Christmas Doings 2: Boxing Day

There was an organised walk from church planned for the afternoon, and Mr FD was up for it, so the morning was spent doing various enjoyable things – reading, blogging, listening to the radio etc. Then, after a hurried piece of cheese on toast at 11.15, we set out to borrow our friends’ dog, Marvin, as we thought he would enjoy the walk. Then we drove down to Clermont.

Marvin was very well-behaved in the car: he sat in the footwell, and quivered. I stroked him a lot to reassure him, and finally he settled down between my feet.

We arrived at the car park where we were all meeting, but had to hang around for quite a while, as other people who were coming got lost. Finally everyone arrived and we set off

We headed up the Vallée de Sans Souci, to the Squirrels’ Cascade

It was lovely – people swapped walking partners, as we went, and Marvin had a great time with Clio, the labrador. There was a puppy with us too, Narda, but she was kept on the lead as she was rather over excited by the whole event! She’s the dog being lifted up in the photo above.

When we arrived back at the car, Rob (our rector) & Caireen (his wife) invited us back to the house, “for some leftovers” We were expecting a turkey sandwich and a cup of tea – and ended up having a delicious 4-course meal! Red pepper & sweet potato soup, turkey dinner, with all the trimmings, cheese, and mince pies! Goodness me!

Marvin was thoroughly spoiled and loved the attention. He isn’t allowed on the furniture (except his chair) at home, but here he was positively encouraged onto the sofa!

He was given a bowlful of scraps to eat as well. Rob and Caireen would have adopted him on the spot if they could have done! He was splendidly well-behaved.

And after a lovely meal, we drove home, arriving in time to feed the cats, who sniffed my jeans very suspiciously.

A really nice day, with really nice people.

Mr FD, me and Marvin

My consultant phoned me yesterday – both the bone scan and the organ scan were normal, showing no signs that the cancer has spread!

I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but the relief that both Mr FD and I felt was enormous. Thank you, God.


Thoughts on Budapest Retreat

Hello everyone! I’m back after a wonderful week away in Budapest. I had three days of retreat, at St Arnold’s Retreat House, followed by 4 days being a tourist with a friend.

The retreat was a Vocational Discernment retreat, with a group of about twenty five people from the convocation. It was led by a wonderfully inspiring man, the Revd Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, and was entitled “This is my son, listen to him”

Mark is speaking at Greenbelt 2018 – if you’re going, don’t miss him!!

I’m not really sure what I’ve taken away from this time: I didn’t know what to expect when I went, but it wasn’t what it was (if you see what I mean!)

Mark Oakley is a poet, and a lover of poetry, and he introduced us to some wonderful poems. He talked compassionately and wisely, about “the collage of God”, about God as Love, about listening in the silence.

I took some notes about what he said, and they aren’t terribly coherent, but I shall include some of the phrases that I jotted down here. Maybe they will resonate with you.

  • When people are in my presence, how do I make them feel?
  • God loves us as we are. He loves us so much that he doesn’t want us to stay like that.
  • Jesus sees our full stops and changes them into commas. (That is to say, he sees and understands where our blockages are, and enables us to change, and to continue the “sentence”)
  • Live up to God’s voice that speaks of our worthiness, and don’t live down to the voices that speak of our failings.
  • God is the cause of our wonder.
  • God sees what is good, and true and beautiful in our souls.
  • Lord God, help me to find my true self so that I can find you.
  • Read between the lines (of scripture) and find the love.
  • When I let go of who I am I can become what I am meant to be.
  • We are here to give voice to God.
  • We are in danger of living unawkenede lives, surrounded by and listening to lies, both internal and external.
  • How can I think critically and live faithfully?
  • The rumour of God: we live as if it is true.
  • A life of faith, not certainty.
  • There are 2 bowls of water spoken about in the Gospels: that of Pilate – indifference and apathy – and that of Jesus – service to and love for others. Which bowl do we choose to pick up?

Some of the poems Mark led us to were beautiful. For copyright reasons I do not put them on here, but here are some links, with one line from each that really resonated for me:

The Real Work, by Wendall Berry :: It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

Let Evening Come, by Jane Kenyon :: Let it come, as it will, and don’t be afraid.

Love after Love, by Derek Walcott :: Sit. Feast on your life

Love, by George Herbert :: You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat

In the Dark, by Robin Fulton MacPherson :: Some things are best seen, unseen.

