Grace - fresh vital worship since 1993

Lent blog 2006

Welcome to the fourth Grace Lent blog. Everyday, in lent, one member of the Grace community will post a personal thought, reflection, idea, picture - whatever they want! It might directly relate to lent, it might be more personal or just seem a bit random. Hope you enjoy joining us on this journey.

An Easter Sermon

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary from fasting?
Let them now receive their due!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their reward.

If any have come after the third hour,
let them with gratitude join in the feast!

Those who arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they shall not be short-changed.

Those who have tarried until the ninth hour,
let them not hesitate; but let them come too.

And those who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
The Lord gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour,
even as to those who toiled from the beginning.

To one and all the Lord gives generously.
The Lord accepts the offering of every work.
The Lord honours every deed and commends their intention.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike, receive your reward.
Rich and poor, rejoice together!

Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day!
You who have kept the fast, and you who have not,
rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!

Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the banquet of faith.
Enjoy the bounty of the Lord's goodness!

Let no one grieve being poor,
for the universal reign has been revealed.

Let no one lament persistent failings,
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death,
for the death of our Saviour has set us free.

The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it.
The Lord vanquished hell when he descended into it.
The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of his flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, were placed in turmoil when he encountering you below."

Hell was in turmoil having been eclipsed.
Hell was in turmoil having been mocked.
Hell was in turmoil having been destroyed.
Hell was in turmoil having been abolished.
Hell was in turmoil having been made captive.

Hell grasped a corpse, and met God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is set free!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.

For Christ, having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Christ be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!

St John Chrysostom (the golden tongued), Bishop of Constantinople

I would have loved to have heard this the first time it was preached. Christ is risen - have a wonderful Easter.

Posted by Sue B-D on Sun 16 Apr 2006


Easter Saturday is a suspension between extreme states, is neither darkness nor light, is a day for doing other things to fill in time. There are neither hot cross buns nor Easter eggs. Where is God? Down in the basement, otherwise occupied.

I seem to be spending a lot of time waiting, as a result of my father's illness. Waiting for phone calls. Waiting for buses to and from the hospital. Waiting while the nurses do something behind closed curtains. Waiting for my father to wake up. Waiting for a diagnosis. Neither drama nor resolution, just marking time.

Easter Saturday is quite a small time of waiting, in Biblical terms. Noah waited a long time for a flood. Abraham and Sarah, Hannah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph waited for a child. The survivors of exile waited 70 years to go home. Israel waited 400 years between the Old and New Testaments - 400 years without word from God. We have waited 2000 years for the return of Christ in glory.

But one of the tests of faith is how you handle the times when nothing is happening. I guess the business of the foolish and wise virgins is about having the fuel to keep going when the bridegroom doesn't arrive.

So how do you handle the long dark railway tunnel of the soul? Do you spend the time in hopeful anticipation, or do you rehearse in your head the worst that could happen? Is your waiting an open hand expecting gifts, or a closed fist for fear of taking? What did the disciples expect from God, that Easter Saturday, when all they had expected from God had been taken away? What do you expect from God tomorrow?

Posted by Steve Collins on Sat 15 Apr 2006

Christ has died - Christ is missing

This year, for lent, I tried to undertake a daily examen. I tried to write down 3 times in the day when, looking back, I'd felt closer to God and 1 time I'd felt further away.

Seems simple but I'm not great at discipline so it only happened haphazardly.

Although it was good to look back on the positive times it was more interesting to see the times I realised I'd felt further away from God.

Seeing some consistency in these times, realising some of the distractions and busyness that fill my time, was eye opening.

I'd recommend it if you haven't tried something like this.

Now to find a simple discipline to stop me feeling like God is missing...

Posted by Adam on Fri 14 Apr 2006

Holy Ground

W.H. Auden described great art as “clear thinking about mixed feelings.”

The Holy Ground installation by Paul Hobbs opens today at St Mary’s Church, W5.

Opening times and further details can be found on the Grace home page. Make it an Easter treat – it’s beautiful.

To see some more photos of the installation check out gracelondon flickr group

Holy Ground is a collection of shoes and stories from Christians all around the world. The stories are short statements about what it means for each person to believe in Christ in their particular situation. Among those represented are: a thief, a refugee, the despised, the rejected – people who Jesus specially sought out – as well as those who have known great opportunity, wealth and success. There are those who are beautiful, those who are disabled, those struggling to make a living and raise a family, those who have known great loss and tragedy, and those asking the deep questions of life. All have encountered the living God, arriving at a place of holy ground; where they must, metaphorically at least, remove their shoes in acknowledgement of God’s holiness.

Some contributors are persecuted and despised for their faith, yet retain confidence in the living God. Several people need to be anonymous due to the lack of religious freedom in their lands. For others, anonymity allows them to speak more easily. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5/10).

For some the idea of giving up their shoes for this project seemed amusing and culturally odd. For others it was costly to give their only pair of shoes in exchange for another. For some it was an honour to be featured in this way, to have their story told to represent others from their situation. For many, it was an expression of thankfulness to be able to share their stories with others.

At the burning bush, God said to Moses, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3/2-5). Similarly, acknowledging God’s holiness is the beginning of life as a Christian. But as a believer follows Jesus Christ, he or she finds that this holy God is also a servant king, humbly and lovingly attending to one’s needs, just as when he washed his disciples feet (John 13/3-5).

As testified in many of the stories, Christians are encouraged to bring this gospel to others with “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6/14-15) and thus they realise the prophecy of Isaiah, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation” (Isaiah 52/7).

I trust this collection of shoes and stories will show the rich variety of believers across the world, their strength of faith despite hardship, and their joy in knowing Christ. The collection also demonstrates God’s love to all types of people, and is a testimony of how the gospel has spread - often at great cost - throughout the world over the last two thousand years, and how it is reaching every part of the globe.

Please pray for these people and others like them – many of whom make great sacrifices and take great risks to follow Christ where they live. I am struck, in looking at these shoes, by Jesus’ words, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10/31).

Paul Hobbs

Posted by Mike on Thu 13 Apr 2006

On the March

A colleague was moaning today about a friend who became strange and religious at this time of year. He couldn't accept irrational talk of miracles and the power of prayer. It is true that at Easter there is a willingness for Christians to get out there and put on a display. In the my old home town in Yorkshire a huge cross stands on a nearby hill each year, and in Ealing our church marches through the streets every Good Friday.

These activities seem to me to defiant of the prevailing culture - they resemble union marches or protests. There are undoubtedly times when we really do have to nail our colours to the mast. The freedom to state what we believe is a precious thing and we should not hesitate to use every opportunity. But let me say this, if we really want to make a stand as Christians we should be prepared take it a step further. We should be on the streets for the rights of those unjustly imprisoned, for those being exploited or those being abused in many terrible ways.

