Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twelve days at Christmas

This will be my project over the Christmas period. One nativity figure every day.

Day 1:

"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”


Day 2:

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Day 3:

 “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”

Day 4:

Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.

Day 5:

“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”

Day 6:

“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”

 Day 7:

So they went with haste ...

Day 8:

… and found ...

Day 9:

... Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

Day 10:

Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.

Day 11:

And there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.

Day 12:

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

The last day of Christmas:

On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage.

Thank you to all of you who have walked the Christmas journey with me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Apple harvest

This beautiful apple tree stand on our allotment plot ... and apple season is upon us!
We are not quite sure what variety of apple it is, but we like it.
It can be eaten raw (although it is not terribly sweet), but it also great for cooking and baking. And it stores pretty well too.

This week I climbed into the apple tree to try and get the best fruit.

The unblemished apples are in the shed for storage and should keep until the new year or so.

The others are turned into apple puree and apple rings.
Here is the handy dehydrator which my clever husband built. It runs on two light bulbs and a computer fan.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My fathers

It's that time of year when we especially remember our loved ones who have already died and left this earthly life before us.

I especially remember my two fathers - the one who gave me life and the one who raised me.

My stepfather died earlier this year after several years of poor health. I must be honest - we did not always get on and I was not always the easiest step-daughter. In fact I spent many years hating him!
Only when I moved away, grew up and matured and had my own children, did my feelings towards him mellow. In the end I grew to love him and appreciate that he was the father who raised me to be the woman I am today.
I am glad for the many years we have shared - the good times and the not so good ones.

My biological father died in a sudden car accident when I was 3 years old. I have no memory of him and that pains me.
I have stories, which my mother told, and I have photographs. I look at those and study his features carefully. I see a resemblance with my brother and even myself - but the face I look at is really a stranger.
I wish dearly that I had a real memory of him, anything at all! The best memory I have of my father is me. The genes he passed to me. I hope that he will live in me and my children and children's children.

So I remember both fathers with love and gratitude.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Foodbanks - right or wrong?

I have been a supporter of the local food bank for a long time. It enables people who are in temporary financial need to receive basic food to tie themselves over for a few days. Typically this affects people who have lost their job and are in the gap between their last pay cheque and the kicking in of benefit payments.

But the question remains why in 21st century Britain food banks should be needed at all? And growing at alarming speed at that?

As Jack Monroe puts it:
But the need for food banks, in one of the richest countries in the world, is a devastating testimony to the inequalities in our supposedly developed and forward thinking country. While the rich enjoy tax cuts, the poor are turfed out of their homes to pay for it. When the rich enjoy marriage tax breaks, the poor won’t even be able to afford the ceremony. While discussing worldwide poverty and hunger at the G8 summit earlier this year, our Prime Minister tucked into fillet beef and violet artichokes.
Read her full blog here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Praying thank you

I guess harvest time is a time which makes me aware of the need to be grateful. And how much there is to be grateful for!
The many daily provisions and encounters and blessings - many of which I simply take for granted.

So I have decided to make October my month of gratitude and thanks-giving. Making myself aware of the things which give me joy and which I am grateful for will be my main form of prayer this month.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” 
Meister Eckhart

Friday, September 27, 2013

Damson cheese

Today I made a fruit cheese for the first time.
A fruit cheese is a highly concentrated fruit puree - so much concentrated that it becomes rubbery and can be cut with a knife ... well, a bit like cheese.
Less concentrated it remains spreadable and is called a fruit butter.

I used 700g of damsons from the allotment and followed a recipe from The Preserving Book by Lynda Brown - a much used book in our house.

I put the fruit in a preserving pan and added 200 ml water (300 ml per kilo of fruit), then brought it to the boil and simmered until it was a thick syrupy pulp (approx 30-40 mins). I used the wooden spoon to break up the flesh and release the stones.

Then I sieved the pulp through a fine sieve and added 500 g of sugar per pint/600 ml of puree. (I came away with 300 ml of puree).

Then I returned the puree with the sugar and a small knob of butter to the pan and simmered it very gently until it was reduced to a glossy black-purple paste that 'plopped' and left a trail on the saucepan floor when the spoon was drawn across it. This took about 45 minutes. Constant attention and stirring was required!
Then I spooned the cheese into lightly oiled ramekins (it filled three) and left to cool.

After it had cooled it was quite easy to turn out with a knife. Wrapped into waxed paper it should be kept for 6 - 8 weeks in a cool dark room to let it 'ripen'. And - assuming it doesn't get eaten sooner - it should keep for up to two years!
It can be used sliced with cold meats or cheeses or simply as a fruity treat.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Peace between neighbours,
Peace between kindred,
Peace between lovers,
In the love of the King of life.

Peace between person and person,
Peace between husband and wife,
Peace between woman and children,
The peace of Christ above all peace.