The Journey, by Mary Oliver :: One day you finally knew what you had to do…

And, finally, the poem that, I think, in the end, sums up what I learned from this retreat, (and sorry about the swear word in it)

Getting it across, by U.A. Fanthorpe :: I am tattooing God on their makeshift lives

Or…the easy messages Are the ones not worth transmitting

Or…They are the dear, the human, the dense, for whom My message is.

Where have I been? Wiesbaden!

Well, I was clever enough to schedule my Desiderata posts (yes, I know…it’s not actually that clever at all!) for while I was away but the weekend of 19 – 22nd October I was in Wiesbaden. This was for the annual convention of the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe and it was a great weekend.

The business part was fairly straightforward, and quite interesting at points – finding out what the various commissions and committees have been doing, how churches have been using grants and so on. The Bishop of the Convocation has tendered his resignation, so we are planning for the work of finding a new Bishop. I am on the Transition Committee – this will be the organisational powerhouse (?!) after the candidates have been selected. It’s rather exciting, but a little daunting too. I’m not sure quite what skills I hjave to offer yet, but I’m waiting to find out. At the moment the committee seems to be full to the gunnels of people who are willing to organise us all, so I’m sitting back to let it all go on around me. It will become clear later on, I’m sure.

The hotel where I stayed was really nice: modern, clean, comfortable – and not too expensive! I’d recommend the Hotel Motel One to anyone.

It was a tad “over-designed” in places – the seats for breakfast weren’t very comfy (but very stylish!) but that’s my only criticism. It was situated 1.5 km from the conference centre, so I was walking 3 km a day without thinking. And more when I had to return to the Centre to meet up during the evening. According to Map My Walk, my average speed was just under 13 min/km, but there was one time when I did 1.8 km at 10 min/km – I had fallen asleep in the hotel room, and was late for the bus to take us to dinner! I arrived at the meeting place at the same time as the buses – having missed Solemn Evensong.

The  meals out were great – the first night we went in groups to different restaurants. I chose a South American restaurant, and had a delicious steak! The Bishop’s Dinner (a bit posh) was in a restaurant overlooking the city, and we took this charming funicular up to the top:

Unfortunately, as it was dark, the views weren’t so great, but the twinkly lights were pretty. The restaurant was lovely – a buffet of cold starters, and then a huge choice of barbecued items, with potatoes and ratatouille. Dessert was ice cream, red berries and crème anglaise. The Bishop made a speech, we toasted people, and had a lovely time.

The Saturday restaurant was amazing – slightly bonkers, with various farming implements hanging from the ceiling, a showman of a chef, where you took your raw ingredients to a hot plate where they were cooked in front of you. The entertainment was from a talented group from the Wiesbaden Episcopal church. Sadly, I cannot find anything on t’internet but it was fab!

But, I think the highlight of the weekend had to be Revd Canon Michael Hunn, special envoy from the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. He gave two great keynote speeches.

The first was about The Jesus Movement – the name makes me cringe a little, but apparently it is the name Biblical scholars give to the very early church, before it was a church, when it was a group of people trying to live the way they had been shown by Jesus What this means for us now is explained in this link

The second talk that Michael Hunn gave started as he explained his son is a jazz musician. He compared being a leader in the church, and, in fact, being anyone in the church, to being a jazz musician.

In the jazz group, the music may seem improvised, but every player knows the basic tune so well that it is in their heart. They can play it in any key, at any moment. It is embedded within. So when the musicians play together they all have the same music in them.

In a jazz piece, the players then take a solo – they improvise and riff around the tune, always with the same basic melody, but playing it in their own individual style. A trombone player doesn’t play it as a pianist does, a saxophonist is different to a trumpeter…but whatever the style, whatever the instrument, the melody is always there at the heart of what they play. Each musician has their solo, when the rest of the band lets the other shine, and do their bit. Then after the solo the other musicians take up the tune, supporting and listening to the main player, almost throwing the tune to one another – again being “in tune” with everyone on the group is really important for this.

But all the way through, the important thing is that the tune, the melody, is embedded in everyone so they can hardly help but to play.

It was a really inspiring weekend.

And in a couple of weeks I’ll be in Budapest being inspired again – I hope!

This last week, my mum & my brother have been staying too. that was nice. I’ll tell you about it another time. I need to sort out October’s bills!

More cards (plus a D’oh! moment – or two!)

Hello, everyone. Thank you for coming to see me!

Today I have some more cards to show you.

At church, we have a mainly anglophone congregation – the services are in English, after all, although we have bi-lingual service books, we announce page- and hymn-numbers in French & English, and we say the Lord’s Prayer in both English and French. So, the French speakers who come are usually good in English (often from an Anglo-French background) and often coming from a Protestant/Eglise Reformée tradition. A few years ago, a French family joined us, whose English wasn’t great, but who had been brought by their then-7/8 year old daughter who wanted to know more about Protestantism (!!) They quickly became part of the church family, and Lilou, the daughter, was baptised, and went through confirmation, and started to acolyte.

