Thursday, 18 November 2010


Gargoyles always seem to amuse me - but then I'm easily humoured.  Designed to stop the rain water from the roof falling directly onto the stonework below.  Designed to look evil or at least menacing to remind us that evil can be found outside of the church or cathedral and not inside it or perhaps to ward off evil spirits.  

These were all taken at Gloucester Cathedral.  It was a beautiful sky that day.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Do Youthful Tears Still Flow?


Each November we remember those
who gave their lives for us.
Those remaining from the wars
without complaint or fuss,

Will bow their heads in homage and
think of those that died.
Up and down the country they will
            lay their wreaths with pride.

Some will talk in ageing voices of
comrades buried young.
And recall a distant land where
those boys did not belong.

Many have seen the unnamed graves
where crimson poppies grow.
They have seen the price of freedom,
where youthful tears still flow.

As images reel round and round
            in their ever fading sight.
Let us bow our heads and give thanks
            to those who fought for right.

copyright Maggs Payne

Monday, 1 November 2010

Crossing the line

I'm back!  Sorry I've been gone for a while but life has got in the way of blogging.  Something to do with living in Gloucestershire and pastoring a church in Burton Upon Trent and the 105 miles in between.  

I ventured into Derby for the first time the other week and made the mistake of parking in a 'car park' in Crompton Street only to be clamped for 'being over the designated bay'.  I dispute this as only one tyre was on the white line.  As as certain tennis player would say, 'You cannot be serious... the ball was on the line!'   Here is the picture to prove it.... and a cartoon that caught my eye from asboJesus that seemed to strike a chord.  Lol (laugh out loud).

The line was crossed!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Hop, Skip and Jump

Hmmm well it has been a while since the last blog.  Please forgive me. I seem to have been up to my eyes in dissertation, trying to sell the house and thinking about my future ministry in Burton upon Trent.  

On the house front we have found somewhere in Burton that seems ideal.  It was amusing to find out that the house is owned by a retired Anglican vicar and his wife.  The downside is we still haven't sold our house yet and so we are not in a position to make him an offer.  Our neighbours of 15 years moved out last week it seems it is an end of an era.  The new neighbours are very interesting though.  He is a Methodist minister from the other side of Derby, Matlock I think, due to retire in a couple of years time.  When he asked me over the fence what I did for a living he laughed and did a little gig around the garden at my reply.  God really does move in mysterious ways and certainly has a sense of humour.  I am convinced God is playing a game of chess with me.  Well I am obviously not a bishop but am I a mere pawn or a more strategic piece?  A rook perhaps, you never know where they will move next, or at least it is difficult to keep up with their next moves.  One hop, skip and a jump and I will be in Burton an who knows what hopping, skipping and jumping for joy will take place once I'm there.  I can't wait...

So is cheque-mate the end of the game or the beginning?  (There seems to be a recurrent theme going on here.)  Are there lots of rematches to come?  Is there any point in playing when you know God is going to win?  Or does the game say more about free-will and our ability to choose the next move?  My theology is more Arminian than it is Calvinist.  Which means that I do not have any strong beliefs in predestination.  We have a choice.  We can serve God and do His will or we can go about our own thing leading a wild life.  Whilst I have on occasion opted on the wilder side of life nothing compares with the sense of fulfilment that I have now.  Even when we serve God it is not the case of being puppets to the puppet-master in the sky.  We are part of God's mission and have our own roles to fulfil.  (I am currently looking at Evan Roberts' role in the Welsh Revival - more on that in the next blog.)  Was New Church Burton upon Trent the only church that I could serve God in as pastor.  No, I could have served God in another church.   Is he calling me to New Church Burton upon Trent - Yep!  For this is the Church who have said, 'Yes' to God and 'Yes' to trusting me to lead them in.  Who knows what is in store for us but I am in no doubt that God is going to bless us big time.    

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A Last Supper

So does the Last Supper represent the end of the journey or the beginning?

