"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Global Warming, Peak Oil, Resource Depletion, and Sustainable Living

I don't know why on earth I didn't post this when I first found it in the course of my surfing. It is such an important  commentary from BBC Four in a film of four heavy weights in the environmental debate, David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, Richard Dawkins and Richard Leakey. Watch them in serious discussion as to what we have to do to save our planet, threatened as it is by environmental catastrophe, alarmed by global terrorism and disfigured by global poverty. And these three are all inextricably linked.

I would urge anyone who shares my concerns for the future of the world to watch this film in full. It lasts one hour and some very powerful comments and observations are made. Indeed if you are still sceptical about climate change and environmental issues, it is even more important that you spare the time to watch the film. I have jotted down a few thoughts and ideas from the panel:  We must level the world's population, we must alleviate poverty, and in some way persuade the developing parts of the world that they should not yearn for what we have, as we indeed and at the same time must reduce the perception of our own needs.
Dr Jane Goodall reminded the panel that Costa Rica has abolished the military - and the money thus saved goes to social issues. If we all did that, she pointed out that all the world's problems would be solved!! But of course we have national boundaries and coveted resources and greed and fear.
David Attenborough emphasised the need for everyone to accept the natural world as precious.

The one glaring omission in my view is the unanimous failure to recognize any spiritual element in the solution - I guess perhaps hardly surprising with atheist polemicist Dawkins on the team.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Chelsea Chop, bird scarers and companion planting

It's the Chelsea Flower Show again in the UK and so I have finished my "Chelsea Chop" on all my sedums. So named because it should be done around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show in May, it entails cutting off each flower head, and whilst it delays flowering for a few weeks, it prevents that horrible splaying out of the plants later in the year, that leaves an ugly gap in the middle. It also improves the quantity of the floral display. The photos show a plant before and after this "chop."

I cannot believe a whole year has gone by. We now know who has won the medals and we have marveled at the originality of the show gardens and the immense beauty and extravagance of the floral exhibits. But what really excites me is the increasing attention being paid to the healing power of gardening and of plants. One gentleman on the radio recently told of how getting involved in this way had healed him from drug addiction and a perpetual cycle of crime. At Chelsea The Places of Change was the largest plot the show has ever seen, at 590 square metres. It was the result of a collaboration between the Eden Project, Homeless Link, the Homes and Communities Agency and the Communities and Local Government department and full details can be found at  http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/care-and-support/homelessness-garden-wins-chelsea-silver-medal/6509943.article 

At our allotments we have dreadful trouble with pigeons stripping brassica plants and young beans. We prevent this damage by variously using netting, (the most foolproof), CDs strung across the plot, highly coloured childrens windmills, scarecrows and mock birds of prey strung up on poles! I use a tape that can be bought commercially in garden centres but is akin to the black tape in old music cassettes.When stretched taut across the plot or down from the top of bean poles, the wind makes a noise through them which seems to keep the birds away. But someone has warned me that he has seen these tapes trap and kill owls that have swooped down into them presumably to catch mice and small birds. Has any one else experienced this? I have also found a dead sparrow hawk that was caught up in netting, so tape is not the only culprit.

The photo shows my runner bean poles with tape strung from the top and secured by tent pegs in the ground.

Note the flowers on the plot. I just like to have a pretty plot but companion planting is a well known organic technique to control pests without recourse to nasty chemicals. For example lavender planted close to roses is said to control greenfly. It can also be of  benefit for an increased crop - sweet peas trained up bean poles can encourage more bees to pollinate the bean flowers, essential for a good crop of beans.  

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Day 4 of Week of Guided Prayer

Time was not on my side during my week of guided prayer and it is only now that I find the opportunity to report, albeit briefly, on Day 4!

Before meeting with my prayer companion on Day 4 he suggested that I tried a physical meditation/imagery method of prayer. This particular one he gave me was based on the Trinity, and the Sign of the Cross, adapted from Praying With Our Bodies, by Beckman et al, St Anthony Messenger Press.