She has had heart problems since she was born – one time when the Bishop was presiding, and Lilou was acolyting, she suddenly went white as a sheet, and started to sway. François, her father, realised what was happening, leapt to his feet and caught her before she fell to the floor. She was carried outside for air.. But recently things have deteriorated, and last week François shared with one of the Church members how Lilou’s health problems have worsened.

So Sheryl asked me to make a card for Lilou, to help (we hope) boost her spirits. So I came home early from work on Thursday and made this:

You may recognise the basic design from this post, when I made a similar card for Friend Alison’s daughter. This one is a bit bigger – giving room for people at church to sign it – but uses lots of Noz-sourced items: the gorgeous fox-y backing paper, the washi tapes used, the rosette, the letters, most of the embellishments…As I’ve said before, I love Noz! Other things such as the ribbon, the pink paper and a couple of other embellishments came as a result of blog swaps.

Inside the pocket, there are three little cards:

Que la grace de Dieu soit avec toi; Que Dieu te benisse (May God’s grace be with you; May God bless you)

Rappelle-toi: tu es (bother, I’ve just realised I put “est” which is the conjugation of “etre” for the third person singular, not the second person. Meh.) plus brave que tu ne le crois, tu es plus forte que tu ne le parais, et tu es plus douée que tu ne le penses. (Remember: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and more talented than you think)

Everything is better with love and laughter

It is obviously the day for spelling/grammar mistakes, because I also made a card for Lilou’s parents, François and Frédérique:

This spelling mistake I saw as soon as I had written it (only because I was copying from a text, not because my French is good!)

“Fortress” in French is forteresse but I missed out the “e” in the middle of the word. But as it was the last thing – I’d made the entire card and was just writing the text – I’m afraid I just thought “Meh” and carried on! I didn’t have another piece of butterfly paper and I was also running late for dinner, so I just decided I’d be forgiven!

Of course, being English, spelling mistakes in French don’t leap out at me in quite the same way, and I automatically write “est” as I am writing the form of etre be it for tu, il, or elle. I hope that maybe they won’t jump out and spoil the card for the family. I fear they might though. I once received this card from a friend:

and while I really appreciate the sentiment, and the thought that went into it, every time I look at it my brain screams “That’s not how you spell falter!!!”

So possibly Lilou’s brain will be screaming “Es not est!!!”

And François will be thinking “Forteresse, pas fortresse!!!!”

Ah well…nobody’s perfect!

Sermon today: All Mouth & No Trousers?

Hello, everyone. This is just a quick post (though maybe not to read!!!) from me. Hopefully I’ll have time to post tomorrow, but there’s no promises – completing my bills for September took longer than anticipated today, so I didn’t have time for the other things I had to do, so they’ve been shunted to Monday, which means Monday is fuller than I wanted it to be!!

Anyway, I thought I’d cheat a bit by posting the sermon that I preached today. If it’s not your cup of tea, no problem. I hope that tomorrow’s (possible) post might be more your “thing”!

But, for those who might be interested, here it is.

All mouth and no trousers?

Readings: Exodus 17:1-7/ Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16/ Philippians 2:1-13/ Matthew 21:23-32

There’s a saying where I come from: “He’s all mouth and no trousers” – that is, he is someone who is very willing to voice his opinion, or say what should be done, or promise the earth, but, when it comes down to it, is less than willing to back up those opinions with action, or deliver on those promises. I suppose it’s the equivalent of saying that someone “walks the walk, but doesn’t talk the talk”.

And throughout the readings we have heard, we are given examples of people who have plenty of mouth, but not so much on the trouser front. The people of Israel had already seen God at work in their lives: he had brought Moses to them as their leader, he had led them out of Egypt, parting the Red Sea, so they could escape the pursuing army, showing the way with the pillars of cloud and fire, providing food in the wilderness…All of these things revealing the fact that God was on their side.  When everything was going their way, they were more than happy to proclaim God as their deliverer, to praise him for what he had done for them. But it seems that, as soon as there is a tiny grain of doubt, all the previous evidence of God’s providence and care was not enough for them: when faced with another challenge – the lack of water – they showed no trust in YHWH, their God, but rather started grumbling, and threatening to stone Moses, their appointed leader. “Is the Lord with us, or not?” they demanded – clearly having already decided that no, the Lord wasn’t with them.

