30 December 2013

Advent photo-a-day The Final Few

This week's photos for the Advent photo project.
(Find more on both Instagram and Twitter using the hashtags #rethinkchurch #rethinkchristmas)

Day 22 :: sign
I was dusting these cuties on the morning of the 22nd December whilst cleaning some of the rooms in the house in preparation for the arrival of family over Christmas. Time was evaporating to get everything done, presents wrapped, cleaning, music to be prepared for the evening service and the service on Christmas day. But I was able to pause for a moment and be thankful in the midst. Grateful for the 22 years shared, ups and downs, joys and sorrows, gifts and grace. And most of all for God who this year has particularly helped me stop and be mindful in the every day things that His gifts are continually raining down on me and on us
On our 22nd wedding anniversary a few years ago The Scotsman gave me these ducks. If I have to explain too much it's pretty pointless, and it might not be aimed at you. But just think 22 and the shape of the ducks in profile..

Day 23 :: neighbour
In my photo collection is this one from the Manchester Day Parade in the summer this year. A woman proffers the 'panda' a drink of water on a warm day, the essence of what it means to be a neighbour unintentionally captured in a moment.

Day 24 :: joy
On the journey to work on the last day before Christmas, patches of light were beginning to poke through the darkness as I travelled on the last stretch of the commute. This was a quick mobile camera shot from the train window. The view reminded me of the contrast of JOY that comes after times of weeping and the contrast that any light has against that particular darkness.

Day 25 :: light
A winter sunset on Southport beach
Light of the world is come to us once again

23 December 2013

Advent photo-a-day Week 3

This week's photos for the Advent photo project.
(Find more on both Instagram and Twitter using the hashtags #rethinkchurch #rethinkchristmas)

Day 15 :: rejoice
The praise window at Dornoch Cathedral. I have a tiny, tiny percentage of Scottish ancestry and the Barclay family were born and lived in Dornoch at the turn of the 19th century. I love the way the sun shone straight through the windows when I took this photo. It enhances and illuminates the beautiful glasswork even more.

Day 16 :: strong
The family will verify that I do not function well without a good strong cup of this first thing in the morning. The strength recently went up to 6 from 5..

Day 17 :: free
Still on a bit of a learning curve with the new camera, finally caught a co-operative butterfly and made it look just a little bit stunning (well I like it)

Day 18 :: mercy
Mercy is written in and between every word in this hymn. I love the recent Phatfish version which sadly I can't persuade my church to sing but it gets good airplay at home

Day 19 :: patience
Some days inspiration for these photos as well as time has been short. I was thinking on this day's word as I was travelling home and walked towards the waiting room on Platform 13. I catch two trains to and from work and spend alot of time waiting on this particular platform, with time to think, catch up on twitter or read, depending on connection times. And on these cold winter evenings I am particularly grateful for somewhere warm to wait.

Day 20 :: good news
This little fella was waiting in the Christmas Card pile when I got home. I may have made a sarcastic side-swipe on instagram about round robin letters, because such missives can be over long and a little tedious, even though it is lovely to hear from people. We have an 80-something friend who could teach many people the art of writing engaging Christmas letters.. So this birdy made my day on many levels.

Day 21 :: prophet
My favourite carol is 'It came upon the midnight clear'. So a few key words from this are gathered around our much loved Christmas tree angel. Inspired by the words 'For lo the days are hastening on, by PROPHET bards foretold'

15 December 2013

Advent photo-a-day Week 2

This week's photos for the Advent photo project.
(Find more on both Instagram and Twitter using the hashtags #rethinkchurch #rethinkchristmas)

Day 8 :: widsom
Often when I see still water where the mirror image is almost perfect it's not always possible or convenient to photograph. But I briefly struck lucky here at Douglas Water, Lanarkshire, Scotland, before the wind picked up. Goes perfectly with the verse from Proverbs 20

Day 9 :: delight
We spent a weekend in Liverpool in the summer and during an evening walk we found ourselves in a prime position to watch the Liverpool Fiesta pass by. Joy of the performers and musicians was highly infectious.

Day 10 :: holy
I was trying to be ultra clever with this one and looking (in vain) for a clear starry sky to photograph. But all too often I forget that the most holy transactions take place in the most ordinary places. 
So my work space. 
Which is actually moveable because we hot-desk frequently (mug and pens move with me.)
Still, it is essence of where God does the every day holy.

Day 11 :: steadfast
Deep, ancient, strong roots on the Tatton Park Estate, Cheshire

Day 12 :: hope
Again on the Tatton Park Estate and we visited on an early spring day. I still have not quite got into the habit of remembering that flowering in the north happens a few weeks later than in the south and often requires the help of a little warm sun. So I was disappointed that we were too early for the majority of daffodil and narcissus carpets. But the beauty of these odd emerging colourful buds contrasted effortlessly with the dull greys and browns.

Day 13 :: justice
Again under my nose, in the kitchen..

Day 14 :: gather
On 14 December 1985 we were married the Scotsman and I. A day when our family and friends gathered to celebrate with us.

8 December 2013

Advent photo-a-day week 1

I'm a sucker for a photo project and was delighted when a twitter friend posted a link to this one for Advent via @umrethinkchurch  

There is a word prompt each day leading up to December 25. I am posting the photos daily on Instagram and Twitter and will post weekly here on the blog with short thoughts/explanations.

