Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Picture that!



Friends of ours were up on the Malvern Hills the other day. And from their sharing on Facebook (yes, I do look at Facebook from time to time!) came this beautiful photograph. I have their permission to share it with you, dear reader. It is Hope, pictured. Last night, I was watching an inspiring TV program about the history of British photography. In it, celebrated newspaper photographer and picture editor Eamonn McCabe took us back to the beginning of this wonderful art form... all the way back to the 1830s when the first photograph was taken. He reminded us that the word photography means, quite specifically, 'drawing with light' - from the Greek for light (photos) and drawing (graphe). In the days before digital (only so recent really), the art and science of photography was all about using chemicals and plates which turned a negative into a positive.

Light-drawing is a wonderful way of thinking about photography. 

Might it be for us, this Lent, a way of describing our vocations as Christians. We are called to be image bearers who draw or animate our lives with the light of Christ.

Where might we see such image bearers animating the light of Christ? Here is one story. This evening, at the Warley Deanery Synod we heard of an inspirational charity - Safe Families for Children - where volunteers from 563 churches nationwide are supporting 766 families (1,874 children) who are struggling. The charity has spread to Sandwell. And Kay, its co-ordinator in the Black Country, told us stories of the kind of vital befriending and support opportunities there are to help families back on their feet. 

Social workers in children's services are so hard-pressed these days that they only have time to prioritise children where intervention (such as taking children into care to protect them from harm) is needed in an emergency. Safe Families is working with the council to provide a safety net for families to prevent that kind of intervention from happening further down the line. 

Safe Families for Children supports families going through difficult times, reducing the flow of children into foster care. Single parents dealing with unemployment or illness can be lifted simply through one kind act of helping to clean the house or taking the children out to play in the park. Light-bringers can help a hard-pressed mother who simply needs a cup of tea and a chat. Such volunteers are having life-changing effects on many families.

Hope: picture that! (And all at a Deanery Synod - who says such meetings are dry, boring and irrelevant?)


  1. Where are pictures of hope today, which is International Women's Day?

    Hope begins with Christ. So I turn to the Bible to read again one of the most important passages in the Gospels for me: the healing of the woman with haemorrhages (Mark 5 v.25-43). The man, Jesus, is touched by a woman whose menstruation has caused her serious health problems for many years and is healed. Our monthly periods cause us women so many physical and mental difficulties for years of our lives, so it is very easy to understand this woman's desperation in seeking relief from her suffering. Jesus is not flippant or patronising towards her in his comments or attitude but gives her dignity, restores us, calls her "Daughter". This is a picture of hope for women across the world, especially those who live in cultures where periods are still considered to make you unclean and restrict what you are allowed to do. Jesus brings hope and sets women free from that stigma.

    From the word of God I then turned to the voice of wise women by listening to BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour which was marking this day of celebration by listening to women's inspiring stories of hope from around the world. It is worth listening to on catch up. We heard stories from anti-female genital mutilation campaigners who are making a difference, women who have worked in Syrian refugee camps, Yazidi women who have escaped sex slavery. From desperate situations they have found hope and now work to bring hope to others in a variety of ways. One woman from South Africa spoke of how she was gang raped at the age of 15, infected by her partner with HIV at 19, but is now happily married and working with children who are HIV positive or live with AIDS. That is a powerful and inspiring picture of hope in action.

    A text then arrived from a young woman I love very much, my daughter. She and I both practise yoga and follow a particular online teacher who is recommending, that on this special day, we all practise the "goddess posture". We find yoga restores our bodies and minds, and hope, when we can sometimes feel overwhelmed. So another a picture of hope is the yogi goddess. Here's the link. Have a go!

    There are so many pictures of hope around us, but like so many things we often need others to point them out and help us to see them, and today I'm particularly grateful for all the women in my life who continue to do that for me. Their photos would make a very good picture of hope.

    This prayer is written by Janet Morley from her book All Desires Known:
    Blessed be God
    who has not made me a man,
    but created me a woman according to her will:
    who sustains me with sisters;
    who grounds me with friends;
    who blesses me with desire;
    and gives me to delight in women,
    and to struggle with them,
    for the enlarging of my soul
    and the recovery of her world
    to the glory of her holy name, Amen.

  2. I looked up some of the verses where rainbows are mentioned in the Bible. Here are a few.

    Genesis 9:12-13 ESV

    And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

    Genesis 9:8-16 ESV

    Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: ...

    Revelation 10:1 ESV

    Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

    Ezekiel 1:28 ESV

    Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

    Genesis 9:16 ESV

    When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

    Revelation 4:3 ESV

    And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.
    As I read these verses, I wondered how many times I had read them, and not noriced them. I wonder how many times too, God speaks to us or nudges us with glimpses of heaven and we don't notice. So I pray,
    Dear Lord Jesus, help me see your signs of hope and to hear your voice when you speak to me. Amen