Within the hearts of the Israelites there was a distinct lack of humility.  During their wandering in the desert, God tested the Israelites in various ways, putting them in a position where they must declare their true allegiance.  Will the people allow YHWH to be their God by trusting that he will feed and rule them.?  All through the testing the people fail again and again, by grumbling, by a lack of trust, yet God still provides. In this story too, the Israelites still did not trust God. When faced with another challenge, they didn’t hold onto what they had learned about their God, or what they had previously proclaimed, but rather looked for someone to blame for this most recent test, lighting on Moses. But then, as he pointed out, their quarrel was not with him, but with God: in not believing that God can, and will, provide for them, they are declaring that their allegiance lies elsewhere.

We see another reaction to God’s challenges illustrated in the Gospel reading: the Scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus and questioned him about who gave him the authority to act as he did. This comes in the midst of Jesus’ last days – he had already entered Jerusalem as a King, welcomed by the people, he had already cleansed the Temple courts of thieves – and the chief priests were getting edgy. They wanted Jesus dealt with. They couldn’t – or didn’t want to – recognise where his authority came from, they couldn’t – or didn’t want to – see that Jesus was doing the work of God. They had seen him healing the sick, they had seen him working miracles, they had heard him preaching of forgiveness, of the end to oppression, the endless love of God but, rather like the Israelites in the wilderness, despite being shown over and over the God that is working for them, they disputed the authority behind Jesus’ actions and words. Perhaps they themselves felt uncomfortable in the face of what Jesus was saying and doing, because their reaction had not been as it should have been. They talked the talk of desiring the Kingdom of God, of caring for others, but when challenged, we can see that they did not walk that walk.

And perhaps Jesus picked up on this, as he went on to tell the story of the two sons in the vineyard – the son who initially refused to help his father, but then had a change of heart, and the other son, who agreed readily, but didn’t follow through on his promise. Which one, asks Jesus, did his Father’s will?  The first, the scribes answer – I can almost hear them thinking “Well, der – obviously the one who did the work!”

And then Jesus deals the killer blow – which are you? He challenges. And then replies, you have heard the word of God, both in the scriptures, and revealed in me, and yet – despite your fine words about following the Law – you do not repent, and truly do as God would have you do. You are like the second son, who promises much, but delivers nothing.

In their quarrelling, and demanding of answers, the Scribes and the other leaders of the Temple reveal themselves to be lacking in humility. They try to trick Jesus, but bicker among themselves about how to answer his questions without showing themselves in a bad light; in refusing to recognise the authority of God in what Jesus is doing and saying, they reveal their lack of allegiance to that God. They are not concerned with following the Word of God for any other reason than because it makes them look good.

And so, throughout the readings we see the thread of how time and again, people react to God’s challenge with a lack of humility, with a concern to look good or to find someone else to blame – but not with a real thirst to do God’s will, and bring his Kingdom about on earth.

We have been challenged in these readings, for the question that was implied in Jesus’ demand “which one of these did his father’s will?” is a question that is put to us: which are you? What do you do when faced with a challenge from God? Sitting here in Christ Church each Sunday, we say, and sing, and pray so many things. But the challenge is: what exactly do we do when we leave church and go into the world?

Are you – am I? –  like the son who says “Yes, Father, I love you and want to do as you ask” but then actually does nothing to back up his promises? Saying all the right words, but never quite following up on them.

Or maybe you haven’t said “Yes” yet? Maybe you are like the first son who has said “No, thank you, it’s not for me.” In telling how this son changed his mind, and finally decided to do as his Father asked, Jesus reminds us that the future is open for you. Like the first son, and like the prostitutes and tax collectors that Jesus referred to, the way to changing your mind and joining the workers is there. Those who work for the Kingdom are welcomed by God, whenever they accept the challenge.

Or are we like the third son? The son who says, “Yes father, of course,” and goes off, happily whistling, to labour in his father’s vineyards until the end of the day.

Hang on, I hear you say, there isn’t a third son! Well, no, not in the story that Jesus told in this situation there isn’t. But in the story that Jesus told in his life, there is. In Jesus’ life we see the Son that is described in Philippians: Jesus, the Son of God. The Son, who doesn’t consider his own status, the Son who was obedient, the Son who did his father’s will and put others before himself.

The Son who showed us the way to true humility: the humility of service. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul entreats them to show the same attitude as Christ, as he says, “each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others” For Paul, these are the actions that reveal Christ in the world. In these verses Paul outlines how this humility of service, this willingness to serve others, can have a truly restorative effect both within the Church and beyond. One commentator states “true Christian love flows from the disposition to unseat concern for self as the driving force of life and replace it with a practical concern for others”.

