“Music was my first love, and it will be my last…”
…says John Miles in his song. And how right is he?!
I played in a fantastic concert tonight with the Pemberton Old Wigan Band at St Michael’s Church in Swinley. The music was all TV and Film music and I can honestly say that it was the best concert I have ever played in. I thoroughly enjoyed playing every single piece, and the band was superb. I still have goosebumps from playing Out of Africa. So utterly beautiful music.
My son has recorded the concert because is working on some sound engineering stuff and when he has processed the recordings, I am going to ask him if I can share one or two of the tracks with you. You will see what I mean about it being a superb concert I promise you.
The concert was in a church, and as is usual at these kind of events, the vicar got up at the end to say a couple of thank-yous. The people who did the refreshments, the people who did the furniture shifting etc, and the band in particular. He said that music was one of God’s greatest gifts, and I have to agree. My life has been shaped so much by music – by learning it, understanding it, performing it etc – and also through the people I have met whilst taking part in it. But the biggest thing that I am grateful to music for is its power to touch me spiritually. I needed that spiritual healing tonight and I am so very, very grateful to the band’s conductor Ben for putting together a well thought out programme and pushing the band to play to such a high standard. I could feel bits of my bruised soul coming together as we played tonight and I even wept a little during the encore. Well, what do you expect? It was I’ll Walk With God…
Here’s another band playing the piece we ended the concert with. I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that music: says little, heals much.
Sometimes, your heart gives a little extra blip when you read a headline. This could have been one of those moments. Click the link here to see what the fuss is all about.
Fortunately, I have been following this story since it broke about a week ago when an advert was posted on a “wishing line” at a care home in Bristol. Anne – the 104 year old lady in question – made a wish to be arrested for the first time in her life.
How wonderful is that!
The wonderful bobbies of Bristol came to grant her wish yesterday and “arrested” her. She was handcuffed – gently, of course – and given a ride in a police car. She was thrilled with her little adventure and her smile is an inspiration to anyone who sees her.
Well done Anne on your magnificent achievement of reaching 104 and still enjoying life, and well done on bringing a ray of sunshine to the world.
Today marks the Spring Equinox, the occasion where the sun is at its highest over the equator in the middle of the day and where the length of the sunlight during the day is equal to the darkness during the night. It is a point of balance in the year, where time itself seems to teeter and could go either way.
Of course, it never does and time marches onwards. It can never go back, only forward, relentlessly towards Midsummer/Midwinter where the sun is the furthest away from the equator and sunlight/darkness are maximised. It depends on which hemisphere we’re talking about but at this time of year in the Northern hemisphere we are on the march towards the longest day, and today marks that spot mid-journey where we are equally distant from the depths of winter and the heights of summer.
Lots of things hang in the balance and there are literally millions of crossroads, or halfway points in people’s personal journeys today. A job that might have been landed or lost. A child in the process of being born – not quite here but equally not not here neither. A relationship on the cusp of being cemented, or another in the throes of breaking apart. A vision of a future that will never be fulfilled, new promises being made at the same time.
In all cases, and many more, time marches on and will only ever go forward. Things that hang in the balance today may look a bit brighter tomorrow as we move to Midsummer’s Day. Those who are moving towards Midwinter, well, what can I say except I’m sorry that tomorrow will be a tiny bit darker for you.
However you discern this yearly rhythm, however you see the march of time, however you feel about things hanging in the balance, tomorrow is another day.
Have you ever been camping? Did you go for a repeat visit? And did you actually enjoy it?!
As a family, we have been camping every year for a summer holiday ever since my youngest was months old – he’s 20 now, with my husband, my daughter, who at at 5 years older had a couple of years free of cold, damp “fun” before we began. I was still nursing my son when he experienced his first couple of nights camping in a field. I must have been mad…
We began with a dome tent, then upgraded to a trailer tent and then as my husband’s back gave out all together, we got our first shed – I mean caravan. It was a pile of junk really, with all the comfort level of a wheelbarrow, but it served its purpose and we loved it.
We have had so much fun camping over the years, and we
have toured literally from the north coast of Scotland to the south coast of
England, and from the Westest of Wales to the Eastest of East Anglia.
When I look back on our time away in the tents and caravans, I can honestly tell you that the times that stood out most to me were the ones where we thought we would not last through the night. In the dome tent in North Wales, where the wind was so bad it blew the tent in on us during the night and we had to get up and move the car to try and provide a wind break. Then there was the time in Boscastle in 2004 when flash floods washed out livestock from the farms, buildings, cars and walls from the little town out to sea. We had arrived on site in torrential rain and could barely get the trailer tent up in time. In fact, we sat huddled under a half put up tent for about two hours to sit out the worst of the rain and my husband eventually braved it to peg out the sides. There has been enough rain this weekend to bring back very wet memories of that particular holiday! There were the times we were so cold in the night the children woke up blue (don’t report us!). And lots more, but you get the idea.
But there’s something in the fact that in our darkest
moments camping, we have been blessed with shelter in those times. Tents,
caravans, car – all provided shelter when the worst of times was happening
So what does
the word shelter mean to you?
It can be used in different ways – as a noun it can
mean a place giving temporary protection from bad weather or danger. Or as a
verb: to safeguard, wrap, cover defend,
cushion, secure, guard, hedge. To seek shelter is to seek protection or refuge
The origin of the word “shelter” is “shield”, from the
Old English “scild” or the Dutch and Germanic “Schild”. It became “shield” in
the late 16th Century.
So what does
that all mean? And how does it connect to our readings today?
