Tuesday, 27 September 2011

More Poems from Spain

Come fly the river.
Be mad from flood storming loss.
Cry glory
and play, dancing along
the milky soft night sky.
Enfold the jewel gift
of butterfly.

A thousand
time rich trees
Smell the vale
Sing sweet green
and lazy the sun

Silvery Sentinel
You do not die
North faced lichen stumped tree.
From gentle knarledness
comes slender youth.
Branches bearing the potent fruit
To be ripened
then crushed to malleable flow
or to fall
received to decay.
To be absorbed
by the life of the root
or lost? MC

I walk wise
in Paradise Park
Soul alive and free
above the silver mirror sky
beneath the diamond tree.

Creo Creo Creo Senor

I know that He exists
The One and Only
He made a universe He didn't need,
It was the style of His love.
By His Son He entered the world to redeem.
Death to bring life,
by the Word and the Spirit
Beloved and Holy
He renews the scarred earth
Until the completion time.
A resurrection shared
Community born
Together, forever with Him.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Poetry and Paella - continued

For our final Communion service one participant wrote a creative the 'Los Olivos' creed


To write a poem
must I have something to say?
Word to convey
So many possibilities
like the leaves jostling above me.
I am content
to wait
and see.


I didn't have to read that book
was it duty
or a desire not to appear ungrateful?
I should have said
it's not my thing
when it was first offered
but I read it
what might I have done with the time?
write a poem?
not this one


The Olive Tree

Betrayed by your scars and gnarled appearance
who bears witness to man's betrayal.
Of nature gives the fairest though
crushed and beaten for our gain.
Centuries old you, constant companion
healing, nourishing, cleansing


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Poetry and Paella

I have just spent a fantastic week at Hacienda Los Olivos in Spain leading a week on 'words'. There were six of us, playing with words, reading words and writing words. The fridge poetry on the first day got the creative juices going, and the excellent food and surroundings added to the inspiration that flowed by the end of the week. I have promised the group that I would display our poetry on the blog...so here is a taster. Hopefully more will be posted before the end of the month. Pour a large glass of Sangria and enjoy! Thanks to all those poets (and budding poets) for a most memorable week.

Almond and Rosemary

Marzipan and roast lamb

Sundays and Christmas
Here along the road.
Smelt, sun drenched, ripe for the taking
and making
baking and creating.
Symbols of new life and laughter
plenty, ground, placed, paste
Create, taste
God saw, and yes, it was good.


Los Olivos (A Psalm)

Life in abundance

Offered and received

Silence and laughter - equally free

Open to otherness

Looking attentively

Inviting creativity

Values we find

Our thanks to our Maker

Saviour, Lord



The sun rises over the hard-edged mountain.
I sit entranced, silent in its golden warmth,
Stunned before its majesty. (JB)

The Olive Tree

So dry the land, so bare, unwelcoming
And yet the olive tree
Lush, green, abundant.
Improbable., impossible
But for its roots searching deep for the water of life.


Andalucian September

Relentless sky, infinitely clear and blue;
Around me
Red-grey ground, dry and crisp,
Exhausted grasses crackling underfoot.
No rain,
No cloud,
No water.
Yet there is green:
Olive green, almond green, grass green, leaf green,
Swaying in the gathering breeze.
And water,
Deep below, concealed, waiting.
Roots delve, explore, discover,
Quench thirst,
Bring life in green abundance.

A Nervous Swimmer

A nervous swimmer
I crouch beside the pool,
Half-attracted by the cool, clear water, sapphire in the mid-day sun,
Anticipating the pleasure and thrill of immersion.
But half-fearful, hesitant,
not quite trusting
its promise of renewal.
I breathe deeply,
Take the plunge……..


Reflections inside and out

Distant birds passing

heavy breeze

solid blue sky

constant crickets communicate

- another tongue underfoot.

The world below is lost

- on hold this moment.

Soul searching, delve deeper,

down, down, within

where truth lies

undisturbed by rush, time, expectations and

domestic duty.

There deep within is treasure

that speaks 'I am'

deliberately slowly

as if to say 'Hello' once more.

The core of our being, undisturbed.

Our reason for living.

Reach within, pull it out,

direct the memory, inspect the love.


for one second, everything else

speak truth, the truth

and be.

Be. Begin again,

refrain 'I am' again and again.

Let it resonate, resound

so the natural orchestra can become one

in time, in tune, in harmony


Tuck it up again, inside,

the part of God that knew you from the beginning

and rest awhile

on the mountain top.


Wine in the Olive Grove

(or the consequences of it!)

Green leaves gleam in the afternoon sun

clink of glasses, grasshoppers chirping

Anticipating your fruit with wine's

bouquet. Smooth fruit

unripened. memories

of childhood


The man





They said 'Why leave us here?'

All in the end is Harvest!

(Rama Kaje)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Walking Madonna Reflection

I wonder what saying yes to God means to you?

It may have been a significant event – said once, and lived out ever since. It may have been a sequence of decisions, many still to be made; It may mean a loud confident cry, or reluctant resignation, there may have been a sense of freedom and liberation, or you have the scars to prove it. There may have been loss, or gain, laughter or tears, pain and sacrifice or gift and abundance.

For me, saying yes to God began with a pencil sharpener as I, aged 13 volunteered to sharpen pencils for the Sunday School and it still goes on as I wake up each day and be who God has called me to be, as best I can.

For Mary it was a very different story, beginning at about the same age, a vulnerable teenager visited by the divine and called to an extra-ordinary life. Her yes not only took courage, it always needed courage, and it embraced her completely in the redemptive work of God for all time.

Here Mary stands, her yes part of her being. Her stance a sign of her strength and determination and her body an expression of a life lived, like no other in the presence of God, the birth, life, death and resurrection of her son transforming her, the Holy Spirit leading her on.

The Walking Madonna seen here was the artist Elisabeth Frink’s only female figure. All her other sculptures are of men and when confronted with a commission for a woman Frink involuntarily sculpted her own face. The work could be construed as a metaphor for the artist’s life. Can we see something of ourselves in her?

Our yes to God, and to life expressed in the eyes, or the stance or the determination or the expression of life lived?

This is no conventional, modest Madonna lurking in the security of a Cathedral alcove. She strides with singleness of purpose oblivious to the distractions of those around her.

Dare we, walk away from what we have known? Is God asking us to do a new thing? Be courageous and go where he calls us?

There is integrity in this Mary’s gaze, a sense of purpose and iron strength in her gaunt figure. Her back is turned on the sanctuary and security of the cathedral. Instead she chooses to stride out into the town to meet the world full on.

Is God calling you to meet the world full on? To change it ? transform it? What message do you take with you?

Mary doesn’t always stand here alone, sometimes she holds the strangest of objects as they are placed into her hands and left there – a beer can, an umbrella, a rose, a tesco carrier bag. Symbols of humanity and divinity still are touched by her. What would she carry for you? Or may be, just maybe you want to put your hand in hers to be led by her, on your journey.

