Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Greenbelt 2011 - dreams of home

As we look at the car packed up and ready to go home I am not so much "dreaming of home" as reflecting on the amazing weekend we've had.

A couple of people commenting on how out of character my previous post was, and reading it this morning I guess it does sound quite down, but that's how it felt then.

Then there was Monday reflection and the realisation of it being over for another year; suddenly all that I've enjoyed is my focus.

On Friday it was a joy to be a church group together, especially as we set up camp in the dry.

John Bell kicked things off properly, then Greenbelt Jacket Potatoes by the main stage with Martyn Joseph in the rain made sure we knew we were home.

Saturday saw Mike come to experience a day and it was great to show him it all; we Made and Take(d), listened to scientific theological debate and jigged to music delights.

Sunday morning was the low point, I realised how much more the festival could be if we were a complete family.  But The Rising cheered me up and spiritually uplifted, as did time with friends I never get time to really char with.

Monday was fantastic; music, comedy and chill out.  This day felt like pure Greenbelt for me and reminded me why it's such a spiritual home.

There's loads I didn't get to do, too many people I didn't get to see; but I'm only one girl with two hands and two feet.  

Based on that, with Rachel in tow; I can conclude completely that at Greenbelt 2011 I didn't dream of home.

But when I'm home; I'll certainly dream of Greenbelt 2011.  

Monday, 29 August 2011

Greenbelt 2011 has been less about people this year

Greenbelt is always fun, always exciting, always challenging, always different.  This year it's challenged me to be alone (except for Rachel of course) and in this has allowed me to find the people I need at any given point.  This year, Greenbelt has given me a taste of the part of ministry I fear, the separation from others.  

I've found the experience tough at points, but I can also see the reason and benefit of the time, process and learning.  It's part of the being quiet a d ready for and with God; moving away from being quiet but busy; to being really ready to receive.

What I've learned that I will take with me most are two fold:
1 - I need to remove my own expectations - they don't help, tend to disappoint and can hold me back from just being in 'the now'.

2 - being in the now involves accepting and enjoying what comes; rather than wishing myself elsewhere I need to learn to see the reason I am where I am.

As came to me at 1am this morning I am where I'm meant to be, as I am, good enough, ready to absorb.

I do regret not having met more than 2 twitter buddies though.  Oh well, sometime soon, I hope!

Fischy Music

Think the big sing meets cbeebies and your getting close to Fischy Music.  Catchy music, fun actions and great messages.  We've pre-ordered the latest cd.

The Big Sing by the Iona Community

It sounded fabulous in the midst and apparently was beautiful across the racecourse.  Singing in four part harmonies is made possible in all it's simplicity and wonder.

I love having a Big Sing every few months or so but today I've realised that there's no reason why a small group of us couldn't lead some of the more simple songs in worship.  Now that will be awesome!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Thoughts from The Rising - Sunday at Centaur

Martyn Joseph hosted an hour of songs and chat with Luke Jackson, Kathy, Pete and Duke Special

What an amazing hour, reminding me how God always touches me the most through song and creativity; through the giving of His word through people's gifts.

These are just some of my random thoughts and gifts from this one inspirational hour.

Song writing is getting emotions out - just as blogging is for me.  Its not a choice, it's a need, a coping mechanism, a work of God.

Life changes the need to be heard; I used to be desperate to be heard whenever and always.  Now it's more important that I get the feelings out onto paper and out if my head.  It's about letting it out, rather than shoving it out.  Yet now I'm heard; How weird is that?

God with us Emmanuel - song by Kathy - sometimes in life words are just useless, at that time it's all about remembering that God is always with us.

Occasionally a song is a gift; but usually it's not like that, it needs to be worked at.  That's so true about life in all it's expressions and why gifts are so special.

Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber - sermon "we are the temple of God"

Why would God choose to become human when the human body is so flawed.  Yet God did become human in Jesus.

Our culture is youth obsessed, completely convinced we can eradicate physical imperfection and aging.  This is basically a fear of death.  But we need not fear death, nor deny it; through Jesus' resurrection we know we have eternal life beyond this.

John 1 "and the word became flesh and lived among us..... You have received grace upon grace."

We may want a spirituality that rises above our broken physicality; but in Jesus we see that the physical life IS a spiritual life.  Jesus had a real body, just as we have; he bore the scars of having lived, just as we do.

God came and made his home with us in a human body.  Perhaps this tells us that home is not merely heaven, it's here in our human form, in our imperfect bodies.

God has blessed Human flesh; not made it perfect but made GOOD.  Our good bodies are made of God, we should know we are therefore beautiful to God.  

Jesus showed us what God looks like; not worrying about hunger and illness and sickness and touching.  God is revealed in the vulnerability of our flesh and our lives.  We should therefore care for and bless all human bodies; our own, those in starvation, those in pain.

We are flesh and blood.  "the word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us".  

