Falling apart; held in love. October 17th UN Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; WB Yeats

I am following the discipline of writing to the fiveminutefriday prompt. Anyone is welcome to join this community of bloggers at https://fiveminutefriday.com/2020/10/15/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-hold/ This week the prompt for 5 minutes of writing is HOLD.

Yesterday I attended an online poetry reading for Challenge Poverty week.  Thirty or forty people shared poems about their first hand experience of poverty. The readings were interspersed with short breaks where music was played to allow us to reflect on the feelings each poem had generated. It was inspiring but upsetting hearing about families whose children had been taken into care just because they were poor, mothers having to choose between their children’s food and their own sanitary needs, and men struggling to find a meaning for their lives where there is no work.

This stone in the Trocadero in Paris, marks the UN Day for the eradication of poverty, 17th October. “Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.” Joseph Wresinski

I enjoyed the event, and fell deeply asleep as soon as I was in bed. Two hours later I woke with my mind alert and my body too tense to go back to sleep. I felt anger that, when things fall apart, it is those with the least resources who feel the effect most. I ranted and raved in despair. I share a sonnet, a response by Andrew Budek-Schmeisser to last week’s blog HELP, that captures better than I can the complacency that allows injustice.

Can you see them from your window
as you’re sitting to your feast?
Swollen belly, rock for pillow,
are they surely not the least
of these our Saviour showed us,
to displace us from our pride,
but are they tossed beneath the bus
on which we gaily ride
to charities that we have made
to put our names in noble mention;
when lip service has been paid
we then gladly turn attention
to life from which we won’t see:
“Thank God, better them than me!”

This morning I read Colossians 1 verse 17. ‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’. It is right to be angry at injustice, not in despair, but taking action in love and respect of others, trusting in the one who holds it all together. See the global commemoration for the international day for the eradication of poverty, 17th October. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/global-commemoration-for-the-intl-day-for-the-eradication-of-poverty-2020-tickets-119904199689

I have been active in the fight against poverty since teaching in Kenya in the 1970’s, but poverty is not confined to ‘somewhere else’ it is right here. For years I have been a friend and supporter of ATD Fourth World. I would love to hear what you do to fight poverty.

World Day for Overcoming Poverty

Help along a barren road; not just for me, but for all. End Poverty Week starts on 17th October, the UN Day for the Eradication of Poverty

This post is a response to the fiveminutefriday prompt HELP, a word that taps into feelings of anxiety, disorientation, and fear as our social and geographical horizons diminish, outbreaks of infection rage through our universities, and our frail elderly remain imprisoned in nursing homes.

We give thanks for blessings, the beauty of nature, the love of our close friends and family, the devotion of our pets, and more, but we still miss the touch of other people and the ease of daily contact that does not involve a flat screen. There is an impoverished change in our behaviour as we adjust.

It is the lack of opportunity, the empty road to nowhere, that oppresses people more than material deprivation, the sense of being overlooked and forgotten, their views not valued.

Next Saturday, 17th October, is the United Nations Day for the Eradication of Poverty, inspired by the call to action of Father Joseph Wresinski, founder of All Together in Dignity.

ATD is a charity that aims to understand poverty in all its forms, in the UK concentrating its efforts on supporting families and influencing policy.

Internationally the Tapori movement is a worldwide network of children from all backgrounds whose motto is:

We want all children to have the same opportunities”

St Paul commends in his letters commends believers for helping those in need. During Challenge Poverty Week, starting on 17th October, spare a thought for those frustrated by lack of opportunity, and support them in finding a voice. Maybe reaching out will help us all feel more connected and open up new routes through our daily lives.

You can join the fiveminute friday community at https://fiveminutefriday.com/start-here/

I am a Christian writer and speaker on issues of poverty. I welcome your comments.

Please note that advertisements appear at the end of this blog without my knowledge, as I use a free WordPress platform.

Breathe – a reflection

My local writer’s workshop, meeting online last week, shared how our work was progressing. I had to confess that I was stuttering, beset by doubts and frustrations.

One of my biggest blocks has been fear of uploading my second novel to the self-publishing platform. My memories of the first time round were of a tortuous and time consuming process.

