Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Tell the story VERY LOUD #nativity #poetry #God #church

Tonight's the night to tell a story
The tale of the first Christmas day
It's a story you might have heard
But we're telling it a different way

We need your help to tell our story
To be the people near and far
We'll come to you when it is your turn
Guided by the brightest star

The brightest star will show you words
Words for you to shout out loud
This is how we’ll tell our story
We need you, our nativity crowd

Here's a trial for us to warm up
Read the words together loud
"We are the nativity crowd
We tell the story VERY LOUD!"

Act one - Angel Gabriel visits Mary

Our story starts in Nazareth
A small town miles from anywhere
Mary is outside her house
Chatting to God in quiet prayer

Suddenly an angel appears
Stands beside our Mary here
The angel says, not loud, but clearly
"Hello Mary, do not fear!"

Mary sits and rubs her eyes
Is that an angel here on earth?
The angel says "You'll have a baby
To God's baby you'll give birth"

"OK" says Mary in confusion
"OK" says Mary wondering how
"OK" says the Angel fading slowly
"All will be well" his parting vow

Read the words upon the star
The words of angel Gabriel
"Mary you will have a baby
Do not fear, all will be well"

Now it's your turn once again
Read the words together loud
"We are the nativity crowd
We tell the story VERY LOUD!"

Act two - Angel Gabriel visits Joseph

In a house not far away
Joseph lay, fast asleep
When a bright light shone upon him
Woke him from his dreaming deep

"Hello Joseph" said a voice
"I'm an angel here to tell
Mary's going to have a baby
I promise you it will be well"

"A baby, really?" Joseph asked
"How on earth can that be?"
"Trust in God" said the angel
"And go and marry your Mary"

When morning came bright early
Joseph went to see Mary
They shared what each had been told
They were going to have God's baby

Read the words upon the star
The words about a baby boy
"We are going to have a baby
He will fill the world with joy"

Now it's your turn once again
Read the words together loud
"We are the nativity crowd
We tell the story VERY LOUD!"

Act three - No room in the Inn

Six months passed and it was time
To be registered at your family home
So Mary and Joseph found a donkey
And travelled all the way to Bethlehem

Mary was due to have her baby
She needed somewhere safe to stay
But all the hotels were full
There was nowhere she could lay

They knocked on every single door
"We are full" was all they heard
"Every room is gone" they said
Where would Mary now give birth?

Eventually, one inn keeper
Offered the stable safe and warm
Mary had a place to stay
And that was where Jesus was born

Read the words upon the star
Words about a stable birth
"Jesus born amongst the animals
A baby bringing peace on earth "

Now it's your turn once again
Read the words together loud
"We are the nativity crowd
We tell the story VERY LOUD!"

Act four - Shepherds are visited by Angels

Meanwhile on a hillside
Outside of Bethlehem
Shepherds were round a fire
Checking the sheep around them

When suddenly the angels
Appeared from heaven above
"Tidings of good news for you
For all people we send God's love"

"Follow us" said the angels
"Come visit a new baby born
He's lying in a simple manger
He is God's only son"

"He's born for you and everyone
To give love and save you all"
The shepherds knelt down in front of him
Worshipped in the manger stall

Read the words upon the star
Words from shepherds add they fell
"We saw a baby born for all
This is a story we must tell"

Now it's your turn once again
Read the words together loud
"We are the nativity crowd
We tell the story VERY LOUD!"

Act five - Kings follow a star

Many, many, many.....
Many, many miles away
Wise men in the east looked at the stars
Interpreted what they had to say

They could see a king had been born
A mighty king and true
They set off with camels to visit him
How far away they had no clue

For years they journeyed onwards
Following a star that led them on
Kept going knowing they had to
Never doubting they could be wrong

Eventually they arrived at the place
Brought gifts to Jesus the king
Gold, myrrh and frankincense
To the one brought to save everything

Read the words upon the star
The words from men so wise "This king is born for everyone
We found out from the skies"

Now it's your turn once again
Read the words together loud
"We are the nativity crowd
We tell the story VERY LOUD!"


Tonight we told a story
The tale of the first Christmas day
It's a story that you've now heard
We hope you liked it our way

We need your help to share the story
Tell it to people near and far
From now on it is your turn
Just keep following the star

Read the words upon the star
Read them now, remember them
"Jesus brought great light to the world
From a stable there in Bethlehem "

Now it's your turn for the last time
Read the words together loud
"We are the nativity crowd
We tell the story VERY LOUD


This poem is now available as a kindle book.
To order a copy click on the image below

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas with a king #jesus #nativity #homegroup

We are just 2 weeks from Christmas now, so tonight I thought we could again think about the true meaning of Christmas and especially about what it was like for the wise men who journeyed following a star to visit the new born king.