I wonder what saying yes to God means to you after this course?

You have some ideas, some skills, some experience…… and very soon you will walk away. Taking it with you, part of God’s story for this time in church history. Take strength from this statue…ponder it for a while in your own heart.

And remember these words: Be bold, be strong, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you, he will not fail you or forsake you.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Sunday

It has been both sobering and challenging to count my blessings during Lent 2011. Giving up chocolate too has shown me that it is possible to live differently...we just need to try. As someone whose job is so focussed on the local (albeit countywide local) it is amazing how worldwide this blog has become, and it is by widening our horizons that we enter more fully into the height, breadth and depth of God.

The challenge now for me is what I take of these 40 days into my day to day living. I will certainly try and recycle more, will turn the thermostat down a notch and think about what resources I squander or take for granted. I already have some thoughts for next year about fasting from emails, or limiting my mileage. But, they can wait.

For now is the time to celebrate the risen Lord with alleluias, the eucharist and yes, some chocolate. Happy Easter.

Risen Christ, Lord of life
Help us to roll away the stone of our selfishness and apathy
so that new life may arise
wherever love and hope are crucified
May we live out your Easter faith,
and bring the miracle of your resurrection to the world.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday

We may not know, we cannot tell
what pains he had to bear
But we believe it was for us
he hung and suffered there.

Today Christians throughout the world remember the most significant event in history. That Christ died on the cross. We serve a crucified God. God willing to give up everything out of love for humankind. The sinless one was punished, the lamb of God was offered up, the price was paid. However we look at what happened, and however flawed our understanding, the death of Jesus has changed and challenged people ever since it happened.

The cross calls us to a life of service - to give ourselves up in return to serve God, to make our own sacrifices out of love for him. To count as nothing the things of the world for the sake of life itself. It's no wonder that our schools, our hospitals, many of our aid agencies, our charities and our community groups were started by Christians and are funded by Christians. Local surveys often reveal the level of volunteerism amongst Christians to be higher than any other group.

We give thanks for all organisations and individuals in the world reaching out to those in need.

Today as Christians we stop serving the world for one moment and instead gather around the cross. An empty Cross, reminding us of the cost and the calling. The world in all its busyness may pass us by, may pass Him by, but this day we can be renewed in our compassion by the generosity of God, and restored in our commitment through the love of Christ.

BROKEN FOR ME, broken for you,
The body of Jesus, broken for you.

He offered His body, He poured out His soul;
Jesus was broken, that we might be whole:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Maundy Thursday

Although all Lent's are the same length, this one seems to have been a particularly long one! I think it is because Easter falls the latest it ever can, and the 'lengthen' season when the days get longer has been accompanied by all the daffodils flowering and dying, the blue bells out a few weeks early and everyone in shorts and T.shirts. Now it feels we are on the edge of summer, rather than the start of the last few days before the dawning of a new beginning.

It's strange how our environment affects our inner spirit. That's why these next three days lend themselves so well to a reawakening of the senses and the drama of the passion of Christ. I still have memories of Oberammergau in my mind this year and began yesterday to replay the music in my car as I drove along. I may not understand the German but I can easily get into the mood of the passion play. This morning I join clergy from across the diocese at the Cathedral where holy oil is blessed and vows made now 16 years ago are renewed. Tonight I share supper and the liturgy of the Last Supper and Watch with the sisters at Burnham Abbey.

It may not feel like Holy Week outside but by bringing all of ourselves to the liturgical commemoration of Christ's last days we can share once again in his love and compassion. As I count my blessings today with Christians throughout the world and reflect on Christ's call to service I become part of something much bigger. My actions matter for the sake of Christ in the world.

As one recycled tin can save enough energy to power a television for three hours somewhere else my stewardship matters. Yes, for others because they matter, but for Christ too. Who calls us all this day no longer strangers but friends and gives us that commandment to do for others what he has done for us.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A change in the weather

It was wonderful yesterday to sit in the sun. This mild and dry spell that we are currently experiencing is a great tonic after the long grey winter, which began with early snow last year. However, already the gardeners amongst us are talking about watering, and the weather prophets predicting early hosepipe bans. Mostly in the UK the weather disrupts our leisure most of all. Sporting fixtures are altered, days are either made or ruined, gardens drying out.

In other parts of the world weather is becoming much more extreme, drought wipes out literally the food crop of a whole country, floods wash away homes and livelihoods, earthquakes and winds destroy crops, transport links and manufacturing plants. Farmers particularly are finding it hard, when acres and acres of country are unable to produce the exports necessary to guarantee a steady income for thousands of workers then everyone suffers. Working in partnership with others Christian Aid are trying to support those poorest people affected by weather patterns to find alternative sources of income.

As I travel around Buckinghamshire in the sunshine today, I will try and better appreciate my work and will pray for all those who have little, because of where they happen to live and the weather patterns around.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Diocesan computers down this morning so for the first time I am blogging on an iPhone! Today Christian Aid asks us to consider our political representatives. Who speaks for us? Well for a start that is difficult for me to answer as my MP happens to be the Speaker! A contradiction in terms when the Speaker is prevented from his own free speech because of his role. I could also question whether he is a representative as none of the main opposition parties put up candidates against the Speaker in the last election. So I am not sure whether the people of Buckingham really do have a voice.

Yet this all causes me to consider my own voice. Who do I speak on behalf of? That's an interesting question for an archdeacon. In a way we speak for the Church of England although it is difficult to do this. But, on formal occasions I do the legal stuff as part of the established church. I speak for the diocese as a member of the Bishop's staff team - I represent the diocese to churchwardens and when reviewing the work of clergy or making appointments. I also though represent the parishioners of Bucks, the churches and clergy, and when it comes to diocesan decisions, committees and General Synod I feel myself called to be an advocate for these groups of people. But more importantly of all I represent Christ, in the world, in my work, to those I meet. That is the most important call of all. That means making Christ known through the way I live my life and making Christ's concerns my own. That is why I am counting my blessings this Lent. To focus my life on the needs of others and highlight the plight of the poor and needy across our world.

I may not have someone speaking on my behalf in parliament so I am particularly challenged this holy week to reflect on my own voice and how I use it. How do you use yours?

Monday, 18 April 2011

Turning up the Heat

In this Holy Week, for our blessings we focus on heat. With such a warm spell of weather as we have been having it has been good to already turn down the central heating. Usually it is around the middle of May when people begin to feel warm enough to wear fewer layers and do without the radiators on.

95% of homes in Britain have central heating. It is something many take for granted. However, I must admit that moving into a house that relies on oil for its heating has made me take more notice than ever before of the thermostat. I feel particularly virtuous therefore today when I am asked to give 50p for every degree the thermostat is above 20 degrees. Mine is never turned up that much!

