Friday photo – moment of magic

Star award

Yesterday Paul was presented with a certificate for being nominated in the moment of magic category of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital staff awards. He doesn’t know who nominated him and you can’t always guess when you do a job like his.

I love the phrase “moment of magic” it is one that the children’s and youth workers who study with Midlands CYM will resonate with as that is one of the things you hope to do, create a memory that people can look back on, that gives hope, brings joy and is one of those remember when moments what you look back on as a marker post in your spiritual journey.


Wondering Wednesdays – a remembering coping strategy

nick nacksI was reading a book about helping troubled children and young people and was instantly struck by one of the ideas I read.  The author suggested to a young person struggling at school that they have something in their pocket that reminds them of good things in their life and that when they are facing a difficult and challenging situation that they need to reach into their pocket and touch this item to remind themselves that life isn’t always like that.  It seemed such a brilliant yet simple strategy.

It reminded me of the times in the Bible where people put down markers to remind themselves of significant events such as Joshua putting down 12 stones at Gilgal marking the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 4.20) and Jacob setting up a pillar and pouring oil on it marking the place where he saw the stairway connecting heaven and earth (Genesis 28.18-19). Those are the sort of reminders to whole communities but many of us have reminders in our daily lives, a photo in a wallet, a ring that has significance that enables us to draw strength or reassurance when that’s what we need.

When I root around in my handbags I sometimes come across glass hearts, stones, shells, little cards, other things that I have used, picked up or been given that connect me to a time or message that are significant to me.  I wonder how I can integrate this more into my ministry – not to load people down with clutter – most of us have enough of that but to have one or two things which can evoke hope and reminders of how much God loves us. 

Reference:  Mary Elizabeth Moore, Almeda M Wright.  Children, Youth and Spirituality in a Troubling World.  St Louis:  Chalice Press, 2008.

Wondering Wednesdays: working at being on holiday!

ImageAs this blog is posted I will be on holiday but the magic of technology means it can be posted when I am enjoying a wonderful breakfast prior to playing links golf looking at a lighthouse!  The arrival of a smartphone into my world means that I have to work out what my attitude to work is while I am on holiday.  I can access all my emails together, work, personal and church, or any of them separately so I can turn off to the extent that I want to. Hopefully I will have remembered to put an out of office signature up!

I love holidays as they bring a different rhythm to my life and Paul and I have always been good at scheduling them.  The extent to which other bits of life have intruded into them has varied over the years depending on our responsibilities and what has been going on.  I don’t normally mind talking to any of my team if there is an emergency and would rather be informed of something than not – but that is my choice – I don’t like returning to surprises!

However, I have been challenged by this quotation and need to resist the temptation inherent within it:

Nearly everyone senses that work alone is not sufficient for human fulfilment.  One of the sad ironies of this situation is that, despite our intentions to allow a different quality of time in our lives, we often end up turning all our time into work time…The rhythm of life for countless people, set up by this culturally pressured way, thus emerges as one that oscillates between driven achievement (both on and off the job) and some form of mind-numbing private escape (Edwards cited in Eanes et al 2001:85).

Thus I will work at ensuring that in my holiday I make the most of being able to do things that are not practical in working weeks so I will be playing golf, visiting castles, walking on beaches and spending time with the adorable nephew and his parents as well as Paul.

I can be a little task oriented so frame what I am doing at working at being on holiday but the marker posts in my year that are holidays need to be planned in otherwise they are too far apart to provide the shelter that I need.


Eanes, Beverley E et al eds (2001).  What Brings You Life?  Mahwah:  Paulist Press.

Wondering Wednesdays: I want to keep my soul fertile – lifelong learning Donald Miller style


I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.

Although I am completely committed to the concept, the term lifelong learning has always sounded a little dull.  It is the sort of term the teacher in me would like but one which may not always capture the imagination of those I work with.  That is why I like this quotation from Donald Miller’s book  Through Painted Deserts which is subtitled “Light, God and beauty on the open road”.

Concepts of birth and death resonate as I both reflect on the Christian year and the pattern of the seasons.   I know as I accumulate years that I am mindful not to stagnate but to keep on changing to allow more of the Sally God created to shine through.  The journey to find Donald Miller started while live tweeting at a conference and interacting with another delegate (@tallandrew).  Twitter can be fertile ground for my soul as I encounter links to blogs, articles, read quotations or thoughts or just share the ups and downs of everyday life with people I know or just follow.   Twitter can also be the equivalent of white bread to me – the easy option when I should be more focused on something which I am finding hard work – perseverance is vital if there is to be growth in some areas of my life.  I need to make time to figure things out and that means giving myself a bit of space like the long bath I had with  this book!  Our brains and our souls need nurturing spaces – what I might call a shelter.

I now have a new question to ask myself – what can I do today to keep my soul fertile?


Reference:  Donald Miller Through Painted Deserts Nashville: Thomas Nelson 2005 px.

Be still – reflecting from retreating

Newry and Mourne-20130305-00826

One of my shelters is going on retreat, a place to stop, still, search and gain sustenance for the next stage of the journey. I am enormously blessed to be able to be able to do this as part of my work and this week I went off with other colleagues from across the Centre for Youth Ministry to a Benedictine Monastery at Rostrevor in Ireland.  The hospitality was excellent and we experienced the rhythm of the monastic day with Lauds, Eucharist, None, Vespers and Vigil. These offices acted as marker posts in the days and offered the opportunity to join the community at prayer and worship.

