Friday, 28 May 2010

Captain Pegleg in the loo and all the merry Barrass crew

Photo: Clifton Park, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, UK

Recently, I managed to attend a lunchtime talk at Clifton Park Museum, by a wonderful man called Jim Wilson about "Humber Keels". As friends will know, my Barrass roots go way back on the canals of Yorkshire. Generations of my ancestors were keelmen and women, master mariners, captains, mates, sailmakers, ship's carpenters and just about every other occupation associated with living around ports and inland waterways.It was surreal to hear Jim, who didn't know me from Adam (or Popeye!) as he spoke, talking about my Barrass ancestors by name.

He regaled us with tales of my distant Victorian third cousin three times removed, Pegleg Barrass, christened marginally less comically as Horace in Stainforth near Doncaster in 1889. Horace lost a leg as a young man in WW1, something to do with barbed wire, I believe, and with true Yorkshire Barrass grit, made his own wooden leg from boatbuilding offcuts going spare along the canal. Jim was rather scared of him as a child, as he seemed as exotic as Long John Silver to his young eyes! 

Another relative who was a young lass in Stainforth in the 1950s once told me a tale of trying the door of the outside toilet shared by houses along the canal bank there. She rattled the "sneck" (handle) of the toilet door, but found it wouldn't open more than a crack because, as she thought, some prankster had jammed something against the door to stop folk entering. Seeing the obstruction was an old piece of driftwood, she ran off to tell her granny that someone had put a chair leg or a wheelbarrow in the lav! You're ahead of me, aren't you? Yes, it turned out to be our Pegleg sitting quietly on the loo with his wooden leg propped up against the door to repel boarders and ensure a bit of privacy! I told Jim this tale after his talk and we reminisced about the lives of our keel forebears.

When I got home, I looked at some census returns to see where Jim's Wilson family might fit in with my own canal genes. Sure enough, his granny was one of the Parish family, and my first cousin five times removed, Martha Barrass, born in 1814 married David Parish, a boat hauler along the river. Yes, when a horse wasn't available, or on sections of the canal too narrow to set the sails, the heavy barges were attached to a strap around the chest of a man or woman to be hauled along.

On the 1881 census, in the Old Harbour at Sculcoates in Hull, I found many keels moored together. Jim Wilson's great grandparents, James and Lucy Wilson, were there on board their keel "Kate" (named after one of Jim's great aunts, a little girl on the keel at that time) and, moored just two berths along the quay, one of our keels, the "Thistle". "Thistle"'s captain was my great great gran's brother, Thomas Barrass (born in Stainforth in 1839), and his mate was my great great great granddad, Samuel Barrass (b 1816, Stainforth). Also on board were Tom's wife, Mary Ann nee Brooke from Gainsborough and their three children, the youngest of whom, George went on to die in 1916 in WW1, when he was an acting corporal in the 6th battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment.

Family history never ceases to be a joy, whether it uncovers funny or tragic stories. I have my share of murderers, bigamists, eccentrics, suicides and adventurers but I think our Pegleg is perhaps one the more memorable to the citizens of Doncaster! Cheers, Horace!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Feathers in the sun

Laid low for a fortnight with a virus (on top of my usual M.E. variety of viral symptoms-greedy!), I'm so grateful to God for the silver lining he provides if we look at every cloud with him! Being so ill, I've had lots of opportunity to micro-watch at close quarters the spring unfolding and bursting into new life all around.

 The trees are fat with blossoms and leaves are now a million shades of green. The young birds are all beginning to venture out of the snug shelter of the their nests to explore the big beautiful world and to learn how to fend for themselves. My photo above shows a young female blackbird, nicknamed Baggy, to identify her, as she's the chick of Ben (not Bill, geddit?) and Aggie (my most aggressive female visitor). Baggy takes after her mum in looks and temperament. This morning they had quite a fight, trying to define where they fit in the bigger picture! Here, in a calmer moment, Baggy is learning how refreshing an apple quarter can be in the hot May sunshine! 

