Wednesday, 28 December 2011


N.B. I'm into writing lists. I'm always writing them - shopping lists, to-do lists, books to read lists, chores lists, things to pack lists... you get the idea. One of the lists I write less often are lists about my life, 'bucket' kinda lists if you will. 

At New Year I'm not really into resolutions as things you decree at midnight on 31st December to change half-heartily and then 12 hours later realise you've failed miserably and give up.) When I want to change my life I do so immediately (or at the soonest possible time.) But this year feels different to me. Not different as in I believe something magical is going to happen as the clock strikes 12, but that I feel the end of this year brings closure, to many things that have gone on over the last few years.

2011 turned out not to be the year of hope and new opportunities that I hoped it would. Although there were many very special and amazing times - it was also full of disappointments and heartache. Maybe I should have that sentence the other way around... Anyway, I'm not here to write about the past. This is about the future, about change. About wanting things to be different, better.

I have written a list of things I want to accomplish this year. Some of them may seem like certainties, some of them maybe not - but I'm not going to say which are which. And who knows, what I want and what God wants might turn out to be totally different, and I may not complete any of them - but hey, it never hurts to have goals in life.

Goals For 2012:
  1. Return to The Philippines.
  2. Get my knees fixed.
  3. Invite more people round to dinner.
  4. Sleep out on the streets to raise money for the Homeless.
  5. Finish Bible In One Year.
  6. Give more stuff away.
  7. Graduate with a 2:1 (at least!)
  8. Get a job.
  9. See my friends more.
  10. See my family more.
  11. Start volunteering with Guides/Scouts again.
  12. Get a Youth Band up and running.
  13. Have some more 'time off'.
  14. Do a 25 mile charity bike ride.
  15. See something that takes my breath away.

“People don't fail because they aim too high and miss, 
but because they aim too low and hit.” 
Les Brown

Saturday, 24 December 2011


N.B. The following blog is because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

It’s a strange Christmas this year: partly because my family are scattered across the country/world, and partly because it is the first Christmas since as long as I can remember where I haven’t been to church at all in the week leading up to Christmas. This year I am far away from church on Christmas eve, Christmas Day, I haven’t even attended a Candlelit Carol Service. I guess that’s why it doesn’t feel so much like Christmas.

But then again – this Christmas has reminded me more of my childhood. Back to the days when Christmas was exciting. When Christmas traditions filled me with joy, and the laughter and lights of the holiday season brought us together as a family. Over the last week I have seen many of my family, aunts, cousins, grandparents and siblings. I have been able to get to know people on a much deeper level than their Facebook profile – get the heart of what makes people tick and the things that are really precious to them.

Amongst all that, I have taken some time off, and not felt the need to answer every call for my attention. I am a human who needs to recharge, needs to accept my own weakness and my own downfalls, and remember that family is important. I spend a lot of time putting my family second to the demands of youth work/church. But at Christmas, as ‘churchy’ a celebration as we like to make it, I have chosen to reverse that balance. Tomorrow I will spend time with my sister Laura and her husbands’ family. Boxing Day I will spend time with my siblings. And I will not regret the time that I did not spend at Church. For I worship a God who is bigger than the buildings we so often attempt to confine him in, and I will instead find wonder in the day of celebration for the child who was born into the simplicity of a stable.

"May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace."

Merry Christmas everyone.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·      Now that all of the preparations are done – or at least now that there is no more time for any more preparing – stop, and find a place of quiet.
·  Be still. Get inside the Christmas story. Sit down. Make yourself smaller. In your imagination go  to Bethlehem. Bend beneath the lintel of the door of the stable and come in.
·       God comes to us in the vulnerability of a child. We can come to him in stillness. We can find him in silence. And Christmas can be put back together. And enjoyed.

“Christmas renews our youth by stirring our wonder. The capacity for wonder has been called our most pregnant human faculty, for in it are born our art, our science, our religion.” Ralph Sockman

Friday, 23 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 2 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

Happiness: it’s what people think Christmas is all about isn’t it? And more than that – many people believe that they can buy happiness – with stuff and presents. Anyone want to volunteer an answer for how long happiness in stuff and possessions lasts with teenagers? How long before they are clambering, desperate, yearning: for the next game or the newest thing or the most recent music – otherwise they will be BORED!

