I am thirsty

Since receiving my news of becoming an Ordinand I have felt a little adrift. I have a sense of feeling ready to move on yet I’m in the waiting area, perhaps I am back in the wilderness waiting to make the first steps in my new future ministry. Whilst wandering this lonely path I have found great strength from working as a Chaplian in my local hospital. 

I have been working shifts in A&E on Mondays between 2pm and 4pm, these are the busiest times apparently. I was nervous at first, would people want to talk to me when they are in need of urgent treatment?  As soon as I began my shifts I knew that I was here to serve the people there and it has felt like a real privilege to walk with people through their time in the department.

I have experienced some very moving moments where elderly people have clutched my hand with worry in their eyes, to sharing jokes with younger patients. I’ve tucked people up in blankets, made phone calls to relatives, provided drinks, taken off shoes, tied up hospital robes, provided tissues, laughed, cried, and prayed. 

On one particular shift a lovely elderly man came in on his own, he had broken his hip and had just found out the bad news that he needed an urgent operation. He was worried, upset, and in pain. I popped up to his bed, he was in the corridor as it was that busy. I introduced myself as a chaplain, and smiled. He smiled back and told me what had happened. As he lay back tired and in pain he said to me, “I am thirsty”. I checked with the doctor that he could have a drink and I helped him to drink small amounts from a flimsy plastic cup. I stayed with him for a while and then I said goodbye. 

It wasn’t until our chaplaincy team meeting today that I realised how important our role is as a chaplain. How we bring the Holy Spirit with us as we serve these ill people. A colleague, a Sister, spoke about the moment with my gentleman in regards to Jesus on the cross saying that he was thirsty. Jesus was tired, in pain, upset, just like that man I met. I felt very moved as she spoke of the comparable notion of giving Jesus a drink on the cross as I had done to the man. As I listened to her words I had a wonderful reiteration of the importance of the good news of Jesus we bring to others, I felt that fire once again that made me step out and say yes to God’s calling on my life.

Being a witness to that good news means that we see Jesus walking with us where people are in pain, suffering, tired and thirsty like he himself experienced on the cross. It feels that in A&E we are walking around the foot of the cross keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, helping those who are suffering to see him through us. 

I pray that with every blanket I cover someone with, with every drink I make, every hand I hold, every tear I wipes away, that that person may see the love of our Lord Jesus Christ shining through into their darkness and time of need. 

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Have you not known? Have you not heard?

These past two weeks have been emotional! 

Not only was I lucky enough to follow the Bishop of Middleton around during his Thy Kingdom Come prayer walk and provide communication support for the Diocese, I also attended a BAP to see if I could be recommended for training for ordained stipendary ministry. 

At the end of Thy Kingdom Come prayer walk, there was a beacon event in Manchester Cathedral and I was asked to do a reading, it was this passage:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and grow weary, and the the young will fall exhausted, but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

I stood at the pulpit with a sizeable crowd with the three Bishops behind me. I let the words wash over me and I felt that warm tingle of God’s love and strength sustaining my voice and my nerves. Over the past two weeks I have wondered how I’ve kept going. I’ve walked at pace and at length in boiling heat carrying numerous bags yet as we walked, people appeared with water, with food, and with love. 

During my BAP I felt God’s strength and love as I walked around the meadows. The grass sparkled with golden buttercups, the wind blew the fluffy tops of the long grass, and as I walked I knew I wasn’t alone. As I look back at those memories I think of the passage that I read out, “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles” in the breezy warmth, in those fields, I stretched open my arms and let the spirit blow through me, and I danced and flew with our God.

The best thing about all this is that I can show people what it feels like to follow Jesus, I can help them to listen to the spirit, and take comfort from the Father. 

Yesterday I received the news that I have been recommended to train for ordination and I am absolutely humbled by God’s call and I know I will serve with everything that I have and that I am.

I’ll do everything I can so I can say to people, have you not known? Have you not heard? The lord IS the everlasting God! and he loves you more than you could ever imagine.

Wisdom cries out from the street

The events in Manchester have shocked me deeply. I visit the City centre twice a week using Victoria train station. If I come back from uni late I watch the joy filled people making their way to their much awaited concerts and events. In the winter they have ice shows at the arena and the streets are filled with little ones dressed as their favourite Disney characters with light up wands and headbands. 

Watching the scenes from the bombing made me weep. A place that is used to hosting so much joy, is now a scene of terrible loss and injury. Many of my friends shared a disbelief that this could happen in Manchester, a place where I spent the day on a red hot afternoon watching the live play of the crucifixion of Christ. During the Manchester passion, cathedral gardens was a hive of a wonderful multi faith, multi cultural, vibe. We stood in circles praying and members of the public joined us, we sat on the grass with people, we walked through the town centre waving palm leaves.

