Sunday, 8 May 2016

Come and find the quiet centre

We don't usually think about Spring until the winter blanket spends more time on the floor  being used as a cat nest than it does on the bed… We notice the lawn needs cutting, and have to fight our way into the garden shed, and, no matter how neatly we left the garden hose coiled up, and having already tied together the contents of the shed in a knot that would have bettered even Alexander, in the quest for more prey, explodes like an angered boa constrictor, twisting its seething coils around the poor unfortunate who has dared enter its sleeping lair.

When the first hint of sun produces a rash of bare legs, pale and blinking in the sunlight, flocking together for safety like so many albino flamingos.

It means school holidays aren’t far away, when parents can lovingly offer their children for temporary adoption to grandparents and others can begin their rounds of the Saturday morning taxi service to sport.

It also means winter is coming to an end. The days are lengthening. The days are warming. Buds are bursting. Trees are in blossom. Spring is.

Winter, the season of fear has passed, giving way to Spring, the season of hope and renewal.

The late UU Minister Rev. Max Coots, wrote a lovely book called Seasons of the self. I highly recommend it. As the title suggests it is a book of meditations on the seasons of the year,
 presented in a very personal way. In one of those meditations, he talks about the coming of Spring, when the snow melts and frosts subside and we begin to discover all the things...
broken toys,
garden tools,
dried up leaves.

All the things we had forgotten about because they were covered over
by the snow or frost that lay over the ground. And then he writes this:

“Spring is a courage after Winter-weakness
that sends us to cleaning out,
as though the dirt that Winter stored
must be chased away like ancient witches.
“Spring is a courage.
It lets the empty stem of the cherry fall free to look as dead
as it had been when it stood tall in Wintertime.

“Spring is a courage that lets the old things die
and scatters them across our eyes -
the things that ought to be done and over with.

“Spring is not so much a dying time
as it is a time that shows what has already died.
It’s not an easy sight!

“Spring is a finishing, and it is a beginning too...”

In Winter we don’t think much about growth. With the coming of Spring we are reminded that out of death there can come new birth,
if we nurture it,
care for it,
love it.

But Spring also shows us that naturekind and humankind are continually in relationship. In the process of God’s creativity, as told by the storyteller in Genesis, we see the interplay between naturekind and humankind.

A great light was divided in two...
Light was ingredient to the survival of plants and creatures,
as a means of photosynthesis,
as a means of evaporation,
and as a measure of time.
Dry land was formed...
This formed the habitats of diverse creatures.
Plant life emerged with instrumental value
as a source of food
and oxygen
and soil nutrients.
Creatures evolved into more complex relationships
of birds, fish, cattle... and humans.
Humans were equipped and called to be responsible for the care of naturekind.
They were also intended to be in relationship with each other.
With this relationship, humans were charged to be fruitful and multiply,
and to create a community through loving inter-relationships.

And the storyteller says: God experienced great joy in creation...

In a unique way God related to humankind, because humankind is called to be the image of God.
Embodying something of God in each and every one of us. Filled to bursting with the potential of life and of love. Embodying something God-like in the care of nature, in human loving, in relationships.

But during Winter we don’t think much about these things.

It is only when Spring arrives and washes away the fear of Winter do we also see the pollution left behind, we need to get out our broom and do our spring cleaning. To tidy up the whatever is left of last year, of the winter, to sift through the detritus in our gardens and our homes, to throw away what is bad, clearing away mess and cutting back dead wood to find space to being anew and to encourage new shoots and new buds. So too with our own spiritual practice; tend and nurture the buds of our faith, see it grow and sprout. Embrace new shoots and new growth. Experience the dynamic of fresh growth.

So as Spring bursts forth around us, let us heed the advice of Shirley Erena Murray, to find the 'quiet centre' in our lives, in our spiritual do some spring cleaning, to 
find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


At a Meeting of the Board of Directors held on the 11th of September, 1847, it was

That the following code of Rules and Regulations be, and the same is hereby approved and adopted for the guidance and instruction of the Officers and Men in the service of the London and North-Western Railway Company, and that all former Rules and Regulations inconsistent with the same be cancelled.

That every person in the service do keep a copy of these Regulations on his person while on duty under a penalty of five shillings for neglect of the same.
By order of the Board of Directors.
                 General Manager,
     London and North Western Railway.

White Trousers

"Far be it for me to question your authenticity, but why are you wearing white trousers?"

The answer, in a nutshell, is simple: unbleached, undyed, simple weave cloth such as canvas is cheap, hard wearing and can be boil washed. Most European armies during late 18th and most of the 19th centuries adopted unbleached canvas (linen, cotton or hemp) trousers  for fatigue and other dirty duties, including mucking out horses, because of this.