Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Questions”

As a Christian minister in the church I have been involved with quite a lot of people who have questions about God – what’s he like? How did he make the world, surely that’s just Science? Can he hear my prayers? – and so on. But the most common questions are ones about the God who “lets” bad things happen. Why did my child have to die? Why won’t God stop the wars in the world? If there is a God, why does he allow cancer to kill people? Why do floods and earthquakes destroy so much of our world?

I’m not sure I can answer those questions, and even though I have a lot of training and experience to come, I’m not sure even with 50 years service under my belt I could answer. But what I can say is that I believe in a  God of compassion and love, who feels our pain at such things just as much (and even more so) than we do. I believe that when we are standing at the gravesides of our loved ones he is there with us, shielding us. And I believe that when it comes to war and destruction, he is with those who are caught up in it.

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if at the darkest moments of it God wasn’t there with me in the middle of it all. I realise that not everyone sees it the same way as me, and there is a lot of angry questions directed at God along the lines of “allowing” or even “causing” bad things to happen. My prayer is that one day, most people would try to walk alongside him instead of running away from him, and maybe they will see him at work bringing comfort and love to those who need him. The taxi drivers taking people home after the Manchester bomb, the people who feed the hungry in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, the people who run towards disaster to help others when their instinct is to run away, the nurses and doctors who tend to sick children and their families, those who donate to charity… the list is endless, and so too – thankfully – is the love from God.



Recognising Jesus

I was privileged to lead, preach and pray in my church this morning, and I thought to share with you on here too. The readings were Hebrews 2: 14 – 18, and Luke 2: 22-40, and the children were present throughout our worship this morning – they usually go for their own teaching during worship to Sunday School, but they stayed in the main service today.

Sermon Text

It doesn’t seem like it, but Christmas was only a month ago. I don’t know about you, but for me, the month since Christmas has felt nothing like the month of Advent before it.

I was at St Mary’s for their Advent Sunday service, and I preached about waiting. The kinds of things that we wait for, what it feels like to wait, waiting for something which you know is going to be special, but without knowing exactly what. I’m sure you remember the feeling of waiting and preparation for Christmas during Advent, but there is more to the type of Advent waiting that was going on when people were waiting for the Messiah in the first place.

Let me show you a clip of a video which shows us another type of waiting.

You see how excited Jessie is to meet Woody? See how she leaps around…”it’s you! it’s you!”. She can’t keep herself still with the excitement of finally meeting Woody, someone she has been wanting to meet for such a long time.

Contrast her reaction with the old Prospector. He was more sedate, awestruck even. He talked about how he has waited “such a long time” to meet – as he calls it – the Prodigal Son. He says “we have waited countless years for this”.

Did you notice too, that Woody was surprised that the Prospector used his name? Jessie tells him “everyone knows your name, Woody”.

So we have someone who everybody knows is coming, who people have been waiting a long time for, and for whom everybody is thrilled and awestruck at finally meeting. If we watch the next bit of the film, we learn that Woody has got a purpose, of bringing the Round Up gang back together, of restoring them to the glory days if you like.

Sounds a bit like waiting for Jesus doesn’t it?

But there’s more to it than that, and this is where our Gospel reading today comes in.

Now I’m not for one minute suggesting that we can substitute Jesus and Woody, but we can draw a comparison to the expectations and excitement that both Jesus and Woody drew from people around them.

In our Gospel reading, we heard how Anna and Simeon both recognised Jesus, and who both gave thanks for his arrival and then prophesied about his future.

Jesus was in the temple that day because Mary and Joseph were required to present him soon after birth, according to the law. He was to be brought to the temple, and as the first born son, he was to be dedicated to the Lord. We know now, 2000 years later, that he was the Lord, but back then at only a month old, nobody else – except Simeon and Anna – did.

Simeon was first to proclaim he recognised who Jesus was, and like the Prospector in our video, said he had always known this day would come, and that he had waited a long time for it. He prayed to God, with that familiar passage that we know now as the Nunc Dimittis, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace”

Simeon prophesies about Jesus and his purpose here on earth. He says he will be “a light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel”. Simeon recognised, with guidance from the Holy Spirit (verse 26), that Jesus’ purpose was twofold: to bring light to the Gentiles, and to the glory of Israel. In other words, to all people.

