Sunday, 31 July 2011

A one hour retreat

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There is nothing as rejuvenating as a day or more on retreat. But today, one hour in a quiet part of the forest, by myself has been a retreat.

No sounds except the birds and movement of trees in the breeze.

No thoughts except the wonder of the beauty and life around me.

No distractions from just 'being'.

No need to rush off.

No goal.

Just me, 
in the forest, 
at peace and in peace.


Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Grace in action

We spent the day at Mudeford Quay today surrounded by swans.  

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For the first hour the harbour was tranquil, very little waves or boat movement.  But at midday the tide turned and suddenly the harbour was a flurry of eddies and waves.

The swans though showed no sign of the extra effort required; they continued to float along gracefully whilst underneath they must have been working like mad.

I am no swan, but I aspire to the grace these displayed.

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We are like a meadow of flowers

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White, purple, yellow, green
Each individual, each to be seen
Together a picture, a myriad of colour,
Each section matters, one to another,
Difference is beauty, wholeness is all,
Every one counts, no one can fall,

The meadow's a perfect balance of life,
As are our lives in pleasure and strife,
There is a plan, a picture, a chart,
Each of us being, following our heart,
Next time you're unsure of your place in this world,
Remember the meadow with colours of bold.

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

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I don't often review books; but this one has touched me deeply and I feel moved to share.

I think this book was part of a "list" of summer reads but I can't be sure.  What I do know is that I'm thrilled to have stumbled upon it.

The book is a thriller, a crime novel; but more than that it's a love story about sisters.  It has two important threads running through it which stand alone yet inter-weave and ultimately make the ending unmissable.

The characters are so real, I feel like I know them as friends; and certainly I'd be thrilled to meet them for a coffee.

The thriller aspect is captivating.  I read the second half in a day, barely able to put the book down as I was caught up in it.

The love story is beautiful and emotionally vivid.  I laughed, cried and felt the different relationships both between the sisters and with the other characters.

It's a beach read.
A commuting on the train read.
A curled up in bed read.

It's a must read!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Sunsets; do they need explaining?

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Yesterday I took this photo of the sky as sunset approached. The photo does not do the actual effect justice, but I won't let that dampen my thoughts.  

The scene of the sky in a myriad of colours struck me in it's beauty, it's majesty, it's simple gloriousness.

Today I heard a scientific explanation of the colours in a sunset.  The facts somehow depleted the awe and reduced the spectacular. 

I love science, crave facts, search for factual documentaries and read the New Scientist.  But more and more I'm reminded that the beauty of our world does not need to be explained; it is a pleasure to rejoice in.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

He's still watching me

This photo takes me back to my first time 'hearing' from God.
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I saw it in the rearview mirror and it stopped me.  I got out of the car and took the photo.  

God is still watching me, and it's great to get reminders like this every now and then.

What are your reminders?

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Celebrating Construction Project

The press is always quick to jump on construction projects when they overrun and overspend.  As an industry it's expected, anticipated and accepted to have the bad press.

Well today it'd be nice to see some positive press about the fantastic successes that construction projects achieve; just look at the London2012 venues!

They are stunning pieces of engineering.
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They are on schedule.
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They should be celebrated.
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Celebrated as the local news is doing for the A3 Hindhead Tunnel which will today open to traffic.  This massive piece of engineering will remove the traffic from the edge of the SSSI Devil's Punch Bowl and instead route it underground through amazing tunnels.  

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Come on national news, let's celebrate!
Construction industry, you rock!

Yes I'm biased!  I was a civil engineer prior to motherhood and I worked on hundreds of construction projects including the Hindhead Tunnel.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

God the Father; us the kids

Being on holiday gives me time.  
Time to think.  
Time to reflect.
Time to watch Mike and Rachel.
Time to see the situations as they are.

One of those situations is the endless bickering between Mike and Rachel.  A father trying to direct his child safely and sensibly through life; a daughter trying to find her own way and see what works best.  It's a timeless parent and child dance; one repeated across species, across millennia.  

Today, it's really struck a cord with me.

We are born into the safe keeping of adults who will nurture us through the challenges of childhood and into adulthood.  We are expected to challenge our boundaries.  They are expected to keep those boundaries firm and to catch us when we fall.  In this process we learn, as children, how to function in relationships and society.

In the same way God is our Father.

He has our boundaries clearly established for us; and he expects us to push them and then come back for forgiveness when we admit wrongdoing.

