Grace - fresh vital worship since 1993

Lent blog 2007

For the fifth year the Grace lent blog returns to accompany you through lent.

happy easter - christ is risen!

By jonny at 07/04/2007 - 11:03pm | Lent Blog 2007


“It has been a sacrifice but Armonizar is my family and with their help and my faith in God, I have the courage and strength to believe that everything is possible”

These words were spoken by Rosa, a woman I met in Peru in early March.

Meeting her and her son Francis in early March, has been the dominant image for me, this Lent.

Rosa lives in desperate poverty in Lima, and her son Francis – pictured, was born not only with a cleft lip and palate but also a malformed face, due to a syndrome. She has been helped by Armonizar, an organisation which receives support from Transforming Faces Worldwide, a charity with which I am involved.

She is a single mother of two, without a supportive family, who has struggled ceaselessly to find treatment for Francis. She has used great ingenuity and determination against overwhelming odds, confronting an almost complete lack of provision or concern in the system. It took years for his palate to even be identified, let alone repaired but there are not even the facilities in the country to operate on some aspects of his condition. It will be difficult but it can happen.

Sometimes I feel, perhaps we all feel, that life can be overwhelming, a struggle to meet its challenges which keep coming, and don’t go away.

Rosa shows me what courage and faith in God can mean. Her words inspire and challenge me. Her faith calls out to mine and to others.

Lucas, one of the leaders of Armonizar told me, “when you give a little finger to God, he takes your whole arm”.

Jesus emerged from the desert, not just having had a time of reflection, but with a new purpose and direction.

Lent is over for the year – what new directions are waiting for you?

By Jackie Elton at 07/04/2007 - 10:55pm | Lent Blog 2007


did jesus,
being god,
know that it would come out right?
as he stood,
his rigidity involuntary
did he know he had
a window in his diary
between friday and sunday,
brief and delimited,
for death?
did he know
that god was in his heaven,
in charge
in control
and that these present sufferings
counted as nothing?

or did jesus,
being human,

as he hung there,
his life draining away,
did he face the abyss
and see himself
a speck,
beyond the attention of god?
did he reach the limit
of his self-
and his Self-belief?
did the idea
that he would save the world
appear the supreme egotism?
did the
overwhelm him?
did he wish he’d settled down,
had a kid,
joined the family business
(the other family business)?
my god, my god, why have you forsaken me?

the unassumed is the unhealed
said gregory of nazianzus
(clever bloke).

i find the answer to these questions
when i look into myself
and see
poverty of faith
frailty of conviction
bare flickering of hope
and selfishness of ambition.
how could anyone save me
without taking these human experiences
and annealing them in the fire of god?

where, o death, is your sting?
close now.

By Dean at 06/04/2007 - 10:12am | Lent Blog 2007

Are you ready?

I finished work for the Easter break this evening and Easter Day is beginning to hover on the horizon. Lent is supposed to be a time of preparation - but am I ready. I still have a few days left - but as ever the temptation of empty days has been to fill them with people to see and things to do.

But on Sunday I will gather with a few others to celebrate the Resurrection and to share a meal. And whether I am ready or not God will be ready - and Easter will be here.

By SueDonnelly at 04/04/2007 - 5:55pm | Lent Blog 2007

Enjoy The Space

It feels that the community in which I work is becoming increasingly, desperately, fanatically obsessed by making Christmas bigger, brighter and badder each year. Easter, on the other hand, is generally ignored. At times I enjoy the space this provides, at other times it just seems the wrong way around.

It's good when a little boy makes something that makes sense of it all to him and feeds many conversations.

Nat 2007

This Easter...

Deep peace of the running wave to you;
deep peace of the flowing air to you;
deep peace of the quiet earth to you;
deep peace of the shining stars to you;
deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.

celtic blessing

By mikergrace at 03/04/2007 - 10:04pm | Lent Blog 2007

Not Good Enough

I’m writing in a cold-induced stupor, with a heavy, wobbly, clogged-up head. Sparing any more gory detail, suffice it to say that the past few days of a cold have not put me in the reflective, spiritual, contemplative mood I wanted to cultivate during Holy Week.

I considered skipping my blog post, because I wasn’t up to it. I felt like I couldn’t come up with anything thoughtful enough, because all I want to do these days is curl up under a blanket and sleep or watch mindless television. And that doesn’t seem deep enough for Lent.

Suddenly I realised that that was the point. I didn’t feel good enough, able to perform well enough. I am not up to the task in front of me. That is the exact point of Lent. Our Lenten disciplines only serve to illustrate (especially for those of us who’ve failed in them) that Lent is not about being “good enough for God” once in the year.

All of our disciplines, self-examination, reflection, confession and penance are not points scored with God. Whether we succeed or fail in our Lenten disciplines, the point of them is not to prove to God that we are good enough. The love of God is not something we earn by being good enough. It has been given to us freely, when we have not earned or deserved it. God’s love for us is forever proven on the cross, in the events which we remember this week.

So, I write to remind myself not that I’m good enough, but that His love is constant. For tonight at least, I shall go to bed letting the comfort of God’s love push through my clogged head. What else would be different in my life if I stopped caring about being good enough?

By Kathy at 02/04/2007 - 11:02pm | Lent Blog 2007

Giggle-fit God

I read this recently and it made me smile:

“Long before he even began creation, God had us in mind, he had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.

“Long, long ago he took the decision to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (He took such glee just in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift – handed to us by his treasured Son.

“Because of Christ’s sacrifice we're a free people. We’re free of all the penalties and the punishments that we’ve chalked up over the years. And not just free by the skin of our teeth, but free beyond all doubt!

“He thought through every angle, made provision for every eventuality before he let us in on the plans which he took such delight in making (he almost had a giggle fit over the prospect of it all!)

“He set it all out before us in the person of Christ; it is a long-range plan, encompassing everything and summed up in Jesus. I’m talking about everything in deepest heaven and everything on planet earth.

“It's in Christ that we find out who we really are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got excited at the prospect of all this, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for a life of celebration, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

“It's in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it, found yourselves home free - signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This seal from God is only the first installment on what's coming; a constant reminder that we'll get everything God has planned for us, a whooping and glorious life.

“As well as thanking God for you, I ask the God of our leader, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and perceptive in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do and grasp the immensity of this magnificent way of life he has for you, his followers. He is so extravagant with us who trust him, spending endless energy, which only goes to show how boundless his strength is!

“All this energy issues from Christ: remember that God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule.

“And this is not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.

“At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.

“The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.”

Read it again outloud. It's great medicine.[Continued in Ephesians 2]

By stevejeff at 01/04/2007 - 11:10pm | Lent Blog 2007


Yann Arthus-Bertrand is probably best known for his Earth from the Air series of photographs which now number 500,000 taken in around 100 countries over a period of 10 years. But recently I’ve discovered his Six Billion Others project. He says, ‘Ten years spent flying above the planet have left their mark. Of course, the beauty of the Earth seen from the sky remains with me, but what impressed me most was the total lack of frontiers. There is a surprising contrast between the difficulties I encountered during the shooting in order to obtain flying permissions or cross borders with photographic equipment, and the immaterial character of such limits when seen from above. This land is for sharing, yet we fail to do so. This Earth is ours, it belongs to us all, but throughout the world, people are ready to die and to kill for a portion of it. Hence my obsession: I need to know why we cannot live together and coexist in harmony.’ He sent directors around the world to film people answering simple questions about life, happiness, dreams, childhood, love – the things that connect us all.

This film was created for New Year, but I have watched it many times since. As you would expect the dreams that people have are shaped by their experience of life. But I’m struck by how often the richest dreams are voiced by the poorest people. What is your dream?

