... and now perhaps it is. The Olympics.  Love them or loath them, they have been the main focus of the UK news for the past two weeks. And what an amazing two weeks it has been. We've laughed and cried, shouted and cheered, tallied the totals, even painted some letterboxes golden. "I hope ," posted the Revd Richard Pennystan on Facebook this morning, "I hope we look back on the summer of 2012, as the moment when British culture shifted from cynicism and criticism, to joy, honour & creativity." Shifted from the riots and despair of exactly one year ago, to the feelings of pride and togetherness; and maybe, just maybe, looking forward to the Para-olympics in a couple of weeks. Paul replied to the Revd RP:  'I think the media backed down a little in the second week and stopped referring to anything less than Gold as a failure. I'm looking forward to the Paralympics. If anything can encourage us all to try harder it must be those who achieve success despite their "disadvantages".'

For what have we seen recently but the young (and not so young, think of the 71 year old Japanese Equestrian!) trying their hardest, their best, for themselves, their team, their country. From Mr Bean (that seems longer than just 2 weeks ago, doesn't it?) to Gabby Douglas and Mo Farah,


to Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking

there has been an outpouring of effort and determination, of sweat and tears, of elation and despair. Of joy, honour and creativity.

And we , we who have sat and watched from our armchairs or maybe even from our seats in an arena or our picnic rugs in Hyde Park, we too have poured out ourselves in support and tears and joy and elation. A spate of medals caused our household to open a bottle of champagne to celebrate  - it was also our son and daughter-in-law's tenth wedding anniversary, I have to add, but that wasn't the main reason given by the Vicar!  We have all rejoiced,  waved our arms and flags, chatted with perfect strangers sitting next to us in various venues, been amazed at the spirit of goodwill and bonhomie on the  Tubes and buses (and noted how empty they and all of London seem to be apart from the Olympics-bound) and enjoyed joining in this wonderful adventure of elation.

So is it all over? Will we revert to our normal British cynicism and underdogness, our critical spirit and humourlessness, our lack of joie de vivre? Will Monday August 13th see us crawling back to work, deflated, tired; crashing down from the pinnacle of this London 2012? It's been an addiction, this past two weeks. Are we now heading back to our little lives of 'quiet desperation' (Henry David Thoreau)?

We don't have to. We can choose not to.

"We are captivated by the Olympic spirit because it is that same spirit that we long to re-ignite in our own lives.  The joy of living comes from pressing toward excellence.  Watching tiny, 15-year-old children fly through the air with ease and cut through the water like dolphins, reminds us of the pain, the effort and the thrill of being everything we can be. It reminds us of when we chose to dance instead of shuffle. The Olympics reminds us of what it looks like to live: discipline, dedication to a goal, the quest for excellence, risk, pain—all the essence of being fully alive. Things we often leave behind as we are swallowed up making a living instead of living.  Benjamin Franklin said, 'Many men die at 25 and aren’t buried until they are 75.' With the sound of the closing Olympic ceremonies still ringing in your ears, don’t sit on the moment. Capture it. Walk, run, read, love, study, discover. Life doesn’t have a winners’ circle; it just has a finish line and you’re not done running yet." (Ken Davis)

Will you choose to push on towards the goal? To give of your best - for the extension of the Kingdom and the Glory of the Lord?

Instead of feeling deflated, can we spur one another on, encourage one another, build one another up, run together towards the finish line?

It's not all over yet. We still have time to be in the greatest race of our time - our own.














I am writing a daily blog (Monday to Friday probably!)  on preparing spiritually and physically

to lead a Pilgrimage of 100 miles in September.

for details of the Pilgrimage, click on the dropdown Cotwold Pilgrimage bar at the top of this page 



Monday morning.

Dare I step on the scales?

It’s early – I am up soon after the larks, due the church builders crashing into our garden very early. The Vicar slumbers on. He will be Mondayish soon. *

I like an early start.

My mother use to wake me at 6am every morning.

There was hot Ribena when I was small, fresh lemon juice diluted in  hot water when I was a teenage (my choice!)

The command Don’t forget to read your Bible.

That is what is engrained on my mind as I wake daily.

Alas there’s no hot drink presented to me these days and I need coffee.  I take the mug of fragrant liquid and sit on the rocking chair. Open today’s reading on my Kindle.