Find more on both Instagram and Twitter using the hashtags #rethinkchurch #rethinkchristmas


Day 1 :: go
The boys bought their dad a race track experience for his 50th birthday and here is the Scotsman accelerating off round the track in an Aston Martin Vanquish (in slightly a more tentative manner than some of the other drivers and much to do with what you have to pay if the car gets damaged in any way.) But yes, those cars certainly did go.

Day 2 :: bound
A carol that appears in carol books is Adam lay ybounden. When looking for and preparing music for Christmas I often flick past it. Fifteenth century words and set to music here by the twentieth century English composer Peter Warlock, I'm not entirely sure what all the words mean since it is in macaronic English and full of arcane medieval theology -  that Adam was supposed to have remained in bonds with the other patriarchs in the limbus patrum from the time of his death until the crucifixion of Christ (the "4000 winters").

Day 3 :: peace
At this time I had just acquired a new camera and was shooting anything and everything at random. This has an 'it is well with my soul' feel which to me is the very essence of peace.

Day 4 :: time
This is the curfew bell in the lead mining village of Leadhills, Lanarkshire, Scotland (home of a large number of the Scotsman's ancestors.) It was built in 1770 and was used to ring shift changes for the lead miners, children to school, warnings of accidents in the mines and also when people were lost in the hills. Today it is used to ring in the New Year. 

Day 5 :: flood
Last autumn we were fortunate to have an unexpected holiday in Southern Spain. A few days before we flew out the area experienced torrential rain and once-in-a-generation flooding. Flood waters had washed away this road across the river in the village where we stayed.

Ironically at the same time as I was posting this photo to Instagram, I was reading tweets reporting on the damage caused by once-in-a-lifetime tidal surges in coastal parts of the UK. And the damage repair continues following catastrophic floods in the Philippines. Let's not forget.

Day 6 :: awake
Awake and alert to see everything that is going on. Be awake to what is going on in your heart, what God is doing. It might be in the least obvious place or in the least obvious way. Sometimes we are aware of things in hindsight and know that we have caught a glimpse of 'the backside of God'.

Day 7 :: ready
Ready, ripe, expectant. I struggled with this photo because it is a many faceted word and particularly so at this time of year. A state of mind and not an obvious picture.
In the west we have an abundant array of ripe fruits available in the shops, ready to eat, where the work of ripening has already been overseen by the farmer or producer. It's all to easy to forget where our food comes from and take it for granted.

1 December 2013

a letter to fill you in


I’ve not written on the blog in a while, save for a few short offerings in the last couple of months. Posting has dwindled gradually since I went back to work full time in May this year. There are plenty of half-written snippets littering folders in MS Word, considerably more thoughts than that have been chewed over in my mind and not committed to being thrashed out via qwerty keyboard. 

Some appear here..

a reflection on a reflection

Objects are reflected beautifully on water when it is calm and still. As soon as there is any wind the reflection becomes distorted and the reflection less recognisable. Like those rounds on game-shows, Guess the Object, how much spinning or clarity do you need before your brain tells you it is identifiable? 

(Or to flip it on its head “do not adjust your horizontal” was the Scotsman’s comment on a friend’s impressively busy patterned tights).

I took this photo during a walk at Douglas Water, Lanarkshire and for a short time the water reflected beautifully. On the return trip the wind had picked up a little so all the images on the lake were impressionistic and indistinct.

I was puzzling on the words of a hymn I used to sing in childhood ‘It is a thing most wonderful’. These lines specifically:

It is most wonderful to know
His love for me so free and sure;
But ’tis more wonderful to see
My love for Him so faint and poor

Not many conclusions, more indicative of my recent state of mind than anything.

And a blog is always incomplete without a pretty picture.


deck the halls

It is December now and we have decked the halls with... boxes. Actually during the last month the hall has decked itself with filled boxes, the lounge with empty boxes waiting to be filled and things in boxes waiting to be labelled.

The sign outside the house says ‘let’. We are still waiting to move and a number of things beyond control have slowed down the buying of a place completely of our own, for the very first time.

There have been plenty of prayers of the ‘God are You deaf?’ variety. Doesn’t He know that if this one will just get answered snappish we can move ON? That we have been in limbo for nearly three years and that hanging on isn’t much fun any more.

Even defective senses can sometimes lead to an unexpected opening.

This week we were at a training session for something at church and there was one of those ‘crowdbreaker’ moments to make us talk to someone we didn’t know (cue introvert awkwardness.) 

We had to think of a number that was important to us to share and explain to the unknown person. As usual in these circumstances due to an early morning weekend start (decreased brain function) and a lack of thinking time, at the ‘go’ instruction I was still fumbling for a number and an intelligent reason. I quickly decided on 20 the date of my mother’s birthday.

I didn’t know the lady I spoke to but I recognised her as the person who had prayed for me in a healing service a few weeks before. She had picked up on a physical manifestation of something that has been stirred up emotionally again of late. We got chatting and it turns out that 20 was a gateway for us both to open up about bereavement.

Even clutching at straws can open up meaningful dialogue.

And I’m continually thankful that God delights in surprising us when we least expect it.

Linking up with Ruth & Sabrina at #LettersTo (at Sabrina's place this week)