – and also well-known – the Old Testament provides a wealth of material.
The activity proceeds thus:
- Identify and read a Bible story – a story that is heavily narrative works best. I have included three examples of possible stories: Jacob wrestling with God (Genesis 32:24-32), Elisha and the bears (2 Kings 2:22-23) and the relationship of Hosea and Gomer (Hosea 1-3).
- Take the time to read the story through a few times and in a few different translations. It is advisable to read translations that are significantly different. For example, comparing a more scholarly translation (such as the NRSV) with a Bible written in vernacular language (such as The Message). This will allow participants to grasp the diversity of biblical texts and translations.
- Consider the action within the story, including any dialogue. Think about the events which seem most important. Construct a timeline of actions and dialogues – think about the way the story would be if you saw it acted out as a play.
- Using the model of a Facebook News Feed, condense the story’s key facts and dialogue. Think about what the characters might look like and how they might speak/type. The story can utilise all available Facebook ‘apps’ – including relationships, wall posts, status messages, ‘likes’, family listings, blog posts and Places. Use time stamps if you wish. Remember that Facebook feeds read from bottom to top.
This can be done in several ways – either with each individual taking on a whole story to construct by themselves or by giving each participant a separate ‘character’ within a story and creating the story as a ‘techno-play’ of sorts.
- There are many verses that would work well for this activity, but below is a list of suggestions:
- Adam and Eve – Genesis 2:7 – 3:24
- Noah and the Ark – Genesis 6:11 – 8:22
- The Judgement of Solomon – 1 Kings 3:16-28
- Daniel in the Lion’s Den – Daniel 6
- Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter – Mark 5:21-43
- Jesus heals the Gerasene Demoniac – Luke 8:26-39
- The Day of Pentecost – Acts 2
The completed Bible News Feeds can then be discussed among the group – different participants will draw different things out of the texts as differing life experiences will alter the way each participant views the texts.
“Media. I think I have heard of her. Isn’t she the one who killed her children?”
“Different woman,” said Mr. Nancy. “Same deal.”
British novelist Neil Gaiman has a way with Gods. He anthropomorphises them. He makes them tangible and visible. An incarnation, of sorts. He takes an old idea and gives it life. Recently the idea of Media has been in my head a lot. All this pondering led me back to one of my favourite books – Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Set in an alternate America, Gods walk around with ordinary people. The Gods that Gaiman presents come from every world religion and mythology, ruled over by the All-Father, Odin. They are found in all manner of places; the Egyptian Gods of the underworld have set up a Funeral Parlour (‘Ibis and Jacquel. A Family Firm. Funeral Parlour since 1863’) in Cairo, Illinois; The Queen of Sheba is a prostitute in Los Angeles; Eostre, pagan goddess of the dawn, is a hippy in San Francisco. Shadow, the novel’s protagonist, travels across the country with Odin (aka Mr Wednesday) to warn these old Gods of a new threat. They are at war with a new generation of deities, the new Gods, who are threatening takeover of the USA.
Throughout the text we are introduced to a host of new Gods. A ‘fat young man… with a spattering of acne [glistening] on one cheek… and eyes that glint with the green of an antique computer monitor’ becomes the Internet personified. ‘A perfectly made-up, perfectly coiffed’ woman named Media tells the novel’s protagonist, Shadow that she is ‘the little shrine the family gathers around to adore… what people are sacrificing to’.