If you remember, the Israelites were waiting for the Messiah to come to restore them, but Simeon says that he was to bring light to the Gentiles also. Not just healing and redemption of one people, but of all people.

Although we don’t hear Anna’s words in this reading, Luke does record that she also spoke of Jesus’ redemptive purposes.

We hear more about why and how Jesus came to earth in our other reading today, from Hebrews. In it, we are told that God came in human form as Jesus, a fully formed human being. Flesh and blood, with fears, loves, temptations and emotions. Jesus was long awaited, and fully human. He was at one with his people here on Earth, and as both Anna and Simeon said when he was a tiny baby presented at the temple a month after his birth, with a job to do.

And so, where does that leave us? Today, here in Blackley [and in our communities wherever we are]?

We are reminded at the end of our Gospel reading that Mary and Joseph were on their way back to Nazareth soon after they had presented Jesus in the temple, in other words, going back to normal life after their precious son was born. And so it is for us. Christmas is over, and it’s time to get on with normal life again.

But for us, like it was for Mary and Joseph, having Jesus in our lives means that there is a new meaning to the word “normal”. What is normal life when we have Jesus at its heart? I suppose that is a topic for a different sermon, but it is definitely something to think about as we approach our Lenten sermon and prayer series.

We are going to dismantle our Crib Scene shortly which was put together by the children at the Crib Service on Christmas Eve. We will pray as we do so, for our community, for our church and for our world. The waiting for Simeon was over, for he had seen the Lord, but for us, the wait for Christ’s coming again goes on. And as we wait, we pray that just as Jesus, the Messiah, the healer and bringer of redemption, was recognised by Anna and Simeon in the temple that day, that we too recognise Jesus in the faces and in the lives of those around us today.



Prayers of Intercession
(during which the children removed the various figures, leaving Jesus in his crib)

The Wise Men 

Lord, may these figures of the Wise Men remind us of those who travel across continents to find what they are looking for. We remember especially those who flee from war torn countries, who seek to escape violence and hate filled regimes. We ask that you comfort those who are frightened, those who are hurting and those who seek peace. We pray especially for leaders of our nations and our communities, that they receive your wisdom to be act in the good of all people. We remember those too who give of everything they have in the name of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The Shepherds 

Lord, may these figures of the Shepherds remind us of those who society does its best to ignore. Those who are trapped in poverty, those on the fringes and don’t know how to join in, those who feel they are not good enough. As Jesus took human form, remind us that he is present in everybody we meet. Give us words of love and acceptance to speak to those who don’t feel they deserve it. Equip us to help those on the edges by bringing them in. Remind us that the good news of Jesus’ birth was shared with such as these.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

The Angels 

Lord, may the figures of these angels remind us of the connection we feel with heaven through these very prayers, and the prayers we offer each day to you. Remind us as we pray that we are not alone, and just as the angels carried messages of Jesus’ birth, give us the words to say to people we meet to share his good news with them.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Mary and Joseph 

Lord, your precious gift of Jesus was born to Mary, and he was raised by Joseph until he reached the time of his ministry. As we remove these figures from the crib, we are reminded that for them, like us, with Jesus in our midst there is a new normal to be found. We ask ourselves how can we ever be the same again after meeting Jesus, and we ask you now to refresh us and renew us daily, putting him at the centre of all.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

And as we close our prayers, and before we say the Lord’s prayer together, let us just pause for a moment to consider Jesus who is left behind in the crib as a reminder that he lives amongst us, and is present in all our actions and interactions with other people. Lord, we ask that you open our eyes to recognise him, just as Simeon and Anna did in the temple that day.

And so we say together the words that Jesus taught us:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever.






Daybook Entry 21st January 2018

For today… 21st January 2018

Looking out my window… it’s pretty awful weather out there. Rain one minute, snow the next. Slush on the ground which is freezing in places and just soggy wetness in others.

I am thinking… of having my hair cut. Or perhaps growing it and having it dyed. Or “under shaved” or something. Anything other than this “in-between” nothingness that it is at the minute.

I am thankful… that there is no budget this month to have my hair cut. I’d end up with something I would regret if I went this side of payday!

One of my favourite things… is knowing my children are happy.

I am creating… space on my bookshelf for … what else? … MORE books.