Briefly, it goes something like this:

In the name of the Father: plant both feet firmly on the ground – hang hands down loosely at side, relax knees and breathe deeply of the Lord’s Love. Take in all the strength and goodness you need. Then with each exhalation let go of all the worries and cares of the day. Place right hand in centre of forehead as we pray: “In the name of the Father,” in the name of our loving creator who loves us more tenderly, compassionately, completely than any earthly mother or father can. In eastern traditions the forehead is the centre of creativity, very apt for me at the moment.

The prayer meditation/imagery continues in a similar fashion through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

The session ends with Amen – Amen to the God beyond us, to the God who lives among us and to the God who dwells within us.
It is in the name of this God, the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we sign ourselves this and everyday.

This type of meditation with the power of imagery in breathing is familiar to yogis, albeit of course with Hindu rather than Christian links. It helps to have a companion who can read the instructions. To try to do this on my own I found too distracting and difficult to really enter into, in a meaningful and spiritual way. I guess once the format is learnt, the distractions will disappear and the method will become more effective. But of course it won't work for everyone.

I was lucky enough the other day to visit Walsingham, and see the Anglican and Roman Catholic Shrines to Our Lady of Walsingham. The first image reproduced above is from the Anglican Shrine depicting the Coronation of the Virgin Mary taking her rightful place in heaven with Jesus. The second image is of our own Easter Garden in our local parish church. Walsingham is truly a wonderful experience - half a day was really not long enough to find and fully savour all its treasures and I shall surely return one day soon for a deeper spiritual experience.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Day 3 of the Week of Accompanied Prayer

Give God a Chance.

My half hour with my prayer companion on day 3 was really difficult to prepare for. All my early good intentions seem to have evaporated. The trouble was that  I was jolly tired after spending much of the previous day at the Christian Resources Exhibition. I always find these events exhausting. They're hard on the feet, and after a while I get information overload and don't feel I want to be given any more freebies or sales pitches! And then there are never enough seats - even the snack bars only had a few of those dreadful small circular tables that you have to stand at, and they were always full up. Next time I go I shall do what those in the know were doing - take a picnic and eat it outside.

So anyway I was so tired by the time I arrived home that I found it hard to even find energy to feed myself and post a blog, let alone find a quiet time for prayer and meditation.

But I did manage to gather a few thoughts together as a basis for some prayer. This was set around some texts on the image of God, ranking these images according to my own favourites. I was then required to pray around those at the top of the list and those at the bottom. This is what I found:

Top of my list came God as Healer, Consoler, Comforter, being images that I relate to, draw support from. Texts such as "Peace I give to you," "Let not you heart be troubled,""The peace of God that passes all understanding," all come from the same mould, set the same pattern. I guess this reflects where I am right now, fighting low self esteem, anxieties, lack of confidence..... Bottom of the list I put God as liberator from fear - seen in Isaiah 43, vv. 1-3. I had not thought along these lines before, but actually reading the text; "I have called you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you..." this actually did help me, especially as I read that 'waters' in the Old Testament is not necessarily to be taken literally, and can be used as a metaphor for the raging heathen, (!), the chaotic stormy seas at creation, and vast nations, or seas of people, and doubtless for other meanings also.The word mayim (waters) also speaks of life, sustenance, refreshing, and other positive life supports.
I then thought of the hymn I learnt many years ago as a child at church: "Through all the changing scenes of life, In trouble and in joy, The praises of my God shall still my heart and tongue employ..........when in distress to him I called, He to my rescue came........"
This all gave me plenty of inspiration for prayer!
I could write much more on this, and days 3 and 4 are still to write about, but time is overtaking me and I shall return to these later, hopefully.