By jenny baker at 01/04/2007 - 7:53pm | Lent Blog 2007


I love making connections, particularly among people. It happens in my job as I learn names & faces & eventually put them all together – it gives me enormous satisfaction to figure out who people are & where they come from. Like when you meet someone new, start chatting & discover people or experiences in common – a connection is made.

This is the story of a recent inspirational connection I made.

When I was a little girl I lived in the United States and was fascinated by the early American history I learned. It influenced me a lot & one of my favourite pastimes was to go into the woods & play Indians. I gave myself wonderful names like Running Brook or Soaring Bird & imagined that I was a squaw who lived in these woods by my own fire – it was all very romanticised & apolitical but I was in my element. I developed a respect for the Native American people; their attitude of living in harmony with nature, their respect for the earth & its creatures, their art & their wisdom.

Fast forward 15 years & I found myself travelling extensively in Eastern Europe when there was still an Iron Curtain in place. Despite the suppression of religion at that time it was still possible to find remnants of the ancient Orthodox tradition. Wherever possible I would go into Orthodox churches, often small ones in remote villages, & it was there that I first discovered religious icons.

I thought they were beautiful but didn’t understand them & never felt personally inspired to worship with them – my connection with them was not complete – they were too far outside my culture zone.

Recently at Grace we were treated to a talk on traditional icons, their use in worship in pre-literate times, how they’re made, etc. It was really educational but still didn’t hit my “worship button”.

Shortly after that I came a cross a website which details a Native American couple’s work of introducing Jesus to their own people, within their own culture – making connections. ( From here was the link that made me happy - the discovery of Native American Art/Iconography by Fr. John Giuliani! ( I have included 2 of my favourite images here.

As I looked at these beautiful images something from my early, formative past resonated with them in a way that hadn’t happened with the traditional icons. There was a real connection made that joined the circle of 26 years, uniting my present day experience with that of my childhood.

And I found myself worshipping a loving God who cares about us so much, he will work to find any way he can to connect with us, wherever we live, whatever culture we are part of – he will find a way. My challenge is to slow down & listen to him, to hear what he is saying to me here in Ealing, in this busy, bustling city. How is he trying to connect with me here? How is he trying to connect with you? How is he connecting us all together? How will he inspire us to make our own “icons” to worship him in our own cultural frame of reference here & now?

If he can come up with a bizarre chain of events like I just described, he can surely do anything! We just need to look & listen, engage & be present.

Written by Gwen Page

By stevejeff at 31/03/2007 - 8:23pm | Lent Blog 2007

A Letter from God to Man

Last night I went to see Ben Westbeech play his new album live - simply amazing. However, equally as good was the support act - Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. They have a single out on Monday which will make some noise - check out their page to listen to some of their stuff ( Whilst the beats (from Dan Le Sac) were good, for me it was all about Scroobius Pip who was dropping his street poetry over the top. One song that stood out for me is below - A letter from God to Man - at the end I went up and asked for a copy of the lyrics :)

I was going to change/re-edit them slightly but I think they say more like this. A reminder to fix up look sharp, a wake-up call, whatever- draw your own conclusions.

Letter from God to Man (Scroobius Pip)

Hey there.
How's it going?
I know I haven't been around much but it didn't seem like you wanted me to be.

the last time I sent down a message, you nailed it to a cross.
So I figured I'd just leave you to it and be your own boss.

But I've been keeping an eye on you, I have. And it's amazing how you've grown.
All your technological advances and the problems you've overthrown.

All the beautiful art you've created with such grace and such finesse.
But I must admit there are a few things that, I'm afraid, Have impressed me less.

So I'm writing to apologise for all the horrors committed in my name.
Although it was never what I intended I feel I should take my share of the blame.

A lot of the good I tried to do was corrupted when organised religion got into full swing.
What I thought were quite clear messages were taken to unusual extremes.

My teachings were taken out of context to meet the agenda of others.
Interpretations were taken in many different ways and hidden meanings 'discovered.'

Religion became a tool for the weak to control the strong.
With all these new morals and ethics survival of the fittest was gone.

No longer could the biggest man simply take what ever he needed,
Because damnation was the price if certain rules were not heeded.

Some of the deeds committed in my name just make me wonder where I went wrong. Back at the start when I 'created' all of this, the foundations seemed so strong.

See all the elements wee already here long before I began.
I just kind of put them all together. I didn't really think out a long term plan.

I made the sun an appropriate distance and laid the starts across the sky,
So you could navigate this globe or simply experience a sunrise.

I covered the earth with plants and fruits, some for sustenance and some for beauty.
And made the sun shine and clouds rain so that maintenance wasn't your duty.

I tried to give each creature its own attributes. But without making them enveloped.
I gave you all space to grow and, in your own way, space to develop.

I didn't know that such development would cause rifts and jealousy.
Cause you to war against each other and leave marks on this planet indelibly.

You see, I wasn't the creator, more the curator of nature.
And I want to set things straight with homosexuals right now; I DON'T hate ya.

I was a simple being that happened to be the first to yield such powers.
But I just laid the ground. It was you that built the towers.

It was you that invented bombs and fear that comes with them.
It was you that invented money, and corrupt economic systems.

You invented terms like 'just wars' and terms like 'friendly fire,'
And it was you that didn't know when to stop digging deeper and when to stop building higher.

It was you that exhausted the resources I carefully laid out on this earth, And it was you that even saw these problems coming but accredited them little worth.

It was you that used my teachings for your own personal gain
And it was you that committed such tragedies, even if they were in my name.

So i apologise for any mistakes I made and for when my words were misconstrued,
But this apology is to Mother Nature because I created you.

By cntrst at 30/03/2007 - 5:53pm | Lent Blog 2007

easter journey

This may feel a few days early but getting in the mood for Easter week have a look at easter journey, 8 pictures by Luton young people, taking themes from the Easter story and applying it to their own lives and experiences. Powerful and striking.

By jonny at 29/03/2007 - 5:39pm | Lent Blog 2007

spring cleaning

due to the activities of the landlord's builders in my flat, i am obliged to do a more thorough spring clean than i had intended. when there is plaster dust everywhere you have to be methodical, from the lampshades down. tonight i finally got the bedroom clean, safe enough to put on the new bedding that replaces the stuff torn and dirtied by the builder. at the weekend i'll sort out the living room, and then it'll be time to deal with the balcony, clean the furniture for the summer, get some bedding plants.

it's tedious to have this forced upon me, but there is some satisfaction in knowing that the neglected corners are clean, no more sense of lurking dirt that one can't face tackling this time [again]. this is probably the most lenten thing i'll do. the spiritual metaphors are all too clear - sometimes life events force an inner spring cleaning upon us, obliging us to deal with the dark corners and whatever hides there. lenten observances are meant to be a soul-clearing exercise, a rearranging of the furniture, a refocussing on what matters. we give things up to sharpen our attention, and maybe give some things up for good. if you had to give up something permanently for lent what would it be? what would you then give up next year? how long could this go on, and who would you become?

By steve collins at 28/03/2007 - 10:32pm | Lent Blog 2007

Too much stuff

My life in the last month has been dominated by stuff.

Dealing with stuff

We have been going through the process of emptying my aunt's flat, she died at the end of January. So we have been trying to clear away stuff, clothes, furniture, shoes, photographs (zillions of them), endless letters and correspondence, linen, old articles, books which in various ways sum up not just a life, but a whole collection of lives - a whole community of friends, family, experiences lived across years, countries and worldviews. As we clear all way, we have to sort out what might be kept, what given away to friends and relatives, what might have value for the charity shops, what can be recycled, and what should just simply thrown away.

