Showing posts from February, 2012

Recovering Livelihoods after Flood

I am a complete wimp when it comes to floods, especially when driving. I will turn round and take another route when faced with even very shallow water across a road. It is so hard to judge how deep the water may become. 

Thankfully I have never lived in a house that has been flooded, apart from minor internal plumbing incidents. Where we live now is unlikely to be flooded. Not too far away is a river that regular spreads itself over the water meadows and sometimes over the rural roads, but not this year so far. We have had so little rain.

I have never lost a friend, family member or property to floods. I can only imagine how devastating that must be, especially when floods affect a whole community.

Christian Aid's 'Count Your Blessings' calendar tells me today about Lal Chand Kumar. Like so many others he lost everything in severe flooding in Pakistan in 2010. This was the worst flooding in Pakistan's history with 20 million people affected. Christian Aid was one of many…

Safe water is a blessing

Have you always lived in a property with running water, that is safe to drink? I have. As I reflected in an earlier post, Water, I mostly take it for granted. Today I am counting it among my many blessings.

It is only on camping holidays that I have experienced anything different. Then it was fun to collect water, because doing so was a novelty. One memorable holiday in Scotland in my childhood involved climbing down a steep path to a freshwater spring and then scrambling back up the hill to the field where we were camping. Apart from the midges, it was fun.

One week of that in fine weather was OK. We were camping in a crofter's field. The crofter was an elderly widow who lived alone, managing the croft without help, except at hay-making. She collected her water like that every day of the year, summer and winter. The water was said to be safe to drink but my mother insisted on boiling it before we consumed any. 

According to Christian Aid's 'Count Your Blessings' Lent cal…

Change and changing environment

How much time do you spend on the internet, for work or leisure? Some, obviously, or you wouldn't be reading this.

82% of the British population are now internet users, compared with only 0.2% of the population in Mali. But then, of its 12 million population only 22.9% are literate. Mali is a large land-locked West African country and one of the poorest in the world.

Today Christian Aid's 'Count Your Blessings' calendar starts a week about transformation, a "week for change". Christian Aid's work in Mali is about change and adapting to a changing environment, described on their website like this:
As Mali’s climate becomes increasingly dry, we’re supporting small-scale farmers adapt to the changing environment. These new methods not only build communities’ resilience to climate change, but protect the fragile environment. We’re also leading the way in developing green energy, creating new ways for people living far from the capital, Bamako, and the national g…

First Sunday of Lent - Prayer with Music and Pictures

This beautiful video is by ichurchvids. I-Church is a Christian community of the Church of England based in the Diocese of Oxford, UK, but you can worship with i-church  from wherever you are now.

Walking for Freedom

Day 4 of Christian Aid's 'Count Your Blessings' calendar focuses on the situation of the poorest people in India and what some of them are doing collectively to improve things. 

Ekta Parishad is one of Christian Aid's partners. It is a people's movement whose aim is for India's poorest people to gain some control over resources for living, especially land, water and forest. It is dedicated to social action based on non-violent principles. 'Ekta' means unity. 'Parishad' means forum or space. Marginalized people are brought together to remind the government that it is its constitutional role to provide all the people with basic human rights and freedoms.

Ekta Parishad is currently campaigning for the government to hold to its land rights promises. The campaign's climax, starting on 2 October 2012 will be the Jan Satyagrah March when it is hoped that 100,000 landless peoples will walk together from Gwalior (near the Taj Mahal) to New Delhi - abou…

Tax-dodging robs the poor

Does tax-dodging rob the poor? I'll begin with a disclaimer. I can barely understand my own tax position. I'm not an economic or tax expert, so what I write could be challenged if you think you know better. But it's written in good faith based on information from organizations I respect.

Does tax-dodging rob the poorest people in the world? Yes, I think much of it does.

A significant means of tax dodging is by using tax havens which thrive on secrecy and allow companies to pay no or minimal tax. There are at least 60 tax havens in the world. Most have high levels of financial secrecy and no or minimal levels of tax. On paper more than half of world trade passes through tax havens. Multi-national companies often use tax havens for legitimate reasons, but many use them to secretly hold huge sums that would attract tax in other countries. Christian Aid's Tax Haven Briefing uses a simple example of a banana to explain how this works. 

On day 3 of Christian Aid's 'Coun…

Life-giving Trees

I'm watching a pair of red kites flying to and from the top of a tree I can see from my study window. They are carrying huge twigs as they build this year's nest. I tried last year to capture this in a photo, but my camera isn't up to it.

If you've taken a good photo of a tree you could use it to help 'A Rocha' International plant 800 trees in Ghana where since 1990 one quarter of its forest cover has been felled. Here's how. Their free environment resource pack for use by churches is 'The Life of Trees and The Tree of Life'. It's coming soon, ready for World Environment Day on 5 June. It should be worth a look. 

What a dreadful misuse of our planet that collectively we humans have cleared so much forest, often without thought to replacement or the devastating environmental results. The most widely recognized symbol of Christianity (the cross) is a felled tree. What a dreadful misuse of a valuable resource to crucify someone on a tree.The tree on …

Is a Free Press a blessing?