He allows us to make our mistakes; and he is there to catch us when we fall.

He watches us closely and hopes that we remember to turn to Him when we need help.

The difference in the analogies is that God never expects us to grow up and not need Him.  He expects that we know that we can always turn to Him, our Father.

Sometimes I am very like a young child of God; I rebel and push and make mighty mistakes and then run home desperately looking for help.  Other times I'm more mature; I try to listen to my Father and follow His guidance.

I am a child of God; so are you.
He loves me whichever path I'm on; and He loves you.  
I am loved by God my Father; so are you.

So ask yourself; are you a child or an adult today?
Or perhaps a teenager?

Preachers as comedians

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Here's a thought; if stand up comedians are the new preachers, then why don't we preachers be the new comedians.

It seems far fetched I know, but can you imagine if all the preachers in the land took the good news to where people are.  

We could take slots on a Friday night down the local pub or social club.  Or turn thought for the day into anecdote of the day.  We could actively encourage feedback and be rated on our style.  

I do not mean that we would make light of scripture or God; I mean we could go out and be different in our presentation style.  We would have to think more clearly about our faith and our message, we would be expecting hecklers and I can only see that as s good thing, if terrifying.

OK, maybe I'd like to back out now, but I'll push on...

- We could present the good news as one liners about salvation.
- We could share hilarious anecdotes of our lives with Christ.
- We could improvise on scripture shouted out from the audience.
- We could even challenge assumptions without people realising.

Just imagine!
We could reach people by the hundreds and thousands.  We could meet people where they are and in their own way.  We would truly be a new expression in every way.

So who fancies it?  
There's a comedy club I know in Reading, who thinks they could face that crowd?  I think I've talked myself out if it!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Addiction: how do you see it?

Last week I was looking at the moon; it was hauntingly beautiful.  I took a photo without the flash, then another with it.  They've sat on my phone since, asking for a blog post but nothings come to mind.  Until today that is.

I've written my immediate thoughts about the sadness that is the death of an amazing but tortured soul here.

Now i want to take my feelings further and reflect on addiction and how it is seen from the outside and felt from the inside.  I've experienced both up close and personal, here's how it looks to me.

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A longing, 
A sadness, 
A desperation;
A distance, 
A waiting, 
A separation;
You're here in body, 
But not emotionally;
Your minds on something,
Something else entirely.

I'm watching
I'm hearing
I'm second guessing;
I'm hoping
I'm praying
I'm ever waiting;
For the breaking point,
When nothing else matters;
You'll leave us then,
Leave us in tatters.

You try
You promise
You try some more;
I hope
I pray
I pray some more;
You're tortured inside,
I'm tortured beside you;
I'm wishing it away,
I know you wish too.

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Then it's on me....
I'm suffering too;
Wanting and needing
Waiting and taking.

I know the pain...
The want, the desire;
I'm burning with need
"Save me" I plead.

But not right now...
It's easier like this;
Allow me my pleasure
It makes me happier.

On the other hand...
Please take it away;
The constant call
Please make it small.

I know that it's me...
Only I can succeed;
I must take the step
And accept the help.

It isn't easy....
Usually impossible;
But day by day
Cleaner I stay.

Always I'll be....
An addict, that's me;
But today I'm ok
So I pray to stay.

Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday

No privacy even in death

I am shocked and saddened to read this afternoon about the death of Amy Winehouse. At this time her death remains unexplained but most reports including this one are intimating what we all expect, that her addictions have brought about her early death. I pray for her and her family at this time.

But that's not the reason for this blog post.
I was reading reports of Amy's death with sadness; but sadness turned to shock and disbelief as the reports declared that Amy's dad is currently on a plane to New York and unaware of his daughters death.

What has come of the world that the press can not holds story for just a couple of hours until the next of kin have been told? Do "we" need to know with such urgency?

What will her poor father land to see? I'm guessing he'll be mobbed by press. I pray someone will tell him with compassion and sympathy before he hears from any other route.

Even in death this family has no privacy.
Have they not been through enough?
Has anyone thought about the effect on Amy's family?

She was an addict, constantly seeking some form of solace or control from an outside source. She didn't choose it; she tried to overcome it; she (probably) died from it.
And it effected those who loved her every day; and will do for the rest of their lives.

Amy is not a commodity; she's a person.
Her death is not predominantly a news story; it's a family tragedy.