To carry a cross through the streets or onto a hillside is a good thing, but the best examples of protest involve lying in front of the traffic or risking a stray bullet. I'm ashamed to say I have much more to do before my colleagues complain about me.

Posted by Mark on Wed 12 Apr 2006

Searching for Mystery

The recent publication of the Gospel According to Judas by the National Geographic has brought home the fact that as a society we seem to be searching for secret knowledge as though that will set us apart just like the ancient Gnostics, the result is that many people end up prepared to believe anything to try and make sense of the Mystery of Grace. But the reality is summed up in the verse of "And Can it be" "'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies! Who can explore his strange design?".

Will the Gospel of Judas change the revelation of the crucifixion? - probably not. What is does show is is that many people for many centuries have been struggling to understand the elements of their faith which is attempting to explore "his strange design". Yet again this coming week is the week that takes us through some of the elements of our faith, this should be a rollercoaster of emotion as Jesus washes his disciples feet at the last supper, is arrested, is betrayed by not just Judas but also by Peter, dies and then rises again.

Posted by Richard on Tue 11 Apr 2006

palm leaves and olive branches

"Travelling the road to freedom,
Who wants to travel the road with me?
Feted by noise and branches
And banners hanging from every tree;
Cheered on by frenzied people,
Puzzled by what they hear and see:
Travelling the road to freedom,
Who wants to travel the road with me?"

- from "Enemy of Apathy" by the Iona Community

After the Triumphal Entry, Jesus suffered a spectacular decline in popular support. It is entirely possible that some of the same people who had praised him subsequently called for him to be crucified. Frenzied and puzzled indeed.

In our current age of mass media, is everyone better informed, or do the media actually make things worse? It is certainly possible for somebody to make a spectacular fall from popularity, such as David Beckham, who ceased to be a national hero as a result of missing one penalty in 2004. But that is a trivial example -- nobody was killed.

More important examples are provided by politicians such as Charles Kennedy and George Galloway, who commanded a certain degree of respect (as least as expressed through votes) and then became objects of condemnation and ridicule.

What about Tony Blair? When he took the country to war in Iraq, he said "Let history be my judge". Now he is in severe danger of being remembered for posterity as the Prime Minister who took the country to war in Iraq on false pretences. But he is still Prime Minister -- he still has time to do something that will result in him being remembered for good reasons, such as taking genuine steps towards saving the environment. If that's what you want him to do, tell him.

"Travelling the road to freedom,
I am the Way, I'll take you there.
Choose to come on the journey,
Or choose to criticise and stare.
Earth's mesmerising evil
Only a traveller can repair.
Travelling the road to freedom,
I am the Way, I'll take you there."

Posted by rebecca on Sun 9 Apr 2006

a turning point in the lent journey

the lenten journey reaches a turning point. we come to holy week where we remember and celebrate the passion of jesus christ.

there's a collaborative bloggers project called via crucis which is explained here. in practice there is a schedule for holy week beginning sunday where various people will post blog entries on their own blogs on the stations of the cross. they will also tag and title their entries with the words via crucis grid blog so a search in google on that should find them or search here in technorati. if that fails then i'm sure bob will track them on the via crucis blog.

stations of the cross seems to be very popular now - chris curtis is running it on an estate in luton which looks really good.

there's a collection of stations of the cross images here.

this selection by paul fromberg is also pretty interesting (zip file of pdf - about 2mb)

and watch this retelling of the easter story by lifewords. there is also an accompanying liturgy that is the service of tenebrae which looks wonderful - one to shelve for a grace service next year...

see you at grace tonight and don't forget to visit holy ground at some point thursday to saturday.

Posted by jonny on Sat 8 Apr 2006


Last week I went to two very different types of services.

First Service – contemplation at St Mary’s

We meditated on the John 15. You can find much of John 15 beautifully read by Josh Waddington on the 25th March blog- but it stops before the verse that captured me:

Fruit that will last - John 15, v 16

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

I kept thinking what is fruit that lasts? What fruit can I bear in this world that could possibly last? It's not that I haven’t thought of this question before, I have many times. I have got myself involved in lots of projects, including a power station, where I wanted to be involved in big things that would make a difference. The desire to leave one’s mark is deep, echoed in Ecclesiastes 3.11

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

We all have great gifts, and I am sure all of us reflect on our most important pieces of work, music, art, buildings, TV programmes, services, evangelistic outreach, good works, books, offspring, sporting achievements, and whether in any way, some of them might stand the test of eternity and be fruit that lasts. And yet we know, no matter what we achieve, much is probably transitory. So what is fruit that lasts?

I am not sure I really know except that Jesus set it in the context of love – that without love of each other, there will be no fruit that lasts.

2nd Service – Funeral for Lily Andrews

I also attended the funeral of Lily Andrews, who for about 20 years attended the Church at the All Souls Clubhouse, where I was for a few years. Lily was 93 and very much wanted her release, yet many of us were full of tears and sadness. Lily probably left school at 14, went into service in London, and later on worked for a milliner. She nursed a sick husband and brought up a son and also looked after a grandson. She seemed to be at every service at Clubhouse, every function and always infused each one with encouragement, prayer and deep warmth. And love. And she always prayed for the place and the people. The place won’t be the same without her.

I am not aware of anything Lily created. buildings, art or music or major projects. But I think she did understand the fruit that lasts- nurtured by patient and constant prayer and real love. And she is certainly part of God’s eternity. Maybe I can learn from that.

Posted by Jackie on Fri 7 Apr 2006

Personal s p a c e

Travelling on the tube yesterday (which is a rare occurrence for me) I noticed that some people are so pre-occupied with personal space. Some are clumsy and others almost make a dance of it to avoid close contact.

Personal space can be quite CoMiCaL and can sometimes be s c a r y. The imaginary boundaries are set by each individual but sometimes they conflict, causing some peopletofeeluncomfortable or others feel accepted. Did you know that the proximity of individuals reduces walking speed?

If you have time, get into a comfort-able position and switch off (if you can) from your surroundings.

Spend a few moments thinking about what is your own personal space around others, if it helps close your eyes. Compare and contrast your feelings on your personal space between those closest to you, people you know, and complete strangers.

Now imagine God stepping into your own personal space, how does it feel? Why do feel that way? Be free to relax or respond to them.

Are there any boundaries in your life, real or imaginary where you feel reluctant or uncomfortable to let God step into?

Discuss with God about allowing him access into all areas of your life and how this makes you feel.

Finish with a private prayer, perhaps one in which you can only share with God.

Posted by pauly on Thu 6 Apr 2006

The Statue Exercise

My current fascination is my own and other people's images of God. This is an exercise which might help you to explore your image of God.