As I explained here I'm following Christian Aid's 'Count Your Blessings' Calendar through Lent, which begins today. The first few days have a justice focus. According to the 'Count Your Blessings' message today 
"only 15% of the world's population live in countries that enjoy a free press"I'm don't know what the research is behind this figure, but it is a sobering one. One could debate endlessly exactly what is meant by a free press. (How free is a press owned and controlled by a very few powerful individuals or conglomerates?) But I think I have to acknowledge I live in a country where the press is not owned and controlled by the government or generally subject to government censorship. So I am one of the blessed 15%. Access to a free press is a blessing. It is one means by which governments and powerful institutions can be called to account and people informed about what is going on in the world. 

The 'Count Your Blessings' Lent pr…

What's Ash Wednesday and Lent about?


For a reflection for Ash Wednesday see here.

Shrove Tuesday Decision

Today is the last chance to plan how to observe Lent, which begins tomorrow. One of the things I've decided to try is Christian Aid's 'Count Your Blessings' daily calendar and use this as a basis for a daily reflection through Lent on this blog. Watch this space. 

It's a simple idea, to take time each day to reflect, pray and be thankful for God's goodness and make that count through giving a donation to help support some of the world's poorest communities. For example on 28 February the calendar states that 884 million people in the developing world use unsafe drinking water sources. The donation suggestion that day is to give 50p if you've always lived in a property with running water. At the end of Lent, after keeping a daily record, the idea is to give the total amount to Christian Aid.

Christian Aid is an agency of churches in Britain and Ireland. It exists to help those in need regardless of religion, nationality or ethnicity. Its purpose is
to expos…

What is Collops Monday?


It's a day to feast on collops (slices) of bacon and, if you like, eggs as well. It's a British tradition that has largely died out. We had porridge for breakfast today.


It's the day before Shrove Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. This year Collops Monday is today. The date changes each year because Lent is the time of preparation for Easter which is a moveable feast. World-wide there are many traditions associated with the days before Lent begins. Often these are about carnival and fun before the austerity of Lent, as I highlighted last year in Rosenmontag. The Puritans did a thorough  job of eliminating from the English calendar any merry-making that might lead to sin. This included Christmas for a while and I believe it is still illegal in England to eat mince pies at Christmas. But - back to Collops Monday.


Like that of abstaining from meat during Lent, this tradit…

Glimpse of Glory

Early this morning I saw a spectacular sunrise that transformed the appearance of the frosty fields and hedges that not so long before had been in darkness. In a way this was an ordinary experience. Sunrise happens daily even when we don't notice or can't see it. Today I really noticed it - a glimpse of glory. If only I could be more attentive every day to seeing what's there. 

The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote this
"Earth's crammed with heaven,And every common bush afire with God;But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.The rest sit round it, and pick blackberries."The gospel reading for this Sunday, in the Common Worship Lectionary, is Mark's account of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9: 2-9). This mysterious event opens a window on another dimension, a deeper reality, revealing Jesus of Nazareth bathed in God-light. His close friends Peter, James and John were led by Jesus on a night-hike up a mountain. There they saw Jesus, dazzling bright a…

How to Understand Social Media


Happy Valentine's Day?

Last year in 'Ban Valentine's Day?' I suggested that 14th February is a day that provides an opportunity for: making moneywasting moneysexromanceappreciationloveToday is 14th February, St Valentine's Day, so choose from any or all of the above. If you'd also like to smile at some of the absurdities of Valentine's Day, I recommend taking 2 minutes to enjoy this subversive short story by Ted and Co. Ted Swartz is a Christian who produces biblical comedy sketches. He calls it 'theater' but then he's American. I call it 'theatre' because I'm British. However you spell it, smile and enjoy.

Happy Valentine's Day from Ted & Company on Vimeo.

Happy Valentine's Day from Ted & Company on Vimeo.

Today's synod result re women bishops

I'm heaving a small, but slightly confused sigh of relief over the outcome of voting in General Synod this afternoon about the women bishops' draft legislation. 

Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for publishing the text of the motion that was passed late this afternoon after about 3 hours of debate. Here it is:

Item 13 (as amended by item 35)  That this Synod,  (a) noting the significant support the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure has received in the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity of diocesan synods, and  (b) desiring that the draft Measure be returned to the Synod for consideration on the Final Approval Stage substantially unamended so that it can be seen if the proposals embodied in it in the form in which it has been referred to the dioceses can attain the level of support required to achieve Final Approval, request the House of Bishops in the exercise of its power under Standing Order 60(b) not to amend the draft Measure substantiall…

Women Bishops and General Synod's debate today

Grace, love, wisdom and clarity are needed in the General Synod of the Church of England meeting this week and today debating legislation to allow women bishops.

If you read my blog you know what my view is. I just wonder when the Church of England is going to stop faffing about.