Just for now I leave you with a few more images of the beauty in God's Creation:

Friday, 14 May 2010

Letters From an Extreme Pilgrim

As I prepare tonight to watch How to Live a Simple Life, the latest TV series from our very own wacky reverend Peter Owen Jones, I am delighted to see that his latest book, Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim: Reflections on Life, Love and the Soul is doing so well in the Amazon UK rankings. I reviewed this a few weeks ago on Amazon - this is what I said then:

"This book is based on a disarmingly simple idea: to write letters to those who have played an important part in the author's life, whilst exploring and reflecting on the spiritual nature of those relationships and what they have meant to him.
But do not be deceived. On one level certainly the book may be undemanding. But it is also on another level spiritually challenging and in today's fractured world we need to accept that challenge and be receptive to the new era of spirituality and consciousness that we now enter. We need to rediscover our spirit and our soul, and the author will help us do this.
The author is honest, open and courageous as he bares his own uncertainties and vulnerabilities to reflect on love, beauty, the soul, and the nature of God. There is a certain poignancy to some of his letters, for example the story of the lost love of the Girl in the Field. Here he sensitively explores the different types of relationship between man and woman, the different experiences of enchantment, intimacy, desire, and he certainly helped me understand a little more about my own relationships. And by way of contrast he is not afraid to tackle religious fundamentalism head on with his letter to Osama, which must surely make us all examine our own position on love and faith and respect of our fellow beings.

I like The Times description of the author as "the bravest vicar in Britain...a man living with his soul." The book is unusual and refreshing for that. I can recommend this little volume - it will help us all make more sense of this world, help us understand a little more of who we are and I hope will help us reconnect with our own souls for a better world"

I'm not sure I understand why this book does not appear at Amazon.com.

The random photos by the way are from a holiday in Norfolk last year!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

UK General Election, the Christian Faith and my own prayer journey

What an extraordinary and exciting week this is proving to be, for the UK in this election roller coaster and at a faith level both national and personal. Whilst the various elements of the media have been falling over each other to be the first in breaking any news at all during the shinanickins that is the aftermath of our General Election last week,  (and what an exciting climax today as I write this!) I am on a spiritual prayer journey that is proving to be hugely rewarding, and I have also witnessed the biggest evidence one could possibly find in one place of the enormous relevance of the Christian Faith to so very many people in this country. God and His Son are most certainly and definitely not dead!

First my prayer journey. prayer
This morning I met my Prayer Companion again to see where my scripture text I had chosen from Paul's Letter to the Philippians had taken me. In preparation, I first  meditated on verses 8 and 9:

...v.8 whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things. v.9 The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

What a lovely way of starting a day with thinking on these things - and where better than where I start most days - again at the allotment!

 Then I continued the theme from yesterday that I find prayer in hymns. This was brought to the fore convincingly in the service last night for the induction of our new priest as Team Rector and the licensing of our new team vicar. There were wonderful hymns - full of prayerful jewels:

Jesu, Thou art all compassion...
Pure unbounded love thou art;

As the deer pants for the water,
so my soul longs after you...

You alone are my strength and shield,
To you alone may my spirit yield...

Christ triumphant, ever reigning...

Oh Lord my God, when I, in awesome wonder... Then sings my soul....

I could go on and on - our hymn writers have left us a wonderful poetic legacy, and continue to do so in wonderful hymns such as ...

You shall go out with joy
and be led forth in peace.... a really joyful way to end any service.

Finally as I  looked at the Order of Service again I was drawn to the prayer for parish priests by Frank Colquhoun printed out for us to use in praying for these two priests in their vital new ministries ... and I realised that in reciting or reading a prayer such as this there is a real danger, at least for me, that there is no spiritual connection - that it does not become a prayer. For me to be really spiritually prayerful I need to make my prayers from within my mind, my soul, not restricted by the printed word. Does this make sense I wonder? I always fear that too many people read from their service sheets without that real prayerful connection. Am I being too harsh? Perhaps. But I for one know that a service becomes very much more spiritual for me if I am not bogged down in words I do not know or are not familiar with. Surely this is the joy of Taize chants - simple to learn and spiritually meaningful.

Before tomorrow's meeting I have to consider images of God - how I understand Him, what images appeal, which don't, whether I see Him as Healer, Consoler, Saviour, Father, Creator etc...The list is quite long. So hopefully tomorrow I will be able to report back! 