We are flesh become word.
We are Christ's body in abundance.
We are God's healing word in a broken world.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

David Wilkinson - Dawkins, Hawkings and the Simpsons: science and religion in the media

There is scepticism about media, scepticism about science, scepticism about Christianity; but today we should see the opportunities when we as Christians can think about science in our lives.

Dara O'Brien and many other comedians, do sketches about science and religion, exploring the issues.  Why? Because the conflict model is popular; we like the black and white of creation OR evolution.

Where dies the conflict hypotheses come from?  It's only about one hundred years old started by Huxley and others in the late 19th century.  They were interested in the status of science in culture, wishing to move the science profession away from the control of the church.  

Huxley and others founded the x-club in 1864 discussing the conflict hypotheses between science and the church, it became very popular and was used by both aestheists and creationists.  Both say one has to be right and one wrong; on opposite sides. 

Conflict is only one way of discussing science and religion.

Others include:
Independence - they both explain the world in their own way but can not be compared because they have different bases.

Dialogue - the two ways of thinking allow dialogue although care in comparison is needed.

Integration - it is a bit of both.

In many ways the description of science is right, but doesn't go far enough.  Just think about the scientific and romantic descriptions of "kissing".

Kay in 1995 researched how 11 to 16 year olds felt about science disproving religion.  It found that 21% of boys seeing conflict and only 11% of girls; girls find holding juxtapositions easier at an earlier age.

If there are problems with understanding two views of life, perhaps there is a need to debate more, explain science methods and findings better, and get the churches to affirm and discuss the gift of science.

The media are interested in the "big questions", ever since Stephen Hawking there has been a fascination with how the world was formed and works.  He allowed us to be interested in the unknowns, to expect to get to understand them and want reasons.

There's a problem though; at the very start of all time the known laws of physics break down.  This is where much scientific research is now focussed, in an attempt to avoid the need for "God".

That's fine with us, as Christians we know that God has always and will always hold us in the palm of his hand.  God has not just acted once at the big bang.

John Barrow said that "once upon a time there was no time"; and this is where Hawkins focusses his research.  From this the 'M Theory' (range of theories) develops to look at the time difference at the start.  If we think theologically then we are drawn towards theism, where as M theory might take us more towards daism.

The media are fascinated in the "new priesthood" for instance Professor Brian Cox.  Science is once again cool and attracts people who are fascinating.  Much like priests used to.

Hawking after his appearance in The Simpsons said "almost as many people know me from the Simpsons as from my science" - that is a new obsession with scientists.

Do these scientists influence popular culture?  Certainly many, including Dawkins do to some extent.  Dawkins says the God hypothesis should not stand on Christian images of God; so why does Dawkins feel the need to un-define the God hypothesis.

Of course not all celebrity scientists are aestheists.  Many wish to bring together science and theology debate and allow discussion through the Grace of God.

Story and entertainment are good at getting across big issues and debates; through imagination and a sense of awe we can develop our understanding of the world.  Science and religion are both in the business of a sense of awe, we should be able to hold that in both.

Science is not all fact; there is judgement, risk, modelling, theories and testing.  Sounds pretty similar to sone of the requirements of Christian theology.

So how do we deal with the conflict?  We need to:
- not fear the questions - God is a god of truth and we should not have fear despite our not understanding 
- enjoy science - it's a gift from God; sometimes boring but also amazing
- be careful of the 'logical proof' - God is not about proof of God, but about His place in our world and Jesus and his resurrection for us
- remember the centrality of God and Jesus and his resurrection - this is our faith

Kate Coleman - Esther in exile: lessons for leadership

4:14 "for if you remain silent, relief and deliverance will arrive from another place ...... you have come to royal position for such a time as this."

Esther was already a queen, she had a position of leadership already.  This was a challenge for transformational leadership.  Leading change in mind a d spirit.

Esther's story resonates with anyone who ever feels under the pressure of uncertainty and change in leadership.

It also challenges, comforts and challenges those in leadership under pressure.

Esther raises four themes from her leadership in exile.  

She speaks to some of our own experiences prophetically.  Esther was a person of God, she was therefore living a different life with differing customs.  The same may be said of many Christians in leadership today.  Faith should and does effect how we are as leaders.  We may feel that it's difficult to live as Christians, especially through our leadership.  Esther shows us that being counter-cultural and standing up for our beliefs is essential.

Esther's success depended on her ability to make happy the men around her.  We don't live under those conditions, but there are still many situations of marginalization of women in society, work and church.

Until women take their place as co-stewards in the world then God's purposes can not be fulfilled.  We as women are called to step up to leadership.

Esther was called in chapter 3 to put right mistakes made by Haman, who dictated to eradicate the Jewish people.  Esther was called to take a different approach, more peacefully.  Women think differently, are more collaborative, have a valuable role in leadership alongside men.

Sometimes it is in taking our place that we find our place.

Esther speaks of the importance of location; location is always part of the divine plan.  We do not see God's plan, we can only sense that it is there through the location of Esther in that place and time.  She was called to have an active, strategic presence.  

Are we too called to be where we are even if we don't know how?