If there is one word I have heard more than any other in all my time as a youth worker it is that one. Teenagers just don’t seem to be able to create things to do for themselves anymore. They need to be constantly entertained/in front of an electronic screen. It’s such a shame. I know my generation in general is almost as bad, but I remember days when my brothers and I would head off down the park for the day – and numerous occasions when the church youth group would head off to King George’s park and sit on ‘our bridge’. We would walk, chat, mess around, play football. Not a computer or games console in sight. I know it sounds stupid, but they are some of the happiest memories of my childhood. Days that were simple and innocent.

Nowadays, I only get times like that when I am over in the Philippines, at Joyland or Dacutan or Payatas: playing games involving a few scruffy flip-flops, and sometimes some even scruffier kids. When I am sad, I close my eyes and their smiles shine brightly in my mind.

The other thing that makes me truly happy is being in the outdoors. I was a Guide as a teenager, and I just loved going on camp. I had a few amazing friends around me, and being a tom boy – making fires and putting up tents and running around in a field for a few days was so much fun. I was reminded of this earlier in the year when I went on camp with some Uni mates. It was easily the best five days of this year – I felt free again. Free to run, scream, listen, sit, and become one with nature and the trees. God’s beautiful creation, and being a part of it, is one of the things that make me happiest of all. In the woods, it doesn’t matter how much money you have if you can’t make fire. It doesn’t matter how big your house is if you’re stranded in the middle of a forest. I love the outdoors life – and I just can’t get enough of it.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·        It’s not what you have, or don’ have that counts. It’s what you do with it that counts.
·       So forget about what you don’t have; let go of the things you no longer have time to fit in. Enjoy what you do have instead, and make the most of the time you have now – after all it is the only time you possess with any certainty.
·     And why not start manifesting a few other crazy signs of happiness and goodwill. Say hello to the people you pass in the street, smile a bit more, and laugh at your adversities. I once read a survey comparing the number of times a child smiles each day compared to the amount an adult does. The difference was alarming. Children’s smiles outnumbered adults by about ten to one. Let’s bump up our average!

“People can’t concentrate properly on blowing other people to pieces if their minds are poisoned by thoughts suitable to the twenty-fifth of December.” Ogden Nash

Thursday, 22 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 3 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

I have been thinking about the Philippines a lot recently. I mean, I think about it all the time, but I have been thinking deeply about it lots more than normal. I miss it so much that the core of my body actually aches some days. I look at photos to remind me of those precious memories – some that I have shared and some that I never will, but all of which I hold dear to my heart. Almost within the first few days of being there, the very first time, I felt as if I was finally at home. It is a hard feeling to describe to people, especially to people who feel that my home should be here in the UK, either with family or close friends. I do feel ‘at home’ in many places, but the feeling of my heart being filled with total peace and joy has only ever really occurred in the Philippines.

And as the season for sharing good times with loved ones is fully upon us, I can’t help but dream of the days that used to be… the days that could have been. I know, deep down, that my heart will never truly be settled in this country. And I’m not overly sure what I’m supposed to do about that. I have family and friends here. What a sacrifice I would be making, to move to the other side of the world. I cannot lie, and say that it has never crossed my mind. But I am hoping, in my heart of hearts, that if and when that time comes, God will help those I leave behind to be gracious, and understanding. I hope that he will give my life full purpose, so that I knew that I were not sacrificing in vain.

That’s all I’m going to say today. Lots to do, God bless everyone. x

“Another winter day has come and gone away,
In even Paris and Rome, and I wanna go home

Let me go home

And I’m surrounded by a million people I
Still feel all alone, oh, let me go home
Oh, I miss you, you know”

[Michael BublĂ© – ‘Home’]

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·         What things bring you the greatest joy?
·         What moments in your life are so inexplicably wonderful that you cannot comprehend them without using the language of the soul, the heart, the spirit?
·         OK, so your heart is just a big muscle pumping your very necessary blood around your very mortal body; but it is also something else, something that cannot be defined or understood without another sort of language, that seems like an echo from another life.
·         Get out the mistletoe – who do you want to kiss?

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” Anne Frank

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 4 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

Today is the three-year anniversary of when I became an Auntie. Happy Birthday Layla. I love you so much. xXx

Sometimes I wonder why so many spend so much time debating the rights/wrongs of believing in God. I just don’t get it. Wouldn’t it be much better if people made up their mind, and then lived according to their beliefs? If you do believe, especially in Jesus etc, then live like you believe, and if you don’t, figure out what you’re here for and live by that. If all the energy people spent arguing with others who don’t believe the same as them was put into solving world poverty, I pretty sure the world would be a much less povertous place.