Yet I am mindful of those who have little heat, including those in our own country. We take it very much for granted and it is not until the oil runs out or the boiler breaks down that we really experience what others do all of the time.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A Doctor's View

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’

St Luke's gospel is vivid, personal, full of individuals. Luke himself is first mentioned in Paul's letters as a latter’s “coworker” and as the “beloved physician.” The former designation is the more significant one, for it identifies him as one of a professional group of itinerant Christian “workers,” many of whom were teachers and preachers. His medical skills, like Paul’s tentmaking, may have contributed to his livelihood; but his principal aim was to further the mission of Christianity.

There are 21 doctors in Britain for every 10,000 people. In many countries there are just 1. Today we give thanks for health professionals all over the world - past and present.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Thought for the Day

It would cost 11.3bn US Dollars to bring water and sanitation to everyone in the world. That is one third of what we spend on alcohol in Britain each year.

How we take the drain for granted when we pour money down it......

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Taking Advantage

One of my minor obsessions on a day when I have time, is to make the most of my Boots Advantage card. Now, I am not as bad as some, because there are whole web sites dedicated to helping people make the most of this bit of plastic. We all know that there isn't such thing as a free gift anymore, but by using points on an Advantage Card wisely and well, it is amazing what you can do. Pay money for certain things and get enough points back to buy something else, double your points, get free gifts when you spend so much - and points. Indeed, as one of my friends commented recently, why do I need all those toiletries - why the answer is plain and simple, to enable me to get Advantage Card points so I can buy more! Yes, bargain hunting in Boots can become an obsession.

How crazy is that? Being obsessed by a chemist! When you consider the extent of the Boots range it is easy to see how much we can buy for all sorts of ways of tending our body - whether we want to moisturise it, or remove the oil, smooth it or paint it, heal it or mend it, reduce it or colour it, make it smell nice or even taste nice.....

When it comes to our health there are also vitamins and tonics, pills and medicine, even about six different types of cough mixture depending on what cough you have. There are behind the counter drugs, or pharmacist prepared drugs or those freely available. What choice we have.

Today we are asked to think about all the unused medicines we keep in our cupboards and give 10p for every packet. Looking in mine, I have a lot....just like the toiletries, they are there just in case.

When a lot of the world's poorest people live with illness or disability without a chemist for miles, I realise my wealth. Tied up in bottles and boxes waiting to be used and tied up in a little piece of plastic, which very powerfully entices me to buy even more.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

It's all in the wash

I don't think I am alone when I say I hate ironing. In fact it was a major discussion topic in the hairdressers the other day...especially when next door to it there were two people running an ironing business. It's not that long ago (yes, when I was a child) when washing and ironing took most of two days.

Monday was wash day in our home, and in my grandmother's next door. We managed with a twin tub, connected to the sink, whilst my grandmother still used a boiler in which she put all her 'whites' and would fish them out with wooden tongs after she had finished. The smell was magical. She would relay tales of mangles and wash boards....with the task taking even longer. Then Tuesday would be ironing day, and the weeks would go on with the same routine.

I think ironing for me becomes such a chore because I am less disciplined when it comes to washing. Stick it in the washing machine when I have time, pull it out to dry and then leave it to be ironed. So, of course, those clothes that I need to wear get an iron and others don't. Which means taking a deep breath every so often and getting the whole job done at once.

Ironing doesn't exist in many parts of the world! But nor does the ability to wash like we do. Clothes are worn for longer, washing consists of rinsing garments in the river, or under a tap. Water borne diseases can be carried and passed on, through drinking water, or washing clothes in effluent. Almost half the people in developing countries lack inadequate sanitation. As I tackle my ironing this week I will think of these people and the risks they take to wear clean clothes. An hour spent at the ironing board is nothing compared to the effort others have to put in.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Water butt.....

With some fantastic weather over the weekend I used my new water butts for the first time. I felt particularly virtuous as I filled the watering can with rain water. Such a simple thing - saving rain water for another use, and saving fresh tap water at the same time. I hope my plants enjoyed it!

This week Christian Aid asks us to think about well being around the world. We take it for granted turning on a tap, or running a shower or bath and seeing the clear, clean water come out. Last year I counted how many taps I had - too many compared to many thousands of people who have to walk to a water supply. I can still picture the joy of people I met in Kimberley and Kuruman, as they managed to recycle wash water for their vegetable garden using a rusty old petrol can.

Nearly 1 billion people do not have clean water. Symbolically I have now moved away from wasting clean water on my plants but an annual count up of the taps is always a stark reminder of how different life is for me. 17 + 2 showers + 2 water butts = 21 (£2.10 for Christian Aid)

Monday, 11 April 2011

As quick as a flush

During my early twenties, when working in London and visiting the theatre fairly frequently, a friend and I talked about writing a book. We talked about writing a guide to the ladies toilets in London theatres. Now I am sure that in the twenty years since our comments someone probably has written that guide.

My friend and I would give each loo marks out of ten. And I still find myself doing so now in public places, like pubs and restaurants, shops and high streets at home and abroad. Friends will say that I am quite fussy when it comes to public loos and I must say some of them are still appalling - smelly, graffiti strewn, doors that don't lock and no paper! However, I have discovered in the last few years that I cannot be the only one concerned with the state of ladies toilets. Standards have crept up and even in a very ordinary coffee shop the toilets now come with air fresheners and hand wash.

It's amazing how, travelling around Buckinghamshire between churches (many without a loo), planning toilet stops has become a necessity for me. So IKEA in Milton Keynes, Beaconsfield Services and John Lewis at High Wycombe are all on my list. In London the public toilets in Covent Garden take some beating. Although I must say my favourites are those in upmarket London hotels and restaurants which have individual flannels to dry your hands and Molton Brown hand wash and hand lotion. You just have to buy a meal or drink for the experience!

It's all a bit over the top really, particularly when in other parts of the world health and sanitation isn't given the same priority. The provision of nice or grotty toilets may be someones responsibility here, but others are not so fortunate. Many people across the world do not have their own loo, do not have water to flush it and would not even comprehend that western designers win competitions for inventing quick machines to dry our hands.

In Ethiopia Christian Aid partners train teachers in health and sanitation so that this knowledge is passed on to school children. Each time I flush the loo today I will give 10p for the privilege of doing so and will count my blessings....

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Planning for the Future

Pensions are the thing that most people in their forties and fifties don't like to think about. It's a distant phenomena which happens sometime in the future, and like Wills and other matters which concern the last stage in life is difficult to take too seriously. However, open every money page of the broadsheets and it is hard to ignore the need to plan and not anticipate what the provision will actually be when retirement actually comes.

