Bricks and Trees

A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio on 13th March 2021

Hello

 

This has been a week of turmoil about the Royal Family and concern about women’s safety, among all the other things we might have on our minds. In the middle of it all, though, I saw something that reminded me of hope. I saw on Facebook a photograph someone had taken of a tree in the Cambridge Botanic Gardens. This tree was damaged in a storm in the 1960s and had been filled with bricks and tar to protect it from rotting away. This isn’t recommended now as it’s not that good for the tree, but the image caught my eye.

 

Although bricks are obviously not natural for a tree the bark was growing round them in a kind of heart shape, as if trying to turn something alien and harmful into something beautiful and good. This kind of reminded me of the ways in which we might have bad things happen to us, and we can’t deny or hide this, at least not without harming ourselves, but it’s possible for new life to grow round it and transform it. We don’t get rid of our past experiences but with the right help we can make something good come out of them. This, I think, is what the Bible is getting at when it talks about how in God all things work together for good. It’s not that bad things happen to teach us something or because we’ve done something wrong. It’s more that, when bad things happen, he wants to help us repair the damage and even make things better than they were before.

 

For me, that’s a hopeful thing and I’m really glad I saw that picture, so I just wanted to offer you that image, or maybe you’d like to find one for yourself that will remind you of the possibility of change and beauty in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Boxing Day

A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio

Merry Christmas!

It may not have been the Christmas Day you were hoping for or expecting but I hope it was as good as it could be.

Now we’re on Boxing Day and you might wonder what that name is all about.

As it happens it has nothing to do with fighting or clearing up opened boxes. No-one’s exactly sure what it means but there are a few theories.

One idea is that it comes from the tradition of giving to the poor on St Stephen’s Day, which is the 26th December. This tradition started because St Stephen was not only Christianity’s first martyr but also known for being generous to the poor.

Another idea is that it comes from people seeking out boxes, or tips, from rich people they’d worked for during the year.

And a final idea is that it comes from servants being given the day off to celebrate Christmas after having to work on Christmas Day.

Now of course it’s connected with turkey sandwiches, sports and sales.

Whatever the reason for the name Boxing Day, though, and however we spend it, it really doesn’t mean the end of Christmas. In fact, in the church’s year it’s only day 2 of the twelve days of the Christmas season. But, even without that, there’s no reason why we can’t try to keep some of the Christmas spirit of giving, hope and togetherness alive all year round.

After all, the Christmas message isn’t just about making one day different but about making all days different, all year round.

So, Happy Boxing Day and best wishes for the New Year!

Mel

Christmas lights

A Thought for the Day for Black Cat Radio on 12th December 2020

Hello, I hope you’re all keeping well.

Walking around near where I live, I’ve noticed a lot of people have put their Christmas lights up outside. Some mutter that it’s too early, but I think this year, of all years, we need to cut each other some slack and appreciate people putting in the effort to brighten things up a bit. The lights on the houses are all different from one another and give a lovely variety to look at in the dark. I find them very cheering.

The desire for light in the darkness is very old, going back to the days when our earliest ancestors would huddle round a fire at night for warmth, light, and safety. With light we can see where we are going, know who and what is around, and feel a bit safer. On one of my recent walks, I nearly bumped into someone walking her dog on an unlit pathway. This was not only embarrassing but we also both thought that a light would’ve made that part of the walk so much nicer.

Christmas, like many festivals and celebrations at this time of year, is all about light. Not just physical light, although there’s plenty of that with bright stars, shining angels, and so on, but a spiritual and inner light. The story of God coming to earth as a human baby brings light to many by offering comfort, hope and joy. It also reassures us God is not some far-off man with a beard sitting on a cloud. Rather, God comes right down into the darkness and mess to share our lives, help us cope with darkness and difficulty, and show us a better, more fulfilling, more loving way to live.

So, as we go towards Christmas, and look forward to the Covid-19 vaccine hopefully making a difference next year, why not remind yourself of the story of that first Christmas and see if there’s light in it for you?

 

Take care

Mel

Walls – Guest ‘Thought for the Day’

This ‘Thought for the Day’ comes from my vicar, Canon Annette Reed. She has kindly allowed me to share it with you as I like it a lot.

If you had walked into Holy Trinity Church in Great Paxton village this week, you would have been greeted by a building site.

The Cambridgeshire Saxon building was full of dust and the sound of old concrete plaster being drilled off from the interior walls by two very capable contractors. For years, the lower part of the walls had been very damp. No one had quite realised that several years ago concrete plaster had been applied to the walls in an attempt to stop rising damp.

