All sentient beings

I sniffed the air. I was testing it to decide whether to run or stay. The sharp smell of human sweat came through the trees towards me but I decide to stay hidden in the leaf littered hollow as it was a little way from the path.
A woman walked along holding a child tightly by the hand. She wasn’t looking for a small creature in the undergrowth. I’d made the right decision.
Before I was born I had decided as all must, in case you had forgotten. From the catalogue of all sentient beings where should my soul reside? I thought about it carefully. Some admired the human being, like the woman and child walking there. Others chose carnivores or creatures that could fly or swim. Me, I chose a small herbivore to be my sentient being. Excellent sense of smell and keen intelligence, good camouflage: I was at home in the leafy hollow. Of course I was also vulnerable to humans or carnivores or raptors gliding above me. But each creature had its vulnerabilities including those that looked or thought they were the strongest. In the forest I was well hidden and well fed. I could usually find a welcoming mud wallow for my comfort or amusement.
As I looked around the forest, knowing this was where I would grow up, I was content. When asked for my choice by the Almighty Creator, I had answered confidently, ‘Pig’.
Some had sniggered. Pig was not their idea of an attractive sentient being. But I was happy being a pig and, with all sentient brings, I lifted my snout and I praised God.

In our life and our believing
The love of God

JAL 29.01.2019

Christ behind me

We do not invite Christ to follow us‘ is a somewhat free translation of some words by Bonhoeffer. My response to which is, ‘No, but he does it anyway’.
Christ is behind me. He has my back. Which is just as well. Of course, I do often forget this and feel got at and become defensive, until I remember, Christ is behind me.

Christ is beside me. Not just following but accompanying. My best companion. ‘Who is that next to you?’ Christ of course.

Christ is above me and below me. Such ancient ideas (from St Patrick’s breastplate) might now mean something different in our hierarchical world in which social standing is held up as everyone’s aspiration. Only it’s not. Christ already has those positions covered. Above us and below us, it’s Christ.

Christ in hearts of all who love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. Whatever we think folks are talking about, they are speaking Christ is we listen enough. They are loving us in Christ.

Christ is within me. At this moment my abdominal cavity is abominal as it tries to deal with an influx of unwanted bacteria. But Christ is there within me.

Most of all Christ is before me. Bonhoeffer was probably aiming at this with his opening remarks: ‘We do not invite Christ to follow us’. We follow Christ. There’s always following to do. Not sure what to do today? Then follow Christ, whether you look at his back or his face. Yesterday in the queue at the bank they had provided some helpful footprints on the floor to show you what direction to take. Christ does this everyday.

Following Christ is much more than a direction which is why, according to this ancient Irish Prayer, Christ is there in every direction.

In our life and our believing

The love of God

JAL 24.01.2019

Reflection on St Patrick’s Breastplate

You cannot leave your donkey in a ditch

When the Sabbath comes around each week for humans (yes for humans),
There’s worship and there’s teaching to join in (just join in).
It worries some that there are strict instructions (strict instructions)
Of things you can and cannot count as sin (count as sin).
If your donkey has been working hard for days now (hard for days now),
And really seems to warrant a short rest (a short rest),
It seems only right that you decide how (you decide how),
To rescue your lost quadruped’s a test!

For you cannot leave your donkey in a ditch,
In a ditch,
No you cannot leave your donkey in a ditch,
In ditch.

JAL 22.01.2019 on finding a valued quadruped that was given to me 10 years ago by a group of RN and RAF Chaplains.
Tune is Policeman’s Lot by Arthur Sullivan

Found but never lost!

I’m moving again. Some of the things that turn up were never really lost, just put away for one part of the voyage or more. We all travel with surplus baggage.

First there’s this bean bag. When I moved to share a flat in London over 30 years ago I bought this bean bag. It was instead of furniture. You could sit on a bean bag, or at least I could then.

Then there’s a lot of things from my daughter’s childhood: baby clothes, toys, pictures. I found one of the first dresses she made herself. She still makes her own clothes, as I often have myself including my wedding dress which is in a box on top of the wardrobe. Not lost. Waiting for the day of resurrection.

Lastly for now, this sweet jumper was one of the first my mother knitted for her granddaughter. I found the photo of her wearing it the other day. Grandmother and granddaughter had a great relationship.

There are many letters and cards that also turn up. And photos, some of the fish shop I mentioned the other day. Not lost, just biding their time.

On our hearts and on our homes

The blessing of God

JAL 17.01.2019

A song for this day

I’ll sing my Lord a morning song
So with the rising sun
I’ll offer up my prayer and praise
To God the Three in One.

I’ll sing my Lord a midday song,
For justice and for peace.
I’ll offer up my prayer and praise:
Worship will never cease.

I’ll sing my Lord an evening song
As glowing sun does set:
The endless round of prayer and praise
Has never ended yet.

I’ll sing my Lord a night time song
As gentle moon shines on.
The stars shall join in prayer and praise
Until the kindom comes

JAL 14.01.2019

Tune is St Columba


Baptismas is a water festival. Remembering the bible at this time might include other stories about Living Wet, like Jonah living in the belly of a huge sea creature. The #waveofwhales campaign is also a good activity for this period. Send words or images to the Japanese Ambassador to indicate your opposition to commercial whaling.

