Tuesday, 26 May 2015


Yesterday, I went to the Surrey show. I love to see the donkey judging and was pleased to see this lady’s donkey win second prize. I photographed her last year as I like the way she seems to be almost at one with her donkey and the ‘retro’ clothes take you back to an earlier time.
I came across her in the paddock area and got chatting. Although the looks a bit stern in this photo she was very friendly and obviously loved her animals. This year she had a young colt and at the judging I could see its behaviour was ‘challenging.’ She looked distracted like a Mum with an errant child but she just walked the donkey round in a circle each time it misbehaved.
I asked her if donkeys every really knew who their owner was and if presented with a new one whether they would immediately adopt the new boss. She said that after a while working with a donkey they get used to your voice. They will not immediately accept a new voice.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;

John 10. 27

Monday, 30 March 2015

Nearly there

As we come to the end of Lent it might be worth having a quick look at what fasting is about. There is so much confusion. It is not a total giving up of food. It is not a hunger strike. St John Chrysostom says fasting has two functions: the first 'is to break our attachment to material things. There is nothing wrong with such pleasure ( food ) but when we do without food we are reminded that the only true and lasting source of joy is spiritual.' Secondly it is to express solidarity with the poor and urge us to generosity.

Bishop Kallistos tells a story of when he was the more modestly named Peter Ware and an undergraduate in digs. He told his landlady of his fasting. One day enquiring what he could or could not eat the landlady shouted up the stairs, 'Mr. Ware, are you still on your diet?'

Friday, 30 January 2015

Look before you leap

A while back I had to paint my floor. I did it in sections to allow for moving the furniture and allowing me a way out. I was expecting my cat to walk all over the wet areas and leave paw prints like film stars leave footprints in concrete. However, he impressed me as he carefully trod only on the dry sections. Donkeys have a name for being stubborn but they also have a highly developed sense of survival and if someone wants them to do something risky on a mountain pass they won’t. Looking ahead is important. We usually learn the hard way. 
As Christians the perils for us are often unseen: pride, self delusion, despondency, apostasy and other hidden dangers. These need the eyes of faith and some good Christian buddies too. Fortunately we can see many of the dangers ahead.

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. Proverbs 22.3.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

About turn

It was I believe Abraham Lincoln who said that when a nation turns from God it turns to heroes. There are heroes and heroes. A recent poll taken globally put Bill Gates, the computer billionaire at number one, President Obama at number two and the Pope at number three. Given Bill Gates’ ‘benign capitalism’ one can accommodate this choice but the most alarming was the most admired Britain who turns out to Steven Dawkins. As well as being a celebrated scientist in the area human biology Dawkins is equally well known for his atheism. His atheism is more than just a person belief but a cause that seems to drive Dawkins. His book The God Delusion which sets out to prove the non existence of God has sold two million copies. 
It is quite staggering to see the switch in in the UK in a short hundred and fifty years. We have gone from being a country with Christian missionary zeal to pretty much apostate. In the Commons in Victorian Britain a politician could take a stand on an issue because of the shared faith of the country eg on slavery. Now a politician can only argue in terms of the ‘common good’ having to take into account a variety of faiths and practices that late 19th Century Britain would have dismissed and in some cases found abhorrent. 
So how do the minority, believers, respond? Perhaps by quoting the Psalmist.

Preserve me, O God, for in Thee I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘Thou art my Lord; I have no good apart from Thee. ‘  Psalm 16. 1.2.

And how does God see us? 

‘As for the saints in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. ‘ v 3 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

I listened to the radio today and heard a woman exultant that she was being allowed to be married in a ‘church’ of scientology. I am no expert but my view of scientology is that it is a sort of way of coping with life by a series of strategies. Few could deem it a religion. No longer satisfied with allowing two people of the same sex to be married in church the demands increase.

It made me think of the words of St John Chrysostom who examined way back in the fourth century what gifts politicians have.  In the case of gay marriage some of our present day leaders have exulted in the ‘freedoms’ newly permitted ( and no doubt the popularity it brings them in aligning themselves to the issue. )

But whether they ( leaders )  have natural gifts, there is another type of gift which surpasses all others: the gift of knowing right from wrong, and the courage to chose what is right. This gift is not given at birth St John goes on but is nurtured through reflection, education, prayer and practice.

It would be better that our leaders were poor in natural gifts, but rich in this moral gift, than that they exuded authority and wisdom.

Most politicians and many clergy these days seem to strive to be relevant rather than seek the haven of God’s will, the expression my prayer book uses.  

Sunday, 8 September 2013

O is that what He meant?

It is interesting how some of our Lord’s sayings do not really hit home until you get older or at least that is how it is with me. 

The parable of the sower and the seed becomes more and more pertinent to me as I see friends who were so strong in their faith give up or just drift away. Only a few seem to be seeds fallen on fertile ground. With many it just seems they are distracted by ‘the cares of the world’ which is often a love of the good life in preference to the hard road that our Lord asks us to walk sometimes. 

I have just come back from Regents Park in London. It is a beautiful place and reminded me that God gave us the seed and Man the ability to tend the outcome’ There is a lovely section of the park with a mix of flowing water and plants. 

A friend of mine loves to photograph fashion shows and loves the mix of beautiful women  in their finery and all the razzamatazz of the cat walk. However, neither Solomon nor Kate Moss is arrayed like the model above. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The s word

When I did my training in spiritual direction, attendance to talks would fade away to about 50 per cent attendance towards the end of term, however worthy the subject. A talk on sex was announced and there was full attendance. For the prurient the talk was a disappointment. Watching the film Yentl last night the old priest asks ‘where does strength come from? The student replies- from controlling his passions.’
Teaching on sex in the Western Christian tradition seems to range from the unhealthily repressive to the down right libertine. St Augustine, the wisest of men, does get a bit self punishing on the subject after the excesses of his youth ( blimey they were not that bad!! )
St John Chrysostom, from roughly the same time, seems far more balanced. He stresses the importance of remembering the human nature of Christ ( and the Church at his time was riven by heresy that did not. )

We know that at times life becomes a battlefield as the spiritual and the physical aspects struggle for supremacy. Yet it would be wrong to say that the spiritual aspect should defeat and destroy the physical; rather we want harmony between the two. Our physical wants and desires should not be ignored; rather they should be satisfied within the framework of morality which the spirit dictates. We should understand Christ in a similar way. It is not a question of his divine nature conquering and destroying his human nature; rather he revealed how human flesh and blood can live in perfect harmony with God.