Nearby, baby starlings were still trying to convince their parents they needed to be fed. One Starling youngster spent all morning screeching petulantly with open beak to get its parent to do the honours. When all the adults got wise and flew off, he slowly tried a few tentative pecks at the scattered suet, grain and dried mealworms on offer, and found he could actually survive now on his own. Magical moments in God's plan! Once he'd also worked out that there was more dignity in landing on the clothes post than tightroping along the washing line, there was no stopping him.

When the sun was at its hottest a few days ago, several of the blackbirds indulged in that peculiar pursuit, "sunning", where the bird, usually so alert, switches off to everything but the luxury of "sitting down" in a sunny spot, staring at the sun blissfully blankly, beak open, wings and tail feathers spread. Science tells us this is probably to stimulate the preen glad at the base of the tail, which makes sense, as the bird eventually goes on to preen itself after sunning. During the sunbathing, the blackbirds seemed in a total trance, and hardly stirred at human approach, transfixed by the still small inner voice, instinctively obedient to their own deepest needs and necessities for the life for which they were graciously created.

 We have so much to learn, and so much to delight in on the way! Enjoy this precious planet and God bless you as you hold its fragile magnificence close to your heart!

Thursday, 13 May 2010


We lost and found you
At your rising

Your going made us real
As we found ourselves found

The seed falls silent
To the wombing earth

New life
Draws longing eyes up
Up to Heaven's horizon

My budding Robinia Pseudoacacia "Frisia"

What I don't know about wet collodion and Victorian post-mortem photography

I'm just working on a short story about an itinerant photographer who travels with his tripod and cumbersome portable dark room from village to village producing snapshots of the locals. I won't spoil the plot in case it is published one day, but basically, the sittings in one village lead to a crime, after which the young ambrotypist is called on to take an early post mortem photograph for the local constabulary.

I feel most alive when I am writing and never cease to marvel how much we can learn from researching our stories. In the course of researching this story, for instance, I've been discovering the developments that took place in the 1850s, when the early Daguerrotype process was improved on by the wet collodion process, particularly popular for its quick, cheap "instant" results. This meant that the image could more easily be replicated from a single negative. The glass plates for wet (and later, dry) collodion photos were also more readily available than the older silver-plated copper.

But its usually true of the research we accumulate for storywriting that it's better left in the background, to inform rather than hijack the tale. You DON'T want to know all about coating glass plates with silver nitrate and the dangers of working in a confined space with acid, bromide, iodide salts, alcohol, ether and goodness knows what else! Still less will the reader want to know about the gruesome fashion for "post mortem" photographs I've just discovered while striving for background knowledge. I now know that Victorian mourners often had their lately deceased loved ones photographed for posterity, even having "eyes" painted on the closed lids for a more "lifelike" effect! Some of the many existing examples of these memento mori are the stuff of nightmare and have no place in my own tale. Facts are facts, and anyone can pursue them. What the readers long for is a tale to inspire them, transport them. They want to know "Who did it?", or "Do they get together in the end?" or to encounter a host of other life-enhancing, challenging moments that only fiction can nudge their way.

What a joy and a journey! The challenge I've set myself in this story is to try to let the reader see through the eyes of the camera what is really going on under the surface. Of course, being me, on the way I inevitably become voracious gobbler of weird and wonderful facts that get stored away in my brain and imagination. Sometimes these things lead to other stories I never would have planned, often more intriguing than the original idea! Stories, like ourselves as writers and readers, are always open to evolve and change as we interact with God's glorious, endlessly gracious creative power. Stories give us space too to fix a snapshot of some truth within the rainbow of possibilities, developed like the photographer's negatives exposed to the sunlight of the human heart.