We may not be where we want or plan to be.  It can be easy to forget that our plan for ourselves is not necessarily on the same page or book that God has for us.  But God has us where we are for a reason.  He gives us the opportunities we encounter for a reason.

"you have come to royal position for such a time as this" - you're location relates to your vocation.  As children of God we are all called by God on a vocation.  We need to find out WHY God has put us where we are.

We are not indispensable to God's plans, God will find a way if we fail; but we are called to do it "just the way we do", the special way that only we can.  We have a vocation to fulfil in our location now.

We look for activity that needs us where God has placed us, here we are called to action.

It is often in the danger and threat and upset of our lives; there we can bring about the most change.  There we see God; there we are connected spiritually and can learn more.  It is in peril that we most pray, it is through prayer that we hear our purpose; we must pray.

We may be criticised in our leadership, but must not allow ourselves to be criticised about our character; this is God given and specifically required at this place for our location.  We risk ridicule and marginalization but God will work within this.

We need to recognise that our calling may well be about what other people need of us; this might well not seem right to us, but remember God has our vocation in hand.

We emerge from a specific set of circumstances and history; this is what forms us and makes us ready for our work for God.  There is no benefit in despising our circumstances; but there is joy in discovering what we learn through them.  It is how we respond and react to our circumstances that prepares us.

Who we are is Gods gift to us; who we become is our gift to God.

The outward preparation for vocation is a sign of the inward preparation that has already taken place.  Our life experiences makes us ready for our vocation.

Exile might not be geographical, it may be an experience of body, heart and spirit.  Esther led in exile, so may we.

Friday, 26 August 2011

John Bell - Faultlines and Phantasies

What do you say to someone who comes saying:
"why is God letting this happen to me?"

Glib responses are ineffectual, inappropriate and possibly damaging.  We know this, but do we know how we can help?

When we are dealing with god, humanity and suffering we are dealing with three great mysteries.

We do not fully understand god;
We do not fully understand humanity;
We do not fully understand suffering.

People with pain tend not to be looking for answers; they're looking to replace what's been removed or damaged.

The world of which we're a part has Faultlines.  God made the world and said it was good; not perfect.  Jesus spoke about the house built on rock; as a metephor but also knowing that the rock has faultlines.  

God comes amongst us out of love; a world where there is pain and dangerous.  There is no promise from God that our love by Him can remove these or make life easier. 

When nature acts as nature does, this is not a provision to punish us; it is part of nature as created good, not perfect.  The earth provides both harmony and clash as part of it's symphony.

God and the earth are together in a collaborative relationship; the great flood was not about punishing the earth and the rest of nature.  But humans do not care for the planet in the sane collaborative way.  We upset natures order; this us our sin to the planet and therefore to God. 

As people of God we should understand that our poor keeping of the planet adversely effects the earth.  Our actions have consequences, sooner or later; we need to blame ourselves not nature.  The world has faultlines, we need to understand them.

We have faultlines too.
Some are genetic, others are inflicted by self or others.  It is the dealing with these faultlines, in ourself and others that we experience that Grace of God.  When we cope, survive, assist, nurture; we build bridges over the faultlines.

For the healthy to be whole, they have to be touched by those who are sick.

This is why Jesus allowed the sick to touch him, he didn't care; he knew that being touched by these people he became fully Human.

When one part of a church or community if family rejoices, we all rejoice.  But do we all suffer when someone we love suffers?  It's part of being fully human.

We can puzzle over why some people are healthy and others not; we know no answer except that we know there are faultlines.  The comfort and understanding comes when we know Jesus is affected as well and does not ignore it.  He knows these faultlines have nothing to do with behaviour, they are a burden of life.  

Through our faultlines we are receiving grace.

But what if we are harmed by others, possibly intentionally?

We live in an imperfect world, we are imperfect as humans. Good people get hurt when they do not deserve it.  It is unexplainable; but the bible does not ignore it.  The Bible shows how God suffers with us.

God expects us to ensure the impact of faultlines in ourselves and our society.

God does not bail out those who seek power or victory at all costs.  God will not bail out the people of Israel when they demand victory over the palestinians rather than seek peace together.  

God looks deeper than those rioting when it comes to seeking the source of sin; He also looks at the societal structure that causes poverty and greed through to the top.

This all said....

We must not be fatalistic about our lives.  There is no physical escape from the pain of being immortal, but there is healing to be sought through entering into our own pain and those of others.  We must be realistic and know that through our experiences God enlarges our hearts to others and Himself.

We must pray.  Pray for clean water throughout the world.  Pray for healing, emotionally and physically throughout to bring about the healing and forgiving energy of heaven.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Greenbelt 2011 - Giggletastic comedy

The Green Room
Perfect for those of us with kids that might not manage to stay up till Last Orders, The Green Room is by the same team and features the best comedy and music of the day.

Jo Enright
I've seen her on the TV and now look forwad to seeing her live.

Last Orders
Perhaps I'll make it one night, it'd be nice! we'll see.

Get up Stand up
Can you believe this is the 77th year???? It's the comedy club at greenbelt.

