Month: January 2021

Cyclamen in the Snow

Cyclamen in fresh Snow photographed by my friend Gill Henwood in the Lake District.

Gill sent me this photograph a little while ago. It moved me very much at the darkest time of the year just as we were entering the 3rd Lockdown. At the time I couldn’t decide how to respond to it. There were allusions to lockdown, hope, struggle at a very difficult time for us. Gill used the word endurance.

As I continued to mull over it, I discussed it with my friend Piers and he came up with this reflection:

Initially I looked at this image and thought of the ice and snow as something that was holding the flowers back; through which they had to struggle – and this made me think of feelings thrown up by this current lockdown. But actually, as I thought more and read Geoffrey’s poem, it dawned on me that the ice and snow protect and insulate the seed as it germinates and emerges to flower. The struggle is filled with new hope and possibilities.
We tend to see being in lockdown as a negative, threatening thing but of course it’s a collective act in which we’re protecting each other and ourselves – and looked at that way it feels far more positive. And just as the dormant plant flowers to new life, we can also use it as a time to discover what is truly important: what values and priorities will help to sustain our lives, our society and our planet.
What if the snow and ice of lockdown are allowing us to emerge into really new life?


Here’s a poem I have written on this photograph.

Lockdown wake-up

Earth’s untidy clutter
of hurried hibernation
covered over with scattered flakes
of heaven’s protection.
Opaque cloak of winter
wraps warmly around dormant seed.

Early buds break open crusty ground
scattering melted crystal.
Coloured life announces
Nature’s lockdown ended,
beckoning us to New Beginnings
at last!


[Mr G]
Photo | Gill Henwood.
Reflection| Piers Northam

Little Bird

This photo of one of Britain’s smallest birds, The Wren inspired me to share the Prayer of the Little Bird.

This weekend January 29th -31st is the annual ‘Big Garden Birdwatch.
The RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), our leading conservation charity, across the UK says that nearly 9 million hours have been spent watching garden birds since the Birdwatch began in 1979 with more than 137 million birds counted. This has helped to provide the charity with valuable insight for its work.

What is the Big Garden Birdwatch?

2021 marks the 42nd RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which sees keen birdwatchers across the UK join the largest garden wildlife citizen science project by spending one hour tracking the birds they see in their gardens, record them and then inform the RSPB. In the past 42 years, across the UK, hundreds of thousands of people have volunteered their time to count and log birds landing in their gardens, local country areas, ponds and wild-life areas. Unlike humans birds are not keeping lock-down and reminds us that not everything is restricted in movement. This year Big Garden Watch seems even more popular. For details and further information, log on to the RSPB and BBC Countryfile websites.

Meanwhile, I share the delightful prayer by Carmen Bernos De Gasztold translated by Rumer Godden – The Prayer of the Little Bird. It is from the collection Prayers from the Ark. This book is still available, mostly as a second hand copy.

The little Wren is singing its prayers of praise joyfully and will do so as the world enters Spring. We need to hear the birds as they help us to look in praise to God and lighten our hearts, our lives and our journey forward.

Fear and Belief

My friend Diana sent me this quotation from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, The Preaching Life.
Barbara is an American Episcopalian priest and one of today’s most outstanding preachers.
Her latest book is Always a Guest published in 2020. It is a collection of stories and sermons of faith, grace, humour and hope.

In this short extract she speaks to the human condition of our times and contrasts fear with belief and points us to Jesus to encourage us to let go of fear and embrace life, learning to love it, whatever difficulties we face, because He is with us.

Fear is a small cell with no air in it and no light. It is suffocating inside and dark. Belief is something else altogether. It is like a rope bridge over a scenic gorge, sturdy but swinging back and forth, with plenty of light and plenty of air but precious little to hang onto except the stories you have heard: that it is the best and only way across, that it is possible, that it will bear your weight. All you have to do is believe in the bridge more than you believe in the gorge, but fortunately you do not need to believe in it all by yourself. There are others who believe it with you. They have crossed the bridge in front of you and are waiting on the other side.

It takes a lot of courage to be a human being, but if Jesus was who he said he was, the bridge will hold. Believing in him will not put us in charge or get us what we want or even save us from all harm, but believing in him, we may gradually lose our fear of our lives. Whatever the human condition we find ourselves in, we may finally learn to live it, maybe even to love it, if only because we believe he lives and loves it too.

Be Thankful

My friend Joyce has sent me another picture ponder.

The words are a famous quotation from the teaching of Meister Eckhart.

Eckhart von Hochheim was born about 1260 and lived until 1320. He was born in Tambach in Germany and was called by God to be theologian, philosopher and mystic. He became a Dominican monk.

In saying that Thank You should be at the heart of our praying he is telling us that it is a way of receiving all the goodness, love and grace which God gives us and the Salvation He brings to us in the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So our Thank You is a turning to God with gratitude. In the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives,we place ourselves within God’s loving friendship.

This also takes many Christians right to the heart of the Eucharist which is our central act of Thanksgiving (that’s what the word means) which keeps us connected and close to God and, of course, as with the squirrel, fed!

However, and in whatever state we turn towards God; whatever mood, perplexity, uncertainty draws us and, it must also be said, whatever joy and hope and celebration and excitement draws us, if those two words – Thank You – are on our lips and in our soul then it is, as Meister Eckhart says, all we need. It is enough.

The Squirrel is more grateful than it may seem to us! Squirrel’s love to forrage for food but they don’t always seem to show gratitude to us! But I do believe they are very grateful to God. Have you ever watched them chasing around the garden, up and down trees, playing with each other? They are capricious, joyful, and one of life’s great celebrators. That’s why I just know they live close to God and are thankful.

Thank You Joyce for sharing this Picture Ponder with us.

[Mr. G]


Since posting this last night I’ve come across a ‘Thank You’ squirrel so I thought she ought to be included as further proof that squirrels really do know how to say ‘Thank You’