After my prayer session I went over to the International Christian Resources Exhibition being held at Sandown Race Course, near Esher, for the rest of the week. I don't know why I have never been before. So much inspiration, so many wonderful people to meet and chat with, such a strong witness to the relevance of Christianity in this world today.

And while there I called in to the Association of Christian Writers at stand P55. I am after all a member and they had given me my free ticket! It's a wonderful source of encouragement, information, conferences and courses, and  prayer support through the prayer encouragers. If you are Christian and write, whether your work is secular or religious, then the ACW is for you. These photos show our chair Lin Ball and Vicki Howie manning the stand. Plenty of visitors came up whilst I was there - hopefully to convert into members - to be strongly recommended.

More on my prayer journey tomorrow!

Guided Week of Prayer - Give God a Chance

Yesterday morning I had my first half hour session with my Prayer Companion on this Week of Guided Prayer. We shall meet each day during this week to talk about my experiences of prayer and for me to receive support and suggestions which I hope will enrich my spiritual journey.
I started the day as I often do, up at the allotment at 7am. It is beautiful at that time of morning - very peaceful. I am often joined by the handsome male pheasants who strut their stuff around the plots and squawk at their females as they chase them around the field. Last year I startled a hen pheasant on a nest with several eggs in it, well hidden in the middle of my strawberry patch. Sadly I think the eggs must have been found by rats, as I found some of them scattered around the plot a few days later, some broken and half eaten away, and the nest was abandoned.
I was due to meet my Companion at 9.30 so my time at the allotment was shorter than usual as I had to fit in half an hour of prayer before the meeting. To settle me down I started with some yoga postures. These were originally designed to prepare the yogi for meditation, and so this seemed appropriate. I then spent half an hour in contemplation, meditation and prayer.
My first experiences I found fascinating. JESUS CROSS PRAYER HANDS
I chose a text from those given to me at the introductory service, from Psalm 131:
My heart is not proud, O LORD,
       my eyes are not haughty;
       I do not concern myself with great matters
       or things too wonderful for me.

 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
       like a weaned child with its mother,
       like a weaned child is my soul within me.

 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
       both now and forevermore.

Isn't that lovely? 

That my soul can be quieted and calmed like the weaned child, no longer fully dependent, but still supported, seems a lovely idea. My soul cries for this world, and is often disquieted. I find sustenance in the quiet times before services when all has been prepared ready for the priest and I can then calm and prepare myself. And I definitely find meaningful prayer in the many beautiful and poetic hymns that we sing each week. To me the hymn very often then becomes my very own personal prayer and connection between my own soul and God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This can be very soul healing.

At the end of our discussions around these thoughts, my Companion gave me a list of suggested scripture passages on God's love and on our trust in God. I had to choose one that is especially meaningful to me and see where that takes me on this journey. I chose a passage from Paul's Letter to the Philippians, chapter 4 vv 8-13:

4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things. 4:9 The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 4:10 But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length you have revived your thought for me; in which you did indeed take thought, but you lacked opportunity. 4:11 Not that I speak in respect to lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. 4:12 I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

Isn't that passage lovely? I am reminded of Mary treasuring all she has heard about the events surrounding  the birth of the Christ Child and pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) What a lovely passage to meditate on.
I will post my thoughts on this when I have met my Companion again.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Spring really is here and My Week of Guided Prayer

Visited a really lovely garden today, open under the UK National Garden Scheme. Just time to post a few photos of glorious spring flowers. Tomorrow I embark upon a week of guided prayer. We had an introductory service this afternoon but I still have absolutely no idea what to expect - watch on this blog for more about this and different ways in prayer as I learn and experience more during the week.

and some alpacas for good measure - these two clearly were not talking to one another!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Marie Curie Blooming Great Tea Party and Noveltea

I simply cannot believe that it is a whole week since we went to join in the Blooming Great Tea Party that was being held by Amos and Lily from Noveltea in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care. We were so lucky with the weather. Cool it may have been, but at least not drizzling like it is today. Lots of friends and relations came to join in, along with several families walking in the surrounding park who were curious to see what was going on and enjoyed the wonderful home made cakes. And of course a respectable sum was donated to send to Marie Curie - such a worthy charity. Regular readers will know that I have cycled for them more than once, and not without incident it has to be said!

