Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ethical consumer

My 40 acts Lenten challenge is focusing this week on ethical consuming.

This week marked the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight here in the UK - a great opportunity to try and explore fairtrade options. The Co-op food stores have a particularly good range. Or try the local Oxfam shop.

Today introduced me to the idea of ethical clothing (not something I had given much thought before). Turns out my H&M jumper was made in Cambodia by poorly paid workers ...
And I found the ethical consumer website.

This bookshop caught my eye: "News From Nowhere" is an independent, not-for-profit radical & community bookshop, run by a workers' co-operative. A great alternative to other, more commonly known and less ethical online bookstores ...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Who is saved?

I am speaking salvation in religious terms here.

In many conversations with my Muslim and Christians friends the topic of salvation is an important one. Understandable really, when one believes that the whole purpose of our earthly being is about 'getting it right' and doing/believing the right things to get you into paradise.

I know Christians who believe that anybody who has not publically declared that Jesus is their Lord and personal Saviour is not saved and will not go to heaven.
Equally I know Muslims who believe that anybody who has not said Shahadah "Lā ʾilāha ʾillā l-Lāh, Muḥammadun rasūlu l-Lāh (translation: There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God) has not accepted Islam and will not be granted entry into Jannah (paradise).

I have been around for long enough, have observed people often enough and have had enough conversations to be convinced that there are people from all religions and none who are closer to God than many of those who are convinced to follow the 'true religion' (whichever that may be) would like to think. And that we are foolish if we think we know you is and who isn't saved, simply by what declaration they have made.

Ultimately we do not know. We are not meant to judge. We are meant to live our lives to the best of our abilities and be the best we can be - and leave others to do the same.

I came across this picture and quote, which just about sums it up. I love the image of Jesus sneakily pulling people over the wall. :)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Going to Bangladesh

My 18-year-old daughter has been offered a place with the International Citizen Service, the youth section of Volunteer Services Overseas.
She will leave in early May for 12 weeks to Bangladesh.

Although she doesn't know yet exactly were she will go and what the project will be, we are very excited for her. I am sure that it will be a great opportunity to spread her wings, see a bit of the world and understand how other people in other places live.

We have spent the last two days planning fund-raising events (she needs to raise £800 towards the cost), reading up and learning about Bangladesh and telling everybody our news.

My daughter's Just Giving page is here, and her blog 'There and Back again' can be found here.

I am sure more blogging on the trials and tribulations of letting your child go abroad will follow soon ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

LLM Calling: Ash to ash

LLM Calling: Ash to ash:
A haiku about Ash Wednesday .

Palms now burnt
Dust to dust, tree is ash  
Into wilderness

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ash Wednesday & Lent

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent - the time of preparation for Easter.

This year I have signed up to 40acts  and will follow their daily generous challenges. I have started the Madhat's 40 acts blog just for that occasion, so for the next 6 weeks I will probably be blogging more often there than here. You know where to find me!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Happy birthday, Alice Walker

Alice Walker is is an American author, poet, and activist, perhaps best known for her 1982 novel, The Color Purple which was released as a movie in 1985.

I love the quote, so I am posting it here. I certainly agree that we should rejoice in the world we live in, appreciate it and take care of it. And the field of purple crocuses is spectacular.

Happy birthday, Alice!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The tramp (story)

It must have been a Friday in early November when she first noticed the tramp outside the grocery store.
Since Jay had started school in September they had developed the habit of popping into the store on the way home from school to buy a few items of food for home and for dinner and – most importantly, if you asked him – for Jay to choose a small treat for the way home. Chocolate drops were his favourite.

The tramp sat in a sunny spot, almost inside the door, leaning on his battered backpack with an old dog by his side. She virtually had to step around him to get through the door. She felt annoyance rising inside her. How dare he sit there? She felt as if he had somehow tarnished her day with his dirty clothes, his long bedraggled hair and his scruffy dog. She considered complaining to the store manager, but then decided against it.

They made their purchases as usual, although she hurried Jay along when he hovered around the sweets, trying to make his choice. As they walked past the tramp, she could feel Jay turning to look at him and his dog … and she pulled him away impatiently.

The weekend came and she forgot all about him … until the following Monday, when after school outside the store, there he sat again. This time it was drizzling with rain and he sat huddled in an old filthy raincoat. Still, as she hurried past, she thought that she saw him look up at her, smile and nod. She turned her head and pretended that she hadn't seen him.

On the way out, Jay turned to the man and said “What's your dog called?”. “Bungee”, the man said, and with a smile on his face “He used to be more bouncy than this when he was younger, you see?”

Walking home, she scolded Jay for talking to strangers. “But you were with me, mummy”, he replied.

A few days later the man and his dog were back again, sitting by the door and minding their own business. She had noticed that sometimes people stopped to say hello and that occasionally somebody handed him some food or a coffee from the take-away. He received any offerings with a thank you and a smile.

As usual Jay chose chocolate drops. She paid at the till and whilst she was rummaging for the right change in her purse, she noticed that Jay had already moved to the door and was standing next to the man. She paid for her shopping hurriedly and followed Jay. What had she told him about not talking to strangers?!
When she got to Jay, he was just offering some of his chocolate drops to the man, holding out his bag to him with a big happy smile on his face. The man smiled back but shook his head. Had he seen the expression on her face, an expression of horror at the thought of his grubby hand reaching for her son's chocolates?

