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  • Remembering...

    As is normal for me on a Friday, I am starting to think about the service to take place a week on Sunday, which will focus on the fifth "I AM" saying of Jesus, "I AM the resurrection and the life".

    Various thoughts are running through my head, among theml something I wrote a little over seven years ago from the perspective of Lazarus.  I've decided not to re-use this poem/reflection/thing in the service I'll be leading, but I do think that it offers some potential for reflection so is worth sharing again.

    Rather than posting the link, here it is in its entirety...


    I feel so weak, so ill – I ache all over and I so long to be well again.

    I feel so powerless –

    No strength to eat or drink, yet my mouth is dry

    I am uncomfortable but I cannot summon the energy to move

    When will I be well?

    I long to be well again, to find my strength renewed, to be made whole and clean and free like all those others…

    I call out for help… and nothing happens

    I cry for healing… and there is silence

    I wait for his coming… and no one comes

    No reply…



    I am weaker still, and weaker…

    Those around grow pale and anxious

    Helpless and fearful

    The light dims

    The effort to breath ceases

    Release comes as I slip into death’s embrace.


    All is still

    No pain

    No thoughts

    No pressures



    The tomb is still and quiet


    Days pass – or is it eternity?

    Time is no more






    Silence and stillness


    A voice breaks the silence

    Crashes through the stillness

    ‘Lazarus, come out!’


    Not a request.

    A command to be obeyed cuts through the stillness

    Shatters the silence

    Breaks through the peace

    And ends the rest.


    I am compelled to action


    Nerve and sinew quicken

    Lungs fill with the stale, dank air of the tomb

    Forced to my feet


    I stand


    Following the voice I cannot see –

    My face veiled -

    My body bound in cloths

    Stumbles towards the sound,

    Feels the heat of the living world,

    Smells the scent of life,

    Inhales clean, vibrant air.


    Voices, deafeningly loud, fill my ears

    Hands reach to tug away the cloth from my face

    Arms steady my unsteadiness


    My eyes, dazzled by the brightness


    And see

    His face


    Amidst the noise,

    The frenetic activity,

    The smells

    Is stillness.



    They guide me home

    To the place where I died

    And there everything is reversed






    Clung to


    Spoken over and about







    Death must be faced again


    But first,

    Life must be resumed


    Is now the time to live differently?

    To do those things I didn’t do before?

    To be more spiritual? More holy?

    Is it a ‘second chance’?


    And must I die again?

    And must I live again?

    And must I pass though the gateway to life

    That is the pathway of death?


    Must I do?

    Must I be?



    Don’t cling to me!

    I am not who or what I was –

    I am not yet what I shall become


    This new life…

    This old life restarted…

    This new expectation…

    This new knowledge of what lies beyond now…

    This status as object of curiosity…

    This being a miracle, no of being a sign

    Is scary, confusing, bewildering


    I had adapted -

    Well almost -

    To death;

    And now I must live

    Give me space and time to adjust


    [time passes]


    It is good to be here tonight with those I love best

    Martha’s cooking tastes so good –

    Did I ever appreciate the subtle flavours and textures she labours over each day?

    Mary’s perfume fills the air –

    Had I ever grasped the depth of love she has for Jesus, the risks she takes to express it?

    And Jesus, eating, talking, enjoying, challenging

    Does he know how lost, alone and abandoned I felt when I called and he never came?

    Can I ever comprehend why having seemingly left me to die he drew me back to life?


    I must face death again –

    Not today, but one day


    I have no way of knowing how it feel

    How it will come

    Who will care for me

    Wash me

    Wrap me

    Bury me


    But now I no longer fear

    For death is as birth

    A transition point in life


    Beyond that final grave a voice will call

    ‘Lazarus, come out!’

    And I will stand and walk

    Not back to this life

    But, finally free, into the life of eternity…


  • Be a Goose

    Yesterday I attended the Memorial Service (a private, family funeral having taken place earlier yesterday) for Rev Steve Mantle, formerly Regional Minister of EMBA, minister of churches in Derby and Nottingham, mission partner with BMS, and latterly a carer for adults with learning disabilities.  It was a lovely tribute to a man whose life has enriched those of others on at least three continents.  Several people brought their own tributes, as well as an overall tribute on behalf of his family.

    The minister presiding, another "Northern Girl" who has known Steve's encounragement ended with this story, of which Steve was fond, and which speaks much truth.  Certainly I can recall him telling it as a NAM reflection day well over a decade, and it has stayed with me.

    Here is a version lifted from the web:


    May we each learn to fly like geese, honking encouragement to those willing to take on the responsibilities of leadership, supporting any who struggle, and achieving together so much than we would alone.