There is a combination of practical decisions, emotional memories. Some stuff carries little regret, other things can bring great sadness and recognition.

But the dominant thought, why is there so much and what is it for? How much do we really need? How many of my things could I clear away? What actually matters, how much use would it be? If somebody were to clear my stuff if I died, what would they think? And if it all disappeared in a puff of smoke, how much of it would be missed? Would I be happier with a fraction of it? Or nothing? How much is necessary? How much is enough for me? How much is too much?

Which bits are really important, give me identity and security, special memories, could be passed on to the next generation? How do I decide? My sister and I worked together, and sometimes another view would help, at other times not.

I have never been very into giving things up for Lent. But perhaps if I could reduce my stuff by at least a little fraction every Lent, every year, rather than accumulating, perhaps, just perhaps I would feel freer, less preoccupied, more open to newness and growth.

With more understanding of what really matters, with space in my heart to receive and share God's love.

By Jackie Elton at 28/03/2007 - 7:31am | Lent Blog 2007


Recently two people independently gave me copies of Lynne Truss’s book Talk to the Hand (subtitled “The utter bloody rudeness of everyday life”). And I’ve just started reading Michael Bywater’s Big Babies.

Once I’d got past the first worries (Two people have given me a book on manners – is it because they think I haven’t any? Or is my inner Daily Mail soul showing through?), I discovered that both of these are basically one-idea books; ‘Some People Are Getting Ruder’ and ‘We Are Being Infantilised’.

As I wasn’t around in the 1950’s I have no idea whether that era really did constitute a kind of Golden Age from which we have fallen. But from Mr Bywater I have learnt a lot of long words (solipsistic, apotropaic, anomie, diegesis...) including; commensality, which the free online dictionary (my own paper version doesn’t have such long words) defines as ‘Fellowship at table; the act or practice of eating at the same table’. He holds up commensality as the happiest of all the grown-up virtues, and here we are, approaching Maundy Thursday, the commemoration of the Last Supper. And I don’t know how to commemorate it, emotionally; the loving-generosity of the host and the betrayal by Judas. Which was more than just bad manners or infantilism. Part of me is a clown; if I can make enough people laugh everything will be all right again. But I can’t clown this away, so I’ll have to wait for Easter Sunday instead.

By Sarah at 27/03/2007 - 3:51pm | Lent Blog 2007

Preparing for Easter

We have just returned from a short holiday in Seville.

What has really struck us is the sense of preparation. The community is very much aware that Easter is coming. Stands are being set up so that people can watch street parades, workmen are working 24 hours a day to finish roadworks in the town centre and individuals are very much involved in their personal and corporate preparation.

All we seem to have are Easter Eggs

By richard at 25/03/2007 - 10:11am | Lent Blog 2007


According to Paul, Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. It’s certainly much harder to receive than to give. I like giving. I like the warm glow that you get when someone says thank you, or just from knowing that you’ve helped someone out. I tell myself that I’m being generous when the reality is that I’m only sharing a tiny part of the wealth that I take for granted. If I’m honest I give as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s. I’ve realised that giving rarely costs me anything.

Last week I went to Kolkata, India. It’s a mad, noisy, vibrant city of dramatic contrasts that makes London seem quiet and tame in comparison. Traces of the empire remain in the Victoria Memorial to an empress who never even visited the country and in huge high-ceilinged buildings, now shabby and crumbling through neglect. World Vision staff took us around some of the slums to meet the people that they work with. We walked up seven flights of stairs in one huge block where police officers and their families live. The women who do their cooking and cleaning are allowed to live in small storehouses on the roof, way above the city streets. We smiled, bowed ‘namaste’ and tried to imagine what it was like to live in this place. The women offered us water which we had to decline because of our sensitive western stomachs. We were about to move on, but they asked us to stay for five more minutes.

And then one of the women returned from a trip down to street-level with bottles of coke for us. Knowing how much that must have cost them, my instinct was to stop them opening them, to say 'no thank you', to refuse their gift. I wanted to explain why we couldn’t take their water – that we weren’t just being fussy. I wanted to be able to give them something in return. I wanted to leave money with the project workers to pay them back. All of which seem such crass responses to an act of such genuine, rich generosity. So we drank with humble, grateful hearts. We had nothing to give; all we could do was receive.

By jenny baker at 24/03/2007 - 3:54pm | Lent Blog 2007

here I stand

One of the ideas that lent raises is spending time isolated from the world around us. We see Jesus, both through his 40 days in the wilderness and, then as we move into the Easter story, of spending time alone to pray.

Many of us wouldn't choose to feel alone but many of us also feel a desire to experience that isolation to gain some focus, to try and listen to God.

I know for myself that one experience that gives me this opportunity are those times I can get out into and open space, on top of a hill, lost in fields, etc. In those moments when the world around is hidden from our sight and earshot. Here I can stand in wonder of creation, feel like a small part of it, feel that I can see God's fingerprints in it and try to listen to his voice.

But how to achieve this when we spend most of our time in a crowded city, surrounded by people (7.5 million around here) and gadgets and distractions. How about a moment to focus:

Standing up your feet cover about 600cm² of ground,
out of 1,577.3 km² of London,
out of 244,820km² of the UK,
out of 148,939,100km² of land on a planet,
out of a total surface area of the planet of 510,065,600 km²,
on a planet that measures about 6,372.797 km in diameter
and takes up about 1.083 207 3×1012 km³ of space
in a solar system that is (about) 11,827,040,000km in diameter which is about 79 AU (where AU stands for Astronomical unit),
which sits in a galaxy of 100,000 light years across in diameter and 3000 light years thick (1 light year is about 63,240 AU),
which is part of a universe of at least 125 billion galaxies (possibly up to 500 billion galaxies)

from where you stand, can you see the wonder of God's creation, your unique place in it and take a moment to listen

By adam at 24/03/2007 - 12:52am | Lent Blog 2007

22 + 03 + 20 + 07 = 52

At the end of last year we stayed in Cornwall, and there were a couple of rainy days where I was left alone with my thoughts. It was then that I was contemplating the year gone by but also the year ahead and came up with the idea of new years resolutions. I’m not claiming I came up with the idea of resolutions but I was going to do 365, one for each day. I soon realised it would take longer thinking and writing down all 365 then doing them probably, so decided upon 52, one a week, as I had a few in my head already.

I came up with 40 decent ones, and instead of filling up the rest of the list with feeble resolutions that could be completed instantly or not at all I decided to leave 12 blank, to be filled in every month, therefore keeping the list relevant to my life.

In the time of lent, we often give up things, or plan to change our lives. We don’t know whether it will be easy or hard, but we still try to plan it.

With my list, I was glad I left the blank spaces, because even one week after I had thought of better resolutions that I could add on. The first resolution I completed was skinny-dipping in the sea, which could only be done under the circumstances, and wasn’t on the original list, but it’s been the most satisfying to date.

I’m not saying I wish I didn’t plan the list, because sitting down and thinking was good. I thought about what I want to do, and this list could keep reminding me, but also motivate me, knowing I had a year to do these 52 things. I didn’t want to get to the end and feel I had failed because I couldn’t be bothered to grow something. Because of this I can now juggle with clubs, something I have wanted to do for ages; looking at my list in half term when I had spare time allowed me to do that.

A side-effect of the planning is pressure. I made some resolutions which seemed like good ideas, like getting involved in the cell group at church, but in reality didn’t work, as the first time I went there were 2 people, and I was one of them, and I couldn’t make various other weeks, so it has since been cancelled.

