Friday, 24 February 2017

Lent challenge, Lent books.

Lent is coming!

It’s Shrove Tuesday this week and Ash Wednesday on March 1st.

In our house we will definitely be having pancakes on Tuesday, then on Wednesday we’re starting our Lent thing.

This year we’re going to do Ann Marie’s 40 bags in 40 days challenge from the intentional living blog White House Black Shutters

If you fancied doing it too, she’s made a printable for it here if you’d find that helpful. As we already live a fairly minimalist lifestyle, we didn’t think it would be possible to get together 40 bags individually, even if we took turns at counting in taking out the trash on dustbin day, but we thought we could manage it – and certainly benefit from it – as a household.

Actually we got excited talking about it yesterday and started eyeing up all the things to go – and had pancakes for tea, too – but decided to hold our fire and start bagging on Wednesday. Oh, yes.

Will take photos of our progress.

Meanwhile, if you are someone who likes to read a book through Lent, you might enjoy either of these that I wrote (pics are linked to Amazon UK, titles in text to US Amazon).

The Hardest Thing To Do  is a novel, 4th in my Hawk & Dove series.

The Wilderness Within You is part of my experimentation fusing fiction and reflection, and is a book of reflections on biblical themes written as fictional narratives – conversations with Jesus. An online reviewer for CLC bookshops described it as perhaps the most “off the wall “ Lent book I have seen for awhile, which made me happy, and it was one of our diocesan bishop’s books chosen for Lent the year it came out.

Both are Lent books, with a chapter for each of the days from Ash Wednesday through to Easter day.

But how about you? Are you doing anything special to observe Lent this year?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Called To Watch

Emily emailed me recently about her blog Called To Watch.

There’s a lot of chronic illness in Emily’s family – her mother, father and sister all have serious chronic conditions – but Emily herself is not ill.

Realising that the issues arising from this must apply to many others in similar situations, Emily decided to start a blog exploring what it means to be a ‘watcher’ – someone closely tied to a loved one who is suffering – looking on, supporting, caring, observing, but not personally experiencing the illness.

Emily is a good writer and a person of deep and passionate Christian faith, and this is a really interesting perspective, that I know will resonate with the life situations of many who read here.

She includes a page (here) with a contact form for those who are watchers for loved ones in chronic sickness, because she'd like to include interviews and the stories of other watchers in future posts.

She also writes a personal blog called Glory Afterwards.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Finding the balance

We augment and consolidate in our lives whatever is the focus of our thoughts. We travel in the direction of our thoughts.

I pay attention to the whirling and eddying of present political turbulence. I heed the injustice in our treatment of refugees – the abominable decisions of Britain’s home secretary (and my own MP) to renege on the promise of a British home for 3000 child refugees, and also to deny access to our islands to disabled refugees. Such things, they do not go away, they are not so lightly dismissed. There is a justice built into the nature of things, and what we have done will surely find us out, for God is just, and God – not the British government – determines the course of our destiny. This will come back to us one day. If today we cannot see clearly enough the sorrow and grief and destructiveness of war, the desperation of the destitute, then one day it will be writ more plainly in our lives, so we cannot fail to get the point.

And I pay attention to what human beings are doing to the Earth – our grandmother and our home. After the Spirit of God and the Word of God in Christ, the Earth is our first ancestor, and we owe her the honour due an ancestor – “honour thy father and thy mother, that it may go well with thee, and thou mayest dwell long in the land”.  Unless we honour the Earth our grandmother, we will not have long to dwell here. I cannot fathom what our politicians and grand corporations imagine will be the result of the fracking, the oil spills, the pollution of land and air and sea. Surely they know enough science to understand that oxygen, an element, is finite and its balance with the other elements must be tended? Surely they know that we, made so much of water, need clean water to drink? Surely they grasp that if you reduce the cities of the world to rubble with your war machines, poison what you haven’t extracted for your consumer items in your pursuit of growth economics, inject poison into the aquifers – then you too will be gripped by the turmoil of fear and pain. “For these,” as Jesus said, “are the beginning of sorrows.” Dead right.

I watch and I listen. But I try not to put my focus there, because how futile and absurd my life would become if I looked so intensely into the ugliness and evil that I missed all the beauty and the good.

So I look at this

and this

and this

and this

and this

and this

and this

And I thank God who has filled my life with blessing – so much beauty, so much gentleness, so much health and kindness and creativity and tenderness and laughter and love. How blessed am I, who have all these wonders shining around me like the colours of the dawn. How blessed am I in family life, in the snowdrops, in the soft carpet of moss, in the singing of a bird at dusk, in the fall of rain, in the firelight, in the travelling moon, in the curve of a child’s face, in the quiet of night, in the fresh cold sea air. How blessed, how immensely blessed in sharing, in loving, in doing what little I can to bring good into the world.