The result being that more moisture had been trapped due the surface not being able to breathe.

Hence the on going damp, musty problem.

Apparently putting on concrete plaster was a common approach in the 1960’s – we are wiser now.

Once the old defective plaster had been drilled off, we could see the problem that was being covered up. We hope that now that thick coating has been removed, the walls will dry out ready too have a new appropriate mortar mix applied sometime in 2021 so the walls can breathe.

There is a saying that you never know what is really going on behind closed doors.

Nor can we really know what is going on behind someone’s stoic smile or cheerful words.

Many of us keep our inner most thoughts and secret struggles to ourselves, preferring to be a closed book rather than risk being laughed at or criticised.

We might have a lot going on in our hearts and minds which we are not even aware of ourselves.

I know how easy it can be to put on a brave face when really we are hurting inside.

We conceal how truly are – but long for someone to reach out and connect with us in a meaningful way.

There is a lovely prayer  which comes towards the beginning of one of our church services which begins:

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden.

What an amazing  thought that God knows exactly our state of being.

We don’t have to conceal anything or hide behind a hard exterior.

He invites us to come to him – just as we are.

The walls of Great Paxton Church are free now of a hard coating that was causing a lot of problems.

My prayer for all of us is that some at least of the barriers we put up may soften and as we learn to breathe in God’s goodness and healing presence we find it easier to truly be ourselves.

Take care and may God bless you all in these  difficult days.

 

Waiting

young annoyed female freelancer using laptop at home

A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio – 31st October 2020

By the time you hear this I will have the final results of a degree I’ve been doing as an allegedly mature student. Now, though, I’m still waiting for them to come out. There’s a lot of waiting now for all of us. We’re waiting for an end to the pandemic. We’re waiting to see what will happen about Christmas. We’re waiting to see what the economic effects are going be. We’re waiting for a vaccine. Some are waiting for Covid test results. And all this is quite apart from any other waiting we might have to do. We might be waiting for an operation or to hear if we’ve got a job. We might be waiting to see someone again who we haven’t seen for a long time. There are all sorts of things we have to hang around for.

Waiting often suggests a kind of passive, helpless time. It can suggest that we can’t do anything but see what fate has in store for us. And being told to wait can be very annoying, as well. What choice do we have, after all? But a Dutch Catholic priest and writer called Henri Nouwen suggests a different way of waiting, called active waiting. This means remembering that what we’re waiting for is growing up right now, like a plant, even if it’s still a seed hidden underground right now. Then we can wait with hope, knowing that what we’re waiting for is working to burst into our lives and change things. And as we wait, we can take a mindful approach of noticing what’s going on and looking out for the first signs that things are changing.

So, I’m going to try this and see if waiting can be not so bad after all, and perhaps you might like to join me?

Take care

Mel

All Change for Autumn

A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio’, broadcast 17th October 2020

Recently I was in an online discussion about why people love autumn. There were hundreds of answers. A lot included the beautiful colours, the crisp air, the smell of bonfires and snuggling down indoors while it’s all cold outside. I would also add seeing and hearing flocks of geese flying in their V formations. My chickens always look up at the geese as they go past. I’m not sure if the hens are annoyed about the noise or wish they could fly like that too.

The geese and other birds come to us in the autumn while other birds go south. This makes autumn a time of change for them as much as it is for us. It’s a time when we see leaves changing colour, days getting shorter and cooler, and our thoughts turn to winter. It’s also a time when many people decide to do something like taking up a hobby or starting a course. Such things aren’t just for young people, either. People do degrees and take up new hobbies into their 80s and 90s because we all have a divine spark of creativity in us, whatever our age.

So, as we start moving into a new season, maybe now would be a good time to something different, that will make a positive change for us, however small. This is especially important this year, as we face a rise in coronavirus cases and a difficult winter. I’m going to try watercolour painting, which I may or may not be good at, but I’d like to try. And maybe when you see the geese flying or notice golden leaves they will inspire you to wonder what you could do this autumn to help you through the months ahead and bring something good into your life.

All change for autumn!

With all good wishes

Mel

Hairdressers

A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio – 25th July 2020

This week I went to a hairdresser. Just for a trim, nothing major, but it was lovely to have that bit of pampering after they’ve had to close for so long. I’ve also read a letter this week on the internet that was written to a hairdresser. You might’ve seen it but if not, it was from a man who’d brought his wife in for a haircut. She was suffering from dementia and a few months later she sadly passed away. The man wanted to say, though, that she’d loved that haircut. It had made her feel so good about herself she couldn’t stop looking at herself and smiling. The man was very grateful and wanted to tell the hairdresser what a difference she’d made.