So many people spend so long working out if they truly believe or not that they miss the life they could have lived in the mean time! As for me, I don’t want proof. Proof would deny the meaning of the faith that I have in Christ. I feel in my heart and my soul and the depth of my being that God is there, but that doesn’t mean that there are not doubts that cross my mind. At the end of a hard day, I sometimes wonder if I am wasting my life away. But there are hundreds of things that keep me going, that show me that even if God was false, it would not change the way that I want to live and love. Love is given meaning by God, and those who truly love experience God himself.

Anyway, I’m rambling. There isn’t really much I wanted to say today. Except this:

“My memory is nearly gone;
but I remember two things;
That I am a great sinner, and
that Christ is a great Saviour.”
John Newton (1725-1807)

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·         Will you go to church this Christmas and test out this hypothesis of love?
·         What for you are the biggest obstacles that get in the way of believing?
·         How might you be able to remove them? Who could help you?
·         What could you and your family do to find out more about the Christian faith?

“In Jesus the whole test passing, brownie point earning rigamole of the human race has been cancelled for lack of interest on God’s part. All he needs from us is a simple Yes, or No, and off to work He goes.” Robert Farrar Capon

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 5 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

I never really got the big deal about Father Christmas. I’m not sure how young I was, maybe 5 or 6 when I worked out that he probably wasn’t real. But it didn’t really bother me so much. I knew my parents gave me the gifts and I was thankful that I had so many things to open on Christmas Day, regardless of who they came from.

I think that believing in Santa changes the way a child approaches Christmas. They might write him a letter asking him for lavish gifts that their parents will then have to somehow acquire. They might make an extra-effort to be good in the belief that Santa is making his Naughty/Nice list. On Christmas Eve they might leave out milk and cookies, maybe even a carrot or two for the reindeer. They might even go to bed, good as gold, in the hope that when they awake their stockings will be full of wonderful gifts and toys. And when they wake on Christmas morning to a stocking full of presents, they will delight in ‘What Santa Brought!’ and believe that they merited such gifts with their good behaviour.

There’s not much wrong with any of that. But some children are taught about Jesus much the same as Santa – he’s someone you believe in when you’re younger but it doesn’t really affect how you life as an adult. Some might even believe that the good gifts they are given in life have been awarded because of their ‘good’ behaviour. But life isn’t that simple.

Believing in Santa, and believing in Jesus are two very different things. One of them is a timeless figure that remains through the ages; the other is a child who grows into a man. A man who heals the sick, feeds the hungry, and dies for the sin of the world.

“Enjoy the Father Christmas story with your children, and when they question it help them to leave it behind. But enjoy the story of Jesus as well. And when they question it, allow it to lead them forward. It can show them how to inhabit the world.” S. Cottrell

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·        Read the story to your children. There are good children’s Bible’s easily available.
·        Read the story yourself – but make sure you get a modern translation.
·        Enjoy the Father Christmas story, and invent a few weird family traditions of your own. Make a Smartie trail for your kids this Christmas leading from the foot of their bed to the presents under the tree, or a hidden present somewhere in the house.
·        If you don’t have one already, invest in a crib and give it the pride of place in the house, and light a candle by it in the evening.

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” Jesse Jackson

Monday, 19 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 6 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

It is true that most of us find our families terribly embarrassing. There are two ways to deal with this embarrassment – disown them, or embrace it. Everyone’s family is a little bit odd – everyone’s family does slightly weird things when compared to someone elses, and as I said to my friend Georgia today – everyone has at least one crazy, elderly relative that makes us all laugh. That’s life.

But as weird and completely barmy as my family are – I love them. And I love spending time with them. They make me laugh, and they give me something to smile about. They do stupid things, and they do amazing things. There is definitely something they are not – and that is boring. There is rarely a quiet moment in this house.

I guess that is why I am a bit sad that we won’t all be together for Christmas this year, like in years gone by. But then we haven’t ALL been together for Christmas for a good 8 years. But still. The extra time that I have taken to spend with them will not be in vain. It’s going to be great. J

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·        Take yourself less seriously.
·        The best comedies will not be on television this Christmas. They will be around your own table, if you can but see them.
·        Re-imagine the peoples of the world as a hugely complex, extremely muddled, wonderfully odd and riotously funny family. Enjoy the differences. Take proper account of the deep-seated simularities.
·        Say sorry a bit more.
·        Say thank you.