Imagine that a sculptor, having completed a statue of you, then gives you a key to the studio, telling you to have a look at it.

You enter the studio. Your statue is covered with a cloth. Remove the cloth. What kind of statue is it? What is it made of? What about its posture, gesture and expression? There may be a little plaque describing the statue; what does it say? Walk round the statue. Feel it. Talk with it. This is the sculptor’s version of you.

Now you become the statue. You may have to change it. For example, the sculptor may have portrayed you as very confident, while you know that is not how you really are. What is this statue now made of? What is its posture, expression and gesture, and what does the plaque now say?

The first visitor now enters the studio. It is Jesus. How does he look? How does he approach you? What does he say? What does he do? You are a statue but you can respond, so have a conversation with Jesus about whatever occurs to you.

Jesus leaves. Look at your statue again. Is there any change in the statue? In you? In your feelings?

By Anthony de Mello, adapted by Gerard Hughes

Posted by anna on Wed 5 Apr 2006

Fullness of life

'I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.' John 10:10

I have been reflecting on these words of Jesus after I was reminded of them in the baptism service that I was at yesterday morning. I also happen to have them underlined in my Bible which suggests it is not the first time that I've been struck by them.

Previously these words have been incredibly positive for me, but right now I feel challenged by them.

I have had times recently when I have felt that I have not been living life to the full. Tiredness, sickness, the illness of my son, however temporary, have left me wanting to crawl into hibernation. I have also spent time with a number of people who have been consumed with illness, sadness, worry - suffering of one sort or another. I have felt sad for myself and for them and have prayed for fullness of life to return to us somehow, with God's input. I have simply wanted to get back to normal, seeing people, doing things and being full of energy.

But then my reflection goes something like this. Maybe I am interpreting one's fullness of life by my own standards. Maybe I am thinking of it in terms of activities, things that we are able to do / get involved with. Perhaps I need to reconsider and see things from Jesus perspective. Maybe Jesus means me to think of fullness of life, MY fullness of life, in terms of my relationship with him because that is the most alive thing of all. If that is the case then I am starting to realise that fullness of life can be grasped and experienced profoundly when we are in a rubbish place.

Posted by Jo on Mon 3 Apr 2006


I recently came across this article, which is all about whether it is really possible to have a close "personal relationship" with Jesus. As someone who has often struggled with this concept, it was quite a reassurance. Despair not if the silence is deafening - God is there somehow. There is a still, small voice - perhaps a little smaller than we first thought.

Posted by Lee on Mon 3 Apr 2006

neither here nor there

Spring in Ealing has nearly sprung, half the trees are in full bloom, half still look dead.

In between are trees like the magnolia outside my window. Flowers are wrapped tight, visible and nearly there but not yet.

I'm feeling much the same about Lent. Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and my determination to practise some spiritual discipline all seem so long ago. Easter is still out of reach.

It's that hard time for me to keep focus, keep up the small discipline I promised myself to do. To help I have the magnolia outside to remind me that good things can take time.

Posted by Adam on Sun 2 Apr 2006


I remember a time when one of my boys was little, he wanted to tell me something. I was busy and tried to make all the right noises as I half paid attention while tidying up. He put his hand on my arm and said, ‘No, Mummy. Listen with your face looking.’

‘The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.’
Deuteronomy 6:24-26

Sometimes the greatest need we have is to be really heard. Who needs you to listen to them with your face looking?

Posted by Jen on Sat 1 Apr 2006

A Letter to God

Lent is a time when some people frantically decide to give up something to enable them to focus on God. A couple of weeks ago, at a quiet day, we were given an envelope and paper and encouraged to write our worries or anything which made us anxious. The envelopes were then placed in the middle of the room. This was a simple and powerful act, and very freeing. Giving up anything which prevents us meeting out potential and being the people God wants us to be seemed to me like the perfect thing to do. Why not find an envelope and do it now?

Posted by Deborah on Fri 31 Mar 2006

Don't you know that you're toxic

I’ve spent some time in the past couple of weeks reflecting on extracts I’ve read from a new book ‘Toxic Childhood” by Sue Palmer.

The book identifies 10 “toxic” ingredients of modern life that explain worsening behaviour in children and young people: access to modern technology, a lack of outdoor play, poor sleep patterns, lack of communication with adults, the testing culture in schools, pressure from advertisers, changes in family structure, poor advice to parents contributing to worsening manners, sleep deprivation and diet.

The book discusses each of these in some depth. I was particularly struck by the author’s thoughts about Consumer Culture. She cites research showing that the average child in the UK is familiar with up to 400 brand names by the time they reach the age of 10, and that the effects of ‘pester power’ hits families on low incomes especially hard, with children desperate for things their parents cannot afford. The NHS reports rising incidence of mental illness among the young with depression linked to the pressure to consume.

Every time I have reflected about the book my thoughts have always gone to number 11 – sin. In a world that is increasingly unjudgemental I can only make sense of Easter if I spend time during Lent reflecting on the nature of sin and of my own sinfulness.

John Stott said this: “To make light of sin is inevitably to make light of salvation and so of the cross.”

I’m toxic, but it’s not to do with modern technology!

And now for something completely different:

Worship Trick 1 and only – an act of homage!

A possible answer for a global community - could glowing, Wi-Fi wine glasses let people in long-distance worship feel more in touch with other funky folk? When you and your partners raise the high-tech glasses they will glow warmly, no matter how far apart you are. The idea is to give the feeling of a communal drinking experience.

Jackie Lee and Hyemin Chung at MIT's Media Lab, experts in human-computer interaction, say that communal drinking is an important social interaction that helps bind friendship and relationship, but this is of course denied to people separated by geography. To give us a chance to recreate some of the fellowship of sharing a drink, Lee and Chung have incorporated a variety of coloured LEDs, liquid sensors and wireless (GPRS or Wi-Fi) links into a pair of glass tumblers.

When a person picks up a glass, red LEDs on a partner's glass glow gently. And when either puts the glass to their lips, sensors make white LEDs on the rim of the other glass glow brightly, so you can tell when someone else takes a sip. Following tests in separate labs, Lee says the wireless glasses really do "help people feel as if they are sharing a drinking experience together".

Adam – don’t let us down!

Posted by Mike on Thu 30 Mar 2006

Eat Faster

Having just tucked into a good lunch and feeling suitably satiated, my taste buds still quivering with delight, I'm clearly in a very strong moral position to be reflecting upon the Christian tradition of Fasting.

Of course this opening gambit may just have been a cover for my 29th day of abstinence, which I am disguising well, as I remember the words of Jesus that when I fast: "do not put on a sad face as the hypocrites do".