Encouraged by the prayers of the writer’s group I took a deep breath, submitted the edited proof, and it was accepted! No arrows showing me where I had run off the margins, no titles jumping to the wrong place. Breathe again!

I tackled the cover. Using new found skills in publishing software I was able to design my cover as a single file. It was accepted on the second attempt following some careful measuring of the spine position. I breathed a sigh of relief. A problem that I had dared not look into had turned upside down and become as transparent as glass.

As a young chorister I loved the old hymn based on the poem by George Herbert, The Elixir. ‘A man that looks on glass, on it may stay his eye; or if he pleases, through it pass, and then the heavens espy.’ I am not sure that I am espying the heavens yet in my efforts to publish, but the time spent reflecting and praying with the group has helped me take the next step .

This post is a response to the fiveminutefriday prompt BREATHE. This weekly blog linkup is helping me to understand and learn the craft of blogging. You can join here.

I am self-publishing the second novel in a family saga about children fleeing the conflict in South Sudan. You can buy here.

Doing your thing

In the UK students have gone to university looking for a stimulating environment to develop their interests, hone their skills, and build a career path, only to find that they are locked in with a handful of others and learning online.

When the pandemic started I thought I could cope well by reading, working and practicing skills, but it is hard. I find myself increasingly resorting to activities that give me social interaction – on the tennis court, or in a prayer meeting, where we are allowed to meet socially distanced. I long for my choir to start again, and for that magical mingling of voices to inspire and enthuse.

It seems that ‘my thing’ is fairly meaningless unless it intersects with ‘your thing’. I need that billiard ball effect of ricocheting of others, having colour in my life, pinging ideas off other people’s and seeing whether this one makes it to the pocket.

Socially distanced, but will they make the pocket? Photo by Tomaz Barcellos on Pexels.com

Other people’s reactive movement is more important than I thought. The rough edges of my personality must be knocked off before the ball can roll. To play my part, I need to be made spherical, bright, and shiny, through a myriad interactions. I also need a firm table of faith, reliable and stable to withstand the clashing balls.

Paul said to Timothy ‘I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois, and in your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded, now lives also in you.’ Paul encouraged Timothy, not to be timid, though the situation was challenging, but to increase his faith, draw on the Holy Spirit, and have the courage to develop his gift as a preacher and leader, being wise about how he interacted with those around him. I pray for all students who are starting their university life in isolation with a handful of people they barely know, that they will have supportive family, and a wise friend.

I am writing a family saga about children fleeing the conflict in South Sudan. You can buy the first novel Lost Children of Cush by clicking on the second page of this website.

This post is a response to the fiveminutefriday prompt YOUR.

St Paul’s Church – usually a hub of activity – exercise classes, coffee mornings, nursery, clubs, and societies, is quiet and lonely. You can befriend this unusual building at 9am on Sundays!

At the top of the hill is a church built at the turn of the last century in Scandinavian style. The steep roof is supported by wooden pillars and the beamed ceiling looks like an upturned boat. Medieval Norse churches had pillars as thick as a man and were dark inside but this nineteenth century copy has slender pillars and two rows of windows to let in the light. 

St Paul’s Church, Camberley – usually a hub of activity – exercise classes, coffee mornings, nursery, clubs, and societies, is quiet and lonely!

I love my church. It has been a home to my family for many years and holds memories of our dogs at the annual Pet Service, singing with the band. I crave the general hubbub on a Sunday morning, greeting friends of all ages – who I love and support, who have supported me through difficult times.

Our services have been online recently and they are great.  We have so many talented people who can sing accurately and alone, so that when their voices are digitally combined they sound beautiful. Sermons are videoed in locations appropriate to the topic, the online chat before the service is as bustling as ever. 

However skilfully done, it is not the same, and I have struggled to identify what is missing. I grieve as I walk past the church and see it lonely and isolated. Now we can access the building again, albeit in masks, and small groups, I feel a sense of relief. This is God’s home. It was built with money raised locally. It has been maintained by generations to be a place of welcome, friendship, and support. 

