Friday, 31 July 2020

I love my eyes

A post in The Well Woman Network this morning asked the question
"Let's tell each other what you love about yourself physically"

This was my response:

I love my eyes
I've always loved their blue
And I love them even more
Now they can only see what's true
They no longer see the flaws
Imperfections and doubts
No longer catch reflections
In windows when I'm out
My eyes reduced vision
Has blessed me with such peace
Removed vanity from my day
And given me release

I didn't mean to write a poem, I just started writing and it happened.

I no longer "see" the way most people do, but I see so much more clearly the true beauty in everyone. I never cared about other people's appearances anyway (though I was convinced everyone criticised me endlessly) but now I truly see the beautiful that is the essence of people.

Talking about eyes reminds me of this poem I wrote last week about the other senses which came to the fore when I could no longer see fully..

Eyes of darkness
Soul of clarity
Ears of truth
Touch of love
Voice of blessing
I'm the proof

Reflective pools of hope

Reflective pools of hope
Shine bright in the morning sun
Destiny tempts risky rewards
Fiery scars prove no one won

Time turners no longer work
Waterfalls of tears no longer flow
Fingertips whisper empty promises
Equanimity walks an orchid meadow

Misanthropic trolls spread hate
Blocking positivity from above
Teardrops rain down then vanish
Orchid wreaths remember love

Is this the end of all?
Is there no more turning back?
We gaze out to sea in desperation
Dreaming of all we desire but lack

Still yourself and calm
Let anxious tension unroll
Know the peace of God above
Receive hope within your soul

Fuschia wishes

Gentle winds
Calm anxious minds
Star sleeping
Soothes stressful souls
Fuschia wishes
Brighten twilight friendships
Sunset blessings
Heal slippery apologies
Sea breezes
Refresh energy
Bird song
Distracts pain
Sounds of nature
Catch inner connections
Cloud watching
Encourages imagination


"Write two connected haikus on an extinct animal". But once I started reading about all the extinct animals I couldn't limit myself to one, so here are six double haikus on six fascinating animals from the past, distant and more recent.

Wooly mammoth last roamed 10000 years ago, extinct through climate change and possibly being hunted

Ice age art muse
Adorning cave dwellings
Tusks as canvases

Grass munching
Fur covered behemoth
Mammoth, literally


Dodo flightless bird of Mauritius hunted to extinction within 70 years of discovery

No need to fly
Content on it's Island
Then we came along

Hunted for dinner
By man and their animals
No hope to survive


Stellers Sea Cow hunted to extinction within 27 years of discovery. Relative of manatee.

Stellers Sea Cow
Complex communication
Social animal

Easy source of food
Hunted to extinction
Within three decades


The final Great Auk were killed in Scotland because they were believed to be witches causing storms

The Great Auk
Unconnected to penguins
Genus Pinguinus

Thought to be witches
Causing devastating storms
Killed by Scotsmen


Baiji White Dolphin, also called the Chinese River Dolphin - none have been seen in the Yangtze River since 2002

Baiji White Dolphin
Goddess of protection

Human action
Industrial advancement
Rapid extinction


West African Black Rhinoceros was declared extinct in 2011

Western black rhino
Poached for their horn alone
Complete tragedy

Tragic trading
For Chinese medicine
Caused extinction


Photos and facts provided by one kind planet…/top-10-worlds-extinct-animals/

Visionary fingers

Visionary fingers
Smudged with lipstick
Playing games with hearts
Dancing to memories tunes
Sealing fates with kisses
Blown on summer breezes
Red flags of calamity
Pausing divided language
Tasting zen again
Before scrolling on parchment
Stained yellow over years
Millions of promises
Tonight our mindful drawing group on zoom drew hands and decorated the image and surrounds of the paper with various patterns. 

I used #zentangleart inspiration with black and white inside the hand and colours around the outside.

The poem was borne from the idea of how our hands reflect the lives we lead


I tried some still life drawing today in the mindful drawing group. I don't know why I chose a pawn but it was fun to try and the poem developed afterwards...

Are we all pawns
In international games
Of political conspiracies
With domination aims?