From the Open University's Learning Space "Arts and History" Unit on "The rise of the itinerant photographer": Image 78: Photographer/Painter: John Thomson. Subject: The Itinerant Photographer on Clapham Common’, from John Thomson & Adolphe Smith, Street Life in London, 1877/78.

(One of many excellent sites used during my research for the story mentioned in this post)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Bloodshot Dark

In this dark room
Where light lamps me sore
Salt and steel
You waft the tide
Drawing its flow
Cradling its ebb the creeping healing
That shades our burning eyes
From the blinding flash of the sudden
And tunes our ears to the throb of earth

Swollen livid muscles glutted with pain
Feel the silk touch of your gentling
Nerve-wrack weak
You catch my stumbled weight
On the lavendered linen-cool of care

Beyond my crozzled corners
The synapses out of sync
Your steady warm word whispers “Home”

Lord, where I am unsteady
Ground me.
Where I am burning,
Cool me.
Where I am fragile glass
Strengthen me
Where I am weak
Be my quiet strength
Pace me at your steady step
Soothe and strengthen
Through the bloodshot dark.

Cloudy and unknowing?

"And so I urge you, go after experience rather than knowledge. On account of pride, knowledge may often deceive you, but this gentle, loving affection will not deceive you. Knowledge tends to breed conceit, but love builds. Knowledge is full of labour, but love, full of rest." (quotation from “The Cloud of Unknowing” by an anonymous 14th century Christian writer, sometimes just affectionately known as the Cloud-author,  possibly a priest somewhere in the UK East Midlands)

Stirrings, whispers, knowings,
Deep beneath chatter and chafing
Skittering the surface
Discerning delights
The  hushing centre

Naked blind feeling of being
Held in yolk-warm golden safety
Stillness beyond science

Repenting and emptying
Pure love’s hasteless in-flowing

Plunging all else down, away
Shed through the space that separates
To forgetting’s nebulous nowhere

Synapses sparking in a rage of strive and grasp

Heart-darts of longing love
Pierce up like a child’s finger tracing the rain on the roof,
Unleashing giggling showers
Startle and shiver

All-wise fountain father
Flow your Spirit of chaste vigorous rapture
Love that laps
 through crosslife obedience
To the sour prickle of a world’s thirsts

Flame, cradled and fanned in fragile palms
Candle shooing the shadow

Mirror of grace
Glass of revealing

Cross spreading to gather,
Raising us up,
To healing simplicity

Helpless to reach
Already reached

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Mission Shaper

Fill up your heavenly home, Lord,
Incarnate love for those driven by world-weight purposes
Further towards the cliff's bone-grey edge;
Flesh out our mission to become your body;
Melt us into grace for broken citizens
No longer dithering between departure gates
But sitting in the lounge where you're tuned off the tannoy.

Right where he stands, defiant,
Where she despairs of meaning,
Aching without alignment,
Raging at betrayals
And hypocrisies,
Send us robed in the humility of all we share
With every neighbour dechurched,
To reveal the vulnerable whisper at the heart of hopeless,
Jesus, among his own.

We need to be your oil-stained, water-puckered fingers
Baptising into radiance the flaked exhaustion of consumer chaos.
Long we looked away, pious and uncomforted
Tongues locked against repent
Ritualled in our culture
Charity disembodied, compassionless,
Guarding our arches and blue carpets
Against His own,
Afraid we might leak out
And be found threadbare as scarecrows in the living field.
Harvesting with blunted blades,
Hearts on our personal rockets to rapture,
Pushing outsiders (for surely, wasn't that their name?)
To the front pew (or chair, if we'd lost that age-old fight)
If ever they braved a way in
To bewilder and keep them alien and safely peregrine.

Father, forgive; Merciful Lord, have mercy
On us, confessors and professors of your radical journey,
That we have mapped it static
With our dowager's hump of stubborn rooted pride.