Extreme Rambling: Walking the Wall
Mark Thomas is a one man activist come comic and I'm looking forward to catching his show.

Musical Comedy Showcase
Music and comedy, ticks all my boxes.

Tickling in Public
Fabulous last year, can't wait to sing along and tickle around this year.

Pray for Israel; Pray for Palestine; Pray for Peace

The news has been full of the current conflict in Israel, Gaza and Egypt over the last week; yet again the middle east is in dire straits. I have been praying that the conflict can be calmed down and a way forward found, as I am sure many millions have also been doing.

THEN I notice my twitter stream going nuts with #prayforisrael. I assumed that this was all in good taste and that the hashtag was about praying for peace; how wrong I was. Whether it started with good intentions or not, this morning it has turned into a twitter war with #prayforisrael on one side and #prayforpalestine on the other and even #prayformurderers floating around.

What is wrong with the world; especially the twitter world?
Are there not enough problems without war online?
Why does it have to be one side or the other?
Are arguments, let alone wars, that easy?

I would rather that the world put down sides, opinions and racial and faith differences in favour of .....peace.


Pre Greenbelt worries

I'm very much of the belief that if I get worries out of my head and onto paper (blog) then they'll worry me less. So here are my pre-Greenbelt worries.

1. Waterlogged site - just to get the cars onto site so we can unload would be a major achievement after last year.

2. Rain whilst putting up the tents - that's NO fun.

3. My asthma playing me up - good thing I'm camping with doctors. Have medication, will camp.

4. Phone dieing - need Greenbelt app, need to text, need to tweet, need to blog etc

5. Having too much fun and not wanting to wait a year to do it again.

Anyone else got any worries they'd like to share?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Greenbelt 2011 - Rachel's choices for six year olds

This is just half of the list I have :)

Where the wild things are
Come make mischief in The Hub as we get our terrible teeth into the classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are. Have a go at creative stuff like block-printing and mask-making or chill out with a good read borrowed from the bookshelves in Max's room. Plus: imagine yourself king for the day, and mount the throne of opportunity to address your subjects in a royal festival broadcast!

circus skills
On the village green.  All the kids we go with gravitated here last year, they could be themselves together, I hope the same's true this year.

sew far sew good
Sisters Susie Hopkins (primary school teacher, Leeds) and Gillian Lever (artist, Cheltenham) are combining forces offering workshops where you will be able to fashion your very own 'Dreams of Home' sampler. Sewing card activities will also be available for younger children.

environmental art
BEES helps you rediscover your inner adventurer with an inspiring mix of hands-on play, bushcraft, practical conservation and environmental projects.

podule building
Jan Niedojadlo creates gigantic sculptures from recycled materials, including foam, rubber and carpet that incorporate subtle effects of lighting, sound and smell (provided by essential oils and other sources) to engage all five senses. 

let's go fly a kite
Mary Poppins is flying into Greenbelt. Join her and she will show you how to make your own bird kite – dove, eagle, robin or lark. You do the design with fabric pens, stickers, slogans, feathers, tapes and ribbons.

dreams of home
This year at Greenbelt, Jon will be working will people of all ages to create a teepee village. 

beginners drumming
If you have had little or no drumming experience, now is your chance to get going! We will be exploring basic drum rhythms which will give you a good structure to continue practising and polishing up your drumming skills.

the mousehole cat
Noted for its beautifully crafted puppets, PuppetCraft is one of Britain's most acclaimed puppet companies. Using traditional folktales and original modern stories, PuppetCraft presents a wide range of shows and workshops for children, families and adults. It tours nationally and internationally to schools, theatres, villages and festivals.

And of course .....

tickling in public
Like two thirds of The Goodies or half of the Fantastic Four, Paul Cookson and Stewart Henderson are the Two Degrees of performance poetry. Greenbelt's favourite poetical offspring return with a barnstorming show of old favourites, new favourites, firm favourites and family favourites. Audience participation is non-negotiable, ukuleles are optional but laughter is inevitable. The most fun you can have in a tent with a thousand other people.

Greenbelt 2011 - music I hope to hear

Martyn Joseph
A Greenbelt must see.

Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg activist fusing rock with folk, Bragg said: "My theory is this; I'm not a political songwriter. I'm an honest songwriter. I try and write honestly about what I see around me now." 

Arun Gosh
Arun Ghosh fuses modern jazz with hip-hop, rock and Asian rhythms and ragas. He was my accidental find from last year. .

Soweto Kinch
One of the most exciting and versatile young musicians in the British jazz and hip hop scenes,  Soweto is - the man.

Get Cape Wear Cape Fly
Looking forward to seeing Sam and his band on Mainstage when they headline on Saturday night.

IDMC Gospel Choir
i adore gospel, enough said.

the Austin francis connection
Describing themselves as "the Beastie Boys' Gloucestershire-based cousins", they've released their debut album The Album this year.

Listener combine poetry and stomping rhythms to make an authentic, hollering noise to wake all of the American South.

blast from the past.