Or as humans are we pawns
On a much larger board
So power games of chess
Are to stop us getting bored?

alone I stand

This amazing photo by Steven Sandner has inspired my poem

Alone I stand
Wondering why you rush
Never stand long enough
To see the beauty
Of the world
The galaxy

Listen to me
Yes me
The tree
Can you see what I see?
The wonder
The beauty
The majesty
Creation in all its complex glory
Balanced carefully
Until recently

Please listen to my word
Heed what you heard
I've seen the world change
Yet at my roots
The same
I remain
To all of nature
Come connect with me
Sit underneath
Or any tree
And be
Just be
Part of the galaxy

Beneath swollen yellow skies

Beneath swollen yellow skies
Nefelibata daydreams
Observed deep inside my mind
Nestle orange hues of solace

Rustling leaves of green forgiveness
Bruise endless prideful silence
Of deeply angry ancestors
Peace achieved for tired souls

Blue waters sleep peacefully
Smoothing rough cut rubies
Pink bellies float contentedly
Beneath swollen yellow skies

Big foot steps

Big foot steps
In big red shoes
Big belly laughs
Big trips and grooves

Soaked to the bone
By comedy water pistols
Snowglobes rain drops of
Jasmine flower crystals

Behind all the makeup
Hazel eyes are hidden
Innocent kindness masks
Prim disposition

Midnight sonatas
Drowned in stressful scotch
Flamingos dance wildly
No existence without touch

Life lived pretending
Happiness is broken
Look beyond pretence
Hear reality unspoken


I was doodling and after a bit I realised I had created a clown of sorts. It seemed only right to create a poem about it.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Angel Protector

Mother nature
Divine creator
Angel protector
Constant provider
Gentle challenger
Eternal convener

Chambers of hearts rule heads

Smiles of childhood exuberance
Quickly turn blue
Don't come crying to me!
Parents declare
Endlessly stringing their well worn bow
Purple pain rains
Why do things always end in tears?
Let's create tranquility Tiddlypom

Chambers of hearts rule heads
Getting older changes nothing
Blended families spark belonging
Of blood and of love
I will never roadtrip away from you
I will always be waiting for you to find me
I'll be gazing upon the horizon
Hopeful for our reconnection

Do Not Fear

My child, do not fear
Have faith to move forward
Life may be unknown
Stretching endlessly in time
But opportunities await
Where doubt is left behind

Maps of our lives
Tell tales of the good
Laughing away tears
Rectifying quixotic hopes
Dressing chameleons
As they jump for joy

Lilac feathers worn by girls
Age life's secret paintings
Quiet blue candlelight
Obscures pearly promises
Cicadas sing in berry bushes
Calming anxious hearts

Lockdown Days

Lockdown days
Four score and ten
Each a challenge
Sustaining zen

A month in a day
A week in an hour
Keeping positive
Then darkly dour

Myriad vibrations
Rock and roll
Changing colours
Bright then kohl

Through every change
Something to learn
With God's help
His anchor firm

Life's uncertainties
Sweep and whirl
Tornados of emotions
Swirl and curl

Eye of the storm
Faith retained
At the very centre
Hope obtained

The line drawing came first, then as I added colour it felt like a tornado. I've been feeling caught up in a tornado of emotions through lockdown and yet I've felt so held, guided and supported by God.

Little Guy has been a constant presence and so it seemed only right that he is at the eye of the storm, the hope at the centre of the cyclone.

And so the poem developed. It has been cathartic to write and perhaps it will connect with you.

Evening Prayer of Light

Evening Prayer Based On Lindisfarne Liturgy

Spirit of the Risen Christ, as lamps light up the evening, shine into our hearts and kindle in us the fire of your love.
All: The light of Christ has come into the world!

We give you thanks
For the light of your love by day and by night.
We give you thanks 

Light up our dark hearts by the light of Christ; may his Word light our way, for you pour forth loving kindness upon your whole creation,
All: Source and Saviour and Radiant Spirit.

All: May the peace of the Spirit be mine this night, 
the peace of the Son be mine this night, 
the peace of the Father be mine this night, 
the peace of all peace be mine this night, each day of my life.