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” Bertrand Russell

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Aunt Mildred

N.B. All of the following 7 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

“Jesus doesn’t ask us to love everyone; he asks us to love our neighbour. Loving everyone is relatively easy. Most of us can muster a general feeling of goodwill towards an unspecific someone, as long as you never actually have to live with them. But to love your neighbour, to love your family, to love those very particular and hugely irritating people that are actually with you now, well, this is much more difficult. But it is the only hope for peace in our world.” S. Cottrell

It was my niece’s 3rd birthday today – which means the relatives were round to celebrate. (Although not all of them, which was probably a good thing as they wouldn’t all fit in our Lounge.) Family get-togethers seem always to be a thing of delight and despair. It is nice to see everyone again, but everyone is hoping that you-know-who will stay away from she-said-what’s. Loving the people who know you inside out (and therefore know all your flaws) is always going to be harder than loving someone halfway across the world who you only ever speak to online.

But learning to love people despite of their flaws is what teaches us the true meaning of love. After all – God loved us before we did anything at all that should merit love. His love is meritless – you have it regardless, in spite of all you do to demerit it. In fact, the only reason we can love, is because Christ loved us first. (1 John 4:19)

So this Christmas, give your family a break. And learn to love them, in spite of all they do that might frustrate you, annoy you and generally drive you crazy. After all – you’re probably pretty much stuck with them for many years to come. You may as well learn to enjoy it.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·        Instead of looking with delight at the splinter in your brother’s eye, remove the log from your own.
·        OK, so you don’t always like your family, but that doesn’t excuse you from loving them, and offering them the generosity and kindness that you long to receive.
·        In fact, when it comes to generosity and kindness, you will reap what you sow.
·        Plan some things to do together that are not just watching TV. In my family we always play games. It’s a great leveller. Arrange a Boxing Day walk. Book some tickets for the local panto.
·        God’s love for the world is communicated through a person who, like us, was born in a family. God knows what they’re like. He knows they’re not always easy.

“Family is just accident… They don’t mean to get on your nerves. They don’t even mean to be your family, they just are.” Marsha Norman

P.S. I don’t have an Aunt Mildred. Just thought it sounded like a good title.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 8 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

As climatic a Christmas as the people of Albert Square appear to have year after year, there is one aspect of the show that I do like, (though I never watch it.) They live in community with one another. Everybody knows everybody and their Mum, and very few of the characters spend more time on Facebook that with actual people. Although alas, perhaps that is where the show varies the most from real life.

One thing I love about Christmas is that it gets people together. And I don’t mean together on an online site, I mean in the same room as other people. Sharing and living and talking. It scares me how young people are more than willing to spend hours sharing and updating me with the intimate details of the lives of their favourite TV character, but when I ask them how their week has been they say ‘Alright.’ Young people are losing the ability to have a conversation about themselves with another human being – in person.

We may know the issues and history and background affecting the characters of Eastenders, One Tree Hill, or TOWIE, but we miss when our best friend is struggling, or that family in church are grieving, or that single Dad is overwhelmed by his responsibilities. People can tell me that spending time on Facebook is this generation’s version of ‘socialising’ but I say no. Get off the computer and go and live life with people. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Discover who they really are, not what their profile picture and status says they are. It may well be false.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·        Do I know my next door neighbour’s name?
·        Do I only ever mix with people like myself?
·        Is there anywhere I go where there are people of other races or religions?
·        Make a pledge to start a conversation with someone you hardly know.

“The lion and the calf may lay down together, but the calf won’t get much sleep.” Woody Allen

Friday, 16 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 9 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

“I remember someone saying they would like to discuss their spiritual live with me. ‘That’s fine,’ I replied. ‘Please make sure you bring your credit card statement with you.’ They were slightly taken aback. ‘It was my spiritual life I was hoping to discuss,’ they began. ‘Well,’ I explained, ‘whether we like it or not, what we do with our money is the clearest possible indicator of what we think our spiritual life is actually about.”

Yesterday at College the 2nd years were discussing the whole idea of giving and possessions. I was in one of the study rooms when one of the learning groups came and joined us as they had been sent off to discuss a few questions. I remember studying that topic last year, and being somewhat of a devil’s advocate. Not many of the class agreed with me then, and there is a real possibility that few of them ever will. Because what I believe challenges the lifestyle that so many 21st century Christians live, and despite ‘subscribing’ to the views of Jesus church – few are prepared to actual live the lifestyle that we are called to.