Matthew 2:1-12  (CEV)
The Wise Men
When Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem in Judea, Herod was king. During this time some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and said, “Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about this, he was worried, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem.  Herod brought together the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”

They told him, “He will be born in Bethlehem, just as the prophet wrote,
’Bethlehem in the land of Judea,
you are very important among the towns of Judea.
From your town will come a leader,
who will be like a shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Herod secretly called in the wise men and asked them when they had first seen the star.  He told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, let me know. I want to go and worship him too.”

The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.   They were thrilled and excited to see the star.

When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshipped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him.   Later they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they went back home by another road.


1. Who were these wise men?
They came from the east, probably from persia or babylon or through the arabian desert; they were men who examined the skies and knew the movements of the stars.

2.  Why were these foreigners chosen?
It matters that Jesus was visited by foreigners, by people outside of his Jewish faith.  This is a sign of his coming for everyone across the globe.  It also matters because the wise men saw something different, something unexpected and they knew that this was a sign which they had to follow; this was the bringing of people from across the world to Jesus.

3. What does it mean that Jesus is a King?
We might think of Jesus the baby, the gift to the world.
We might think of Jesus the teacher, telling us how to live.
We might think of Jesus the resurrected, forgiving us all our sins.
But we also need to remember that Jesus is our King; the King for all who rules us and guides us and leads us in our lives.

4.  How can we accept Jesus as our ruler and king?
How can we live with this idea of being ruled and led this christmas?
Does this make our christmas celebrations mean something different?


Let us hand over to Jesus all our worries about Christmas as it approaches at full speed.  Let us ask him to still our minds and quiet our hearts and know that Christmas is about love and celebration that Jesus is our king born to be with us always no matter what terrifying circumstances we might find ourselves in.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Christmas with the shepherds #church #homegroup

We are just 4 weeks from Christmas now, so tonight I thought we could think about the true meaning of Christmas and especially about what it was like for the shepherds who play a key part in the nativity story.

So let's start by hearing what the bible says about the shepherds.

Luke 2:8-20 (CEV)
The Shepherds
That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened.  But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy.   This very day in King David’s home town a Saviour was born for you.  He is Christ the Lord.   You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.”

Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:
 “Praise God in heaven!
Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.”

After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.”   They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.

When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him.   Everyone listened and was surprised.   But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.

As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him.  Everything they had seen and heard was just as the angel had said.


1. Why shepherds?
Of all the people the angels could have visited, why do you think God sent them to the shepherds?   They were not only ordinary but they were considered outcasts - smelly people who were on the edges of society and only allowed to look after sheep well away from people and in danger from wild animals and thieves.  They were humble and uneducated and simple and they came as the angels told them to.  What can this tell us about how we approach Christmas?  and Jesus?

2. What names for Jesus?
What three titles are given to Jesus in verse 11?  (Saviour, Christ, Lord)
What do these mean?
They are about Jesus being a treasure - so I wonder, what do you treasure the most about Jesus?

3. How did the angels appear?
Angels appeared to the shepherds whilst they were sitting around, being themselves, doing their jobs.  What might this tell us about how and when God might communicate with us?
Has God ever spoken to you in your ordinary life?
How?  When?  What was that like?
If not, do you think you might have missed Him speaking to you?

4.  What gifts has God given us?
Have you ever been given something precious?  A treasure?  What?
Do you ever think about this as being a gift from God?
What has God done that you find wonderful and amazing?


As we come into the last 4 weeks of preparation for christmas let us remember that Jesus came for everyone and is the greatest gift we can ever be given.  Let us give thanks for the amazing gifts He has given us and ask that He keeps our minds away from the worry and money and business of Christmas and towards the focus of love and joy that Jesus gives us and our families.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Peace; a home group session #church #God #love

I've been thinking a lot about war and peace this week of Remembrance Sunday.  I've been thinking about the horror of war and all the pointless death that still happens.  And I've been praying for peace.  Whilst praying I was  looking for bible passages about peace and found over 20.

Here are my top 3 which spoke to me about peace.

1. Psalm 34:14
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

2. John 16:33
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
And appropriately for christmas 

3. Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born.... And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

- What do these passages tell us about what God thinks about war?
- What does this tell us about what we're supposed to do about war as Christians?
- And how about the fact that so many ways have been fought in the name of religion including Christianity? 

When reading passages in the bible about peace I was also struck by the pieces which tell us that God gives us His peace. 

I've selected four which I'd like us to look at in pairs and answer the following questions:
- What peace does the passage talk about?
- Have you ever felt this peace? When?
- What can we learn from the passage?