(Carmina Gadelica)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

7th September - Day of Prayer and Fasting for Syria and the Middle East

Whilst the G20 has gone round and round in circles, debating whether or not opt for military intervention in Syria, millions of displaced/refugee Syrians are beginning to lack food and supplies.

In the meantime Pope Francis has called on not just the Catholic world, but on all people, for a day of prayer and fasting for Syria and the Middle East on Saturday 7th September 2013 (that's TODAY!).
Wouldn't it be great if the whole world dedicated the day to prayer (if appropriate) and fasting ... and donated the money saved by eating nothing/less to the people of Syria?

Let each decide what praying and fasting means for them and how they will go about it - and let the Syrian people benefit from it.

“This coming Saturday we will live together a special day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world. But also for the peace in our hearts, because peace begins in our hearts. I renew the invitation to the whole Church to live this day intensely, and even now I express gratitude to the other Christian brothers and sisters, to the brothers and sisters of other religions and to the men and women of good will who desire to join in this initiative, in places and ways of their own.” 

Please keep Syria in your heart today!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Greenbelt 2013 - Life begins ...

Last weekend I attended my second Greenbelt festival. Never mind Christmas and Easter - Greenbelt is rapidly becoming my spiritual highlight of the year!
For me it is a very serious attempt at building God's Kingdom on this earth. A place of love and respect and tolerance. A place of exploring our faith together and learning from each other, rather than falling into the 'I-am-right-so-you-must-be-wrong' trap!

I met old friends and made new ones, and enjoyed some wonderful conversations.

Highlights this year were listening to John Bell from the Iona community (now there is a place I will have to visit one day!) and hearing Jim Wallis, a Christian writer and political activist from the US and the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, speak on social justice and the pursuit of the common good; participating in a session on Scriptural Reasoning  which was a beautiful example of how people from different faiths can explore and learn from each others scriptures together without telling each other what to believe or where the other is wrong (!); attended a very interesting workshop by Abdul-Rehman Malik entitled "Is there a bomb in your bag?", exploring what happens when we perceive to have an enemy in our midst; and many, many more.

As last year the OuterSpace communion service was one of my very favourite events. Here is what I wrote a year ago.
'Welcoming' simply doesn't describe it. OuterSpace manages to put on a service which is one of the most gentle, caring and embracing I have ever attended! I have pondered how and why that is.
My conclusion is that OuterSpace simply knows how to treat people as precious and delicate beings. And we all are precious in God's eyes!

This image of the cardboard box has been with me for a few days now and speaks quite powerfully to me. You know those big, heavy cardboard boxes, that look so tough and rugged on the outside? And yet, we don't know what fragile cargo it carries on the inside. 'Fragile' and 'Handle with care' are stickers we put on the outside to remind ourselves that we cannot tell from the outside what is on the inside.

Shouldn't we handle people with care all the time too?
Just because somebody looks big and strong or is gruff and prickly or appears confident and able, doesn't mean that they are not fragile and vulnerable on the inside.

Let's treat each other like precious beings. That's what OuterSpace has taught me!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Visiting Greenwich

A couple of weeks ago I took my daughter to Germany for a few days.
Now it was time to have a mother-son day with my 16-year-old. We decided to visit London and to go somewhere we had not been before - Greenwich.

The first thing you see when you arrive in Greenwich is the Cutty Sark, a famous tea clipper, which was once the fastest of its time and which has now been restored to its former glory. We did not go in, but here is a picture from the outside.

I also sneakily managed to take a picture of the two of us in the glass structure which surrounds the ship.

We visited the Maritime Museum and the old Naval College and then climbed up the hill to the Greenwich Observatory. We decided not to join the throngs of tourists who were queuing to have a picture taken whilst standing on the Greenwich Meridian Line. You can see it for yourself here.
The view over London from the Observatory is fantastic!

Then we treated ourselves to lunch in a noodle house and a trip down the Thames towards Westminster. In all my years in the UK have I never been on the Thames, so I really enjoyed the experience.
There is something very profound and spiritual about rivers ...

Having arrived in Westminster we had planned to head back towards Euston station and go home ... but there were severe delays on the Northern Line, which meant we abandoned our plan and leisurely waled up towards Euston instead.
We enjoyed the street artists on Trafalgar Square and Convent Garden.

Especially this guy managed to draw the crowds.

We finally arrived home in the evening, tired and ready for bed.
It's quite rare these days to spend quality time with my 16-year-old son, who can be quite surly and non-communicative.

So our visit to Greenwich was really quite special!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Growing, harvesting and food processing

Now the growing season on the allotment is in full swing. For the rest of the year I try do keep a low profile. 
Digging just isn't for me! A little weeding here and there, perhaps, but not much more than that.

The rest I leave to my husband who seems to like that kind of thing.