Psalm 27 
The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.
Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Saviour.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Let us Pray
We offer to you, Lord, the troubles of this day we lay down our burdens at your feet. Forgive us our sins, give us your peace, and help us to receive your Word
Share aloud or in the silence of your hearts

We give you thanks that you are always present, in all things, each day and each night. We give you thanks for your gifts of creation, life and friendship. We give you thanks for the blessings of this day
Share aloud or in the silence of your hearts

Into your hands, O Lord, we place our families, our neighbours, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and all whom we have met today . . .
Enfold them in your will.
All: Enfold them in your will.

Into your hands, O Lord, we place all who are victims of prejudice, oppression or neglect; the unwanted, the frail . . .
May everyone be cherished.
All: May everyone be cherished.

Into your hands, O Lord, we place all who are restless, sick, or prey to the powers of evil . . .
Keep them in your peace.
All: Keep them in your peace.

Into your hands, O Lord, we place these people and situations. . .
Watch over them and watch over us this night.
All: Watch over them and watch over us this night.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

My Mind a Far Away Moon

I demystify magic promises
But the heavy heart of angers afterglow
Crushes my lavender soul
Myriad water lilies weep
Winter's kisses freeze gorgeous pools
Goodbyes take their toll

Like a rock I sit silent
Pondering rough waters
My mind a far away moon
Glowing in the ocean's shadow
Precious words dance on my tongue
Palettes of destiny bloom

Love Poems

How would you define love?

Love is...

Love can...

Love might...

Love may...

Mindful Creativity in Lockdown

I painted this yesterday in my mindful drawing group on zoom. There is lots of symbolism and emotion in it as well as lots of processing and healing.  It was wonderful to be online with friends as I created, I felt safe and yet free to create. 

Rachel thinks it should go in the garden but because I used left over poster paint on a spare piece of MDF that's not possible.  Instead she suggested I submit it to the Lockdown Hope exhibition I'm putting it together -  so that's the plan

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Song of the Heart

Cotton moon
Cusps Capricorn
Whilst candy thunder claps
A song of the heart
Sings with childlike wonder
Rolling in fresh cut grass

Muddy hands
Splashed with berry stains
Pale against childlike smiles
Ancient books
Inspire all who enter to

Bringing colour
To black and white memories
Sadness fills her eyes
Glistening clouds
Hide misty mountains
Worldly pleasures died

So many thought running round my mind

So many thoughts
Running round my mind
Things I wanna say
Yet words are hard to find
Touching my emotions
Serene winds turn to gales
Tuning out distractions
Catch power in the sails

Beneath the linen sun
Wreckless fun
Regrets are undone
He was not the right one
Each sunrise brought tears
Walls too near
I left and left fear
A momentous year

Home is where the heart is
The junk is
My frustration is
The pain is
Come join me inside
Beyond pride
Here's where I cried
I tried and tried

Etched in memory
Colourful scenes bloom
Bluebirds fly free
Singing thanks to the moon
Between silken petals
Butterflies dance
Farming seductively
Eye's summer trance

Blessings on your day

Light through rising mist
Optimistic reflections
May today be blessed

Life's path may be long
Destination yet unseen
Beauty on the way

These two haiku were inspired by photos taken by a friend. 
I hope the photos and haiku poems bless your day

Rest, love, pray, trust. Sermon 16 August 2020

This video won't be available until midday BST on 16th August after it has gone live for the service at St Nicolas Church Earley.

Matthew 15:21-28
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Psalm 133

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
The Remnant of Israel
11 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.

For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.


I don’t know about you but I find this passage in Matthew about the Canaanite woman very difficult to read.
This doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know, where is the love and time and compassion?
This isn’t the Jesus I follow is it?

But yes, yes it is Jesus.

And according to the commentaries I’ve read we are meant to feel uncomfortable and confused when we read this passage.  So that’s a tick already.

As I read and reread this passage I decided to break it down into three sections, three areas for us to apply to our lives.

1 Jesus withdrew
At the start we hear that Jesus withdrew
There are two important things to know about this
First: It is thought that Jesus left Capernaum where things had become unsafe.  He had spoken strongly about purity and defilement when he was asked why he and the disciples weren’t washing their hands as required, he had stirred up upset.

