MOST RECENT POSTS

In this column you will find the most recent posts unless you have selected a specific poem, meditation or collection/index in which case that single item will appear here.

Friday, 28 April 2017

CANCER 3: Last Radiotherapy session – and now another wait!


The photo series Incorporated here tries to capture some of the most significant markers of the time since I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in early October. Let’s explain that before I try and describe my journey through chemotherapy, then radiotherapy.

The somewhat strange mask may only be recognizable to others who have experienced radiotherapy targeted at the throat, chest and other locations in the top part of their body. The mask is moulded to the contour of the face – and in my case to the shoulders as well. It is done by immersing a flat former in hot water which is then dried and pressed down over the head, neck and shoulders. If you look carefully round the edge, you can see some of the nine pegs that are pressed down to keep one perfectly positioned and immobile on the treatment ‘bed’, so that the radiographers can be sure that the residual cancerous cells left after the chemotherapy are precisely targeted. An amazing part of an even more amazing equipment array where the treatment takes only a couple of minutes each day (for 15 consecutive weekdays in my case, though some have much longer spells of treatment). It does feel somewhat claustrophobic, but the staff  have been constantly caring, compassionate and ready to explain what is going on throughout. It is disturbing to think about children who might have to undergo such treatment but I was told of one of the radiography team who realised that decorating the children’s masks with their favourite cartoon character could make the experience far less fearsome. Good to hear she received a hospital award for her thoughtful inspiration - and I leave you to imagine smaller masks than that in the photo above, decorated as Spiderman or Anna/Elsa from ‘Frozen’.
The ’Scientist in Congregations Certificate' represents the ‘Sing of God and Science’ project I have been organizing, coincidentally, throughout the period of treatment. It has been a splendid distraction from what is going on with me internally. More about it later.

The small display mounted around the orange painted ball represents our sun and its planets and therefore, one of the topics that motivates me to write creatively about faith and science. Much of the material for this blog, which, in bursts, consumes a considerable amount of my time, seeks to encourage people to see faith and science as twin revelations of the glory of God in his universe. (and splodging acrylic paint on to the football-sized sun was a delightful diatraction for a couple of afternoons!) 
Pam and I often talk about her enthusiasms being for the beauty immediately surrounding us and mine being for the beauty in the far reaches of the universe. We are not quite that polarized, so the small flower display above celebrates the astonishing bounty of blossom and flower that has grown rapidly day-by-day as we have visited the hospital over the last three weeks. A true blessing.
Finally, there is our photo. Pam has been a magnificent carer since the cancer was diagnosed and has worked hard to ensure I don’t over-reach myself. One of my regular prayers  throughout this time has been for those who have to make this journey on their own: it must be harrowing. The photo was shot during our joint breakfast celebration of the end of radiotherapy and our 36th wedding anniversary. We have looked for little ‘treats’ like this through the treatment period and they too have been a real blessing.

But now another period of waiting. This time some 6 to 10 weeks, being the period that will ensure inflammation from the radiotherapy does not get interpreted as a residue of the cancer when I have a further scan which may, if we are fortunate, end the treatment, though we inevitably don’t know if that will be how it will be.

More or less whenever there is a conversation with another cancer patient, the subject of waiting comes up. Most accept that there is an inevitability of having to wait for consultations to happen: blood needs to be tested, weight needs to be assessed before the consultant can commit the patient to the next treatment, normally the next day. But it is often the waiting between treatments and for subsequent assessments that make the experience tiring and even distressing for both patient and (where relevant) carer alike. How will we feel tomorrow/ three days time/ next week/ a month’s time. One cannot know, so something of every affected life goes ‘on hold’. For those who experience some of the worst side effects these can be gruelling times. For everyone, they add to the air of uncertainty of whether cure will be the outcome or its dreadful alternative. Facing the latter needs all the help, compassion and bravery that can be mustered: knowing that others are praying can be hugely helpful as it has been for us. But never easy, and MacMillan, chaplaincies, hospices and other services do magnificent work in this area and themselves deserve support and prayer.