Few are willing to live as radically as their beliefs would have you assume. That is not a dig at Christians who are not prepared to give up home comforts for the adventure of a gospel-lifestyle – I am sure they are gifted and show devotion to Christ in other ways. But it is a challenge – to realise that the comforts of today and tomorrow are nothing compared to the glory of forever. Some Christians would rather eat biscuits today, because they cannot wait a few years to visit the biscuit factory. (Stupid analogy but helpful in highlighting the point.) Jesus promises that whatever we give up in this world, we will be given, and more, in heaven. There is nothing that God has created that can give us greater pleasure than God himself.

So this Christmas, when you are buying things that you believe may enhance your life – think instead of giving the money to help others – and collect your reward in heaven instead.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·    Get out your credit card statement and your bank statement and see where your money actually goes.
·   Is there a standing order for charity? Or is charitable giving a matter of seeing what’s left over?
·    Make sure you give at least one gift to the poor this Christmas.

“Generosity isn’t measured by how much you give; but by how much is left over when you’ve finished giving.” Richard Inwood

Thursday, 15 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 10 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

Christmas lights, they’re a thing of wonder aren’t they? As a child our house was always the most extravagantly decorated in the street, and probably the town where outdoor lights came in moderation for most of the busy, middle class families. But our house was like Santa’s grotto. My mum loved Christmas, and always viewed it much like a child – full of pretty objects, shining lights and colourful decorations that brought her joy. As a child our house was envied – plenty of festive spirit inside and out. (And yes, if you haven’t already heard – our Christmas tree was up for nearly 7 years.)

But as I grew older, and especially as I hit my mid teens, even I realised that the exterior of a house speaks nothing of the lives that are lived inside of it. Broken families lives are not made easier by the Christmas period – if anything they are more stressful. Plans of visits and time allocation for different relatives, trying to organise seeing both sets of families, knowing that things might be different and long-time traditions may be broken. Plus the stress of having money problems can cause tension between parents, especially if a relationship is already frayed.

Or perhaps someone is missing at the Dinner table who might have normally been there. Although Christmas is a time for families to get together, it is sometimes the time when those who are no longer with us are missed the most. Stories shared remind us of happy memories, but also the pain of loss.

The lights that surround us at Christmas time should also remind us of the future: the world that we are leaving behind for future generations to enjoy. In our urge to decorate our lives with comfort and luxury and festivities, we should not forget that is our children who will pay for our mistakes – it is our children who will live with the consequences of the things we do. So if we will not curb our selfish behaviour for our peers, perhaps we should for our children, and our grandchildren.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·        Switch off the lights, or at least ration how long they are on for.
·        Buy those LED lights, and fill your house with those instead.
·   Christmas present problem solved – buy everyone energy efficient light bulbs and rechargeable batteries – and get some for yourself while you’re at it!
·        Work out your Carbon footprint – and resolve to reduce it. There are lots of resources on the Web for working our your Carbon footprint and offsetting your Carbon emissions, such as the UK Carbon Footprint project at, or the Big Green Switch at
·  See the Church of England’s Shrinking Your Carbon Footprint campaign at
·   Switch to a green energy supplier. Again, there are details on the Web and help in switching at websites like the Green Helpline at

“Unless we change the direction we are heading, we might end up where we are going.” Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 11 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

Today we had a joint men/women’s House of Prayer. It was good fun, interesting to share with the men also – (although a bit weird that they were there). Diane asked us to share various moments in our lives – the best and worst thing of 2011, reasons why we were special, and the happiest three moments in our lives. The last topic for me was the very hardest. I have had many happy moments in my life. But perhaps the happiest three also carry with them the deepest hurt: perhaps because the highest moments in our lives carry the potential for us to fall the furthest.

Interestingly for today’s advent reading – all three ‘happy’ moments are in some way connected to children:
1)    Anyone who knows me at all will know my passion and heart for the Philippines and the children and people I met there. The children and young people at Joyland have been especially on my mind recently, as it is getting close to Christmas and I long so much to share this time with them. They are so dear to my heart, and I am sparsely happier than when I am spending time with them - but of course it means that I feel such a great sense of loss when I am so far away.
2)    When I first came to Southend I was broken in so many ways, but there was one family that I became particularly close to and began to spend a lot of time with. The kids treated me like a big sister, and I loved them all as if they were my younger siblings. I enjoyed every moment I spent with the family, and always felt like I belonged. They welcomed me in, even at the most inconvenient times, and they helped me in too many ways for me to count. I loved them all. Unfortunately, over the last few years a few things have changed, and things are no longer as they once were. I still love them all just as much as I ever have, but it has been heartbreaking to share with them in their pain over the last few years.
3)    My niece is the absolute apple of my eye. I love her to the moon and back, and she makes me smile on the worst of my days. Being able to share in her growing and learning has been amazing. She is beautiful, funny and loving and growing up much too fast. (3 years old next week!) Unfortunately the world she is growing up into is not one I would wish on any child. I wish that I could in some way prevent her from ever finding out about the selfishness and greed that leads to so much suffering in the world. The look in her eyes the first time she learns about the conditions other children have to live in will break my heart. She is so privileged to have so much, but so many other children aren’t.