After being away for six weeks I am delighted to be welcoming friends into my home again.  Maybe God is pleased to have us back in His house, to stand together in awe, worship Him, pray for each other and the world. Maybe He misses us, each one of us, whether we count ourselves as church goers or not.

This week’s fiveminutefriday blog prompt of CHURCH struck a deep chord of feeling!

If pigs could fly! Inspiration from the early days of aviation.

I’m joining the five minute friday link up, the prompt is COULD, after a two months absence running a holiday programme in a remote holiday village on the Isle of Sheppey. The theme was the story of the Short brothers, Horace, Eustace and Oswald, who built the first aircraft factory in the UK at Shell Beach, at the east end of the island.

The Short Brothers reach for the skies at Muswell Manor, Shell Beach, by Barbara Street, unveiled May 2013 by Elizabeth Walker, a descendant of the Shorts.

In 1909 the Wright flyer had been developed in the USA, and Louis Blériot was making the first flights over French soil, but the UK government refused to invest in ‘heavier than air’ machines, believing gas balloons to be the way ahead. The Short brothers, Eustace and Oswald, had a balloon factory under the railway arches at Battersea, but with their brother, Horace, were intrigued by the possibility of winged flight. Funded by members of the Aero Club of Great Britain, including Frank Maclean, Charles Rolls (of Rolls Royce), and John Moore-Brabazon (later Lord Brabazon), they met with Warwick, Wilbur and Orvil Wright at Muswell Manor, Shell Beach in May 1909 and signed a contract to built Wright flyers. In October 1909 Lord Brabazon loaded a pig into a basket, strapped it to a Voisin biplane and flew 3.7 miles from Shell Beach airfield to Leysdown. In November that year he won the Daily Mail prize of £1000 for the first circular mile, flown in a Short/Wright flyer.

The engine of the first Short plane was too heavy to take off but, undeterred, they improved their design. Shorts went on to build a range of aircraft including the Sunderland flying boat. When their Rochester factory was bombed in the Second World War they moved to Belfast. The firm was nationalised, continued to expand, and eventually became Bombardier. The early days of their venture are forgotten, except for the statue at Muswell Manor, Shell Beach. The bar of the pub and chalet park holds memorabilia of the early days of flying.

Their story is inspiring. They were excited by the possibility of flight and believed it could happen. Their ideas literally took off and Shell Beach became one of the cradles of British aviation. I had little time to write this summer, their example inspires me to keep trying till the right idea comes.

Behind a locked door – the fluid changes of our post Covid 19 world.

Whenever I can I join the fiveminutefriday link up. This week the prompt word is ENDURE. We visit a hidden beauty spot on the Kent coast where there is a First World War gun emplacement on the beach. Its solid concrete walls and roof have stood unharmed against the storms for over 100 years.

This weekend as we breasted the crest of the dunes we saw that the venemous power of the recent high winds had brought a narrow tongue of shells and sand licking up the beach leaving a vomit of debris around the base of the gun emplacement. It appeared unharmed, its blue wooden door locked tight against the elements but when we went inside water had trickled in through the air vent and the contents had been lifted to different places by the rising sea water. A film of mud covered everything giving familiar objects an unfamiliar appearance.

I see the muted look in the eyes of friends I meet after many months. The deeply etched contours of our relationship are softened, the outlines of our conversation unfamiliar. We must negotiate a new language to rebuild relationship in this post-inundation world, where we have had to endure the random action of forces beyond our control. We share the experience but its impact on each is different.

Hidden away behind the locked door our hearts have shifted and we see the world from new positions. Only one remains unchanged, our everlasting Father. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. Revelation chapter 8 verse 1

Finding our what we are worth in the new normal

I woke early this morning. Dark clouds overhead finished dropping their rain and were clearing leaving a sullen grey sky, but they had sprinkled the roses with a soft crust of tiny drops, like a sugar coating, round the edge of each petal. They reminded me of the verse about sparrows sold for two pennies yet not forgotten by God.

Their delicate beauty calmed me in what has been a difficult week. If God cared enough for the roses to give them this exquisite edging that shone with gold on a dismal morning would he not also notice me, crouched under our car port with a mug of tea and the Bible app open on my phone.