It’s all very different to 50 or so years ago.


* * * *

We’re in Song of Solomon and then Psalm 45.  Lovers and weddings and beauty and joy.

It feeds my soul.


Inspires my prayers:

May my tongue speak words like the pen of a ready writer  - and may I be the ready writer too. (Psalm 45:1)

May the Lord pour the oil of joy on me, as I continue on this road of healing from the PTSS and depression. (Ps 45:7)

May I be the seal on my husband’s heart and our love unquenchable and strong as death. (SoS 8:6)

And may I continue on the path to physical strength and health so that my body glorifies God and my husband is content with me. (SofS 8:10)


So I stepped on the scales.

One whole pound lower.


* Mondayish: defined by OED as how clergy feel after a busy and demanding Sunday.




 I am writing a daily blog on preparing spiritually and physically

to lead a Pilgrimage of 100 miles in September.

for details of the Pilgrimage, click on the dropdown Cotwold Pilgrimage bar at the top of this page 

Today has been a curate’s egg kind of day.

This morning, I stood at the happiest place: the arrivals gate. Oh the joy of hearing the cries of delight, the sobs of joy, the squeals of pleasure, as loved ones were reunited.

Smiles and laughter. Hugs and kisses. Exclamations and enthusiasm.

Would my own loved ones ever come through that door?

And would I recognize them?

I always have that ridiculous fear when waiting for my family and friends – that I won’t recognize them.

But of course I always do.

There they are!

And my eldest granddaughter she leaps up into my arms, words spilling out to tell me of the overnight flight and all that she, they, have done.

And her younger sister holds out her arms – she’s balanced precariously in her car seat on top of the luggage.

My poor daughter  is pushing the luggage AND the buggy – so is doubly glad to see me.

The happiness of reunions and being welcomed and recognized.

Surely a foretaste of arriving home in heaven?

Of being welcomed and recognized and swept up in joy and affirmation.

* * * *

And then this afternoon.

The unhappiest place to be: driving across a hot dusty crowded London. Friday afternoon in a tired capital.

It’s only 14 miles door to door:  it took exactly two hours and ten minutes.

People were hot and tired and frustrated.

Horns blared and bleated.

Finger gestures were indescribable.

Cars were cutting in and cutting up and cutting out.

Voices were raised.

It was all too tempting to join in.

And then something reminded me of Amy Carmichael and her writing.

Her book IF


If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. *

*For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water however suddenly jolted.


How sweet was my spirit this afternoon?

What flavour was spilt?


* * * *

No walking today.  Fewer than 1,000 steps, after the ten, and eleven and twelve thousand of earlier days.


Relationships take priority over rules.

Joy over judgement.

Tomorrow is another day: and I am booked for a 7 mile hike with a friend – to Hampstead Heath and back.

And then a powerplates session.

* * * *

And I’ve been in the happiest of places today.

I’m grateful.


It’s good to have my girls back.




My Thousand Gifts of Grace

Sermon preached at Church Of Our Saviour, Johns Island, South Carolina, on Sunday May 13th 2012  


It's over a year since I last preached. A time of being in a wilderness.

But now I have been given this huge privilege of sharing  - with YOU:  here at The Church of Our Saviour. 

COOS has been in a preaching series on giving, and I have been given the last of the series – and it’s based on 2 Cor 8:1-15.  Like most preachers, when asked to preach during one's vacation, I looked on my laptop to see if there was a previous sermon on this that I could just repeat!   And discovered that I last preached a sermon on these particular verses in October 2007 – standing right here in front of you all at COOS!   I was tempted just to give you a quiz to see what you could remember!  What a ways we have all come since then.

What I want to share with you is some of what I have been learning over the past 18 months, and in particular what I am learning about GRACE. So if you thought I was going to be talking about money you can relax, let go your grasp on your wallet and take in some thoughts about God’s grace. 

Apparently the number 1 reason people say they don’t come to church is because they feel they are always being asked to give money.. But this part of 2 Cor 8 is not really just about money. It’s about being rich because of grace.

So I want to look at 2 things about GRACE:

- Grace grows out of grace

- Grace leads to great riches


First  - Grace grows out of grace

Paul begins this section by mentioning that the Macedonian churches had received God’s grace. Verse 1:

“And now brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace God has given the Macedonian churches.”