Having lived in Nailsworth for some 15 years (I only meant to stay for 2 or 3) and the fact that I shall be leaving soon (when I eventually sell the house) I thought it was about time that I went to St George's Church.  I can never work out what page I am suppose to be on but I seemed to manage reasonable well to follow the communion service.  Some of the communion was sung and although I couldn't join in, as I didn't know the tune, I really enjoyed the change.  The church seemed friendly and warm and some of the faces seemed familiar - I guess I have been passing many of them in the street on a day to day basis.  

The big draw to the church however, was the painting that hung over the altar....

   A Last Supper by Lorna May Wadsworth

The painting is magnificent, a modern interpretation of Da Vinci's Last Supper.  

Unlike Da Vinci however, the central figure is a black Jesus.  Having been commissioned to paint the piece, following a legacy given to the church, Wadsworth retained artistic license to interpret the Last Super as she saw fit.  She chose to make all the disciples good looking with Jesus himself based on a  supermodel by the name of Tafari!  Why not?  It certainly makes you think.  

The painting hung for a time in St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square but has now found its way home to Nailsworth.  If you get a chance to go and look at the painting yourself then go - apparently the light is better about 2.00pm when the summer sun finds its way through the stained glass window as it searches out the altar.

Communion is all about remembering the man who hung on the cross so that we may be reconciled to the Father.  Whilst this may be my first, and perhaps last supper in Nailsworth it is a memorable one...  

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Where does the road lead?

Where does the road lead?  Hmmm.. I am back on my journey again.  Whilst I know the road leads to Burton-on-Trent it appears there are a few hills to climb first.  Mortgages to sort, a house to sell, a house to buy, a dissertation to write, an ordination to enjoy.  I think I need a holiday!

It is good to know that God journeys with me and that the people at Burton are waiting at the end of this road with expectancy as to how our journey together will continue.  Whilst I am excited by new prospects I am sad to be leaving behind my beloved Gloucestershire.  Whilst I'm still here I am trying to enjoy the area as best I can.

These photos were taken in around Shortwood, near Nailsworth, Glos, where I live.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Bird Got the Worm!

It seems that I have now found that place to where God has called me to pastor.  I am feeling like the bird who finally got the worm and as happy as a cheshire cat.  I'm not sure that cats and birds really go together or indeed that there is any similarity between the worm and the church.  I hope not - lol (laugh out loud).  I took this photo in my back garden, on the day it was taken about a dozen Thrushes descended from the sky in search of tea.  Most, after much digging finally found a worm, although not all.  Settlement has been very difficult for the last couple of years but it seems that God had a plan for me all along.  Did I doubt this, no not really.  But when you are walking in the valley it is sometimes difficult to see the mountain top.
My thoughts and prayers are with those who are still in the valley digging for worms.  If you look up you will see God smiling and knowing full well there are plenty of worms and much to do for His Kingdom.  


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A Dittie and a thought..

Not much time to blog this week but, I thought I would share a 'dittie' (short poem) with you that I learnt at school when I was about 11.  For some reason it keeps going round and round my head at the moment...

Here am I with my four daughters
dead from drinking Cheltenham waters.
If I'd have stuck to Epsom salts 
I wouldn't have been in these 'ere vaults.

I can't believe I can remember it from all those years ago.  My class had to learn a poem, or two short ones, to recite in class and the winner was to compete against pupils from the rest of the school.  I learnt two poems, although I can't remember even what the other one was about.  But, I do remember that I went wrong on purpose as I didn't want to enter the competition.  I had a fear of public speaking - God really does have a sense of humour sometimes!

Monday, 5 April 2010

A Puzzling Easter

I had a very puzzling Easter this year.  It didn't quite take its normal form but was nevertheless very enjoyable on a number of counts.

I would normally go to church on Good Friday and then take part in the march of witness in Stroud.  I have done this for years and have loved to join in the procession that winds its way through the town singing and praying at it goes.  For the last 5 years or so we have also given away free hot cross buns to passers-by.  It is so good to be able to interact with people along the way - both Christians and non-Christians alike.  However, it has always struck me how somber we appear.  Yes, Good Friday is about remembering Jesus' brutal crucifiction and there is a need to express this but, will this mood attract others to the church - no.  Better perhaps to show the love of God, the joy of knowing Him and rejoicing over the victory of the ressurection.  Christ has risen, Halellujah!

