30 May 2013

commuting chronicles [episode 2: arrival]

A mother waits patiently on the station platform with a squirming toddler in her arms, holding tightly to keep the child safe. Carriage doors spring open and the father leaps out and rushes towards them, all animated and encompassing limbs. The child's legs kick vigorously as it squeals with delight in the moment of reunion.

All the joy in their faces.

Not emotionally intense in the sense of a military family reunion. Blindingly ordinary and every day. Just a simple, unpretentious snapshot as I pass by quickly by on my way home. 

Yet one that resonates deep in my heart today.

Utterly, unconditional Love

26 May 2013

#3goodthings [26 May 2013]

20 May
stunning scenery & wildlife on BBC Hebrides
peanut m&m's
crabbies ginger beer


21 May
my brother's first day of chemotherapy done
daughter sharing her difficulties with us, thankful she feels able to do this
God giving extra grace through an unexpected earworm

25 May - we had a great evening at our dinner for six with:
beautiful and artistically presented food
very tasty food
lots of story, sharing and great company


26 May
how God is calling us with compassion when he calls our name twice
our pastor's first Sunday back after his sabbatical
brilliant sharing from the heart by our volunteer Youth worker

177 gifts

commuting chronicles [episode 1: lost in translation]

On a journey this week a Frenchman was rather anxious as to where he should be getting off the train. He asked a fellow passenger in broken English enough to form the question 'Does this train go to Wigan?' Having understood the positive answer he settled happily back in his seat.

Shortly after the train guard arrived to check our tickets and all of a sudden the Frenchman started saying what sounded like 'orally' over and over to the guard. The more he said it, the more the guard was scratching his head. The Frenchman rummaged in his bag for some email printouts which he showed the guard and eventually the French franc and the Mancunian penny dropped.

Turns out the Frenchman was now confused as to whether he should get off the train at Wigan or Leigh (Or-a-lly.) There is no train station at Leigh, so Wigan the first call was right after all!

It made me chuckle inwardly pretty much all the way home... 



Chatting the following week with a work colleague who ended up helping with interpretation and getting the guy into a taxi at the right place it turns out that
  • the Frenchman was actually German (language is not my strong point)
  • German-man was trying to get to Orrell (not Wigan or Leigh) 
But it was good to chat with another work colleague who I had not met before and we had even more of a chuckle..

25 May 2013

commuting chronicles [pilot episode: brief encounters]

I am currently spending at roughly two hours per day on trains or lurking at stations waiting for trains, which equates to almost one whole day per week. I have always enjoyed watching people and imagining things (probably completely off-beam at times.) 

So this might be an occasional blogpost on these brief encounters (or I may run out of steam, or the contract may come to an end, who knows?)

24 May 2013

view [5 minute friday]

Joining with the community that is Five Minute Friday with the lovely Lisa Jo Baker. Writing not for comments or traffic or anyone else’s agenda. But for pure love of the written word. For joy at the sound of syllables, sentences and paragraphs all strung together by the voice of the speaker.

Five minutes on VIEW


I knew this week would be difficult before it started. 

My brother started chemotherapy for cancer on Tuesday and even with praying there is still the unknown, the concern for how things would go. Poison being pumped into his body and unknown after effects. This is still ongoing, just the beginning of a challenging few months of unpleasant side effects to necessitate healing, however that comes.

The weight of sharing news with others to let them know. Also the welcome company of those who have been walking alongside in prayer so far.

On the Tuesday on the way into work I passed a rain drenched hedge on the walk to the station

Then on the way into work I was stuck with an earworm of a song which we sang in church on Sunday ‘Draw me close to You.’ It is a song that I can usually take or leave because I feel sometimes it is a little too emotive; that bit in the chorus where many people raise their hands together 'You’re all I want, You’re all I’ve ever needed.'

Help me know You are near

Try as hard as I might I couldn’t stop the words going round my head. The earworm would not be dismissed.

OK God you are wanting me to know you are near.



Later that evening our daughter came home to tell us she has not been well for a while but that she is now on medication. She will also be graduating a little later than her peers due to what has happened.