I am wearing… my favourite hoody, which unfortunately is starting to show signs of wear and tear and is not really suitable for wearing outside the house any more. It’s great for inside the house, but not for “best”, sadly.

I am reading … “Keeping The Dead” by Tess Gerritsen. It is the seventh in the Rizzoli and Isles series and I thought I had read all of them, but this one is one that has slipped my net. I am only a little way into it but it is showing signs of all the excellence of the rest of this series.

I am praying… that my sister in crime is going to be ok.

I am learning… about different ways of leading church worship. Among other things.

In my kitchen… we had home made teriyaki chicken casserole for tea last night. It was absolutely delicious and a fantastic dinner for two of us. Really easy to make too. All I did was put 180ml of soy sauce, 160ml of water, half a tsp of ground ginger, 2 minced cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar into a pan and boiled it. Then I added 2 tablespoons of cornflour to some cold water to make a paste and added it to the boiling mixture. I think I put too much in because it instantly solidified, so I added some more water until it looked more like a sauce than the stuff they cover roads with. I then put most of that sauce over two chicken breasts in a casserole dish and baked it in the oven for about 20 minutes. I should have covered it with tin foil because the sauce went a bit crusty, but it was ok after the next stage. While I cooked the chicken in the sauce, I cooked 175g of Basmati rice and pack of stir fry vegetables.  I then shredded the chicken and mixed it with the sauce, then added the rice, the vegetables and the rest of the sauce and put it back into the oven for 10 minutes to heat through. It was absolutely delicious, but next time I wouldn’t put as much sugar in it and I will think about adding some more garlic.



Post Script… I have been thinking about making marionettes on and off for a couple of years now, and I found this on YouTube and it looks a fantastic way of constructing them. I will perhaps give it a go over the half term break in February.

A moment from my day… 



When your daughter has been travelling for nearly 7 hours from one end of the country to another, and you are on your way to meet her rendezvous point and this is the view ahead of you for the next 45 minutes. ARGH!!!!!

Closing Notes


A very tongue in cheek comment, but when confronted with this sign at the motorway services tonight, ought I to have been upset by the fact that I am not a lady? Does this sign only apply to those identifying as “ladies”, or is it a polite term to denote the fact there are no stand-up urinals in the room and all the toilets are behind cubicles? Should I have kicked up a fuss with the management that since I am not a “lady” there are no toilets available to me? Or should I just accept the fact that I am lucky I live in the western world where we have ready access to clean and safe sanitation no matter how it is labelled?



Amazing Grace

I went to Bible study at my church tonight and we had a great discussion about the readings for the coming Sunday. We read a passage from Jonah (the bit just after he had been deposited by the “big fish”) and a passage from Mark where Jesus told two of his disciples to “follow me”, and he promised to make them fishers of men.

Tonight, I didn’t feel I had much to say and I was content to sit back and follow the discussion around me, listening to what other people were saying and just enjoying the company of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our discussion went all over the place – as it usually does! – and from the starting point of whether we thought Jonah’s story was allegorical or a historical truth we ended up talking about God’s grace. In particular, how we either don’t recognise it all the time, or how we fail to understand and appreciate that grace is given for everyone, not just to those who we deem to be deserving of it. We talked about drawing lines around our own behaviour whilst judging others for doing the very same thing, and it was interesting to see how we all reacted to the challenge to look at our own views on that. I’m not sure that I’m aware of the times I judge other people, and I came away from the evening feeling refreshed and changed by the discussion and the prayers that were offered.

The best bit for me was singing the two hymns to top and tail the evening. The first was one of my favourites from Matt Redman – “10000 Reasons” , and the one we closed the evening with was the wonderful “Amazing Grace” which summed up everything we had been talking about and has helped me so much this evening.





Wednesday Hodgepodge – 3rd Jan 18

I’m making a return to the Hodgepodge this week and it is so lovely to rejoin Joyce on her weekly blog. Here’s my entry this week.

Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. It’s that time of year again…time for Lake Superior University to present a list of words (or phrases) they’d like to see banished (for over-use, mis-use, or genera uselessness) in 2018. You can read more about the decision making process and word meaning here,but this year’s top vote getter-s are

unpack, dish (as in dish out the latest rumour), pre-owned, onboarding/offboarding, nothingburger, let that sink in, let me ask you this, impactful, Cofefe, drill down, fake news, hot water heater (hot water doesn’t need to be heated), and gig economy

Which of these words/phrases would you most like to see banished from everyday speech and why? Is there a word not on the list you’d like to add?