Life is challenging in the UK. We are still in the pandemic, though deaths are down to around 100 a day and shops are opening. Businesses however are closing and one I rely on for clothes to fit my 1.8m tall frame is closing in a few weeks. Hair cuts are still an issue, though my Yorkshire terrier has been shampooed and groomed to perfection. Is there such a thing as ‘pooch envy’?

Somehow the effects of social isolation, shaggy hair, expressing friendliness wearing a face covering (the British habit is to smile with the mouth and keep the eyes guarded), and keeping 2 metres apart is giving everyone a zombie like demeanour. Deeper than that one of my jobs has become more demanding while for the other one the work has disappeared. I have resigned, but feel the loss of friends and colleagues. We are having to adapt to the new normal and find our worth in different ways. Fortunately with God it is not about what we do, or what we wear, but just our presence, in the rain clouds, and his desire to clothe us with drops of gold.

As usual on a Friday this blog was written in response to the fiveminutefriday prompt WORTH.

I am a writer and speaker, unable to speak at public events during the UK lock down, and this week struggling to find the energy to write, but I am thankful that God loves me, and you.

Enslaved to the past we can overlook the chains of the present – Bristol past and present.

I love the city of Bristol and enjoy wandering the Georgian streets of the city centre, and admiring the Victorian mansions on Clifton Down.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bristol.jpg
Harbour wharves, with the A and B Bond Depositories in the background

In the M Shed Museum there is a painting of fashionably dressed Georgian merchants walking beside the wharves while the ships that held their wealth crossed the Atlantic laden with slaves. The Bristol archives, in the B Bond Depository hold lists of individual ships, and the number of slaves carried, lost in transit and sold on arrival in the Americas. The water taxi from Temple Meads wharf, past the M Shed, to the Depository provides a glimpse into the city’s past.

The Avon Gorge slices through North Bristol. The cranes of Portishead docks are visible in the distance; the goods imported perhaps crafted by an exploited labour force.

There are still two Bristols. One has the attractive tourist spots of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Floating Dock with it’s quirky restaurants, and the open grassland of Clifton Down, slashed by the hidden chasm of the Avon Gorge.

Another side of Bristol is Unseen, the organisation running the Modern Slavery Helpline, because there is still slavery today. Search on ‘modern trafficking’ and a host of stories appear of children in the Philippines groomed online to satisfy a British lust for child pornography, or child soldiers in South Sudan, and migrant women forced into prostitution.

The statue of Edward Colston commemorated a man who was both good and bad. Are our modern heroes any different? There is only one who fully deserves our honour.

Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. Matthew 12 verse 18.

Fledging faith – can we trust God to lift us out of the coronavirus? Yes, if we stay brave and strong. 1 Corinthians 16 12-14

I gave the pond in my garden a second glance as I walked past yesterday – something red.

selective focus photography of bird
Photo by Tom Swinnen on Pexels.com

Close inspection showed a robin fledgling perched on a lily pad. I pulled the wire cover aside but the frightened bird floundered into the water. We found a narrow plank and placed it across the weeds. The sodden creature scrambled on, was lifted clear, and scuttled into a bush to dry out.

The advice on coronavirus in the UK is changing each day but the main message is still ‘Stay home’ unless you have to go out. Like many poeple I find the projects I am working on are fighting for survival, money is short, key staff on furlough, buildings and activities adapting for a different world. The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel so missions to South Sudan or my brother’s planned visit from the USA  are out of the question. I am a worrier by nature; there is knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach which I fall into when faith fails.

Pond robin rescue 2
Robin rescue kit!

I want to hide like the robin but the search for a safe place brings great danger. Faith is a narrow bridge stretched out across my anxiety. I have to be brave enough to climb on and be lifted to safety. Further panic is bound to bring disaster.

 

Keep alert. Be firm in your faith. Stay brave and strong. Show love in everything you do. 1 Corinthians 16 12-14

This post is a response to the fiveminutefriday prompt STAY. How are you faring in this stay-at-home world?

I am a writer seeking a publisher for two completed novels of a trilogy about a South Sudanese family separated by the 1990’s civil war.