Friday, 30 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Pushing Through

'I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.' 

- Marissa Mayer

Thursday, 29 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Go Alone

'Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.'

- Mother Teresa

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Excellent Leaders

'If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.'

 - Dolly Parton

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Bossy Women!

'I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading.'

- Amy Poehler

Monday, 26 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - My Rules

'Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.'

- Anne Sweeney

Friday, 23 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - When One Door Closes...

'When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.'

 - Helen Keller

Thursday, 22 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Give Back

'If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.'

- Melinda Gates

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

30 Second Reflecrion - Confidence

'Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.'
- Marie Curie

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Faith for the Fainthearted - The J Word

'Lorelia: I need to talk to you about the J word...
Rory: Oh no, not Jesus. I'm sick of him and Mel Gibson'
    - Gilmore Girls
It is pretty much a fact universally acknowledged in our society today that the way to kill the atmosphere of an evening dead is to start talking about religion or politics. Let's be honest, even worse would be to mention the 'J Word' in any other context than swearing. I wonder if it is because we have been bashed around the head sideways with the name. I have certainly met people who feel that way.

Perhaps it is because when the J Bomb is dropped you can bet the conversation is set to stray into seriously awkward territory. It always seem to begin with a litany of all the failings you didn't even realise you had and end with 'but don't worry Jesus loves you anyway'. My pre-faith experience of conversations like this were one of total bemusement and, where possible, complete avoidance.
So I give you this caveat to this piece now. It's not going to get awkward and I'm not going to list all the things Jesus is waggling his finger at you about from his heavenly home. That's just not how I see it. But there is really little I can say about the life of faith without talking about Jesus and I'm not embarrassed to. He is the lynch pin in the whole endeavour for me and nothing in my faith makes much sense without reference to him. Whether it is questions of self esteem, purpose in life, ethics or why the world is as it is there is nothing that I believe that doesn't have some basis in Jesus.

I remember first reading the stories of Jesus in the New Testament convinced that I knew it all and that it was a pointless exercise and being what I can only describe as captivated by this character whose energy seemed to sing off the pages. That feeling hasn't really loosened in the ten years since then. I remember being sceptical about the Bible, who even wrote this stuff anyway? And yet quickly feeling that wherever this came from and whomever put the words to paper (or parchment in those days!) I wanted to know more. A lot more.

One of the greatest things for me about Jesus is that he is bit, well, unlikely. He isn't impressive. A big deal is made of the fact that his mother is young and unmarried and he is born, quite literally, in a barn. Most of the people in authority don't think much of him. He isn't formally educated, he is a tradesman. He liked hanging out with all the dodgy people and went to parties and got called a 'glutton and a drunkard' (perhaps a tad unfairly!).
But he was also bloomin' clever and believe it or not, really quite funny. He spoke in a way people understood. He told them stories rather that presented them with a dissertation. When people tried to catch him out he quipped at them and flipped their assumptions upside down. It is like he had a way of looking at people and seeing to the heart of them, what they were really about, and in a seriously brilliant one liner bringing all of that to light.

And when you think about the Christian view of who Jesus was, well, it all starts to get a little bit crazy and a big bit wonderful. Here's the thing, we actually do think that Jesus was God come to us in a human form. I know, I know, call the men in white coats. But the logic is this - imagine there is a flu stuck in a glass jar and you want to help it escape.
If you, as a human being, open the jar and yell at the fly it isn't going to get you far and that fly is well and truly stuck, buzzing around like a crazy thing bashing its head against the glass. If, however, you could make yourself a fly too, just for a little bit, then you could fly out of the jar to show the stuck fly how.
That, terribly explained, is what the whole Jesus/God thing is about. God showing us the way to find a life of freedom and faith and love by coming to us in a form we can understand. Our own form. You can make of that what you will but you can see how the character of Jesus and the circumstances of his life suddenly take on a radical importance if that is what you believe.
Suddenly being weak in the world, or of low status or looked down upon for whatever reason isn't something to be ashamed of, it is something to be transcended. And, frankly, it is pretty darn awesome if God is as funny and compelling and quippy as Jesus is. That idea gives me a happy glow right down to my toes.
And then when you add in what we all know happened to Jesus and why as Christians we think that happened, well, then you have this insanely loving God and the transformation of everything it means to be a human and in pain. That's the point where, for me, my world view really flipped on its axis.
But that is next week....!

This post is part of the Faith for the Fainthearted Series, the last post was Faith, why Bother?