It was a lovely story, and really got me thinking about how we don’t always know when we might do something ordinary to us, but which makes a big difference to someone else. We should never underestimate what we can do for others just by doing our job with kindness or making a little bit of extra effort. On the other side, of course, how often do we thank people when they do something that’s helped us? We remember to be grateful for the big things but thanking people for things they might even have realised they’ve done can really make their day as well.

In the Bible Jesus talks about how small things can make a big difference, and about how we can build up a better world with the smallest and most ordinary of things. I think we can all get behind the idea of doing small things to make a big difference, and maybe one of them could be thanking someone for doing small that makes a big difference to us?

Control

A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio – May 2020

Someone recently said something to me that I found very interesting. She said that ‘not being in control is not the same as being completely controlled’. I’d been talking to her about feeling powerless in the face of our current situation and how I felt like I’d had all control of my life taken away from me, but those words gave me a new perspective.

There are always things we can’t control. We can’t control weather, illness, accidents and many other things. But this doesn’t mean we’re at the mercy of blind forces and have no say in anything. We can dress properly for the weather we have, follow doctors’ advice to stay healthy, take precautions to reduce the chances of accidents, and so on.

And even in the face of Covid-19 we still have some control. We can choose how we will approach the challenges, whether we will act responsibly to help prevent its spread, what we do with our time at home, even down to small things like deciding to get properly dressed for the day. And we can choose whether we give up in despair or remain hopeful.

The Bible teaches that God is ultimately in control, but we still have freedom to make our own choices – good or bad. And the same is true in our current situation – we’re not completely in control but we’re not completely controlled either.

Community

A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio – May 2020

A while ago I mentioned that I was getting a new bike and that I hadn’t ridden one for a long time, so I was a bit concerned that I might fall off. As it happens, I haven’t fallen off and I’ve really been enjoying cycling around. Most of the time the roads have been pretty empty of traffic, which helps, but last week things were different. I went out on VE Day for a ride and came across a socially distanced street party. Lots of people all down this normally very quiet road were out the front of their houses, eating and drinking, while kids rode around on bikes and scooters. It all looked like a lot of fun and really cheered me up.

So often, we think that no-one cares about their neighbours anymore but in times of crisis we see that this isn’t true. When it matters people often pull together, look out for each other, and try to find ways to interact. I remember people acting in a similar way during the Great Storm of 1987. I was living in Sussex at the time, which was badly hit, and my road was full of fallen trees. Then everyone started coming out to clear up the mess and help out with food and water, on a road where people tended to keep to themselves.

The Bible, of course, is big on loving your neighbour, and one reason for this is that it’s good for us to live in community and have meaningful relationships. This way we can find and give help when needed, have fun together and learn how to love one another better. I hope that when this pandemic is over we will all have made some new friendships and grown a bit closer to one another. That way, something good can come out of all this.

The A428: Thoughts on Planning

A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio on 27th June 2020

This thought refers to long-awaited planning to upgrade a local road.

I’ve had a letter about the proposed Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements. People will have different views on them but there’s an impressive flyby and drive-through video on the Highways England website showing what it might look like.

I spend a lot of time on the A428 in normal times so I’m extremely interested in what might happen, and how easy it will be for me to get my coffee at the Caxton Gibbet roundabout. I would also like to see more detail about how cyclists can get around safely, given my new interest in cycling, as well as about the environmental impact.

According to the website most people are broadly in favour of the scheme, and I can understand why, as I’ve experienced many traffic jams on that road. It occurred to me, though, that this is a huge project. Being faced with something big and complex to do can be daunting for all of us, and therefore planning is needed, so that we can break the job down into smaller, more manageable tasks. As Henry Ford, of Ford cars, said: “Nothing is particularly hard if you break it down into small jobs”.

It can also help if we have someone on our side to encourage and help us. For me, I feel reassured by knowing that I have my local church community by my side for support, and I’m aware that in the Bible Jesus encourages us to plan before doing something difficult. We don’t need faith to plan, though, obviously, and we can find support in all sorts of places.

Perhaps now, as the lockdown is lifting, might be a good time for all of us to start planning for the future, not only about roads but also in other important areas of our lives.