It is things like that that make me realise I probably won’t complete my whole list. At the start of the year I would have been upset about that, but now I kind of don’t want to complete it, partly because I know I’m not going to anyway, but also it leaves things for next year. Or I can realise that’s not what I wanted, but if I hadn’t put it on my list I wouldn’t have realised that.

It’s only March but I already feel I have benefited from my list, firstly in the way I intended by completing things on it, like juggling with clubs, which I wouldn’t have had the motivation to do otherwise. It has also helped me to realise what I really want, by thinking some things on the list are not what I really want. Also realising what I can and can’t do, like I’ve scored in football already, as a centre back. It makes me think about how much of our lives we can plan. Some of the resolutions I knew would happen anyway, like seeing 25 films or getting 25 CDs, but some I’ve had to work a little bit to achieve, and others, I had no idea of until they happened, like being in a film, or crowdsurfing at a gig. These are amazing things, but I didn’t have much control over them (maybe crowdsurfing I did!) so I wouldn’t be able to plan them.

I know there will be stuff that I won’t do on my list, and stuff that I will do that won’t be on my list but could be. It leaves the question of how much can we plan our lives, and is planning good, and can we plan for unplannable things?

With the list, it has been good, but I think that has also been because of my relaxed attitude, not worrying if things don’t go ‘to plan’, and leaving a little room for adjustment of the plan.

And anyway, I’ve still got 9 months to do the rest… :] x

(Written by Harry Baker)

By jenny baker at 22/03/2007 - 8:40pm | Lent Blog 2007

fiat lux

And God said, Let there be light: and, behold, there was light…

Today is the Equinox -- for people in the northern hemisphere, the Vernal Equinox. This is the date upon which the sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north, or, equivalently, the date upon which the latitude at which the sun is overhead at noon switches from the southern to the northern hemisphere. (Will you at the back please try to stay awake?)

But that astronomical definition is not where the meaning of "equinox" is derived -- it literally means "equal night". This is supposed to be the date when the day is the same length as the night. But in fact today the day is longer than the night, and even after the sun has set, there is still light in the sky. This is because the Earth has an atmosphere.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters...

We live in a world where light is dominant. Despite everything, the sun continues to shine on this broken world, and when darkness falls, the sky is open to the stars.

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years...

For most of the Earth's population (apologies to our correspondents in the southern hemisphere) the time of Lent is a time of increasing light, and also increasing life -- the beginning of the growing season, the appearance of new plants and flowers. This hardly fits well with the anticipation of Good Friday, but it certainly fits with the anticipation of Easter.

And God saw every thing that was made, and, behold, it was very good!

By rebecca at 21/03/2007 - 8:55am | Lent Blog 2007

Grace - an exceptional favour

Several years ago I worked fairly closely with a colleague in another Library. Things changed and we hadn’t been touch for quite some time. Last week she rang the office out of the blue. It was fantastic to hear from her as I’d always enjoyed her company. We chatted for a while and it soon transpired that she was serious ill and was sorting out her life.

‘I remember you had a lovely pair of art deco earrings – and I have a necklace that would match them perfectly. I would like you to have it.’

I was amazed, not just that she wanted to give me the necklace, but that after all those years she could remember what earrings I had been wearing. Sure enough when the necklace arrived it was an almost perfect match!

I was ‘an exceptional favour’ not to just in receiving the necklace (though that is rather lovely) – but to have been remembered in such a precise and wonderful way.

So I’ve been thinking – how can I offer ‘an exceptional favour’ to others, let them know that their presence matters and pass on the grace I have received.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 13 vv 6-7)

By SueDonnelly at 20/03/2007 - 11:56pm | Lent Blog 2007

Re - lent

A couple of weeks back we went to a service where some friends recommitted themselves to each other and restated their wedding vows after some difficult times.

I hadn’t really known what to expect but found the whole service very uplifting and profound, particularly as it took place during lent. There was a real feeling of reemerging after time in the desert.

Recommitment like that is unusual in this day and age where it is so quick, easy and convenient to dispose of a promise and recycle to make room for the next one.

At Easter we see the pain and cost of commitment but also its absolute worth.

Some words from St Francis were read during the service:

‘You were looking for a home, some rest for your spirit, somewhere where you could say, “I am all right here”, and safely say it, free from anxiety and trials – in other words, be altogether free – but you did not find it.
What then? Did someone come and show you how to get there? The way itself came to you and you were set on it through no merit of your own. You had clearly lost the path. Tell me then, has he who showed you the path deserted you, must you now find your own way home?
Beloved, the end of all our paths is Christ: in him we are made perfect, for our perfection is to come home to him. Don’t seek for anything else.’

By mikergrace at 19/03/2007 - 11:35pm | Lent Blog 2007

A maze of a God

I wrote this in celebration of finding that God isn't as conformist as I was led to believe through many years of Sunday afternoons at Sunday-school; the experience is by no means comfortable, but it's not boring either. Here's to many more years of being surprised by an unrestrained God:

I've found a mystifying god -
a maze of a god
with me
in the middle.
An unrestrained god;
no longer bound within my worn white testament.
I've been touched by a god outside
my tarnished creed -
slippery, untidy, script-ripping;
hovering beyond
the borders of my exclusive faith.
Not just a 'because-the-bible-tells-me-so' god after all.

By stevejeff at 18/03/2007 - 12:04am | Lent Blog 2007

Time to Paarrty

Great – a lent blog on St Paddy’s Day and on a Saturday night. What an excuse for partying and partying hard!

So it seems that lots of people are going to celebrate and probably practically all of Ireland. I certainly know an Irish guy who has given up alcohol for lent but with one concession; he is to have one day’s break from alcohol fasting – you’ve guessed it – it’s St Patrick’s Day.

Now not all the Irish celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Another good mate doesn’t, the reason being that his younger brother drowned in the family swimming pool on St Patrick’s Day. The parents kept on meaning to cover the pool all winter but didn’t get around to it. Now none of the family celebrates March 17th.

What about Easter? What will you do? How are you going to feel when your best mate, your big brother, your lover, your boss, your mentor was found dead over the Easter weekend? Well I for one am going to celebrate and celebrate hard.

By Naz at 17/03/2007 - 10:05pm | Lent Blog 2007

Lent and What Next

Lent is about desert experiences, reflection, confession, solemn consideration. In this blog we’ve reflected on deserts, on identity, on countering consumer culture, on freedom from that which fights for our attention, money, devotion.

But what comes after all the reflection, confession, disciplines, fasts of these 40 days? (I don’t just mean Easter.) In the big picture of our individual lives, is anything different because of Lent? Is anything different in our post-lent, post-Easter lives because of the rituals and disciplines? (That is, if we’ve kept to them, which I confess, I have not fully done, yet.) Will there be any change, any fresh perspective? Should there be? Or should we be affirmed for who we are?

Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” I am always amazed at those words, that Jesus was led into the wilderness. And what came afterwards? A whole new direction, completely different from His life before.

Will there be any lasting change, any new habit, new interest, new attitude that continues? Or were there particular lessons only for this season? The answers are as varied as each individual’s personality and situation.

While we practice the confession, repentance, and discipline of Lent, will we allow God to shape us, perhaps even redefine us? Just a little? Or maybe a lot? Easter is still a few weeks away, but what is shifting inside each of us, as we look toward that day?

By Kathy at 16/03/2007 - 11:30pm | Lent Blog 2007

Expect The (expected but in) Unexpected (ways) ....

or The world was turned upside down while I was looking the other way

Unexpected guests

Imagine you woke up tomorrow and all of God's promises had been fulfilled. How would you know? No, really, how exactly would you know? What would be different, and in what ways?

