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.

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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.

‘Happy Birthday’ finds a different expression this year as lock down prevents hugs and sharing. Maybe sacrifice is a deeper and fuller way of loving.

Birthdays are a big thing for me. My eldest son was born on the same day as me, my second son on the day after my husband’s birthday two weeks later, and my grand daughter 5 days before me. We have a ‘birthday weekend’ every May when we meet and celebrate as an extended family.

Happy Birthday

Of course, that did not happen this year and I am shocked by how much it has affected me. For years May has been a rush of presents, cakes, parties.  I went onto autopilot on 1st May and started cooking, but for what? All we can do at the moment is order a present via internet delivery and send a video message. It is not the the cake that matters but the strong feeling of connection, the specialness of sharing a date with another member of the family.

Now the lock down is being released in the UK and we can meet with up to six family members. For us that means one of our sons and their family, but not both. We will not be able to hug and must stay 2 metres apart. How do I explain to two little grandchildren or a nine month old baby that Grandma loves them but will not hug them? What if we somehow transmit the virus to them without knowing? This situation is testing the expression of what love is.

it is not the first time; when Christ hung on the cross he chose to be separated from the love of his father. His cry of desolation ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ as he took our sins on himself rings across space and time. It does not assuage my grief at our enforced separation from loved ones but it does help me to know that those strong bonds of love formed at birth are still there and that sacrifice is as much an expression of love as hugs.

This post is a response to the fiveminutefriday prompt BORN. Any adverts that appear with it are not endorsed by me but due to my free package on WordPress.

Savouring daily bread whilst dealing with unruly vines – turbulent feelings as we slowly come out of lockdown in the UK

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The weather is turbulent in south east England today. The wind tosses the trees and a brief thunder shower has sprinkled the leaves with rain so that they glisten as the evening sun shines through them.

 

FORWARD is the prompt for the Fiveminute friday blog post and I find myself trying to write out of turbulent emotions. The lockdown is easing, many of us are back to work, the local hospital is making routine appointments, traffic is picking up on the motorway that streams past the woodland opposite my house. Tasks that were submerged when the virus struck have bobbed to the surface again:

  • it is my turn to prepare the meditation for the weekly online staff meeting
  • a local open air festival in August is going ahead and the brochure must be written

I like to move forward but am reluctant to leave behind the space and the quietness of lockdown, with all it’s anxieties.

One source of joy has been dropping in on choral evensong at Girton College and listening to the sermon series on The Lord’s Prayer by Malcolm Guite. He pointed out that bread making involves the time of many people to harvest the ingredients, and make them available as flour and yeast, breadmaking mixes, or loaves; God is making bread every day in the miracle of seed growing, providing sun, rain, seasons, soil. We take it for granted.

Jesus used vines to illustrate spiritual truths, as well as bread. The vine in my garden has grown trailing strands of bushy leaves. It will produce small hard grapes unless I prune.

I desire to harvest the fruit from this period of lockdown, and savour the greater awareness of the Lord’s daily presence but it will involve making some painful choices.

I work for Flame International, writing and blogging in my spare time. I would love to receive your comments.

 

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A hopeful refrain shared by four generations under Covid 19 lockdown.

I’m later than usual joining the FiveminuteFriday post because yesterday we held an online party for four generations of the family to mark the seventy fifth anniversary of Victory in Europe, VE Day.

VE Day invite

My mother, shared her memories of when she was eighteen and had just met my father. They celebrated with a picnic on the North Downs, from where they had watched the Battle of Britain rage. She remembered German Messerschmidt planes loaded with bombs and the British spitfires engaged in dog fights overhead.  We had a ‘model flypast’ of World War 2 planes followed by singing the chorus of ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’, whilst flapping our hands like bluebirds.  The oldest grandchild, aged six, was solemn and attentive throughout. The three year produced a toy seagull to join the flypast. The baby ‘flew’ and loved the hand made ‘birds’.

There was pain as well as joy – no hugs, no visits, no sharing a meal together, though by internet sleight of hand the grandchildren blew the candles out! Godly values were threaded through the event, respect across the generations, sacrifice, sharing in spite of the Covid 19 lock-down.

We have seen these values lived out in the UK in recent weeks. I hope they will last.

‘Love and laughter and peace ever after, tomorrow, when the world is free.’

Writing is important to me, but on the big days, as on the small, it’s love that counts.

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Distraction – extreme agitation of the mind. I’m looking at life through bars. The trees are in leaf, but it is what is happening in the roots that matters.

I’m a naturally focussed (driven?) person. As soon as the UK lockdown started on 23rd May I set up a daily routine – pray, walk, work, online meeting, TV news, online choir, gardening, reading, bed, repeat!

This park, popular with local children is silent, watched over by mature trees.

We’ve kept going, stayed positive, clapped our National Health Service, got to know the neighbours, tidied the house and enjoyed the Springtime explosion of flowers, birds and leaves. Underneath there is a darker side that – the constant worry that an elderly relative will not be there tomorrow, the struggle to keep organisations afloat, and the acceptance that some cannot survive this maelstrom. The Whatsapp group for my road, which started with a flurry of exited exchanges and help, is dwindling to a few videos. Car drivers are observing social distance – something we should always have done, but not normal behaviour in this urban area. It is difficult to find things to say to each other as one day runs into the next, and we are driven inside ourselves.

Online prayer meetings, exercise and chatting with a (socially distanced) neighbour help me, but may not help you. What really matters is that as the world is stripped away we find the Lord walking with us.

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24 verse 32

This post is a response to the fiveminutefriday prompt ‘Distraction’. 

I am a Christian writer and (in unlocked times) speaker.

Getting it in perspective on High Curley Hill

I walked to High Curley Hill our local view point today, only 129 metres above sea level, but on a clear day there are views across the Thames Valley to central London. Today only the post office tower was visible, the City was hidden in a green haze.

High Curley Hill

I have seen the last few weeks as if through a mist. A rapid change in our circumstances, freedom curtailed, anxiously watching the rising graphs of cases, missing family and loved ones. Today, standing on the sandy ridge, on a bright Spring morning, giving thanks for the sunburst of yellow gorse flowers, the soft Spring air, and the birds singing lustily, gave a sense of clarity and adjustment. Life will never be the same again, but the veil is beginning to lift. People are finding ways to help, baking for local charities, fundraising through personal challenges, even making hospital scrubs.

These are small things but they show we care. In the UK we have all been inspired by Captain Tom Moore.

The period after Easter is a time of waiting for Jesus’ Holy Spirit to descend and turn fearful, anxious disciples into the builders of a worldwide church, filled with resurrection power. 1 Corinthians 15 verses 42-44

I wonder what the Holy Spirit is growing in us this Spring?

I am a writer and speaker,struggling to think through how our world is changing. I would love to know your perspective on the changes.

Responding to the fiveminutefriday prompt Perspective