Magazine Letters from 2016
A lost wallet which contains a picture of a baby is more likely to be returned to its owner, scientists have discovered. Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from Hertfordshire, who supervised the experiment, said those containing the picture of the infant were most likely to trigger an honest reaction from the finder, with 88 per cent being returned. The result reflects a compassionate instinct towards vulnerable infants that people have evolved to ensure the survival of future generations. The baby kicked off a caring feeling in people.
Our humanity is bound up in one another. This interconnectedness is the very message of Christ Mass. Over centuries humanity has torn the fabric of connectedness between humanity. In order for it to be made whole again it needs repairing. Advent is the time of getting on with the reparation. The sight of a vulnerable infant makes us discover our own vulnerability and responsibility towards each other. We recognise that my dignity is bound up in your dignity, and every wrongdoing hurts us all. Christmas means that God is involved and that he is a God of mercy and new beginnings. But before any new journey can enthuse us about its destination, we must be willing to take that first tentative step forward. There is a Gaelic proverb which states ‘Nothing is easy for the unwilling’. Without willingness the journey will be impossible. Before compassion there needs to be a willingness to want to be compassionate. Before transformation there must be the belief that transformation is possible and a willingness to be transformed.
May I invite you to join me on this journey during Advent so that when we finally look at the Holy Infant being born, the Christ Mass, we thank God for our gift of a 100% return to the hope and Joy for the world and that he rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness.
I wish you a blessed Advent and Christmas,
Names are very important.
This month we hear the names read in church of all those from the village, who died in World War 1 and World War 2. We see their names as we walk round the village, along with those of other notable people who have died. Having a road named in honour of one is a way to keep memories alive.
Parents often spend a long time choosing the names of their children. Sometimes it is a popular one, and teachers have a problem when there are several children with the same name. In one year that I was in there were five Audrey’s. We sat all together, and when the teacher said our name no-one took any notice as it could have been any one of us, and we waited for a different Audrey to answer.
My husband had five names and, when small, was not called by any of them. When he went to boarding school aged six he was amazed to find he had all those names.
Jesus is called by many names and in different ways…..Lord, King, Master, Rabbi, Prince of Peace, the Light of the World, Messiah, Saviour, Friend, and many more. Jesus has no trouble responding to any of these names. However we address Him, He is always ready to listen to us. He does not need to be harangued, just talked to. He knows our inmost thoughts and needs, and we should listen in our hearts to His response.
May we all receive Jesus blessing.
A Letter from the Reader
I’m a country girl at heart! I was brought up on the Island of Jersey where my late father was a dairy farmer, so I know all about rearing cows! We were a church going family and every year at Harvest Festival we would take a churn of fresh milk to be placed alongside the loaves shaped like wheat sheaves, fruit and vegetables piled up in pyramids.
Over the years I’ve seen a variety of creative harvest displays – from an upturned wheelbarrow and a shiny milk churn sprouting ears of corn to a display divided right down the middle between want and plenty, as well as the tinned and packet foodstuffs balancing precariously on small shelves. It has also been an opportunity for the florists of the church to pull out all the stops and produce a riot of gorgeous autumnal colours.
But are these harvest celebrations really relevant anymore? Many of us get our vegetables from the supermarket, our bread from a plastic packet and our milk from the paper shop. Some of us may even use our local farm shops in Staplehurst! The nearest we have ever been to a farm is visiting one on holiday or perhaps popping along to the Rare Breeds Centre in Woodchurch, despite being a village community surrounded by farms – and this whole harvest festival idea seems a bit remote. Shouldn’t churches just ditch it and do something more relevant instead?
The thing is, unless we make ourselves stop at least once a year and acknowledge the natural goodness and the produce of the earth – there is a danger that we will never do it. In our ‘sanitised’ lives it is all too easy to forget where our most basic foodstuffs come from. Harvest festivals re-connect lots of people with the natural order of things – and remind us that the contents of our dinner plates do not start at the supermarket shelf.
Farming has always been hard work. You only need to talk to the farmers in our community and listen to their stories. Out in all weathers, fighting off pests and crop damage, coping with taxes and subsidies, trying to meet exacting standards from the food industry – it’s not an easy way to make a living. If harvest festivals make us think about our farming community, even once a year – I’m all for them.
