Monday, 23 November 2015

Yellow?

I spent Sunday afternoon planting daffodils in the garden, investing in the future.
The weather was cold but sunny.
If I am honest I did not relish the prospect of an afternoon outside.
Hibernation would have been my first choice. However, my home is new.
I cannot rely on the endeavours of the past.
If I want to see yellow flowers in the garden in the spring, then I have to be prepared to start digging - aching wrists or not.
Have I ever told you about Redditch clay!  How it mocks my ageing body!

On Sunday evening I logged on to the final service in St Pixels.  Mark had volunteered to write this and his years of involvement and passion for sharing his faith online, were evident.  It was a great delight to see so many familiar name and avatars logging in, like a roll call from former glory days.  People who have challenged me, shared their stories with me and given me a much wider understanding of the church, than I would otherwise have had.  The chatrooms of the past were a place where it felt very safe to share.  Words that our lips may have struggled to acknowledge and shape, flowed through our finger tips. I have lost track of the number of people and situations I have prayed for online. I am very grateful to everyone who has journeyed with me.  `It was exciting, challenging and a huge amount of fun!

If it was so wonderful, why did it come to an end? Many of us sought St Pix at a particular time of need in our lives.  Most of us now have different support structures, our needs have changed and we have different demands on our time.  As a group we were too small to keep investing in rapidly changing software. Creating worship events took hours. The burden on the few was too great for the number of people we were reaching. Sadly, we realised that we had reached the point, where what we were doing was no longer sustainable.

Is that the end of Pix?   I don't think so. I think the network of people that makes up St Pixels, will remain.  Facebook is the place where most online social interaction takes place. Dedicated chatrooms are a thing of the past. Like daffodil bulbs something will remain and in time new shoots will appear if we invest in the future.

As we assembled in the chatroom for the last time, I did wonder if we were doing the right thing, but in my heart I know that the future is going to be different.  For this to come to pass we must not hold on to the present, but instead to look forward to what will be.

The future is bright, but is the future yellow?  Time will tell .
Meanwhile, thank you everyone.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The end of the road

February 2007, and I was browsing the net looking for an online prayer group.  I had heard that such things existed, but I was uncertain as to how this would work.  However, in order to engage with the group I had to pick a name by which I would be known...  I looked at the names of those posting...there already was a Peace Rose and I think a Christmas Rose. I can't remember the exact name of the 2nd Rose, but I figured that two 'Roses' were sufficient.  Looked outside and saw a daffodil and the rest, as they say, is history!  I never intended to stay a 'Daffodil'. I thought the name was OK until I thought of a better one, not realising that I would be stuck with the name of that bright and brash spring bloom....

September 2007...
"I can't believe that after all the times you have warned me about internet safety, that you are going to meet a load of strangers off the internet..." was the verdict of our son, as we set off down to the naval base at Yeovilton for our first meet, passing armed guards on the way in.  Avatars were transformed into people, as we transmogrified from our virtual selves into the people we were.  Most of us were quiet introverts, with a few extroverts added in to enliven the mix.  The day included a tour of the base by minibus, which the driver enlivened by pretended to be a harrier jump jet taking off.  Luckily he put the brakes on before we reached the end of the runway.... (Tina will correct me if the mists of time corrupt the memories of the day...)
On the way home Daflet 4 quietly pondered on the events of the day..."So where exactly is St Pixels?" she asked...

When I joined Pix I was looking for a social network as much as a church.  I never thought I would bother with the worship, but soon it became a regular part of my daily routine.  Before long I was helping to lead the worship...  The chatroom was always open and there were lots of interesting people to meet and lively conversation.  I would sit at my computer, roaring with laughter, to my husband's irritation. In the end the only way he could regain some sanity was to join....





Spring 2008 and the Humphrey family roll up to their first residential weekend at Morley, accompanied by 40+ people we have never met, 6 we have, and a film crew.... What a fantastic time we had and what lovely people we met!








Meets numerous and varied followed - Kew, Crich, Eden, Cheshire,  Oxford, Aylesbury, Buckfast...Wherever you went, you were never far from a Pixie or two, so it wasn't hard to organise a meet.






