Friday photo – dream big

What else could be a Friday photo this week?! Paul graduated on Wednesday with a PhD by Publication which meant writing 10k words synthesising 8 peer reviewed journal articles he had written. It is an achievement that would amaze his teachers at school where he left with one O level equivalent! I love this picture showing off his paediatric clergy shirt – animals as hospital staff!

Paul has been working in Paediatric Chaplaincy for nearly 20 years and one of his passions has been to show how there is a distinctive way of doing chaplaincy with children and young people which differs from healthcare chaplaincy with adults. His thesis articulates his unique research based model for that.

Each of us has the potential to change a little bit of the world we live in through whatever gifts and vocation we have, Paul’s achievements encourage me to continue to dream big even when it seems a little crazy!

What’s one of your dreams? What can you do to move towards it?

Wondering Wednesdays – dreaming requires courage

“Dreaming requires courage. The courage to believe you know where you’re going. When really it would be more accurate to say you know that you are going toward your dream…without the dream having precise or recognizable shape. The closer we get, the easier it is to recognize the dream.” Mary Anne Radmacher

Courage is my word for the year and this last couple of weeks I have been revisiting it in different ways. I even thought about a long ago dream and wondered. I have the opportunity to dream a little at the moment as I explore possibilities and review the last eighteen months and think about what has brought me life, what twists and turns my vocational journey has taken. I also am coming to a season where I will have a bit of space to dream a little more as a couple of my significant longer term pieces of work come to an end.

What dreams are you moving towards? Is it requiring courage?

Friday photo – dreaming

I am posting this on the day I have my farewell from St John’s College after over 20 years there.

I am excited about the future and the opportunity to share my wisdom more widely and have had some exciting conversations which have got me thinking about new things and new ways of working.

One of the great blessings of my years in theological education is seeing more mature students have a complete career change and see them flourish in a new place. There are so many students who have inspired me with their capacity to overcome barriers and challenges and pursue a new vision.

So I don’t feel too old for a new beginning and still have plenty of dreams in me and kites to fly.

Wondering Wednesdays – putting magic back in the world

Photo by Nikolaj Jepsen on

This was the reading yesterday from Celtic Daily Prayer 2, really helpful when you need a fresh perspective on situations. I am so grateful for those who put magic back in the world for me. Seeing the daily posts on the Muddy Church Facebook page is one way I am seeing it at the moment and having playlists on in the background of songs that voice how I a feeling so much better than I can myself.

Our world is full of planners and programmers. They make things work, sometimes with deadly efficiency. But we also need people who put a bit of magic back into our world. The clown, the trickster, the seer, the songster, the artist, the poet. And we don’t need these simply to provide a bit of comic relief. We need the seer and the poet to help us see what we should have seen, but dared not. In the process of unveiling and opening up of new possibilities, the artist and the poet take on the mantle of the prophet. They lilt us with the lullaby of long forgotten dreams and dare us to live again with boldness and hope. If we can no longer soar and dream and hope, we are dead while we live. But if the magic is still there, we will live, no matter how great the difficulties and pain.

Charles Ringma

Celtic Daily Prayer Book Two p1304

Wondering Wednesdays – dried up dreams


Last night I was driving home from work thinking about my blog for today. I was listening to Simon Mayo and the phrase “dried up dreams” leapt out at me from Simon’s interview with John Sopel. The context was a book John has written about Trump’s America and why he gained power and he seemed to be saying it was something about giving people hope and the capacity to dream again. Apologies if I have misrepresented anything here, the driving conditions were awful and i was concentrating hard on the road. And sometimes what I hear isn’t what has been said as my mind goes off on a tangent!

The phrase resonated with me as over the years I have had to face dried up dreams in different ways and that can be a very hard place to find yourself in. However, with God’s grace, I have been able to move beyond them and find new dreams or a reshaped dream or to quote a more positive Bruce Springsteen song than the one played in the interview (Youngstown) I have had the capacity to be “working on a dream”.