If we have this true humility, as revealed by Christ, and celebrated in the hymn of Philippians, then there will be true and genuine unity within the church and among believers as we work together to serve God in our community and in the world beyond. Then what a powerhouse for change could the church become. The upper echelons of the Jewish temple who came to Jesus with their challenge, weren’t really interested in doing God’s work, and in genuinely understanding Jesus, but rather in looking good in front of the people. And being so involved in bickering amongst themselves, they failed to uphold the weak and oppressed, the sinners and searchers, in their community.

Christ was willing to sacrifice himself for others, even if it meant dying; in the hymn of praise in Philippians we read “He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross”. He calls on us to do the same: to put others first, to fight for the Kingdom here on earth.

You may know of Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980. He stood up for the poor and oppressed of El Salvador, preaching, serving, working tirelessly for the rights of others. Even when he received death threats he refused to stop highlighting the injustices in his community. We may not be called to sacrifice ourselves to the extent that Romero did, but we are called on to put ourselves last, to put others first, just as Romero did, whatever the cost to ourselves might be.

Romero once said: “A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone’s skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed: what kind of gospel is that?”

Christ preached a gospel that unsettled, because it offered a future to the untouchables, the prostitutes, the tax collectors.  Christ proclaimed a word of God that got under peoples’ skins, because it told them -and us – that injustice and oppression were not to be tolerated, that the sin of mouthing words of love for God and neighbour but not revealing that love in action was not acceptable. And this the Gospel we are called to preach. This is the love we are called to act on.

And we can only reveal that same revolutionary love in action if we are willing to put others before ourselves, if we are willing to acknowledge that what we have is through the grace of God, to declare that our allegiance is with him, because we have seen the goodness and provision and love of God in what he has done for us. And in that humility before God and before those we serve we can answer the challenge that he sets before us.

It’s a bit scary, isn’t it? It’s a big thing.

And how many of us (and, I promise you, I am including myself in this question) are sitting here, listening, and saying “Yes, I will do it.” – but, actually, probably won’t.

And how many are sitting here, already knowing that it’s beyond us, saying “Nope. Sorry, God, I won’t.”

Wherever you are, just remember, the way is open, the future isn’t over. With God’s grace, we can always change. The future is open for all. In the story of the two sons, we know that the first had a change of heart, and, having initially refused, delighted his father by doing his will. We know too that the second son showed willing, but finally did nothing – but we don’t know if, the next day, he too apologised, changed his mind, and did as his father asked. The story is left open.

Our story is left open.

But with humility we can follow the example of the true son, the Son who emptied himself for others, who served his Father, and brought the Kingdom of God to the earth.

I have spoken of Oscar Romero, a man of the Church, who lived his life for the poor and oppressed, who served his God with humility and love. I would like to finish with a prayer written by another man of God, who worked with the poor of his time, bringing the word of God to a society where the rich amassed more wealth at the cost of those who worked below them. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote that that greed and self-interest is ‘destructive of that faith which is of the operation of God; of that hope which is full of immortality; of love of God and of our neighbour, and of every good word and work.’ He recognised that if we are only concerned about ourselves, our possessions, our self-worth then we cannot truly love God, we cannot truly serve others.

And in recognition of this, he wrote a beautiful prayer, which is part of the yearly Covenant service in Methodist churches. And for me it echoes the words of that hymn in Philippians, which reminds us what Christ did for us. This prayer reminds us of what we can do for God and for others.

It is actually a very scary prayer. I read it at my baptism, and every time I have read it since , I know that I am a bit like the second son, saying the words that his father wants to hear, but not following through. But I so want to mean them. And so, I hope that finally I may be like the first son who changes his mind, who changes direction and finally takes the road that is open to him to do what his father asks:

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,

exalted for you, or brought low for you;

let me be full,

let me be empty,

let me have all things,

let me have nothing:

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours. So be it.

And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.



First of the Autumn

Hot water bottle, that is.

Not at night, but just tucked behind my back while I’m at my desk, to give a little extra warmth. It’s not cold enough for the heating, but the warmth of a hottie bottle is very comforting on a miserable Sunday afternoon.

Though it’s only miserable because of the weather – we had an adult christening/baptism at church, which was lovely, and I sang loudly to Rend Collective both there and back again. We have a pork-and-apple casserole to look forward to tonight, with roast potatoes & roast butternut squash. So I’m not mibsy myself. At the moment I’m in a reasonably good place, which is nice.