Well, actually, no, I'm just a hypocrite, who doesn't have a sad face, because I'm stuffed.

But I'm an aspiring fastee. I really like the idea of it: you know, spiritual discipline and all that focus-the lean, mean, praying machine stuff. It's just that be completely honest, get hungry, and everytime I close my eyes, I'm picturing food and praying today for my daily bread and not everything else I'm supposed to be liberated to pray for.

So what I'm proposing is a compromise. If the aim of fasting is to strengthen the spiritual life by weakening the attractions of the flesh, it must mean that we are freed to pray when we're not eating. But what if we started praying when we eat and not just before we eat?

Sometimes the only time I'll stop talking is when my mouth is full.

Instead of drowning out the sound of poor eating habits with intelligent conversation or your latest download, why not try listening to God?

And who knows, the steady background hum of solitary eating may even drive you to fast fast!

Fast eater or eat faster?

Posted by Mark Poulson on Wed 29 Mar 2006

Going with the Flow

In the book High Fidelity the central character Rob (a slightly disgruntled 36 year old) describes sex as the only remaining activity that he feels fully caught up in as he’s engaged in it. He goes on to describe how his childhood was filled with activities that captured his full, undivided attention – making a Meccano model for instance would take all his focus and attention.

Do we feel less engaged with many of the day to day activities of life than when we were younger?

Mihaly Csikzentmihaly writes about the mental state of flow. He describes it a period of energized focus, when a person is fully immersed in a task, to the extent that they lose sense of time, and experience a sense of oneness with the activity. Usually the task will require some achievable sense of challenge; for instance, for a guitarist, it could be learning a new, challenging piece of music to play.

What gives you that sense of flow in your life now?

I remember my first experience of a lively charismatic church. I felt guilty that the worship which seemed to fully engage and transport its participants was doing so little for me. Likewise the prayer which seemed to transport them… Nevertheless I became a Christian and grew to find other ways in which I felt a sense of connection and engagement in my spiritual life.

When have you felt a sense of flow or connection when attempting to focus on God in some way?

What do you find helpful, when trying to make prayer or contemplation feel ‘engaged’?

Posted by Ben Cohen on Tue 28 Mar 2006

Drugs, drugs drugs.....

Should Christians do drugs? Do Christians do drugs? What is a drug? Are we just talking about illegal substances or do we include legal substances such as nicotine and alcohol and over the counter medicines? If we use the definition that a drug is any substance that changes how the body works and the brain functions then we should include all these substances and more.

What does the Bible say about using drugs? There are over 600 references to alcohol in the Bible but none to other drugs (HOPE UK - Christian charity that provides drug education).Some say that the Bible teaches that Christians should obey the law but as legal codes differ from country to country this does not provide an absolute answer. What do we even mean by 'law'? Also we know that use of 'legal' substances is not without harm both physical to the individual and to the community - just think of alcohol.

Do Christians talk about their recreational use of illegal/legal substances? How do we talk about it? Is it right or is it wrong? A range of substances have been associated with religion for centuries. Think of peyote and Shamanism, think of cannabis and Rastfarians, think of wine (alcohol) and Communion. Do substances bring us closer to God or do they dull our senses and therefore drive us apart from Him? Are they guilty pleasures or are they gifts from God? So should Christians do drugs or not?

'So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God' 1 Corinthians 10 v 31

Posted by Jane Walker on Mon 27 Mar 2006

old wood 2 following on from my previous post [march 4th], here are the photographs of the Spider House in Austin, that was and is one of my key models for what a church could be. if we're in the business of modelling/serving up the kingdom of god don't you think this would be a good way to go? "my father's house" or something... [if 'my father' is an old hippy who got into computers ;) ]

the interior shots make it look empty, in fact it was pretty busy, there's someone just out of shot all the time, but i'm hesitant about photographing people at close quarters if they don't know me.

Posted by steve collins on Sun 26 Mar 2006

I am the Vine

I am the vine and you are the branches.

A reading by Joshua Waddington

Posted by Mark on Sat 25 Mar 2006

The Moment of the Magdalene

We were talking about what made us Christians over a long Sunday lunch and several bottles of wine. We were all convinced that is wasn't about what we did, though our actions are, or should be, shaped by our faith. We all agreed that our relationship with Christ was the key - but what does that mean?

Every time I meet this poem I am forced to stop and think - what would I give to experience the moment of recognising Jesus in the garden on Easter Sunday morning?


And if you ask me what a Christian is
I'd say, not him who's pure in word and deed,
or goes to all the Sunday services,
or says his prayers, or knows the proper creed,

but that one who would gladly give away
all that he has now or has ever been
to stand between the dark tomb and the day
and know the moment of the Magdalene

Godfrey Rust from Welcome to the Real World

Posted by Sue B-D on Fri 24 Mar 2006


Where is your home?

Somewhere you can be alone
You can put up your own pictures and light candles,
rest and be yourself.
Somewhere you can pray.

Or maybe...
Somewhere to bring your friends
To provide stability for your loved ones
Somewhere to share.

Or maybe...
Somewhere with no walls
Somewhere you can raise the roof.

Where is my home?
Let me lay down a cross
and I will make my home there.

Posted by rebecca on Thu 23 Mar 2006

Reacting to Reactions

As most of you know, 2006 for me so far has been marked by going through chemotherapy but fast approaching the finishing line, I hope.

It hasn’t been nearly as bad as feared, apart from a few blips and the general prognosis at this point, is that I should be fine, although cancer always carries its uncertainties.

The most unexpected and the most difficult thing has been coping with the reactions of other people. While most friends have been lovely and supportive, some reactions have been an eye opener, or ear botherer.

Yesterday morning I received a call from somebody I only know a little.. When I mentioned what was happening with me she virtually screamed down the phone:

“FLAXSEED OIL” At this point I removed the phone from any proximity to my ear, wafted it near the ceiling, and could still hear her extolling its miraculous cancer healing properties..

There have been many others. Apricots Evening Primrose.. Miracle stories, horror stories. Long incoherent letters or emails. I have been told I am in denial or generally what I ought to feel but don’t. I have been offered extensive free alternative therapies, treated to expositions of other people’s experiences. People talking to you with pained expressions, in whispers or as if to a child.

Then of course there is the “Christian” stuff. Similar to above, different language. Stories of healing, sin explanations and a huge focus on healing interventions, which in my experience so far, seem more about the needs of the healer than the patient. I am not alone – others have felt similarly unhelped and distanced, although others do respond to such interventions. By necessity one gets VERY wary and self protecting.

There is something about cancer especially that releases something in others. I don’t pretend to understand it. Perhaps it taps into people’s deepest fears, forces to relive painful experiences, A desire to impose control and order over threatening. I am sure I have done or said some pretty silly things myself without understanding.

