Saturday, 30 March 2019

Just don't look at the lawn

Now that spring is here, gardening creeps back onto the agenda. Okay, I've done some tinkering over the winter, but now things need to move into a higher gear. Some of the tubs have great beauty about them still, with the winter pansies still going strong, and daffodils pushing up through them. Other tubs and pots need attention. The border is full- yes, it does need a bit of weeding, but overall, the eye can pass over it and be pleased at the textures and colours and shapes.

General effect; fair to promising. Just don't look at the lawn.

The lawn needs a lot of attention. Over the winter I can see that the moss has spread, there are patches of weeds, and the worm casts don't add any positive adornment to its look. And yes, the lawn does need its first cut. This will at least give it an air of being cared for, even it out. But it will need far more attention than the lawnmower.

This garden review parallels the attention the faithful are giving to their souls over Lent. A review of what needs doing to nourish the soul, ensure its welfare, its feeding, its growing. It's trumpeted high and low that gardening is therapeutic, but maybe it's more than that. Maybe it's a mirror of the gardening of the soul we give ourselves to, or neglect. Both approaches ( nourishment or neglect ), as with the gardens we tend or ignore, have consequences, for good or bad, beauty or ugliness, nourishment or starvation.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

A marmalade morning

Half a morning this week spent on making marmalade- always a good experience in the end, although frustrating sometimes if it refuses to set, or takes an ordinately long time to do so. Eighteen jars of various sizes were filled this week, which promises a long season of St. Clement's marmalade (orange and lemon) to enjoy.

And then the wreckage to clean up; jam pan and utensils to wash, dry and put away; labels to write and stick on the jars; and finally the marmalade to the store cupboard. But just before this, the joy of licking the spoons, scraping the last of the marmalade from the jam pan, and ensuring that those childhood rituals of 'nothing wasted' are observed.

The leftovers. Yes, there's a joy about them, even if they are leftovers, dregs. And when it comes to the love of God, so many are content to live in the dregs, the remains, thinking' this is good enough'.
Either forgetting or not knowing of the store cupboard of goodness waiting to come forth.

After the dregs, I couldn't wait; I buttered a slice of soda bread, and (the marmalade now being cool enough) spread it thickly. So good.

I think- I know- this is how God wants us to enjoy him. From his riches, not living on the dregs.  

Saturday, 16 March 2019


The ideal of our present culture is to have unlimited choice; we've been heading that way for a generation and more. I remember being staggered by the choice of 19 squillion brands of breakfast cereal in the local supermarket when I first lived in the States nearly fifty years ago. Now, it's everywhere, and so taken for granted that we don't see it any more.

Except, of course, that we are not granted unlimited choice; it is an illusion. We are granted what the market thinks will sell, but still somehow presented as if we have infinite choice. But beyond this is the illusion that as limited human beings- limited in time and space, in economic reach, in what our history has imposed on us, in the consequences of choices we have already made (and this is not an exhaustive list)- we can have unlimited choice.

Choice is the servant of our values. 'Choose you this day whom you will serve' invites Joshua in the Old Testament as he speaks to the gathered children of Israel whom he is leading. And the choice is stark, limited, urgent, and a moral enterprise. In the end it's 'common good' or 'because I''m worth it', life or death, life enhancement or a closing down of options.

Hard maybe to see this in the all-persuasive and seductive world which invites us to pamper ourselves at every opportunity, but choice is an indicator of moral compass. And true north? I hope that mine is fixed, with Joshua; 'as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord'.      

Sunday, 10 March 2019

In and out of touch

Apologies for there being no weekly blog for the last two Sundays. My understanding of the complexities and demands of phones and laptops more than 6 feet away from the router would leave a four year old in hysterics. My blunderbuss approach to trying to be in contact with UK via phone and laptop  from abroad exposed me as winner of the title 'Mr Technophobe 2019'.

I returned on Wednesday from Cyprus, where I had been doing some work for some of the Anglican churches there. Be ye not jealous, thinking 'ah, some winter sun.....'; this has been, I'm told, the wettest winter since records began 147 years ago. Certainly, up in the hills south of Nicosia where I was staying, it was, shall I say, a tad cool.
Technophobic me was well to the fore at the beginning of my stay; a phone that didn't want to ring UK numbers, a laptop that refused to send e-mails till I got back to the UK. And me going frantic the while as I am out of communication with those I love, assuring them I am ok, wanting to know that they are ok. Happily, by the middle of the stay the phone had twigged that a local network was available, and normal service was resumed. And, breathe...……

To be out of communication with oneself, with others, and with God marks a profound disjuncture, whether we recognise it or not. Most folk have some notion of being 'out of sorts' with themselves, and usually we can tell if there's something amiss in our relationships with others. Being out of communication with God probably doesn't bother the majority of the population. For me, it would bring me to the above-mentioned frantic state I knew in Cyprus. I seek to stay 'tuned-in' to God. May there be open two-way communication for you and me with God today.