My path, so far, has been an easy one compared to many of the stories we have heard and I daily give enormous thanks for that. For this reason, I have minimized the writing I have done about the cancer, so as not to discourage those who are suffering far, far more . So, by w ay of just a minor example, losing hair for a man is really no big deal these days; for women it must be so much more difficult. But there are many patients for whom we can only pray and offer a listening ear, whilst knowing that the mystery of healing is beyond us to understand and may be a gift to many, but not to all. It is particularly difficult to have any idea what to say to children and their parents caught in this cycle: undoubtedly, something deeper than ordinary wisdom is needed.

For me, one of the things that has unquestionably helped has been to recognize the gifts and blessings that have surrounded our path, many of which are hinted at in the photo-montage. Broadly these have been;

Knowing just how hugely we have been held in prayer by friends, family and many of the Christians we have encountered in a variety of ways, some apparently quite superficially. We have realized over and over again what an extraordinary fellowship, this world-wide fellowship of Christ, truly is.

Being deeply thankful for each other as we travel.

Being immensely thankful for our surroundings, a comfortable home, a nurturing community and the massive gift of being very close to Addenbrookes, so travel to and from the hospital is minimally difficult compared to that of many.

Noting the changes of nature around us as we have moved from winter to spring. That itself has brought hope, and the changes in the last few weeks are nothing short of magnificent. We have, perhaps unsurprisingly, been more acutely aware of them than ever before.

The involvement with the ‘Sing of God and Science’ project has been enormously helpful. The cancer charities all recommend finding or taking up an interest that can be a diversion from the illness and its symptoms. ‘Sing’ has been extraordinary in doing just that. We have now gathered more than 35 songs for singing in school assemblies or all-age worship, a publisher in the offing (we hope) and enormous enthusiasm from a very wide range of people who have become involved with the project in many, many different ways. Nine schools have contributed original songs and we are now looking forward to the performance of those songs in our Cathedral in nearby Ely at the Science Festival in late May. Pam, illustrating her ongoing deep concern for me remains anxious that I will be fit enough to enjoy the day: this is one of the manifestations of the inevitable anxiety a spouse/ carer can feel. Overall, the project has been a huge blessing (though Pam would also say a tad obsessional at times!) for which I give repeated thanks.

Finally, I want to close this lengthy piece with a tribute and our profound gratitude to all the staff at Addenbrookes in Haematology, Oncology, Radiotherapy, and the Pharmacy - both medical and administrative staff. You have been unfailingly magnificent; courteous, caring, concerned, amenable, helpful when our needs were different to yours and watchful of those needs. Thank you all so much. We have seen small glimpses of the pressures you are under and we know of some of them through the media. Without exception you have managed to avoid passing any stress on to us and we are very, very grateful.

CANCER 1: Can be found HERE
CANCER 2: Can be found HERE



Sunday, 16 April 2017

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!


Calvary Redeemed

Re-posted from Easter 2014 with thanks that we here can celebrate freely year after year - and with thoughts and prayers for the many who will greet Easter with fear in their hearts.

This song celebrates the bread and wine of the Risen Lord and can be sung to the lovely traditional  Scottish Tune which has been set to ‘The Mingulay Boating Song’ **

Come among us, Risen Jesus,
pour your Holy Spirit on us 
as we gather round your table
taking bread and drinking wine

Bread of life, which ever strengthens
wine his blood, our sweet refreshment:
by our Saviour, freely given,
sacrifice, for you and me.



Double click on the image below to get a printable score



To find other poems, meditations and hymns for LENT, HOLY WEEK and EASTER, Click Here

At the time of posting this was Dedicated to friends-in-Jesus in The Ukraine: that still feels appropriate in September 2014, September 2015 and 2017.


On the morning of original publication we greeted The Day of Resurrection a little after sunrise in the grounds of the ruins of Denny Abbey, which has been a Benedictine Abbey (C12th), A Preceptory of the Knights Templars (C13th) and a House of Poor Clares (14th). The early morning service included members of two Baptist churches, a Salvation Army Corps and our two local Anglican (C of E) churches. So between the history and the inter-church morning fellowship we are reminded of the breadth of Christ’s church.

But the international dimension was not represented. So I would like to re-dedicate the following song to those friends in Ukraine who I have noticed have recently been visiting The Cross and The Cosmos’ more regularly than usual.

