Month: April 2023

Daughter of the Wind

Wood Anemone photographed by Gill Henwood in the Lake District.

Wood Anemone…. A little story.

According to the poem at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, God completed the creative action on Planet earth after six days of total activity.
Genesis informs us that on the 7th day, God rested.
But rest rarely means inaction, especially for God. There is no way that The Maker of everything can either unmake nor stop the inbuilt process of evolving, developing, deepening, the love which God had poured into all that was made.
You see, in order to ‘make’, God had to use the very essence of being to do this and that same essence, being God, is never absent.
That’s a quick way of saying that God is always God and always making things in his and her own image!
God broods over creation like a father and a mother, holding it in being, trying to save it from harm, and guiding with all encompassing ‘love’. That’s the work chosen by God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But none of that needed to be explained on that first Sunday morning. Later, God would invent and make some very clever people called ‘theologians’ who could mull over everything that God has made and decide whether it is good or not so good. They will helpfully disagree on this which makes it very simple for us to ignore them, or become one of them. (tongue in cheek remark!)
On that first Sunday morning, God wasn’t prepared to get too involved in all that. He was resting. I suppose, being, God it wasn’t the forty-winks kind of rest that we know it to be now. It was a creative rather than restorative rest.

As God the Father rested, God the Son pointed up at the lovely stars and noticed that, appropriately, one of the stars had six points, one for each day of creation. In fact, many people would give it the name of The Creator’s Star.
These 6 ‘pinpricks’ touched the darkness and so it wasn’t as dark as it would be without them. In fact, the light had a bright and luminous beauty which simply shone amazingly.

As God the Father, watched this, God the Holy Spirit allowed inspiration to flow.
Earlier, a joint effort had created things like paper, pens and pencils, paint and ink and paint brushes. So God the Spirit set to work.
Gently, the pencil floated over the paper as God thought what to make of the stars with six points drawn on the  paper.
What  had emerged was a flower, robust but also vulnerable. It would live amongst the trees and in the Spring, it would shine with a brilliant  light.
Ah!, thought God. This little flower will become part of something very special.

God knew that one day it would be necessary for some extremely Good News to be announced and the Son of God would make it.
The plan, still to be unfolded, would involve the Son in a supreme act of love though as with all acts of self-giving, it would come at a price.
So, in using the little flower to be part of the message of hope and joy to lighten a dark world, God knew that it would perhaps not live very long because as we all know, when we light a candle, as it burns to give us light, it dies.
But in the case of the little white flower, there would be no permanent death because death merely continues a journey of life but in another place. Well, almost, because what the flower leaves behind is a root system which means it will come alive on earth again.

God loved the little flower and as the Son held it up, the Spirit breathed on it and it danced. It moved as if in the wind, so God said that it would be known as  ‘wind flower’.
The Spirit then pronounced the Name which would be ‘Anemone’  – Daughter of the wind.

Jesus loved the white colour because it would be the Easter colour of Resurrection and the anemone would live in forests and woodlands because that would remind people of the wood of the Cross. It would therefore suggest to the people who saw it that through the love of God poured out from the Crucifixion, the world would be a brighter, lighter, more joyful place. It would be a world able to celebrate hope and beauty and love again. The little white flower would remind people of this

… and the little Wood Anemone? Having done her job she would rest a little until next year.

[Mr G]

with thanks to Gill for the inspiring photograph.

The Dame of Laughter

Dame Edna Everage official photo

The death of Barry Humphries leaves many bereft of a special person in their lives, not least in his alter-ego, Dame Edna Everage. Many words are being said about both, as people mourn. Probably the most eloquent obituary is that of Barry Humphries by Dame Edna herself! To hear this read on Radio 3 on Sunday morning was certainly quite a departure from the sound of bells and birds!