This is the Manchester I know and love. A place for everyone, a welcome for everyone. Every person in the Greater Manchester area and beyond is devastated by this evil act that has killed innocent people, injured innocent people, and the shockwaves of that bomb has rocked every person in this area.

Watching the vigil in Manchester last night made me think of a verse in Proverbs,

“Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the City gates she speaks.”  Proverbs1.20

Seeing all the crowds standing up to fear and hatred, seeing them showing the world that love, peace, and unity is the only answer to this terrible event, showed a great wisdom, a great united front to terrorism and what to do next. Manchester showed a strong light, a light that will not be hidden by terrorism and fear. The shouts of support, the acts of those who helped in anyway they could, this was the voice that was the loudest. A wisdom, a knowledge of love and loving others.

Vigils are still being carried out, there is one in my home town Ashton tonight, and we shall cry out that light is stronger than darkness, that love is stronger than hate, and that we will all stand together as one community.

The Shepherd of the sheep

A talk for the Patronal service of The Parish of The Good Shepherd 

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Last year my husband took me and our children to his friend’s farm. I was really excited. Not only were we going to have a bit of an adventure, we were going to see his brand new lambs that had just been born. I hadn’t met a real life shepherd before. I’d only seen the glossy ones that they show on BBC1’s country file.

The weather was typically British, the wind was whistling, the rain was coming down but my family and I were so excited to be on the tuffty Saddleworth hills we didn’t feel the rain or the wind. We squelched up a soggy hill and met Dave the shepherd. 
He was rosy cheeked with his crook in his hand. He was well weathered, his clothes were accessorised with the landscape, grass stuck out of his boots, hay on his jumper, dried mud was his sunscreen. It seemed like the weather had no impact on him, he was there to do his duty and look after his beloved sheep and their new lambs.

As we entered the first field Dave called out to his sheep, the sheep recognised his voice immediately. They trotted up to us and mulled around their feeding trough. He fed them and they were a blur of chocolate and white noise. After they were distracted with the food, Dave led us to see the lambs. They were beautiful, it was amazing to watch them trot around on wobbly legs.
Dave the shepherd had a great system of identifying the new born lambs. As soon as a lamb was born he would put a plastic red coat on them. He explained that by identifying the lambs he could see if any had become separated from the flock and their mothers.

Whilst we were walking around his farm we saw a bright speck of red. The little plastic coat of the small lamb was blowing in the increasingly rough weather. Dave suddenly changed his walking pace and made the uneven, beveled ground look like freshly laid tarmac. He effortlessly scaled the hill until he reached the tiny lamb tucked down low in the long grass sheltering from the wind. He softly scooped up the lamb, tucked it under his arm and located the mother and reunited them. The mum and lamb baared at each other in acknowledgement and relief. 

In today’s readings we heard Jesus saying that he is the gate for the sheep, he is the leader, the good shepherd. Jesus says that whoever enters the gate through him is saved and will find the pasture that is laid out for us. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and he loves us deeply and cares for us like a devoted shepherd to his flock.

Like Dave the saddleworth shepherd, who’s sheep recognised him by his voice, Jesus says to us, “I know my own, and my own know me”. When we hear Jesus’s voice we follow him, when he calls us by name, when he calls us to know him, we are placed in the best friendship we could ever have, a love from a shepherd who can withstand any weather, any terrain, and any situation.
Jesus also searches for us when we become lost, like Dave the shepherd who marked his lambs with little jackets, Jesus can find us easily when we become distant, when we have left the pasture. Jesus actively looks for those who have gone astray, or those who are indeed lost. 

In the parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus again says he is the Good shepherd, he looks for his sheep that who are lost and lays them on his shoulders, his shoulders that bore the weight of our sins as he carried his cross.

The act of laying the sheep on his shoulders and carrying it back is one of complete love and devotion. Maybe we can reflect on the time that Jesus had found us when we were lost?

Here in Ashton, we are the parish of the Good Shepherd so what does that mean for us? 

Children, could you help me please? 

What is a Good Shepherd like?

Caring, devoted, kind, resilient, committed, strong, loving, patient, selfless, 
By being like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, this is how we tend to God’s people, this is how we keep going in times of trial, this is how we stay faithful as a flock to our Good Shepherd, so that others can see him through us.

Jesus has an unconditional, equal love for every person. Jesus spreads a message of love, not just for the holy, but for everyone, regardless of their sins and their past. Jesus calls us by name so we can follow his voice through the gate into his kingdom. Jesus calls us to his table where we can share in the Eucharistic gifts his gave us. There is always an empty seat at his table waiting for those who are lost, who are yet to be found, who have wandered away from the flock. And like dave the saddleworth shepherd, Jesus searches in any weather, at any time of the day to find those who are in need of his fatherly care, our good shepherd the guardian of our souls.