Ukranian Friends, here in the UK, we understand only what the media shows us of the complexities of your country’s present situation, but we pray for all of those of you who long for a lasting peace in your land.

**You can listen to The Corries singing The Mingulay Boating Song at This link to sense how the tune fits the communion song above. In due course. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Changed!

Holy Week. I am posting a meditation by Sue Chew who I met on an Author’s Week in the Iona Community. It imagines the reaction of a money changer to Jesus cleansing the Temple. I asked Sue for permission to post it as it stands in sharp contrast to my own ‘A Temple Trader’s Rant’ and ‘A Temple Trader’s Glee’, giving a glimpse of the possible range of attitudes that Jesus’ actions that day might have provoked: a mirror of attitudes today, perhaps. Thank you Sue.


I was only doing my job,
As my grandfather and father had done before me.
They taught me all I know.
Money-changers  and sellers of livestock for sacrifice,
that was our trade.
That was what the worshippers needed and indeed expected of us.
Well, we may not have given them a fair exchange for their money,
but  everyone did it, not just our family.
Getting a bit extra where  we could, they would never know.

Then it happened.

I was just sitting there when he came into the courtyard .
He headed straight for  my table.
The next thing I knew
my table was overturned.
Coins rolling across the floor into every nook and cranny
Cages were flung open, doves and pigeons flying free,
It was chaos
And he said
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer
but you have made it a den of thieves‘

He looked straight at me.

I was only doing my job, or was I ?
For the first time in my life I felt maybe I wasn't doing what was expected of me.
But he was.
He was doing his Father's will
In his Father's house.
That encounter changed my life in more ways than one ,
Not only my life, but the lives of many.
In fact he changed the world .
           

© Sue Chew.  March  2017

Sue is a self supporting minister in the parishes  of St Andrew Haughton le Skerne Darlington and St Andrew Sadberge in the diocese of Durham. Sue says 
'I  enjoy writing creatively  to bring a different dimension especially to the more familiar Bible passages and have an interest in drawing on the multi-sensory together with symbolic actions where appropriate to engage in worship.'

'A Temple Trader’s Rant' can be found HERE and ‘A Temple Trader’s Glee’ can be found HERE    

Monday, 27 March 2017

Rosemary For Remembrance: Reflections for Holy Week and Easter

This is a thrilling day for me! Whilst, like many ‘armchair poets’,  I have had the occasional poem appear in collections edited by others or in local newspapers, today has seen the publication of a small personal collection as a download from Wild Goose Publishing, the publications arm of The Iona Community.

I am sure every author finds publication of their own work an exciting experience, but this is especially so as it is a new link in the long thread of our experience with that very special island, Iona, which has been part of our story over the last twenty-five years or so. It all started when I took a retreat at All Hallows, Ditchingham in a year that we had booked a holiday on Mull. I mentioned this to the Mother Superior, who made it her practice to meet all retreatants, and she suggested we went to Iona where her community were going to be ‘baby-sitting’ a small ecumenical retreat house on the island, whilst a new warden was found by the American organisation that ran Duncraig. Pam still tells the story of my sudden stopping to ‘chat up’(!) a nun in the garden of Duncraig which led to us being shown over the accommodation. This was the start of a time when we took groups of friends to the island on several occasions: they were always precious events and we found that rounding off each day at the Iona Community’s Abbey services added immeasurably to their specialness.

It was on the island that Pam felt affirmed in her call into ministry and I found much delight in building up a small suite of Iona poems from visit to visit (see end).

Sadly, Duncraig is no longer a retreat house. A fund-raising campaign I helped with to try and save it foundered when a major prospective donor, whose gift would have enabled the house to continue its ministry, lost money in the banking collapse. As it happens, the money from the subsequent sale of Duncraig went into Bishops House where we are planning to lead a group visit in September - an unexpected thread of continuity.

We have had many more personal Iona experiences, including a retreat led by Kenneth Steven, the well known Scottish poet and then last year joining Author’s Week at the Abbey run by the community which led to the publication of this download. Hence my delight on this special occasion. It feels poignant too, in that we very nearly didn’t get to the Author’s week as a hideous cough, the first evidence of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, made travelling to the island feel an almost impossible challenge. But we got there and then later travelled on by bus to Inverness to spend time with one of the friends who earlier travelled with us to Iona. And today, now sandwiched between chemotherapy and radiotherapy, is part of the outcome of that trip, for which I am immensely grateful.

