Saturday, 12 December 2015

I am not a blogger...

For the 4th time in as many years, my attempts at some kind of daily Advent discipline have ended up lost in a frantic household, forgetfulness, chocolate coin wrappers and screen overtime.

I should probably learn, but I don't. My life is not a pretty blog of creative parenting, spiritual disciplines and daily space for charting it all. It's a place of limited space, tiredness, differing priorities and beautiful chaos. This week particularly, despite no London commute for me, it's been a mixed bag of essay marking, sick children, school events, cabin fever and manic youth work, plus some quiet times of writing cards, filing and other necessary stuff which quite frankly didn't stir anything very profound! The realisation (maybe I'm slow but I'm also a bit of a silly idealist) is that those who do daily blogging are giving it far more time, across the whole of the year, that I will ever have, or want to have. The realisation too that, much as I love to write, I'm not overcome with the need to write in the way that those whose blogs I follow seem to be.

I'm a resourcer, I like to find things, try things and share things. So I'll stick with that. I'm more interested in connection and conversation and at this time of year, there are enough other Advent blogs and hashtags trying to engage us so I don't need to add to the list just for my own guilt inducing lunacy.

So, apologies if you've returned here since last weekend hoping for something else on my self imposed advent journey. As I head into my daughter's ninth birthday weekend with climbing wall parties to manage and cakes to make, party bags and celebrations to put together, I acknowledge I've failed one task, but not in the things that are really important. So I'll pick myself up and get back in the saddle again when I'm next ready to write. I'm not a blogger....well, not every day anyway!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Advent Daily #6 Traditions

A day off from posting yesterday - very necessary as I don't think I had a spare minute in the day to write anything! Having written the day before about hurrying, I fell under that spell and rushed from one thing to another and collapsed about midnight....and now I'm wide awake at 3.30am having probably eaten something I shouldn't. So in a way, I haven't missed a day, am just posting late!

But it's a welcome bit of space none the less. I have done some catching up on Advent blogs that I had bookmarked for future reference, one of those being from our friend Jack who blogs at He says this:

The seasons of the Christian year lead us into depths that human beings will neither exhaust nor fully comprehend. The essence of any God-given mystery is that there is always some new dimension awaiting our discovery. We will never touch the bottom of this sea. 
Yet each season of the Christian year invites a deeper discovery of the mystery of salvation given through Jesus. Entering Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter is not simply a rote rehearsal of what we already know about Jesus. Each season summons us to explore that which we have not yet seen about the beauty and mystery of God.

Under today's word of Tradition, I've been wondering how those things we do year in, year out, bring depth to our Christian year. Certainly at Christmas it's particularly noticeable but each of us has our own different and distinctive ways. Just as each season of the Christian year shouldn't just become a repetition of what we did last year, so too our Advent and Christmas traditions should form a reflective basis for our own deepening faith. 

Yesterday I took my kids (and M's friend P) to see a production of A Christmas Cracker, performed by the Riding Lights Theatre Company. In amongst the great storytelling, funny slapstick comedy, songs and puppets was a realisation - that a great story is where you always find a nugget of undiscovered truth in amongst all the drama and embellishments and hyperbole.
The setting of the show was a stable, not in Bethlehem but a field somewhere in England, owned by Mrs McGinty and the storyteller and her sidekick dog shelter there for the night. Mrs McGinty wants a story all of her own, and the two visitors proceed to tell the story of Jesus birth and those who visited him - the marginalised, the unexpected, the wise and the celestial. An age old, traditional story and one which certainly the 8 and 9 year olds in my company already had a good grasp of, embellishments and all. But the comments of P afterwards showed how the traditional story had come alive in a new way: "So, what she's saying is that, if Jesus had been born now, I could have been one of the first people to visit him?" she says.......#sniff

The Coming

And God held in his handA small globe. Look, he said.The son looked. Far off,As through water, he sawA scorched land of fierceColour. The light burnedThere; crusted buildingsCast their shadows; a brightSerpent, a riverUncoiled itself, radiantWith slime.
                 On a bareHill a bare tree saddenedThe sky. Many peopleHeld out their thin armsTo it, as though waitingFor a vanished AprilTo return to its crossed Boughs. The son watchedThem. Let me go there, he said.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Advent Daily #4 - Hurry

Today's word is HURRY....