Fischy Music
hoping to introduce Rachel to all the joy and creativity they offer.

Swing, swing, swing with the Greenbelt jazz orchestra
I love jazz and this looks like the best bits of all areas of jazz.

Kate Rusby
really cool folk - yea, really!

Luke Leighfield
I bought the album after hearing them last year, this year their the Last Orders house band - fab.

The Unthanks
I have eclectic music tastes, here I'll hear them all in one.


Monday, 22 August 2011

She's not a replacement

Somebody asked me the other day why I still think about my babies who died before birth.  I was shocked that anyone would think this needed to be asked and reflected it back.  The response I got was surely when Rachel was born that made it all ok.

I was dumb struck at the time and didn't manage an eloquent response, so I thought I'd try now.

Today is Rachel's sixth birthday; a day of celebration and joy.  Yet in the small hours of the night of her birthday I'm always awake, as I was in the hospital the night she was born.  I wonder at her life, the miracle of birth and I thank God for her. 

I also spend time thinking of my boys who I never held.  That might seem like a strange thing to do, but for me it's part of motherhood.  I am a mum to five children; four are waiting in heaven.  

Rachel is ONE of my children; not a replacement for anyone else.  Rachel understands this; she talks about her brothers in heaven.

Sure Rachel's birth helped me heal from my grief; sure her life is the joy of my life.  But that will never take away the memory and loss of my boys, her brothers.

Rachel is not a replacement; she's precious in her own right, as are all five of the children who grew within me.

Thankyou Lord for Rachel

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Thankyou Lord for the gift of Rachel,
For her life, love and energy;
For the gift of motherhood you entrust to me,
For the challenges and joy it brings.

Thankyou Lord for your love in our life,
For your enfolding grace and safety;
For your support in the questions and unknowns,
For your plan for us as a family and Rachel specifically.

Thankyou Lord for being an active part of her life,
For walking alongside her;
For your safe keeping of her when I am not there,
For being a second Father to her.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

2190 Days

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Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
I knew that the day had arrived;
The hoping and waiting and praying had all
Brought about this miraculous birth

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
That was when I first held her hand;
Just past midnight, as her birthday arrived
There she was, born into my arms

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
I was a mum and Mike was a dad;
But more than that, right there that day
We three were together at last

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
I stayed awake all night and watched;
Her eyes, hands, fingers, legs and toes
Imprinted on my eyes and heart

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
I knew I'd been changed for all time;
My life was then different, forever improved
And I thank God every day still

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
Just as much as I feel today;
I was filled with love for this one special girl
And forever I'll celebrate her.

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
We rejoiced our special girl in our life;
Now six years on, I celebrate her birth and
The two thousand, one hundred and ninety days since 

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Recovery: slow and steady

Since before I was a teenager I have suffered with depression; this has taken the form of an eating disorder, physical sickness and the well known blackness of depression itself.

At times I've been able to cope by keeping my "mask" well applied; at other times it's been impossible to hide my internal torture; and as the years have gone past I have been more reluctant to hide behind my mask.

I've spent a substantial proportion of my life working on getting well; through anti depressants, diets, self help groups and counselling. All has helped to some extent, but it has been faith, prayer, love and self acceptance that has made the changes I feel today.

It's been so much longer a journey than I hoped, but I've come to realise that the speed has been right for me; I couldn't gave coped with it any different. God had me safe all the time, He was walking alongside me every step.

Don't get me wrong, I know that ups and downs will remain, but I also know that I am recovering; from myself, from my situations and from my past. Slowly and steadily I am healing; the tortoise always wins the race. I'm glad I'm at least in the race.

For more on my journey and healing through this year you might like to read healing at the foot of the cross

Praying onto pebbles

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Sometimes the best thing to do is to pray your worries onto pebbles and leave them at the beach.

The same is true of wrongdoings, fears, resentments and hopes.  A simple praying onto pebbles is enough, nothing more needs to be done. 


Greenbelt 2011: talks I hope to catch ...

Faultlines and phantasies by Rob Bell
The past year has had its fill of environmental disasters and human tragedies. So how do Christians respond to these events? By saying they are God’s punishment on disobedient people or evidence of the fall? Or are there other ways of dealing with how bad things do happen to good people?

Do angels have wings and other impossible questions by Paula Gooder
Bookshops have ranks of books on angels and their influence, but when was the last time you heard Christians talking about them? Aren't angels a central part of Christian faith? So what does the Bible say about them, and do they have wings, white dresses and blond hair?

An evening with Adrian Plass
Adrian Plass is diseased with flippancy. Just as well, some would say. For more than 25 years his benevolently subversive humour has been clearing away the kind of religious rubbish that continually obscures the truth about Jesus. Join him tonight for lots of laughs, a tear or two, and possibly even a bit of a think.

the good news is better than that by Rob bell
Everybody has a story, a narrative we tell ourselves about who we are and what we are doing here. The interesting part is when you are confronted with a different story, one that not only insists that it's better than yours, but that it's true, too.