So where does true encouragement come from?

Naturally from the many practical kindnesses, unexpected help and one to one prayer sessions with those I trust. People who listen, people who have been through similar things. Nice surprises. Allowances for erratic behaviour. Normality and reality. Carrying on as close to normal as one can with friends and family, work, tennis partners, staying with the flow. And straight realism – acknowledging how it is, how it might be, without embarrassment. In short the truth

In Jesus’ encounters with the sick, one is struck by the dialogue and engagement – the sufferers express feelings, hopes and fears. And he listens and responds.

What I keep close to me is the image below. It was sent to me as a card about 12 years during a different and perhaps more difficult illness. It refers to the words of Isaiah, 49.15 –


That quiet assurance that one is in somebody else’s hands, is the most important thing.

Posted by Jackie on Wed 22 Mar 2006

Perspective is everything.

If you have food in the fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish somewhere, you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death you more blessed than million's of people in the world.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

We are hugely blessed.

We need to remember it and keep our lives in perspective and our hearts open to God.

Jesus too has something to say about who are the truly blessed. Matt.5.

They are those who know their need of God.

Those who mourn for what is not right in them and in our world.

Those who are teachable, and hunger and thirst for a better justice and righteousness.

Those who leave behind a preoccupation with self and look outward beyond themselves to see God at work in our world and its trouble.

To see the beauty, mercy and grace of God in the unexpected places of life and follow Jesus there.

Our lentern response (fast) could be as follows:

Fast from discontent.
Feast on gratitude.

Fast from worry.
Feast on God's providence.

Fast from complaining.
Feast on appreciation.

Fast from unrelenting pressure.
Feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from self concern.
Feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety.
Feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragement.
Feast on hope.

Fast from endless noise.
Feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm.
Feast on prayer that sustains.

Which one of these is for you? Or write your own.

Posted by Steve Paynter on Mon 20 Mar 2006

Listening to my back

Inspired by the Grace service on Benedictine spirituality a couple of months ago, I’ve been reading Seeking God by Esther de Waal, which explains the ‘humane and gentle wisdom of St Benedict’. In the chapter on Listening she says,

‘Listening to ourselves and learning to love ourselves, paying attention to our body, to its demands and its rhythms has been pushed underground by centuries of Puritan repression and it is only now at long last being taken seriously again. The ache in my back need not necessarily be dismissed with stoic fortitude as lumbago. It may be telling me about tension and strain, a signal that it is time to stop and be kind to my body and my nerves and not make impossible demands on myself.
‘Since we no longer associate schooling only with the acquisition of information we are also more open to recognise the vital part that experience plays in learning. St Benedict’s understanding of listening falls into this order; it is the listening of the whole person, of body as well as intellect, and it requires love as well as cerebral assent. And it also involved mindfulness, an awareness which turns listening from a cerebral activity into a living response. Having heard the word through whichever channel it may have come, even as unacceptably as a pain in my back, I stop and take it seriously and then do something about it. To listen attentively to what we hear is much more than giving it passing aural attention. It means in the first instance that we have to listen whether we like it or not, whether we hear what we want to or something that is actually disagreeable or threatening.’

I need to pay attention to this today. Last October I pulled a muscle in my back and it has not recovered. I’ve had transferred pain in my leg which means I haven’t been able to run since Christmas. I’ve been seeing an osteopath and a physio, and thought I was well on the road to recovery. But yesterday and today my back was really painful and I feel back at square one.

And to be honest I don’t want to listen to this backache. I’m afraid that it’s saying that I need to stop the triathlons that I love, that I am now too old to do this type of exercise, that I need to give up my gym membership and slow down, that I need to swap my bike for an allotment and potter instead of racing.

But listen I must. And I need wisdom to hear and respond to what God is saying to me, whether I like it or not.

Posted by Jen on Mon 20 Mar 2006


We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls. mother teresa

jon birch and i created a track a while back that we have since put forward for 2 projects and had rejected both times so i thought i'd upload it here. it's a track called silence and (yes you guessed it) is silent - well almost. a bell rings at the start and then 5 minutes later at the end. silence is imporatant but difficult so 5 minutes seemed a good length - try it. the file is an mp3 about 5mb so if you are on a dial up modem don't bother - just do the silent bit. we have used this track at gracelet once before i think...

click on the link to listen to silence

Posted by jonny on Sun 19 Mar 2006

resetting the compass

"Lent is supposed to be a time when we review our spiritual life, think again about what it means to be a follower of Christ, reset the compass of our discipleship and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Easter festival. But often we just give up biscuits."

(Stephen Cottrell, I Thirst)

Posted by Harv on Sat 18 Mar 2006


my station at grace last week

click here

may take a while to load (6MB)

Posted by joel on Fri 17 Mar 2006

Positive Investment

Lent is, traditionally, a time to give stuff up - stopping eating chocolate, drinking, watching TV etc. All good things to give up, and it's always worthwhile freeing up time and headspace, obviously.

But giving up stuff always makes me think about boycotts - all those things we refuse to buy because they are made by nasty companies that trash the planet.

However, the problem for me with thinking of boycotts is that the surface value expressed in the action is that of damaging the profits of the company you're boycotting. There have been notable examples of this working and starting to affect company policy... or at least marketing policy - Shell oil, Barclays bank and Nestle have all at times taken a major hit through boycotts, and have altered as a result. Not enough, by any stretch, but the change was noted.

The problem is, there are millions of companies who don't behave the way we'd like them to - Naomi Klein's vital and fantastic book No Logo highlighted corporate abuses around the world, and looked at the idea of using brand image as a weakspot in their armour. It works, she's really onto something. But what she's describing is activism - that's something we all need to do, but it's tough to fight every battle.

So what's the alternative? When we realise that every single penny we spend is investing in something, we can start to think, on a day by day basis about what we're investing in. I don't have to see a change for it to have value. I don't need to feel like everyone else is doing the same thing, I just need to know that the two pounds I spend on fairtrade Bananas is being divided up amongst people who are involved in the ongoing work of improving the world. The producers are improving their own world, providing better healthcare and schooling within their communities, the importers and distributors are people that have chosen to work within the rules of the fairtrade foundation, in order to further those aims. My money is being invested into the long term sustainability and growth of the fairtrade movement. The fact that Del Monte or Fyffes or whoever isn't getting my money is an added bonus, the direct inspiration comes from that direct investment.

So perhaps, as a Lenten practice, we could, for a week, keep a list of who we invest in. Not a list of what you got for your money - that's not really important - but a list of who you gave money to. It'll take some research to find out where it's going, and maybe some creative imagining to follow the production chain of whatever product or service you purchased through to its origins, but it'll help us to think not only about what we can cut out of our lives for our own sake, but what we can put back in in order to improv the lives of others, to do more with not only our money but our time, our skills, our energy. To positively invest in things of value.