God said to Abram “Do not be afraid, I am your shield,
your very great reward”. Abram is not so sure and he argues with God. “But what
can you give me? Me of all people? You know what I want God. I want children! I
want to have heirs to live on after my name, but how can I without any
He doesn’t seem to understand what God has just said –
do not be afraid; I am your reward. Abram is deaf to those words. He doesn’t
seem to understand that God himself is his reward.
But God does something here that shows how he is
patient with us too – how many times have we thrown a deaf ear to God? How many
times have we prayed and said “please God! Let me have…” whatever. We fail to
see that we don’t need to ask those things, God is our reward.
To make the point further to Abram, God takes him
outside and points up to the stars. He tells him that he will have as many
offspring as there are countable stars in the sky. Abram is starting to get it
at this point. But God has something else to say. “I am the Lord who has
brought you out of your troubles already,” and it’s as if he is saying “so why
do you find it difficult to trust me now?”
I know I fail in this sometimes, and I forget about
what God has already done for me. It’s easier sometimes to have a little moan
or grumble here and there about stuff, not understanding that without God,
things would be a whole lot worse. Not only that, that God isn’t actually
finished with me yet, just as he wasn’t finished with Abram.
Later that night, when Abram had fallen into a deep
sleep, God sealed his promise with the smoking brazier and flaming torch. It
reminds Abram not to put his trust in the flesh, but to trust everything to the
shelter he finds him, God, instead.
We have a huge advantage over Abram in our
understanding of God, because we have Jesus. God sealed his promise to us in him.
So back to this idea of shelter, I want to just briefly mention St Patrick. A bit of a leap from Abram but as it is St Patrick’s day today, I thought I would talk about how he found shelter in God’s presence too.
Patrick was born in Britain and at the age of about 16
he was captured by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland. He lived
there for about six years looking after sheep before escaping and making his
way back home again. He wrote a confession, and in it, he described his time as
a shepherd as being one of a spiritual awakening and developing. He literally
found God whilst he lived a slave, and he found shelter in God’s presence.
Later on as we know, he became Bishop of Armagh and he is credited with
bringing Christianity to the Irish. A much abridged history of Patrick there,
but you can see that his story has relevance to many today, especially if we
think about those people who are enslaved in so many places across the world,
or who have been trafficked by others.
So this idea of God as a shelter is right there in Patrick’s story too.
Jesus, in our Gospel reading today, also talks about
shelter. He says “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your
children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under wings”.
Bishop Tom Wright tells the story of a forest fire
that burnt down a farmhouse in western Canada. As the embers cooled, the
devastated farmer was walking over the ruins and noticed a burned lump on the
ground. He prodded it with his stick and saw that it was a hen, burned to
death. The farmer turned the hen over and, to his surprise out ran three
chirping baby chicks. The hen had died in the flames even as it saved the lives
of her helpless brood.
Tom Wright picks up Jesus’ picture of a hen sheltering
her brood and if you think about it, how does a hen do that? She puts out her
wings and shelters her chicks underneath. [put arms out]. Doesn’t Jesus do just
that when he puts his arms out on the cross? He offers all those other things
we talked about that shelter means. Protection, a refuge, a place to rest, to
gather, to be safe.
So what to do with that knowledge, that we are offered a place of safety, of protection, a refuge to come and rest in? What do we do to make sure others know that there is a place of safety for them too? How do we share the good news that Jesus put out his arms for everyone, not just us?
The events in Christchurch New Zealand
on Friday show us that we have a long way to go yet before that good news is
heard and understood by all. We have a job to do haven’t we?
From the flimsy tents that blow down on us in the
night, to the hard-walled caravans that are basic to say the least, we as a
family have been fortunate to have shelter in those forms for the past 20
years. Without them we would not have been able to enjoy holiday time together,
watching each other grow and develop, spending time together exploring and
having fun. And yes, falling out with other being cooped up for lengthy rainy
spells now and again. But without that shelter, we would not have been able to
And without God’s shelter, we can’t grow and develop
as people, we can’t invite others in, we can’t live our lives to the fullest
that God intends. Shelter can be refuge, it can be sanctuary, it can be many
things, but ultimately, God’s shelter is in the form of Jesus’s death on the
cross with arms outstretched so that we can ALL live.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, thank you for offering us that place
to come to rest, to find refuge, to be safe in your presence. We thank you for
arms outstretched on the cross gathering us in as a mother hen gathers her
chicks. Help us share the good news with those who, as Abram, still don’t
understand that you Lord are our shield and our very great reward.
A view from the PamCam today is a peek into my day of deadlines and studying.
What we have here is two big pieces of work on the go. First is a 3000 word critical reflection of an author (or authors) who have informed and influenced my own writing, and you can see the twin towers of books that are on my shortlist for this essay. Second is a sermon which I will be delivering on Sunday. I will give three slightly different versions of it because there are three different congregations who will hear it. This is only in the initial notes stage because up until this afternoon I have been working on the critical reflection. The deadline for that was today, but because of a few domestic issues here (poorly husband being the most pressing), I have received an extension to it. I put that aside for an hour this afternoon whilst I had a look at my sermon, and I’ll get back to that tomorrow. My critical reflection will be finished once my sermon is written and please God pray that my nursing skills are not called on in the next few days til I can get it done.
This is the reality of trying to finish postgraduate studies with the Open University whilst juggling studies for All Saints and Ordinand training, completing ministry tasks on placement (sermon and Lent lesson on Monday – not shown in this photo) and holding together house, home and marriage to a poorly husband. I know others have a harder time of it than I do so I’m not complaining, but blimey, it’s tough going at the minute.
This isn’t a constructed photo by the way, this is as I had to leave my desk as I left for college this evening. It is relatively ordered, but as soon as I get working again tomorrow it will be like an explosion in a paper factory.