I don’t find any of these words particularly annoying, except perhaps “unpack”. I don’t find it annoying, but I do get irritated when I hear that “we will unpack that later” but then never return to it. It has happened in different places recently and I don’t mind the promise of “unpacking” something, but when we don’t get to do it, I get slightly annoyed.

Words or phrases that aren’t on the list? Lush is pretty irritating for its overuse and meaninglessness.

2. What’s something you need to get rid of in the new year?

We have made a promise to ourselves this year that we will empty all the junk from the loft (attic) and get rid of as much of it as we can. We have lived here for around 20 years now, and over that time all we seem to have done is accumulate rubbish!

3. Where do you feel stuck?

I feel a little stuck in my writing at the moment. I am busy studying for my masters which involves writing, and now and again when it’s my turn on the rota I get busy writing sermons and liturgy for church, but I feel a bit stuck as to what to do with it all. I seem to lack the final oomph to get something submitted either for competition or for consideration and I feel a bit stuck with lots of notes and outlines of plots and characters etc, and struggling with turning them into something worthwhile. One of the ways I am trying to combat that is by restarting my regular blogging habit as a way of disciplining myself.

4. January is National Soup Month. When did you last have a bowl of soup? Was it made from scratch or from a can? Your favourite canned soup? Your favourite soup to make from scratch on a cold winter’s day?

I made a broth/soup yesterday out of vegetables, grains and leftover lamb which was delicious. I like to make soups from scratch, but when I feel unwell, there is nothing quite like Heinz tomato soup to cheer me up.

5. Tell us one thing you’re looking forward to in 2018.

I am looking forward to starting my ordination training in September.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

I have to share this with you! I nearly cried laughing at this when I first saw it a couple of years ago and it came to my attention again a couple of days ago when I saw this same warder on duty at a New Year’s Honours presentation in Westminster and I recognised him. He is called Bill Callaghan and is a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London. This video is part 2 of 4, and if you wish to see the others there are links to them on YouTube too. This is how history ought to be taught in schools!


If you wish to take part in Joyce’s weekly hodgepodge, please click on the picture above and you will be taken to the host site.


Daybook Entry – 2nd January 2018

For Today… 2nd January 2018

Outside my window… Storm Eleanor is gearing up and we’re battening down the hatches for her to hit tomorrow sometime

I am thinking… about a story that is floating round my head that came to me in the night. Now, before you go thinking that writers are gifted stories all the time, this one was the result of about 4 hours tossing and turning, arguing with myself and having conversations with people that I know will never happen. In an attempt to try and get those negative thoughts turned off I started reciting nursery rhymes and was struck by Little Bo Peep and how that simple little rhyme could be turned into a three act/scene play. The next two hours of insomnia were spent jotting down notes and working out the what if’s and what then’s of a potential story. Inspiration doesn’t just strike, it’s a result of a lot of things!

I am thankful… that our NHS has been able to treat me, my husband and my son over the Christmas holiday. We have all been pretty ill at one stage or another and needed various stages of medical support in the last couple of days. Today’s thankfulness is the urgent treating of my husband’s kidney stone and subsequent water infection

I am praying for… a swift recovery for all of us so we can crack on with what needs to be done

I am creating… reams of notes

I am going… to try and do some studying tomorrow. I’m a bit behind the calendar but nothing that I can’t catch up

I am wondering… if I’m going to need further antibiotics for this horrible throat infection

I am reading… “Origin” by Dan Brown. It’s very much in the same mode as “The Da Vinci Code” et al, but it’s an entertaining read and quite thought provoking

I am hoping… my husband has a restful night tonight

I am learning… that the older I get, the longer it takes to shake illness off

In my garden… the bins have been blown all over, the fence panel has detached itself from its moorings and the shrubbery is looking a bit tattered. It’s stormy out there tonight!