Now, what if it had actually already happened and you'd just happened to overlook it? All your prayers, answered, there for the taking.

We are usually at least a part of the answer to our prayers. Sometimes our involvement is just being engaged enough to notice that the prayer or promise has been fulfilled. (Sometimes, of course, our involvement in the answer is much deeper).

In Jesus' day, the expectation and belief of his granting a request was all that it took for it to be done (e.g. Jairus' daughter Lk 8:50, or "Go and show yourselves to the authorities..." Lk 17:11-14), but sometimes Jesus' fulfilling was also in an oblique way that was not an obvious granting of the request (firstly forgiving the sins of the sick man lowered from the ceiling, telling the rich man to go and sell his possessions). Or the fulfillment could come from a totally unexpected source (the good Samaritan, or within ourself!).

As it's still Jesus' day today, the same patterns of grace of course hold true. Faith and expectation are the key. When Mary sang her magnificat (Lk 1:46-56), she sang praise as though all God's promises to her were already fulfilled in the promising, and this attitude was also common amongst old testament prophets. I think it's an attitude that wins over contemporary blanket cynicism every time.

Jesus himself appeared to hint at this when he used to say, "A time is coming and has now come..."

As an act of faith, with expectation, let's dig down and search out the ways in which God has already answered our prayers. He sees and addresses the real and deep need behind my requests, in preference to any surface itch I perceive as needing a scratch.

All God's promises and answers to prayer are at least in the advanced stages of being fulfilled. Try to look from God's perspective, reflecting on what he is known to be capable of. It might be that the situation is just at the point where you need to step in to make it complete!

By billum at 14/03/2007 - 10:04pm | Lent Blog 2007

Positively Devoted

At my church in Ilkley we have been encouraged to reflect on the positive actions we can take at lent. While everyone is busy making sacrifices and giving up things, we have been asked to consider what we can actually do.

We were told the story of a monk who, every two weeks, would go high up in the hills and live in a cave for a further two weeks. In order to survive he took only two bottles of water - just enough to last the two weeks. If he were to exert himself he would die, and so his task was to do nothing except fervent prayer. If he were to go for a walk he would perish.

This story is not about him giving up sustenance - dramatic as it is - but about what he was actually focussed on, the praying, and the life giving water.

What have you been focussing on and how have you been sustained?

(Written by Deborah and posted by Mark)

By markwaddington at 14/03/2007 - 10:03pm | Lent Blog 2007

stop listen

stop listen.

what can I hear?





......what can I hear?

.........what is God saying?

...........can I hear the . s.t.i.l.l . s.m.a.l.l . v.o.i.c.e.?



....................b.e . s.t.i.l.l


..........................l.i.s.t.e.n . t.o . G.o.d

By WeiHei at 13/03/2007 - 9:19am | Lent Blog 2007

In Lent we grow by dying

Shortly after Lent had started someone gave me a copy of an article from The Tablet with the title "In Lent we grow by dying". It was written by a priest Daniel O'Leary and as I found it quite thought provoking , I thought I'd share a little of what he said.

He talks about beyond giving something up for Lent , of an unsolicited desire , of a journey to be made across a waiting desert - a dangerous place to go and how we resist the call into our own mystery , our own depths.

We rightly suspect our wounds are deeper than we think and he quotes Henri Nouwen's advice that "it is better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them ... to let your wounds go down into your heart .Then you can live them through and discover that they will not destroy you. Your heart is greater than your wounds."

Daniel O'Leary goes on to say "Pain needs light. Nothing heals in the dark. The scars of Jesus, inside and out were always there for all to see. He let Mary wash them, Thomas touch them, his mother hold them. His was a transparent life. And it cost.

Lent perennially pursues the goal of authenticity. The issue is not one of being sinless or perfect but of being self-aware and integrated. The question that Lent asks is "how much reality about yourself can you bear?" Most of us try to live the Christian life without ever entering those raw and searing areas of our own unbearable darkness. This avoidance is easy but costly ..there is a fierce intensity about Lent that relentlessly examines the integrity of our innermost heart.

It is a Lenten grace when we are able to hold within us as Jesus did the tension of the paradoxes of our lives. The greater the soul, the greater the shadow. Lent teaches us that we must befriend the shadow even at great personal cost.

In Lent we grow by dying. In this dying we recognise the false face we 've grown used to.. ..this is the dying that daily scrapes the self renewing fat of pride from the ribs of our soul bringing a fearless inner lightness and clarity. This is the liberating dying that puts the truth in our eyes, the resonance in our voice and the depth in our listening.

When the small gods go, God arrives."

By Eirwen at 12/03/2007 - 6:46pm | Lent Blog 2007

prayer, deserts, and burning bushes

doug aitken is one of my favourite artists. new ocean and interiors are simply two of the most astonishing installations i have ever been to. what got me thinking about them was my last blog entry toxicity because doug aitken's work often seems to use narratives of people in the city interweaving and connecting but they often seem to be infused with spirituality.

for example i remember one of his pieces in new ocean with a person travelling on a tube journey, an iconic journey for those of us in london. whilst the journey was fast, the girl's face had an incredible stillness and the image cut between slow gymnastic moves which seemed to be in her mind and the journey. i took it she was meditating or at prayer or just being still and the slowed down gymnastic moves were like the rhythm of slowed down breathing that helped her navigate the city space and get recharged for it. i've pictured that image many times as i have travelled on the tube. it makes me think that whilst the city can be toxic, it is entirely possible for encounter with the presence of god in the city. indeed if we can encounter the presence of god in the city it will give us the resources to navigate at 3 mile an hour, god's pace, rather than live at the pace of exhaustion, the city's pace.

anyway that's all by way of an intro as that got me thinking about doug aitken. i have a couple of art books of his. and there are a lot of wonderful images in them. i have scanned in this photograph and am having it as my computer desktop image through lent. i tried to find the image online but can't so have put this one up here [doug if you ever pop by, i hope this is ok - if not let me know and i'll remove it...].

a reflection on the image...

i have been struck by doug aitken's image of an armchair in the desert [i think it's a desert - it could of course be a beach?].
it's a still image.
the chair is un-used and dusty.
in front of it is the edge of a bush.
for some reason it got me thinking about prayer, deserts and burning bushes.

where is god?
prayer is like sitting in the chair and waiting.
the desert is away from it all.
whilst that sounds great, it also looks pretty bleak.
it's a risk to sit and wait.
after all nothing may happen...

the bush isn't burning.
i guess moses passed the bush when it wasn't burning many times - it was an ordinary bush. it was only one time it burned.
but all ordinary ground can be holy, seared with the presence of god. but who can say which piece of ordinary ground will become a window,
a thin place,
a site for the holy,
electric as the go between god makes the connection?

the temptation is to revisit a site where this happened once,
but god doesn't stay still,
god is moving on,
beckoning forward,
not concerned with nostalgic spirituality.

so i want to sit in the chair and pray,
to go to the desert place,
but i'm not expecting the bush to burn.
prayer may help me see other sites in days to come that may burn with the holy.
prayer may help me hear where god is calling me to move on next.

i was reading the scripture ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.

maybe the risk of prayer is worth it...

i'll sit in the chair

By jonny at 11/03/2007 - 9:34am | Lent Blog 2007

paying attention

I was struck by the way the light felt that afternoon. I have paid a good deal of attention to light, but no one could begin to do it justice. There was a feeling of a weight of light - pressing the damp out of the grass and pressing the smell of sour old sap out of the boards on the porch floor and burdening even the trees a little as a late snow would do. It was the kind of light that rests on your shoulders the way a cat lies on your lap. So familiar.

