A Fresh Outlook

The very first story I ever heard was that of Jesus inviting his disciples to come and have breakfast on the beach, by the Sea of Galilee, it went home in such a close way that I never forgot the fish count, 153. It went straight to my heart, my memory.

Over the last few months I have been listening to the gentlest whisper;

‘Come and have breakfast!’

And that, has been my spiritual experience, a quiet, leisurely breakfast with the Lord – precious.

Perhaps that is why, since no one else, wanted the job, I volunteered to come up with something for our baptistery/font for our recent flower festival. Now I’m not a flower arranger, I like to see my flowers growing, or else in a vase, so this is what I came up, I thoroughly enjoyed it, Working in the whole space, by myself, with sand, shells, pebbles, pot plants, net and silver fishes made by children’s hands, and you know every now and again, I am sure I heard the lap of water …. Here’s the finished,( not so masterly), masterpiece. It was good to be a little girl again!

Fishers of Men
Fishers of Men

My favourite story can be read in John chapter . I feel sure that this little bit of child’s play has given me a whole fresh outlook on life.

May you be blessed

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First Snow

We had our first snowfall, of 2015, overnight. I took the picture in the churchyard this morning.

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A stroll around some of the paths told me that I wasn’t first visitor, Imprinted alongside the tracks of small birds and animals were human, wellie treads and dogs paws. No matter what the weather man and dog must keep to their schedules. And so must Mother Nature, I don’t know how long the snow will be around but I can say that in a very short while there will be a carpet of snowdrops to replace the snow-blanket.

I love little snowdrops (botanical name Galanthus Nivalis) but other names are Candlemas Bell, Our Lady’s Taper, Fair Maid of February, in France they say Perce-neige (snow piercer) and Eve’s Tears.

Eve’s Tears is a name with a story, but not a biblical one.
‘Long, long ago after Eve and her husband had been swept out of Eden, Eve sat crying, crying, crying. A kindly angel came to comfort her. Now, Eve hadn’t seen a single flower since the Fall and the snow had just kept falling, falling, falling. As he was speaking to her the angel caught a falling snowflake in his hand. Breathed on it and let it fall to earth as the first snowdrop. The story goes on to say that the humble snowdrop blossomed every February until the birth of the second Eve, the Virgin Mary and still does every Candlemas ( 2nd February) in her honour.’

Well, I’ll be looking out under the trees for the snowdrops, until then I’ll be following in the footprints of the Lord, in the snow:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control (Galatians 5 v23) as best I can.

Wishing you all, rather belatedly, a very Happy New Year!

For Dark And Light Are Both Alike to Thee

Boo!
What is it about putting the clocks back that unnerves us so?
It isn’t always us girls that jump.

I received a text from a Ken who had gone up to church, and in the puddle of gloom just inside the porch, saw a shadowy form. It was just a dressmakers mannequin modelling Joseph’s coat of many colours, and behind him, well that was just a dummy, created by Junior Church, originally intended to be the man set about by robbers in the story of the Good Samaritain. It was dusky dark, and Ken hadn’t been in church to see them left there. He just jumped. Out of his boots!

Dusk, gloom, darkness, all three get inside our heads and imagination. Perhaps something left over before street lighting, porch lights (there is one on the outside of that particular door – just needs a hand to reach round and switch the inside one on), perhaps.

Singing practice for Christmas services starts this week. 6pm is a dreadful time for one or two of the ladies, I have promised to be there and open the big gates to make it possible for them to park their vehicles close by the front porch. Because no one likes walking down the narrow path to the back door. The path by the way is illuminated by security lighting, but just happens to run parallel to the churchyard for a little way.

I walk. Everywhere. I shall be walking up the road, in dare I say it, in the dark by myself, to open the gates and doors to let them all in. Maybe using a telescope in the backyard, when younger, has helped, I don’t know. I love dark skies, which we don’t have around here anymore, I love to see the stars blaze out. I like it dark enough to identify the lunar seas, and the Orion’s Sword Handle. Or, perhaps I am very conscious that the darkness and the light are both alike to God.

“if I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light around me. (Psalm 139 v11)

I love this verse, from the Hymn By J Ellerton, we used to sing it as the last hymn of the Evening Service.

Grant us thy peace. lord through the coming night;
Turn thou fir us it’s darkness into light;
From harm and danger keep thy children free,
For dark and light are both alike to thee.”

I wonder how many find time to say a short prayer as the dusk fall?

The photo shows St Philips, the Cathedral Church of Birmingham Diocese, it is I think rather lovely, and newly posted on the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

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Because We Are the Lilies of The Field

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For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

These are the words carved between the angel heads on our simple wooden lytchgate. In times past the bearers (on foot if you were a poor family) would lay their burden on the bench inside and rest awhile before continuing on to bury their loved one.

Now when I am tired, sad or discouraged, I take time and rest awhile, taking in the loveliness of nature, I consider the lilies of the field. I know those words which say we are like the flowers which fall I know the words Jesus spoke concerning the lilies of the field, of how that King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as well as these humble, short -lived flowers, and I don’t feel sad any more, I recognise that I am a Lily of the field, you might say, here today, gone tomorrow. I say, yes, but “gone where?”