When I was first ordained the sums were simple, work 35 years as an ordained priest and you would be entitled to a receive a full pension. I had worked out that I would therefore be able to retire at 66 years. After working 16 years the goal post have changed and I now anticipate working until aged about 70 years. That's of course if I don't take that word Pension a bit more seriously and begin to save for retirement, which I will have to do if I want to have some choice about where I live and how I live in old age. Long gone is the short hay day of the eighties when, like my father, one could retire at 53 and with some financial prudence manage never to have to work again, enjoying the fruits of ones labour for at least another 25 years.

As I write however I am aware of all the words I use: entitled; receive; provision; save; choice. Words which do not appear in the vocabulary of many across our globe. They are words which speak of wealth and luxury, not of millionaires or celebrities (that's on totally a different plane) but of people who will be provided with something when we stop working for a living to enable us to continue to live independent lives.

This weekend we are asked by Christian Aid to reflect on the plight of the elderly across the world. In many countries those beyond 70 have to go on working to survive, Bolivia has only recently introduced a state pension to enable people in their late 70s to be able to afford the rent without having to keep working. And in other parts of the world most families have to daily absorb the cost of caring for their elderly relatives because there is no state provision. This gives those who work additional costs to bear out of a limited income, and the elderly little choice about anything.

Reflecting on this makes me realise how much we have. It also makes me so grateful for all I take for granted - that my parents have had a long and happy retirement, and that I can anticipate receiving something called Pension when I eventually stop work.

Friday, 8 April 2011


This week's count your blessings focuses on shelter. Yesterday a further earthquake was reported in Japan, a country still in shock and disarray following the previous earthquake and Tsunami. I cannot imagine how that technologically rich and relatively prosperous nation is managing to hold together when there has been so much loss of life and devastation. It is a reminder for all of us of the fragility of the world and the temporal nature of all we surround ourselves with, including bricks and mortar.

It is hard for my generation and those younger to envisage destruction over such a wide scale, earlier generations - those who lived through the two world wars particularly - probably understood much better the preciousness of life and possessions and as a result valued both (and the little things) much more. Following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, more than 2 million people became homeless, families of 12 people or so lived in single rooms for months after. It is good during Lent for us to reflect upon all that we have, I wonder what it would be like to be alive and have no possessions? What would be left if everything was taken away?

The provision of food and shelter is every one's right and necessity. On a day like this I feel guilty living in the house I do. I give 10p for each of my 11 large rooms and think of the 100 needy people across the world who could find shelter under my roof.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Paradise Lost

I have very fond memories of the Isle of Wight. As a family we holidayed there for many years, staying in the grounds of an old mansion in the south, literally on the edge of a cliff. A great fan of Enid Blyton at the time 'Southview' was our own mysterious playground, the walk down the cliff to the beach an exciting adventure and perched on rocks when the tide came in a fun few hours caused by foolish (or rather foolhardy) parents. The Isle of Wight continues to enchant me, a few years ago a friend and I walked around its circumference, it is a manageable place, inviting yet old fashioned, its coast stunning, its attractions (including coloured sands) quite twee. A mixture of what's good about life in miniature.

Palestine, visited last year, is quite different. It's desert beauty rough rather than lush, it's beauty, to be capture in rare moments of quiet, lost in bustle and busyness. The powerless have very little as olive groves are destroyed and water is scarce because of occupation. I have never been to Gaza, but the stories of life there are not attractive. They reveal a struggling existence for those who live there, where the provision of health care, education and welfare is hampered by embargoes and checkpoints. There are romantic tales in the Isle of Wight about smugglers of old, in Gaza people smuggle essential goods to enable them to live.

The current population of the Isle of wight is around 124,000. The current population of Gaza is 1.5 million. We can easily come and go to and from the Isle of Wight, people are locked in Gaza. Symbolically, due to past experiences, the Isle of Wight is the one place in the world that for me represents freedom, freedom from the cares of the world, from anxiety, from the things that get us down. I pray that the people of Gaza will one day experience that freedom too.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Where is home? That's a question I have asked myself ever since I left my family home in Billericay some 20 years ago. For most people home is where they find themselves now. A decision is made, and a house found. However, for those who are ordained and find themselves, like me, living in a house owned by someone else, somewhere we might not have chosen, then home often resides in a different place. Most clergy being ordained now, in middle age, have their own home somewhere else. That property may be rented or used occasionally but is nevertheless somewhere they call home, and may plan to return to at some stage. I, being ordained before I could afford a house, have no other home.

So in a strange way, my parents house, remains my home. I return to it occasionally and it passes the knee-jerk test, of being called home spontaneously in conversation. It's hard, because I would like to make my current house a home, but know however much I try it will never be it...and should I leave my current job I will leave it behind as I have left the five houses I have lived in before behind too.

Being without a home, has made me ponder on a number of things, particularly what will happen when my parents no longer are in their home. It makes me feel rootless and disinterested in investing in the here and now. On a bad day it makes me feel insecure, at the mercy of others, with no autonomy. However, then, when I voice a question like Peter asked Jesus, I am reassured by what Jesus said in reply

'Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

In fact it is only in the affluent west that we cherish so much our bricks and mortar. Not having a home makes me appreciate being given one, but it also makes me have a kind of solidarity with the millions of rootless people across the world. Unlike me, who has had a pretty easy time (in comparison) giving up things to follow Christ, 42 million people worldwide are currently displaced by no fault of their own - conflict, persecution and disaster. How much harder it must be for them to cling onto any kind of blessing....

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Keeping in touch

It wasn't too long ago that we used to write letters. As a child I was taught to write 'thank you' letters after Christmas or a birthday, and I still do. They are now almost the only personal letters I ever write. Even in my work letters make up now about 5% of the communication I do, with email and the telephone doing the rest.

When I left home and moved to Hull, a great deal of my time was spent re-living my experience for the sake of others, as I wrote it down in a letter, and even when training in Bristol I would write regular letters home to keep in touch. Now with the internet and mobile phones we are brought much closer to our families and friends as we can text and email as much or as little as we like. I do feel, though, that we probably communicate less in that way of our thoughts and feelings and what we have been doing. The letters kept from grandparents and relatives no longer alive are all the more treasured. Perhaps in a way the blog has become our public letter home?

I am glad that my parents, although now in their 70s have embraced new technology - the mobile phone may not be switched on very often, but at least they have one and my dad looks at his emails everyday. My sister and I still each have a ritual phone call with my mum once a week and keep in touch ourselves by email and phone. It's amazing how things have moved on.

In Zimbabwe unemployment is estimated at 94%, forcing many people to live miles from home to find work to support their families. For many there are little means of communication. This week I have been in touch with my family (parents and sister) by letter (or card), email and phone and therefore today give 60p to Christian Aid for being able to do so.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Street Walking

We never really think about walking along the street. In fact we walk for pleasure and look at the things we pass as we go along, perhaps minding the remains of the take away or the dog dirt every so often. Since getting a puncture last year I suppose I now do think about driving down country lanes. I try to avoid the potholes which have become something of a hazard.