Posted by Steve Lawson on Thu 16 Mar 2006

Something to shout about

There is a very odd bit in the bible which goes like this: "May I never boast (....) except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galations 6:14).

The boasting bit is really quite interesting because i think it must include smugness and any sense of superiority - so it seems to be an incredibly tall order not to boast.

I have also been thinking a bit about the church at large and it seems to me that churches often think they are more sussed than other churches. We can also behave more superior to others who haven't got God just because we have God. All this must err on the side of boasting.

Boasting certainly resonates with me even if I cloak it with a bit of false humilty, however the verse from Galatians seems to imply the only thing worth boasting about is the crucified Christ.

Have you heard the new James Blunt single Wise Men. There is a particular line that goes like this: "Those three wise men they've got a semi by the sea". Though totally out of context, I think it is obvious he doesn't hold Christianity/church in high esteem. What if he is right - we also shouldn't hold Christianity and the church in high esteem.

Jesus on the cross - maybe this is something to boast about...roll on Easter

link to the song should be below!

Wise Men Video clip

Posted by Naz on Wed 15 Mar 2006

Given up or taken away?

Do you believe in chaos theory?

A girl drops her glove from the chairlift and so we ski a different route from that planned, to go find and collect it. Having done so, we continue our new route down. Two others then crash into one another. One girl has a suspected broken knee, the other boy, my son, has concussion. The helicopter takes them away to hospital.

One minute all was fun and enjoyment, the next screams, unusual silence and c-o-n-f-u-s-i-o-n.

Sometimes life can change in an instant, permanently.

Only while we have now can we make our choices for the future.

Lent can be about our choosing to give something up now before it, and more, is taken away from us when perhaps we least expect it.

Given up or ta

Posted by Matt Kemp on Tue 14 Mar 2006

The time is ... now

Being basically by trade a planner, I’m quite good at making schemes and schedules, agenda and designs. Possibly to the point of obsession, I'm realising. This isn’t good for one’s faith – I’ve heard that to make God really laugh you should tell him your plans (see perhaps Lk 12:16-21 for the man with the bigger better barns - he probably works for Tesco). I believe God likes a good laugh now and then, so I’m quite happy to tell him my crazy ideas. But my nervous inner dialog can quite readily out-chatter any response of the Still Small Voice trying to talk sense back to me.

Finding space to be at peace in the busy world must have been tricky for Jesus too – we think of it as a modern problem, perhaps, but our Lord headed straight for the open desert or mountain heights when he needed time to get his head together. What can we do to find peace nowadays, without a handy Jordan valley on the doorstep? My inner dialog doesn’t easily take shut-up hints, and life can be lived far too much in the timelines of tomorrow and the retrospectives of yesterday. This is not really how I believe God wants us to live our lives – we can completely overlook the wonder of the present moment, whether that is waking to the beauty of unexpected snowfalls, or to the danger of actually helping out the needy on my doorstep.

So I’m exploring ways of staying in the moment, enjoying the journey, focussing on the present. For it is a present – “each moment an unrepeatable miracle”. Some ideas I’ve tried include visualising an imaginary candle flame in detail; watching the colours, following the flickering of the flame, tracing the wax as it spills. A more tactile approach is imagining a drop of oil held carefully on the tip of the tongue against the roof of my mouth, trying to keep it there intact for five minutes. That one can really shut them indoors up! And this can lead to a calmness that restores a truer sense of the present moment, to be experienced and enjoyed in and of itself. The notes on photography earlier in the blog look like an excellent approach to this too. (Any other suggestions for taming one’s racing internal engine gratefully received.)

Otherwise I’m concerned I could get to the end of my life, and find I really hadn’t noticed. God could be on the verge of ripping up his plans for me. As Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Well, I think I should really be there for that life while it’s here to be had, and with more faith then the plans can largely look after themselves.

Posted by bill on Mon 13 Mar 2006

everyday stones

Jesus was hungry, really hungry.

Wanting bread, needing food, not unreasonable in the situation.

But Jesus wasn't tempted by bread to break his fast. Jesus was tempted by stones and the power he had to turn them into bread.

We all have legitimate needs and feelings of 'want' to express. Everyday we are faced with the same temptation, as Jesus. To fulfil our needs and wants by small, easy actions that are within our power but we know are wrong.

What are your 'everyday stones'?

Leave the temptation behind, as one of the pebbles on this pile.

Posted by Adam on Sun 12 Mar 2006

Entrance and Exit

Tonight Grace invited enyone to bring a station to help reflect on lent. This was one of them.

Wherever you look there are entrances and exits - doorways in and doorways out. Each one marks out a different territory where particular rules apply. Each space on the other side of these thresholds, these boundaries, is the domain of someone.

I remember an aunt in the north of England who had a particular pride in keeping the doorstep polished and the kettle on. Her domain was a place of welcoming and hospitality but of course not all spaces are as welcoming as my aunt’s. Some places are selectively welcoming, keeping out undesirable elements while only opening the doors to those who fit certain criteria.

The Celts used the idea of the open gate. I like to think that this image – a gate through which the land is visible, enticing and accessible – is a good way of understanding the gateway which is open to all who choose to venture that way. This is an idea which offers us all hope, but in order to go to one place we necessarily have to leave another – so the gateway is both an entrance and an exit.

So what do you want to leave behind and where do you want to go?

Posted by Mark on Sat 11 Mar 2006

Back to basics

I am reading "The Twilight of Atheism" (The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World). I was very much struck by the argument in the opening chapters that Atheism arose when religion became too controlling and cluttered with man-made contructs. Philosophers such as Voltaire started out to critique and strip away the clutter, the problem was that their arguments were taken and expanded and God ended up being thrown out with the bath water.

Lent therefore should be that when we are spring cleaning our faith, getting back to the core of our faith. Which is what exactly Jesus was doing in the desert. The 40 days animation from Si Johnston (sorry can't find the link) very interesting portrayed the devil in the image of Jesus, emphasising that Jesus was very much testing himself.

Hope to see some of you on Saturday at Grace where we "explore" Lent through a series of stations.

Posted by Richard Baker-Donnelly on Fri 10 Mar 2006

Positive and Negative

I've recently done an enneagram course with a group of friends and we studied the nine personality traits. It seems how we felt coming into the world, is that basically our needs will be met. But as we grow up we feel abandoned, or worry our needs won't be met, or that we are not valued.

It's these thoughts that are a powerful force in shaping who we are. There are positive + negative in all of us but God can use it all.