So do come and join us at 10.00am on Sunday, 2nd October, at All Saints and celebrate this year’s Harvest Festival with us.
With much love
I had a glorious summer. On my holiday I was catching up with friends and I’ve not laughed so much for a long time about some of the stories told around the table coinciding with a lovely outdoor dinner in the garden. What in life brings you joy?
For some joy might be found in catching sight un-expectantly of animals , birds, the glimpse of a deer or maybe you wait patiently beside a lake or river, watching the ducks, geese and moorhens glide as the sun sparkles on the water. Or maybe it’s the seaside that does it for you, watching and listening to the rhythm of the waves breaking on the shore.
Babies also make me smile. It’s something about their newness, their vulnerability and their innocence, utterly dependent and with all the world to grow into. Each Baptism celebrated at Church fills me with joy.
Joy also comes from meeting with your loved ones and settling into a sense of contentment as you spend time with them.
Joy can be found in so many things – a glorious sunset, a piece of music, appreciation of art, shared laughter, in knowing you are loved. You can no doubt add many things to the list.
I hope that each of us may also find faith to bring us joy, knowing we are loved by God; a deep joy that may become our default setting as we grow in our relationship with God and it begins to bubble up as gift of rejoicing. Joy is both a gift of the Holy Spirit and a consequence, as it is a fruit of the Spirit’s activity in our lives.
My prayer for you this new September term is that you will know deep joy in your relationship with God, because he loves you and I pray that that joy will rise up in you and overflow into rejoicing as you meet your challenges in life. May God bring you a lightness of heart and a strength of your conviction that with God’s help you will be blessed.
May all joy be yours,
The way we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us are two entirely different aspects of our lives.
In this letter I am airing a different photo. I thought the previous one was all right, but I had rescued it from an old album when I was asked to produce a picture, and it is not how people see me today. This one was taken earlier this year and so you are more likely to recognise me. I was hiding behind a façade of how I looked some years ago.
I was once told, uncomplimentary by a friend, that I often look terrible in photos…..and he was right, I do. Today’s photo is one I do not mind other people looking at. It is certainly better than many taken. We often hide our real selves behind a façade. There is the ‘me’ who is shown to the people we meet. The next ‘me’ is the one shown to the people at home and then there is the ‘me’ that God sees with my innermost thoughts laid bare to Him. These three ‘mes’ in one person should all be the same. Are we trying to be that person, the one we would like to present to God?
Some years ago our Parochial Church Council went on a day course. One of the things we did was to tick on a list of attributes how we perceived each other. It was quite an eye opener when the list returned to us. Fifteen points of view of what people thought of you was a challenging read. One of the things I found was that, as an introvert, and not very brave, I had managed to hide how I really am, and presented myself in a different light.
Let us ask God to help us to be our real selves and be acceptable to Him and to one another.
May God bless us always and in all ways,
WILL IT BE EASY, NO …. WILL IT BE WORTH IT …. ABSOLUTELY
If you want to have something nice, you have to put in the work!
With the Open Gardens coming up there is some lovely banter going on between the keen gardeners about who can beat the clever Chelsea tricks to make a plant flower before and after its natural flowering time. I keep pulling legs and “threaten” the very eager ones that I will look closely for silk flowers!
I do admire the people with beautiful gardens. How many times have you heard someone say, “I wish I had what he/she has”? It’s easy to feel this way, not having taken into account the hard work and self-sacrifice it took for them to get what they have…a beautiful garden or a successful business, a slim figure…..
Too often we want to skip the hard work and go directly to the results. People are always looking for the easy way to get what they want – some magic formula. They want to lose weight without having to cut calories or exercise. They want to have nice things without having to save up the money to buy them. Nobody wants to suffer or sacrifice. But the fact is you and I will never have the things we want to have in life if we aren’t willing to practice the discipline and self-control it takes to have them. To put it bluntly, if you want to have the perks, you have to put in the work!
“Like a city that is broken down and without walls [leaving it unprotected]
Is a man who has no self-control over his spirit [and sets himself up for trouble].”, compares a person without self-control to a city with broken-down walls – full of rubble and chaos.
Building discipline and self-control into your personal habits will not only help you achieve your goals, it will also help you gain real peace of mind because you feel better when you start putting things in order.