However I am aware today how different it is, even with the inconvenience of Buckinghamshire potholes, in some parts of the world to walk and drive freely. Today is International Mine Awareness Day. In Cambodia, for example, landmines and unexploded ordinance continue to kill and maim. They remain dangerous consequences of war. 87% of the victims are civilians. We pray for those who cannot walk along the street without the risk of being injured.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Within Reach

It is now possible for those with money and access to the right transport to get to almost anywhere in the world. Some places are still more accessible than others, however with the ability to negotiate and plan globally and locally, distant lands and remote places and people can now be reached.

In our own country we take travel very much for granted, we get into our cars, or hop on a train, or plane if we want someone else to take us there. We explore new places on a day out or holiday and travel then for fun. For the first time in my life I live in what could be described as a remote location! It is over a mile to the nearest shop, however I very rarely walk there.

In many parts of the world, the luxury of what I describe is beyond understanding. The day to day pressures of life, with no access to transport and little local provision in way of school, work, shop or hospital are all absorbing. Walking is about survival rather than pleasure.

In Malawi, and other remote parts of our world, mothers with sick children travel by foot and bike for up to four hours a day for months on end to attend treatment and feeding clinics. This determines their healthy survival. This weekend I give thanks for mothers all over the world who make sacrifices for their children.

Although, because of other commitments, I won't be seeing my mother tomorrow and she lives 60 miles away. I am very aware today that with a car if I needed to I can be with her in just over an hour.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Last year, during the World Cup, I used my blog to highlight life in the diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman, a diocese linked with our own Oxford. It is a privilege to chair the diocesan Link Committee and to have visited our brothers and sisters to see and experience life in that diocese for myself. We have a wonderful committee, made up of dedicated people willing to give to specific areas of life overseas. Some have been involved in developing parish to parish links, some have spent considerable time in Kimberley and Kuruman and others have much expertise of working with aid agencies and charities overseas. The partnerships we have made, and enabled others to make, give us a sense of sharing in a common mission across the miles that divide us so much so that we end up receiving much more than we could ever give.

There are many frustrations, life works at a different pace in the Northern Cape of South Africa and resources are scarcer, but there are a huge amount of joys and many of those joys are found working with the most poor and needy. I shall never forget the huge grin on the face of a lady we met on our last visit who showed us the pumpkin she had grown in her own little vegetable garden, assisted by a team of community workers, set up by a local church and supported by the Oxford diocese. Nor shall I forget the singing and dancing celebrating another vegetable garden, set up in partnership with the church in Watlington to provide a balanced diet for the neighbourhood, particularly those who have HIV/AIDS.

Programmes for orphans and vulnerable children are developing, which gives those affected by HIV/AIDS a place to play with other children and a place to receive a good balanced meal at least once a week. More than 11 million children in sub-Saharan Africa have lost one or both parents to AIDS related illnesses. Today we pray for them,their parents and grandparents.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Rights for Women

On my days away last week I read an interesting biography of Frances Partridge. Frances has been called the last of the Bloomsbury Group, outliving most of them by many years. The complications of Bloomsbury were reflected in her life, in short she met and eventually married Ralph Partridge, who at the time of meeting was married to Dora Carrington, who were both lovers of Lytton Strachey - she joined the 'menage et trios', which came to an end with the death of Lytton and suicide of Dora. I leave it there! Anyway one of the most shocking facts in the book was that Frances went up to Newnham College, Cambridge in the 1920s, but wasn't awarded her degree until she collected it in her 70s (she died a few years ago aged 101).

Hundreds, if not thousands of women, were not given the degree to which they would have been entitled before the 1950s. The issue here was a system which didn't believe that women needed an academic qualification, either for work or a career (a career!) or for the satisfaction of earning it. Now what a change there has been in education here in the last fifty years - women professors, vice chancellors, lecturers. Still across the world today, a world still governed and ruled mostly by men, women are denied an education.

Many girls in developing countries find it hard, and therefore it is important that organisations such as Christian Aid and its partners raise the awareness of the importance of educating women. As a woman educated in the same way as men for 17 years of my life I happily give £1.70 to educate another woman today. I am also very much aware today that the fight for the recognition of women in other spheres of western life goes on and that, even in such a modern age, we still have a long way to go before we have justice and equity. Not necessarily for the sake of women themselves but for the sake of God's kingdom.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

You are what you eat?

A number of current TV programmes, setting out to shock, use the system of throwing a weeks food consumed down a transparent tube so the consumer is confronted by their lifestyle. It is fairly gross but also does its job. Sometimes there is almost nothing in the tube (or cigarettes and beer) and other times there is junk food galore. I am sure we haven't always been obsessed by diet, however health and food have gradually become more and more to the fore, as we in the west turn into couch potatoes with no idea how to cook or little time to do so.

We live in a very different culture from even my parents generation. My parents have always balanced work to earn a living, with work to grow their own food. My mother did not have a full time job after I was born, and so traditionally would cook an evening meal for us all. The weekly shopping trip was always at the same time on the same day, and in those days she walked up the high street going into a shop at a time to get meat, fish, vegetables and fruit, and the supermarket for the essentials left on the list.

Nowadays a weekly trip to the supermarket has to be planned, decisions have to be made about food throughout the week in order to get it right. Now I find myself with little time to prepare and cook and part of the reason I have a fruit and veg box delivered is to confront me with things I have to eat. I try and eat in a balanced way, but very often 5 portions of fruit and veg are just not possible. No wonder vitamin tablets and ready made meals are so popular, and no wonder transparent tubes filled with junk are so shocking.

Again the freedom we have to make choices, and the wisdom we need to make the right choice and to change should be seen as a privilege. Vitamin A deficiency affects 40% of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, these children have no choice and often little to eat. They are susceptible to life-threatening diseases - not of their own making. Sadly whether we can help it or not we are what we eat.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Age Matters

It is a well known fact that most of our Anglican churches are filled with 60 and 70 year olds. Not surprising then that a significant number of clergy are going to be retiring in the next few years as many of them have grown older with their congregations. Much research has shown that leaders attract those between ten years older and ten years younger than themselves and a quick scan across the Bucks archdeaconry shows that the younger, vibrant churches are mostly led by younger (and mostly vibrant) clergy. I write this on a day when I have already become depressed (yes before 6am!) at the lack of flexibility and vision at the centre of the diocese - I don't mean from the Bishops but within many of our committees and boards. Then I look at the age profile and perhaps shouldn't be surprised, most of these people retired from their businesses ages ago..... they have been brought up to be cautious, preserving and, conservative (mostly with a large C and small c). I look again at those churches which are growing (inwardly and out) - risks are being taken with outreach and buildings, creativity flourishes or is allowed to flourish, and money is no bar to fruitfulness. They demonstrate a gospel of Good News, generosity and it's attractive. At the age of 46 (20 years younger than many of those I work with) I am passionate about what we are as a church, yet feel trapped by the mindset of my elders. Perhaps I am too young for this job? and yet many of those who lead succesful businesses out in the world are younger than I am. All this talk about age has been provoked by the Count your Blessings for today. 1p for every year of my life. A baby in Britain can expect to live to the age of 79, whereas a baby in other parts of the world can expect to live a much shorter life (Afghanistan it is 44 years). I am grateful that I can look forward (hopefully) to live for many years yet, but hope and pray, for the sake of the church, that I will always be open and listen to the ideas and energy of the generations below me.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Thought for the Day