It was just that extra weight of sorrow and heart pain of the day that I was not expecting. But the words of that song which I am usually ambivalent about was the safety net of His everlasting arms.

Sent ahead of time and in a way that I was not expecting (He has a sense of humour too)

He knows the whole view before me 

And the grace didn't spoil it


Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I'm Your friend

You are my desire
No one else will do
'Cause nothing else can take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace

Help me find a way
Bring me back to You

You're all I want
You're all I've ever needed
You're all I want
Help me know You are near

19 May 2013

#3goodthings [20 May 2013]

13 May
a doctor friend making me laugh; she confused Bill Bryson for Bill Bailey when we lent her a dvd
seeing a dramatic storm passing over Manchester city centre from 5 miles out
writing a blogpost after a full day at work

15 May
raindrops running on the train window
music group friends praying for me & for each other
a train guard being all round lovely

18 May
friends to share 1&2


19 May
teens sharing in church
sharing our dreams in small groups
a friend's good news, a long term answer to prayer

165 gifts

17 May 2013

a splintered song [25 minute friday]

I normally join with the community that is Five Minute Friday with the lovely Lisa Jo Baker. But it just didn't turn out that way and was more of a 25 minute friday :-) 

So to keep true to the #fmf spirit I've not linked up there this week...


Do birds ever get sore throats? Their songs never seem to run out as they flit from tree to tree, freely tweeting. You never see the invalid in the nest having a duvet day with lemsip.

Sometimes I feel like an inarticulate, wordless mass of person. Like a dodo extinct or some other form of wingless bird.

But give me a song and my vocabulary can soar high above everything, like an eagle on smooth on the thermal wind currents. (But if it is the early morning the initial sound can be a little inelegant, rather like a gangly flamingo on take off.)  

In flight my heart sings with fluid melody and the words are poetry, not stuttered staccatos with hiatus, concomitant with shame flushing on my face.


A thousand songs in the rainbow stacked books. Unending ways to paint You with scripture and song. We have so much, yet we have so little, so rich and yet so poor.

With voices, brains and hearts we have the innate ability to sing and express our inner selves. But sometimes in the process, short-circuits cause a block in the communication.

Broken and fading hallelujahs

Father I want to be like Matthew, man trapped in a child’s body. He who unrestrained flailed his whole body with wild abandon in a field when we sang these words. He was your cheerleader that day *\o/* we were the unenthusiastic spectators. So rich and so poor:

So like a child in Your sight
I dance to see Your delight
For I was made for Your pleasure, pleasure

And like Mary whose soul magnified You when she knew the most precious thing was happening deep inside her own body and everything came flooding out in word and song.

Pouring out
Your love in transaction with our meagerly offered melody
insistently reaches down to us 
and begins to mend the hallelujahs..

(Oh, and I also wonder if birds get splinters in their feet when they land on branches?)

13 May 2013

love that doesn't come back empty handed

Our Senior Pastor has been on sabbatical for a few months, therefore we have enjoyed a variety of visiting preachers. Each one has spoken on a different biblical character and to accompanying their sermons has been a diversity of presentation methods. Yesterday was the turn of Esther and the speaker used classic works of art as backgrounds to his powerpoint slides. (And like a cashier operator in the days prior to automated queuing, he startled anyone who was thinking of napping with a firm ‘next-please!’ to the pc operator).

Esther is one of the books of the bible that doesn’t mention God directly but has His fingerprints all over it (I’m sure this is a statement can be attributed to any number of people.) To be honest I didn’t pay terribly close attention to most of what the preacher was saying; it was largely a plot summarisation. But one phrase did register clearly:

Love letters from God

After the service we chatted generally with people, we are in a large church and still getting to know people. The Scotsman was chatting with a friend of ours who is newer than we are and I was flitting in and out of the conversation. Sadly her dad had died last month and she was telling us about the day of his funeral. How some friends had rallied round and tidied up his garden so they could all spend the afternoon sitting out in the sun after the service, with the feeling that her dad was looking down. The Scotsman shared the story of how the rainbow appeared after my mum’s committal at the crematorium.