I hope you don’t mind me sharing those. (Well, if you do you don’t have to keep reading…) It has been helpful for me to share, without worrying about the tears in my eyes. Learn to see the world through a child’s eyes – do not hide away from the suffering. Allow it to sink into your soul – to break your heart as it does a child’s. But also learn to see the innocence in the world again – the majesty. The awesomeness of God come down to earth as a newborn baby.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·      Receive the Christmas story like a child.
·      Take some child-like delight in what is happening around you today.
·      Be amazed at the breath in your lungs, the pulse in your wrist, the wind in the trees, the sun upon your face, the water in your tap, the stars in the sky and the smiles on the faces of all the people who will look at you as if you are mad when you kneel down in the street and give thanks for the profligate goodness of the world that is given to us today.
·    Remember that you learned life’s really important lessons at nursery school; sit still, share your toys and clean up after yourself. If we managed these three there would be peace in the world!

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 12 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

It is very interesting how we celebrate Jesus’ birth of simplicity by spending weeks and weeks stuffing our lives full of mass amounts of everything. I’m not a humbug, at least not anymore. I have had my fair share of amazing Christmas’, and even a few rotten ones, but I can no longer partake in the season of gluttony that has overtaken this time of year. No, I don’t have a chocolate calendar – I eat enough chocolate as it is, without needing a daily dose of it for the month before Christmas. I have not stocked up my cupboards with masses of food that I probably won’t eat.

An important part of Christmas is the great feast – dinner with all the trimmings and extras on Christmas Day that is shared with family or perhaps friends. But does not the feast taste better if it has not been preceded by days and days of stuffing your face? I eat many a meal over the year with my young people – but the one I enjoy the most is nearly always the one after the 24 hour famine. It is when we go without that we truly learn to appreciate what we have. It is the same with stuff. Those who go without learn much more how to treasure the little they are blessed with – while those who have everything often appreciate nothing.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
·        Buy what you need.
·        Buy ethically reared poultry. Spend a bit more and eat a bit less.
·        Prepare for the feast with the simplicity of the fast.
·        And do a bit more of the cooking yourself. There is always one vital ingredient missing in pre-packaged food – the love that only you can stir in.

“Christmas has its critics and, if we are honest, I’m sure each of us has, at some time, wished we could quietly quit the planet and come back when it is over. On the other hand, at what other time of the year can we turn our minds to the sheer joy of feasting? The sharing of fine food and wines with family and friends is a deeply ingrained human (as well as religious) activity, without which our lives would surely be diminished.” Delia Smith

Monday, 12 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 13 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

The children performed their Christmas nativity yesterday, and it was every bit as cute and adorable as I thought it would be. But I can’t helping thinking that if the real ‘first Christmas’ was shown on stage, if we would even allow our children to watch.

The figures we place in our nativity scene rarely represent the true nature of the Virgin birth. Jesus seems to always be white with blonde hair for starters. Mary always looks perfect, even though she’s just given birth without painkillers. And there are three kings, who actually didn’t visit the stable at all. (Everyone seems to miss that in the original story…) As well as that, wooden or plastic figures don’t smell as bad as the real thing probably would have.

And yet, even though we know it’s not really how it was, it becomes something of a wonder. All these strange visitors, coming to see a tiny baby, born in a smelly stable surrounded by animals and their droppings. (Yes, most modern day nativities are missing a good bit of cow dung.)

DNCIC recommendations for today:
• Why do we put these figures in the crib?
• Who are they?
• What does their story say to us?
• Where do we enter in?
• Dare I stop and look inside?
• Is this a story of God come down to earth? Or jus another bit of childhood to be left behind?