Posted by Deborah on Thu 9 Mar 2006

Finding God in a cabbage

The examen encourages us to reflect upon and recognise the presence of God in our lives. We look for consolation - whatever helps us to connect in love to ourselves, others, God and the universe. And we look for desolation - whatever blocks that connection.

My consolation over the last three weeks has been my organic veg box, delivered once a week. At the risk of sounding completely sad, my heart lifts at the sight of cabbages, swiss chard and carrots with mud on. How on earth have we come to expect clean and uniform vegetables in our shops? What made us think this is normal? This box makes me so grateful for God's provision and helps us eat seasonally which is so much healthier for us and for the planet. I have not cooked cabbage for years but the recipe below, from the Riverford website, is fantastic. Come round and enjoy it with us.

And my desolation has been Tesco. For the last few years I have felt uneasy about pouring so much of my income into a business that seems so greedy and to have no limits. (See Tescopoly for more) I'm reminded of the story Jesus told about the man who had such a great harvest that he decided to build bigger barns. And then that night he died, unable to use them. Tesco seems committed to inexorably expanding its empire, putting local shops out of business and putting profits before people. When will they get their wake up call?

I've stayed with Tesco because my sister worked for them and my family loyalty outweighed my misgivings. But now they have given her the sack because she has dislocated her shoulder and they don't want to stand with her while she has an operation to put it right. What they have done is technically legal, but completely heartless, again putting profits before people. So I will no longer shop at Tesco. The big question is whether any other supermarket is any more ethical.

Stir-fried green cabbage

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4


500g (1lb) green cabbage
2 medium carrots
1 bunch spring onions
100g (4oz) cashew nuts
2 tbsp oil
2 garlic cloves
2cm (1 inch) piece root ginger
1 dried red chilli
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry


1. Finely shred the cabbage. Cut the carrots into matchsticks and chop the spring onions.

2. Heat the oil and fry the cashew nuts in a large wok on a low heat until brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.

3. Finely chop the garlic, root ginger and red chilli and add to the pan. Stir and fry for 1 minute. Add the cabbage, carrots and spring onions and continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes.

4. Stir in the soy sauce and sherry and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the cashew nuts.

5. Serve with rice or noodles.

Posted by Jen on Wed 8 Mar 2006

Struggle for inspiration

I've never been too good at the whole Lent thing. I blame my Baptist background - Lent was always regarded suspiciously, like it was a bit too Catholic to be any good. Of course, lots of people around me did the giving-up-sweeties-for-Lent thing, but I was always too disorganised to plan my giving-up activities, only noticing that Lent had started a week or so too late. And I always thought there had to be more to it than that.

Wikipedia has once again come up trumps with a nice concise explanation of what Lent should all be about - "The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour)". There's plenty in there to challenge me, and all of us.

Can I say I do God justice? Probably not. It seems easier to ignore him most of the time. I need to get used to talking to him more. I think sometimes I build prayer up a bit too much, into something too formal. I've never been good at Quiet Times - I'm told I should get into the habit of praying in the morning each day etc etc, but it's hard. Once I've got a week or so behind in dated Bible reading notes, I give up in despair. So perhaps I need to give up my fear of failure, and just learn how to talk to God, in the everyday spare moments, about what's going on in my head. I need to give up thinking that prayer is a big deal - it's not. It's simple - I just need to talk, and let God in on my constant inner monologue. :)

Can I say I do myself justice? Maybe. It's hard to know what that means. But certainly the traditional Lenten practice of giving up fatty foods would do me good - permanently. I'm a shift worker, which makes it hard to eat, sleep and exercise properly, but when I get it right, I feel so much healthier for it. Perhaps that would help with the prayer thing...doing anything at all when I'm tired is hard. So I should give up unhealthy habits.

Can I say I do justice to my neighbours? That's a big challenge. But it follows on nicely from the first two. If I'm talking to God, and looking after myself, it means I'll be in a better state to look out for the needs of others. It's easy to be selfish, though - that's something I'd like to give up for good.

Posted by Lee Osborne on Tue 7 Mar 2006

Howies Reflection

Howies is now seen as a part of Grace and as the new catalogue came through the door it was pretty inevitable it would have some good stuff in it. Howies is an eco-friendly clothing brand that focus on the quality of their clothes and this is what has brought them to the heart of Grace. They also have intersting theories and theologies on life, as shown in these images and i have also included a poem from the new catalogue to reflect on. It is quite relevant for lent and giving up things.

Reset yourself
We are Creatures of Habit.
Of routine.
We are all in our own groove.
So try new. Try different. Try crazy
Try unexpected.
Like punk? Try opera.
Wear black? Try white.
Love bubbles? Try still.
Speak spanish? Try chinese
Love to ride? Try running.
Always grumpy? Try happy.
Like science Fiction? Try romance.
Never cook? Bake some bread.
Forever cynical? Try love. Try trust. Try hope.
Take a different route to work.
Say Yes when you mean no.
Wear your watch on the other hand.

Leave the comfort zone.

Posted by Harry on Mon 6 Mar 2006

Giving up the (Father Son and Holy) Ghost

After much flip-flopping (I’d say vacillating, but have decided to give in to creeping Americanisms to give my blog a populist tabloidy touch…) I’ve finally worked out how to mark Lent this year; I’ve decided to become an atheist.

There’s scarcely a month to go, so I’m going to have to get started on the new God-less regime pretty sharp-ish; I’ve just booked my flight to Las Vegas to make up for lost hedonism time. (Actually, I just want to see an expensively-staged Celine Dion concert; I always had this uneasy feeling that God might not approve.)

Actually, truth be told, I’ve already had a hefty dose of agnosticism recently; a creeping concern that maybe Richard Dawkins and his smug biochemist chums were right after all. Seriously pondering that I might just be dispatched into an everlasting void when I die is actually quite a recent sensation for me; it was always a question of “which God do I believe in?” rather than “is there a God?”

During this period I have come to realise how revolutionary even the tiniest shred of solid evidence for God’s existence would be. Anything that could rise above knock-down answers of some Christian apologetics, or the smoke-and-mirrors hype that shrouds so many claims of the miraculous, would become a speck of purest gold. Something that I could truly cling to.

And then, earlier this year a few such specks of gold appeared in my life. Firstly I was handed a book at work called “Will Storr vs the Supernatural”; it’s the true story of an atheist journalist who endeavoured to write a jokey Louis Theroux-styled p*** take of American exorcists. Suffice to say that by chapter 2 he is no longer an atheist. Next, I had a mind-boggling discussion with a frighteningly sane and sorted Christian. She’d had the sort of conversion story that only happens in Christian paperbacks, usually somewhere a long way away. I sat staring at her; either this woman is lying, or deluded or …

I settled for “…”. Not exactly sure exactly what it means, but it’s an exciting place to be. I feel a small wash of gratitude that my life may well not be so meaningless after all. But it’s scary too; what should it mean to me that there’s possibly a purpose to my existence after all?