Amen 

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him

I’ve been thinking about how Jesus can break through into lives and situations over the past couple of weeks. Last week we shared in the story of Thomas having doubts of Jesus’s resurrection. I love how Jesus appears to the disciples in a locked room. Jesus breaking through the boundaries, the walls put up by ourselves through fear and doubt. There is no situation that Jesus cannot bring his peace into. There are times where I have felt dispair and anguish, my self protective boundaries lept up to protect my heart. But there in the stillness was Jesus, patiently lovingly appearing to me as I, like Thomas proclaimed “My Lord and my God”.

This week we see Jesus becoming visible to the disciples on the road to Emmaus through the breaking of the bread. The disciples broken with sadness, witness the meeting of their brokeness and Jesus’s broken body symbolised as the bread in his hands. Their eyes are opened to Jesus through the breaking of bread and this shows the power of meeting Jesus face to face through communion. 

When we kneel down at the rail with all our worries and pain and brokenness, there in that moment our stories meet face to face with Jesus’s story. Here we see the power of the cross, the beauty of the ressurection, and the gift of God’s kingdom we receive through Jesus. We take into us the outward symbol of the internal Grace that is given to us by our Heavenly Father, his Son guiding and calling us to follow him, the Holy spirit fanning the flames of love within us.

The road to Emmaus is a road we all walk down during our faith journey. But there is one thing we can count on, that Jesus is there with us whether we recognise him or not, and he makes himself known to us in the breaking of the bread. Communion is this place where we can see him face to face, where our broken lives meet his broken body and we are ressurected in glory with the risen Christ, transforming our lives and hearts as we walk with him through this lifelong faith journey together.

I have seen the LordĀ 


I have a deep respect and love for the women in the bible. Every time I read over their stories, whether it is Ruth or Hagar, Mary the Mother of God or Mary Magdalene I see parts of them in my own faith journey. 

When I feel like I’m an outsider, I think about Ruth. I think about her determination and her whole hearted trust in God to provide for her and Naomi. I think about Hagar when I feel excluded by other women, I think about when she was expelled into the desert and God protected her and her son.

I think about Mary Magdalene when I cast my thoughts back to my own past, how she became so close to Jesus because of who she is and not let her past define her or hinder her relationship with Jesus. Her own humble love for Jesus is a wonderful thing to witness through the Gospels, how I wish we could see a version of her own Gospel! 

I think about Mary, the Mother of God, when I am challenged as a mother. Her steadfast faith through her annunciation and the knowledge of what horror was to come with the crucifixion of her dear Son. Her resilience, her mother’s resilience keeps my patience strong when I am overcome and overrun by my children.

Sharing in the joy of the resurrection today highlights to me the power of women, not only in the bible but those who minister today. Jesus entrusted his first appearance from the tomb to Mary and she was the one to tell the men of the Good News. Mary, a true strong female evangelist, Mary the mother of God another strong tangible witness to the Lord, the woman who grew our saviour.

I find comfort from the biblical women especially when I feel lost and confused, hurt or troubled. On Holy Saturday I sat at the tomb with the women, I found everything challenging. The children were arguing, my endless cold was causing a huge headache and I felt exhausted. As I felt low an image flashed into my mind of what life used to be like when my parents were still together. I would have gone round to their house, my Mum and I would have cooked dinner, my Dad and my husband would be watching some sort of sports and watching the children as they ran around the garden. 

Those days are long gone and I had an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. I felt cut off, confused, angry, upset and I realised I felt these things on a day where the disciples would be facing a similar situation after the death of Jesus.

I started to think about the women sitting opposite the tomb watching as the great stone was rolled over the entrance. Were they thinking about the joy they shared with Jesus as he lay lifeless in that tomb. Were they confused and angry about what had happened, and did they feel like they didn’t know what to do next?

Yesterday I sat with them in front of the tomb, and I waited for a space to come where there wasn’t any sadness. We know that Jesus rose again and the women had that hope in their hearts, I imagined they clung onto every word that he had said to them. I found peace reflecting on their faith and slowly I left the grief I felt for the family life I once knew disappear. 

Seeing the transformation of life provided by our risen Lord is amazing and witnessing the biblical women’s transformations is such a powerful testimony that leaps from the pages. 

I have seen the risen Lord, and he takes me by the hand with my Christian sisters for us to tell the world of his good news. He strengthens our faith when we feel like we are exhausted, he resurrects our lives from the pit, he sits with us where we are, he writes in the sand when people threaten to judge us.

I have seen the Lord, and he is risen today, Alleluia Alleluia.