When the wise were walking
You were weaving your way
From pole to pole and back.
Beneath the waves you sang
Your way across oceans
And around continents.
Hunted, massacred, pushed
To the edge of extinction:
The not so wise made the rules.
Much later, out of the blue,
The realisation that we need you
Made most repent and take another way.

Time rolls on; once again the heat is on,
The oceans are plastic soup,
And old enemies rise and risk a strike.
Every wave is needed to object,
To command, to remind,
The really wise do not persecute the great grey ones,
The singers of the deep:
Come, watch, listen and learn.

JAL 12.01.2019

A time of transition

Everyone encounters them from time to time.
What did you do while waiting, adjusting?
Between Egypt and River Jordan,
What watching, learning?
Observing fishermen and tax collectors,
House keepers and sweepers,
Sons both prodigal and willing,
Good enough shepherds,
Bridesmaids both foolish and wise,
Women and men of all ages, natures and abilities,
The mournful, righteous and persecuted:
Enough to last a life time of blessings.
Enough that you would step into the water,
Wordless, accepting, affirming,
Ready to be the Beloved
And show us how to Live Wet!

In our life and our believing
We’ll have a wet, wet time!

JAL 11.01.2019

Olive’s chair

My great aunt Olive was one of the wise ones in my family. Before I give her chair away I’d best tell you her story.

Olive was married to Len, one of the Sewell brothers. Anna Sewell of ‘Anna Sewell and sons’ was her mother in law and my great grandmother. Anna had five daughters and four sons, of which Len was the eldest, so he ran the business on a day to day basis. He was helped by George who had served as a submariner in WW2. They all lived at the fish shop in West Green Road, Tottenham, which was where I grew up.
Olive ran the multi generational household that gathered at the shop and where all family occasions were celebrated. We relied on the shop for the major part of our diet when I was very young. My mum would call in everyday before tea time and Len would give her something that was left of the fish on the counter. ‘Fish makes you brainy’ the uncles would always say and we thrived on it. I still love to eat fish above everything else.
On Saturday nights the whole family would gather at the shop. Each person was allowed to choose what they wanted for tea from the fish left that had to be used up (Sunday and Monday the shop was closed). You could choose anything but you had to ‘deal with it’ yourself, bones and all. We all learnt to fillet at an early age.
There would be stories and laughter. Uncle George would say daft things and get told off by Aunt Olive. There would be card games of rummy and cribbage with Newmarket at Christmas played with buttons from the button box rather than money.
Olive was always generous, giving things away, freecycling just as we are doing now so I know she’d approve.
In the holidays we’d go to aunt Olive’s caravan near Southend sometimes. Or she would come on holiday with us and our cousins to places on the east coast like Sea Palling, bracing! She’d read us stories and we’d play tricks on her like putting a china egg in her egg cup at breakfast.
As we got older, aunt Olive was a source of treats. She took me to the hairdresser when I was about 10 and I got a bob hair cut. She bought me a magic set for my birthday, not a practical thing but something I had dearly wanted (I can’t remember why).
Eventually Len sold the shop and everyone dispersed. Len and Olive lived in retirement in a bungalow near the east coast and we would visit quite often. When Len died it was Betty, my mum’s sister, who took time to look after Olive.
At about that time I was moving into a flat in Palmers Green in North London. Olive gave me two items of furniture for the flat: a bedside cabinet and the rocking chair. I used to sit in the window at the flat and read or sew. It was the best thing I had apart from my sewing machine. She lent me her watch for my wedding day (something borrowed).
When Olive died hers was the first funeral I conducted, on my 33rd birthday.
I remembered driving along the M40 towards Oxford, returning to college, praying ‘May the God of Peace comfort, hold and sustain you now and forever’.
It’s been a great chair.

In our life and our believing

The love of God

JAL 08.01.2019

They went in

It was simple enough.
It was a ‘come in’ kind of place:
Homely, warm, gently buzzing.
So they went in.
After all they’d been in other places,
Scarier, less welcoming.
Places where you got questioned
About everything:
Where did you come from?
How did you get here?
Why have you come?
What do you want?
So they went in.
There was a baby
And like most babies,
It was the centre of attention.
It was sign, they said.
We’ve bought gifts, they said.
And eventually,
We’ll go back another way, they said,
Backing out slowly,
Not making a fuss.
Like they went in.

Welcoming One, may we also come in to your presence,
Homemaker, may we be welcoming too.
Manger Babe, may we bring others to the light and joy of your love.
Help us to remember that a welcome is not just for Epiphany,
And on the streets and beaches of this land may we be the welcomers.

JAL 06.01.2019
Feast of Epiphany

Living water

The water is alive!
See how it flows,
Hear how it whispers and roars!
After a summer of dwindling,
Seeping away, slowly sinking,
Now rain raises it up,
Brown and white, foaming and vigorous.
This valley is marked by it
As it both stills and flows,
Moving on to give life to other places.

May we be like the living water.
As you raise us up, enliven us,
By your Spirit, to share life and renew
Our communities with hope and love.

JAL 05.01.2019