Friday, 3 February 2017

A grief

I feel as though I have lost England.

All my life long I have loved England, really and deeply, as though England were a person as well as a place. The sheep and cows on the hillsides, the woods and heaths, the fields of barley and beans, the rivers and ocean bounds, the craggy moors. And I have loved the stolid English people, cautious and quiet, their dry humour and conservative ways.

I have loved our Queen, sustaining and championing the work of so many artists and artisans, growing her beautiful organic garden with its bees, right in the heart of London, speaking out for the Christian faith and the importance of family life. I have loved Prince Charles, advocating for tribal peoples, for wilderness, for traditional crafts and architecture, and Earth-friendly farming.

But something has changed in me since our Prime Minister Theresa May came to power.

For a long time, I have felt growing dismay at the socio-political development of our national life. It began for me with the Iraq War. With such hope and joy I listened to Tony Blair’s speech when he was elected Prime Minister – he was a compelling orator. I felt horrified and ashamed when, despite thousands and thousands of people protesting all over Europe, he bullied through his alliance with US powers and took Britain into that doomed, inadvisable and unjust conflict. Its bloody outworking and legacy are to our lasting shame.

When David Cameron was elected Prime Minister, I felt deeply disappointed. Mine has always been a Labour vote – not for myself, because my own values are similar to traditional Conservative ways, but for the poor and vulnerable in our society. To my mind, the work of government should be directed towards creating and maintaining peace and stability; you cannot do that without lifting people out of poverty, offering permanent help to the frail, caring for the sick and aged and the little children in their families.

Cameron’s time in office took my disappointment down into something altogether darker and deeper – not so much because of him, because I perceive him as a weak and malleable individual, but because of George Osborne his chancellor. Under Osborne’s financial leadership, Britain was run not as a nation but as a business. Those in power (the rich, and central political figures) were its shareholders creaming off the profits, while the people and the land were its human resources and stock of commodities. That administration did not love Great Britain. They were there to take what they could while they could, and they did not care who suffered as a result.

When Cameron’s government secured the vote to bomb poor, battered Aleppo – the jets waiting on the runway as the vote was taken – and George Osborne chortled “Britain’s got its mojo back,” as the bombs fell on the children who play in the rubble, I thought we had surely reached our nadir.

Then, on the back of a campaign distinguished by nothing more worthwhile than blatant, transparent lying, we had the Brexit vote. And then we got Theresa May.

With Amber Rudd watching over environmental affairs, we can expect our precious and ancient hills and hollows to be fracked mercilessly, the waters poisoned and the bones of the land broken. We can expect the badgers to be slaughtered without pity. We are seeing our newly rising sustainable energy industries down-graded and disregarded, and a colossal nuclear installation agreed for our coast, despite the increasing turbulence and rising sea levels coming as the climate changes. Japan also has nuclear installations on their coastline (as we do already, too) and every day shows why that’s a bad idea.

The UN is calling UK treatment of its sick and disabled a humanitarian crisis under Theresa May’s watch. The health service is being systematically dismantled. Regulations are in place to deport all overseas nationals who earn less than £35K pa – so that would be all the chefs and staff of the little Italian and Turkish and Indian restaurants, all the Polish builders and plumbers, many of the care assistants in our nursing homes, much of our staff in hospitals – and so many other areas of work. It will tear up our beautifully diverse society by the roots, creating mayhem.

Meanwhile, under the savage and relentless cuts in government support to the poor, disabled, chronically sick and vulnerable, homelessness and poverty are steadily increasing, family life is de-stabilising, and wealth is transferring away from the increasing numbers in poverty to the rich élite. The trickle-up approach to economics.

And what can we yet find money to buy? Nuclear missiles.

This morning, I noticed something in myself that has been happening for a while without my really being aware. I have stopped loving our monarchy.

I have always delighted in the monarchy – its dignity and gravitas, the splendour of state occasions, the standards of excellence, the focus of national life. I loved our Queen and felt so proud of her.

But, it’s one thing to love pomp and ceremony while the people are fed and housed, the children cared for, the refugee welcomed, the vulnerable supported and the sick treated – it’s quite another when all that is tossed aside. Wealth and status become ugly and shameful when homeless people die of cold in the streets and old people die on trolleys in hospital corridors. Monarchy is no longer something lovely when the land is sold to be poisoned and destroyed for comparatively worthless money. There is no amount of money can sustain and nurture us better than the living Earth – and to think it can is not even an illusion, it’s just stupid.

Theresa May and the rapacious cabal around her have done this for me: they have taken my Queen and turned her into a rich old woman in a hat. They have stamped on my England. They have taken the land of the free and turned it into a stock cupboard. And to whom do they look for their next fix of money, money, money? Donald Trump. May God in his mercy defend us from our government. Whatever can we do?