Many of us live in well-loved homes which remind us of what we have done in our life. But perhaps we are now finding that we have had enough of our four walls. Our patience is wearing thin. So, what of this picture entitled Patience?
This small painting demands our careful attention. Let’s pause and look closely. A woman sits alone at a card table playing patience. She is fully absorbed. The room is simply furnished and tells of an ordered life: the piano with open music and candled sconces tells of another solitary pursuit, a small bookcase likewise. Flowers and fruit are neatly arranged, even the ginger cat seems settled. Were she to look up she would see the wall clock, to measure time passing, or she might catch a glimpse of herself reflected in the wall mirror over the piano.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the paintings hanging on the walls are charged with significance – for there is nothing accidental here – I don’t think it is an ‘overread’ to see in the portraits that face us the woman’s younger self: with a sister perhaps and, in profile, with her husband. She is, after all, living with her memories. However, for me it is the third painting, which hangs behind her and is reflected in the mirror, which disturbs for it is a painting of the landscape glimpsed through the open door with topiary trees and well-tended privet. It is as though the outside has been brought indoors to be made part of this closed space.
So, is this simply a painting of peaceful contentment? Of the well-ordered life where even memories are fixed in place? Or is there something more? In Patience we discover a tension between contentment and containment, what is outside and what is within. A solitary card game, within an enclosed room, within a formal enclosed garden, bounded by sentry-straight trees that entirely screen the natural landscape beyond.
Within the quiet stillness and thoroughly domestic subject matter we discover an underlying tension: a life enclosed. And yet the door is open, it is a bright summer’s day. Perhaps it is time to find the courage to step outside.
Lord, sometimes our orderly routines are not enough
and we feel ourselves drifting into boredom and frustration.
We feel hemmed in by circumstances
and are not sure what the outcome will be.
Show us the door in our life that is still open
and prepare us to take the risk
of walking into a fresh experience of the familiar.
Lord, we have to live with the cards we are dealt,
help us to make the most of what we have received
and trust you that everything will fall into place
in your good time.
And an afterthought
The keen eyed may have noticed something unsettling about this painting. And it’s all to do with the framing.
It is difficult to see in reproduced form – but it is just possible to discern that this panel is ‘framed’ three times over. Look at the moulded shaping that distorts the rug and the ceiling, the verticals that edge the clock and kink the wall by the door, the horizontals that parallel the curtain valance and distort the cat’s tail.
The artist, PJ Crook, has throughout her career sought to break free of the confines of the traditional frame, allowing her work to spill out; in this case multiplying the traditional moulded surround to articulate and underpin the narrative. So, our painting which explores this tension between contentment and containment is quite literally shaped and moulded; the boundaries are barely visible but will need to be traversed.
This morning BBC Radio introduced ‘Rethink’ – their open discussion about how society and our lives might change for the better after the COVID-19 crisis. At the root of this is one of the biggest questions the UK and the world face: what has the Coronavirus crisis taught us and what should we, individually and collectively, change to improve our lives after it?
‘Rather than analysing what might happen when the world moves beyond the pandemic, this project asks a wide range of thinkers - as well as BBC radio audiences - to consider what they want to happen. It will explore everything from the way we travel to how we assess individual health risks, how we look after the elderly and look out for the young, the future of globalisation, what it means to live a good life, and who we most value and reward in our society.’
help us to rethink –
what we see and how we see it,
who we see and how we see them,
what we use and how we use it,
what we consume and who really pays,
what we spend and how we spend it
and what we want and what we need.
As we stand at the edge of change
may Christ light our way;
may your Kingdom come.
I offered a prayer for World Refugee Week – and then, this morning, found this prayer published yesterday by JPIT.
God of Hope,
We worship you as the God of those in exile,
to whom you hold out the hope of finding peace and security.
We pray for those on a journey away from their homes.
For sisters and brothers on the move who are fearful and hungry and tired,
For those in camps, facing the dangers of COVID-19 without a safe place to isolate.
For those separated from loved ones, holding on to the hope of reunion.
For all at risk of exploitation and trafficking.
We pray for those on the journey of seeking asylum in the UK.
For sisters and brothers struggling to make ends meet with little support.
For those in lockdown, forced to relive the traumas of past experiences.
For those hoping for a better future for themselves, their loved ones and the country they call home,
For all waiting for good news.
Be with everyone on a journey, God of Hope,
And give us the wisdom and perseverance to keep travelling towards your kingdom of peace for all people.
This week is Refugee week. This year’s theme is Journeys of Hope.
For many refugees and asylum seekers, the journey they have been on has been one of hope. Hope for change, hope for refuge, hope to be reunited with those they love.
for a society that welcomes the stranger.
Help us to play our part
in making this hope a reality:
by creating a welcoming environment
in our hearts and our minds
in our churches, our communities
and our nation.
‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.’ Leviticus 19:33-34
Today’s prayer and the thoughts wrapped around it draw on material offered by JPIT (The Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church).