The following week, the same picture. The man and his dog and people hurrying past.
Inside the shop, Jay stood by the sweets for a long time. “Hurry up, Jay.”
John likes chocolate drops”, he said quietly.
John? Who is John?? She knew before she had spoken out the question …
Do you want to buy him a bag too?”
He nodded, then looked at her. “Can we buy something for Bungee too?”
This time they walked to the man by the door together. Jay handed him the chocolate and the dog treat. He looked up to them and smiled. The dog, lying on it's side, wagged its tail slowly and lazily.
Thank you. How did you remember that chocolate drops are my favourite?”
It was easy. They are my favourite too”, Jay beamed.

Suddenly she felt uncomfortable standing there and looking down at the man. Before she knew it, she had crouched down in front of him. Now they were on the same level. She noticed that he was older than she had thought. He had blue eyes, surrounded by wrinkles in his worn and weathered face.

After that time, they stopped and talked often. Sometimes they brought some food, although John and Bungee always seemed content with what they had and never asked for more.
She found it easy to talk to him.
They talked about life and death, about their hopes and dreams, about God and how everything happens for a reason. They talked about Jay and about Bungee.
Then one day he lowered his eyes and, in a quieter voice than usual, he talked about the death of his wife, about his depression that followed, about him losing his job and his house and finally ending up in the streets, and about how all that he had left from his old life was an old but faithful dog. That time she saw a deep sadness move over his face, like a dark cloud – but more often he smiled and laughed, and the wrinkles danced across his face.

The school holidays came and she and Jay stayed with her parents on the south coast for two weeks. They enjoyed walking by the beach and playing games by the open fire. It even snowed and granddad got the sledge out from the shed.

When they returned in the New Year they saw John and Bungee again.
She noticed that John looked tired and pale. He said that he was fine where he was staying and that he needed nothing – but she was worried.

The following week he mentioned that he and Bungee might head down towards Spain. They sat on a bench in the cold January air and he described the sunny, sandy beaches he used to visit when he was a child; the sun on his back and his toes dug in the warm sand. Jay's eyes grew wide with excitement. Would John write to him when he got to Spain? John said that he might send a postcard.

They did not see John or Bungee again after that.
Some weeks passed and something was missing when they took their walk to the store after school. The weather became colder. More snow and temperatures of minus 10 C at night. She wondered whether they had really headed south and hoped that they had, to avoid the grim weather.

Then, one Wednesday morning she came back from taking Jay to school and found the local paper on the door mat. The headline immediately caught her eye: Fatal attack! In the small wooded area near the bridge over the canal, a man and his old dog had been found dead. The man had been subject to a vicious attack by thugs and had obviously been left for dead. Unable to summon help because of the severity of his injuries, he had eventually frozen to death. It looked as if his dog had tried to defend his owner and had been killed by the same attackers. They had been dead for some time and the man had been identified as 43-year-old John Jackson of no fixed abode, who had been living in the area in recent months. Police were asking for witnesses to come forward, but had little hope due to the secluded location where the attack had taken place.

She cried and cried. She cried about how badly she had thought of John when she first met him, cried for the life he could have had, cried for the cruel and lonely death he had suffered, cried for the friend she and Jay had lost. She cried until it was time to pick up Jay from school. She washed her face, put on some foundation to hide her tell-tale blotches, picked up the paper and threw it in the bin and headed for the school ...

Spring time came.
They never received a postcard from John and occasionally Jay would ask about it. She always made up a light-hearted excuse, although inside her heart was aching.

Sometimes they still talk about him, even now, and imagine him walking along some sunny, sandy beach in Spain, with the sun on his back and Bungee chasing the waves ...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Just as I am

Last Sunday was the first time I went to church since I have given up my church commitments.
I went to the 8 am Communion service, because it is a small congregation I and knew I would not have to give too many explanations.
It was strangely humbling to come just as I am, without any role or commitment. Not as churchwarden or as reader or as member of the worship band. Instead coming to worship God, stripped down to simply who I am.

My church visit taught me two things:
  1. Firstly, it reminded me that God sees me as I am all the time - no matter how many roles I give myself or how much importance other may give me ... He sees my heart and there is no hiding from him.
  2. Secondly, I realised that my church family love me as I am - even when I do nothing to contribute to the running of the church and/or services.
I feel truly humbled.

Perhaps this journey will teach me more than I ever imagined. After all, God moves in mysterious ways ...


Today, the second of February is the Feast of Candlemas in the Christian calendar. It officially marks the end of Christmas.

Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of her son Jesus. This day also marks the ritual presentation of the baby Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem.
Ritual purification stems back to a Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child. For 40 days for a boy, and 60 days for a girl, women weren't allowed to worship in the temple. At the end of this time, women were brought to the Temple or Synagogue to be purified. After the ceremony women were allowed to take part in religious services again.

The festival is called Candlemas because this was the day that all the Church's candles for the year were blessed.

“Simeon Holding Jesus at the Temple” by Greg Olsen

In the temple, Mary, Joseph and Jesus encountered Simeon. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that "he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ".

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’ 
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
 ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, 
according to your word; 
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ 
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:22-38)

 Here is a picture I found of Anna the prophetess. She sounds like a great character, and somebody wroth finding out more about ...

Friday, February 1, 2013

We have chickens!

Having mulled this over for several years, one of hubby's winter projects this year was to build a chicken coup/run.

The recent snow made us hesitate, but today was the day that we finally collected our three girls.They've only been with us for half a day and already different personalities are emerging. One is certainly more adventurous an brave than the others.
Great fun!

They are between 16 and 18 weeks old and will hopefully start laying soon.

Any suggestions for names?