Rest In Peace Amy.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Light of the world Sunday school session

It is the end of the year and we have come to the end of the Old Testament.

Through this year we have learned about God's work of creation; His calling of people like Joah and Moses and Joseph to listen to him; and seen how small people like Daniel, Jonah and Esther can make a massive difference in the world with God's help.

To celebrate coming to the end of the Old Testament and to look forward to September when we'll start the New Testament we are going to decorate lanterns today.

These are a symbol of light.
Light is very important in the old and new testaments.  

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In creation God gave light.  And in lots of places in the old testament people talk about God being light.

Next year we'll look at the new testament; the books telling about Jesus and his life and the starting of the church.  Jesus said he was "the light of the world" and he told his disciples to take his light into the world.

So today when we take our lanterns into the world we are carrying God with us and being the light that Jesus wishes us to be.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Opening the 33rd Helen and Douglas House shop in Woodley

On Wednesday morning, Woodley Precinct was busier than usual, in fact there was s crowd!  This was not something I'd seen before so I went and joined in.

I was just in time for the grand opening of the 33rd Helen and Douglas House shop in Woodley.

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The opening was done by Jonty Hearnden (antiques expert off the telly)  with an introduction by Sister Francis about why she started the first hospice.

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Helen house is a hospice providing end of life care and whole family support. And nearby, catering for 16 to 35 year olds is Douglas house.  It costs £4million a year to keep the houses running, and we can help by shopping.

So come and shop but also come donate your quality, usable items.  The network also take furniture, so if you'd like to donate to a good cause then ring the shop to arrange this.  

I'm thrilled I got to the opening of the store, it's a charity close to my heart and one I look forward to supporting in this simple way.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Something has to give

At supervision yesterday I was reminded how busy my diary is and how I'm taking on a lot more in September and how something (not sleep) has to give.

It needs to look less like this
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And have a bit more of this
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I know it's necessary and makes sense, but ..... I am not happy!!!

What am I supposed to give up?
Why can't I keep all the balls in the air?
Can't someone choose what to 'let go' for me?

So this is the task for the next 3 weeks;
- review my diary and responsibilities
- properly analyse how much time it takes each week.  
- add in prep for 2 services a week 
- see what this does to my diary
- identify areas that can be removed
- have space for unforseen pastoral situations
- plan in 'down time' for me

Wish me luck, this could be a tricky few weeks.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The gallery - hot air balloon stillness

It's 7am on Monday morning, I've had half an hour in prayer and now it's time to get us ready for the day. I open the curtains and this is what I see.

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There's something special about hot air balloons; the freedom and tranquility and peacefulness of their journey.  

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I've never been on a flight because, unfortunately, to achieve this perfect peace you need to go through the take off and then survive the landing.  

Now I write this it occurs to me that that's a lot like life!  Bumpy either end but well worth the effort in the middle.  Perhaps I should consider a trip.

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As Rachel and I watched the balloon coming closer towards us I was struck by how little of our lives allows us to just 'be' and think and see.  Riding in the balloon is all about just 'being' and watching it we were partaking as well.

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It came so close to the house that we could see the people in the basket and hear the roar of the burner.  It was magical; enchanting.  We were caught up in the wonder of it.

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And then it past over, it had drifted with the wind.  But Rachel couldn't let it go, she ran to her room to see it there 

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She demanded we go out the front of the house to see it.  She was chasing something, perhaps the calm that the balloon transmitted.  I know I was sad to see it go.

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After school Rachel's teacher told me how all the kids who'd seen the balloon were bursting with tales all day.  
Was it the balloon?
The physics of floating beneath a bag of gas?
The gentle wonder?
The following of the wind and natural forces?
Or The Feeling of peace and stillness that it emanates?

I don't know; but that hot air balloon touched us and reminded me that stillness is enriching and filling in our busy world.  Something I will be reflecting on this week.

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Sunday, 10 July 2011

Top Gear and Christianity

I love Top Gear, it's my Sunday night guilty pleasure.  I love the presenters, the humour, the guests, the challenges and the cars aren't bad either!

In the last two episodes (episodes 2 and  3) theres been a focus on what really makes a fabulous car.  James May in particular has been ranting about whether testing cars on race tracks is really the most important thing.  

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Perhaps flat line speed is less important than ride comfort, or that gear changes in traffic matters.  Indeed tonights episode reviewing the new Maclaren MP4-C was talking about how it should be perfect because statistically it blows everything else out of the water.  But somehow it doesn't quite hit the mark.