Rather than add to all the words flying about on this matter on Twitter and other places, I thought I would post a prayer. 

The Additional Collect for last Sunday (3 before Lent) seems especially apt:

Eternal God,
whose Son went among the crowds
and brought healing with his touch:
help us to show his love,
in your Church as we gather together,
and by our lives as they are transformed 
into the image of Christ our Lord.

Salute to Charles Dickens

I can't let today go by without a salute to Charles Dickens, born 200 years ago today in Portsmouth, England.

My earliest ambition was to be a writer - an ambition that never entirely went away. It was nurtured by a love of reading. I owe this to several authors I discovered in childhood and especially Charles Dickens.

I was given his 'A Christmas Carol' when I was about 10 years old. Encouraged by my father, I swiftly moved on through the Dickens novels on the bookshelves at home. By 12 years I had read Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers. In my early teens I got through most of the rest - a fact that now astonishes me. I loved Dickens for the same reason that I enjoy serialized TV drama - the cliffhangers. It was these that encouraged me to persevere through some very long sections of descriptive prose. Dickens' novels also opened my mind and heart to social justice issues of his time (and ours) and contributed to my eventually b…

Queen Elizabeth II

60 years ago today a 25 year old woman, on holiday with her husband in Africa, received the news that her father had died. She had known since she was about 10 how his death would change her life, and that it was likely that one day these words would be spoken, "The King is dead. Long live the Queen!"

My father died just after my 26th birthday. His death was expected, but still a huge shock. I cannot imagine how the new Queen Elizabeth coped with taking on the weight of her role and duties as monarch at the same time as coping with her private grief.

I am old enough to remember 6 February 1952. I was a young child, but at school. The headmistress called the whole school into the hall for a special assembly and told us the King had died. I remember how shocked and upset she and other teachers seemed to be. She must have said that we now had a Queen, but I don't remember that. What I remember is that she explained we should expect to find that all the local shops were closed…

A Woman's Place is in the House - of Bishops

It is more than time that women had a place in the episcopate of the Church of England, which has been discussing this for decades. 
The matter of women bishops is once again before General Synod this week. Its members will need much wisdom and grace. I've been reading some interesting posts on this matter. Here are three that I recommend:

I missed it when first published on 24th January, but Andrew Brown's blog post, The Church of England's fudge on female bishops is breathtaking highlights what a ridiculous position the church is in as a result of attempts to hold together those who think women can be bishops and those who think they should not. Forms of concession are on the table for those who cannot accept a woman as bishop, but says Andrew Brown
Despite all these concessions, there will be female bishops, as there are already female priests, and these will be treated exactly the same as male ones – except by the men who don't want to treat them equally and who belie…


I've been tinkering about with the look of the blog and changed it.

What do you think?


Or not? 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A Prayer Life or A Life of Prayer?

Today is the feast of 'The Presentation of Christ in the Temple'.

This feast is also known as 'Candlemas'.

Its about the story told by Luke in chapter 2: 22-40 of his gospel, featuring Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and 2 elderly people, Simon and Anna. 

The old woman Anna is the one who often doesn't get remembered as much as the others, but she deserves to be. 

In Tissot's painting (shown here) Anna's arms are raised in prayer and praise as she saw the sign of her deepest hope fulfilled.

On 14th January 2012, my #digidisciple post at the BigBible  project 'Anna: A Life of Prayer' was published in my monthly series 'Blogging Women of the Gospels'.

This series about women of the gospels is intended for individual or group Biblical reflection or discussion. So in case you might find that helpful, here is what I wrote in that post about Anna:

Do you know who you are?

What do others see in you?How do you think God sees you?What do you most deeply hope for?I …

What Do Christians Believe?

I've just added a new button to this blog. Scroll down the right hand side-bar to a white box with the words 'Christianity, find out more'. If you click on this it will take you to the excellent website of the Christian Enquiry Agency.

This charity is an agency of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. It works on behalf of all the major UK churches and in partnership with many other Christian organisations.

If you or someone you know want to explore what Christians believe and learn more about its founder Jesus Christ, this is a reliable and easy to use starting place. You can also link to it here at If you are not already familiar with this site, take a look and tell me what you think.

St Brigid and a fun poem

If you are Irish you probably know about St Brigid as a favourite Irish saint, who died about 525 A.D. Or you may know about the Celtic goddess also named Brigid. The old legends and stories often confuse these two.

There are few facts about the saint. She was a friend of St Patrick, is said to have founded an abbey at Kildare and was hugely influential in the conversion of the people of Ireland to Christianity.

St Brigid is often portrayed holding a crozier (as for an abbott), a lamp (of learning) and a reed cross. She and the abbesses who succeeded her in Kildare seem to have had a similar status to that of a bishop until the 12th century.

If you want to know more you can read more about her here.

In the Church of England she is remembered on 1 February as 'Brigid, Abbess of Kildare'.

Among many other attributes Brigid is remembered for her generosity and not only with her own possessions. Here's a fun poem on that theme, from The Love Letters of Phyllis Mcginley.