Whatever your goal is, whether it’s to get your garden ship-shaped, or yourself in good physical shape, or change a negative attitude, start drawing on God’s power to help you achieve it. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
I have taken that to heart and am leaving my garden entirely to God and trust it will be perfect with its long grasses and wild meadows come the Open Gardens!
With sunny summery blessings,
A Letter from the Reader
We are in June already and for those of you, like me, who are sports fans there is an array of sporting activity this month. We have Cricket – England v Sri Lanka; Horse Racing at Royal Ascot; Hockey – the Men and Women’s Championships; the British Athletics Championships and Olympic Trials and of course, the tennis at Wimbledon begins on 27 June. So against this backdrop, I want to share with you some lessons I’ve learned from the sport of tennis.
I have watched, as I’m sure you have, some tremendous battles on Centre Court. I can’t help but think that in some ways some tennis match’s mirror life.
Several parallels come to mind. First, tennis is filled with errors. Most every serve, nearly every volley will end in a point attributable to someone’s mistake. Mistakes are part of the game. The very best players make mistakes. But winners learn how to deal with their own lack of perfection – in spite of years of practice – and still go on.
Second, the game isn’t over until it’s over. A tennis match requires two winning sets before the game is complete. You can lose the first set and still pick yourself back up again. It’s hard, but you can do it. You can come back in the second and third sets and still win. Don’t give up just because you lost the first round.
Third, mental toughness is just as important – even more important – than raw talent and skill. If you feel disappointed, lose your focus, lose your confidence that you can win this game, it is fatal. I know what it feels like to win, as well as the extreme frustration of losing to someone who isn’t as skilled as I. It requires mental toughness to come back from being battered down by an opponent.
My fourth point – there is another day. Whether we win or lose today, the world isn’t over. Life goes on. You may have been beaten down by life. You may have been crushed by circumstances. Something may have played to your weak side and got the better of you. But don’t give up. Don’t quit. Perseverance is vital to the Christian life – determination, commitment and the will to continue even against the odds.
Fortunately, life is not like tennis as one singular point. When you are playing a singles match, you’re on your own. But in the Game of Life, Christ is with you. The Holy Spirit is present to strengthen you. Your family, friends and others you know are rooting for you, and there to encourage you in the fray. You are not alone. Draw on the resources God has given you. Don’t be a rash loner.
I think of the Apostle Paul who saw many spiritual victories, but went through depression, beatings, deprivation, prison, shipwreck, betrayal, and abandonment. Near the end of his life, he wasn’t looking back in bitterness, but forward in hope. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Don’t give up. Don’t quit. If you want to win in the game of life then you must serve well. We must serve one another. You live to fight another day with Christ at your side. And you – with Christ – will succeed!
With much love
This month I have taken an article from the baptism pack about what it means to become a Christian. I have, however, changed the wording from “a child” to “an adult”. Most of it is wording by Dorothy Law Nolte.
I feel that this applies just as much to teenagers and adults as to children. To people who are Christian, or of any other religion, or none, and those who just want to do the right thing. Many teenagers and adults struggle through life through no fault of their own. Do we look out for them and help?
Are we doing the right thing?
If a teen/adult lives with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If a teen/adult lives with hostility, they learn to fight.
If a teen/adult lives with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
If a teen/adult lives with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If a teen/adult lives with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
If a teen/adult lives with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If a teen/adult lives with praise, they learn to appreciate.
If a teen/adult lives with fairness, they learn justice.
If a teen/adult lives with security, they learn to have faith.
If a teen/adult lives with approval, they learn to like themselves.
Do remember that, if you are feeling vulnerable, there is a basket in church in the coffee area, which has leaflets to explain how to get help.
May God bless all of us,
Sitting on the train going to work each morning I sometimes enjoy just looking at the faces of those around me in the carriage. I wonder what kind of person they are, and occasionally even make up the first line of a short story about them. Faces can reveal a great deal. As Simon Schama’s TV series last year and the related exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, ‘The Face of Britain’ showed, portraits do many different things – those in power for example want to present a particular image of themselves to the public, whilst those in love want a lasting likeness of the person who means so much to them. Yet faces can only reveal so much. Faces, like words, as Tennyson put it in his poem ‘In Memoriam’, “half reveal and half conceal the soul within.”