At ‘home’ with ourselves? Overcoming the seven deadly sins of women in leadership by Kate Coleman
For the first time in modern history, God is placing women in positions of influence and leadership in every sphere. There are, however, significant issues that impact on and hinder women in unique ways. This workshop considers the seven deadly sins of women in leadership - what they look like and how to overcome them, liberating us to be more fully at ‘home’ with ourselves.

pure undiluted slog by Rob Bell
Whether you write or sing or play or give speeches or create in any way, for many the creative process has a way of bringing joy one moment and madness the next. So how do we tilt it in the joy direction? 

missional spirituality by Karen ward and mark Pierson
A conversation about the characteristics inherent in the spirituality of pioneering and about spiritual practices helpful for sustaining pioneers as they endeavor to create and curate new forms of church and mission. The workshop will also include the experience of engaging a pioneer spiritual practice or exercise.

writing workshop by Kathy Watson
Using group work and oral storytelling, this session offers an opportunity to create an adventure about finding our way home.

Parish as Abbey: Third space and spiritual place for mission By Karen ward
'Third place perichoresis’ describes an approach to engaging mission that involves the re:imagining of old church buildings into fresh, open, public spaces. Karen Ward talks about how the love and relationality of God can be expressed 'beyond the walls of the church, through the walls of the church'.

Religious or spiritual? None of the above. By pete Rollins
The Christian landscape is marked by a debate between whether Christianity is better described as a religion or as a type of spirituality. These terms mean different things to different people, but the main argument revolves around the best way to relate to the Ultimate. Peter Rollins argues that these positions are sides of the same coin and must be rejected in favour of a fully materialistic Christianity.

the age of the spirit by Phyllis tickle
The Great Emergence and the rise of Emergence Christianity are an expression of a 500-year cycle in the Church's history, but perhaps also something more. In fact, the time we are entering may well be as significant as the Great Transformation two thousand years ago. What does it mean to say that we seem to be moving into the time of the Spirit?

the dream parent by Judith Reith
Perfect parents don’t exist, but in your dreams what kind of a parent do you want your kids to have? What works and what doesn’t when it comes to being a 21st-century parent? Parent coach and author Judy Reith’s workshop is a chance to transform your parenting dreams into reality.

ubiquitous gayz by John bell
The sexuality debate which vexes the church worldwide has become a continual game of biblical ping-pong as texts are batted back and forward. Are there other angles we should at least consider about the nature of God, grace and giftedness?

a good childhood by Jim Davis
The Good Childhood Inquiry had some challenging things to say about childhood in Britain. Whether you agree or not, this conversation is a chance to find out more and actually get a word in edgeways. Children’s own views, gathered through a Greenbelt survey, will be shared and debated. In association with The Children's Society.

silent retreat: finding god in all things by Ruth holgate
The TV series The Big Silence offered people an experience of a silent retreat to get in touch with what was important to them. Ruth Holgate presents some of the key aspects of Ignatian Spirituality and how they help us to find God in our busy lives.

faith and the benefit of the doubt by mark vernon
Churches tend not to do doubt very well. Some make certainty - blessed assurance - their hallmark. Others nurture doubt so much that they cease to be sure of anything. There's a balance to achieve, but is the pulpit the right place to express doubts? Mark Vernon looks for an 'art of doubt' that trusts that the stripping away of fantasies, the challenging of self-reliance and leads to a deeper connection with the divine.

all families are psychotic by Andrew Tate
Perennial Greenbelt favourite Dr Andrew Tate leads literature lovers on a journey into the homes of famous families from fiction who are dysfunctional, oppressive and downright nightmarish. Tate's talk encompasses narratives from Ancient Greece to Austen; Shakespeare to The Simpsons; Douglas Coupland via Charles Dickens. Come along and discover reasons why there's much to celebrate about these dysfunctional dreams of home.

the exuberant church: listening to the prophetic people of God by Barbara Glasson
There are all sorts of people who fall out of or fall out with the church. Their journey is often transformative and life-changing but totally overlooked by mission theologies. Using the motif of 'coming out', this session will be an exploration of how transformation happens, how the Bible demonstrates this process and how those 'on the edge' form prophetic communities to whom the church is impelled to listen if it really wants to change.

the preacher girl: the promise and peril of proclamation by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Writing a sermon can feel like a wrestling match between the preacher and the text; a match in which the preacher should not walk away before demanding a blessing from that text for their community. But perhaps we shouldn't walk away from 2,000 years of Christian preaching just because it's so often done poorly. Nadia Bolz-Weber explores the office of preaching within an emerging post-modern Christian community, and the role it can play in transformation.

And .....

the Greenbelt big read
Join us with a cuppa and a brain full of questions and comments and help us discuss Exile by Richard North Patterson, the legal thriller writer's 14th novel, which focuses on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a Palestinian woman suspected of masterminding a suicide attack on US soil stands trial. The book is gripping and very rewarding – just like the Greenbelt Big Read discussion.

It's raining AGAIN

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Oh no, it's raining AGAIN!