If you would like to see details of the download - and even, perhaps, purchase it (for only £2-20 +VAT), you can find it HERE. I personally would much appreciate your interest and you will also be supporting The Iona Community’s magnificent work which you can find summarised HERE. They, too, will be delighted to receive your support through a purchase. For some people, the download may be of particular interest as it has a description of a very simply organised Easter Day children’s/ congregational activity which involves the giving of Rosemary to the congregation as a representation of the spices the women carried to Jesus’tomb.(Hence the title of the download)

My Iona collection of poems can be found by clicking HERE

Friday, 17 March 2017

Looking Forward to Easter: ‘Paschale'


Having been shown this Zurbaran picture some time ago, in a slide set by one of our former Vicars, you will probably not be surprised it ‘stayed with me’. The picture is entitled ‘Lamb of God’ and eventually gave rise to this poem.


Paschale.
Whoever heard of a sacrificial lamb fighting back?
Normally they just bled and died.

But this one, this Paschal Lamb
transformed the Temple's butchery block
into a field of glorious conquest,
conquering the sin, the hate,
and the devilification
that had been laid upon him.

For, on a cheerless Sabbath night,
flayed, pierced, pinioned;
unquestionably dead
from a shameful spit hanging,
laid upon a slab of stone:
he triumphantly, gloriously
broke free of every natural constraint,
whilst earth trembled with awe
as it was touched by heaven.

Death and sin, he demonstrated
to a sick and troubled world
could not hold him.

Death and sin he demonstrated
to a sick and troubled world
could not hold us!

From his eternal throne,
‘Arise, my friends’, he cries, ‘Arise!’

‘You who have been faithful,
like the women who watched,
waited and discovered my empty tomb, arise’

‘I have fought death, I have fought sin
I have conquered.’

‘And my beloved flock, the triumph is for you.
Arise!’

You will find other Lent, Holy Week and Easter poems, songs and meditations HERE

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Greetings From a Nephew

Words! Dictionaries around our home - see footnote.
It goes without saying that I love words: I would hardly run a blog of this kind unless I did! Part of the joy of writing is to find the wording that exactly describes the idea you want to convey – and that is not always easy, particularly if the words needed feel outside the realm of day-to-day vocabulary. Thankfully, it is often possible to use verse to weave together words that would feel uncomfortable in a prose piece and to enjoy it when others have done the same, to moving effect.

So I, my brother and sister-in-law and several others were delighted to be sent the following short verse by my nephew, who made a fleeting visit from Vancouver to the UK at the end of last year to celebrate his mum’s ‘big 0’ birthday - and managed to spend time with a number of friends and family before jetting off again.

I’m delighted that Simon is happy to have his verse reproduced here. Thank you Simon.

We walk so briefly
Upon this earth,
Mere moments in the enormity of time.

To have the accompaniment of you on this jaunt
However momentary,
Makes the stars a little brighter,
The wondrous that much more wonderful.


©Simon Thorn 2017

The dictionaries pictured above are a 1773 Johnson’s Dictionary (2 volumes bound together): a 1932 edition of The New English Dictionary (Odhams): an Oxford Illustrated Dictionary of 1975 (Book Club Association edition) and a 9th edition Concise Oxford Dictionary of 1995.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Creation Sunday: A Celebration of the Universe, the Solar System and Genesis 1

We had an enjoyable All-Age service last Sunday with a simple illustration of the vastness of the Solar system - and some further brief thought about the scale of the Universe. Then, we explored the opportunity we have as Christians to celebrate both of those and the wisdom of Genesis 1 together.

A very simplified model of the Sun (a cheap lightweight football, part painted over with acrylic paint) was placed on the pulpit. Then very basic models of the larger planets were handed to each of the children brave enough to volunteer ‘to show the rest of the congregation something of special interest’.