This reminds us that it is important to withdraw, to remove ourselves from conflict which has no purpose and also to rest when we need rest.
I need reminding of this need to rest because if it’s good enough for Jesus then it’s surely good enough for me.
It is OK to rest - in fact it’s important to rest - and that is why I am recording this a few weeks before you’re hearing it today, because I am taking time with the family to rest.

Second: He had journeyed out of Israel, across the border into Tyre and Sidon, into a place of heathens - the gentiles.

Theologians debate whether Jesus actually crossed the border or just went close to it, but he clearly went close enough that this Canaanite woman, an enemy of Israel, a religious outsider, could visit him.

Jesus was going outside of Israel, showing the disciples as a foretelling of the Great Commission (Matthew 28) that they would go to all nations to baptise and teach.

This same message is taken up in the reading from Romans today where Paul is reminding the church that “Gentiles believe when many in Israel turn away; then many in Israel believe when provoked by Gentile belief.  Paul is clear that God saves people of all nations thanks to the work of the spirit in both the Jews and Gentiles.

What does this passage tell us today in 2020?
It tells us clearly that we should be feeding the poor, fighting injustice and bringing the peace of Jesus to all those we meet, no matter what their background.  And that as well as sharing the love of God with those people we should tell them about the love of Jesus and the blessings of God in the world.

That might sound terrifying but you do not need to be standing on the high street bellowing down a loud hailer to be sharing the love of God in the world.

It can be as simple as offering to pray for someone, or sharing that you are donating to a christian charity or signing a petition against injustice, or talking about a favourite hymn.

2 Jesus wants us to keep in touch with him
The second theme I want to share from today’s gospel reading is that Jesus wants us to keep in touch with him.

Some commentators say that Jesus is testing the woman and that he wants to test us, but that’s surely too simplistic a reading.  Is Jesus really testing her or is he actually in conversation with her, wanting to understand what it is she needs and longing for more relationship with her?

Jesus wants her to persist, he wants us to persist; in relationship with him, in conversation with him; in prayer.

And perhaps this is the best demonstration of what prayer can be.
I like to talk about prayer as chatting to God
In fact I’m reminded of a poem I wrote in early July about exactly this

Pray however feels easy
Exactly the same way you chat
Just be with God like you would a best friend
Let it all hang out
Sometimes it's comfortable silence
Sometimes it's a massive rant
Whatever you want to tell him
God's glad that's where you're at

So I wonder…..

How often do you let it all hang out with God?
How honest are your conversations with God?
Do you tell God  what you really think?
If not, why not?
He knows the truth of our hearts, we know that
But there’s a power in putting these thoughts into words of prayer

And so to the really big question -
Can you wrestle with God and refuse to take no for an answer?

I like a good rant about life and I’m sure God rolls his eyes at my ranty prayers, but I don’t recall ever telling God that he is wrong or that he needs to change his mind, or plan.

It’s something to think about, a challenge for the summer.

3 Jesus heals
The final theme I am going to share is the fact that Jesus heals.

I have shared before and I will share again that I am so thankful for the healing blessings of God.  I never really thought that God would or could heal me, I’m not sure I really believed it was possible in the 21st century.  But I sit in front of you, well on the screen but you get my point, blessed with the healing power of God.

I am still sat in my wheelchair, I am still almost entirely blind, I still live with chronic pain and fatigue and I still have mental health challenges, but I am healed thanks to the work of God.

I am healed of the grief of disability, I am healed of frustration at the challenges and I am healed of bitterness and regret at my situation.

Others may look at me, and indeed tell me, that I need healing; but the truth is that I have been healed of the most negative impacts on my life - God took away the things which He knew needed healing.

So please, be more like this canaanite woman.
Never give up on the ability of God to heal you and those you love.
Never stop praying for God’s healing presence in situations of pain.

Keep loving, keep praying, keep trusting.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

friends: a poem

Some friendships grow steadily
Nurtured slowly, not rushing fast
Some friends are lifetime long
Through so many turns and twists
Some friends are for a season
Though we never know that at the start
Others are evolving friendships
Through all they persist

Healed: a poem

What does healing mean to you?

For me it's about peace, in my heart, in my relationships, in the community, in the world.
I drew this Little Guy image of healed today and the poem followed exploring the different ways peace can be broken and healed.