  • Praying with our eyes open...

    One of the great things about our church, is the number of people willing to take a turn at leading intercessory prayer.  There is always the freedom to use any format whatsoever, but 99% of the time peopple opt for prayers that are spoken.  Yesterday the person chose to do something different.  Rather than words, a series of carefully selected images was displayed, reflecting the diversity of things in the news over the last week or so.  At the end a short reflection was shared.

    I really valued these prayers for many reasons and at many levels...

    Firstly in a week when there has been a relentless tide of bad news, words are difficult to find, and risk being trite and trivial or ill-considered and unhelpful.  Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

    Secondly, the choice of images was inspired... we had Andy Murray kissing the Wimbledon trophy and Larry the cat strolling along Downing Street... and we had images from Nice, Turkey and the USA.  There were images relating to complex issues on which we as a church may not all agree.  There were images that will haunt us, at least for a while.  Over recent days, I have wrestled quite a lot about the tension between sharing the serious and the silly on social media;of what, if anything, to say about any of these complex topics... these visual prayers expressed better than I could ever hope to that the tension does hold, that laughter and anger, weeping and celebration may, indeed do, perhaps must, coexist.

    Thirdly, and rather selfishly, I appreciated that someone who isn't me did something that wasn't all words.  Sometimes I feel we have a false - and unhelpful, maybe unhealthy - split whereby I do 'multi-sensory prayers' and everyone else does 'spoken prayers'.  I hope that others may now be encouarged to risk trying something a little more playful.

    I know it wasn't to everyone's taste.  I know there were some technical challenges due to light levels and seating arrangements.  I know there was a lot to try to take in and hold in prayer.  For all that, I am glad that it happened, glad that people experienced something a little bit different, glad that they felt able to express their views, glad that we continue to discover the mystery of prayer.

  • I AM - the Gate

    Yesterday we looked at the first part of John 10 and the strange predicated saying, "I am the gate for the sheep"

    I paired it with the wide and narrow gates saying from Matthew, and used an idea I'd picked up from PAYG a few weeks back, added some others from years ago and hopefully ended up with something that made some sort of sense!

    The picture above shows a narrow gate set in a dry stone wall.  The path is also narrow and leads uphill (but is hardly steep, rugged or hard!).  But the context is important - the gate is a transit point from one field to another; one broad, green place to another equally broad, equally green.  The significance is the size of the gate is not what lies beyond it, but that on order to get through it, a person need to set down any large, bulky items.

    Someone once said, the will of God is like a broad meadow, with space to play and explore, rest and take picnics, along the route marked by the path.

    PAYG suggested that in order to pass through the narrow gate that leads to life, we must first lay down the burdens that deny life... bitterness, regret, grudges, anger, pride... and maybe also success, wealth, possessions... only by travelling light, or at least lightly, are we able to find life.

    And Jesus as gate?  Gate here is a threshhold, a place that is crossed and re-crossed in and out of the sheepfold which is, by definition, a place of temporary shelter.

    So maybe Jesus is the door/gate/threshold of our own inner and outer worlds as we come in to rest and reflect and go out to live life fully?

    Maybe Jesus is the threshold between the church and the everyday, where, with others, we draw aside in a simmilar way, not to hide from reality but to be refreshed to be part of it.

    And perhaps the church as the 'body of Christ' is the gate for others, enabling the same sort of shelter, rest and refreshment to be experienced.

    Maybe prayer is bringing ourselves and our world to the threshold place that is Jesus Christ, in whose name we offer our petitions...

    Not the easiest I AM saying to reflect on, but worth while... and blow me down if the evening service didn't pick up a similar theme "open door" completely independently and based on different readings!  "Cue spooky music"

    Read more ...

  • Pray for...

    Every few days it seems there is a new hashtag or temporary, social media, profile picture 'cast' along the lines of 'pray for the-latest-place-to-have-a-tragedy'.

    And I totally understand why people use them, because rendered helpless but whatever it may be, this is something that anyone can do. 

    But pray what, exactly?

    It troubles me not just because I am not sure what to pray - let there be peace/healing/reconciliation/justice etc - but because I am not sure it isn't just a sop to our own consciences.  We utter a quick prayer and go back to our own world.

    What is needed is not so much to 'type the prayer' but to 'be the prayer' - and that's much harder.  Because it inevitably means being selective, taking a standpoint, doing something other than wringing our hands or sighing holy sighs; it means accepting we cannot do everything whilst recognising that we must do something.

    What might I do, small and local, that lives out that prayer?  Pray for [insert name] by all means, but, if I may plagiarise the book of James, prayer, like faith, without deeds, is as good as dead.