I have a very dear friend who lives in France but, also has a flat in Cardiff.  This Good Friday I spent the day with her (alas not in France) catching up, hanging out, and mostly talking about our walk with God.  I love the fact that we understand exactly what the other means without having to explain ourselves.  We are very much on the same spiritual wavelength and are great friends, even though she is old enough to be my mum - lol (laugh out loud).  Actually, I have a lot of friends who are around this age bracket.  I'm not sure whether this is from hanging out in a church with an older congregation or that my siblings are nine/ten years older than me and age just does not register?  

Whilst it seems strange to have missed the Good Friday service I had no doubt that I was in the right place.  Sometimes God does unexpected things and asks us to trust Him.  It is like God says, 'Walk with me a while.' and he takes you down this quiet path.  You can hear a stream gurgling and a gentle breeze cools you in the heat of the day.  You can smell lavender and the flowers that border the path; all seems well in the world.  As the stream comes in to view you realize that God is with you - you feel and know his peace.  A peace the surpases all understanding.

John was working Friday, Saturday, and Monday and we had every intention of making the most of our time together.  Whilst we had planned to do things in the end we chilled out by putting our feet up in front of the TV and watching lots of films.  Oh yeah... there was also the thousand piece jigsaw puzzle that took up most of Sunday.  It was good not having to race around for a change.  We had a very peaceful weekend.  The church was packed on Easter Sunday and there seemed to be lots of new people and visitors - which was great.  I love meeting and getting to know new people and ofcourse catching up with friends.  

I am so blessed with friends of all ages and nationalities.  Some I know better than others.  Some share my faith, others do not.  Some understand my calling, others less so, but they all suport me in what I am doing.  That, I guess, is the nature of friendship.  This Easter has been about friendship for me.  Being there for friends who have needed my suport, meeting new friends, getting to know people better, spending time with God, and hanging out with John, my husdand, who is my best friend.  We all need good friends to help us through tough times, to give us a hug when we are feeling down,  to share in our excitement and rejoice in our triumphs.  Sometimes life seems one big puzzle.  It takes a while to work out what all the pieces are for and how they slot together.  Indeed, sometimes you never do work out the meaning of all the pieces and events in life.  Easter is my favour time in the Christian callender - a time for rejoicing.  Easter is the piece in the jigsaw puzzle that gives the rest meaning and helps me to see the bigger picture.  Easter is the piece in the jigsaw puzzle that brings me the most peace and the most joy.   

I wonder what piece in the jigsaw Easter is for you?


Thursday, 1 April 2010

Good Friday

No words can express the magnitude of today.  
Crucified for you and for me.
Take time to remember...
Take time to consider...
Take time.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


I feel so tired at the moment.  Its not really surprising seems I was up until 3.00am working on an essay.  I did intend stoping at 9.00pm but I seemed to get a second wind.  I'm not sure why I am such a night owl but I definately work better at night.  The downside is that I can't seem to get up much enthusiasm for working again today.  I have an essay deadline on Friday so I guess I will just have to knuckle down.  Perhaps more tea will help?  Or a little snooze?  Seems that I didn't get up untill 10.30am I think the tea will have to do.  I have already tried a sugar rush but the Jelly Babies seem to be sleeping as well. 

My journey to the cross is going well but I will be glad when I finally get there.  I have enjoyed studying for an MA but didn't realize how hard it would be when I started.  The work load shifts up a gear, expectations step up a gear... more is required of me.  And then we have the hunt to find the church that God is calling me to.  Life has been a juggling game since september.  A one handed juggling game at that having developed a repetative strain injury to my right hand. 