This is August and for yet another year it's rainy. Not all the time, but enough that you can't guarantee a nice day at the park.

I don't normally worry, but with Greenbelt in five days time it'd be nice to have some dry weather ahead.

Is it just me or have August and April swapped weather?

Silent sunday

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Silent Sunday

Friday, 19 August 2011

Why I'm going to Greenbelt 2011


I have been trying to write this blog post for weeks; to sum up why I am going to Greenbelt 2011, but the words have refused to come. To be honest I'm still not sure what I'm going to write now I sit here, but I won't let that stop me!

I guess there are three reasons I'm going:

1 - I wouldn't miss the spiritual lifts it gives me for the world
It's as simple as that, I get a huge spiritual lift from Greenbelt; from the atmosphere, the talks, the sharing together; and it buoys me for months afterwards.

2 - It's a church social event
We go on mass, eleven families this year I think. We camp together, those who are under canvas that is; we eat together, we laugh together, we support each other and we gain something together as a church.

3 - I have fun
Pure and simple fun; with Rachel, with friends, with strangers; we have fun.

This time next week we'll have our tents up, I hope, and be exploring Greenbelt 2011: Dreams of Home; I can't wait.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

I blame the MPs' parents

Again and again the news, media and social commentators are desperate to find a reason for the London Riots.  They've picked on the rioters' parents, social structures, deprivation, poverty, single parents and ignorance of youth to name just seven.

I think the issue is much more about a social obsession with selfishness and greed.  It is true throughout our society from kids to the elderly, from unemployed to bankers, from rioters to MPs.

MPs are meant to be upstanding members of the community 
MPs set an example
MPs fiddle their expenses
MPs set a bad example

As we follow that line of thought it becomes obvious.....

The riots are clearly the fault if the MPs parents who failed to instill good moral grounding into their children.

Let's put all MPs in Premier Inn Rooms with prison service guards and they're bound to be rehabilitated.

Problem solved!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Where we worship

I adore architecture.  

I am intrigued by different forms of building and love to experience new places.  

Churches, chapels and cathedrals are fascinating places for me visually, emotionally and spiritually.  

So are art galleries, museums, stadiums, libraries, palaces and anywhere that surprises me and makes me feel differently.

I am sure I'm not alone in this; so I ask:

Does the place where you worship affect how you worship?

Immediately the answer is yes; that's exactly why churches were first built.  The sense of awe, wonder and majesty in the building added to, and even started the same feelings in worship.  Going to a specific place to "meet" God was essential.

I think it's the effect of architecture.  The way a church is designed and set out to draw our attention to, usually, the alter and the cross.  As we explore the church we immediately know it's purpose, we sense the almighty and we settle into connecting with it.

But God is everywhere, we know that. So surely we can worship on a hillside as easily as a church.  I have my greatest God encounters in nature, so why do I gravitate towards church buildings when I'm looking for God?

Children know this.  I doubt there are many Sunday schools which get to worship in the main church building; yet children meet and connect with God just where they are.  When I'm leading Sunday school I meet with God powerfully in the church hall, in fact it can be strange to go back into church; I meet differently but equally valuably.

So yes, I think the place we worship definitely effects how we worship.  But sometimes this can be a constraint to our experience of God.  How about breaking out sometimes and worshipping in the park or in a cafe?  Or how about holding the main service in the church hall and Sunday school in church; I wonder how that would be.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Babyloss Memorial Service

Saturday 15th October 2011 is Babyloss Awareness Day, the culmination of Babyloss Awareness Week. Around the world candles will be lit in remembrance of babies lost before, during or shortly after birth.

A Babyloss Memorial Service will be held at 3pm on Saturday 15th October 2011 at St Nicolas Church, Sutcliffe Avenue, Earley, Berkshire.

A service of music, poetry, prayer and quiet remembrance for babies lost before or shortly after birth. The service will include the lighting of candles as part of the international wave of light in loving memory of all babies lost. The service is open to anyone who wishes to attend. If you are unable to attend but would like your baby remembered please contact us and we will add them to the remembrance list. For more information please contact Emma emmuk74@gmail.com.

Berkshire Babyloss Support Group

After many years of hoping and praying, and many months of planning and fundraising, it is with joy that I can announce the establishment of the Berkshire Babyloss Support Group.

The group exists on facebook and will meet in Earley (venue to be finalised this week) on the last Monday of every month at 8pm. The first meeting being on Monday 26th September 2011.

Mission Statement:
To provide a place for bereaved parents, their families and friends who have experienced the loss of a baby during pregnancy, at or shortly after birth.

If you have lost a baby before, at or shortly after birth, or know someone who has, then please come along. This group is open to any one who would like support and friendship from others who understand. The group will be led by a trained miscarriage supporter who has experience in walking alongside those bereaved through baby loss.

For more information please contact me, or join the BBSG facebook page.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Stop asking me to sign to remove benefits from rioters

I must have had at least ten requests through email, facebook and twitter to sign the e-petition requiring Givernment to consider fencing benefits from those prosecuted in the riots.

