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I’ve just been doing some research for work-related art projects and have discovered the most AMAZING place, just here on our doorstep, with sculpture by the most incredible artists, and a fantastic vision and resource for Scotland…  I’d not heard of it before, although apparently it has only in the last couple of months opened it’s doors to the public.  I wanted to share my discovery of Jupiter Artland with you.  I’m currently planning visits and workshops and more visits and more workshops…

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

The funny thing is, I’d been planning a quick Andy Goldsworthy blog based around an article in The Guardian’s Travel section a couple of weekend’s ago – he’s been steadily installing artworks in mountain huts in a particular part of France, for discovery by visiting walkers.  Never really wanted to go on a walking holiday until I read about it, so I might yet come back and share that particular source of inspiration with you.

I came across this today in my sick-bed internet wanderings (This is my third mini-post today, can you tell I’m getting bored of being unwell?!).  I had heard of Galgael before, and although I’m still exploring what they are about, I’m really drawn to the work they do, the life they lead in Govan.  This little Youtube clip gives a flavour.

There’s a real model of community, of shared life and the sharing of hope, the restoration of dignity and the practical sharing of skills.  We need visionary people, like Colin MacLeod,the man who started up Galgael, so much in our world, and we also need generous-hearted people like those who joined with him to share and to realise the vision.

Okay, so my first RAOK was a washout (although in the end I got to eat all my chocolates myself, so I was happy), but the next day I decided to bring joy to my workplace and take some yummy Green & Blacks chocolate in to the craft class I teach on Fridays.  The previous week there had been grumblings about our centre’s ‘rubbish’ healthy eating policy, which if truth be told isn’t very hard-core anyway.  So I took in the chocolates and watched the pleasure unfold.  The remaining chocolate was shared at the staff meeting and went down pretty well too (although some people discovered they don’t like ‘good’ dark chocolate, philistines…!).

Phew!  Just got to find the right recipients.

Other RAOKs this week have included giving away something I spent a long time making, which a friend coveted and I was glad to give to her. 

But there’s going to be more I’m sure. 

Anyway, this is the big week for The Art of Joy.  If you haven’t already had a look please visit, and if you are anywhere in travellable (is that a word?) distance come along to the opening night of the exhibition this Wednesday night at The Lot, on the Grassmarket in Edinburgh.  It will be fantastic, the artwork looks great and The Lot is a great venue, a lovely building in it’s own right sat at the foot of Edinburgh Castle surrounded by the history and the hubbub of our capital’s heart.

I didn’t manage to do it yesterday, but on my way home from work today I called in to a wee newsagents to buy a drink and some chocolate to sustain me until I got home.  As I chose my chocolate I recalled the RAOK challenge I’d issued myself with, and felt suddenly very foolish and slightly sick at the thought. 

All the same, I bought a packet of Munchies, figuring I could share them with the guys behind the till – one serving, one sort of hanging out.  Paid for my purchases, suddenly very aware of smiling, then, opening the Munchies as I picked them up from the counter I offered them each a sweet, murmuring something vague and ineffectual about it ‘being something me and my friends are trying to do’ (?).  The guy at the till looked dumbfounded.  The other guy looked sort of blank.  I rapidly calculated I’d need to up the charm offensive to get them to take a sweet from me, and simultaneously realised that I’m Not Very Good At This.  The blank and puzzled looks changed to slightly shy smiles, and sort of apologetic ‘thanks but no thanks’.

Never thought my joy-offensive would be turned down!  (I don’t think I was actually offensive)

Ah well, try, try again.  It has bought me some amusement and a nice line in gently-mocking interior monologues today, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. 


Told you we needed a masterclass in this stuff – I certainly seem to.  Maybe I need to be more circumspect in my ‘joy’.

Apparently marriage is on the way out.  I heard this on Monday, on a BBC Radio 4 programme called, “What is a wife?”.

It was a thought-provoking programme, but I also found it mildly infuriating.  The idea of ‘wifeliness’ was looked at, and I have to say it’s not an attractive term and it has little relevance – and few examples- in today’s world for women in the UK.  It has such connotations of domestic subservience, and I can’t find a positive way in which to view it.  However, the actual reality of women in the UK getting married in the first place is itself in decline.  They reckon that by 2011 less than half of the adult population will be married. 