I have met some wonderful people in my search to find a church and have had a few laughs with John, my husband along the way.  Normally God makes it very clear where I am supose to be and what I am supose to be doing.  He has been less direct in my hunt for a church but his guidance has never the less been clear.  Although I can't help but think of a pinball machine where I am the ball that seems to be bouncing off the bumpers at a great rate of knots only to end up down the hole and have to start off all over again.  Sometimes I have actively sought the black hole as a place of safety, sometimes I have been spat out of the game and have no choice... but thats the game!  There have been a few bonus points gained and clearly I have learnt a lot about different churches and about myself in the whole process.  I think John's role in all this has been the plunger that you pull out to give the ball a flick in the right direction.  Sometimes I haven't really wanted to play the game and John has had to give me a kick in the right direction.  He is such a positive influence in my life - I really am truely blessed.

The curent game of pinball has been going on for a while and has been a very enjoyable game.  I am hoping not to fall down the black hole this time... 

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Road Map

This mornings UCB notes seemed apt again today.  They quote the evangelism Billy Graham
'The Bible is the road map for life, and while your pastor can highlight the best route to take, you learn to navigate life's twists and turns yourself.'

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Anoint the wounds of my spirit

Anoint the wounds
of my spirit
with the balm 
of forgiveness
pour the oil
of your calm
on the waters
of my heart

take the squeal
of frustration
from the wheels
of my passion
that the power
of your tenderness
may smooth
the way I love

that the tedium
of giving
in the risk
of surrender
and the reaching
out naked
to a world
that must wound

may be kindled
fresh daily
to a blaze 
of compassion
that the grain
may fall gladly
to burst in the ground
-and the harvest abound.
                                        Ralph Wright OSB

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

21st Century Church

What is 21st century church?  What does it look like?  How is it different?  Church is the gathered body of people who come to worship Christ.  It is not the building, although where the church meets does effect the way in which church happens.  If the building is set out formally with pews and pulpit then no matter how informal you try to make a service formality will still exist because of the suroundings.  The church in Stroud where I am a member is very formal in structure although the services have become less so over the years.  I guess a set of drums and a worship band brings an uptempo lift.  

As I complete my MA in missional studies I wonder what God requires of me as far as my next step in the journey is concerned.  Sometimes I feel frustrated that he only every tells me the very next step and not what the future holds.  Although that does not stop me dreaming.  I dream about a church where young and old meet together in harmony.  Each appreciating the gifts, energy, and wisdom that they all bring to the body of Christ.  I dream of a church that hungers after God.  That steps out in faith even when the path is unknown.  A church that loves one another, and forgives each other's faults and weaknesses.  But most of all, I dream of revival and an openness to the Spirit of God.  There is a fire that burns inside of me and longs to be let loose.  In God's time I pray that revival will come to this land again and I pray that we will all be ready for it.    

In the meantime, I wonder what I can do to engage people in the gospel message.  Jesus is very much alive for me but for many he is a figure of the past.  How can I be Jesus to those who have yet to find him?  How can I preach the gospel in a real way that brings Jesus back from the dead for those who don't realize that he has been ressurected and lives today.  I know that in my own small way I can do my bit but together we can make a real impact.

I must admit to being a bit of a treckie at this point.  I do have a love of science fiction and particularly like the Star Trek Voyager and the Next Generation series.  I was relaxing yesterday watching an episode where the crew of Voyager where trying to sneek onto a borg ship.  The borg, for those of you who don't know, are a collective which means that they think as one body.   I wonder what the church would look like if we all thought the same and did the same thing.  Personally, I think life would be rather boring.  As they say variety is the spice of life!  Whilst we may fall out from time to time over issues such as, women in ministry or the place of homosexuals in the church, difference of opinion is healthy.  It is what we do with our differences of opinion that really matters.  We may choose to stand on our pedestal and say you are wrong and I am right or, we can come together and discuss our opinions and discern what Christ would do in our situation.  Jesus is the one who invites us to come into relationship with him, despite our faults.  He loves us for who we are, just as we are.
The borg cube travels through space looking for unsuspecting people whome the borg can assimilate and turn into creatures just like them.  On meeting a spaceship or planet the words, 'We are the borg, you will be assimilated.  Resistance is futile.' are heard.  Whilst the church's role is to make disciples of all men and women it's role is not to assimilate them and make them into drones as part of the collective (as the borg do). But, rather to disciple people and show them the ways of Christ by pointing them in the right direction.  Whilst we journey together our own walk with Christ is a personal one.  One where the journey is often lonely and frightening and not always easy.  However, as I have pointed out before, Christ journeys with us.  For me 21st century church is one which embraces the outcast and loves the individuals that comes through its doors as Christ loves them.  It is a church that reaches people in a relevant way.  If that means doing church differently - great - lets do it!  Church is for me about supporting one another, loving one another, worshiping together and journeying together.  We may not get it right all the time, that's OK - the point is that we keep on going until we get it right and have some fun along the way.
Hmm... nearly time for another episode of Star Trek, must go!!        