Today in Parliament, under an Urgent Question procedure, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be asked to make a statement on the economic outlook for the UK and the Government’s strategy to protect jobs and the economy. As our nation comes out of Lockdown there is so much to do.
We pray for all those who have power and influence;
all who bear the heavy responsibility of governance.
May they look with compassion,
may they work diligently,
may they seek consensus
and may they walk humbly;
so that we build a nation where none are left behind
and all have sufficient.
On this day, 16 June 1933, the National Industrial Recovery Act became law with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signature. The U.S. New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations. The plan focused on what historians refer to as the "3 Rs": relief for the unemployed and poor, recovery of the economy back to normal levels, and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.
14th June 2020
This prayer is based on Isaiah 40: 28-31, remembering all those who continue to sacrificially care for others, those who have endured months of isolation, and those who face difficult decisions daily about the care of their loved ones.
Everlasting God, God of old and young,
You are the creator of all things,
your wisdom is beyond our understanding,
your ways are far above our ways,
you never grow tired or weary, although we often do.
Sometimes we stumble and fall,
and yet you renew our strength,
your grace lifts us up,
hope energises us; love finds a way.
We pray for those who are downcast or struggling at the moment.
We pray for all in care homes, nursing homes, sheltered housing, hospitals and hospices, for all who love them, and for those who care or provide for them daily.
We thank you for places where older and vulnerable people are loved and valued – and for organisations like MHA.
And we pray that you will help us to cherish the life you have given us, from birth until the end of our earthly lives when you welcome us into eternity.
In your strength, and in your presence,
may we soar on wings like eagles,
run and not grow weary,
walk and not be faint.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
For her thirteenth birthday on 12 June 1942, she was given an autograph book, bound with red-and-white chequered cloth, and with a small lock on the front. The girl, Anne Frank, decided she would use it as a diary and she began writing in it almost immediately. In her entry dated 20 June 1942, she lists many of the restrictions placed upon the lives of the Dutch Jewish population. The following month the family went into hiding. She kept her diary for a little over two years, until the family were discovered. Anne died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February 1945.
Who could have imagined that the scribbled thoughts of girl hidden from the world who died aged 15 would be shared around the world? Who could have foreseen that her life would touch the hearts of future generations? May her hopes help to shape our tomorrows:
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank, from her diary.
we look back and see
horrors we can hardly imagine:
the machinery of government or commence
to degrade and condemn.
Help us to look forward and see
with equal clearly
the despoliation of our age:
the gross inequalities,
the contamination of lives and planet,
that we might work
to improve our world.
Over the next few days MHA Dementia Care Homes will take the first steps to welcome back family and friends of their residents. It will happen in a thoughtful and carefully regulated way. Behind the decision lies the understanding that such visits are vital to the wellbeing of residents. As the largest charity care provider Methodist Homes for the Aged (to borrow the ‘old’ name) are leading the way, and alongside the carer’s support group John’s Campaign, have put together a booklet for visitors. In this document they address the question that so many have lived with through Lockdown – ‘Will my relative still remember me after all this time?’
“For many people the worry of a relative no longer recognising you can be overwhelming. But it is important to stress that despite the time spent apart many people living with dementia will remember their relatives and friends. However, some people living with dementia may struggle at first. If the person with dementia doesn’t recognise you straight away, try not to worry and give your relative time to remember. It may take more than the initial meeting for those memories to be reconnected to you. Also, you might need to: re-introduce yourself and remind them of the relationship between the two of you; consider taking with you an object that you can give to your relative / friend with dementia which will remind them of the connection the two of you have; talk about the distant past first rather than the recent months …
“If, despite all of your attempts your relative doesn’t recognise you remember that their emotions still remain. They will still benefit from seeing your friendly face, hearing your voice, and enjoying your company even if they are not sure who you are.”(Visiting a relative with dementia living in a care home, MHA, June 2020)
We are thankful for the carers and support staff
who have looked after the old and vulnerable in recent months;
those who have had to tend to practical needs
and offer the love that would otherwise have been absent.
As family and friends return
may they find the ‘right’ gentle words
and may patience and smiles be the markers.
The question of the day: to clap or not to clap (the founder of the UK movement Annemarie Plas, said last week that the 10th week of clapping would be a good time for it to end). Each Thursday at 8pm our streets have been filled with noise as we say ‘thank you’ to our keyworkers, all those who have helped to see us through this pandemic.
There’s a long way to go and we have to make this thankfulness a foundation stone for the future we must shape. So, the question for today is do we clap, like spectators and then close the door; or step out (metaphorically, or socially distanced) into the world?
help us to see and to understand
that we are called to be active participants,
not passive audience members,
in Kingdom building.
Be that in:
stay-at-home caring and sharing;
work-a-day decision making;
on the ‘street’ – comforting and encouraging;
or by simply living hopefully.
In all we do may we follow Jesus -
our guide, our strength, our redeemer.