It was interesting to hear women who had, with the rise of feminism in the late 60s and 70s, taken the view that to become married was to tie themself unequally to a man, to take a position of second place that suggested a trade-off.  “You give me money and security and I’ll give you a nice home and food on the table (whilst giving up my right to independent thought and living)”.  To them feminism meant that marriage was out of the question as an aspiration, and irrelevant to the new ideals of modern womanhood. 

I struggled to recognise how they painted marriage though.  I have always assumed that marriage is a statement of faith in and commitment to each other, as opposed to a simple definition of roles.  “Husband” does not, for me, mean provider and dominant decision-maker.  It just means the man I love and have committed to share a life with.  “Wife” similarly does not mean home-maker or dominant child-rearer.  It means I am sharing a life with the man I love.

But for many people today marriage is viewed as simply unnecessary.  There is now no shame in a couple living together in our society.  There is no longer a stigma attached to children ‘born out of wed-lock” (how long since anyone spoke about that?!).  But I have to say I still believe in marriage.  I love being so committed to this one man, and I value the security that I get from knowing we have made vows of equal and equally significant commitment to each other.

These days those few people who do choose to get married (I have friends who are wedding photographers, and don’t get the impression that they have a shortage of business, so maybe ‘few’ is not quite right) face the added likelihood that their marriage may not last.  Marriage rates are falling and divorce rates are rising. 

But this weekend my parents are celebrating their 4oth wedding anniversary.  My dad was actually married once before, but this marriage, the one I was born into is the one he has spent most of his adult life in.  That’s some achievement.  So I’d like to celebrate marriage, celebrate commitment and celebrate the wonderful thing it can be to share a life with someone.

Well today (like many days in my life, it seems) I’m sick.  I think I’ve caught the bug my daughter was so poorly with last week.  After feeling a bit odd at various points yesterday and managing to dismiss them as the outworkings of a busy weekend and not enough sleep, I spent last night feeling increasingly yuck and then trying and failing to get myself functioning this morning. 

As is the way with these things, I find it’s often when I need the most sleep that I get the least.  So during my sleepless hours last night when I awoke feeling unwell I found myself ruminating on the kind of random tangents that the 2ams are so well known for.

One of the random tangents came from a conversation we’d had with a minister friend of ours who was round with his fantastic family on Saturday afternoon.  We’d been joking about my increasing interest in the idea of communal living and how this works itself out in communities we’ve come across.  After considering the areas we’d find most challenging about communal living (pretty much all of it) our friend said that they had approached it from the other direction and basically let people know they had an open house for anyone, whenever.  I wondered if this was an expectation of their role in the church he leads, but apparently not – so many of his congregation had never been inside the church manse until he took up post.  Marla has also spoken in various places on her (fantastic) blog about having doors open to whoever needs them.

As I lay tossing and turning in bed, head and body aching, mind whirring, I began to wonder how I would find communal living, or living with ‘open doors’ when, like today, I was unwell.

Would it be great to know that if I needed something there would likely be someone around to help me out?  Or would I struggle with feeling my space was restricted, that Iwould need to make conversation when I just wanted to lie or sit quietly?  And in terms of reciprocity would I be willing to go into someone else’s house when they were sick and be there for them? I would, but being the over-empathiser that I am, I tend to imagine others share the same feelings as me and wouldn’t welcome my presence.

I am full of admiration for those who open their homes to the world, and can see that actually the physical act of letting someone in the door is not always the big deal.  It’s the opening and sharing of lives which follows which is the real challenge, the real joy and the real act of servanthood and love.

I haven’t made any resolutions this year.  But this area is something I am challenged by and challenged into doing and not merely thinking about.  I intend to work on it this year.  I suspect it will be a lifelong project

I’m really drawn to the idea of living in close community with others, and have been inspired by Shane Claiborne amongst others to consider this as a serious and radical challenge to change.

This website, of the Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco, has really challenged me today.

I’m going to quote wholesale from the ‘Common life’ section, because I really like it and see in it elements of spiritual life which are lacking in how I live just now, and which I hunger for.  I hope the community who produce it don’t mind, I would just like to honour and celebrate what is good that I find there.