When you think of someone who has received grace, what do you think of?

Someone who has been blessed in some way -  with  financial resources, or with great gifts and abilities.

But there's another  kind of grace that God had given the Macedonian churches. Verse 2

“In the midst of a very severe trial… extreme poverty’

They were impoverished and they were being persecuted.  I discovered that the phrase that describes their poverty literally means, “their deep poverty, right down deep -  to the death of it.” That is not just being uncomfortable, that is being poor and destitute. The Macedonian churches – the Philippian and the Thessalonian Christians – were suffering great economic hardships. The Romans had taken over most of their industries, including the gold and the silver mines; they had reserved for themselves the right to import basic necessities such as salt, and they had cut down all the forests to build their own ships. The Romans had pillaged  looted Macedonia. And the Christians were being persecuted on top of all that. 

Poverty and persecution are not things I expect or want -  yet God had given the Macedonian churches just that:

Severe trials and extreme poverty.

Paul calls this “grace”!

And what is the net result of that grace, according to Paul?    

Overflowing joy and rich generosity!  V2

I'm   most of us would like to be joyful and generous. But we think we need to have security and prosperity before we can be joyful and generous. It seems logical – if God gives me a lot, I will share a lot. At least that’s the way I think about it. “I can’t give a lot because I don’t have a lot. I’m waiting for God to bless me.”

And we pass the collection plate and don’t put anything in, saying that’s it for the rich to give, not us who are retired or who have lost lots in stocks and shares (not that I have any stocks and shares!) or who don’t have a job or who have huge bills to pay.

OR we don’t volunteer to help because that’s for those who have lots of spare time and we have enough to do already thank you.

I once heard about a pastor in China who begged Christians in the West to stop praying that the Chinese church would be freed from persecution. He felt that the reason why the believers in China are joyful and the church is thriving is precisely because they are being persecuted! Like the Macedonians - 

         They had received God’s grace.

Their severe trials and extreme poverty overflowed in   joy and generosity.

                  They were truly rich in grace!


Grace had led to grace.


And not only were they generous, v. 3 tells us that they even gave beyond their ability. What would that phrase look like to you and me – “beyond our ability?” If you’re anything like me, you calculate out what you are going to give based on your available resources. I have limited financial amounts and a finite number of hours. So I give what I think I can easily afford whether financially or time wise.

Earlier this week, I received an email, telling me about a dear couple, who are really going through it at the moment.  He is an Anglican priest - and  he has had terrible back problems for some years and is in constant pain; she has had Lyme’s disease which was undiagnosed for over a year and has led to severe fatigue and debility. They are in a bad place yet have not stopped their ministry and their work for the Lord.  So some friends said they wanted to form a little consortium of people who would give regularly to this couple so that they can have a sabbatical for a year, to try to regroup and heal and sort out problems with themselves and their kids.  The email came to me just earlier this week; and my first thought was: well, I can’t give them anything; I am not in paid employment - I have had to resign because of my own situation of ill health so I have no spare money. 

And then I realized that I was preparing this sermon even as I was thinking those things -  I wasn’t even considering giving beyond my ability, I wasn’t asking God for the privilege and honor of giving knowing that God has blessed me with His grace so I can bless others.

Often, you and I don’t even want to think about what giving above our ability might look like!

But the example of these Macedonian Christians gets even more radical. Not only were these churches joyful and generous, not only did they give beyond their ability, but look at verse 4.

“They urgently pleaded for the privilege of sharing…”

They begged for the chance to help.

They were not asked, they were not prodded, not made to feel guilty, not shamed into it. Theyurgently pleaded for the privilege of sharing in service to the saints”.

Why did they beg to be allowed to help? It wasn’t because they were just very kind people, although they may have been; it certainly wasn’t because they were very wealthy – verse 2 tells us that that faced severe trials and extreme poverty.  They were scraping the barrel, and yet they urgently pleaded to be able to  gave very very generously.

What would motivate someone to do this? What would motivate US to do this? I think the answer is simple. It is an understanding and an acceptance of God’s grace.

Grace grows out of grace.

And if you and I are not gracious, it is only because we do not fully understand and accept God’s grace.