Both these things, making sad days special

Love messages from God

Later in the evening I tackled the ironing whilst the feature film Australia was on TV. It has a strong theme of love running through it and several interweaving storylines, great scenery and a good musical score. The song Somewhere over the Rainbow is also a recurrent theme (the character Lady Sarah teaches it to Nullah the boy of aboriginal heritage just after his mother dies and it is later assimilated in song and also on the harmonica.)

I could feel tears pricking my eyes at the first rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow. By the time Nullah was playing it near the end of the film on the harmonica, for the sound to carry through the fog to the harbour so Lady Sarah (Mrs Boss) could hear it, I was adding more than steam to the clothes being ironed!

I also love Eva Cassidy’s version of Over the Rainbow and have often used that gentle and understated version as a piano piece when playing for funerals. There is much love and hope in rainbows.

The words that come out of God’s mouth are not always physical words and the manifestations of His love are as many and varied as we are.

That is Mystery and Divine and beyond our understanding.

I love it when God reaches down in our interweaving stories with His love messages.

Time after time (if we are listening)

Isaiah 55 v 8-11

I don't think the way you think

The way you work isn't the way I work. God's decree.

"For as the sky soars high above the earth

so the was I work surpasses the way you work
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don't go back until they have watered the earth,
doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
so will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty handed.
They'll do the work I sent them to do,
they'll complete the assignment I gave them.

12 May 2013

#3goodthings [12 May 2013]

6 May
beautiful deep blue skies, on a bank holiday, in the north !!!
blossoms going bananas
photo from 6 days ago turning into a blogpost (a yesterday, today & forever God)


8 May
a rabbit on the verge by the railway line
things at work making a bit more sense
tv programmes on nhs that tell real stories


11 May
good sleep in
tasty ready meal
underdog winning FA cup

12 May
good conversation with a friend
good chat with my brother
God's strong love messages while watching Australia I will sing You to me

153 gifts

11 May 2013

holy sh*t

Isn't it ironic how when you write about something deep, good and life affirming that there is often something equally unwanted lurking nearby in the shadows, waiting to pounce when you are sat, resting in contentment. Fertile from years in the soil of emotional pain. Like a wily, cunning feline who always wants to play when you don't want to. 

Feelings that are the antithesis to what you have carefully picked out from the fragments of a tired mind. 

Not crafted as an artisan, but the raw materials are precious underneath.

Father You are the comforter. 
You are there in the deep, precious rest that it brings

But you are also in the un-rest that springs, uninvited from an emotional root, although known, equally feels alien, when it presses down painfully.

Shoe pressing down on dog muck, which squelches and then lodges in every crevice of the sole. Spreading mess further to other places and noiselessly depositing the vile filthy smell and germs without invitation.

Sin clings in the cracks and cleaning it out is all the tedious and all the time consuming. But you Father are attendant to every last detail of the thankless task. Carefully cleansing and purifying every last scrap

The business You finished, with Love.

Nothing but the blood.


10 May 2013

comfort (5 minute friday)

Joining with the community that is Five Minute Friday with the lovely Lisa Jo Baker. Writing not for comments or traffic or anyone else’s agenda. But for pure love of the written word. For joy at the sound of syllables, sentences and paragraphs all strung together by the voice of the speaker.

Five minutes on:  Comfort

Having lived in different areas of England we have assimilated a varied local vocabulary of every day phrases, such as saying hello:

Alright my lovely

Yow Awright


‘Ello chuck

The most disconcerting one for the boys when they were teenagers in Yorkshire was male bus drivers who called them love and duck.

The Shunnamite woman responded everything is all right to the holy man’s how are you at the time of Elisha (2 Kings 4:26)

It is well with my soul words penned by Spafford. If you don't know it, it is well worth reading the story behind the words of this hymn to see just what well of the soul they were drawn from.

Deep and unfathomable to most of us in a lifetime.

And the best hymns with the best words they bring a real comfort to the soul, comfort that is hard to express with words unless it is a place that has been visited by the soul.