1. John 14:27
Jesus said "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. ..... Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

2. 2 Thessalonians 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

3. Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace

4. Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer present your requests to God.  And the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday Poppies #preschool #craft

At Noah's Ark toddler group last week we made remembrance poppose.

I drew basic poppy shapes and tore up pieces of red paper.  With glue and concentration the kids and their adults made some wonderful poppies.

We must never forget.

For me information about the poppy and Remembrance Sunday visit the British Legion  

Sunday, 2 November 2014

David and Goliath #messychurch #craft

Today at People, prayers and potatoes Messy Church we entered into the story of David and Goliath with spectacular results.

Thanks to an amazing craft team we made the most massive Goliath ever

There were shields and giant feet and giants on shrinkles ready to be shrunk down to size. 

And then there were David's stones in their bag reminding us that God can bring all our problems down to size with faith, prayer, peace and strength.

And of course there were the plastic cup poppers

A gigantic session.

Plastic cup popper #messychurch #craft

Today at People, prayers and potatoes Messy Church we entered into the story of David and Goliath.  One of the most popular crafts was shooting a pom pom from a plastic cup popper and a "how to" has been requested.  Here's what we did.

You need:
- plastic cup 
- balloon 
- pair of scissors 
- pompom

Take the plastic cup and cut the bottom half off.  

Now you have the top half of the cup with the lip at the top and the whole at the bottom. 

Take the balloon and cut the whole neck off.

Now you have the round part of the  balloon.

Stretch the balloon over the lip of the plastic cup.  It's a little fiddly but just keep stretching the balloon little by little until it fits over. 

Now you have a balloon stretched over the cup so that if you pull it and let go it "pops".

Insert the pom pom and pop away.  Endress and safe popping fun.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Sid the Cat; a life of love. #poetry

Sid chose me
That's the way it was
We went for a kitten
But he stole my heart
A two year old boy
All grown up large
He meowed from his cage
Then cuddled me fast

We took him back
To our brand new house
He made it a home
Often with mice
Or pigeons or frogs
He caught all he could
And he fought other cats
I'm afraid he would

One day on a walk
He followed us far
Into the woods and
Then a dog barked
Up a tree he flew
Twenty foot high
Wouldn't come down
Waited all the long night

No sleep did we get
We worried like mad
But in the morning
For food he came down
From them on
We would take him back home
Then run round the corner
So he wouldn't again roam

Always friendly
That was our Sid
Liked to meet guests
Even if they weren't keen
He'd look at them sweetly
And purr by their laps
My poor allergic friends
Felt like such saps

And as for kids
He loved them as well
He'd let them give strokes
Even pull on his tail
He never once meowed
Or showed any claw
Sid loved attention
Of that we are sure

When Rachel arrived
He loved her as well
No jealousy at all
She was his special girl
Each time she cried
He'd run up to me
Meow very loud
Wouldn't let me be

And when she crawled
He'd encourage her
By walking away
While she reached for fur
And then she walked
And he loved that as well
He'd stay by her side
Then meow if she fell

About four years ago
At age of thirteen
He slowed right down
Wasn't so keen
On going too far
Or climbing up trees
He preferred to sleep
On beds or stairs or chairs or knees or trampolines!

A cancer scare
Had us worried like mad
But they cut it out
It wasn't that bad
Sid hated the collar
Could shift it with ease
Even when we and the vet
Begged and plead.

One year ago
He vanished one day
We thought the worst
Couldn't stand the pain
But the posters worked
A phone call we received
Sid had wondered
Got lost through the trees

He'd found a house
And camped outside
The owners fed him
And he didn't leave
After a week
Of thinking he was gone
We went and got Sid
And brought him back home

This year he'd been
Cheeky beyond compare
Going in people's houses
He didn't care
He was confused
Or that was his excuse
He walked in the road
Pavements he'd refuse

But now it really
Is the end of the story
Sid met a car
Can you imagine my fury
He wouldn't be OK
And the vet advised
He found final sleep
So I cuddled him tight

No more will Sid
Be under my feet
The house will be quiet
No dinner he seeks
But memories stay
Fifteen years all good
Sid was one of a kind
The coolest cat dude.

Does the tower of London really remember?

A friend tonight shared her thoughts about the beauty of the poppy installation at the Tower of London and how it such a juxtaposition to the horror of death it represents.   She is a braver woman than I and she has inspired me to both respond to her and blog here.

Here was my initial response to her post on Facebook:

"I haven't wanted to go see it at all because I'm sure the sheer number will be overwhelming about the horror of the loss.  What i don't understand is that lots of my friends who've been take selfies of themselves smiling on front of it. Why?  How's that a memorial?  I'm just going to wear my single poppy as I always do and pray like mad for all war to end and no more lives to be lost."