The planets were made up, to illustrate their size compared to that of the football sun, and made from
·      Painted marble-size cotton balls for Earth and Venus
·      Painted ping-pong ball size cotton balls for Jupiter and Saturn (with a cardboard ring system glued on to the latter)
·      and garden seeds Sellotaped on to small pieces of card labelled (1)Mercury, (2)Mars and (3)Pluto (The seed representing the planets’ sizes although should be even smaller i.e. a grain of sand) .

The children with Earth, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn each walked round the church to show the congregation their comparative sizes, whilst Mercury, Mars and Pluto were given to another child to hand to three members of the congregation to pass around among themselves.

The children returned from their walks and it was then explained where they would have to go to represent the circuit of their planet on the scale of ‘our’ football/sun.

Mercury – 42ft – to the back of our pews (to my delight when I asked ‘Who’s holding Mercury?’ (one of the seeds on a card) it had conveniently reached the back row and was being held by a new visitor to the church))
Venus – 76 ft – to the back of the church. Venus was duly carried there.
Then an explanation only that
·      Earth -106 ft – would be 30 feet further in the churchyard
·      Mars - 163 ft – would be ‘by the war memorial’
·      Jupiter – 552 ft – would be 3 football pitches away
·      Saturn -1012 ft – down by the river (at which point, the personable young girl holding Saturn protested ‘I’m not going there!’ to the amusement and delight of the congregation)
·      Pluto – 4200ft – up to the bridge over our main arterial road
It was then explained that this vast system is only one of billions of billions of similar systems throughout the whole Universe. At this point, I referred to the song ‘The Bible Starts with Parable’, and used the words as the basis for the rest of the short talk. The first verse celebrates the wisdom of the Genesis Stories: then the second half of the three verses celebrates the miracle of the creation of the whole Universe as God’s work. (Click Here to view the song)


This needed a bit of preparatory work, which it was emphasized was all very approximate. But from remarks afterwards, it was felt to be thought-provoking, much enjoyed by both children and adults and gave at least some people, a fresh perspective. Just how great is your God?

Friday, 3 February 2017

We Are Living! Celebration post for a Celebration day (Sing of God and Science 6)

πŸ˜„                            πŸ˜„
  πŸ˜„                       πŸ˜„
    πŸ˜„      πŸ˜„       πŸ˜„
      πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„     E   ARE    LIVING!
        πŸ˜„         πŸ˜„  

This is a special post to the collection of Assembly-friendly songs on this blog, entitled ’Sing of God and Science’, written mainly for primary schools and groups working with children of those ages. It celebrates our going to Lambeth Palace TODAY for a reception of the latest round of grant recipients under the ’Scientists in Congregations’ programme - and we are one of them!

The grant is to enable us to work with the church schools in Ely Diocese (of the Church of England) to develop a songbook to be called by the same name as the collection referred to above. It is planned that it will have about 30 songs and a number of these will be written by schools themselves. We hope it will be available nationally later this year.

Some of the songs will be performed by schools at the Science Festival in Ely cathedral in May. They will then be videoed and put up on a dedicated You-Tube channel. I’ll keep you in the picture.

So to celebrate the day, here is a VERY simple song sung to the tune of ‘London’s Burning’ and will hopefully be manageable by very young children.

We are living! 
We are living!
Let’s be thankful,
Let’s be thankful
For food ,
and air,
And clean water,
and clean water.

This introductory part collection of ‘Sing of God and Science’ songs can be found HERE

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

First Light

With the days lengthening, first light in our east-facing bedroom window is at a gentle time - but still sometimes a challenge, as this short poem reflects. 



Glimmering rays
stream through
a crack in my curtains, 
to rest upon my unseeing eye.

I prise open
a single lid
to be startled by glory.

Over a further 
half-hour of struggle,
(and sometimes longer)
I repeat the exercise,
again and again,
gradually delighting more
at the myriad changes
in an exquisite sliver of sky-scape.
Time has come to embrace my day
and place it in the hands of God.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Full Moon Rises, Huge and Bright (Sing of God and Science No 5)

This short, simple song, using a very familiar hymn tune, aims to engage young children with a curiosity as to why something happens - and still, even today, leaves a question mark!

Full Moon Rises Huge and Bright

  

Full  moon rises huge and bright,
In the East, a glorious sight.
    God’s great wonders still endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.