Hurrying is a hard thing to avoid as a working parent. I always feel like I'm on catch up. The kids pick up on it. My big girl, nearly 9, regularly asks on a Sunday "What are we doing after church?" - and her preferred answer to the question is "We're coming home and not going out again."
In the midst of busy family life and in a clergy household, we still need to learn again how to slow down and do Sabbath, to do nothing, to do rest. To live without the TO DO list.
The newness of commuting to my new job at St Mellitus hasn't worn off yet - I love the 1 hour 15 minute journey I get on the train and then the tube each way on a Monday and Thursday. It gives me space in the day which I haven't been able to use before now. I travelled a lot in my last job, but it was all in my own timings as I was usually driving. So I could take a back route, or press the accelerator pedal harder. But now I'm within the train timetable. There's nothing I can do to make my transportation go any faster. And it's making me view time differently. It's full of opportunity, to read, listen to music, sleep, write, think, chat.
As I've been thinking about this word, I came across this beautiful post from Ruth Haley Barton which I share with you today.
Take it slow:

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Advent Daily #3

Today's word is WINDOW

I picked the words for these daily blogs rather at random, a bit of a Mallet's Mallet word association exercise! The inspiration for this work came via a Facebook post in which my former employer, Chelmsford Diocese, was unveiling their building's Advent Calendar, using the front windows to countdown the days until Christmas Day.

The daily windows of an Advent Calendar can perhaps hold another meaning - of transparency, of opening ourselves up to this revelation of Christ's coming, perhaps also being more honest and vulnerable about how he might find us at this particular point in our life.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Advent Daily #2

Today's word is Countdown:

It's inevitable really. With a birthday in December and 10 days later, Christmas Day itself, we spend much of November and December in countdown mode.
As with anything that children do, it is in turn both hugely exciting and very cute whilst also being intensely irritating! Constant questions of 'how many days?' can grate but I also remember too, as a child, just how much I wanted Christmas to just HURRY UP AND GET HERE!
So, we try and channel it a bit - with a mix of fun activities each day so it's about the preparation, the waiting and the countdown which builds to something, something which we know is great but is after all, just a day. It's more about how this Advent is going to make a difference in the rest of our days to follow.
The beauty of many of the Advent traditions we've employed over the years is that they allow us to constructively countdown. Tonight we had our usual evening meal and then had some family time with lighting the Advent candles, opening the calendars and reading a Christmas book - of which we have a box full! Other days will include some other treats, 1;1 time with each parent, opportunities to bless others in our community and creative prayer activities. I'm looking forward to them all, despite the sometimes irritating overexcited craziness!
I'm struck by the connections between yesterday's word WATCH and today's COUNTDOWN. Jesus is pretty clear, at the end of the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25, and elsewhere in the Gospels that we should “keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
I wonder if we really understood these two contrasting but connected parts of Advent, we'd be so excited about the second coming?! We're caught in the tension between the certainty of Christmas Day being celebrated on 25th December and the uncertainty of much else that is promised to us in faith and which is foretold in the Scriptures. And in this current climate of wars and rumours of wars, that uncertainty requires us to look inwards to our own souls as followers of Jesus as well as to our communities and our neighbours and be generous with this good news of Jesus' coming. 

Would love to know your reflections on this word and how it relates to you!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Advent Daily #1

Starting today, I'm motivating myself to write a daily short thought, reflection, pondering on a particular word associated with this Advent season. I'm not going to think about it too much, edit, just pray, think and write and see what comes.  I'd love you to join me so feel free to comment or write your thoughts elsewhere on social media too to keep the conversation going.

Today's word: WATCH
In the ebb and flow of the year, the beginning of Advent and the beginning of December certainly has a 'starting gun' feel to's permission giving for decorations to go up, detailed preparations to be made, conversations about 'what are you doing for Christmas' to happen more frequently. But in some ways, as disciples of Jesus, we're also having the starting gun fired on what could be and should be a transformative 25's a sombre time in some ways in the Church. A time when we look back and look forward. A time of both reflection and anticipation. It demands patience and the ability to watch, to focus, to participate. Not an easy task....

John Henry Newman wrote this:
We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch; to watch for what?  For that great event, Christ's coming... 

At the moment, my kids are waiting and watching the letter box expectantly for the newest Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible CD to pop through our door! Its a family favourite and I highly recommend it to you if you have school age children (pre-teens probably!) 

One of the songs on the first album perfectly sums up this watching being both active and passive....check out Be Dressed on this link with the words, which formed part of our Advent Carols service on Sunday night:

(Luke 12:35-36)
Be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning,
Like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet,
So that when he comes and knocks
They can immediately open the door for him.
It will be good for those servants
Whose master finds them watching when he comes.