I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees such amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is all apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is human beauty in it. And I can't believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don't imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.

Two quotes from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which some of us in Grace are reading together over Lent.

A prayer;

Save us from being numb to the wonder we pass every day.
Lift the scales of familiarity from our eyes.
Remind us how to see.

By Dean at 10/03/2007 - 5:04pm | Lent Blog 2007

A warm welcome?

I received an email a couple of weeks ago urging me to protest about proposed sexual orientation regulations. The tone of it made me wonder who was oppressing whom. And I wonder what Jesus makes of it all. A story:

Margaret looked round at her assembled guests and felt pleased with herself. It was quite a coup to have Jesus to dinner. Her self-congratulation turned to annoyance as one of her son's friends wandered into the room. She had asked Andrew to keep them out of the way of her dinner party.

The young man and Jesus nodded to each other and their eyes connected. And then the boy walked round behind Jesus and began to massage his shoulders. Margaret could sense the change in atmosphere in the room; her guests felt as uncomfortable as she did. The boy started to cry, tears silently rolling down his cheek and dropping onto Jesus' back. He wiped them with his sleeve and continued. Margaret's embarrassment and anger grew. 'If this man were really a prophet,' she thought, 'he would know who is touching him and what kind of man he is - that's he's a homosexual!' She cleared her throat, about to say something to spare her guests' feelings, but Jesus spoke first.

He looked directly at her. 'Margaret, I have something to tell you.'

'Tell me, teacher,' she said.

'Two people owed money to a loan shark. One owed £50,000; the other owed £5,000. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he let them both off. Now which of them will be more grateful? Which of them will love him more?'

Margaret felt trapped. But she gritted her teeth and smiled. 'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.'

'You have judged correctly,' said Jesus.

Then he turned towards the young man, and said to Margaret, 'Do you see this man? I came into your house. You didn't ask me how I was. You didn't notice my tiredness, but he massaged away my tension, wet my shoulders with his tears and wiped them away with his hands. You did not give me a kiss of welcome, but this man, from the time I entered, has not stopped touching my body. You did not even shake my hand, but he has poured love onto me. Therefore I tell you, his many sins have been forgiven - as his great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.'

Then Jesus said to the man, 'Your sins are forgiven.'

The other guests began to say among themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?'

Jesus said to the man, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'

By jenny baker at 09/03/2007 - 6:50pm | Lent Blog 2007


A colleague at work asked me if I was giving anything up for lent and I said, "yes". I hadn't actually meant to say yes, so after a bit of a pause I said, "my house, my job and (temporarily) my wife; we're upping sticks and moving to Yorkshire". He said he wished he had the opportunity to do that so I had to explain that I didn't actually have the opportunity, that I was just doing it (ref Nike). "You mean no job", he looked shocked.

We spend decades waiting for the right moment to come along - when we have enough money, when we are settled, when the kids have left school, when we retire. We stand at the roadside waiting for permission to cross, push the button on the little box, look both ways and wait for the flashing green man. But some of the people who have inspired me most have been more like the hero of an adventure movie, they run at their dreams as if separated from them by a gorge of dangerous water - scarcely managing to make the other bank and escape death. "Ever noticed that 'what the hell' is always the right decision" Marilyn Monroe said.

Perhaps I'm an incurable optimist, but in my experience things often work out - even more so after a rough patch. An act of foolishness can prompt providence to come out of the shadows, blinking with generous curiosity. Big decisions are often the source of momentum life needs to move us forward. In a state of brave vulnerability we find relationships enhanced, values re-appraised and amazing stories formed.

By markwaddington at 08/03/2007 - 12:00am | Lent Blog 2007

Lost In Translation [sic.]

Currently reading Brian Friel's Translations for English AS. Whilst fundamentally about language it explores translations of all kinds - almost to the extent where translation is the act of getting across meaning to someone else. One idea that I have found particularly interesting throughout the book is the perversion of meaning (how it is both lost and gained) in translation - even with someone speaking the same language.

I feel that there is a translation between artist and art-viewer. An artists role is to effectively communicate and translate his meaning from his art (whatever that may be - pretty picture etc.) to his audience. However, with all translation meaning is both lost and gained and so therefore the power of meaning lies with the audience. What they see the meaning of the artwork as is, well, what the meaning of the artwork is.

What's my point? Well. We are all artists and we are all consumers. As artists we must be aware of what we create and whilst we have the potential to connect we also have the potential to alienate and offend (though sometimes all the better for it - we all remember Steve's discipline flyer :-P.) And yet as consumers we need to be ready and willing to add meaning to what we see - who cares if it doesn't follow the artists intentions? Art is personal- make it mean something to you.

You may render this meaningless but look at the world today. Israel/Palestine was the 'Promised Land' to both Muslims and Jews, its far from any sort of paradise. The earth was God's creation and yet look how we've perverted that.

What have you Lost In Translation? Or maybe it's time that you got Lost?


By cntrst at 07/03/2007 - 11:02pm | Lent Blog 2007

Sabbath celebration

I’m leading a Lent Course at the moment on the concept of ‘Sabbath’ as we find it in the scriptures and I must say – so far it had been a delightful and surprisingly inspiring theme. Life Balance is an in word at the moment and very much on peoples minds, especially in the frenetic, no stop culture which is modern western living. Sabbath principles are clearly great antidotes to the workaholic materialism, jaded appetites and a loss of wonder that modern society seems to breed, as well as to the idea that non-productive time is time wasted! Sabbath principles speak of a time to pause, to stop and celebrate life, to feel the natural rhythms the creator put into the creation and to travel more thoughtfully, with reverence. Such living brings a richer, fuller life to the surface of our experience, and nourishes our relationships, with others and with God, and the enjoyment of them. John O’Donohue in Divine Beauty, the Invisible Embrace puts it wonderfully “When you take time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you.”

It all begins in the creation stories of Genesis one. Seven times we read ‘God looked…..and it was good’ and the seventh time it is ‘very good.’ God is pleased with all that he has made, he delights in it.

On the seventh day he pauses to engage with it and savour it! We rest on the Sabbath because God has first done the same. In observing a Sabbath rhythm we share in God’s sense of celebration, taking time to pause in thankfulness and delight. Celebration is the honouring of that which we hold most dear. Celebration is delighting in that which tells us who we are. Celebration is taking time to cherish each other. Celebration is returning with open arms and thankful hearts to our maker.

Taking time to pause and celebrate forces us to live in the present moment, freed from the constant preoccupation with the past or the future. It is so easy in our modern culture to miss the moment, to have experiences but miss the significance or holiness of them. We are either upset by the past or constantly living for that future which will be brilliant – when we get there! Sabbath celebration helps us recognize that this moment – like the whole of our lives and our salvation through Christ – comes as a gift from God. Freed from time pressures and from anxiety about the past and future, we are able to savour this moment – the now of our breathing and being. It is precious and helps us get in touch with eternity and with the values of the Kingdom. Dwelling in the present moment enables us to celebrate God’s love, his tenderness and saving work through Christ.

Sabbath attitudes of celebration and thankfulness help us to engage more fully with our everyday lives and with others – to operate at a deeper more satisfying level. They free us from the lies of advertisers that possessions will give us joy and that craving bigger, better, or newer things will bring fulfilment.

“When you take time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you.”

By Steve Paynter at 05/03/2007 - 6:52pm | Lent Blog 2007

A Good Measure

I was going to post something else, but thought this was better!