30 Second Reflection - Curiosity

'I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.'
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, 19 October 2015

30 Second Reflections - Finding You

'Figure out who you are separate from your family, and the man or woman you're in a relationship with. Find who you are in this world and what you need to feel good alone. I think that's the most important thing in life. Find a sense of self because with that, you can do anything else.'
-  Angelina Jolie

Friday, 16 October 2015

Vicar's Craft Corner - Sewing is free* therapy!

Last week as I was sat at my new Bernina sewing machine at my sparkly new sewing table it struck me that sewing really is bloomin' good for you. I know, I know. As if we need any more excuses to craft but sitting there, thoroughly absorbed in something just for me, I realised that this is probably one of the kindest things I am doing for myself right now.

My first garment!

As I am getting used to a new phase in life and a whole new job it is taking time to adjust. To get the balance between giving all I can to a role I love but also still having something left over at the end of the day for just being, well, a human being. You know how it is when you are busy, your mind whirls over and over with the same things.

Sometimes even time off is sort of swamped by your working life because you just can't switch your mind off. I've even had those crazy 'Performance nightmares', you know the ones where you are sat bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night convinced you are in a meeting in your pjs? What, just me? #awkward
But I do think I am getting there bit by bit particularly at the moment by thinking of things I need to do to 'fill up my tank'! This image was quite a useful one someone mentioned in an offhand way to me the other day and it really struck a cord. You can't run on a car on empty nor can you run a person on empty either.

When life is demanding and lots of the things you are doing are draining the resources from your energy reserves then they need to be filled up again. At the moment this seems better done to me little and often. It has been helpful to grab that quick half an hour to snuggle down with a book or taking the time to make something good for dinner.
A pretty great place to be

I've had to get off my behind a little bit too because actually a lot of tank filling activities are active things for me. Sewing is definitely one of those things. I always felt like I didn't have the time or energy before to do anything but collapse onto the sofa. And while I am a dedicated advocate of sofa time getting into sewing has given me something completely different in my life that I am really valuing and really is filling up the 'ol tank!

Having a creative new hobby gives me a chance to think about something different, to be absorbed in something that is so thoroughly different to the rest of my life. Sitting at the sewing machine hours fly by as if they were minutes and suddenly I have made something. Something has emerged from just bits of fabric and thread from my own hands. It is amazing and absolutely great fun.

Some of the new stash!

I think Psychologists call that feeling 'flow', when you just get totally lost in something, and I can see how it can be so good for your health and well being. For me, the pursuit of the next gorgeous bit of fabric and the sketching designs and browsing fashion magazines puts me in a new place where I can scarcely remember what was stressing me this week.

This week's project!

So how about you, any activities in your life that bring you that wonderful escape or that fantastic flow? I'm off back to my sewing machine! :)

*I say free but let's be honest one of the joys of a new craft is the chance to shop for all you supplies. Having just returned from the Knitting and Stitching show I am definitely less a few pounds but the proud owner of a glorious fabric stash!

30 Second Reflection - Aim High

You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don't win, at least you can be satisfied that you've tried. If you don't accept failure as a possibility, you don't set high goals, you don't branch out, you don't try -  you don't take the risk.

- Rosalynn Carter

Thursday, 15 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Living

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.

- Agatha Christie

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Success

What constitutes success? She has achieved success who has lived well; laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of little children; who has filled her niche and accomplished her task; who has left the world better than she found it; who has always looked for the best in others and given the best she had.

- Bessie Anderson Stanley

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Vicar's Sofa - Faith, Why bother?

In my last post of this series on Faith for the Fainthearted I suggested that there are many, many things we might prefer to do than drag ourselves out of a warm bed on a cold Sunday and down to our local church or any other place of worship. As I write this I am sitting on a desktop PC at the back of my own cold church at just gone nine in the morning, giving myself a stern telling off for forgetting to bring an oversized cardigan with me to keep warm. And it is only October. Trust me, I know all about the loss of the Sunday lie in!