Christmas is not as much about opening presents as opening our hearts.” Janice Maeditere

Sunday, 11 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 14 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

I’ve been tee-total for about 3 years now, and not really drunk alcohol much at all for the last 5. I’m not against alcohol, just don’t feel like I need it to have a good time, and I don’t like the person I become when I do have a drink, so about three years ago I decided that I wasn’t going to drink it any more – at all. It’s not really been that hard, I don’t like the taste of it and it’s far too expensive.

Christmas though, seems to be the season of alcohol-foods. Not only is nearly every traditional Christmas food drowning in the stuff, but people seem to think it is even more acceptable to drink it in copious amounts. Christmas office parties become rooms full of drunken, slurring and overly-familiar men and women, who will probably spend most of the following day sleeping off the hangover. I don’t know why people question my motives…

DNCIC recommendations for today:
• Do a quick (and honest) self assessment: how much do you drink each week? How much do you depend on drink to fuel your social life?
• Reconsider the honourable and ancient tradition of the fast. This was what the period leading up to Christmas used to be about: we did without things in order to learn what is truly essential and to appreciate them more when we enjoyed them again.
• The feast is far sweeter when it follows the fast.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol

Saturday, 10 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 15 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

It is interesting that today’s reading in DNCIC is about advertising, and parents feeling the pressure to buy their children all the stuff they want but probably don’t need. I was shopping with a bunch of teenagers today. They were generally looking/buying stuff for their friends, but every now and again they saw some things that they thought were cool and expressed sudden strong wishes to have theme. If they had never entered those shops, never known about those things, would they have missed them? Not at all.

There is something in the human psyche that makes us want stuff we see. What is up with that? ‘Monkey see, monkey want’ comes to mind. Perhaps the ability to resist the urge to suddenly need everything you see comes with maturity. (And I don’t mean getting older, because there are plenty of 50-year olds that suddenly ‘need’ the latest phone/car/clothes/haircut because they’ve seen someone else with it.) Perhaps that is why God felt the need to include this kind of ‘wanting’ in the 10 commandments. “Do not covet your neighbours wife, or your neighbours donkey.” God knew what kind of trouble this envious longing for stuff that other people have would get us into trouble.

I don’t suppose many people in the developed world could get themselves into debt just by buying the essentials. They say the level of personal debt has risen dramatically in the last few decades. Instead of saving for things, people will buy on credit, and so begins the spiral of never ending credit-card payments, loans from the bank, etc. If you can’t afford the car – don’t buy it. If you can’t afford a fancy holiday abroad, don’t go. If buying that laptop means you can’t afford to buy food this week, sort your priorities out! If buying those fancy trainers means you can’t put money in the offering plate this week – what are you really valuing?

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of verses in the Bible that teach us about money and the issues it causes. I can’t help but thinking many Christians are so caught up in the monetary and consumer ways of the world that they don’t even see a problem with it. Let me put it this way – how many hours away from your family are you going to have to work to pay for those presents this Christmas? The greatest present we can give our family is time.

Stuff bought out of guilt will soon lose its uniqueness. Anything electrical you buy will be out-of-date by the time it’s unwrapped. If you want something to be ‘cool’ and popular – what kind of relationships are you building with those around you? That you have to be the best, with all the latest stuff? Good for you. The first shall be last in heaven.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
• Are you planning to give your children everything they want this Christmas except the one thing they need the most – which is you?
• Have you made time to be there for their nativity play, Christingle service or end-of-term show?
• Are you going to sit down with them and talk through what they really want for Chrsitmas?
• Do nothing together. Idle away some time, fold up some paper and make some snowflakes to stick on the window; bake some mince pies together; plan some silly games to play at Christmas. Conversation often flows best when you are happily muddling away together at something like this.

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson

Friday, 9 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 16 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

We had a discussion at Youth Club today about whether Jesus knew from a really young age what his life was for, the reason for him being on earth. Was it at the moment of baptism, or at his coming of age, or after he started his ministry? At what point did he know that he was going to die. Perhaps during the 40 days in the desert post-baptism, God spoke to him. I know that it’s something we’re never going to know for sure, but its interesting to hear different people’s perspectives and reasoning.

I guess it’s almost a question we all ask of ourselves during our lives – what is my purpose? Some will say to make others happy, to share love, to enjoy life. Some will have shallower answers, some deeper, and perhaps others will say there is no purpose what so ever. There’s probably a few who say the figuring out of our purpose is our purpose… but that just doesn’t quite sit right with me.