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Essay and spelling!

Spelin Speellling Spelling is neccesary neccessary necessary I tink!

Essays.... It seems that, after nearly four years, college have found me out!  My sin is that I can't spell.  Even with the wonders of spell check it seems that I make these fatal errors.  I must point out that I can't seem to spell check my blog so I can only apologise for any mistakes!  Whilst I appreciate spelling is important for an academic essay it is not the be all and end all to life.  God spoke to me recently through my daily notes...

'We decided to retell the story about a newly hired traveling salesman who sent his first sales report to the head office, because its truth is timeless.  When the report reached tehm they were stunned.  the new salesman wrote, "I seen this outfit which ain't never bot nuthin from us and I sole them a lotta goods.  No I'm going to Chicawgo."  Before the sales manager could fire him, along came a second report.  "I come to Chicawgo and sole them over a millyun."  Fearful if he fired the salesman and concerned if he didn't, the sales manager dumped the problem into the lap of the company president.  The following morning the sales department was amazed to see a memo from the president posted on the bulletin board beside the salesman's two letters.  It said, "We ben spending two much time tryin to spel and not enuf tryin to sel.  Let's watch those sails.  I want everybody should read these two letters from Gooch, who is on the rode doin a grate job for us, and you should go out and do like he dun."  Degrees and titles are fine things, but armed with intuition and initiative, plus Gos's help, you are qualified!'   

The Word For Today, UCB, Westport Road, Stoke-On-Trent, ST6 4JF  Free issues of this devotional are available by contacting UCB directly.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Severn Bore

Creation is a marvelous thing.  I cannot believe that this marvelous planet of ours just evolved.  For me there must be a creator God.  I took these photos today (2nd March 2010) of the Severn Bore - truely a magnificent sight!  Although I must admit to being disappointed it wasn't bigger.
Today's bore had a five star rating (the highest and therefore the biggest).  For those of you who don't know -  the bore is a 'natural phenomenon' that produces a wave up to 5 meters high that travels against the normal river flow and happens twice a day around the spring and autumn equinox.  


At the moment I am writing an essay on the Severn Barrage which has been proposed as a way of producing 'green' energy.  However, a 10 mile concrete barrage between Cardiff and Weston-Super-Mare would have an enormous impact on the environment.  Localized flooding would increase, mudflats would be lost thereby significantly reducing the feeding ground for about 69,000 birds, the passage of migrating fish would be blocked, etc, etc...  

Essays... now there's another story...

Friday, 26 February 2010

Are you there Lord?

I am glad to say that the hill has levelled out a bit.  I wish I knew what was around the corner, or may be it is just as well I don't.  The path leads over hills and down through the valley.  It has high points and low points and many twists and turns.  Are you there Lord?

He waits patiently in the silence offering peace to those who take time to notice.... 

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Up Hill

Today started out good but has become an uphill struggle and the weight of the world (or is the cross?) is on my shoulders.  Ok, so maybe it is not really that bad.  But it is enough to stop me in my tracks and take me off course.  I guess we all come off course once in a while.  We take a wrong turn and end up with muddy boots from not staying on the path.  Maybe it is time to sit on a bench and take stock.  Yes, the road ahead maybe uphill but I do not tread the path on my own...   

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Why do I avoid silence?