However software doesn't last, and Facebook has largely filled the gap that once St. Pix bridged. We have tried to keep pace with changing software, but St Pix chatroom is retiring, its duty done.  The last service will take place on Sunday evening, so I do hope that those who have been party of the community will roll up, and give thanks for the road we have travelled together.The last service will be Sunday 9pmGMT repeated 6 hours later for USA/Australia The chatroom can be found here 






What does the future hold?  We will still exist, as a vague network of friends, connected through the Facebook page for the foreseeable future. Beyond that who knows?  Meanwhile I have met some amazing people, made some great friends, had a great deal of fun, and learnt a huge amount about God, formally and informally, my faith has grown and I gained a much broader understanding of church.




Friday, 20 November 2015

Tales of the unexpected 675439

"Snow is forecast overnight!"
"SNOW!  It won't snow!  It is only November!
"It has snowed in November most years while I have been living in Redditch..."
Reflecting back, today felt far more wintery.  But snow? Already?
I didn't really think that would happen this year!

Update Facebook status
"So is it going to snow overnight"
The reply comes back "Somewhere, yes"
Sigh.  Yes, somewhere it will snow, but will it snow here!?
Word soon reaches us of snow in Lancashire,
with snow in Cheshire hot on its heels....
Other sources report snow down south.
We are surrounded!
Inevitably a few snowflakes begin to flutter,
half-heartedly dancing in the light of the streetlamp,
like reluctant husbands, dragged on to the dance floor and waiting for the song to end before they can return to propping up the bar, duty done.
Sure enough the snow soon stops.
The ground starts to dry.
They think its all over...

A short while later, the next flurry begins, with more serious intent.
The borders are soon half hidden by a covering of snow.
I fetch in the geraniums I potted the other day.
The winters here are too harsh for them to survive outside.

As the day ends I am left wandering what will happen tomorrow.
I am due to go on a quiet day,
but the access is up a poorly maintained farm track.
If snow lies the access will be impassable.
So we wait to see if tomorrow the world will be white,
or if it has,
like my foolish dreams,
melted away!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Dissect my life

  1. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
  2. Consecrated, as in 'holy'?  
  3. Hang on, that has SERIOUS implications!
  4. Holiness demands purity, 
  5. and, if I am honest I am more human than puritan!
  6. Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise.
  7. ...ceaseless praise, even when life is crap?
  8. No, I can't do that.  Praise, yes.  When I feel like praising, yes.
  9. Ceaseless?  You are having a laugh,
  10. at least I hope you are...
  11. Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
  12. So, I can only do 'good things'...responding to your will... like a spiritual robot....
    Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
  13. I guess 'swift and beautiful' is better than 'slow and ugly'. I better get training...
  14. Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
  15. I love to sing :)  but always?  That is quite demanding...and if I am singing 'only for my king', does that rule out non-religious songs?
  16. Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.
  17. Good point. If my words are not loving, and worthy of you, what really is the point? Lord, help me to me kind and considerate in my speech. Help me not to rush in, without thinking, but to wait for your guidance - after all, you are outside time!
  18. Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
  19. I can't pay the parish share on my own, but with a bit of help from my friends, and with God doing the calculations, our money will stretch much further than we imagine.  Yes it is hard, when costs go up, and unexpected bills arrive.  However, you know before it happens and I am sure you have got a solution. I just need to make sure I am listening when you call my name!
  20. Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  21. No more trying to fight my corner, but submitting to your will.  Only then will I be really free.
  22. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine.
  23. Handing over...
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.
  24. Come, take your place in my life.
  25. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store.
  26. Do not let me hold anything back, not my money or possessions, my fear or anxiety, my life - in all its weakness.
  27. Take myself and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.
  28. Amen.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Going For A Song

We moved into our new home in the summer.
Understandably people ask us how we are settling in.
We are feeling quite settled,
and that we now have the right furniture in place,
but the odd stack of picture frames reveals that the household is still in settling mode.
Hopefully, we will now be moving on a stage
where we feel certain enough about the placement of the furniture
to commit to putting some hooks on the walls.
Due to the construction of the house, this is no light undertaking.
My husband is recognising that the days when he could just launch into the brickwork with his electric drill, are over, as a more cautious approach is required.