When it comes to harvesting, I come into my own. Checking for cucumbers every day? Picking daily over the Runner beans and French beans? Spending hours picking the gooseberries and currants? And all evening shelling peas?
That's the kind of job I find quite therapeutic. Hubby find it tedious!

So we make a good team, it seems.

Over the last month or two we have bought very few in the line of potatoes, vegetables and fruit. All is provided for!

Amongst many other things, so far this growing season we have harvested:
10 kg strawberries
7 kg peas (and more to come)
6 kg broad beans (many have been dried)
25 cucumbers (and many more to come)
20 kg new potatoes (still more to come)
2.5 kg  courgettes
25 patty pans
3 kg currants
1.8 kg gooseberries

Our storage shed is already full with jams and pickles and the freezer full of frozen beans, peas and soft fruit.

The tomatoes are only just starting and it looks like we will have a bumper apple crop! 

Friday, August 9, 2013

My faith

I have worn a silver chain with a small silver cross for a long time.
Earlier this year I found a little peace symbol in the street and added it to my chain. It isn't real silver and is now looking worn - but that doesn't matter.
Then my daughter gave my a little glass heart pendant and I put it on my chain.
And on holiday in Germany recently I found a little pebble with a handy hole lying along the river Rhein. I hung that on my chain too.

Each symbol represents an important part of my faith.
The cross , of course, symbolises Christianity and my faith in Jesus Christ.
The peace symbol represents peace. The heart love. And the little rock foundation and belonging.

And there you have it.


I wonder what other symbol I will find and add to my little silver chain of faith?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Eid Al-Fitr 2013/1434

Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim friends! May you enjoy a day of rich blessings and the company of friends and family. For those of you who celebrate alone or under difficult circumstances, may you know the presence and blessing of God.

I have been involved with the Christian Muslim Forum for some years now and over the years my understanding and appreciation of Islam has grown - despite the continuing often negative portrayal in the news and media.
I have come to know and love many, many wonderful Muslims - and if you are one of them, consider yourself hugged warmly!

As last year, I am posting the wonderful Eid message from the Archbishop Justin, the new head of the Church of England:

Archbishop Justin Welby's greeting to Muslim friends and colleagues for Eid Al-Fitr 2013/1434

"Eid Mubarak! For the first time as Archbishop of Canterbury I wish you warm greetings on this joyful occasion. It has been a privilege over these first few months to get to know more Muslim colleagues, and to see and hear more of the strong network of friendships between our communities.
Reconciliation is a theme that I have returned to often in these months. Jesus Christ calls us to a restored relationship with God and with one another. There is much in our world and in our history that tries to divide us. Negative events, prejudices and fears build walls that are hard to break down.
But God is greater! We, Christians and Muslims, should commit ourselves to draw on God's strength for the hard, but also joyful work of building deep, long-term relationships with one another. I have personally experienced this joy over many years with Muslim friends in Nigeria, which is a challenging place for Muslims and Christians. I have also seen the efforts made here in the UK by the Christian Muslim Forum in encouraging these deep and long-term relationships.
May God bless you in your time of celebration with family and friends, and may God bless all of us in our work together for a reconciled world!"


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Visiting family

I spent the last four days in Germany, visiting my family. It was particularly special because my daughter came with me - her first trip to Germany in four years!

We had some fun with some German signs - such as the English notice on the lawn saying "Keep of the lawn" and the ice cream called "bum bum". We greatly enjoyed the weather, sitting by the edge of the Rhein in the breeze and eating copious ice cream. Why oh why do we not have spaghetti ice cream in England??

I also loved being with my mother. Our first proper visit since the funeral of her second husband six weeks ago.
Three generations of women bumbling around, enjoying each other's company, cooking, chatting, walking and visiting.

Although it was only a short visit and the over-night coach trip is a bit of an ordeal, it was worth every moment!
Bis zum nächsten Mal!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who is my neighbour?

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 
He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’                   (Matthew 22:36-40) 

This leaves the question "Who exactly is my neighbour?"

I found this great sermon by Canon Stephen Hance at Southwark Cathedral, exploring this question further.
And telling this wonderful story from Tony Campolo, who is an American preacher and sociologist:

Tony was travelling, jetlagged, and awake in the middle of the night, so he went down to a local diner in the early hours where, it turned out, many of the local prostitutes also went to hang out after their night was over. He overheard a conversation between two of them. One, named Agnes, told her friend, “You know, tomorrow’s my birthday. I’ll be 39.” Her friend snapped back, “So? What do you want? A birthday party?” Agnes replied, “Don’t be mean, of course not. I’ve never had a birthday party before. Why should I expect one now? I’m just saying it’s my birthday tomorrow.”