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This has got me thinking.
We, as a society, are obsessed with measuring, comparing and judging ourselves.  As employees, as friends, especially as parents and even as Christians.  So how do we measure our "success" or "rating"?

As an employee it could be pay or promotion or awards.  As a friend it could be number of friends, Christmas cards or party attendees.  As a parent it could be anything, I dread to think what anyone uses to judge my mothering success.  

But what about as a Christian? 
How do we measure or feel assessed as Christians?

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Church attendance?
Level of tithing?
Scriptural referring?
Hymn knowledge?
Knowing liturgy of all services?
Time vicar likes to talk to you?
Number of meeting attend?
Lack of swearing?
Being perfect at all times?
Numbers we bring to faith?
Having God "experiences"?
Speaking in tongues?
Keeping the kids quiet in boring services?

I'm sure the list could expand infinitely but that's enough.  I feel sick just writing all these out.  It reminds me of those days when I thought that being a Christian was all about me and my measurable effort.  What a relief it is now to know it's about a relationship with God and His love of me.

What's this got to do with Top Gear?
Not much; but it reminded me of a load of conversations I've had over the last few months with friends at church. They all share how they feel they are somehow failing as Christians. They all seem to think that God is measuring their success against tests.

I say, let's remind ourselves that testing has very little to do with real life, happiness and contentment.  God prefers to focus on how we drive on the highs and lows of the country lanes and in the traffic jams.

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Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Wonders of creation - light and shade

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Jesus, you came as the light of the world, even in dark times you shine as a beacon to our hearts.  Show your light into our shaded corners Lord, with hope, love and joy.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Wonders of creation - animals

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Father we find it easy to love our pets, yet often neglect the effects of our actions on the wild animals; help us think beyond our own immediate environment.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Wonders of creation - galaxies

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Lord when I look at the sky at night I'm reminded of how vast you are.  Across galaxies your love extends, not just around our own star.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Lupus pains

I haven't blogged about the fact that I have lupus really; I might have touched on it but I've not gone into it in any detail.  

There are two reasons for this:
1. Lupus hasn't affected my life day-to-day and so it doesn't occur to me to write about it
2. It seems like a depressing thing to blog about, so I don't

But things have changed!  
Lupus is suddenly upfront and personal in my life again, in a way it hasn't since I was trying to conceive (TTC).  It has been dormant over the past five years or so; ok there've been asthmatic episodes and flu and other mild lupus effects, but overall its been pretty dormant.

Now it's ugly self is coming out of hibernation.

Two months ago I started noticing my left hand becoming numb a lot, constantly heavy and my fingers twitching a lot.  I thought nothing of it, thought it'd go away soon enough.  Mike decided it was time to see a doctor and she was less dismissive than I hoped.  Apparently I have carpal tunnel.  

It's no biggy, lots of people have it, I'm just unlucky.  That's what I tell myself and others.  But I know it's not that simple.  In reality this is the first time lupus has affected my joints and nerves; and I don't expect it will be the last.

So I'm wearing my wrist splint and "trying to rest" a bit - not in my nature at all!  But mostly I'm hoping and praying for this to pass and for lupus to go back to it's hole.

In the meantime blogging will be inhibited - typing is a nightmare.  But hey, there are worse things, right?

Also at Major Love of Film

Wonders of creation - evergreen

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Jesus you taught us that your forgiveness and love are for all people; they are truly evergreen.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Silent sunday

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Silent Sunday

Wonders of creation

Today at church we are celebrating the wonders of creation and thinking about how we can protect it.  Since I'm one handed at the moment I'm going to have blog posts this week which speak about the wonder of creation through pictures and reflection.

So to start here's the first

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Lord as we watch the flowers bloom we are reminded of your spirit blooming in us.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Carpal tunnel frustrations

I'm going to be blogging less, not through choice, definitely not, but through necessity.  I have carpal tunnel and have to rest my left hand.

I've had weird numbness, dribbling and jerkiness in the left hand for months and now at least we know what it is.  

The treatment is simple, a wrist splint, but it means I can't type properly and I'm also aching a lot.

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I think I might have to either vlog or write much shorted posts, somehow all these thoughts and ideas and inspirations have to come out.

Today I'm reflecting on how many more physical and health issues I need; and realising that through my experiences it helps me understand and empathise with others.  A positive thought in my slightly depressed day.