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  • New Year's Eve 2016

    The Marmite jigsaw was a birthday present. It's double sided... On the front is a photo of a jar of Marmite, on the back a Warhol style montage of colourful Marmite jars.

     

    I completed it with the large image upwards... not easy and there were parts of the neck of the jar where I. "cheated" and assembled small areas upside down. Having completed the jigsaw, I carefully flipped it, to discover about a dozen pieces in completely wrong positions! A few minutes later and it was fixed, flipped and photographed. Great fun and totally blocked out any thoughts of church.

     

    They tell me there's a sermon in every experience. Not sure about that, but it did seem like a half reasonable metaphor for an end of year reflection. You get to the end, look back, spot some bits that are not properly aligned, then there is time to recall the memories, realign the insights, re-evaluate, whatever it is. You can't change what's been but you can work it into the picture in a more constructive way.... Well, that's what it seems to say to me.

    2016 has had it's share of challenges, struggles and disappointments, it has also had it's share of joys, happiness, laughter, love, good news  and more. As I sort the pieces and make a"jigsaw" of the year, the emergent picture is a good one.

    Wishing all readers a peaceful, hopeful and healthy. 2017.

  • An Advent Calendar of Sorts - Christmas Day 2016

    This probably seems an odd choice of photo with which to end my 'Advent Calendar of Sorts'... a photo of me with my Mum taken during the summer of this year as she was settling into the care home, and I had been busy sorting, packing and clearing her flat.

    So why did I choose it?

    I chose it because it is the photo that most closely, however imperfectly, reflects three very special "gift" moments in the last twelve months.

    The first was 31st December 2015, when I took her out for lunch at one of her faovurite cafes in Northampton.  She ordered a veggie-burger and chips - much to my surprise (and indicative in retrospect that her mind was not as it might have been) - then looked up at me and smiled the most beautiful, beatific smile I have ever seen.  Within 24 hours she would be in hospital, and within two weeks a second emergency admission would spell the end of her independent living.  What a good job I could not know then howthe year would pan out.

    The second was the photo above.  It was a glorious summer day and we sat in the garden of the care home.  She agreed to the 'selfie' and smiled a real smile... another fleeting moment of happiness.

    Then on 12th December I made my December visit - a day that did not begin well as she was in high dudgeon about something!  Her room had been rearranged to a much more homely configuration and she really did seem to be settled, content and moderately happy.  It wasn't a "good" day and it wasn't a "bad" day but it had that fleeting moment when her face became radiant... and that was a gift.

    I think maybe that's what Christmas is about... Not everything magically made better.  Not even about significant changes or expensive gifts.  Christmas is about those fleeting, precious moments when heaven breaks through into earth... in the smile of an elderly woman or, indeed, the cry of newborn child.

    However your year has been, and whatever Christmas Day feels like for you this year, I pray that you, too, will be granted the gift of glimpsing the God who surprises us all simply by being born.

  • An Advent Calendar of Sorts - 24th December

    Christmas Eve.

    The morning was spent in a joyful time of excited children and welcoming parents as a family opened their home for us. Precious memories for the children, a few minutes relaxation for (some of) the parents.

    This afternoon was spent with another group of people making ready a room to welcome around 50 folk for Christmas dinner tomorrow.

    And this evening a dozen or so folk will gather in my kitchen (I think I've settled on the kitchen rather than the living room!) to share in a simple act of Communion.

    Christmas Eve

    When the exictement of small people is palpable

    When the stresses of last minute preparations stretch even saints to near breaking point

    When people gather in cathedrals and chapels, at hospital bedsides and in prison cells to remember a deep mystery

    The waiting is almost done, the shops will soon close and all will, for a day or so, be still and quiet.... at least outwardly.

    So now I pause with a hot cup of tea and choose to draw breath ... somewhere unobserved God is breaking into human experience with the gift of love and hope and peace and joy...

    Whatever Christmas Eve means for you, may it be blessed with love and laughter.