When Terry Pratchett was interviewed in Christian magazine Third Way recently, he told the interviewer that he wasn’t a believer. But, he added, if he did ever believe all that amazing, bizarre stuff about resurrection and eternal life, he’d be “a very dangerous Christian”.

I doubt that I can snuff out my tiny new flame of faith for 40 days after all. But I love the idea of waking up on Easter Sunday morning and unwrapping it (if you can indeed unwrap a flame), as if for the first time? Just think how grateful you’d be. Just think how dangerous you could be…

Posted by Ben Cohen on Sun 5 Mar 2006

Old wood

It's difficult for me to feel very Lenten today. I'm preparing to go to Austin Texas for two weeks, where temperatures are in the upper 20s by day and seldom less than 15 at night. It'll be nice to be somewhere warm.

Last time I was there was in March 2001 at the behest of Andrew Jones, to run the Labyrinth as part of an emerging church event. As I remember that term wasn't even around then, which shows how far things have developed.

This time I'm just there to hang out with Daniel Miller and Dan Hughes. They are coming over from Dallas on Friday for the new media component of the South by Southwest Festival. I'm flying out sooner to make it worthwhile and get past the jetlag.

But there's something I want to revisit. In 2001 the thing that made the biggest impact on me were the coffee houses of Austin. Literally houses, wooden with big porches, turned into coffee shops. It changed my idea of what a church building could be and how it might operate. The spark that jumped the gap was old wood - the old wood of the coffee house interiors reminded me of the old wood of English churches - the feel was there. But the musty smell had been replaced by coffee, and the pews by sofas.

But I never got the chance to take any photos. When I got back to England I searched high and low for coffee shops that had the same feel, to illustrate what I wanted to write about. But I never found it here. So I ended up creating this aspirational collage, and the rest of the CofEe stuff, doing the best I could with the available materials. And that sofas/coffee/wood thing became a theme running through my work. It had a certain impact.

So now it's time to go back and get those images for real. If it really is like my impression. If it hasn't changed. As Jonny says below, photography is a way of seeing. Editing the world, telling a story.

Posted by Steve Collins on Sat 4 Mar 2006

songs of desperation

The following quote is from "The Turning Point", the autobiography of Klaus Mann. I will leave it to speak for itself.

"Let's make our descent into hell... We want narcotics and kisses to forget our wretchedness. Let's go to bed with each other! Or fool around in parks if there are no beds. Boys with girls, boys with boys, girls with girls, men with boys and girls, women with men or boys or girls or tamed little panthers -- what's the difference? Let's embrace each other! Let's dance!"

And by Thomas Campion:

NOW winter nights enlarge
The number of their hours,
And clouds their storms discharge
Upon the airy towers.
Let now the chimneys blaze,
And cups o'erflow with wine;
Let well-tuned words amaze
With harmony divine.
Now yellow waxen lights
Shall wait on honey love,
While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights
Sleep's leaden spells remove.
This time doth well dispense
With lovers' long discourse;
Much speech hath some defence,
Though beauty no remorse.
All do not all things well;
Some measures comely tread,
Some knotted riddles tell,
Some poems smoothly read.
The summer hath his joys
And winter his delights;
Though love and all his pleasures are but toys,
They shorten tedious nights.

Posted by rebecca on Fri 3 Mar 2006

you don't need eyes to see you need vision (and a camera helps)

in the last few years i have got into photography, mainly through cheap and easy to use digital cameras. the beauty of these is that you can point and shoot and it doesn't matter if your pictures are no good - you just keep the good ones and a bit of tweaking on the computer can always bring out a bit more colour. but gradually you develop an eye for what might make a good shot and give you an original take or angle or compsition or way of seeing...

this may sound weird but the process of taking photos is actually making me see differently. i tried articulating this at gracelet on sunday night (which was brilliant btw - thanks ben - must get those sheets on the grace zine pages) and steve knew what i was talking about - in fact he said it was the reason he took photos which made me think it was a good thing. maybe if i contrast a couple of photos it will help explain what i mean...

this is one that i took on the empire state building. the sun was setting, i was in a fantastic location, it was difficult not to have your breath taken away and be filled with a sense of wonder and amazement (whatever anyone says manhattan is visually fantastic). i didn't really have to do any work with the camera either - well other than point it. it was all about being in that fantastic location. the photo isn't actualy that great - the camera i had is a good little one but struggles in duller light conditions which is why it's all a bit fuzzy.

in contrast this is one that mark took in ealing. i absolutely love this picture. it is so colourful and has an almost sci fi quality to it as someone has commented on mark's flickr page. the thing about this photo is that it is ealing broadway station. i guess most of us have been there many times - it's hardly a station that you think will fill you with a sense of wow because of its beauty - it's very ordinary. but mark's photo transforms my way of looking at it. i'm normally in a rush, got my head buried in a paper, have a glazed look about me not really noticing the world around me. but this photo and others like it make we want to relook at the world and see beauty in the ordinary and the everyday. and i have found that the process of taking photos is doing this for me.

there's an obvious parallel with faith. i think i have often been told or had an expectation built to look for or think i need the empire state building experience - an amazing thing that being realistic will only happen every few years or maybe once or twice a year? but actually i need to learn to glimpse the presence of God, the beauty, the sense of wonder in places like ealing broadway station. God is present but it's easy to forget or not even look. in theological terms it's incarnational - God present in all of life and culture, or sacramental - God's presence mediated through the stuff of everyday life.

it was my birthday at the weekend and because of jen's kindness and generosity i have just got my first digital slr camera which i am very chuffed about. this is pretty much the first photo with it - a church roof - somehow beautiful, filled with contrasting light, peaceful and still...

in the words of maxi jazz of faithless you don't need eyes to see you need vision

Posted by jonny on Thu 2 Mar 2006

What is Lent for?

I have never gone in for giving things up for Lent - for some strange reason I don't like chocolate and my morning coffee seems a paltry sacrifice to make. Still for many years I have found Lent a special time of year - a time of self-examination, a time of waiting.

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

These are the words spoken at Ash Wednesday services, as a cross of ashes and oil is marked upon our foreheads - a symbol of penitence, a sign of our humanity and mortality.

But at the same service we may also hear the wonderful prayer for Lent:

Almighty and Everlasting God,
You hate nothing that you have made
And forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
That we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
May receive from you, the God of all mercy,
Perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ your Son Our Lord,
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever..

For me this is what Lent is about - taking time to learn more about who I am and time to remember who God is.

Posted by Sue Baker-Donnelly on Tue 28 Feb 2006

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