Unbreakable bonds
Late night phonecalls
Sacred beauty
Newborn promises

Gaping voids
Intransigent truth
Invisible beauty
Unknown love

Cotton sandcastles
Mermaid songs
Funny bones
Moonlight rays

Fearful souls
Tomorrow's hope
Unforgivable situations
Desperate prayers

Faith Love Hope

Faith and love
Illogical Unexplainable
Inescapable Essential

We're born to love
To gaze upon our mothers
And trust everything

As for millennia
Following the same rhythms
We learn and grow
Touching rainbows

Ocean to ocean
Breaking sea shells together
Civilisations differ
With words alone

Today and tomorrow
Universal scarlet scars open
Wistful secrets in velvet

Cut open tomorrow
Humanity remains unchanged
Ice cream still frozen
In hope

Sermon 19 July 2020 - Parable of the Weeds - Why does God let bad things happen to people?

Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43

The Parable of the Weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

The Parable of the Weeds Explained
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.


There are two ways which this parable has spoken to me this week as I’ve researched the text and read various commentaries about it.

1 Why does God let bad things happen to people?
What have I done to deserve this?
Why does God allow evil in the world?

Theodicy - good should overcome evil

These questions aren’t usually asked because people are looking for a theological discussion, most people are actually looking for hope in their troubles.

Jesus told this parable to encourage and inform his followers that continued existence of the false along with the true, the evil along with the good, the hurt along with the joy is part of God’s plan.

The reality, according to Jesus, is that our lives and our world are a field in which good and evil, life and death, joys and sorrows, that which we want and that which we don’t want grow and live side by side. The wheat and the weeds stand together in our world and in each of our lives.

That, Jesus says, is what the kingdom of heaven is like. That’s good news for us. It means that despite the weeds in and around us the kingdom is still here.  God is with us.   The weeds do not overcome or make God absent.   It may not be the fullness of the kingdom but it is, nevertheless, the kingdom.

And yes, there will be a final separation, though in God’s time, not ours. 
But until that point God is with us through every situation, every joy and hurt.
God is with us
God is loving us
God is grieving with us
God is supporting us
God is going before us
God brings Hope
With God we are never alone

2 How did the world get into such a mess and what can we do about it?
The news touches only the edge of the issues in the world, there is so much suffering and pain.
There are a lot of weeds in the world.

So what about those weeds?
What do we do about them?
Surely we should do something.

These aren’t the common or garden weeds.
These weeds are zizania - otherwise called darnel or false wheat.
This weed looks like wheat and grows with the wheat, intertwining it’s roots and impossible to tell apart.

Suddenly we see that the good and the bad are a lot less clear than we would hope; it’s all a lot more like a Twitter row where the truth is difficult to see amidst the flurry of “facts” and opinions.  It is a confusing field of truth and lies.

But there’s good news.  Jesus makes it clear that it is not for us to make judgements about who is right or who is wrong.  He says “Let them grow together until the harvest.”

We should not be trying to remove the weeds because when we do we will also destroy the wheat, we will destroy the goodness in the world.

But no.
No, that can’t be right.
That makes no sense.
How can we let them be?

The weeds are bad and the wheat is good.
We must do something.
We can not remain silent in the face of evil.
We need to take a stand on issues which matter in the world.

But Jesus says “Let them grow together until the harvest,”

Jesus tells us to wait and to be patient.
Jesus tells us not to judge.

Does that mean we don’t act?
Does that mean we allow poverty and injustice in the world?

No, of course it doesn’t.
What we are being told is that we must not stand in judgement.
After all, none of us live perfect lives without both wheat and weeds.

This parable isn’t telling us to do nothing, far from it.
This parable is telling us to do the much harder thing - to let the weeds grow
Or in other words “forgive them”

It’s the same words Jesus spoke from the cross in the gospel of Luke
 “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).
Even on the cross, Jesus isn’t pulling up weeds but forgiving them and letting them grow.

And there’s the action we are called to, not to judge and condemn, but to forgive failures, love people and situations in pain and work for good in the world. 

Jesus tells us to love.
Love your enemy.
Love your neighbor.
Love yourself.
Love God.