Now teach us who count you creator, Saviour,
The obedient walk on your light-drenched, narrow path,
Not past our neighbours to holy huddledom,
But to kneel where we always knew they were,
When our eyes were averted from wandering loved ones
For whom their Lover Lord weeps and waits and longs.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


The world’s pounding, shrieking, nagging, quick, close, loud, shouty, waggy-fingered, sense-surrounding, bouncing off the walls, come-hithering, sniggering, look I’m over here in your face, plug and play, all dazzling and drumming fingers, frittering, fashing, fighting

My Lord
My God

Centre of all creation
Centre of Love
Centre and still me
Jesus focus
Focus my drowning and dithering till I can see you
Only you

Word of life, reorder my rhythm till I fall focussed into your footsteps

Well of warmth in the scatter of storms, still me

Rooted rock in the whirlpool of waste, reclaim my restlessness.

Let me meditate on you
Meditate in me

Let me sink and snuggle into your radiance
So when you lift me to my feet, refreshed
I can walk with you through demanding doorways
Walk with you through
And through you share life’s depths

Faith & Fast

Fogged with overfeed
Self satisfied
Satiated with surplus
I’m still hungry for You

Chasing in empty circles
On automatic pilot
I keep missing the whisper of need
Give me the thirst, Lord
That‘s only quenched by You

Show me
What controls me?
Which tastes, textures, flavours
Sights, sounds, addictions
Seductive commercials, distracting diversions
Short-circuit me from Your presence,
Have me goggle-eyed and drooling
What enslaves me?

Lord, free me as I set aside
My heart’s quietened life for You to fill

Detox my greed

Fasting at Your whispered call
From the fast food of false security
Of doing, chewing, staring, chattering,
Feed me deep, deeper now
With Your nourishment of love
Stripped for a heartbeat’s space of my false cravings
Open me, Lord, to receive
Your precious provision, the milk and honey,
The manna of Your grace


You made us simple
Delighting with childlike joy in our Father

But we’ve wrapped our lives in contortions
Complicating a cobweb of masks
Where our faces should be
A spaghetti of crosswise plans and schemes
Busy business buzzing
To make meaning so we matter

I’m so sucked in, invested in things!
Gently help me untangle myself, Lord;
I’m weary yet cosy in lugs and knots
Gainful, grasping when all in You is gift!

Mend my muddle, Lord,
Unpeel the onion skins of my defences,
Breathe through the prickly hedge of my pretences,
Wake that trust in You inside
Like the lilies and grass of the fields,
The sparrow whose feathers You’ve counted

Tenderly prise my fingers
From things gripped too close and too tightly

Help me declutter and downsize
So there’s more and more room for You!

Lodestone and compass of my soul’s journey,
Jesus, free me to dance, to be simply Yours!


I love to be
The boss of me
I love to be in control!
Me first! I’m right! I shan't! I might!
I know my rights from my driving seat!

“God helps those who help themselves”
“Charity begins at home”
Did Jesus say these? I wish he had!
But now I come to look-
My bad!

I’m so scared to lose my identity;
I’m sweet, or a doormat, but when it suits me!
Help me find who I could be in You:
Free to be bettered and bested,
Free to give, give away and give way
Free from the chains of my ego
From what others may think or say,
To be servant yet free as You teach us to be,
Spirit, spring-clean my hiding place through!

Teach me, Lord, your cross-life
Turning the world upside down,
Teach me, Lord, submission
Topple my home-made crown!

To yield and submit,
At Your feet let me sit
Towel and bowl passed between us
Self denial isn’t losing my place in it all
But finding my true place in Jesus.

"Charlotte's Song" Lyrics (2004)

Over the Humberhead Levels
I see the keels on the cut:
Leeboards are ready for raising,
Onward, now, ready or not

Tides roll on, hell or high water,
Little one, stowed in my deep,
The coamings are fog-draped beyond us
The waterway mumbling of sleep

Pinder and mariner rise up and range,
The peat-cutters wait at the stile;
My grandfather watches the door from the settle,
The nightjar, she weeps all the while

No-one can sift out your shadow, my love,
No-one knows quite where we lay;
Whispers and rumours, half-guessing our story -
My journey to Hull far away:

There in the muck-garths and cobbles,
There in the alley, my child,
Your birthing so precious and brutal and fragile,
Bleak as the sea and more wild!