Wondering Wednesday – a student dreaming


I taught the MCYM third years for the last time on Monday.  It was their penultimate teaching day for their entire degree.  I finished by giving them time individually to craft a piece of theological reflection on social policy and their practice.  The range of offerings was so encouraging reflecting deep thinking, creativity, diversity and passion.  It is so encouraging to remember where they started and see where students have got to on their journey of faith and vocation.  Today, with her permission, I am sharing Lisa’s piece which was also in part triggered by an exercise Paul did earlier in the year reframing Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech.  This is what she wrote:

God has a dream, a dream that I will follow him until my dying days and beyond.

God has a dream, a dream that I will listen and serve him.

God has a dream, that we will all use our talents.

God has a dream, that we will encourage each other and build each other up.

I have a dream that is rooted in God’s dream.

God gave me a dream for Churches and institutes to become more inclusive.

It is my dream, to serve Him and encourage others to make His dreams come true.

God gave me a dream that all people are treated as individuals and their needs provided for.

I have a dream to ensure that God’s dream becomes a reality and will provide training so that there is more knowledge, understanding and love regarding people with disabilities, both physical, emotional and learning.

God gave me a dream for more people with to have opportunities to participate.

I have a dream to ensure that people with additional needs are encouraged to be part of the PCC and have a voice in decisions that are made.

God has a dream that people are liberated and set free.

I have a dream through the last image of Jesus, that it is one of a disabled God, but we do not see the disability, we see the love, grace and mercy of Him.

What is God’s dream for you?  What is your dream?  What are you going to do about your dream?

Lisa Buckley 27.4.15

Friday photo – rekindling childhood – my northern lights adventure


Our half term break starts tomorrow which has me thinking of more time for fun and play than is possible most weeks.  I am working on Paul’s computer which has all sorts of different photographs on it than mine has and came across this one and it reminded me of something I had written about another holiday and that sense of anticipation which comes with a change of scene:

I cannot really describe the sense of anticipation I felt in arriving at the place I hoped would fulfil a long held dream [Lapland where I hoped to see the Northern Lights].   It is that funny mix of hope and fear.  As an introvert it often feels like I live in my head and sometimes I don’t really notice what is going on in the world around me.  However, that was not true at night time, in the outdoors, hoping, just hoping for a glimpse.  It reminded me of when I was a new Christian and that’s how I felt about God and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.  What would happen next?  Where would I see God? How might he speak to me?  My first experience was looking into the darkness, into the night sky which was pierced by stars – tiny pockets of light that always remind me how vast the universe is, and how big my God is.  We did see glimpses of the northern lights on the Saturday night and the word that best described those to me was ‘dancing’, this green phenomenon danced across the sky, shimmering, beautiful, coming and going with seemingly no rhyme or reason.  However it was the Sunday night where we saw what was one of the best displays of the season.  Sunday evening was the highlight of the trip – snowmobiles across the frozen river into the wilderness for a meal cooked in a wooden hut with a barbecue in the middle.  We had barely begun our meal when someone came in and announced, ‘They’re here!’  Now I am not renowned for leaving food uneaten but this was something that I had travelled miles for and had longed to see for so many years, perhaps I felt a little of what Simeon experienced when he finally felt he had seen the Messiah.  I felt so privileged, here I was, in the middle of nowhere and here was this most amazing display of nature’s creativity put on for a few of us.  I kept scanning the sky for a glimpse of the next flash, the next wave, the next shimmering magical phenomenon that filled me with awe, helped me experience the mysterious, the magical, what seemed to be the miraculous.  The only way you could fully appreciate it was to lay down on your back in the snow to look up at the sky and see the aurora borealis in all its glory.  I was contemplating God’s greatness and majesty through this display of his magical creativity.  It will live with me forever.   I am challenged by my sense of anticipation, my passion and enthusiasm and sense of awe.  I want all of that to be part of my relationship with God regularly not as a special one off.  I have memories of the feelings and emotions, the excitement, I felt playful and childlike, overwhelmed and caught up with the moment.  It took me out of my grown up world and reminded me of what it was like to be a child where things are special and exciting not jaded and disappointing’ (Sally’s journal January 2007).