In Sierra Leone, more than one in five children will die before reaching their fifth birthday.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


Yesterday I wrote about Cotswold Water Park. One of the leisure activities on a neighbouring lake was fishing. Now, I don't know much about fishing (maybe the Jesus kind but not the Simon Peter kind) but I was fascinated to see the lake measured out in sections from which individuals fished. At the weekend there was a competition with all these sections full of fishermen (and yes they mostly were men), each with their bait, rod(s) and keep net. At the end of the day the judges went around adding up the catch. Now, in some ways this is easy fishing (I know that much), the lake is well stocked and that should make catching something possible. River or sea fishing is much harder. I well remember my father spending all night once fishing in the sea on a beach on the east coast and catching only an eel. It's a matter of sitting and waiting, and for me that is what fishing seems to be about, sitting and waiting. It's interesting that women don't seem to want (or have time!) to relax in the same way!

In Bangladesh young children have to go fishing everyday for shrimp fry in order to buy books and food for school. They also have to fetch drinking water for their family which can take up to three hours. Christian Aid provide local water collecting systems to alleviate the hardship. This is not fishing for pleasure, or having the luxury of sitting for hours waiting for a catch. This is about life and death. Today I am asked to give 10p for every bill I have paid this month, very difficult in the days of direct debit, however I may try and find out the current cost of fishing bait and give that instead.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Waste and Space

I have just enjoyed a few days away, staying in a lodge looking out on one of the lakes in the Cotswold Water Park. The Park is an extraordinary place, in two parts across a great swathe of east Gloucestershire between Cirencester and Swindon, and Fairford and Lechlade. It contains over 130 lakes created purely for leisure. Most of the lakes are privately owned, and the larger ones contain gated communities of exclusive property developments - your own second home by the water, as many of the adverts a few years back in the broadsheets read. Others are nature reserves, for fishing or water skiing, for canoeing and there is even a beach resort with real sand! I suppose in a way it compensates those living in the centre of England for not being near the coast.

Away from all the noise of local roads and airfields it is easy to forget that this vast area was once a hive of industry. All these lakes were once part of a huge gravel and sand extraction business and this still goes on in pockets of the area as large lorries trundle along leaving dust in their wake. The area, which could have been left desolate has been brought to life - not for work purposes but for leisure. Landfill has probably helped in the landscaping and continues to do so across our country. Now many parts of leisure England can testify to once being the waste lands of the sand, gravel and cement industry - Lakeside and Bluewater shopping centres to name two.

We are fortunate in this country to have the wealth so the plans of artists and architects can be translated into a new development so something can be created for pleasure, many around the world do not have that luxury. Thousands of people in developing countries live on piles of waste, and scrounge a living from scavenging on rubbish dumps, many more too risk their health mining for minerals across the globe. Today, as I give thanks for the joy of looking out at a lake at sunrise earlier this week I pray for and give to those who struggle to survive - for whom the concept of leisure is unknown.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Earning a Living

Many people living in poverty have little or no choice over how they are able to earn a living.

Looking at the Church Times each week clergy now, it seems, have a lot of choice over their next post. Gone are the days when the Bishops played constant games of chess, moving clergy from place to place, telling them at every move that they are 'by far the best man for the job'. Instead most now have to go through, an often, elaborate process of selection which includes visits, presentations and interviews. Clergy get to discern whether its the right house, the right people, the right place, and parish representatives whether it is the right preacher, right social fit, and right experience. God is in their somewhere....and the hardest part is hearing God's voice over the individual right of choice.

For those ordained a long time, contemplating a move in the church now is a daunting thought - it is not unusual for me to meet those who have never applied for a job in their lives. It takes a great deal of courage to step out into the unknown to where God may be beckoning next, particularly if rejected on the first application. For others, used to a more secular environment, however it is also difficult...these individuals often find it hard to see ministry in terms of vocation and priesthood in terms of the whole person. Seeing ministry as just another job does not go down well with parish reps and senior staff alike, particularly when applications abound for a variety of posts with no clear vision for what next.

Whilst choice in all sorts of ways may cause problems, choice we all do have, whether it is applying for a post, offering the post or accepting or rejecting a post. I have held seven fulltime posts since leaving school so that is 70p to Christian Aid today. Again a small price to pay for doing the work I love and having the opportunity to follow God's calling in the first place.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A lost childhood

I am always moved when I hear or see accounts of children who care for their parents or siblings. The courage and selflessness is often overwhelming, as these youngsters juggle school and homework, with cooking, feedings and housework.

Many children around the world also support their family financially. Unlike me, who kept the money from my Saturday job, many children go to work after school, or at weekends to contribute to the family because the family couldn't survive otherwise. In some countries children work on rubbish dumps, in others factories and in others quarries. It is hard work and long hours.

I give 50p today because I have money in the bank at the end of every month. Many people neither have money left nor energy. So many children are forced by circumstances to give up their childhood to care or to go out to work. Those who support them financially or by offering holidays or a group to be part of are to be commended.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Last year I reported on the water burst whilst the extension was being built on my house. Unfortunately the water problems haven't gone away. Since then there have been frozen pipes, a leaky bath, dripping taps, a small pond appearing in the front garden and, worst of all, water from melting snow on the roof pouring through the ceiling of the new extension! In fact it feels like I have been plagued by water since moving in here three and a half years ago.

It's not only the inconvenience of water appearing in the wrong places, it is the waste. At a time when we are to be conserving the planet's resources, it doesn't seem right to be watching water go down the drain (or so to speak!).

Today is World Water Day......in wishing to conserve mine, I am mindful of all those who still have to walk miles to collect it My prayers are with them today and for all those who work at building water pumps, and wells, and those who drill bore holes and lay pipes. Today I will give 20p for every glass I drink, every tap I turn on and every flush of the loo for taking this precious thing so very much for granted.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Stacking Shelves

My first Saturday job took place on a Thursday. After school each week from the age of 14 I worked in a local mini-market. It sold everything, and I was charged with stacking the shelves, after the owner had returned from the cash and carry. However, I didn't stack all the shelves, my responsibility were the pet foods and the soups. I had to write down exactly what was running out of stock ready for the next trip.....so I specialised in makes and flavours of cat food, and the flavours of Heinz soup.