Now as we a wait for tomorrow,
Your heart beats its future for me:
I leave you the Chase where the lapwing is tumbling home
Over the Lings to be free!

Dedicated with love to my great great grandmother, Charlotte Barrass, keelgirl, wife and mother, and my great grandfather Thomas, who was the child she conceived and bore in Chaffer's Alley, Witham, Hull in May 1857, the year after her grandmother Nancy's suicide. Charlotte died of TB in 1865, a few short weeks after giving birth to a little brother for Thomas, George Bottom, following her marriage to farmer William Bottom in Hatfield Woodhouse. Baby George only survived his mother by one day, and mother and child were buried together on a snowy February day in Hatfield St Laurence churchyard, close to Charlotte's Barrass roots in the bleak Humberhead levels, near to Hatfield Chase and the Lings, where a windmill used to turn its sails in the wind from the seas far beyond.


I let my conscience be my guide!
It’s guided me
Into this wibble wobble numbness
Cotton wool straitjacket where I can’t really feel You.

My conscience pats me on the head:
“There, there!” to my complacency.

Cheap grace. Glowing report. Box ticked. Job done.
Self-loathe. Withdraw. Deep shame. Memory still raw.

Shepherd Love, You lie down quietly in the gap
With Your whole self, not just Your crook.
You lie in the gap where the wolf comes in
And save me through soul-boggling love I just can’t take in.

You’re not just okay with forgiving me,
You’re bursting to hug me back in Your arms!
You’re aching to gather me right close to Your heart,
When I won’t meet Your eyes, trying to keep us apart!

Lord, I think I’m something else!
I’ve made myself this little badge:
“The greatest sinner!” “The biggest loser!”
I have dangerous tickets on myself.

Turn. Turn. Turn.
Lord, message received,
Grace overwhelming.
I pour it all out. All I can. Barely stop for a breather
Till the tears sting.
I turn and see not accusing, knowing eyes,
But You, running to meet me, arms open wide.


Lord, already listening and loving,
leaning in close to hear us, You astonish us,
That You don’t just listen,
waiting for something more important to come along;
You don't just listen, in the hope we’ll get it all perfect this time;
You don't just listen, suffering our stammerings;
You lean closer, closer, tenderly, joyful to hear all prayers from the hearts of Your children!

You watch us with eyes of pure love,
Delighting to see us toddling or stumbling forward into Your arms!
No hesitation, now Lord,
We come with everything we have and all we are
into Your awesome presence.

So many things distract us,
So many worries we won't leave with You
Because although deep down we know we can't,
We imagine we can carry all our heavy burdens in secret from You!

Lord, we confess:

Prayer changes things
And change is so scary!

Life creator,
Life changer!
Father, we creep closer, under Your wings,
In the stillness, we feel Your heartbeat,
Transforming our own, pacing us, protecting us
May our hearts beat right now with the rhythm of Your Holy Spirit

Gathered into Your graciousness,
What a privilege to pray together!
Gathered and blessed, together
We adore You!
We need more of You!
Precious Lord Jesus,
We want to want more of the things You want!
We'd so love to love more of the things You love!
We desire to desire what You desire!
Help us through prayer to build Your future with You!
Fill us, freshen us,
Help us see Your breathtaking world from Your point of view,
To see everything as Your gift, Your grace, Your challenge, Your opportunity!

God of lonely places and loud ones!
God of safe places and sticky ones!
God of the bouncy and the battered!
God of the difficulty and the dream!
God of each and every one of us,
We praise you, and open our lives for your transforming touch
More than special to share!

Gently seek whatever stands between us,
And unblock our lives with the sweep of Your Spirit!