Please stop asking ne!
I'm never going to sign it!
I don't agree with the proposal!

The law courts of England and Wales exist to undertake the assessment of someone's guilt or innocence and the appropriate penalty to be imposed on them. This is the right and proper place for decisions to be made.

Apart from; that I can not see how throwing families into extreme poverty can benefit anyone. If someone no money and has a criminal record and is no longer able to find any legitimate employment, where do you think they'll find money for food? I doubt it'll be easy to do it legally.

Sure the proposition might be a way of stopping people breaking the law in the future, but it certainly does not help anyone caught rehabilitate.

And don't get me started on the effect of any possible children of those prosecuted.

So please, Stop asking me to sign to remove benefits from rioters.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Jesus and the riots

Over the last three days I've been watching the news about the riots in London with a mix of confusion, anger and despair.  I've written the first paragraph of at least a dozen blog posts on the subject, but none of them were quite right.  Then this evening I was challenged to get my thoughts written, so here goes.

Where would Jesus be in this?
I think he'd be in the middle of it all.  Speaking to the rioters and trying to understand their reasons.  Speaking to the police and calming their fears.  He would not hide behind the safety of television coverage; He would be involved, in the middle.

How could Jesus help?
Jesus would stay calm, he'd understand the issues and emotions and he would not be afraid to get straight to the point.

What would Jesus say to the rioters?
Jesus would understand their motives and see the reasons for their behaviour.  He would name the reasons; be they past or current, deep or superficial.  Then he would work to heal those wounds.  He would tell them that they are loved, valued and cared for by God.  He would help them understand that this is not the right way to act.  He would use their own language and social examples.  He would be a beacon of hope in lives of hopelessness.  He would heal.

What would Jesus say to the Government?
Jesus would despair at the ineptitude.  He would ridicule the lack of understanding and contact with society.  He would condemn the talking shop of government and ask what can be done.  He would tell the leaders to start following the path of love; leaving power and money behind.  Jesus would show the right path; of care, compassion and justice.

How can we be Jesus' hands and feet?
We can blog.
We can attend.
We can clear up.
We can tweet and share.
We can forgive.
We can try to understand.
We can pray.

We can work to enact change in a society where love, understanding and forgiveness take a back seat to greed, selfishness and power.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Learning from the animals

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This article on the BBC nature page caught my attention this morning.  

Scientists have been monitoring the behaviour of Nazca boobies, a type of sea bird from the Gallapagos.  It appears that chicks that are attacked in their nest by adults have a higher likelihood of abusing other chicks in their maturity.

I was sad to read this report, after all no one likes to hear about a pattern of aggression and abuse in any population.  But I was also interested since this research might allow further studies to be conducted to understand how and why this occurs and therefore how to stop it.

From there, with work and commitment, perhaps we will be able to tackle abuse and addiction through human generations.

We can hope. 

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Carisbrooke Priory

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Carisbrooke Priory - a place to find peace of mind

Whilst we were on the Isle of Wight yesterday we literally drove past a place called Carisbrooke Priory.  I felt I was meant to stop; Rachel was asleep in the car and Mike was happy for me to go and knock on the door, so I did.

I never do this, I never knock on doors of places I don't know.  But I had no phone signal so I just went straight up to the door.  I knocked, it was opened and I was welcomed.

I was given a brief synopsis of the priory and allowed to spend some quiet time in the chapel.  I met the Chaplain, in fact I heard him playing the piano and it filled me with calm.

Then I left, unsure why I was meant to visit, feeling calmer than I had when I walked in, but wishing I could have stayed longer.

This evening I was thinking about my brief visit and decided to visit their website at http://www.carisbrookepriory.org.uk

It has become perhaps a little clearer why I was brought to the doors of Carisbrooke Priory.  

They wish to be "an accessible place of welcome and safety for all who are drawn here." and they were for me and perhaps through this blog they will be found by others.

I have suffered with depression; their long term mission is to "rehabilitate  lives affected by years of mental illness".

I am sure there'll be other reasons I may become aware of in the future, or maybe not; but one thing I know, I was meant to go through their open door.

Where next Lord?

Where next Lord?
Where are you taking me?
I keep following, trying not to worry
But an idea would be nice; where next?

Where next Lord?
What do you want me to do?
I think I'm doing ok, working for you
Confirmation would help, where next?

Where next Lord?
Where's the end game for me?
Am I heading towards it, or off course
Any sign posts on route? Where next?

Where next Lord?
I trust you to guide me
I try to take only the next step
But seriously Lord, tell me, where next?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


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Looming large onto the beach
The Seagull flew, just out of reach
Large as life, then larger still
It settled down with orange bill

A bin it spotted to the left
Smelt some food or other mess
Started pulling at the rubbish
Devouring chips and bread and fish

I was watching, captivated
Others chased till it abated
But seconds later it would return
And scavenge for another bone

Twenty minutes it spent finding
Food from bags and other bindings
Perhaps they're a pest, but they're skilful too
Impressive to watch, when I've nowt else to do