Almost everyone I know has at least wanted to go up to London and visit the Tower of London Remembers installation.

I have not.

Right from the beginning I felt nothing but sadness about every mention of the installation.  I know that that's partly the point, but somehow it misses the mark by a long way for me.

There have been some friends who have been moved deeply but for most it has become something to see, a thing to be ticked off the list, an item in London similar to the eye or harrods.

Facebook is full of smiling selfies in front of the poppies and it makes me feel sick.
Why do you smile?
How can you smile?
How can you enjoy looking at all those lives lost?

If I'd gone, and yes I know I might regret not going in years to come, then I know I'd have been overwhelmed with the grief of all those lives lost.

And for what?

Was it the war to end all war?

Do we have a better world because they died?
I've never seen any argument saying we do.

Is it something to smile about?
Absolutely not!

So I say again
I'm just going to wear my single poppy as I always do and pray like mad for all war to end and no more lives to be lost.

Friday, 31 October 2014

#ANightOfHope @worldvision

Tonight I share this image of pumpkins carved with hearts to join in with World Vision's Night of Hope.  I've donated £5 to their campaign to help the children of Syria.  We have not and must not forget the plight of children caught up in the conflict.

Please consider donating yourself and sharing an image of #heart.

Father God
As children around the county eat sweets and have fun 
We remember the children of Syria who suffer in silence 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lay Pioneer Minister Calling

This morning at church the announcement was made - I have been appointed as the first Lay Pioneer Minister in the Diocese of Oxford.   This is my letter going in the church newsletter to expand on the announcement.

Thank you for all your well wishes on the announcement that I have been appointed as a Lay Pioneer Minister.  It is a really exciting time and I am so pleased to be able to share it with you.  I have had a few people ask for a bit more explanation as to what it really means; so I hope this helps.

What is a lay pioneer? 
The Church of England defines a pioneer minister as "someone who has the ability to envision, form and lead new forms of church appropriate to a particular culture (often called fresh expressions)".  A lay pioneer is a minister who feels called to lead as a lay person.  

Why lay pioneer ministry? 
Right from the start of my calling I have felt God want to use me as I walk alongside people in their every day lives, as one of them, and I feel blessed to be able to fulfill my ministry in this way.  Until recently I couldn't define this ministry as anything other than a "hanging around" ministry.  But in the last few years pioneer ministry has become better known and it's become clear to me and others that this is the ministry I'm called into.

What does my pioneer ministry look like now? 
At St Nicolas we have two fabulous fresh expression services for families who would otherwise not come into a church.  We have our monthly People, Prayer and Potatoes messy church and our weekly Noah's Ark toddler group congregations.  Through these services we are thoroughly open to community.  This is pioneering; actively seeking people to come and join us.  I spend at least half of my ministerial hours outside of the church doing other pioneering ministry activities.  I meet with communities of people where they are, geographically, socially and theologically, to explore what it means to be disciples of Jesus.  That might result in people joining existing churches such as St Nicolas; but might also lead to new ways of being church which are rooted in the teaching of Jesus, whilst looking completely different.  For example Oakwood Forest Church is a completely new form of church which is evolving as it grows.

What will my ministry look like a year from now?
The honest answer is that I don't know; this is a new ministry in the Diocese and a new focus for me.  I will visit other churches to inspire them to reach out into their communities as I have been doing for messy church; I'll be delivering some training about forest church to Ordinands and LLMs as early as next month; and I've been asked to meet with those interested in lay pioneer ministry in the Diocese.  But what else I will do is still evolving.   What I do know is that 'for now' I'll  keep on doing what I'm currently doing; ministering in church, in the parish and in the community.

What can you do for me?
You have supported and encouraged me every step of my journey and I ask that you continue to do so.  Please pray for me as my ministry grows and my role evolves; that I might be sustained and enlivened each day.

Post Script 
After the service on Sunday when the announcement was made Harry came up to me and said "you need a pick axe girl if you're going to be a pioneer".  Wise words indeed.  Harry hit the 'axe' right on the head about what it is that this ministry is - it's about chipping away at society and helping people find God within themselves; and it's about chipping away at the closed doors of churches to let the beauty of the Holy Spirit rush out.  I'm the girl with the pick axe.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

who is it? #poetry #god #cmsconversations

Who is it?
That you call God
Is He real?
Coz most say not
And if He is
What does He do?
Does he ever
Talk to you?
And if He does
Then what's He say?
Please answer me
Right away!

Is He good?
Does He care?
He can't stop war
How's that fair?
What about the poor
He can't stop drought
He watches floods
What's that about?
And then the bad
Does He stop them?
Do I need to
Ask again?