In my core, I believe that as beings made in God’s image, without God we are left with a longing, a deep sense of ‘something else’ that can’t be filled with the stuff of this world. (A God-shaped hole, if you must.) Maybe our purpose is to discover that we have a longing, and discover that only God alone can fulfil it. I do believe that there is a purpose for all of our lives. Some of us are supposed to teach, some to preach, some to encourage. All of us should love. All of us should care. All of us should live as Jesus taught, with the deeper purpose of seeking God more and more in our lives. Not seeking what God can do, but seeking God himself. Our purpose should be driven by our longing for our Father, the Almighty God.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

DNCIC recommendations for today:
• Treat yourself to a few minutes of stillness today. See what a difference it makes.
• Listen to a piece of music, or read a poem, or just dare to be silent, listening to your own breathing. Peel back the layers of your subterfuge and denial and look again at what your heart longs for and what it believes.
• What are the things that get you back in touch with yourself? Treat yourself to a dose of whatever tickles your fancy; or at least schedule it in for those days after Christmas when you might even have some time – not to kill – but to ravish!
• All the major religions teach about the value of prayer, stillness, solitude and silence. It is possible to build these things into our lives. Find our more about the fine art of doing nothing.

No one in the world can alter truth. All we can do is seek it and live it.” Maximilian Kolbe

Thursday, 8 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 17 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’ Today I have actually decided to just type the entire reading for today as it ties in with so much of what I said yesterday.

What is the sound of one cracker being pulled? What about all the people who will be on their own at Christmas? What about those who don’t have a home, let alone a dining room?

About half a million people spend Christmas on their own each year. Some do this out of choice, preferring the solitude of their own company to the forced merriment of others. Some do not. Many people are just isolated, alienated, forgotten or abandoned. The overcrowded noisiness of our busy, prosperous culture can be the loneliest place on earth. Some people can go through a whole day with very little human contact. Everything is automated. We interact with our computers and our phones, but not with each other. We know the names of those who live in Albert Square. We’ve barely spoken to our own next door neighbour.

There’s another vast number of people who don’t have any home at all. Nobody is sure how many, but last Christmas the charity Crisis served 35, 000 meals in it’s shelters across London. Then there are half a million or so ‘hidden homeless’: people living in squats and bedsit, families in temporary accommodation, people sleeping on a friend’s sofa.

What is the one thing everyone remembers from the Christmas story? There was no room at the inn. God entered the world through the experience of homelessness and the rejection and isolation that goes with it. How can we reach out to those whose experience is the same today?

On Tuesday, after I had walked Beth home from GB I decided not to take the shortest route home, which meant walking up a dark, quiet road. Instead I took a longer way, which included walking up a main shopping road. It was about 10pm, and all but the mini-supermarkets and fast food restaurants were closed. As I was walking, I saw a guy sitting in the doorway of a shop covered with a duvet on the opposite side of the road. It was a cold night, but he was merrily chatting away to the few passers-by. At first I hurried by, eager to get home and buy a few bits from Tesco before they shut. However, after coming out of Tesco, my conscience got the better of my and I couldn’t walk away.

Anyway, I got Bob* and his friend some milk, (he asked for it) and sat down in the doorway next to them for a chat. The first thing I could smell was beer, which I can’t stand the smell of, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt (A lot of homeless people drink just so they don’t feel the cold as much.) and we had a good ole chat. Bob started telling me about this ‘squat’ that they’d discovered, how big it was, what it looked like etc, and how it even had running water. After a good hour, he was dying to show me this house, so once I promised I’d come along and have a look. (Yes, it was crazy but he was really friendly, if a little drunk.)

After an hour of sitting with Bob and Charlie* in a smelly, damp upstairs “bedroom” of this house (which was in fact every bit as awesome as Bob said… though it was now derelict and pretty dark by that point) with only a few small candles for light and warmth, I made my exit and headed home. Once I was out in the fresh air, I stopped for a moment to gather myself. Had that really just happened? It was perhaps the most surreal experience of my life, and yet the most human. I had never imagined, at the start of the day, that I would end it sitting in a dark, smelly, squat house with a few homeless blokes, and yet I had never been so comfortable with complete strangers. I have experienced poverty, but never so close to my own home. I don’t think I had ever relied as fully on the strength of God as during that hour.

* Yes they’re fake names. I don’t want to get him into trouble.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
• Do you know anyone who might be alone this Christmas?
• What could you do to offer them company?
• Find out about what happens in your local community to support homeless people. As well as national charities like Crisis and Shelter there are often local projects and centres that need support. Offer them some help. Take them some food and warm clothing.

The greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no-one. I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta