That's the Spirit!

Sunday, May 31st - Pentecost Whirlwind Spirit Whirlwind Spirit of God, Roar through our timidities and fears, Shake the foundations of our ill-placed securities, Sweep away the cobwebs of our apathy, Blow down the walls that separate us, one from another. Then into all our empty spaces, breathe re-strengthened courage to challenge injustice, renewed belief in the urgency of our vocation, revitalised passion to change our lifestyles, re-dedication to speak only words that build and unite. Let gentle breeze and still small voice become in us today mighty wind and loud proclamation. Make of us a Pentecost people! Amen Kathleen O'Brien/CAFOD We have some powerful images of God as Holy Spirit. Wi

A Sign of the Times

Saturday, May 30th Rock formation at Sandwood Bay, Sutherland and Buzz at home in lockdown. The sea stack Am Buachaille (the shepherd) is in the distance. Ever since I first saw these rocks on the beach, I saw our dog's favourite pose reflected in them. Perhaps you can see why! It can be fun spotting shapes in the clouds, deciding who a particular piece of wood reminds you of or what a wonky carrot or potato resembles. From the time humans first appeared, we have been looking at patterns in nature. The stars in the sky became constellations, the phases of the moon became a way to mark time and the advent of Spring or the rainy season told farmers when to sow their crops. The onset of adverse

Plant Life!

Friday, May 29th Large tree in Mountstewart Gardens, Ulster. I love trees. Just recently, we have been exercising in Wheata Woods on the northern edge of Sheffield in an evening. There are sweet chestnut trees that would win the Carbuncle Prize if it wasn't given to architectural oddities. This Spring, the blossom on cherries, apples, and many others has been glorious. I love to feel the bark on some species and the leaves on the maples are so beautiful and intricate. Autumn will bring another colour spectacular as the leaves turn gold and red before they fall. Apparently the oldest living tree at the moment is a conifer in the USA called Methuselah. It is nearly 5,000 years old. There is a

I'm Sorry, I haven't a Clue!

Thursday, May 28th Guess what this plant is called? There are lots of areas of knowledge where I haven't a clue. Ask me about wild flowers, or birds, and I may well have an answer. It may not be right - but it's the way I tell 'em! When we are walking in the countryside, Jenny often questions my identification of plants she hasn't noticed before. Sometimes, she even laughs at my answers. Not because she knows better, but because she thinks I often make up names. Take Viper's Bugloss, for example. That's the plant in the picture above. I had to resort to Google to prove to her that that wasn't just me conjuring up with the most fantastic name I could think of. The same goes for Hemp Agrimony,

A Wing and a Prayer

Wednesday, May 27th Whitby Abbey I remember, before I was ten years old, staying with my grandmother in Cardiff overnight. She decided it would do me good to accompany her to the weeknight prayer meeting at her Baptist Chapel. It was only the men who spoke, as I recall. They spoke at length with the kind of oratory and rambling we Welsh are masters of. I only knew extemporary praying until late in my teens. I was Chapel, and only Church people used prayers that had been written for them. Just not right! Come the swinging sixties and I had already wrestled myself free from using Thee, Thou and Thine. It was a breath of fresh air to find books like Michel Quoist's Prayers of Life (1966) and co

Hope Springs Eternal

Tuesday May 26th Hope Valley, Derbyshire: From Mam Tor to Losehill Once in a lifetime History says, Don't hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime, The longed for tidal wave Of justice can rise up, And hope and history rhyme. So hope for a great sea-change On the far side of revenge. Believe that a further shore Is reachable from here. Believe in miracles And cures and healing wells. From Philoctetes by Sophocles, translated by Seamus Heaney It was announced earlier this month that the 2020 Templeton Prize Laureate this year is Geneticist and physician Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health. Francis led the Human Genome Project to its successful co

The Best of All Worlds

Monday, May 25th Citizen Khan creator, Adil Ray, and Great British Bake-Off winner, Nadiya Hussain, urged Muslims celebrating Eid last weekend to follow the guidance on social distancing. The religious festival marking the end of Ramadan is normally a time when families and friends get together, but this year due to coronavirus people were being reminded not to gather. Nadiya Hussain said, "this could not be a better time to put others first”, I hope our Muslim neighbours had a blessed Eid anyway. I have to say, I admire the commitment of so many Muslims who fast from dawn to dusk, especially when Ramadan falls at a time when, in Britain, dawn to dusk is a long time. There is ample evidence

Normal Time

Sunday, May 24th CLCGB members and leaders jousting on Loch Conn, Trossachs We hear a lot of talk and speculation about the 'new normal'. That will conjure up different dreams for each of us. I won't be kayaking, but I'm hoping for a paddle in the sea before the year is out. I'm also hoping we will have a new respect and recognition of all the people we have been clapping for every Thursday. But I can't help but wonder what the hopes and dreams are for refugees crammed into huge camps in Bangladesh, the Middle East, Kenya and elsewhere. Their current normal is beyond our imagining and I'm sure their hope of a new normal will be much more modest than my own. At 70 plus, I have never known war

Springwatch

Saturday 23rd May In our pond - when we had one! Springwatch has started on the BBC this week. Like most programmes at present, it will be what can be seen from presenters' homes, rather than on location. Apart from the scheduled broadcasts on BBC2, there will be opportunity to look in daily on the Springwatch Facebook page and look at presenters' diaries. We have been watching the eccentric antics of Grayson Perry and his guests on his Art Club on Channel 4. One week, he invited viewers to produce artwork based on what could be seen from the windows of their homes. There was some fascinating and beautiful creations as well as a sketch from one lovely lady who was legally blind! She could gl

Out of Control

Friday, May 22nd Spectacular patterns and colours at Sandwood Bay, south of Cape Wrath I am no geologist. I just stand amazed at some of the rock formations around our coasts. It's hard to imagine the forces that threw up these rocks, melting, crushing, moulding them into fantastic shapes. It's also hard to imagine the power of the sea to erode and reshape many of these formations over the centuries. Over the centuries, we have learned how to harvest the rocks for building and extracting minerals. We are harnessing wave power to generate electricity. Occasionally things get out of control because of earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes. If we weren't so concerned about our own plight, we wou

Open House

Thursday, May 21st Come on in! We've still got flour left from before the lockdown. No, we didn't stockpile or rush out to buy loads before the supermarkets limited purchases to three or four of any item. We always had a regular stock because Jenny was always baking. Date and walnut scones for after morning worship every Sunday we met. Scones on a Monday for morning coffee with our friend Christine. A selection of scones - plain for Joe, cherry for Kerry, together with either brownie or lemon drizzle cake with sunken chocolate when parts of the family came to stay. Open House at Christmas and at other times, any excuse to have people around. And then there were none! Plenty of potential to c

Depends where you're coming from

Wednesday, May 20th The Rivals viewed from 'our beach' at Dinas Dinlle The other day we received a letter from the site where our caravan is located on the North Wales coast just beyond Caernarfon. We won't be going there soon, but a reminder of where we might have been sets the imagination going, again. I miss the sea. I was born and bred by the sea at Barry Island long before Gavin and Stacey were thought of. The one consolation with living in Sheffield is that the hills are within reach. I love the hills, too. Barry has hills, but you can't beat the steep roads like the Côte de Jenkin Road as it was called during the grand départ of the Tour de France. But not everybody likes hills. We me

Be Kind

Tuesday, May 19th Sieger Köder I remember the first time I was accused of being a 'do gooder.' It was nearly fifty years ago. But I remember my dismay at hearing someone describing my attempts to stand alongside and support someone who had 'done wrong' as being misguided. I am glad to know that the young man I befriended on that occasion went on to live an honest and worthwhile life, showing kindness to others. In Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation has chosen to focus on kindness. Its chief, Mark Rowland reflects 'We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens so

Be Still

Monday, 18th May Towards Rhum and Eigg from Arisaig I have quite a few friends of Facebook who you might call 'radical Christians' They often post what you might regard as 'left wing' views. Sometimes their posts are very funny, though sometimes risqué. Occasionally they get very angry and a little rude in their choice of language. My usual response to their posts is either to like them, add a laughing emoticon, or share their anger when they are protesting against injustice or some kind of discrimination. Before running into technical difficulties on a recent Zoom meeting, some friends of ours joined us in expressing our frustration at the ineptitude and dissembling of political leaders on

Climate Justice

Sunday, May 17th Millstones against a wall above Padley Gorge, Peak District - Feb 3rd, 2009 Today is identified in the Church Calendar as Rogation Sunday. Which is probably why Christian Aid is highlighting Climate Justice in the prayer diary. This was historically the day when, as the other 'bookend to the Harvest Festival', people would process to the edge of their village or town boundary and pray for a season of growth for all the crops being sown by farmers and gardeners. Peonies, Welsh Poppies, White 'Bluebells" and Centaurea in our garden this morning There is little doubt that most of us find spending time in the garden to be therapeutic, especially at the moment. People have always

Trembling

Saturday, May 16th Peruvian Christ There are a lot of tears being shed at the moment.Especially by those who have lost loved ones to the virus, or its knock-on effects of not being able to be alongside sick and dying relatives in hospitals or care homes. The desperate funeral restrictions do not help either. Those carers who are tending the sick must be so frustrated that they cannot offer a treatment as such, but only help with breathing and general nursing. They are holding a hand or a mobile phone to communicate with nearest and dearest. It is difficult to think of a more agonising situation for so many. On Thursday morning I listened to a Bhuddist speaker, Vishvapani, talking about the c

Get Real

Friday, May 15th On the operating table, a bear in its sixties... It appears that anything Donald Trump disagrees with must be fake. If that is the yardstick for discerning what is real and what is not, there must be very little that is trustworthy. Fortunately, most of use aren't that stupid. There is, however, a real problem these days with scam emails, hoax phone calls and all sorts of other attempts to fool us all into trusting the apparently genuine deceptions. Fortunately, most of us do have people who we can trust to advise us when we are unsure how to deal with information and people we are unsure about. They may be members of our family or close friends who we know would never try t

That's the Spirit!

Thursday, May 14th Family breaking fast at sundown during Ramadan in ruins of their Syrian house It's hard to believe that people can exist in conditions like those pictured above. Apparently this family was in a refugee camp in Syria and because of the pandemic, they decided it was better to be back in their bombed home than cramped together in confined spaces. What an advert for the human spirit and the ability to make courageous choices in such dire circumstances. This morning, I listened to Bishop David Walker (Manchester) talking about the series called Devs, which has been on television recently. He reflected on the view of the world where we are all reduced to a determinist régime, w

Watch the birdie!

Wednesday 13th May Parent and baby gannet at Bempton Cliffs In order to keep us aware of the need to stay at home, we are being confronted day after day with the tragic news of the number of deaths registered as being due to Covid-19. It is perhaps a time to notice also what is happening in terms of births all around us. I don't need to make an actual visit to Bempton Cliffs, near Bridlington, to visualise what will be happening there at present - my collection of thousands of unsorted photos is here to help me. And I don't need to travel anywhere to hear the sparrows nesting in our guttering or watch the goldfinches, tits and blackbirds collecting seeds, insects and worms for their young. S

Adding salt to the wound

Tuesday, May 12th As a Christian, I believe I must be political with a small 'p'. If I am to be the salt of the earth, I must have an effect on the society in which I live which, hopefully, influences it for the better. Currently, we see too many politicians here and in other countries, making decisions about the crisis as much to keep their popularity with their parties and supporters as to act on the advice of the 'scientists'. Foodbanks are the tremendous response of the caring parts of society to a situation reflecting a political system that lacks a sense of justice and compassion. We should not need foodbanks. Apparently the 32 London Boroughs are now coordinating their food bank initi

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