Forgive the weeds
Love the weeds
And in that forgiveness and love perhaps the weeds will separate.
That’s when the wheat will become clearly visible from the weeds.
In sharing God’s love and forgiving people and situations the weeds will reduce and the wheat will flourish

That might be in ourselves, in church, in our communities, at school or work or online
Jesus tells us to forgive people and situations which cause failures and hurts

And that’s the message I want to leave you with this week:

Let’s forgive those who hurt us
Let’s not judge those who think differently to us
Let’s pray for God to intervene in painful situations around the world
Let’s raise awareness of issues which need goodness and change
Let’s share the good news of God with us in the world
Let’s love everyone, especially those who hurt us

Post Sermon thoughts:
That was the end of this sermon but then I realised something…..

The person I find hardest to forgive is myself!!!!

I too easily see the weeds in myself, much more than I see the wheat
I beat myself up for the things I’ve said and done and for the things I haven’t said or done.

And if this parable is telling us to forgive the weeds then I need to start to forgive myself more

So since Tuesday I have been asking God every day,
several times a day,
to help me to forgive myself
for my mistakes and omissions and faults

And what I’ve received is a peace of knowing that God forgives me
That God loves me and wants me to forgive and love myself just as I do other people

Jesus tells us to share his love generously, allowing him to work through us
Jesus tells us to bring forgiveness, love and grace into every situation
Let’s not forget that that includes loving and forgiving ourselves

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Tips for wheelchair access in nature

This is an article I wrote today for Access Forest Church.

As a powered wheelchair user I have to do A LOT of research about every place I visit; whether that's a town, a museum, a nature reserve or the coast.

Many nature reserves have improved their accessibility over the last ten years which has made it much easier for wheelchair users to experience the natural world, but even then we need to research the facts before we head out.

As a forest church leader you can help wheelchair users by providing information about the accessibility of your location and details of routes you will use. 

There are five key access issues which are important to provide information about:

1. Parking
Is there disabled parking?
Does that car park have a solid surface? (gravel is impossible for wheelchairs)

2. Facilities
Are there wheelchair accessible toilets?

3. Step free access
Even one small step is impossible for a powerchair user though many manual chair users can cope ok with a very small step

4. Terrain
What is the terrain like?
Wheelchairs rely on the power of the user, pusher or motor; the terrain is a huge factor in what power is required and is therefore a limiting factor.

Terrain can be defined in the following categories:
- Pavement
- Tarmac
- Boardwalks

- Short grass
- Sturdy woodland paths
- Compacted gravel or sand

- Longer grass or fields
- Woodland paths
- Bridleways
- Dried mud

- Sand
- Wet mud
- Loose Gravel

5. Gradient
What about the gradient?
Downhill: It is hard to explain just how vulnerable it feels to be going down a steep slope facing forwards in a wheelchair, you can easily feel like you are going to fall out. 

Uphill: it's all about how much power is required which limits access

Transverse: the camber of any path can have a huge impact on accessibility for wheelchair users. 

For example the blind bumps which are essential at road crossings for those with sight loss are often on drop curbs - trying to continue along a pavement where there is a dropped curb gradient is hard enough, where the blind bumps are also in place it can send wheelchairs straight into the road.

Relocate this example onto woodland paths with cambers and tree roots or a coastal path with lose gravel and stones and you get an idea of how difficult access can be in a wheelchair.

Gradient can be defined in the following categories:
Mostly flat
- Pavements
- Boardwalks
- Beachfronts
- Canal paths

A few ups and downs
- Woodland paths
- Cambers

Quite steep in places
- Hillsides
- Mountain paths
- Paths with tree roots

At most locations it should be possible to provide an alternative route for those who use wheelchairs.
Or, even better, you could provide an accessible main route with an alternative route for the more adventurous.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Little Guy, Hope and You

I'm working on some Little Guy resources for small groups to use to think about mental health and hope. I would appreciate it if you could give me some feedback on this first activity please.

The first session starts with this image with 6 of the Little Guy images (Little Guy on a cliff top, on a swing, on top of a skyscraper, on a beach, in a boat and walking in a forest) and asks:
Which of these images speaks to you right now?
Spend a couple of minutes in that image
Put yourself in the place of Little Guy
Ask God to speak to you in that place
What have you heard, felt or thought?