In my kitchen… had this for lunch/dinner/tea today. A vegetable base, lamb stock, pearl barley and split peas with some leftover lamb from Mum’s New Year Dinner yesterday. Hearty yet delicate and made us all feel a bit better

A favourite quote for today…

A peek into one of my days… taken the week before Christmas. Hollingworth Lake near Littleborough

One of my favourite things… is finding a new box-set to watch on Netflix

From the board room… I love this hot water bottle cover. Might try to make this sometime!

Post Script:

There is some news I wish to share with you which I shared on Facebook just before Christmas. You may know that I have been exploring ministry in the last 18 months or so, and I have been put forward for a selection panel to see if I am suitable for training to be an ordained minister for the Church of England. I am really pleased to be able to tell you that I was successful, and I will be training from September to become ordained.  Thank you everyone who has prayed for me and offered me support in practical and spiritual ways on this journey thus far, and I hope you and I will continue our journey together as we see where God is calling me onward.

Blogging, Daybook

Daybook Entry – 4th November 2017

FOR TODAY 4th November 2017

Outside my window… the night sky is alight with fireworks and bonfires. It’s that time of year again!

I am thinking… that I’m glad I had my hair cut last week (professionally this time) but I am going to have to keep straightening it until it grows a bit and the curls drop out a little.

I am thankful… for my two wonderful children who have grown up to be such wonderful young adults.

In the kitchen… a new recipe of mine which I have perfected over the last couple of times of trying it, we had pearl barley risotto with chicken and mushrooms. Delish!

I am wearing… grey and blue. Not a reflection of my mood, thankfully.

I am creating… lots of stories! I am about 6 weeks into my Masters degree work and I have got short stories and flash fiction coming out of my ears at the minute. I am loving the creativity of writing, and of finding characters who speak to me so I can tell their stories. I will post some on here, but I have to be careful that I don’t share something which I am going to use as an assignment later or on else I could be caught out by the anti-plagiarism rules with the OU.

I am going… to go for a walk in Heaton Park tomorrow afternoon. Pictures to follow.

I am reading… “Rather Be The Devil” by Ian Rankin for fun, but oodles and oodles of other stuff for my Masters. I’m developing a bit of a crush on Victorian gothic horror at the minute which started out as research but is now turning into entertainment .

I am watching… “I know who you are”, which is a Spanish crime thriller shown on the BBC over the summer. I discovered it yesterday and I am hooked. It is the story of a lawyer who is accused of murder but who has lost his memory of any events before the alleged murder. It is in Spanish with English subtitles, so it needs some concentration (ie, no crocheting or Candy Crush while it is on!) but it is well worth it. Again, something I started to watch for research purposes but is turning out to be an entertainment piece too.

I am praying… in thanks for the safe delivery of a friend’s new baby, for the safe delivery of another friend’s baby in a couple of weeks and for the safe gestation for another friend who has had two heartbreaks in the last year. God is everywhere in creation, and for that I give thanks.

I am wondering… how I am going to get through the next 8 weeks until Christmas. As ever, the family calendar is FULL and if I don’t count studying, I have got 5 days between now and Boxing Day where I am not committed to something or other. I always go through this wobble around this time of year and I have never come unstuck before, but nevertheless, the next couple of months are going to be busy.

I am looking forward to… Boxing Day…!

From the boardroom…I really want to make these this year.

DIY ~~ making string ornaments.



I am hoping… Ethan and Megan are having a good time in Scotland this weekend.

I am learning… that I am stronger than I think I am.

Around the house… things are very quiet for a change. It’s weird.

I am pondering… how to present a discussion for my BAP* in a couple of weeks.

A favourite quote for today…

“Be careful how you are talking to yourself, you are listening” – Lisa M Hayes

One of my favourite things… is a book and brew in bed before sleep.

A few plans for the rest of the week: church tomorrow, Stay and Play then a pre-BAP meeting in the afternoon then band on Monday, band again Wednesday, Study group Thursday, praying at a funeral on Friday, band Friday night, then Messy Church on Saturday. Yes, it’s a tad busy this week!

A peek into my day…

I sit next to Gareth in band, and this is his “unique” way of keeping his music tidy during rehearsals *ahem*


*BAP – Bishop’s Advisory Panel. This is the 3-day selection panel where my suitability for ordination training is assessed and decided. I will be attending BAP at the end of November and there’s a bit of preparation to do before I go, including (and not limited to) booking my train tickets and deciding on how to invite a discussion around one of the church’s marks of mission.