It is well with my soul

The comfort of the Comforter

6 May 2013

a broken lily

a peace lily cutting | May 2013

When mum died 4½ years ago my brother and I organised the flowers for a pedestal in the church for her funeral service. The florist had premises just around the corner from the town centre church where the service took place. She told us that they had done a few floral arrangements for weddings and funerals at the particular church and were accustomed to walking finished blossoming artworks just around the corner.

We didn't get a close look at the flower display until we got back to the church after the committal at the crematorium. There were a good number of people to talk to, since mum was only just into her seventies, had lived in the same house and attended the same church for over forty years and she pre-deceased most of her contemporaries.

In the conversations we were aware of some whispers “did you see the broken lily?” Not necessarily direct, but still passing around amongst the general chatter, something for people to talk about in those circumstances when people don’t really know what to say to the bereaved family beyond a sorry for your loss and a few uneasy platitudes.

It’s not as though mum’s death was unexpected. She had been ill for several years and the cancer advanced rapidly during the last months, rampaging its effects swiftly in any area of her body where fragments of health still remained. The distressing impact of end-stage cancer meant more earnest prayers of ‘Lord take her quickly and relieve her suffering.’ He did answer those prayers.

Even in the midst of relief that suffering is ended, there is the numb, disbelief for those left behind. In limbo and in the uneasy company of a multitude of feelings that death and its sudden severance brings. 

And around the flower arrangement we the family found ourselves gathered, with the other close family members. The broken tribe, heavy with sorrow, including too in our conversations the missing brother who was absent with easily uttered excuses, but for reasons known only to himself. 

There but not there. 

Kin who had travelled the miles, sensing a new corporate incompleteness and saying our goodbyes to each other. And our final parting with Audrey, wife, mother, sister, grandmother, auntie whose blood lives on in most of us. 

One of the peace lilies in the flower arrangement had a broken stalk which was first noticed after the florists had vacated the building. And those women who gather on these days of sad, salty tears and farewells could not decide between them. Whether the brokenness was a careless mistake by the florist and that the stem had been accidentally damaged by the human hands that walked the flowers into the building or whether it was a deliberate broken stalk leaving the flower hanging down perhaps to convey sadness. One or two ladies when they passed the flower stand had tried to inconspicuously resurrect the bloom, but the flower obstinately drooped anyway.

I like to think that the peace lily was weighed down by all sorts of things on that day, mostly sadness.

But often I have looked back and most clearly seen in that broken bloom, the sheer beauty of all the imperfections. 

#3goodthings [5 May 2013]

29 April
good customer service while out shopping
realising how much God answers prayers 'above and beyond'
writing about pianos


30 April
seeing people's good news on Twitter
the curves of a peace lily
sharing at homegroup


1 May
colour of spring flowers
good chat and prayer with musicians
with God's help being able to see beyond criticism


2 May
warm enough to put scarves and gloves away
watching mason bees coming and going on the brickwork
buying some books


4 May 
finally beginning to recognise more people when out and about
first female general secretary at Baptist Union
homemade pizza


5 May
a day difficult to bring blessings to the mind, but I know God is at work, with me and am just SO thankful for that

135 gifts

sunday blues

Earlier I re-posted Katharine Welby's interview with Cole Moreton in the Telegraph today on both Twitter and Facebook. It is a well written article and good to see someone with a fairly high media profile willing to speak publicly with no added agenda about depression.

It is one way I use to hint indirectly to people that I am depression-prone every now and again. It feels safer than telling most people face to face. 

Silence has been quite noisy.

Watching some of Hugh Laurie's Perspectives on the Blues seemed like a good way to end the day. 

No more words ...

4 May 2013

the real time lord

I'm not a bone fide Dr Who-head. I like to watch it if it is on and am not unduly upset if it gets missed. I was born in the exact same time dimension as Russell T Davies (he who rejuvenated the programme in 2005) and we shared 50th birthdays last weekend (not literally because obviously I don't know him and was too geeked out to introduce myself when I saw him at Manchester Piccadilly station.)