If you and I had any appreciation for the depth of God’s love for us and the depths from which He has saved us, we could not help but to be joyful and generous.

We would give of ourselves, not because God had need of our time, talent or treasure, but because we would want to be part of that incredible life-saving effort that saved you and me. Grace grows out of grace.

And grace is not just a concept. Grace is not just an idea or a thing that has a memorable definition – we’ve all been taught that G .R. A. C. E. stands for God’s riches at Christ’s expense.

No, grace is more than that idea. Grace is an amazing, Holy Spirit-filled, life changing power.


The Greek word for grace is charis; ‘Strong’s concordance of the New Testament’ defines charis as

Grace -  a gift or blessing brought to man by Jesus Christ, (b) favor, (c) gratitude, thanks, (d) kindness. The core idea is gift, or favor. Something given which is undeserved.

The word comes again in verse 9

 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”


The second thing I want to mention this morning is this:

Grace leads to riches


Notice this: Jesus did not give out of his riches. Jesus gave out of his poverty! Paul reminds us in Philippians ch 2 that Jesus emptied himself and took the nature of a slave. He became poor and he submitted to the most horrible and cruel death, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually too. And it was only because of this poverty that you and I are made rich.


He gives us SO much.  I don’t think I had realized that until recently.  As many of you know, 18 months ago I was involved in a terrible car accident in which I saw my dear 90 year young mother swept away and crushed to death by a passing car. The shock of what happened and what I saw of my mother at her end plunged me into the depths of depression and despair. I have been  mentally bruised and broken.

Then, last summer, I picked up a book called One Thousand Gifts.  You may have read it. In it, I read about learning

to give thanks -

 in spite of the brokenness.

 IN the brokenness. 


The Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharisteo. We get the word  we sometimes use for communion  from it – the Eucharist.  The thanksgiving. In the middle of that Greek word eucharisteo is charis: grace, favor, gift.  Giving thanks for the grace.

And each time Jesus broke something, he gave thanks, eucharisteo. 

He broke the bread for the 5000, gave thanks – and fed them a free lunch.  

He broke the bread, gave thanks, and gave the disciples the Last Supper to remember him by.

He broke the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to the two disciples in their home in Emmaus - and they knew immediately that Jesus was alive and risen.


And He himself was broken; he emptied himself of his riches, became poor and was broken on the Cross. And we give thanks and remember the gift, the grace, that we receive through that action.

And each and every day, we are given the gift, the grace, the favor. 

In spite of our brokenness. 

IN our brokenness.

The book, One Thousand Gifts, makes a challenge: to keep a list each day of the gifts and grace we receive.  I decided to do it: starting on August 21st last year, I began to write down each moment of grace that I was grateful for, to notice each gift and to record it.

Some days there were lots, some days hardly any; but the more I looked the more I saw. 

Whether it was a shaft of sunlight or a grandchild’s kiss; a cup of coffee made by a friend or a good night’s sleep; the smell of fresh bread or the glimpse of stars; the satisfaction of clean laundry or the joy of the bubbles of champagne….. I noticed and I wrote it down.  I reached 1000 7 months later - on March 17th .... and I layed down my pen.  



But as my family will tell you, over the past couple of months I have not been doing so well.  Without that daily looking and recording, without being so mindful of GOd's grace-filled gifts, I have slipped back.

I need to begin again. 

For you, it might be a good golf shot, or even maybe a hole in one; or a home grown flower or vegetable; or your team scoring high in their match; a cold beer in your hands or a fabulous concert.

It doesn’t matter what – what matters is that you notice these gifts and give thanks for them.  Gifts which we do not deserve, which we receive because of what the Lord Jesus did for us. Gifts which make us rich in Him – verse 9

Grace does generate riches.

God does want you to be rich.

There are dozens of times in the Scriptures where we are promised God’s riches. Jesus said that God wants his children to have good gifts, just like you want yours to have good gifts. It may or not be security and financial wealth. If you are secure and financially wealthy, give thanks for it is a gift from God. But the Macedonians’ gift was nothing like that. Their gift was trials and poverty. And yet they were certainly richer than you and I are.

God has no need of our time. He created time. God has no need of our talents. He is talented enough to accomplish anything He chooses without your gifts. God has no need of our money. He created the cattle on a thousand hills, and he can sell the herd anytime He wants.

