Our cat, Prince, is loving lockdown! Prince, who is a very loved part of our family, now regards his three humans to be at his beck and call night and day. He has a range of techniques to get our attention. When outside wanting to come in, he jumps onto the window sill of my study, so I can see him looking soulful. If I choose to ignore him, he will scratch and meow at the back door nearby, with increasing intensity. At night-time when he is inside, wanting to go out, he employs more dastardly techniques. He knocks our treasures over, taps sleeping faces with his paw, and even jumps onto our daughter! He begins gently, but if we ignore him, he communicates with more and more determination. Maybe, this sounds familiar to you, and maybe it’s not a cat you’re thinking about…
Our communication skills are under the spotlight during lockdown. Being forced to live together much more intensively, will show up some cracks in our relationships. Many households are experiencing tension, frequently aroused by poor communication. Learning to adapt to life in a more difficult environment creates substantial challenges for everyone. In pre-marriage counselling, new couples are encouraged to adopt a ‘we’ mentality to life. How do they create wins for both of them? Good communication skills are required to produce satisfying outcomes. Many people are good at expressing what they want, but fewer listen as well. Effective listening takes more than hearing the words spoken. Listening from the heart goes deeper: tuning into the emotions and non-expressed words, voice inflection and volume, reading body language and facial expressions. Encouraging a conversation partner to say what is difficult for them to express, with affirming nods and noises, using open, sensitive questions, while suspending judgement, kindly elicits more specific information.
When Prince meows, we don’t always run to him. When he waits patiently for us to come, he gets a cuddle or a reward. Likewise, listening well doesn’t mean agreeing with everything we hear. However, listening patiently to understand each other’s viewpoint tends to help defuse a situation. Taking time to cool down and reflect upon our response, gives an even better chance to weigh our desires and rights with others’ fairly.
Take the opportunity to upskill your listening during lockdown. It’s the perfect time to do so!
Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. (The Bible, James 1:19 GNT)
Leaving the Shore
We stood admiring the peaceful myriad of boats anchored in Middle Harbour. My husband and myself were preparing our next ‘Walk and Wonder’ event, which often incorporates a group discussion midway, over a snack and a coffee if we’re in luck. So, we lingered, sampling the coffee from the van there, as good group leaders do! As we sipped, we wondered, how many of those boats remained there permanently and how many still ventured out to sea? And what about us, were we still ‘venturing’?
Crossing from Adelaide to Sydney seven years ago was so enlivening! Significant risks and complexities were involved, but we felt ‘called’ to this endeavour, so we examined it from many angles. Consultations with family members, mentors and trusted friends, future employers in situ, all undergirded by prayerful consideration, occurred. Then we pulled up the anchor! We are so glad we did. It felt like we had been transported into a new and refreshed life, while retaining important links to the ‘old’ one.
Anchors in our lives keep us stable and sane. Without some constants, life is tiring and too many changes are counter-productive. However, if there is no movement happening anywhere, I question whether this is the best life can be? We can become too comfortable and forget what it’s like to live with uncertainty, so change becomes something to fear. Fear can limit us from taking steps that would be highly beneficial for us and for others.
What stable areas of your life no longer serve you and those around you well? Could they do with some rocking? Small movements are a helpful start, if fear has taken hold. Having a friend on the new journey is beneficial too, although not essential. Getting involved in your local community may be a safe place to begin. Or are there are bigger changes to consider? Discussing them with someone who cares about you, can help move them ahead.
As your Community Chaplain, I may be able to assist you. I can be an independent sounding board if you are considering making changes to your life. I also host various groups where people enjoy meeting and including others. Why not check out Middle Harbour over a coffee and conversation with us when we can next walk there? Contact me for more details.
“A ship in harbour is safe but that is not what ships are built for” - John A Shedd, 1928
Lament for our Earth
Our Friday Explore group chose to express their lament for our Earth. We are enjoying using Earth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude through Intimacy with Nature by Christine Valters Paintner, so it's no real surprise! You can hear the different voices in this lament, but the desire is similar throughout. This lament will be utilised as a part of our Sacred Space Online gathering on 22/8/21.
O God, One-ness, creator of all creatures great and small
You are the divine artist
Why do you let us rub out all this beauty you’ve put
The destruction we make on your masterpiece,
Why do you allow it?
We need your help God,
We need your encouragement to speak out against the continual hurt to our world in our time and in the past.
We have been blessed by you in our own lives, but this has not happened for everyone in our world.
We must accept that our comfortable lives are being paid for by the continuing negative impact on our natural world.
Lord, Hear the voice of the trees:
I know you hear my prayers, my griefs, my concerns.
You give me sunshine, rain, and clean air so that my leaf structures can fully use these gifts of life.
For the birds that nestle in my nooks and crannies, eat my fruit and sing to their heart’s content.
For the bees that buzz my flowers, and carry my pollen to other plants.
Help us, your people, to cooperate with You - to be your hands and feet to restore life and justice to the whole Earth in all its fullness.
Let us be life-bringers as partners with You and all creation.
For the creation reflects your beauty and is full of delight and healing.
Let all creation give praise to You for all eternity.
Written by the Friday Explore Group
Lament and Hope
The practice of lament is an ancient one, which psychology still finds relevant today. It is the expression of grief and sadness, in order to let them go. Larry Culliford in 'Psychology Today' notes:
Without lamentation, without the emotional healing process advancing towards resolution, this (assimilating our losses - ed.) cannot happen; in which case, misery can only persist.
Surely, this is a season for lament with so much pain surrounding us. Our own experience here in Sydney, of an ongoing lockdown due to COVID-19, is reason enough. Adding to that the devastating climate crisis, and the wars and woes of the world, threatens to overwhelm us with despair.
The Bible contains not only a whole book of lament ('Lamentations'), but utilises this ancient wisdom often, especially in the Psalms, the book of poetry, largely attributed to the great Jewish King David (c.1000 BCE). Hence, people from our Explore groups worked together to express our lament regarding our own pain. I will share one lament at a time (with their permission), hoping it may help to give voice to your grief, so that you may pass through that door, into hope.
Lament for the Great Barrier Reef
Our Creator and Salvation, Source of Love and Peace.
We groan at the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef that you made, as such a wonder of the world. Each place where it is ruined may be lost forever. Our children and grandchildren may never see it in its glory. Like a shadow of what was.
We know Lord you are a creator, and we have witnessed regeneration occur after fires and floods. May we be wise in how we care for our land and sea, creating an environment for regrowth.
Let this wave of climate change pass over our reef gently and without further damage.
Merciful Creator, return peoples' hearts to the wonder of this unique, underwater beauty. Have mercy on us and help us to restore what has been lost, so we may witness your splendour and diversity again.
May we know that you are the Lord of the deep
May we see your light in the dance of colour
May we care for the good gift that you have entrusted us with.
To You be all praise, honour and glory, our Creator and our God.
A joint work of the Wednesday Eco Explore Group
The articles here were written by Peter Andrews on behalf of the Chaplaincy Team from beginning 2023.