A rather haunting image of 'Silence'
by John Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) 

Dear God,

Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings
and the loud inner noises of my fears
keep pulling me away from you.
Give me ears to listen to your small, soft, voice saying:

'Come to me, you who are overburdended 
and I will give you rest...
for I am gentle and humble of heart.'

Let that loving voice by my guide.


Why do I avoid silence?

From With Open Hands Henri J.M. Nouwen.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Journey Continues


Christ Bearing the Cross at Calvary
Andrea Da Firenze (1365-68)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Lent 2015 things that make me laugh (or not)


A modern painting 'Christ in Gethsemane' 
by Michael D O'Brian.

I am struck by the pain and agony that seems to be on Jesus' face as he thinks about what is to come. 

I should have posted this last year, maybe I did. Technology does funny things sometimes. It's not always easy to laugh sometimes pain and tears get in the pain. Laughter and tears perhaps belong together as part of the creative tension of life. Being human, and indeed being God, is not always easy.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Psalm 139

O Lord you search me and you know me,
you know my resting and my rising,
you discern my purpose from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down,
all my ways lie open to you (v1-3)

O search me, God, and know my heart.
O test me and know my thoughts.
See that I follow not the wrong path
and lead me in the path of life eternal (v23-24)

Grail Translation, Paulist press)


The Sheltered Path
By Claude Monet 1873 

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Light of the World


This is my favourate Holman Hunt painting, 'Light of the World'.  We have a copy of it on the wall at John street Baptist Church, Stroud.  I also have my own copy of this wonderful painting and often find myself reflecting on it.  I love the way the moon casts a halo around Jesus' head.  

Jesus knocks at the door but the door handle is on our side of the door.  Unless you choose to open the door of your heart to Jesus he cannot and will not enter.  This is the free choice that God gives us - we can either accept Him or reject him.  Your choice....

Today is the start of Lent.  In past years I have joined with my Anglican Friends at college for their traditional Ash Wednesday service.  I have missed that this year.  Baptists are not terribly good at marking this point in the Christian callender; perhaps we should!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The shadow of death

I have been reflecting on this painting, 'The Shadow of Death' by Holman Hunt today.  As Jesus stretches his arms the evening light casts a shadow against the back wall and the tools hung on the back wall form a cross bar.  Although we do not see the woman's face we know that it is Mary who is opening a chest full of the gifts brought by the Magi at Jesus' birth.  But she is not looking in the box her eyes are stuck by the shadow that seems to be predicting what is to come.  

The painting  holds much more but I will leave you to ponder the significance of it in your own time... it's much more fun that way!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Holding hands with God

As the rain hides the stars,
as the autumn mist hides the hills,
as the clouds veil the blue of the sky,
so the dark happenings of my lot
hide the shining of thy face from me.
Yet, if I may hold thy hand in the darkness,
it is enough. Since I know that,
though I may stumble in my going,
thou dost not fall.
(Celtic, unknown)

This prayer was posted by Living Wittily recently  

I like the idea of holding hands with God as I stumble in the dark.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Why do bad things happen?

It has been some time since my last blog.  There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, I have developed a repetative strain in my hand/wrist that is painful when I type.  Secondly, I have struggled to find any hilarity in my life worthy of mention.

I guess there may be a problem with the name of my blog 'Spirituality and hilarity.'  Sometimes life is just not funny.  In a previous blog I refered to the tragic death of Daz, one of my husband's close friends.  Why do bad things happen?  The technical term for this is 'theodicy' and whilst I could get very academic in defining what it means it is not my intention to do so.  there are plenty of academic blogs available if that is what you are looking for.  My intention is more to provoke thought and to explore spirituality.  'So God, why do bad things happen?'  I intend on asking this question of him upstairs when I eventually get to heaven.  I am not looking to getting there any time soon so this question will have to wait a while.  I the meantime it is a question that remains in my thoughts.  I am sure many, if not everyone has struggled with this question at some point in their life.  Sometimes life just plain stinks and there is no rhyme or reason for why things happen.  People get ill... they die young... good people, people who have not done anything wrong to anyone else.

I conclude that my search to explore spirituality in a humorous way has one major flaw - life just isn't humorous all the time!