From a child, I have passed by, read those words on the lytchgate, I know who I have believed, the gate that Jesus keeps, is not the gate to the churchyard but to eternal life. Take a careful look at the poppies here. They are not sad, they are in festal gowns.

I wish you joy!

One Poppy to Rule Them All

Over the past couple of weeks children have filled church, filled it with their art, drawing, painting and sculpture and rather wonderfully with themselves.

Two special schools visited Monday morning, among them traumatised children unable to cope with lessons in a normal school environment, the sound of a bell to announce changing lessons some would find terrifying, but come they did to see their work and the work of others, notice they did, that in the first church porch we were getting ready for Remembrance Sunday.

Wednesday morning a gift arrived in church. I have called it One Poppy to Rule Them All. Made in the Art Department at Whiteheath Education Centre, from plaster and hand painted,it measures perhaps 2ft x 2ft. We set it carefully against a choir stall .. Stood back and admired.

So much to admire, isn’t there? The skill of the hands that made and painted it, the patience and gift of the teachers who gave instruction. Most of all, I think the love of children who saw what we were preparing to do, to honour the memory if those fallen in battle in defence of freedom and peace…

Wednesday afternoon, 90 little shrimps, visited from another school. Aged just 5 years or less, they stole my heart, especially when one young lady christened their mascot a teddy, she named him Dan, in the big stone font, with me hanging on to make sure both didn’t fall into it!

Little eyes quickly spotted the big Poppy and I was told enthusiastically that all were going to buy a Poppy to wear at school the next day.

I just praise God for all of our children, and give thanks for the freedom and security they have, for the education they have, for those who teach and inspire them, I pray that all the world’s children might be so blessed. I hear a whisper from long ago,

“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19 v14)

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Arty Crafty

This week Church is playing host to an Art Exhibition, children and young people who live in Rowley were invited to draw, paint, sculpt anything to do with the people, wildlife, buildings, well anything Rowley the age groups begin with 5. Impressive that is one word heard quite a lot today.

The Dean of Birmingham Cathedral came along to open and judge today, and on the top of our windy hill, the winner from the youngest group was chosen as overall winner. Why? She reckons he was trying to show just how windy it is on the top of this hill.

The Dean’s thoughts in the visitors book are shown in the photo posted with the Gold Rosette winner. The pictures are on display until Friday and we are looking forward to children and parents over the next few days, it is good to make new friends.

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The floral arrangement standing in the entrance porch is Carole’s handiwork, Carole is Secretary to the Church Council and just, a little older but she loves to create lovely things.

“He paints the way side flower, he lights the evening star” these words from the favourite Harvest Hymn say something about God and his children, we love to paint the wayside flower, and if only it were possible, light the evening star too. Human beings reflect the joy of the Creator in their own creativity – my favourite writers on WordPress – are like the one, described in the Psalm, they have the tongue of a ready writer.

Everything Cries Glory

Tomorrow is Jim’s funeral. Jim was 76 and sadly has suffered with Parkinson’s’ Disease during his last few years. Jim was well liked, renowned for his witty spider poems especially the one about Dirty Harry who reputedly lives in the North Aisle if church, I say reputedly because in the many, solitary hours I’ve spent in church I have never been bothered once by Dirty Harry, who from time to time is credited with many dastardly acts, notably playing really loud notes, uninvited, on the organ, during the really quiet parts of the sermon. I wonder if Jim would have written a poem for our new organist and Music Director who takes up her post in two weeks time. Perhaps he would, Jim was always a gentle man with ladies. I found a copy of an old magazine, and you know what I got mentioned in a poem, as the one who never made a fuss in a crisis, apparently I just sang a little song.

And did I?

Yes. And I still do, but rarely in an audible voice these days, my songs seem to be heart songs unvoiced but always there. What kind of voice have I got? I’m a soprano, once quite happy to sing in choirs but now happy to sing my quiet songs. I have been reflecting on my little songs of yesteryear. It has been an eventful week since Jim died, someone had to oversee the earthy business of finding a space in the churchyard, someone has to sweep up the fallen leaves, someone has to be there for other bereaved families, making sure the church is warm, we have had other funerals to deal with this week, and someone has done these things gladly, singing a little song. I rather think it would amuse Jim to listen in on my little quiet song, but am not sure how he would write about it in a poem.

You see, my little song has a big theme. The words are coloured, red and gold, and I read and hear the music in the carpets of leaves swept up, in the gold embroidered words on the altar frontals, in the children’s smiles as they join in with the sweeping and collecting,

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Holy, Holy, Holy, is The Lord,
Who was, and is, and is to come.

Jim wasn’t always a member of this church, he was a lifelong Christian from a small church down the road, in what used to be known as the Village, they sing different hymns there, do things differently, yet, faith is the same, we serve the same Lord, read the same bible we share the same hope and love is the same colour thread wherever you find it woven into the fabric of this life. I am glad to have known Jim, I am sad that he has died, sad for his beloved wife but I am glad that in this life we both learned the words which angels sing; not everyone sings this new song, not everyone will ever want to learn it; but those who know and serve the Risen Saviour look at windy churchyards with different eyes, they see what was, and is, and is to come, they know that there are no little, sad songs in heaven, there

All cry glory!

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