         Just look at those cakes!

And I just love those wellies!!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Depression as a Spiritual Journey

Another day and another brush with the paparazzi - when will they leave me alone?! Seriously though, I have just returned from a day in London being interviewed for TV in connection with depression, more specifically a book, "Depression as a Spiritual Journey" by Stephanie Sorrell, published by O Books.
   Isn't that just a lovely painting for the cover - and if you read the book you will soon understand how appropriate it is. Of course the main focus of the interview was on Stephanie and her own experiences which led to her writing the book. I was asked along because someone else pulled out and I could talk from my own life around the same subject. And I think I could give Stephanie some moral support - I hope I did anyway.

The organisation is Conscious.TV. They produce programmes for Sky TV and other outlets. It all came about from a chance meeting with Iain McNay at a Scientific and Medical Network conference a few weeks ago. That was the weekend of flight chaos when Britain's planes were grounded because of a certain Icelandic volcano and skies were absolutely clear of aeroplane vapour trails. A unique experience. Just look at that sky!

Life is so full of wonderful serendipitous moments - they seem to have directed the course of my life for quite a while now. One thing I have learnt and now live by is that you get nothing in this world if you don't ask. And if you don't talk to people, strangers, anyone, you will never have chance conversations that can so often lead you in another exciting direction.
The film will be out in about 10 days and I will keep you posted. If I like the result, anyway! But I guess it will be in the public domain so there's no going back!

That same weekend at the SMN conference I found this quote from Thich Nhat Hahn. If only we could all understand that simple truth!

That's all for now - I am exhausted from the day and need to get supper!

Monday, 3 May 2010


A couple of recent events must surely make us stop and ponder our own folly.

Apparently quite a few travellers are still stranded around the globe in the wake of the Icelandic volcano fiasco following the total shutdown of  UK air routes - this was for fear of the damaging effects of volcanic ash to the plane engines. And we have seen a glimpse of what happens to our lives when we can no longer fly. We have seen food shortages on supermarket shelves, school pupils have missed exams, and no doubt many business plans have also been disrupted. But the event has shown travellers that there are actually better, greener ways to travel, where the journey can be enjoyed as a part of the holiday. I think of trains and boats. And this forces us to slow down and enjoy what is around us.

Now we have a massive oil leakage into the Gulf of Mexico that is said to be costing $6 billion a day for British Petroleum to clean up as it threatens wildlife, fishing industries and the Florida tourist. And Barack Obama quite rightly says that whilst America will use all its available resources in the clean up, the total cost must fall to BP. BP are anxious to make it clear that the leakage was not wholly their fault although they do apparently accept at this stage the costs of the cleanup. I suspect that in the long run lawyers will be the main beneficiaries financially. And shareholders who pile in to the shares at their post leakage plummeted price will also gain financially! And those current shareholders who panic at the loss in value of their shares and pile out at the bottom will lose money - quite a lot of money. But at the end of the day what does that money matter?! The animal kingdom has to be far and away the greatest loser, and that includes not only brown pelican chicks oyster beds, tuna and much much more. And also Homo Sapiens. When are we going to wake up, and see what this awful catastrophy is showing us? How many of these disasters must happen before we realise that our greed for oil at any price is threatening our very existence, threatening our ever more precarious position in the global ecology.

There is plenty for us to reflect upon from these two events.

Simon Barnes in the Times a couple of days ago has said it all: "Our addiction to oil is madness - it is time to act."

and another insightful article Spill Baby Spill.

What do YOU think?

It's Time you knew - by Transition Rachel at YouTube

Many reasons to love La Gomera



with vapor trails


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