This is the Lectionary Gospel Reading for the Eucharist today…

Luke 6:36-38
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given to you.
A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Like many people, my family has been trying to live a more restrained way of life for some months. We are still working towards getting rid of our second car, but we are closer than we were. We’ve greatly reduced our domestic fuel usage (although the warm winter has helped); and are much more mindful of the food miles we consume. We are also giving differently, trying to respond more immediately to people in need, rather than just signing a standing order and forgetting them.

Some of the benefits were expected, public transport is easier to use than it might at first appear, and our shopping bags (now reused, not thrown away) contain many delicious (and local) items that would not have been there this time last year. But there have also been surprises, for example, we are spending a lot less (25% less on food alone) and that has given us opportunities for treats we have not expected.

It has not been difficult to be more restrained, thoughtful for others or our environment, and we can point to many ways in which the benefits of our restraint have run into our lap. We are now looking for more ways to reduce, simplify and streamline our complicated family life, because the benefits have spoken plainly for themselves.

We have taken small measures and seen the benefits. So I guess there is bound to be even greater blessings if, in the ways of mercy, justice, stewardship, forgiveness, generosity, and freedom, we use big measures!

By andrew sillis at 05/03/2007 - 4:32pm | Lent Blog 2007

And when I woke up my kidney was missing...

My name is Ben and I am addicted to a certain sort of book. Well I would be if I could be bothered to actually read them. There's The Tipping Point, Blink, Freakonomics, erm... the list goes on and on. Most of them are currently tottering at the summit my "To Read" pile, threatening to jump at any second.

However I am reading Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It's a classic example of "that kind of book". It's all about how to communicate an idea and make it stick in peoples minds, not to mention inspire them. The authors come up with the six components of a sticky idea. To help, they all begin with a letter of the alphabet:

  • Find one simple core idea that you want to communicate.
  • Introduce the element of surprise. Something people aren't expecting.
  • Keep the idea concrete. Not a vague concept. Something you can picture in your mind's eye.
  • Give them a reason to believe that the idea has credibility.
  • Appeal to the emotions and not just the grey matter. Well OK emotions come from the grey matter but you know what I mean...
  • Tell Stories. Everyone loves a great yarn.

I've been doing occasional work as an "internet date doctor" recently. Sounds exotic, basically I help people fill out their personal details on internet dating sites. The power of "stickiness" in internet dating profiles is easy to spot. I must have read hundreds of women and men who declare that their churches are "lively and Spirit filled". My eyes glaze over at the very sight of such generalities. Yet I can still remember the woman who declared that her Methodist church was "full of nice old ladies who make me soup". I can picture sat down in a steaming kitchen...

Urban myths are sticky. Although I guess a friend of a friend is hardly the most credible source ever.

Anyway, being the Sabbath an' all that, I was pondering how "sticky" Jesus' teaching was. Let's see if I can manage the complete set here:

  • Simple core idea. "You cannot serve both God and Mammon"... "Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and all your soul all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment"
  • Surprise. "I tell you, this man (the tax collector) rather than the other went home justified before God"... "But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came to where the man was"
  • Concrete. "A man was going to Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers"
  • Credibility "It is written"..."Do not your scriptures say...?"..."John's baptism, was it from heaven or men?"
  • Emotions "His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; threw his arms around him and kissed him"..."O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, ... How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings"
  • Tell stories... Oh, you get the idea!

What a shame that we've turned the sticky stories of Jesus into a series of propositions and statements (OK, so they all begin with the letter 'K' - give yourself a peanut).

Maybe it's time to throw a few missing kidneys (seasoned with salt) into our communications.

And when I woke up, my appendix was missing and I was a small domestic draught excluder...

By ben cohen at 04/03/2007 - 9:59pm | Lent Blog 2007

A perfect day

What could be more exhilarating than a day on the steeps in the bright sun under a blue sky?

Doug Coombs, left, watches Chad VanderHam take the line below. Coombs (48), extreme skiing legend had been "training" VanderHam his 31 year old protege for several years. On this particular morning, Chad got to lead the group down the fearsomely dangerous, but skiable route.

Moments after the picture was taken, Chad disappeared over the cliff. Doug didn't see him go but knew he wasn't where he should have been. He approached the edge slowly himself. He called down. He wanted a rope to see if he could somehow get down to aid his friend. He inched closer to the rocky edge. Then he slipped and fell the 490 feet to his death too.

Mrs Coombs said: "La Grave (the ski area) goes from tranquil to frightening and mad, and it's so exhilarating to be in those moods". Her husband, she said, "never found anything more perfect."

In your pursuit of the extreme life, have you found perfection yet?

Will you give your life to (try to) save a friend?

By mattkemp at 03/03/2007 - 12:16am | Lent Blog 2007

Instant Discipline

Bad at Spiritual Disciplines?

Not good at considering the heavy stuff for lent?

Get yourself some instant discipline…

Thanks to my kind wife thinking ahead and buying me a nice Easter egg before they sell out. As Shrove Tuesday drew to a close I was presented with this gift which is now sitting on our bookshelf, taunting me!

So throughout lent temptation sits wrapped in shiny gold foil, in view and ready to eat at any moment.

Will I hold out? Could you? Not the most difficult task but a simple reminder of the everyday temptations we face.

By adam at 02/03/2007 - 11:09am | Lent Blog 2007

Full Attention

With a long tube journey morning and evening from Ealing to Central London I read a lot of books. I read so many that I am one of those strange people who still use public libraries - coming home laden with classics, thrillers, historical novels, travel writing, cookery books and the occasional bit of theology. I can’t remember a time since the age of about 5 or 6 when I haven’t had a book on the go.

But for me reading is mostly a solitary habit and in recent years I have missed the experience of reading a book to share with friends. Last week I was reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - the Grace Lent reading – and notice that I was reading in a very different frame of mind. I found myself reading the pages more closely, mentally noting ‘good passages’ and interesting bits to discuss. I was receiving far more from this book than my usual reading provides.

Indeed over the next five weeks I may well re-read parts of the book several times. Now I am wondering what I missed in the many other books I have skim read in the past few years - and what am I missing when I skim over the world around me.

I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.

Woody Allen

By SueDonnelly at 01/03/2007 - 8:44pm | Lent Blog 2007

toxicity 2

last year i bought a book by photographer andy hughes called 'dominant wave theory'. it contains hughes' photographs of refuse and detritus on beaches - every kind of pleasant and unpleasant thing, from the harmless to the undoubtedly toxic. the photographs are ambiguous, both beautiful and repulsive. hughes treats the objects as if they were shells or flowers, shooting them in close-up to abstract them, dislocating our sense of scale, as in the shots above where passers-by are menaced by a giant fire extinguisher. he plays with their vivid and artificial colours, but not all of the objects can be rescued by art - some are irredeemably repellent.

most of the detritus is plastic, because it does not degrade. hughes' photographs are a warning to us. in an essay entitled 'the beach as ruin', lena lencek writes, 'the secret message of industrial, non-biodegradeable garbage on the beach is that some things are for keeps, and some mistakes can never be corrected.... we are dismayed by the irony that the very beaches we seek out as physically and psychically restorative refuges are as irretrievably polluted as our toxic hinterlands.'