Tell me now
Just you to me
Who is God?
What can He be?
Please answer me
I long to know
Coz I look at you
And I know
That God is real
But I can't explain
Show Him to me
One more time again

Monday, 6 October 2014

All Age Harvest Prayers #church #prayer

These prayers were written by my friend Sarah for her church's harvest festival.   I gave her a tiny gem of an idea of prayers with different breads but she took it to a deeper place.   She has  generously agreed that I can share the prayers here. Thank You Sarah.

Notes: A Child holds up correct bread during each section.

We have some visual aids for our prayers today so you may want to keep your eyes open!

Let us pray:
Father God, we come to you this morning to give thanks for your world, to pray for those in need and to ask that your kingdom will come.

See this farmhouse loaf.
It is a large loaf, enough to feed many.  It  reminds us of God’s bounty and provision.

We give thanks for the earth, it’s beauty and abundance and ask forgiveness for the times we have wasted it’s resources and not cared for the environment as we should.

May we always remember to be thankful for all that we have been given and for those who produce our food.

See this wrap.
It has been rolled and stretched thin.
It reminds us of those occasions when we feel stretched and stressed and feel we cannot take or do any more without breaking.

We pray for all who feel they are at breaking point because they have too much to do or because they are in pain.

Help us to recognise our limits, to rest and seek your peace.

See this bagel.
It has a hole.
It reminds us of those holes in our lives where we feel something or someone is missing.

We pray for all who feel lost or lonely, for those who slip through the holes in society.  Help us to be aware of your love and to share that love with others.

See this bread roll.
It is a smaller version of a loaf, similar and yet different.
It reminds us of children.

We pray for all children everywhere, especially those who struggle to be children because poverty or lack of family forces them to be like adults.

Help us to support the children and families in this area.

See this pitta bread.
It is plain and dry.
It reminds us of the places in our world which are dry, where crops do not grow easily, and where just having enough to eat, however plain, is a luxury.

We pray for people everywhere who are hungry and give thanks for aid workers and foodbanks.

Help us to support them however we can, through our prayers and our giving.

See this “best of both” bread.
It uses a mixture of white and wholemeal flour.
It reminds us that difference does not always need to lead to conflict.

We pray for the parts of our world where there is fighting.
Give wisdom and courage to all those with influence and bring your peace.

The earth is fruitful
     may we be generous.
The earth is fragile
     may we be gentle.
The earth is fractured
     may we be just.
Creating God,
     harvest in us joy and generosity          as we together share in thanks            and giving

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Harvest People Prayers and Potatoes Messy Church #messychurch

Today has been a busy day and a half, and it's been fantastic. Unsurprisingly my highlight has been the messy church session we call people prayers and potatoes.

We started today with an all church harvest brunch, an amazing full breakfast for over 100 people cooked by eight dedicated and talented church members.  We then moved into the church, carpets protected with plastic and chairs artfully arranged, for a truly messy harvest experience.

This is the first time that the planning team took the lead for everything and it was wonderful to see their ideas come to life and be meaningful and enjoyable for the families who came.

Here are the activities they produced with some photos.

1. Seed to plate
We are blessed to have a primary school teacher in our team and she produced a sorting activity which got the kids to put the images in order for making a loaf of bread

Seed - wheat - combine harvester - miller - baker - shop

2. Prayers on fruit and vegetable shapes on banner

3.  Where does food come from?
We provided a world map and challenged the families to place rice, pasta, noodles and other foods including fruits and vegetables onto the places they come from in the world.  I think we might need to engage some additional geography lessons.

4.  Fruit and vegetable printing
I bought carrot, potato, leek, celery, sweet corn, apples, radishes, peppers and broccoli for printing.  The broccoli really didn't work but all the other were a huge hit with the kids and parents, all of whom wanted to join in the fun of printing large strips of paper.

5.  stick your favourite food on your plate
We provided all sorts of fruit, vegetables and favourite food pictures and invited people to chose their favourites, deviate them and stick them on to a plate.  The analysis of the meals would make for a lot of fun.

6. plasticine fruit and vegetables
Turns out that this is the best thing we've ever done!
And it turns out we have some amazing sculptors!

7. Conker run
We promised that we would have a mass building project every month and this month the challenge was to build the world biggest marble run for Conkers.  The dads certainly enjoyed the challenge and we used the creation for a prayer activity. Post a conker and say thank you to God for something good that he's given you.

Father who feeds us
We thank you for those who help us find you
For those who help us learn about you
For those who help us know you

All Age Harvest Sermon 2014 #christianaid #action #church #jesus

This sermon is based on the Christian aid resources for harvest "Baking Hope"

Bread is a staple in the majority of the world.  It is eaten every day and provides the bulk of the diet.  Bakers are traditionally very important people, although we seem to have lost that in our society.  So let's see what you know about where your bread comes from.