After they left, Tony had an idea. He asked the diner owner if Agnes came in every night, and when he said that she did, Tony said, “Why don’t we throw Agnes a surprise birthday party tomorrow night?” And that’s exactly what they did. Next morning, 3.30am, Agnes walked in. The diner had been decorated, there was a cake and candles, and all the other prostitutes sang happy birthday. When Agnes saw it she almost bucked. Agnes blew out the candles through streams of tears, and then someone suggested she cut the cake. Agnes didn’t want to do that. She’d never had a birthday cake before. She ended up taking the cake home. After she left, clutching the precious cake, Tony ended up leading everyone left in the diner in a prayer for Agnes.

When the prayer was finished, the diner owner leaned over to Tony and said, “You never told me you were a preacher! What kind of church do you belong to?” Tony says, “In one of those rare moments when just the right words came, I answered ‘I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3.30 in the morning.’” The owner sneered and said, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it.”

Wouldn’t we all? But that’s the church Jesus came to found. A church that makes all people our neighbours by the simple method of treating them as such, welcoming them, including them, and celebrating with them. May God give us the grace to be such a church.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Christian Ramadan

Oh dear, it's a long time since I have blogged and much has happened since.

Our daughter went to Bangladesh and is back later this week.
We have spent much of the last weeks with harvesting fruit and vegetables, foraging and food-processing. The freezer is full of frozen  berries, hubby has made several batches of jam (causing a debate whether strawberry jam or blackcurrant jam is the better one!) and several litres of elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne is done, with two gallons of sparkling elderflower wine on the go.

But there is time to blog about all that another time ...

Ramadan started on 8th July this year and, as in previous years, I am joining my Muslim friends in their Ramadan - well, after a fashion, that is.
Last year I adapted the Muslim prayer routine to fit verses from the Bible.
I found that so beneficial that I am doing it again this year. Except, I am veering even further from the Islamic practice (Please forgive me, my Muslim friends!) by not praying five times a day at set times, but by trying to go through the prayer routine once every hour.
Where that's not possible, I catch up with the missed prayers at a later time (for example, if I wake up at 6 am, I pray for the six hours which have already passed since midnight) - but I aim to pray hourly as much as possible and add my prayers to 24 times per day.

I have found this extremely calming and soothing.
Depending on your own belief system or world view, you might have different explanations for this.
Is it God at work in me?
Or Satan trying to deceive into straying from the right path?
Or simply my mind benefitting from taking regular time out from my daily routine and focus within?

I have my own thoughts and you probably have yours.

My Ramadan charity this year will be the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, which aims to provide a spiritual home, medical care and humanitarian relief as well as promoting reconciliation amongst different religious groups in Iraq in the face of great difficulties and hardship.

Wishing you a blessed Ramadan! May God work in us all and draw us closet to himself - whoever and wherever we are.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Spirit of Pentecost

Apart from the obvious festivals in the Christian calendar (namely Christmas and Easter), Pentecost must be my favourite event - the celebration of God's Spirit descending on his followers and the reminder that God is with us all the time, no matter who we are or where we are.

Acts 2 tells of the event:
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ 
Peter Addresses the Crowd
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

I find this very powerful.
God is not far removed. He is not distant. He is right here amongst us!
We just need to turn to him and he will speak to us and through us.

I found this short video, in which different people talk about how they experience Pentecost and God's Spirit.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


My daughter has left to go to Bangladesh for three months. Her first time away from home.
Frankly, I don't quite know how to feel. Anxiety, pride, loss and a certain numbness all seemed to be rolled into one.

I will write more another time. For now I am holding on to this thought:

Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is risen! Alleluja!

Today, on Easter Sunday, we heard one of my favourite Bible passages.
Mary Magdalen meets the resurrected Christ.
I love the tenderness and intimacy of this encounter.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.
They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 

When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).
Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her."
(Luke 20:11-18)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Saturday

Today is Easter Saturday, also referred to as Holy Saturday, Easter Eve, Black Saturday, Bright Saturday or Joyous Saturday.

Interesting to read some of those positive attributes, because it must have been anything but a joyous day for Jesus' followers.
I can only begin to imagine the loss, despair and hopelessness they must have felt with their leader and master, the one they had trusted in and who had given them hope and comfort, gone!

Knowing how the story panned out, it seems easy for us today to sit out today to make it to Easter Sunday. For his disciples and followers it must have been heart-breaking. How could they know that only in a short while they would receive new hope and joy? How could they know that with the Holy Spirit they would rise to new heights and abilities?

I am thinking about the things which lead me to feeling held back and hopeless. The things I feel I cannot
overcome and conquer. 
I pray that I will rise above them and be empowered to be much more than I ever imagined to be. That with God's Spirit I will rise to new heights. That I will not allow fear and hopelessness to imprison me any longer. I pray for a new freedom, a new peace, a new power.
Here I am Lord. Fill me with your spirit and lead me.

"Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished."
(1 Chronicles 28:20)