Common life

Loving one another

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34
We want to live out this commandment which Jesus gave his disciples. Knowing that Christ’s love for us included going to the cross, we expect that loving each other may demand real and costly sacrifice. We love in this way hoping that by doing so “the world may know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). We hope that self-sacrificing love might be one of the most obvious characteristics of our life together. Through loving one another we seek to provide a place where each is well loved, and to draw others to Christ and his church.Some of the concrete ways we seek to love each other include:

  • keeping the commitments expressed in our covenant
  • seeing each other as family
  • delighting in (liking) each other and enjoying time together
  • living in a households
  • encouragement and accountability
  • praying for each other
  • laughing and weeping with each other
  • living out the “one anothers” (honoring, submitting to, encouraging, reverencing, etc.) 
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33
Thanksgiving Retreat with Friends
The good news of the gospel means that we can now join a new social, political, economic and spiritual order. The Church is meant to be that new order. As Westerners deeply trained in the habits of individualism, we have a hard time living into that new order. To help ourselves understand that radical call of God, we sometimes say that “church ought to be the organizing principle of our lives.” Ways we seek to live that out include:

Common Decision Making

  • use of time
  • jobs
  • openness to counsel concerning dating, marriage, and children
  • stability and calls to go elsewhere

Common Time

  • quality time for one another and the church
  • meals
  • calendar
  • meetings

Common space

  • living together
  • common decisions about living arrangements
  • openness to living with who God gives us, and where God puts us

Common Money

“All who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts 2:44

One of the primary alternative gods in American culture is money. We want put our trust in God rather than in money. Toward that end we commit ourselves to:

  • a spirit of generosity
  • shared finances
  • a similar standard of living
  • helping those in need
Man, does this challenge me! 
  • Common decision making – in a culture which promotes and develops independence this would be a challenging one to adapt to.  I am curious as to how it would work practically, based on the suggested areas it might cover.  How would I take it if I was expected to be ever ready to take the advice and counsel of others in relation to my marriage, or parenting?  These are boundaried areas in our life just now.  I am happy to accept advice when I have asked for it, but they feel like private areas which others are privileged to have insight into.  Yet when I daydream about, for example, living in close community with our small group members and try to get my head around that, I see how it could work, and how valuable it might be.
  • Common time – this I love unreservedly.  I love our small group coming round and hanging out over a meal, I love joining with the larger church to celebrate God’s goodness, and the idea of shared and purposeful time to be together as a community – as well as informal ‘just being in the same place’ gatherings – is very attractive.  But at the moment my time, on a day to day basis, is mine to order as I will.  Living in close community, like a shared house or shared collection of nearby houses, where there would be perhaps daily times to gather would impose some discipline into that.  I’m not that disciplined in many ways, so I guess that could only be a good thing.
  • Common space – at the moment this is the one which on a practical level I am enjoying pondering.  Would everyone have their own private space to retreat to?  How would it work for families, where they (and I mean we!) would need (want?) their own separate bedrooms as well as a shared family space.  So when I am out and about and spy a disused hotel, I find myself thinking “hmmm, plenty of bedrooms but how about living space?  I wonder how it’s divided up inside?” .  There’s a big house for sale down the road from us just now, and it’s far too posh for this kind of thing but I’m still tempted to check out the room divisions to see if it has potential.  And I have seen a smallish slightly shabby looking hotel for sale (or perhaps lease, must pay attention next time I pass it).
  • Common money – the equitableness of this is so attractive.  We had fun at small group talking about the believers in Acts sharing everything, and debating what we would find hardest and easiest to share.  But in the context of a shared house, for example, it makes such sense to share stuff.  Perhaps less cars would be required (or just a big people carrier!).  A shared library of books would liberate duplicate copies for others to benefit from.  To live in this way demands generosity in order for the whole project to work, any other approach would be self-defeating.

So this is what’s on my mind just now.  There are so many communities out there doing this kind of stuff, seeking to honour God and transform their own lives and their surrounding communities by their way of life.  The biggest challenge, the biggest barrier to stepping out and doing this is, well, me.  To contemplate leaving our beloved home, and the community we’ve come to love is at the moment unthinkable.  And yet I’m still so drawn to it.  I can see how making a decision to do this would free up resources and even time to find purposeful ways to serve God, to just spend time alongside those in the surrounding community. 

3 miles an hour might even become an attainable speed limit for living.

July 2018
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