Lockdown and God's Faithfulness

As you can see, for the first time in 120 days I'm not at home.   On Monday the guidance for shielders was relaxed a bit and so we've come down to the coast.  For two days we've been enjoying the wide horizon and the sea air. 

Of course it's wonderful to share this view of the sea with you, but this reflection is actually about sharing my thankfulness to God. 

Coming down to the sea, to where I've always felt most connected to God, I've been struck by the fact that I have survived 120 days at home. 

I use the word survived on purpose, at times it's been extremely hard and I don't know how I'd have done it without knowing God's constant presence.

And so I want to share with you this verse from the gospel of Mark.

Mark 10:27 “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’”

There have been many points in my life where I have returned to this verse and thanked God that He has been with me and made the impossible possible.  Times of grief or illness, times of struggle and confusion, times of inspiration and motivation.

But lockdown has been an incredible challenge, to be isolated for so long has resulted in me being completely reliant on God.  I've had to let go of all my usual coping mechanisms, which revolve around being with people and being out in the world.  Instead God has helped me find the inward connection with him which I always thought wasn't part of my gift.

I have prayed more, read the Bible more, praised him more, been quietly with him more.  I've journeyed through a rollercoaster of emotions and known God's endless love, acceptance and presence more than ever before. 

Perhaps you're watching this also thanking God for his blessings.  I'd love to hear how God has blessed you.

Maybe you're watching this and wondering whether some of the hope you experienced in lockdown was God at work, if you'd like to talk about that then get in touch and let's explore that.

But maybe you're watching this and wondering what I'm talking about. 

Maybe you have found it harder than normal to connect with God in lockdown. 

Maybe you miss being in church and physically present with your church family.

You won't be the only one feeling that way, please don't feel alone in it. 

This is the time to reach out to your church family, share how you're feeling and ask for prayer and support.  We're here for you today and everyday, please just ask.

Mindful drawing - mountains

Escaping my mind
Climbing wild mountain ranges
Finding peace

Another creative trial
I love mountains and geometric art so putting them together was fun. 
I'm not sure all these mountains would actually be standing, 
there would probably be a lot of landslips and rockfalls 
but hey, it's art not geography

I smile behind tears

This poem was written about pain, both physical and emotional pain, the full text is below the images I created to reflect the words

I smile behind tears
Storms disrupt heartbeats
Seas crash wildly
Pain floods my brain

Six feet under, maudlin
Cheated, in fear
Anger of injustice
Nude soul laid bare

Just as birds take flight
Calm is whipped up
Mindfulness lost
Faltering reality stops

Fingers stroke muscles
Painful sunburnt reality 
Cactus thorns invisible
Sending jolts of electricity

Repercussions raising
Golden jaguars pacing
Opportunities priming
Hopeful songbird singing

Midnight wakefulness
Dreaming of mornings
Bright with homemade rainbows
Touching the other side

Out Out after 120 days

Out out
By the sea out
Breathing fresh air out
Wondering why no one else is social distancing out
Was the last 120 days a dream out?
Trying to avoid joggers out
Enjoying evening sun out
Relaxing out
Out out

Closing the chapter

Closing the chapter
Not as easy as imagined
Epilogues emerge
Long after expected

Hide and seek
Memories rendering
Food for thought
Bitter tasting

Listening through time
Eyes open wider
Heartfelt tears
Hit me harder

Time stands still
Hourglass shattered
Midnight wakefulness
Howls sound louder

Xanadu dreams
Burning brightly
Get too close
Ashes smite me

Butterfly kisses
Cause pains to waken
Silver threads
Pulled then broken

Honeydew sweetness
Elixir was promised
Love's summer glow
Now proven dishonest

Gilded cages
Slowly stripped away
Pastel truth
Their smudges stay

Drawing emotions

Counselling challenge #2

Draw your emotions again and see what happens

This is what happened

The original is the black pen on the white. But I was playing with effects on @picsart and there's something about the negative image which really touched my emotions.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Unmask Yourself

Unmask yourself

How easy do you find it to unmask yourself?
To show the world who you really are?

I don't just mean the physical you, though that's important; I mean the emotional you. 

How often do you peel back the mask you wear to protect yourself from your own judgement and condemnation?