That same night it’s way up high,
Seeming smaller in the sky.
Chorus

Why the difference to our eye?
Ah! It’s still a mystery.
Chorus

Maybe soon, a clever brain
Will explain this vision strange.
Chorus


Other 'Songs of God and Science' suitable for Assemblies and All Age services can be found HERE. More will be added to this selection in Spring 2017.



Wednesday, 21 December 2016

It Really Isn’t Odd (That Scientists Think About God - Sing of God and Science 4)



With term ended, some teachers will already be looking at their plans for next term: this is the fourth ‘Sing of God and Science’ song. I hope it will be usable in Key Stage 1 Assemblies and with children of a similar age elsewhere - and I hope they enjoy singing it

It Really Isn’t Odd (That Scientists Think About God)

Pupil or small number read out a very simple science statement each starting
‘Scientists can help us understand how…
·      Ice turns to water when it gets warmer’
·      Light bends in water
·      How our lungs use the air we breathe

Then class/ choir sings



It really isn’t odd
That scientists think about God,
For they’re looking at the facts
Of just how matter acts.
Yes! They’re bound to think about God.

This happens 3 or 4 times over.


More ‘Sing of God and Science’ songs can be found HERE.

More will be added to this selection in Spring 2017.



Ten thousand billion suns - A scintilla of God’s Universe

Ten thousand billion suns - A scintilla of God’s Universe
It is currently thought that the Universe has at least 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars! Hence the use of the word ‘scintilla’ for a mere ten thousand billion.

Cross and Particle Accelerator (CGI)

Cross and Particle Accelerator (CGI)
Cross and Particle Accelerator. The words of 'A Prayer for Understanding' can be viewed by clicking on this image

Nebula (Embroidery)

Nebula (Embroidery)
Nebula (Embroidery) to accompany the poem 'Invitation' which can be found by clicking on the image.

Orange Galaxy

Orange Galaxy
'Orange Galaxy' posted to accompany 'Bounded and Boundless'. Go to the poem by clicking on the image.

Cosmic Icon 7 Summerflower

Cosmic Icon 7 Summerflower
Cosmic Icon 7 - Summerflower Nebula (Acrylic)

Cosmic Ikon 8 Moth

Cosmic Ikon 8 Moth
Cosmic Ikon 8: Moth Nebula(imagined-acrylic) The Gold field of deep space is intended to convey the Lordship of Christ over the whole of the Cosmos

Surprise garden rose (Photo)

Surprise garden rose (Photo)
This beautiful head of roses in our garden, which are giving off a delightful perfume in the morning sun, seems a fitting picture to link to the sonnet 'Evolution and Beauty'. Let the picture take you there. It is a surprise because it is growing high on a bush of otherwise pure yellow roses: amazing!

Cross and Vortex

Cross and Vortex
'Cross and Vortex' to accompany 'Stars and Planets Sing Your Glory'. Click on the image to go to the poem/hymn.

Gaseous Cosmic Threads (Mixed media)

Gaseous Cosmic Threads (Mixed media)
Gaseous Cosmic Threads: Mixed media - acrylics and painted threads

St Francis’ Sky (Photo)

St Francis’ Sky (Photo)
Warm Umbrian Hills: Click image to take you to the poem St Francis' Sky

Cosmic Labyrinth (CGI)

Cosmic Labyrinth (CGI)
'Cosmic Labyrinth' - This icon is a symbol of the path through the near reaches of the Cosmos with its 'Havens' where current advances in science (2012/13) are celebrated. By clicking on the picture you will be taken to the latest version of the poem of the same name.

Cross of Autumn Leaves (cropped Photo)

Cross of Autumn Leaves (cropped Photo)
Time, perhaps to consider a restorative break before the approach of Advent/ Christmas. Let this image take you to 'On Drawing Apart'.

IONA: The Marble Quarry (Photo)

IONA: The Marble Quarry (Photo)
On the South shore of Iona is a bay which shows the industrial scarring of a beautiful place. Read of it by clicking on the picture

Cross and simple Prayer rope (Photo)

Cross and simple Prayer rope (Photo)
Cross and simple prayer rope: make one like this to use as an aid to using ‘The Jesus Prayer'