The apprentice on a Thursday then eventually was promoted to become a Saturday girl. This was great fun, there were two of us and we did everything from slice meats, to cutting and weighing cheese, from operating the till to washing the floor and sticking posters in the window (which was the highlight as we had to balance on top of the freezer to do that!). Then at the end of the day we were given our wages. It was fantastic, that feeling of being given bank notes for the first time in recognition for work.

Earning the British minimum wages puts us among the richest 11%in the world. And although a stipend is comparatively low, we are rich compared to many. Today I give thanks for the opportunities to work and the reward (financial and otherwise) in doing so.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Teachers we have loved...

I never really enjoyed my school days. My early memories of my first school were of strict teachers, embarassing situations and a general dread of what was going to happen next. The two teachers I had are not remembered for their kindness.

Then a brand new school was build just around the corner, so local children left one school and joined another. I can still remember the first day there, aged 7 when the varnish on the hall floor was still wet. That school was created around us, a swimming pool was built (my friend and I held a fete in her house to raise funds), we had school pets and went on a brilliant trip in the 4th year juniors to the Isle of Wight. Mrs Williams, Mrs Neild, Miss Krelle and Mr Granath are remembered with fondness. They were fun, and cared for us all.

Then came the local comprehensive. I hated it. I dreaded it. Not only were the teachers unfriendly, but I didn't excel and couldn't see the point of what we were learning. There were some good times, I made a tray in plastics (still in use!), learned to type and got some good grades in RE! I remember a detention, a teacher throwing a chalk at me, and feeling ill some days at the thought of going. It wasn't until the sixth form, that a form tutor noticed some potential in this average (or below average) girl and encouraged me to do different things - like help in the careers office, be chairperson of a young enterprise company and look beyond working in a bank when I left at 18. Mr Ford was the only teacher I have kept in touch with ever since.

69 million primary aged children around the world do not go to school. However organisations like Christian Aid are trying to make it possible. At the end of my education I managed 5 O'levels and 2 (extremely low) grade A levels. That's 45p. Amazingly 4 years later I managed an HNC (40p) and then 10 years later a 2:1 degree (50p). Both of those were highly relevant, and motivated me in a way those unnamed teachers didn't and those named ones did. If my £1.35 today goes someway to motivating someone else it's money well spent.

Friday, 18 March 2011

It began with an Amstrad

Computers have played a significant part in my pilgrimage. In 1987 I worked for the RSA as an Administrative Secretary. I used an electronic typewriter for my work until it was decided that I would be given a brand new word processor to manage the database with. Things started well and I got to grips with it, then I undertook some training outside the office, and when I got back I didn't have a clue how to relate the training to my machine. Work began to get too much and after a visit to the doctor I was given anti-depressants. This started me on the road to thinking that there must be more to life than commuting to London everyday.....

Unbeknown to me, my local vicar had been thinking that God perhaps was calling me to something else too and had planned to offer me a job working at my local church. However, when I had told him that the RSA were buying me my very own word processor, costing in those days around £4,000 he thought I would never give up my job in London! How wrong he was, when he invited me to join the team some two months later. I jumped at the chance.

The Vicar had bought himself and the church office an Amstrad computer each, and so I moved from one machine to another. The church office computer became my right arm for two years. Life took me then to Hull to embark on the next episode, and my local church realised how bereft I was at the thought of not having a computer after all this time. Hence their leaving present to me - an Amstrad of my own. Now, twenty one years and five computers later I couldn't imagine myself without one.

In Burkina Faso fewer than one in ten people have access to a computer. I currently have access to 3, along with two mobile phones, so pay £1 today for the privilage.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Picture paints a thousand words

I have been at a fantastic conference this week, with over 100 people from the Oxford diocese on Leading your Church into Growth. We have had some great teaching, and thoughtful worship and it has been good to touch base with so many clergy all in one place.

The course itself has many words, however the worship has been designed around some powerful images. It's amazing what one picture can lead you to in terms of thoughtful reflection and personal devotion. A drawing can say so much...and can open up the imagination to so many thoughts and feelings...bringing about commitment, repentance, joy, sorrow, and a renewed commitment in a way that words would just not connect.

In the west we are so reliant on words, we forget that many in our world are unable to read. Today we are reminded that in Mali, only one in four can. As we continue to learn about sharing the Good News with others we need to remember to use images as well as words.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Free Press

42% of countries worldwide, it is estimated, do not have a free press nor give people access to unbiased news.

It could be questioned whether our news is ever unbiased, for it is hard for it not to be. Most people know a paper by its political colour and I changed my Saturday choice because of its sudden change of allegiance last year. With the internet it is easier now than ever before to discern all sides of a particular story and to come to ones own conclusion about it and most blogs contain something of that personal conclusion. Yet what ever we write is going to be biased in some way, we all have likes and dislikes, heros and villains, beliefs and principals, free speech brings with it biased opinions. It's hard to remain neutral anymore or to avoid being judged if that is the intention.

Yet, what is meant by the 42% are those who are vetod in their free speech; those who are fed only one line - the party one; those who are punished for speaking out or speaking against. The internet too is helping the otherwise helpless and voiceless to communicate to the rest of the world, but that also can be censored, or just not available.

We all need a voice...and the freedom to decide what we will listen to. I will only give 20p today as I just buy two newspapers in a week (one national and one local) - not much to pay for the freedom I have to choose them and read them.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


It's strange isn't it how something suddenly becomes part of our life. I can understand how technology moves on and new inventions appear. However, am puzzled with the way other things catch on - things like Sudoku. Life before Sudoku comprised IQ type puzzles and crosswords, word searches and anagrams. Then the nine numbered square appeared from no-where and Sudoku are everywhere. We find our own level - Easy, hard, tough, fiendish. There are even Killer Sudoku's and Ken Ken's. There is a whole new number industry, and I am sure pencil sales have increased too.

Today Christian Aid asks us to give 20p for every crossword or Sudoku attempted this week. That's £1 from me, as my weekly attempts from the Saturday paper comprise the cryptic crossword, a general knowledge crossword, a hard and a tough and a Killer. I take it all for granted doing puzzles, which I have enjoyed from an early age. Yet roughly 16% of the world's population cannot read or write, something to think about today as I do both.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Joy of Text

Books in my life will never be replaced by an electronic alternative. There is something about having a good book on a shelf, being able to open it and taking it with you. The text books I now have, apart from theology, are nearly all travel books. These books open up the world to me, whether places I have been or places I dream to go, they are my reminder of memories and containers of vision.

While I was at school the text book changed from being full of text, to containing diagrams and pictures. These brought the subject alive, and now I realise that my intuition and imagination responds much better to images, and short blocks of text than pages full of words. £2.50 will pay for a text book for two students in Southern Sudan. The importance of that should not only be to enable children to learn, but to open their horizons to new things.