As we feel and celebrate here Your power of prayer pulsing through our world, Your kingdom,

Awesome Saviour,
As Jesus taught us, so we pray together: [Lord's Prayer]

All that is lovely

Heavenly Father,
True, honourable, just and pure,
Lovely, gracious and excellent,
You are worthy of all praise and glory!

You call us to study the things that reflect Your heart of love:
True things that can strip away what’s false in us,
Honourable things, that show us how to live,
Just things, that show us who to fight for, to win them justice
Pure things that wash us in Your Spirit’s light,
Lovely things, that teach us of Your love,
Gracious things, that flood lives with Your grace,
Excellent things, that teach us what to push towards,
The things that You have blessed are worth our praise!

Transforming Spirit of Jesus,
You are the Truth, the Life and the Way,
You are the Truth that sings through the words as we study,
You are the Spirit that dances through the rainbow and symphony of Creation as we observe it,
When we seek You, You promise we will find You.

Studying Your truths, Your wisdom untangles us
From half-truths, wrong answers and all our pig-headed blindspots.
Re-align us, Lord, transforming our minds and notions.

Father, we confess our stubbornness, asking now for the flexible fire of Your Spirit;
Lord Jesus, we confess our shaming narrowness, asking now for the limitless vision of Your accepting love;
Holy Spirit, we confess our shallowness, asking for quiet understanding to plunge deeper into You.

Lord, we thank You and pray,
That in studying You,
Your lamp that is a light to our feet,
May keep us out of pits and potholes;
Your whisper that calls us to question and explore
May switch on the little light-bulb above our heads
And humbly have us beaming with Your radiance;
Liberating Lord,
Free us from our fears and foibles, habits and hang-ups,
To put a toe in the ocean of the knowledge of You,
So we can swim unafraid through the fountain of Your deepest blessings!


Guide me, soul-searcher Spirit,
Lead me, by guiding grace
Into the way You’ve woven,
Intuitive whisper of truth!

Where we stumble on through consensus or pressure
Where we swerve or backpedal through drifting or driving
Align our actions to Your will

In meetings where we love our own sassy voices,
In gatherings where we control or ossify
In cliques where we self-select alliances,
In rooms where we rush to crush, dismiss or diss
the opposition, the awkward, the outsider;
Deliver us from dawdling,
Save us from straying away.

How to know Your will, Lord?
Right or wrong?
“Only one way to find out – fight!”
“Heads or tails”…

As we walk the walk Your way,
So talk the talk, sweet Spirit,
Compass and Sat Nav of purity,
Tracking our path
Nudging to true our travel

Open the skylight to Heaven, the mind of Christ!

Spirit-saturated and empowered
May we seek and follow
Tracing through cloud and fire our shared life’s journey
Obedient to the Shepherd’s tones of love.


Lord, You call us from loneliness to solitude;
From the sulking void of isolated absence,
From the bottomless pit of hopeless abandoned grieving,
To Your soul-refreshing inner room of calm
Where the windows open on the sunlight and the shadow
And easy companionship with our better than best friend.

Lord we get jumpy with silence;
We want to fill it up with chitter and chatter,
dizzily doing distractions to fill this inner emptiness;
we comfort-nibble, or disappear into our iPods,
or chase our tails, trying to feel connected.
Lord, pull out our plugs for a second!

Somewhere inside us,
Where we’ve often lost the key to,
Is a longing just to sit at Your feet in the still.
Help us find the ways to discover the thrill of walking alone with You!
You’re not a headmaster, or an angry boss,
We’re not on the carpet, so why should we run to avoid You?

Doesn’t have to be on a mountain;
Doesn’t have to be a boat on Lake Galilee;
Doesn’t have to be a desert miles away;
Doesn’t have to be staring impatiently at the clock;
Just a quietly closed door, or a moment’s heart-space
Deeply to drink You in.