I had planned to spend today on sorting and gardening,
but the sight of a rainbow reminded me of the world outside,
and so we headed off in search of treasure!

Leominster was our chosen destination,
as we hadn't visited it for a while and it has a good selection of second hand/antique shops.
We have been searching for a metal framed mirror to hang above our wooden mantlepiece.  We have seen several that could do,
but not one that we felt was right.





After browsing a few shops, we popped into a tearooms/antique showroom for lunch.
As we walked in a couple departed.
" I don't mind coming back later to collect it..." said the woman.




We had our lunch and then explored the antique centre,
which rambled over several floors.
Suddenly I turned a corner, and there was an art deco style mirror,
with metal patterned corners (tick) 
and had bevelled glass (tick).
"I bet it weighs a ton!" However, it was surprisingly light (tick)
It looked rather dusty, so we gave it a quick rub, trying to ascertain its condition under the coating of grime.  It cleaned up nicely (tick).
After months of sporadic searching, had we finally found a mirror worthy of our living room? Arghhhhh!
This was not a decision that would have the luxury of several weeks of cogitation.
It was going to be a 'buy now or never' decision.
"I wonder how much it is, it doesn't seem to have a price on it!"
Hmmm.
We needed the mirror not to be wider than the fireplace,
or it would look top heavy,
so we enquired about the dimensions of the object of our attention.
"I am afraid I have just sold that mirror,
but I haven't got round to marking it as sold.
It was reduced to £29.."
So close.
So very close, and going for a song!
Ah well, that was one decision we didn't have to make!
I have a pretty good idea that the couple who left as we arrived, were the lucky purchasers!

We toured several more antique centres,
climbing steep stairs,
walking over creaky floorboards,
and delving into basements,
but all we saw were but a pale reflection of the mirror that got away...

I did spot a potential Christmas present for Barry though.
I wonder how windy laments would go down with the new neighbours....?



That really would be going for a song....

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The weekend is over

Friday was a mad day.
A day of looking forward, with Christmas preparations, followed by an impulsive trip across two counties to see beech trees that had shed their leaves, rusty dried tears of a season past.

Later that evening, Paris was wounded by cruel assassins, in the name of ideology.  Beautiful lives brutally ended, by a callous cascade of life destroying bullets.

The weekend limped on, but the shocking events from Friday night were never far from our thoughts or lips.

Now the weekend is slipping away, and soon the new week will begin.  We will think of the ones who will not be returning to work or study, to friends and family - whose names we will soon forget, but whose loss leaves a jagged bloody wound in the lives of those who mourn.

There have been, and will be, other atrocities.  That does not diminish the pain of those who grieve.  Instead we despairingly reflect, the pointlessness of acts of terrorism.  We have no answers, just prayers for a change of heart, by those who seek to further their own agenda through acts of such wanton destruction.

Tomorrow we will see the sun rise once more.  We will give thanks for the day, and vow to use it to make the world a better place. A responsibility passed on by the strangers whose lives were stolen on Friday 13th.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Sacrifice

This morning I awoke with a song in my head - one that I had not thought of for years.

I racked my brains, whose was that haunting voice whose plaintive lament stirred memories from the past?  In an instant I knew.  It is strange how the past remains deep within us, in a filing cabinet within our memory storage, waiting for the day when it might be required!

We pinned on our poppies and headed off for the Brigades service at a nearby church. We were were reminded that responsibility for war cannot just be pinned on the politicians, and that the origins of war lie deep within all of us, the attitudes we take, and the prejudices we permit to perpetuate.

On Saturday night my daughter and I watched on iplayer part of the annual Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall. We admired the precision marching, tried to identify the people the cameras thought were important. and heard of sacrifices given and lives changed for ever.  

Every November, we remember those who laid down their lives for others.  We have no idea of the horrors and fear they faced. My parents having lived through the Second World War, saw no glory in conflict, in lives cut short, at the whim of those well away from danger.