My latest purchase is '1000 Sacred Places' bringing together my two loves - travel and God. I haven't read many books this year (probably 3 at the most and all on holiday in January) but I will gladly give 10p today for every book I have read and purchased so far in 2011, because life without books is something I could never imagine.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A Worldwide Church

Today the world's focus is on Japan. Pictures of yesterday's earthquake and Tsunami shown across the globe quickly revealed the extent of the devastation and the power of nature. Our prayers are with all those whose lives have been turned upside down in a moment.

With modern communication and air travel the other side of our world has become closer and more accessible. This morning I am hosting a meeting for all those involved in our diocesan link with Kimberley and Kuruman and, through regular visits and telephone calls, we are able to develop a much deeper relationship than we would have been able to do twenty or thirty years ago. That relationship is practical as well as prayerful.

Tomorrow marks the end of FairTrade fortnight. FairTrade directly benefits 7 million people in 58 developing countries. It is another way that we can connect with our world and support one another. As we meet those from other cultures, or understand more about the personal struggles and triumphs in other parts of the world from the Internet or television screen we can be challenged and changed. Fairtrade is one way we can respond, there are many more ways, these will be made clear to those who gather this morning and, as we think of Japan, will no doubt be highlighted in the days and weeks to come.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Food Miles

Where did my breakfast come from? Now that's a good question for today. In highlighting the fact that Christian Aid helps farmers in 42 countries around the world I need to locate the source of my breakfast. Not so easy with a packet of cereal made out of countless ingrediants. Thinking about chocolate the other day made me realise the tension we have in our world when it comes to our food. On the one hand we need from an environmental point of view to save food miles and to support local produce, on the other we know that in importing from across the world we are helping those in poorer countries.

Like buying only fruit when it is in season I suppose one principle would be to buy products from overseas when they cannot be produced locally. However things are further complicated by the criss-crossing around the world of different parts of the process - my cereal box, inner plastic bag, and cereal were not all made in one place. There are somethings that are impossible to be purist about. Fairtrade though can be one principle we can adhere too, particularly when it comes to tea and coffee and that way we are supporting particular farmers in particular places.

Breakfast this morning will be spent working out exactly how many places the cereal did actually come from. I thought cereal was the simplist option when it came to breakfast until now, how I wish I was having local bacon and eggs today!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Real Rubbish

'Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return'. These powerful words from the Ash Wednesday liturgy are still ringing in my ears. A reminder of our mortality, of our nothingness, the common denominator whether we are rich or poor, educated or not, born in the west or in a poorer part of the world. Yet Christians know and believe that we are definitely not nothing, but something. Known by our name before we are born, says the psalmist, chosen and precious it says elsewhere in the Bible.

Today's Count your Blessings is about rubbish. The average household throws away 4kg of food and drink every week I read. I was brought up in a household who believed in compost from the earliest of days and 'feeding the birds' with the rest. Everything was precious and had a use, even when decomposing. Then along came packaging and the waste pile grew. The great reclaimation over the years has been the growth of the recycling industry, redeeming that packaging be it tin or paper, plastic or card and using it for other things. We can then buy back recycled products and score even more brownie points on the satisfaction scale. Simply burying all our rubbish just isn't good for the world.

There are many people today who feel like rubbish, they have been disguarded, abused, literally treated like dirt and the less care we take about the disposal of our unwanted things, be it from the attic, the garden or the kitchen cupboard or fridge, the less likely we are to see the value in anything, of God's world, of our environment, of the human being. Our Ash Wednesday refrain is also a reminder that God longs to lift us out of the rubbish dump of sin, to redeem us, to turn us from nothing into something.

As I consider my kitchen rubbish today, I will think twice about what is real rubbish.....and what can be redeemed for the sake of God's kingdom here on earth and in life everlasting.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Sugar and Ash

I am sitting here thinking about three bags of sugar totally 3kg. That is the amount of chocolate each person in Britain eats on average every year. Well, there must be a good number of people who don't eat much chocolate so that means many people eat more than 3kg. No wonder there is a thriving chocolate industry. I remember visiting Cadbury's World last year and seeing bar after bar moving along the production line and wondering about our consumption, that someone somewhere in the world was eating a bar as fast as they were produced and that was only one production line producing one named bar.

Writing about chocolate on day one of my fast is temptation at its worst, however in Counting my Blessings today I am asked to give 10p for every bar of chocolate I have eaten in the past week. Well, I could respond, I am saving my money today because I not sure whether I have eaten a bar this last week. Yet, I have eaten chocolate cakes, chocolate dessert, chocolate toffees....and so it goes on. Chocolate is part of an indulgent way of life for us in the west...and my contribution to the 3kg grows every week. It is also a way of life for farmers in poorer areas of our world. Christian Aid provides farmers in places like Nicaragua with cocoa seeds, and each costs 10p, which can in turn give them and their families a regular income.

That to me in the real challenge, if seeds cost 10p then someone loses out somewhere in order for me to eat chocolate cheaply. I don't often eat Nicaraguan chocolate, probably because it costs more. If we all then just ate a couple of pieces of more expensive chocolate instead of a whole bar that 3kg average would go down and farmers struggling to make a living in farming cocoa would have more of a chance. My 10p today (now placed where I can see it throughout Lent sat next to a jar of sugar) is extremely symbolic as I atone for all my greed.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Mmmm Pancakes!

Something I usually never get around to eating are pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. In fact I think the last time I had them was at a Pancake Party we held in my former parish some...6 years ago. It's not like I don't like them or anything but is one of the definite disadvantages to being in a single-person household. You just cannot make batter for one or two pancakes....so off you go and one gets cold while you cook the next and so on. Then I am usually going out somewhere in the evening and so what should be an extended cooking and eating time to enjoy the last pre-Lenten indulgence never actually happens.

With all the chocolate being removed from the house today (like the rapid removal of linen ritual that happens in churches at the end of Maundy Thursday), I have decided this pancake treat must be reinstated. No, I realise it is not the using up of ingredients in the cupboard, but the pancakes from M & S looked so tempting...and can be put in the microwave...and come in small packets. So hey presto...I can indulge and get to my meeting by 7.30pm without the surplus batter. Not quite as it was in my childhood, or with a congregation, but the intention is there and, together with the 'stripping of the chocolate' it will make my Shrove Tuesday complete.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Anticipating another Lent

I have had my arm twisted by Christian Aid to Blog about Counting my Blessings during Lent. Another challenge I rise too! There are so many blessings in my job, even the most mundane and so to focus on all I take for granted once again is a good discipline. I am also thinking about....and it is not yet Ash Wednesday ....giving up chocolate. This for me will be an extreme challenge and something I have never done before. It will also mean finding enough treats in my life not to resort to the quality street box, or the malteser packet...or whatever else there is around to give me a boost. Now there may be blessing galore around....but the need for an occasional sugar rush is very strong. I think I need to begin to look in different places for the treat that is God, so maybe the two are linked and Lent may be an exciting journey of self-discovery. Perhaps something to even look forward to?