Congregation tested about the origins of the breads presented.
Croissant - France
Crumpet - Australia
Bagel - Poland
Pitta - Greece
Tortilla - Mexico
Naan - India

I'd like to share with you a story from South Sudan.  Nyipock is a baker, he bakes 600 loaves at a go, often baking several batches a day.  The loaves he bakes are called garrassa.  Nyipock serves his community with the bread, but he also serves his church.  Bread is important in his church and also in our church community. Let's hear a verse from 1 Corinthians 10:17 "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf."

We hear these words during the Eucharist and they remind us of, and join us to, Jesus in his death and resurrection.  They also remind us that we are joined in a community. A community in this church today. A community of churches in Earley. A Christian community across the globe.  In sharing the bread we are joining together and celebrating together.

There is one key active ingredient in bread, does anyone know what it's called?  Yeast.  There is a very short parable in the bible about yeast in Matthew 13:33  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Yeast is tiny and yet without it bread won't rise.  We need this tiny yeast to bake this great big loaf of bread.  In the same way, we might feel like we are tiny and too small to make any difference in the world BUT with our actions and prayers we can make a huge change in the world, with God's help.

You can make a choice to buy fair trade; it seems like a tiny thing but it makes a massive difference.
You can send a letter to your MP asking them to make a stand against climate change; it seems like a tiny thing but it makes a massive difference.
You can tell someone about Jesus; it seems like a tiny thing but it makes a massive difference.
You can bring someone to church; it seems like a tiny thing but it makes a massive difference.
You can donate to the food bank; it seems like a tiny thing but it makes a massive difference.
You can tell someone about the food bank; it seems like a tiny thing but it makes a massive difference.

We all know at least one "tiny" thing we can do which will make a massive difference; I challenge you this week to do it.

Let us pray.
God of the great feast and the simple meal
Blessed are you in the sowing
Blessed are you in the breaking of bread
Blessed are you in the sharing of bread
Blessed are you in our daily bread

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Jesus the light of the world #bible

This week saw the first meeting of a new home group; a group that has come out of the need of mums looking for fellowship.

We started at the beginning, the beginning of John and the beginning of everything.  

John 1:1-9The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

Coming out of the reading were thoughts of what light can do for us and therefore what Jesus does do for us. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

autumn leaf #poetry

Image courtesy of Amanda Bashford

Autumn leaf
      Upon the ground
Red, orange
      Green and brown
Picked you up
      Brought you home
Reminded me
      Of where we roam

Creation's beauty
      Here to see
Floating down
      From highest tree
Picked you up
      Brought you home
Kept just you
      One leaf alone

Please don't fade
      Don't turn to grey
Keep your beauty
      Every day
Picked you up
      Brought you home
Autumn leaf
      You're not alone

(C) Emma Major 2014

I have a friend #autism #cancer

I have a friend 
Who herself has a friend 
Who for the third time is fighting cancer 
She was in remission 
Second set of remission 
For the third time it's back, even harder 

Her child is autistic 
Non verbal autistic 
Needing care all day 24/7
She needs our support 
Our monetary support 
So please give as others have given

No Denying it,  being a parent of a kid on the spectrum is hard.  Put Cancer on top of that, and well,  its' harder. That cancer,  out of remission and spreading for the third time...Non-verbal child who needs care 24/7 and  well,  that's what nightmares are made of in the autism world.  

Right now this is Melanie's world.   Her Thinking Mom's Revolution name is "Booty Kicker" and I am sure that what she is doing right now... giving cancer a run for it's money. 

Please join us in supporting her family in their time of need. We know Melanie has so much faith,  love and healing energy behind her.  Please say a prayer for her and her family now too,  see her happy and healthy and caring for her amazing son.  

We are all cheering you on Melanie sending you love and light and healing!!

IF you would like to donate to the fundraising Campaign to support Mel and her family please DONATE HERE: 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Nelson Mandela #nationalpoetry day #poetry

Today is national poetry day and I've been inspired by this photo and quote by Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela
Fighter for freedom
Wanted equality
Across his Kingdom

Tried to make changes
With talk and debate
No one would join in
Wouldn't co-operate

Caught in a dead end
No choice but attack
He took radical action
Got caught in the act

Shut up in prison
A cell far too small
Housed young Mandela
Staring at just four walls

He could have grown bitter
With anger and grief
But the years never did that
He waited for release

Eventually it happened
The country saw sense
Mandela walked freely
But he wasn't against ...