No, God wants us to be generous with our time, our talent and our treasure - not so the church can become rich and not so that God can become rich, but so that YOU, Me – WE can become rich!

My prayer for you and for me is that today and every day we might accept God’s grace and learn what it is to be rich.

And in doing so, give ourselves, all that we have, all that we are, to Him for Him to use as He wants. 


His grace, His love, is so amazing, so divine and it demands our lives, our souls, our all.


How much of you, yourself, all that you have and all that you are, have you given to Him?


In a moment we will come to the Eucharist, that celebration of Thanksgiving for His brokenness, His grace, His gift. 


Will you, as you kneel, as you receive, will you give yourself afresh to Him, give Him your everything? 


Whether we have much or little,

whether we are broken or rejoicing today

may we dedicate ourselves, all that we have and are, to His service,


remembering that the Lord Jesus, though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor that through His poverty we might become rich.


We haven’t got to give. We get to give. It's part of the riches of God's grace.        









I pick it up.  A large, beautiful, Folio edition, green bound and illustrated. Caress it, remember it, wondering where is the copy I read as a child?

Maybe a daughter has it on her shelves – or more likely in her boxes hidden in our attic cupboards. So I lift the unread copy from my shelf, and begin to read, in readiness for the first gathering of we who have decided to read children’s books for fun.

The heroine: Mary Lennox.  A sickly, wan, sticky sort of girl, one who stamps her feet and shouts. I remember disliking her intensely. And feeling she did not deserve to be rescued.

Who does?

Then there was Dickon.  Almost too perfect, knowing so much at the tender age of 12. Free to roam the moors. An animal charmer. Lover of fresh air and gardening.

And Colin. Scary Colin in that scary house.  A secret, hidden down long corridors. He, it, frightened me. Deliciously. Tapestries and rich hangings, four poster beds and heaps of cushions. Chamber maids and house maids, cooks and gardeners. Way out of my experience.

I liked the robin best. He knew where the key was hidden. And Martha.  Not that I could understand much of what she said, but I learnt, along with Mary.

And like Mary, too, I learnt about the Magic.

To the child who was me it seemed quite natural and almost romantic: positive thoughts pushing up along with the crocuses and daffodils, making everything all right again – Colin and his not-so-twisted back, Mr Craven and his despairing, traumatised sadness, Mary and her loneliness.

In the secrets of the garden, everything comes alive, nature and people alike, and spiritual and physical healing is experienced as the beloved roses begin to bloom again.

And they all lived happily ever after. Or so I assumed.


So now, I begin to read it all again. And this time there is sadness and sympathy for those poor lost ill-tempered children.

Admiration for Martha’s mother.

Amazement that the staff stick around.

And compassion and empathy, oh, so much empathy, for bereaved, crazed Mr Craven, travelling to escape, travelling to forget.

I race through the book, devouring pages, staying up late to read.  After sixteen months of not remembering much of anything read, I find I am captivated and able to recall so much of what was read as a child.  A child of ten, maybe eleven.  Primary School, certainly.

I knew little of what I now see.

The emotional bruising and scarring of adults and children alike in this Craven/Lennox family.  A fallen world.

Madness and loneliness and death and bereavement, all mixed up and changing those affected. Like me.

The ‘earth-mother-ish-ness’ and healing ways of Mrs Sowerby, Dickon and Martha’s mother. Is she a Mary figure?

Dickon as a young St Francis, with animals his constant companions.

And the garden itself, the archytypal paradise of the Garden of Eden, bringing healing to those who find it.


But now, as I read, I wonder about the author and my curiosity searches.  And I learn of this young Englishwoman from nineteenth century industrial Manchester, emigrating to rural Tennessee, scribbling to supplement the family income in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

Of her unhappy marriage.

Her own illnesses.

The death of her son from consumption.

Her divorce.

Her success as a writer, giving her financial freedom to return to England and rent a large country house – with a walled garden.

And her spiritual journey, her adherence to Theosophy, Christian Science, Mind Healing.


I’m glad I now know more.  But I’m glad too that I could read it both as child and adult with the glorious anticipation that all would come right, that there would be healing and joy again.


And so there can be.

We need the Holy Spirit, winged and red-fire, to point the way.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13, NKJV