By steve collins at 28/02/2007 - 11:46pm | Lent Blog 2007

ToxiCITY and the go between god

this is an entry i wrote in my journal on a quiet day in brighton away from london back in november...

john taylor writes of the holy spirit as the go between god. when we connect with someone or something and our awareness moves to something beyond, to a sense of wonder or awareness or really seeing, that is the work of god. in this sense the sea comes alive to me today.

i have been thinking about adbusters notion of toxic environments or mind pollution. i realise they can be a bit dramatic and i want to be less negative about culture - but i have found the level of noise getting to me.

the always on hubbub

i have closed my eyes and felt they hurt from being overdosed on images and screens. i have felt the physical speed of the city in my heart as i have waited for a tube.

i guess people suffering from anxiety find these things overwhelming, out of control. i seem to be able to stay away from the edge of the abyss but it worries me what this life does to my mind sometimes.

i normally think of the word toxic or detoxing in relation to addiction but today i'm thinking that maybe i need more detoxing from contemporary life and technology. on this prayer day i am trying to be still. i start to talk to god but realise that what i need is SILENCE - the absence of noise and talk, a breathing in and out that slows and gets back to the rhythm of creation rather than london.

this is where the sea comes in. standing watching the sea, listening to its amazing sound is the right rhythm. it ebbs and flows, it moulds the beach and stones, its huge and unfathomable.

i stand and the go between god makes the connection
makes me aware
fills me with peace
slows me down
detoxes me...
relief for tired body, eyes and heart

then i wander into town. it's fine though harder to be still. but when i go into the shopping mall i feel the toxicity - lights, ads, images, sensory overload, crass and glaring. i find it hard to imagine the go-between god making a connection with anything here (though i know this runs counter to my theology of the incarnation). i only want a pen from smiths to write in my journal and get out as quickly as i can feeling the call back to the sea.

i stand and watch
soak up the rhythm
sink into the ebb and flow
remember god

it strikes me that the word toxicity could be toxiCITY though of course i think the city can also be the home of god. that sends me off on a tangent - what other words end in city? that could be a good series for grace sometime!

By jonny at 27/02/2007 - 7:20am | Lent Blog 2007

Leaving port

I like a good quotation. We paint them on the walls at work and I often use a quotation as a hook in an assembly.

At Grace in January, Mark Berry led us in a wonderful service 'Set Sail' during which we reflected and meditated on St Brendon the Navigator.

However my thoughts throughout were dominated by the quotation Mark projected right at the beginning of the service:

"A ship is safest in port, but that's not what ships were made for." Paulo Coehlo

I'd love to think that I'd left port and that I was doing what I was made for. It's what I'm thinking about during lent this year. Giving up safety?

By mikergrace at 26/02/2007 - 8:13pm | Lent Blog 2007


Are we confused about Lent?

On my website, Christian Connection, we run regular polls. When we asked people what they did for Lent – these were the responses:

What do you do for Lent?

I don't observe Lent, it's not that important. 38.3%
I always mean to do something, it just doesn't happen!16.7%
I usually give something up, like chocolate or alcohol 23.3%
I attend a course, read a spiritual book or find time to reflect21.7%

While this may (or may not be) a fairly predictable reflection of the current Christian scene, I think there is quite a bit of confusion about what Lent is about.

There are so many ideas swirling around.

  • identifying with Jesus as he fasted in the wilderness, and confronted the devil.
  • personal spiritual detox, and rejection of excess and indulgence, a kind of spiritual MOT?
  • Is it about saving the planet and our carbon footprint?
  • Preparation for Easter
  • Reflecting on our inner identity? Resisting worldly temptation.
  • Penitence and repentance
  • A pilgrimage of prayer and discipline.
  • Learning to receive the Holy Spirit
  • Trying to be nicer more of the time.
  • All or none of the above.

I am sure the Blog will bring plenty of different approaches.

For me, at the moment, the heart of Lent is about my relationship with God. Trying to make that relationship more central to my being and my everyday life than my relationship to my food, my work addictions, my love affair with my car, my ipod, and my Ibook, my friendships. What is God asking of me at this moment and in the future, and what am I asking God to do in my life? If any of the above can help that happen, then bring it on.

Henri Nouwen puts it:,

God’s way can only be grasped in prayer. The more you listen to God speaking within you, the sooner you will hear that voice inviting you to follow the way of Jesus

I hope that has created less rather than more confusion....

By Jackie Elton at 25/02/2007 - 3:10pm | Lent Blog 2007

Who are we

Lent is a time for reflection, Dean in the previous post talked about using Lent as a time to provide a counter balance to consumerism that so often defines us. This week I was at a conference where one of the discussions was trying to determine of there is a "Core You" and if you can differentiate that from the you that interacts with the world. As some of Grace are aware I am involved in the technology of Identity Management, but occasionally we have time to consider the more philosophic issue. Do we have a core Identity and does that identity change. We build up relationships through repeated interaction and through this brings a measure of consistency and frequently trust, do these become one threads that describe us.

This week conversations with colleagues have made me be aware of the way that they see me and has given me cause for reflection, is there a core me that I can connect to or am I defined by the relationships threads around me. Jesus was tested in the desert, that forced him to consider his core identity, that of the Son of God, and not just that of a carpenter. In those forty days he picked up a new thread that set him on a new path with new relationships, one where he continued to surprise even those most close to him.

By richard at 24/02/2007 - 1:48pm | Lent Blog 2007

To appreciate the sunrise you have to sit through the night

The title is a quote I saw on someone's sunrise photo on Flickr; I couldn't find the photo again, but I like the idea.

I was never very keen on Lent until a few years ago; delaying gratification has never been one of my strong suits. But I've come to like Lent because of the texture it brings.

Think of it; you can send tulips in January and buy green beans in December. A huge fuss is made about new season asparagus, but the regular stuff is never off the shelves. You can pay your bills online at midnight and then go on a shopping spree for CDs, groceries and consumer electronics before the night is out. You can order the CDs from Jersey to save VAT, and order a camera from Hong Kong via ebay to save money. To say that we live in a 24-7 society is passé; our world is 365-24-7-360° in which every slice of time and space looks much the same, and affords us the same opportunities. Long gone are the days when Christmas was a feast because the rest of the winter was an abstemious necessity, and a chimpanzee brought to the north-east coast of England might be mistaken for a frenchman. And thank God!I don't want to be without antibiotics and ipods.

But I do recognise that this limitless access to plenty isn't entirely good for us. We are consuming ourselves with our rapacious appetites. There's something wise about taking Lent to live within self-imposed limits; living a little more slowly, praying more, taking time to be generous, consuming less, and being intentional about seeing spiritual possibilities in everyday life. All of this adds texture to our lives. It reminds us that we are not infinite but finite. It adds differentiation between the seasons, and helps us to revel in the life God gives us.

By Dean at 23/02/2007 - 9:43am | Lent Blog 2007

carbon dreams

Are you thinking about giving up something for Lent? How about carbon...

Don't be ridiculous. Carbon is actually the most essential element of life. People like the man at the Stop Climate Chaos demonstration last year who carried a banner saying "Carbon is evil" are just demonstrating their lack of knowledge of chemistry. The problem is not carbon, or indeed carbon dioxide (which is also essential to life), but an excess of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which is changing the climate. How much is it changing? Some newspaper reports on the recent UN report were positively apocalyptic. And unfortunately the UN report didn't offer solutions.

By rebecca at 22/02/2007 - 8:56am | Lent Blog 2007 | read more

Footprints in a cold climate

Sometimes it is more obvious God is around when its cold

By moya at 21/02/2007 - 10:32am | Lent Blog 2007

Welcome to the Grace Lent Blog 2007

For the fifth year the Grace lent blog returns to accompany you through lent.

Please join us daily for some thoughts from some of the Grace community and our friends.

If you would like to add us to your news reader use the XML button at the bottom of this page.

(If you are taking part in the lent blog and looking for the instructions of how to post, they are here.)

We hope you'll enjoy our journey and share it with us.

PS if you want more than a daily dose, the previous Lent Blogs are here: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.

By admin at 20/02/2007 - 9:52pm | Lent Blog 2007

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