How often do you look beneath and find the different parts that make up you?

The small child that hurts and plays and laughs and cries and sings and questions and trusts.

The teenager who rails and sulks at the slightest slight, jumps to conclusions too quickly, laughs with free abandon with friends and rolls eyes at authority figures.

The young adult who wants to change the world, struggles with money and rubbish bosses, has dreams and ambitions but not yet the ability.

The parent who is terrified every minute of every day because this is the job no one ever prepares you for, who reads all the advice and gets note confused than ever, who asks friends and hopefully find solace in shared bafflement, who sleeps too little and works too hard and misses the Instagram moments but who's heart is full.

I don't yet know what the other parts of me will be but I'm sure they'll be rollercoasters just the same.  They'll challenge my sense of self in good and bad ways. 

I try not to wear the mask too often.
I try to let my feelings show to myself as much as to others.
I try to unmask myself because I've learned that I am happier, more connected to those I love and more able to experience life in all its fullness when I let the mask fall away.

How about you?

Friday, 10 July 2020

Smart phone with sight loss

Smart phone: the best accessibility gadget for sight loss in the palm of your hand

There are so many extremely expensive gadgets on the market for helping us visually impaired people read printed materials or magnify anything too small for us to see.  I have a few from when I first lost my sight.  But as someone who still has a small amount of sight I actually have everything I need in the palm of my hand with my smartphone.

Apple have led the way in accessibility on their phones and many people will advise use of Apple products if you're visually impaired.  But over the last few years Android have caught up which is great news for people like me who don't want to spend an arm and a leg on our phones. 

I am not an expert, I want to make that clear from the outset, there are lots ofaof which provide detailed instructions online - just have a Google.  But I will share what I use and how it works for me in straight forward non technical language.

It's worth saying that I have managed to help people in their nineties, who've never used technology, using smartphones; and yes, they've been amazed how wonderful it is - especially in these Lockdown times.

For clarity: I have a small amount of usable sight. I'm registered blind but I'm not completely blind.  My sight is blurry, I can only read size 30 printed text and I can't see faces, but I do have some sight.    

Settings - System - Accessibility
This is the location for all the inbuilt accessibility options on an Android phone.  I'll quickly go through them below.

Font size
I have it set largest, there are five options you can choose from to make it right for you.

Display size
Again set to largest but there are five options.

Magnification of screen
I have this set to triple tap for magnification.  It means if I triple tap the screen I can then pinch the screen with my fingers to zoom in and out.  To move around the screen you just use two fingers instead of one.

Select to speak
This is a great part of the accessibility features. By selecting text the phone will read it to you, and it's surprisingly unrobotic.

Text to speech
Text to speech does exactly what it says, it reads the text aloud.  I use it all the time using my ear buds.  It's particularly helpful when I'm on the go.  And if I'm on my own I like to use the microphone on my keyboard to convert my speech into text.  In fact I'm using that right now! 

Colour inversion
My sight varies a lot depending on the amount of light in the room or on a screen.  Sometimes I invert the colours on the screen to help.

Talk back
I really struggle with talk back but it's essential if you can't see at all.  It literally speaks what's on screen.

Other things that help me use my smartphone

Magnification of text/images
I use my phone camera to magnify things I want to see.  I take a photo and then pinch and zoom to see the detail.  Modern smartphone cameras are amazing quality and this works really well for me.

Some people like to use apps for magnifying.  There are all sorts of magnifiers apps and it's best to download them and try to see which you prefer.  Here's an article I wrote a few years about some 

I mentioned above that the brightness of a room or screen makes a huge difference to what I can see.  I use my brightness setting ALL THE TIME!  It goes up, it goes down, it goes up again.  On Android phones you can set the volume buttons on the sides to control brightness, or, as I do, you can pull down the top menu and slide the brightness setting there.

And the final top tip if you're reading this and wondering if you could use a smartphone to connect to people and get online - or if you're helping other people….
See it as play.
I promise can't make mistakes that can't be put right.
Have a go with a friend or family member.
See it as a toy and don't be afraid of it.
Before you know it you could be emailing family, what's apping friends, zooming with church or even videoing yourself on tictoc.  The world is you oyster.