Each December we celebrate the birth of a baby, born to bear the burden of our wilful sinfulness.  A fact we conveniently forget in our tinsel-embellished extravaganza of excess.  There is a part of me that wishes that Jesus did not have to be born, was never required to bear the burden of our greed and failure. I wish that we had all been perfect.

What was that song I awoke to?

No More War 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Not a day to remember...

At the stroke of noon on 5th November, the maternity ward in my local hospital closed.

Fortunately I live in a town where there are a high proportion of older people, so we don't really need a maternity unit....
We have excellent transport links to the Worcester, where expectant mothers are now expected go to give birth.
These days everyone has access to a car
Travelling to Worcester is an easy journey,  and there is plenty of parking when you arrive.
Worcester Royal has plenty of spare capacity so there shouldn't be any difficulties.
The closure has been well planned,
and families have every confidence in those who have made this decision.

Unfortunately only the first sentence was true.  Yes, at noon the Maternity wards at the Alex closed, for the foreseeable future, as there were insufficient doctors to ensure the safety of mums and babies.  The decision was made last week, with expectant mothers finding out from social media.   Transport links to Worcester are not good, and 20% of families in the town do not have a car.  Parking at the hospital in Worcester is also a nightmare.

Continued uncertainly about the future of some services at the Alex in Redditch has made recruitment difficult. Staff morale remains low. Earlier this year all 4 A & E consultants simultaneously resigned, as they felt conditions at the hospital meant they felt they could not do their job.  Rumours of bullying of medical staff by managers persist, though officials claim they found no evidence..

Redditch is a town with a young population, and Mum's to be need to get to hospital without delay.  No-one knows how many Mums and babies will be put at risk by the transfer of deliveries to Worcester.  Whilst no-one wants to see a further reduction in services at our local hospital, it wouldn't be so bad if the hospital that we are increasingly being directed to, was able to cope with its current patients.  Unfortunately Worcester Royal is already overstretched and patient care is suffering.

My mothers generation had access to midwives to support them through their deliveries, which were often at home.  Unless urgent action is taken to recruit the staff to ensure that babies enter the world with adequate care, then the only babies born in Redditch in the future will be those born at home, or in unplanned deliveries outside Poundland.

All in all not a day Redditch will fondly remember!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Planning Ahead

"Do you think that Dad would like a motorised scooter for Christmas?  
You know, one that moves on its own...
He could write a letter to Father Christmas...
Dear Father Christmas,
I would like a motorised scooter for Christmas
Love Dad
...and then he could add a bit saying that he had been good."
"Do you think he has been good?"
"Well, he could always add a few exaggerations.  Father Christmas will never know..."

Log back near the end of December to find out out if Father Christmas comes up with the goods..or maybe he will decide that Dad has not been good enough.
Time will tell.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Reclaiming The Date

Having returned from a fabulous half term in Sussex, I am trying to put the final touches to our 25th Anniversary service, which is the following day.  It is amazing how long it takes to tie up these last few lose ends.  I have an anxious moment when I try to remember which version of The Creed we agreed to use, before I remember that we are singing Graham Kendrick's version! Phew! (Though we sing it in a rather rockier, less syrupy style :O )  The doorbell rings. I go to answer.

In the second before I answer the door, I spot some coloured lights and remember that it is Hallowe'en.  What is a good Christian supposed to do?
a)  Tell them that you disprove of Hallowe'en and that anything glorifying the devil is wrong?
b) Refuse to answer the door
c) Join in.

In the past I have fudged the issue, by saying I don't do Hallowe'en, but still gave sweets as they had gone to the trouble of dressing up.  This year things are different.  It is the first year in our new house.  I open the door, to see two suitably glad figures, nervously holding buckets, with parents hovering close by.  I admire the costumes and chat to the parents. They are really pleased that someone has finally answered the door and given a reward to their offspring, as most of the houses nearby appear to be in darkness, even though it is early.  During the evening I meet a procession of my new neighbours and have some good conversations.  Most of them will regard Hallowe'en as no more than an opportunity to dress up and get some sweets.  There is a time for talking about the darker side of Hallowe'en, but I did not feel that this was the occasion.  This was an opportunity to meet some neighbours, to see 31st October in a more positive light and reclaim Hallowe'en!