Friday, 14 June 2013


You know how there are some books that if you got it when you read the title, you probably don’t really need to read the whole book?  I’ve had some in that category sit on my shelves for decades, finally moved on to the Oxfam bookshop when I faced up to the reality that I only really needed the title.

For example ~

The Courage to Be (Paul Tillich)

Becoming Who I Am (Harry Williams)

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Thomas Merton)

Well, that last title is almost a book by itself!  Such a big idea – the guilty bystander!  Something that so needed saying!  In a world that speaks meaninglessly of innocent bystanders, a recognition of the reality that (as Edmund Burke put it) all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  Guilty bystanders. 

But I did read a bit of that book by accident the other day, when I came across this quotation from it online:

"To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times. Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace."

Merton, you said it!!
Yes, yes, and a million times yes.

On reflection today, I decided he was recommending serenity.

But – O worlds within worlds – there is more than mere happenstance in my thus connecting the words REFLECTION and SERENITY.

I recommend Serenity too.

Because at eleven o’clock this morning, as I sat on the gold baroque sofa under the sumptuous gathered fabric ceiling with its ruby chandelier (life’s like that in Hastings), in Serenity Hair  & Beauty Salon waiting for Luke – whom I’d never met – to make his critical inspection of what a year’s rough hacking with blunt kitchen scissors had done to my hair, I heard the following conversation:

Small boy: Flexion!  Flexion!  Flexionflexionflexion!
Mother: Reflection.
Small boy: Flexion!
Mother: Reflection.
Small boy: Flexion!
Mother: Re
Small boy: Flexion!
Mother: Re
Small boy: Flexion!
Mother: Re
Small boy: Flexion!
Mother: Re
Small boy: Flexion! Flexion!

Small boy one, mother nil.

I thought this could go on for some time.  In Hastings the interior décor may be unsurpassed, but at times the conversation lacks sparkle.

But Luke – who, it transpired, worked in the WEST END (of London, US and Aussies – that’s special!) before his feet brought him back to the edge of the ocean in Sussex where his life really belongs – then appeared.  What a relief!  He likes messy hair too!  No blow-drying into a smooth busby!  No wax!  Wax?  I know.  Funny, isn’t it.  What next?   He said he’d put serum on my hair when he was done, and in a quiet murmur echoed my ‘Whatever’ in mock despair.

He did well, I think, Luke.   Opinions?


Ganeidaz Knot said...

Luke did very well.

And I hate conversations that go nowhere.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0D x

Julie B. said...

Beauteous. xo

Daisyanon said...

It is good. Very good!

Pen Wilcock said...

There you are, Luke! The ladies like it!

Pilgrim said...

I have books like that, too. I am so impressed you were able to pry them out of the house. Paul Tournier, Lewis Smedes...

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Took me a long time to spot the problem . . .

Buzzfloyd said...

I thought your hair looked particularly nice when we passed in the street earlier. Now I know why.

(Also, my verification words - 'graLice admitted'... Say what?)

Pen Wilcock said...

Gralice, Hebiona, Rosember - whatever.

rebecca said...

Lovely! Will you be covering it?

Rebecca said...

Oh...and I mean to add that I recently returned from a short retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani which claims Merton :)

Anonymous said...

Luke did very well. Awesome picture :-D

Kathryn said...

Your new "do" does look good! It looks light and cool. I just had my hair cut very, very short for the summer. I'll do almost anything to stay cool.

With regard to the parent-child conversation, I experienced something similar years ago while looking for patterns in a fabric store. A little girl kept repeating "I'm tired. I want to go home." Her mother either ignored her or said "Just another minute." My daughter, then about 15, eased her hand up onto my arm and began to gently pat it whenever the words were heard. She knew I was going to blow if someone didn't leave--soon! To this day when she wants to move me along or remind me to cool off, she repeats the same words with an exaggerated whine. We both laugh and get on with it. How well she knows me!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi friends - thank you! xx

Rebecca - as I feel so drawn to wearing my podwigs (and I have a really pretty one that Jenna made me), I shall keep them and wear them from time to time.

But in recent times I have felt again the call to preach. After a couple of years exploring this, I am once again going to be preaching in church.
This has made me look again - soul searching, I mean not just mulling over - the same old issues that have bugged me so long about headcovering, the role of women, women preaching and authority, and the sense in which we discover the authoritative voice of the Spirit in the Bible.

As you know, I love the whole world of modest and Plain dress - the Amish, the Mennonites, the Conservative Quakers, the Orthodox Church. I find their ways beautiful. And I love the monastic way, and the peaceful self-effacing traditional dress of nuns.

But if I am absolutely honest, it is the aesthetic I love. Aesthetic and spirituality are closely linked but they are not the same.

Because I am to be anointed as a sister in the Servants With Jesus, and because I will be preaching again, I have had to search my heart and ask the Lord Jesus very carefully and clearly for guidance about this. Guidance for me, I mean - not for the whole world.

And I have (tentatively) concluded that:
1) I am called to the simplest possible expression of my faith - the fewest possession, the most basic (modest) wardrobe.
2) I believe that 'in Christ there is neither male nor female'; I am at peace with women in every level of ministry.
3)My peace and wholeness lies in being just a person, in Jesus - not a type or a category; not sectarian. Just me.

So I have decided (and you know me, I do change my mind on this!) to not wear my podwigs all the time. I am being careful how I say this - I don't want it to be an 'always' or 'never' thing.

In a day or two I'll write a bit more about my forthcoming anointing as a sister in the Servants With Jesus, and maybe look at some of these issues then.

Anonymous said...

Great new look! Lightens you up, makes you look younger.
He did well indeed!


Ganeidaz Knot said...

Please comment on this! I do feel that I was asked to cover but am wondering now if that call has changed. It is fine on the island where I am known but is easily misunderstood so I too am rethinking this issue.

And my verification? nhourcha prophetic

Pen Wilcock said...


Yes, I will write a post on this - probably next week when I've finished editing this book and ordered my thoughts a bit - because the thing is (as you know) the covering is just the tip of the iceberg; it's about the whole span and thrust of scriptural imperative, how we understand and respond to that, and how we interpret living biblically in a world culturally different from that in which the scriptures we rely on for authority were formed.
Yes, I will write about it. x

Lynda said...

I too look forward to your latest thoughts on covering as I seem to be at that 'crossroad'...again!!(sigh)

Also seems to be the time that I (and some other blogger friends) question the relevance of our blogs and blogging.

I like the hair! Just today I thought...will I get mine cut...again...?? (more sighing)

Oh to just be able to settle on one thing or the other!


Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Hi friend xx

Linda said...

Love it.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

Linda said...

When I look at your hairdo, I see that I can see your wisdom behind your face that I can't see in the other picture. Does that make sense, your you is more visible. And by you, that would also include your spirituality, because I don't mean anything about vanity.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) I think 'If in doubt, simplify' is a good rule to live by: it struck me that this is simpler - more straightforward, not tangled in the complexities of religious language and meaning, different factions of churchmanship. Just a person.

Anekha said...

I agree with Linda. In this photo I can see more of you. There is more fire and power coming through. Paradoxically this seems to show more simplicity than with your podwigs on. You look beautiful. the hair is lovely and simple and natural.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Yes, after some thought I came to the same conclusion about the podwigs and simplicity. xx