The people who oppressed
Him and all his kin
Instead he worked with them
So change could begin

For decades Mandela
Has inspired us to be
Against any oppression
To act if it we see

Today we remember
The path that he took
Peace, talk then action
Can bring change afoot

(C) Emma Major Oct'14

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Robin Williams and my black dog

Everywhere I've gone today I've heard the sad news that Robin Williams has (apparently) committed suicide.   Here's how it's been for me and my black dog.

Black dog has woken up after a lovely long sleep.
I feel desperately sad for Robin that he was suffering so badly and also for his family who will be grieving his loss.

Black dog is rubbing at my legs.
I can't stop thinking about how depressed Robin must have been and comparing it to how depressed I've felt in the not so distant past and what stopped me taking my life.

Black dog is curling up in my lap and making himself comfortable.
The news is full of Robin's struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. I "need to" eat but I'm stuck in a car for the long drive home from holiday.  I can't shake the feelings of sadness.

Black dog is wrapping himself round my neck.
Do other people ever feel jealous that someone has been brave enough to end the pain of depression?  I don't feel suicidal at the moment but the feelings are so close that I can touch them.

Black dog is in my lap asleep.
I can't shift the sadness and irritability I feel.  Why do I have up have this illness? Why did he?  Why does my family have to suffer?  Or his?  Will I be able to resist the black dog if a depressive cycle comes back? He didn't.

Black dog is on the floor by my feet.
I can at least write about it now. This is good; this is processing.  I wish we lived in a world where mental health was understood and appreciated properly; perhaps this writing will help just one person.  

Robin Williams RIP you gave so much joy to so many, I am so sorry you suffered so much. I wish I didn't understand and I wish you'd found someone who understood enough to help you.

If you are feeling suicidal please ring The Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90

Monday, 4 August 2014

What do I know about art? I'm a village idiot apparently #art #news

Have you seen the Independent and BBC articles about Jake Chapman and his comments about children and art?   No?  Then click here or here and then hurry back.

How are you feeling?
Unsurprised - he is a turner prize winner after all and likes to shock
In agreement - I'm amazed you've come back to read this
Incensed - aren't you the village idiot, you and me both!

Jake Chapman is happily telling all who will listen that children can't understand art and we're wasting everyone's t time if we take them to see art.  All I can say is

"Have you ever taken a child to an art gallery?"

I'm guessing he hasn't, because if he'd been with my Rachel or any of the thousands of other kids you'll see at at galleries, then he'd have heard profound commentary and insight from their young lips.  In fact if he'd ever taken a child to see art he'd know that as an adult you gain a whole new dimension of understanding when you hear what a child sees.

It may not be that a child can tell you about the political antagonism of a painting, but that is more due to their knowledge of systems that understanding of the work.  They may talk about arguments or friendships, of anger or love, of yellows fighting purples or textural differences.  The child sees the truth within so much more readily than we do as adults, and sometimes that is the truth of the artist which bleeds through their work despite their best intentions.

I love going to art galleries such as the Tate modern with Rachel, to experience the art with her and through her and visa versa.  Art, whether artists like it or not, talks to those who see it and experience it and I wouldn't change a child's eye view for anything.

Call me a village idiot; but listen to my words and you might just hear the truth you try to hide.  You can't hide from children; they see it all.

Holiday Club Crafts #messychurch #children #kids #families

We've had a lot of fun the last two Mondays at Noah's Ark @St Nics Holiday Club.  As well as the usual toys, chat, coffee and cake there have been crafts for both the older and the younger kids (and the adults).

On the first Monday we thought about friendship with loom bands and button caterpillars and heart pictures.  This week we focused on how we can look after people and the world and made pet rocks and corks and button wind chimes for the garden.

Here are some simple how to guides:

Button caterpillars
- cut a length of elastic
- thread on buttons of a similar size
- put on one larger button for the face
- tie knots at both the ends of the elastic

Button wind chimes
- tie a fairly long piece of elastic or string to both ends of a stick
- cut three shorter lengths of elastic and knot one end of each
- thread five or six buttons onto each length of elastic
- tie these pieces of elastic onto the stick so that they hang down
- hang the wind chimes in a tree or on a chair or anywhere

Pet rocks and corks
- you can collect rocks in the garden or beach
- or you can do as I did - make rock shapes from clay
- I got craft corks cheaply but you could collect you own
- paint the rocks and cork any way you like
- paint on or stick on eyes
- give your pet a name

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Loom Bands, the Bible and Children

If you don't know what loom bands are then you've probably been living under a rock (or no where near children) for the last few months.  They are little elastic bands which you can join together into bracelets, necklaces, skipping ropes and even clothing (apparently).

The craze has well and truly landed in our house and all the kids at church love them.  It therefore seemed like a natural match to bring loom bands together with biblical teaching.