Those of you who are fans of Great British Bake Off will remember the winner, Nadia Hussain for her wonderfully expressive features. Others of us appear impassive or even poker faced, outwardly giving nothing away. But whether our face is expressive or dead pan, there is a hidden life behind that is never fully shown – our secret longings, fears, shame and sadness, perhaps. Even in the most intimate relationship there is a core part of our identity which can never be fully known. And according to all the major world religions it is here, within us, that the Divine Spirit touches the human spirit.
Sometimes an artist has so penetrated into the psychological mysteries of the person before them that you can see something of their inner struggles and suffering – or perhaps their vanity and arrogance. But how could any artist capture that spiritual dimension of a human being? I am not sure they can. Nevertheless the religions of the world have wanted to indicate this reality, and they have tried to do it by the symbol of light. Some people, they have wanted to suggest, are lit up from within by a kind of inner light.
One of my favourite stories from the New Testament describes how Peter, James and John went up a mountain to pray with Jesus. The Gospel writer Mark, in his homely way, continues “And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them (Mark 9 v2). The Icon of this scene shows Jesus in this way, with a triple circle of light behind him. What is no less amazing is that all human beings are called to be transfigured into his likeness, from glory to glory, as St. Paul put it.
Heady stuff and all seemingly far removed from the daily business of getting up and going about the day. But it is in that getting up, travelling on the train, and responding to the demands of the day that this process of transformation begins to take place, perhaps first by the way we see other people.
And finally , something to think about – ‘Don’t shine so others can see you, shine so that through you others can see Him.’
Yours in Christ,
Christ Is Risen! Happy Easter!
When Jesus rose from the dead, grief departed, and death became a thing of the past. At the moment of Christ’s resurrection, God’s focus, and ours, turned to the future. The miraculous lesson of Easter is that through Jesus’ death on the Cross, we have been granted a second chance. We are given permission to leave our old lives behind and stand before the pristine canvas of a new day, with all its potential for joy and choices that honour God. Stop reliving the past, beating yourself up over all the mistakes you’ve made. The slate has been wiped clean! Paint a new life for yourself, bright with the colours of God’s grace and renewal. Grace is the power to overcome bad habits, to make peace in a relationship, or to bring you victoriously through a time of testing—without all your trying. That is because it is God’s power, not ours, that overcomes all evil.
With lots of blessings for the Easter Season. Have a go and colour in your life.
Happy New Year & Lent
On behalf of All Saints Church I would like to thank you for your support during the last year. I would like to thank you personally for all your loving messages, which were much appreciated and are treasured.
When you read this letter it will be February. Lent will be just around the corner. Christ’s birth at Christmas was a farewell celebration to see off the old way of living and announce the New Year with God’s promise of hope for the future. The Season of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday on the 10th February, is a time we closely identify with Jesus’ own human experience of spiritual tumult, injustice, unfair treatment of himself, disappointment and a unique way of turning all that around once and for all at Easter.
Life sometimes dishes out bitter experiences and disappointment and discouragement may result in a sense of failure. Life’s experiences will make us either bitter or better, but the pre-spring newness of life is God’s expression of His desire for us to have a fulfilled future.
God is calling you
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, from the Bible version ‘The Message’).
During the 40 days of Lent may I encourage you to find God’s destiny for your life. Find what’s going to fulfil you and all you’re meant to be. Then choose to be bold enough to step out into an amazing, memorable, life changing journey.
May God guide you and bless you.
Welcome to this New Year, the first New Year of the rest of our lives, and a new beginning each day, with no mistakes, yet, in it.
Some years ago I saw a short film, and this is the gist of it. I may have not remembered it totally accurately, but the message at the end is right for me, and I hope right for you.
In Jesus’ day, young boys to the age of eight years, studied the first four books of the Old Testament. If they learnt well they then went on, up to the age of fourteen years, to study the rest of the Old Testament.
At the age of fourteen they followed their father’s profession, but also became a disciple to a Rabbi. This meant that they followed him and listened to his teaching and learnt from him.
Eventually, when he became older, he became a Rabbi and had his own disciples. This is possibly why Jesus was sometimes called ”Rabbi” and gathered his disciples about him, to carry on his work on earth.
In this New Year let us try to be Jesus’ heart, eyes, ears, voice, hands and feet in this life. Let no-one be the worse for having met and talked with us. Let us learn from Jesus, and the way he lived on our earth, to be his disciples in 2016 and onwards.
May God bless us,