Last Sunday in church we were singing the song 'The splendour of the King' during worship. Lately I have often felt God has been highlighting certain words in songs for attention. Sometimes it will be clear in an instant what that means but not always. Last Sunday during the particular song the words in bold were:

               time is in His hands, beginning and the end

These specific words have often put things into perspective, when things are going either well or badly, the equation of in everything God > me so it's OK and I thought this was just another reminder He wanted me to hear, because He loves to love us. The loving message that God is not constrained by time in the same way we are, He is so much greater.

But during the week I have found myself again considering comments made frequently by someone about their dissatisfaction with corporate worship at our particular church. Being on the worship team it is difficult not to take such comments personally and on the spot I find it hard to discuss things in conversation.

In essence I think the person is saying that God will bless in a particular way if we 'allow' it when people worship together. I do agree that this does happen and that we all need to have genuinely open hearts to fully participate in worship. But hearing the same criticism repeated regularly is uncomfortable and also coveys the opinion that the person thinks this is the only way God will speak in corporate worship (since they seem to be generally dismissive of the regular weekly approach.) 

A finger pointing that tries to invoke shame, that fault of this perceived failure lies with someone else. I too have done this at times when services have been dry and dusty and devoid (to me) of the voice of God. When the song choices/musicians could have been better. Do I look at my own heart first? Nearly always not..

Thankfully God is not constrained by time, place or human action. 

He can speak anywhere, anyhow and anyway He chooses. 

Just who are we to determine how and when God speaks? 

Are our hearts really fully open?

Are we always listening?

In corporate worship God might be illuminating for us something that happened years ago or puts a past event in its place. He may say a word or phrase that speaks in a single moment. Words that might be something we need to go away and think and pray about, before meaning becomes clearer. Or He may be saying nothing to us and speaking to others.

Past, present and future, beginning and the end.

And it is not just in corporate worship that He speaks and blesses. It is in our run of the mill, every day living that He does so just as clearly (if we are listening.)


Last autumn God spoke very clearly through a photo that I had taken two years previously, where I noticed a heart shaped snow flake for the first time. I wrote about this in even when the photographer is an off-colour amateur God can still sing His freedom song.


I was preparing potatoes for baking one day and a lump of earth as I scrubbed became heart shaped. It stayed heart shaped until the very end. 


During a recent walk in the Peak District, Derbyshire, I took some photos of a sinkhole, just with a feeling that they might come in useful for an unknown future abstract art work at some point. The next day the preacher in church spoke these words 'dreams borne of God don't have to die in the pit' which spoke very clearly to a number of people in different situations, in the service. 

That is why I am convinced that God is not constrained by time, space, place or humanity and that time is in His hands, not ours. His concept of time is way beyond ours.


I am returning to full time work next week, temporarily for the time being, with up to a one hour commute on two trains at either end of the day (cheers for extra reading time!) There have been hardships in the last two years, but above all I have valued the time God has given me as a gift to re-engage with Him. I also value the people I have met on twitter and interact with in tweets, blogs and prayer. 

I am not sure what direction the blog will take from here and what lies ahead. I am sure it will not entail getting vertigo from spinning in a blue box but I am certain whatever that He the Alpha and Omega, is in it all. 

Every last little atom.

3 May 2013

brave (5 minute friday)

Joining with the community that is Five Minute Friday with the lovely Lisa Jo Baker. We like to write, not for comments or traffic or anyone else’s agenda. But for pure love of the written word. For joy at the sound of syllables, sentences and paragraphs all strung together by the voice of the speaker.

Five minutes on BRAVE


Every person in that place held their breath as you made your way slowly to the front of the church. You turned and stood to face us and sing with a voice weakened by chemical battles, reedy but clear:

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Not a dry eye or heart in that place as the words soared above us all. The waters of baptism gently washed over you and all our souls that day.

Some would say that was a brave performance, not technically perfect. But perfect would have been so wrong and not at all brave.

And later when your body was even weaker and threatening to leave this earth, and your parents cried out, God stepped down and showed me in a moment that bravery is sometimes to walk away from fighting. To stop engaging in pointless power battles.

Oh how I wish it had not been that way, that you would have lived a long life.

But then I doubt if any of us would have looked upon any truer bravery, grit, determination and the face of Jesus.

And we would be all the poorer and more wretched for it.

In memory of W who died age 14 years