The guide for retreatants had this encouragement:

Come on now little one, get away from your worldly occupation for a while, escape from your tumultuous thoughts.  Lay aside your burdensome cares and put off laborious exertions. Give yourself over to God for a little while, and rest for a while in God (St Anselm).  Words which for me were soothing and healing – I had permission to just be.

The first thing our retreat facilitator encouraged us to do was to go outside and reflect on the phrase:

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46.10).

I sat on the seat in the picture above and began to meditate on that phrase and this is what I felt God saying:

Be still and listen

Be still and find peace in your heart

Be still and love generously

Be still and see the mountaintop

Be still and smell the grass

Be still and hear the birds sing

Be still and be present in the moment

Be still and bask in my love

Be still, listen to the silence and let your soul find rest in me.

All these be stills connected with issues in my life that needed attention or revisiting and were a reminder of the danger of losing myself in the demands of every day and losing sight of what is really important.  I know that I don’t need to be on retreat to be still but I sometimes forget to just take that time, even if all I have is five minutes to stop and remember that just being is needed to balance out the doing.

This is a meditation I will keep returning to – what is it today that God wants me to hear, experience or do in the stillness…

Be still

Half term marker posts!

We are in Cornwall for half term so a few more places we like!  These are all family friendly accessible places that we like for breakfast or coffee and cake – a couple of them look like shelters which always resonates with us!  Starting off working life as a teacher meant that Sally got into a pattern of half terms and the longer periods of rest and recreation work for us although rest is perhaps not the best word for a week which tends to have quite a lot of sport and walking in it!  Half terms then are marker posts for us, particularly since ordination when Christmas and Easter become busier times of ministry rather than a more relaxed holiday time!

Hannafore kiosk

Hannafore Kiosk which has its own facebook page is opposite Looe Island   (see the Wondering Wednesdays post from 20th Feburuary) and is open in the summer and fine weekends in the winter. There are picnic benches and a couple of high tables where you can sit and gaze at the island.  There are always home baked cakes and some good local ice cream as well as pasties, toasties etc.  Very reasonable prices and  you get to drink out of real china (or you can have take away cups for the beach if you prefer).  Hannfore Kiosk Marine Drive, Hannafore,West Looe , PL13 2DJ  01503 263606.

One of the amazing things about Hannafore is that parking is still free all up the dead end road.  It is the west side of the river from Looe and you can walk into Looe, wander along the coastal path (Celtic ruin not far) or walk along the sea wall.  It is very user friendly for buggies or wheelchairs and has public toilets and lots of benches.  The rock pools at low tide are great to potter in and there are usually some interesting birds to see – often a little egret.

Seaton Beach Cafe - lots of shelters!
Seaton Beach Cafe – lots of shelters!

Seaton Beach Cafe tends to be our first and last day of the holidays breakfast venue.  They have a choose your own breakfast menu,  a good range of daily papers and lots of places to sit with sea views.  It is dog and child friendly and they have their own parking.  In the summer they do this great ice cream called a vomit bucket – and you get to keep the bucket.  They also do a good Sunday roast.  The beach is open to dogs the whole year round and you can walk along the sea wall to Downderry.  Seaton Beach Cafe  Looe HillTorpointEngland  01503 250621.

Wroes - Ocean View Restaurant - Bude

Wroes Ocean View Restaurant – Bude

The very best bacon sandwiches we ever eat are from here – Wroes Ocean View Restaurant in Bude!  Thick fresh granary bread and lots of well cooked bacon.  Enjoy the coffee too and there are usually a great range of home made cakes.  Wroes is a little department store which reminds me of my childhood.  They have a good outdoors department in the basement and a range of women’s clothing and handbags which are a bit out of the ordinary.  You can sometimes park for free on the street outside and it is one of the places where we have never seen a traffic warden!  13 Belle VueBudeEngland EX23 8JN   01288 353789


Why marker posts and shelters?

PCD16 015_11

We spent quite a lot of time before we started blogging thinking about what to call our blog. We received a range of interesting suggestions including Gangnash!  In the end we decided that marker posts and shelters encompassed many of the things that were important to us in our lives and ministry.   As you may have guessed from the picture at the top of our blog the original image came from Holy Island. We first visited as part of our 10th wedding anniversary celebrations in 1996 and walked the Pilgrim’s Way.

Originally we used marker posts and shelters as an alternative to the concept of rule and rhythm of life. Although we know that rule in this sense derives from a word meaning measure it has legalistic connotations that were not life giving to us.  As we walked the Pilgrim’s Way from the mainland to the island we realised that in our lives we had begun to put in place both marker posts and shelters that sustained us in our life and ministry. Shelters are all sorts of things, people, places, practices and marker posts include celebrations, sabbaths, seasons and stewardship.  We have written a little more about this in the Grove Booklet Sustaining Your Spirituality.  We will blog about our marker posts and shelters in more detail over the months and would love to hear about yours too.


Marker Post Summerleaze Beach Bude Cornwall