Lord, may our words be few,
Not quick with our mouths or hasty in heart
But like salt in season,
Drawing near to You, drinking deep from You, rooted and ready;
No jabber to justify ourselves, the sacrifice of fools,
Lord, we adore You, and trust in You alone
For the fruit of your Spirit, the fruit of silence shared.

Our thermometer tongues we quieten,
May we only speak Your words of grace and blessing.
Lover and Beloved,
In our soul’s darkest night the righteous radiance,


The hush of Heaven

Breathe peace upon us
Breathe unspoken, unspeakable benediction

Freeing us from ourselves
Freeing us for Your dear sake
Freeing us to find You.

Peace that passes our understanding,
We lay down all our plans and powers;
Scoop us up into Your heart
Dependent, expectant, hushed by Your heart’s hopeful wholeness:


Palm Sunday prayers

Hosanna, Saviour, Hosanna!
Blessed is our King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in Heaven and Glory in the highest!
Hosanna in the highest!

Lord, there are times when to shout out praises is so easy and natural,
Our souls are singing!

Holy Spirit of Jesus, You rain down God’s Shekinah,
Lighting up our hearts with praises!

Lord God, You seek us out to worship You and walk with You,
You draw us, not drive us
To worship You!

Your Spirit seeks out our spirit,
Your Spirit searches our spirit,
Your Spirit calls to our spirit
In Spirit and in truth.

Lord, we want no gods before You,
Purify our praise!
Punctuate our preoccupations
With the whisper of Your Word, made flesh in our Jesus!
Lord, we adore You,
We want to draw closer still to hear You speak to us!

Lord Christ, lead our worship here today
As You gather us into fellowship and freedom;
In silence, in praise,
Lord wash us with worship!
May we practise Your presence,
Pray without ceasing,
Prepare for Your gifting,
Be gleeful to gather as one in Your name,
Depend on You, wholly!
May the giggles of our children,
The stage-whispers of our toddlers,
The bouncing energy of our youth
The quiet wisdom of our elders
Enrich and enrapture our worship!
Lord, we come before You as Your family!

Lord, when our hearts feel barren and dry,
When our lives seem to jar against joy,
Worship can feel like sacrifice;
This sacrifice we offer You.
We come before You, expecting;
We gather before You, trusting;
We wait in simplicity for Your touch.
Lord of change and challenge!

Lord, impel us forward into Your adventure!
Not Dr Whos or Wonderwomen,
But Your Spirit-filled followers to unchartered waters,
Where You help us fish deep, deep, deeper
For Your Priceless Pearl of new life!

Send us, Lord Jesus, out into Your reality,
Your messy, complicated, wonderful world,
With all the rich resources of Your Holy Spirit,
The Spirit of our Saviour, who taught us how to pray:
[Lord's Prayer]


Risen, triumphant Lord Jesus,
You ARE the good news of great joy
The one who has died and been raised triumphant
To bring life for all people!

Lord, may Your joy be in each and everyone,
That Your joy may overflow and be complete!

You are the good news that the poor are hearing!
You are the freedom that the captives are receiving!
You are the overwhelming sight that the blind are seeing!
Lord of all joy and Jubilee!

The Stone is rolled away, and the debts are cancelled!
The curtain’s ripped in two, and enslaved ones find release!
The Kingdom without end is glimpsed at Your rising!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen indeed!

The Conquering Lamb’s new life dances celebration into our hearts;
The Risen Son’s unstoppable reign laughs celebration into our lives!

Lord, we need fear no emptiness, need fear nothing,
Filled with the calm ecstasy of Your presence!

Joy of God’s heart, Jesus, come into Your Kingdom!
Joy, the fruit of Your Spirit,
Fill us and free us to celebrate You!

In the strength and limitless energy of Your joy,
We bathe and are blessed to give ourselves wholly to You!