This is an extract from our book Tools for Reflective Ministry and a chapter on reflecting with nature.

Friday photo – unload, don’t park

BenchToday I woke up having had a slightly weird dream that I can’t quite trace the origin of – it was unsettling rather than disturbing and I felt I needed to metaphorically spend a bit of time on this bench where the sign says no parking, unloading only.  I needed to unload to Jesus the emotions that could distract me on a day when I need an alert brain to study!  If I don’t do this the emotions park in my head and distract me all day.

I prayed too this prayer of thanksgiving from the Iona Community:

We thank you God for the mystery of your presence here with us.

We thank you for the mystery of ourselves.

We thank you for the sense of compassion.

We thank you for the things of this world.

We thank you for your sense of humour.

We thank you for being you, and making us – us,

unique as you are unique,

mysterious as you are mysterious,

loving and caring as you are loving and careing.

Teach us Lord to use the gifts you have given us.

Teach us to share them with one another.

Give us grace to use our gifts

to bring healing to the world.


Ruth Burgess and Kathy Galloway (eds) Praying for the dawn. Glasgow:  Wild Goose Publications, 2000, p156.

Honest Christianity – give God a chance


Sally preached this morning on Joseph from the lectionary gospel reading (Matthew 1.18-25). She pointed out that Joseph was committed to a course of action, quietly divorcing Mary. In many ways, this in its self could be seen and understood as a virtuous even godly act. But before he acts on his decision he sleeps on it. Sleeping on it gives God a chance to speak, Joseph has a dream and comes away with a new conclusion, he should marry Mary not divorce her (engagement at that time was a legally binding contract. God wants him to do something different to his original idea.

I wonder if Joseph prayed before he went to sleep for God to speak to him? What ever happened, the way Matthew describes the story, consciously or inadvertently Joseph gives God the opportunity to intervene, speak and guide.

This seems a very sensible way for us to live. When we have important, life-changing decisions, that we give God the opportunity to speak to us. This may not be in a dream, but by other means – someone may speak to us, we may read something, glimpse something on the media we use, or one of those amazing co-incidences that just must be God may happen which cause us to think again.

When we felt God was calling us to move to the city we were not quite sure which city! We investigated several and then Sally had a dream and in that dream Floyd McClung said that moving to Birmingham was a great thing to do. Sally woke up believing that God had spoken as at that time as Floyd was one of those people whose ministry we both respected and admired. It wasn’t quite an angel speaking but it came close for us!

Has God led you in a new path in an unexpected way? We would love to hear about it!

Wondering Wednesdays – I have a dream


Fifty years ago today Martin Luther King made one of the most iconic speeches of all time.   When we visited Washington DC visiting the Lincoln Memorial was one of our must dos and walking along by the reflecting pool the words of the speech echoed through our minds.  What is sad is that fifty years on there is still so much in this speech that we still need to hear and act upon.  When I read it through I am perhaps more challenged by the notion that we should judge people by the content of their character not the colour of their skin (or I assume one of the many other attributes we make sometimes random judgements on).  As an educator by profession two of the hardest tasks I have found over thirty years of trying is to change attitudes and build character – all the discussion on discipleship we have in the church can partly be seen as the latter and the church is full of problems regarding the former.

One of the tasks Paul gets people to do sometimes is to reframe the last part of this speech for their context.  This is one such attempt and was written probably twenty years ago by a friend (who did give us permission to share it.  As someone with a passion for youth work it still sends a shiver down my spine:

I have a dream that one day the marginalized will be included.  The dispossessed will have what they need, that those who have nothing will be treated with the same respect, the same stature, the same voice of those who have enough.  I have a dream that one say those who have will share with those who do not, that those who have more than enough serve those who have not and share it with them.  I have a dream that one day, every young person will know the love, the security, the knowledge that they are loved.  That they can sleep at night knowing that they are safe. I have a dream that one day young people will have the opportunity to give of what they have, speak of what they know and it being accepted and understood for what it is…a miracle.




A film of the speech,

The text of the speech.