I'm clearly not the first to do this, and I'm not even the first to write about it, but I thought I'd share some of the bands we've made and the stories and messages they relate to.  If you have any others I'd love to see them, links in the comments very welcome.

1. Creation

The story of creation in genesis is always one which mesmerises children.  By using a different colour loom band for light, water, land and a multi coloured string the abundance of plants and animals you create a wonderful recreation of creation.

2. Noah's Ark

It may look like blue, white and rainbow bands to you, but it's the story of Noah to the kids.  God told Noah to build a boat and he did.  It stated to rain, first lightly and then heavily. It rained and rained and rained and rained for forty days and forty nights and Noah, his family and all the animals were safe in the ark.  When it stopped raining Noah sent out a dove to find land and eventually they animals repopulated the earth.  God sent a rainbow as a promise that he would never again destroy the earth.

3. Moses meets a snake

The story of Moses is ripe for loom band creations. From brown and orange for a basket, to red for the passover, to blue for the parting of the sea.  The one I'm showing here is when God speaks to Moses and tells him that he is going to save the people of Israel.   God tells the disbelieving Moses that he should pick up the stick, he does and it becomes a snake.  What more could Moses need to be shown how powerful God is.

4. Baptism

This loom band design works for Jesus' baptism or for a general teaching about baptism.  The blue represents the water of baptism and the purple the kingdom of God.  We are baptised into the kingdom of God.

5. Fishers of Men

Jesus called the disciples together and told them to go to all the nations and baptise all the people in His name.  Jesus called the disciples to be fishers of men, we are called to be the same.

6. Jesus died for our sins

Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, his blood was shed to save us.

7. Lost Sheep

This band tells story of the lost sheep.
One day the shepherd was counting his sheep; he counted once, twice, three times and ever time there was one sheep missing.  The shepherd didn't abandon his sheep, he searched all night until he found the sheep in a bush, trapped.  The shepherd picked up the sheep and brought it home safe and sound.

8. Care for the world

God made the world and everything in it and gave it to us to look after.  We are required as Christians to care for the world.

9. Kingdom of heaven

This band has a simple message; the message that being loved by Jesus brings us into the kingdom of heaven on earth.

10. Being a Christian

And last, but not least, we have the band which explains what it means to be a Christian.

Black - the darkness of life without knowing Jesus
Red - the blood Jesus shed for us
Blue - the water of baptism
Yellow - the glory of heaven
Purple - the kingdom of God
White - the pure joy of life in relationship with God

Monday, 28 July 2014

Serving and receiving #church #pioneer #ministry #god

When I was trained in the art and theology and practice of being an LLM there was a lot of focus on the gift we would be giving to our churches and communities, we were being prepared to serve people in our ministries.

I was licensed three years ago and threw myself into my journey of ministry with the kids and families of my church and community.  I gave and gave and gave, I served and I enjoyed it, it was amazing.  And then I crashed!

I crashed big style with a really awful depressive episode which left me unable to do very much at all.  I was crippled with anxiety and self doubt and awful thoughts of failure and uselessness.  I was on my knees.

How did I respond?
I beat myself up and valued myself less in my ministry because I wasn't able to serve and give of myself as I thought I should.  So I kept on as much as I could and I desperately tried to earn my value as an LLM..

Did it help?
Yes and no.
Yes, because it kept me getting out of bed and it kept me moving forward.
No, because it allowed me to keep valuing myself by my actions and achievements rather than my being me as God called me to be.

A year went past and the depression lifted and I kept on keeping on, giving and serving and putting myself second or even third or fourth in the pecking order. I wasn't looking after myself.  And guess what; I crashed again.  Harder, faster and further than before I crashed.

How did I respond?
This time I had crashed through the floor and there was nothing I could do or give or serve with. This time I had to hold my hands up and hating myself every minute I had to give in.  So I did, I gave in, I finally listened to everyone around me and stopped giving and started receiving.

Did it help?
Yes and yes.
Boy did it help!
It was amazing and it's taught me so much.

I had to receive, from my vicar, from Mike, from my friends and astoundingly from the very people I had been serving.  These amazing families who I ministered to, off their own backs, got together and took over the events and services I had started for them.  They seized the reigns and they kept the horse and cart going in the right direction.  They insisted that I receive from them and they've made it so much more than I could ever have imagined and so much more than I ever could have done on my own.

I had to stop serving.
I had no choice.
And when I stopped I created space for those I was serving to serve others, they served me and they served others.
When I got out of the way, they were there, God was there.

Serving and receiving; there's a healthy mix which I hope I can learn to live and minister in.  A mix of serving and receiving, for me, for them, for those they will minister to and for God.