Not bypassing the misery of suffering;
Not sidestepping the agony of the garden;
Not avoiding disappointment of expectations;
Not trampling on the fragile or the broken,
Not shortcutting the Hell of Sin and Death,

Alleluia! For us, Christ is Risen indeed!

Lord, we celebrate You,
We celebrate your death defying love for Your world and Your people;
May we sing You, play You, laugh You, dance You,
Paint You, craft You, preach You, love You,
Serve You, share You, celebrate You
With everything that we are,
With everything we can be,
Through everything You have won for us!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Jesus, our Lord, the Christ is Risen indeed!

Servant Song

Lord God, as we gaze upwards to praise Your majesty,
You show us the meaning of your Passion by your compassion!

You shock us, as we recognise you kneeling quietly washing our grubby feet;

A spade not a sceptre
A towel not a title

Jesus, our Servant King,
Fill us with Your Holy Spirit,
Hidden hope of heaven, free us for true service!
Help us curb our social climbing
Our safe smug courting of others’ good opinions
Lower our pride to humility to be spent on others.

You plunge the precious old pecking order
Into the mirror
And show us our true place in You

Teach us to serve not wincing or preening
Patronising or puppeteering
Not the big shot but the spent for sheer love.

Not to score high on the spiritual leader board
Or to pose on that right rung of the ladder;
You model the unseen gift, the right hand’s supportive silent touch the left hand needs never see;
No pat on the head or self satisfaction.

Lord, when we have our way of it, we know:
We’ve had our reward – it’s the glow in our heart,
It’s the honourable mention
It’s the claps from the crowd,
The “see all I’ve done for you”;
Applause, adulation, attention, bravo!
Recognise me! Without me, where would you be?
Make us hungry only for Your way and Your will,
Not seeking to fulfil our need to feel righteous and essential,
But a thirst to serve for God’s sake

Not servers, meting out services for Brownie points
But choosing to be a servant, not totting up ticks!

Available. Vulnerable.
Not too wise to be a doormat
Mistrustful of muddy footprints in our good nature;
No one is good but you, Jesus our Lord!

Choosing to cherish the voiceless invisibles,
The chains of forced slavery are cut off our wrists
By the sword of Your Spirit;

Help us, gracious Lord,
To ditch the to-do list of point-scoring charity
Kneel to all neediness
Not hating hiddenness, hoping for honour

Dorcas’s love through the little things, the widow’s artless mite,
No trumpets or headlines
No pity in the petty
If that’s where You’re calling us

The sugar of earthly praise and pay-off is addictive and destroying,
The Servant goes unnoticed, true salt of the earth

Enliven us, Serving Spirit from our own subtle sloth
Make us more discerning, steady, obedient
To the rhythms of Your Kingdom
The harmony born of hearing You

Improve our serve, Lord,
Simplify our service!

Plant in us, humble Master,
The grace shared by giving and the grace to receive!

Lord Jesus, as it would please you, bring me someone today who I can serve!

Sparrowhawks have yellow feet

Sparrowhawks have yellow feet,
The Woodpigeon’s are pink,
And one can take the other down
Quicker than it can think.
The Hawk sat under my apple tree,
Staining the white snow red,
Spreading a grey down carpet
Where her hungry beak had fed.

The Blackbird’s bill is golden,
The Dunnock's legs are red;
Their colour coded miracles
Fill winter’s empty head
With stab and thrill and beat- boxing
With dip and dodge and dance,
With scolding or with shyness,
And the seizure of each chance.

The Fieldfare, foreign-feathered,
Comes to peck the apple core,
While the Goldcrest and the Bullfinch
Show the shades that God once saw
When He finished the creation,
And stood back, enjoying all
Just the way that He’d intended
From the colour to the call.

He didn’t forget the sparrow,
Totting up its plumage count,
And remarking how the chocolate
And the coffee barbs stood out;
How the chirrup and the chatter
Sang a twitter feed of worth
From the vacuum close of chaos
To the spark that lit the earth.

JB 12th Jan 2010