And of course it isn’t just the Sunday morning thing. What is the point of faith, of religion, of spirituality, of any of it when there are so many other ways to make your life rich and fulfilling. We live in a time where the opportunities really are endless. There are countless ways to be entertained, innumerable ways to bring joy to life and, if we are lucky, a wide range of family and friends to share it all with. The only thing we are perhaps poor on is time. So why, then, bother with one more thing?
Way before I considered myself a person of faith I had a conversation with a Christian friend where I asked her, with a heavy dose of scepticism, why she was a Christian. She responded with something that fascinated me, she said 'It makes life better.' This, I felt, was quite a bold claim, to say this so clearly and without qualification. It wasn't about a guilt trip or worrying about where you go when you die, it was about the here and now. This, I thought, was rather interesting.
A Christian writer, Richard Rohr, describes the life of faith like this
'Get ready for a great adventure, the one you were really born for. If we never get to our little bit of heaven, our life does not make much sense, and we have created our own 'hell'. So get ready for some new freedom, some dangerous permission, some hope from nowhere, some unexpected happiness, some stumbling stones, some radical grace, and some new and pressing responsibility for yourself and our suffering world.'
What strikes me here, and something that resonates with my own experience, is the sense of how a life that includes faith and spirituality is an adventure. It takes you in directions you could never have possibly imagined , it uncovers things that live deep down in you that you never thought were even there. Another writer that I love, Margaret Silf, describes our true self as like a deep river running in the core of us. The task of the life of faith is to get down into the deep river, that core of who we are, of who God intended and longs for us to be.

And that is liberating, it is worth it and it is, well, fun! It means your path in life is never sewn up. Your direction is never fixed. Your potential is never fully tapped. There is always more and more that right now you can’t even begin to predict. There have been so many incidents as I have walked this journey of faith where I have been making choices in my life on the basis of what I thought God was calling me to with a very real scepticism in my own heart. Ordination itself was one of those things. I once swore, after a bad experience working in a church, that I would never work for a church again. And yet there I was, with this gut pull towards a whole life working in the church.
No matter how many people told me that what I was doing seemed the right thing to them and no matter how many interviews I got through or criteria I ticked off I still found the whole thing extraordinary. I still do. I still marvel at the fact that I am here, in a place I would never, ever have put myself and that gut pull, that path of faith I have followed is being proved a safe and true one. I am becoming things I never thought I could be.
So why bother? Well, I suppose it depends what kind of life you are looking for. There really is plenty to do, your life can be meaningful and good without any of this. But if you have that yearning to go deeper, to discover something extraordinary in yourself and in the world. Well, then maybe this is the path for you. Maybe there is more, no matter what stage of life you are at. There is only one way to find out. Maybe it is time for a new adventure.



30 Second Reflection - Gratitude

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feat, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

- Melody Beattie

Monday, 12 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Loveliness

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost

- Sara Teasdale

Friday, 9 October 2015

Vicar's Kitchen: The Spicery

A while back I wrote about my new years resolution to cook more curry which, thanks for asking, has been going swimmingly. Curry is now a regular feature in our house and I swear my Korma is (channelling Tina Turner...) Simply the Best! My interest in spice cookery was really sparked though by a really great little company here in the UK that I thought I'd bring to your attention if you too are new to the world of spice.

The Spicery is a bit of a revelation really(and I'm not getting paid to say this!!). Each month, if you take up a subscription, you get a box with spices and recipe cards for a three course meal for four. We had a subscription for Friday Night Takeaway which was a different classic Indian takeaway dish for you to make at home.

The name of each dish is pretty much where the comparison to takeaway ends, however, because the dishes you produce with these gorgeous little sachets of freshly ground spices bears so little resemblance to what can often be a bland and same-y experience of ordering a take out. Instead they are absolutely bursting with flavour and knock the socks of every ready made sauce going.

The Spicery also have a World Foods option which is just great for expanding your food horizons. This was how I discovered Indian flatbreads coated with egg, fried and stuffed with lovely chicken We recently ordered a jumbo lucky dip box and are now looking forward to a night of Jamaican food and working our way through the most amazing ginger cake I have ever eaten.

But one of the great things about The Spicery is that it is an easy way to become confident with spice cooking, with ready measured sachets and easy to follow instructions, which opens up a whole load of new culinary possibilities. Learning to cook the Indian favourites opened up a whole new way of cooking for me and I am now happily whipping up South Indian curries mid week from my own little spice store.

So if you fancy trying something new then I'd say they are worth a go. It makes a great date night and a cheaper alternative to eating out. Love it!

30 Second Reflection - Out of the Box!

'To think outside of the box you must be outside of the box.'

- Alfreda Doyle, Poetry about Creativity

Thursday, 8 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - the Gift of Creativity

'We are ourselves creations. We are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves. This is the God-force extending itself through us. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using creativity is our gift back to God.'

- Julia Cameron, Heart Steps

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Creativity and Bravery

'The creative process is also the most terrifying part because you don't know exactly what's going to happen or where it is going to lead. You don't know what new dangers and challenges you'll find. It takes an enormous amount of internal security to begin with the spirit of adventure, discovery, and creativity. Without doubt, you have to leave the comfort zone of base camp and confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness.'

- Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Vicar's Sofa - Faith for the Faint-hearted

I seem to have found myself in a rather difficult business. What I'm selling, a lot of people just ain't buyin' and I spend an awful lot of time wondering why that is so. Perhaps it is just out of fashion. There are a million and one things to do on a Sunday not to mention the sweet temptation of a lie in with the Sunday papers so why on earth would people go to church?

Perhaps it is the church itself, old fashioned, not for the young, stuck in the past as if we are all still in the 1950s frolicking about the green and pleasant land humming 'Jerusalem' to ourselves. Perhaps God really is dead and we have all moved on to more rational views of the world. That faith is just pie in the sky when you die and we are done with that, thanks very much.

But then moments happen to me like this week as I walked home from work. Someone stopped me, said he had never been into the church but he needed a prayer. More than that, he needed God. Some guidance...or something. And this happens all the time these searching people who do a double take when they see me in a collar or cross the road to ask me a question.

And then I have my own story, the reason that I am wearing a collar in the first place to be sopped in the street. That overwhelming experience that took me from agreeing with all of the above to being not just in church but at the front leading the flippin' thing.

I routinely find myself wondering what on earth I am doing. I haven't lost my desire for a lie in. I haven't become immune to some of the truly naff bits of church. But I have found something, under all that, that has given me life. There isn't really any other way to put it than that. It is like my spiritual heart has started beating, loud and true, right in the centre of me and it is giving life to every part of who I am.

And sometimes I wonder if the naffness and the difficulty and the plain obscurity of a lot of what the church does is part of the problem. The church has thousands of years of tradition and history and my goodness that is truly a wellspring of life if you dig down into it. It is riches beyond measure.

But it means that this is a great hulking ship that takes a long time to turn. Our society is moving on at the rate of knots and the church, quite frankly, is not keeping up. What scares me, deep down, is that people might be missing out on this joyful and life giving spiritual life that I know Christianity has to offer not because they don't want it but simple because the church is failing to explain itself in words that people can understand.

So that's why I want to write a new series for this blog. To do a bit of decoding, a spot of translation, to offer you something of what have been transformatory for me in my own words. And then, well, you can take or leave it. It is yours to reject or cherish. But if you are one of those people wondering about life, the universe and everything, well, I hope you will find something for the way.

30 Second Reflection - Potential

'Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.'
- Michelangelo

Monday, 5 October 2015

30 Second Reflection - Creativity

'Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.'

- Ericc Fromm

Friday, 2 October 2015

Vicar's Craft Corner - Sewing Table Revamp!

When we moved into our new house I naturally quickly claimed the second reception room as a Sewing Room. We have an old fold down table that was now a bit too small for our dinning room which makes a perfect cutting table and my little rolling sewing storage unit fits perfectly in one of the many nooks and crannies of our oddly shaped little house.

Just as I had everything pretty much sorted a new surprise emerged, the gift of a whole load of lovely sewing stuff from a very generous lady in church who couldn't make use of it any more. This included a sewing machine (a Bernina no less!), an overlocker and a whole load of threads, patterns and needles as well as a brand new sewing table.
Suddenly the possibilities of the sewing room were rather exciting all over again. A pot of eau de nil Laura Ashley eggshell and a couple of hours with a paintbrush and suddenly I had a new addition to the sewing room which now gives me a cutting table and sewing table in my little den.
Masking tape the handles, the key to a clean finish
I just can't help myself when it comes to wooden furniture, I am just itching to get at it with a paintbrush. It does mean, though, that any new additions blend nicely in with what I already have because I can change the colour to fit in with what is there. This, after all, has to be better than it ending up in the skip because it isn't the colour that is in fashion for homewares right now. And the range of colours available to paint furniture seems to be getting larger by the day so the options really are greater than ever.
For the board at the back I just bought a cheap pin board and pinned a piece of fabric I picked up in a Vintage shop to the board using white ribbon as a border and to make the pockets to hold handy bits and pieces.
The lamp is an ebay purchase and the little desk tidy and pen pot are from WH Smiths. The letter organiser is perfect for keeping my patterns so that I can see what I've got. I used a storage basket from H&M under the desk for all my large bits of fabric and the floral basket was another charity shop find that I use to store wool.
The next investment I am hoping to make is a dressmakers dummy, naturally covered in some lovely fabric. Now to get down to some hard graft needed to make progress in my dressmaking course. It's just all that bit easier in a gorgeous space though right?!