What the death reminds us of is the importance of humour and laughter in our lives. As we hear yet more dreadful news from the Sudan it becomes increasingly hard not to despair about what we humans are doing to our planet, to nature and to ourselves. People might well think that there isn’t much to laugh about but even today as snippets of Dame Edna’s contributions to the funny side of life has lifted spirits.
Recently the Jewish people celebrated Purim, which I learned through the writings of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, is the Jewish Festival of ‘happiness’.  In an article he wrote, I also learned a very important truth which drew its strength from the Holocaust.
The Jewish response to trauma is counter-intuitive and extraordinary. You defeat fear by joy. You conquer terror by collective celebration. You prepare a festive meal, invite guests, give gifts to friends and to the needy. While the story is being told, you make an unruly noise as if not only to blot out the memory but to make a joke out of the whole episode. You wear masks. You drink a little too much. You make a Purim spiel.
At the heart of the merrymaking is a challenge. Where a threat is serious there is a refusal to be serious but that leads to a paradox.
The refusal to be serious is a very serious action. As Jonathan Sacks puts it: You are denying your enemies a victory. You are declaring that you will not be intimidated. You face fear with its antidote – Joy! A striking message from the Holocaust is:
They tried to destroy us, We survived. Let’s eat.

Allowing laughter and humour is a way of defeating hate. What you laugh at, you cannot be held captive by.
Psalm  37 expresses  a similar view where we read that  
“the wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked, he knows their day is coming.” 
And the righteous can join in the joke.  

Similarly, when an audience laughs at a comedian’s jokes, they are participating  in the story and feel at one with each other. The popularity of performances by what are known as Stand-up Comics is a sign of how much humour has become a shared cultural experience.
For a short while, people are drawn towards each other, become open and perhaps vulnerable. It becomes a truly shared experience.In a brittle, divisive world, humour becomes a collective antidote and therefore a point and time of healing. Perhaps also of hope.

Not much of this may be obvious. The bottom line of having a good time and a bit of fun is itself a perfectly joyful activity but it has natural and love filled consequence.
Those who remember the magazine Reader’s Digest may recall that it had a maxim, Laughter is the best form of medicine.

Dame Edna knew this, I suspect, and whilst her humour played on the ridiculous and poked fun at the pompous, there was a sense of kindness and of gentle holding people in love. Her humour was never cruel even when it was close the bone. A safe haven was created which brought people closer together and which is why good humour, comedy and happiness are generated in a non-threatening way.
For a time there is a community creating the unity of the occasion.

This community, being in unity,  is also at the heart of groups who feel stronger in using humour to face together hatred, war, personal threat and tragedy, as in the response of Jews to the Holocaust, or the Ukrainian people to the evil of Putin.
Solidarity in the face of the world’s pain is also at the heart of the Christian message of hope and love. The foundation of the Christian Church is built on friendship which God, in Jesus, sacrificially showed through loving and sharing love which makes discipleship not a task to perform but a love to be shared. That is what Jesus showed and often it was done through wittiness, joy and sharing food, drink and storytelling. Many of the parables are wonderful, witty stories with punch lines that had people smiling, feeling changed and experiencing ‘penny dropping’ moments, like the show audiences.  Jesus, I suspect, was the master of stand-up!

The result of of all this changes people.
Whether it be at the level of what is known as the feel-good factor and which lasts but a short while or whether it be more permanent, life seems better somehow.
Perhaps this becomes more permanent when we recognize that we can become instruments of change.

Desmond Tutu, in his book ‘God has a Dream’, made the point that changed people are people who can be used to make things better. He wrote:
“All over this magnificent world God calls us to extend His kingdom of shalom – peace and wholeness – of justice, of goodness, of compassion, of caring, of sharing, of laughter, of joy, and of reconciliation. God is transfiguring the world right this very moment through us because God believes in us and because God loves us.”

Did Dame Edna or Barry Humphries seek to do that? I like to think so, or  if not directly, make it possible to make life not just bearable but enriched, cleansed, re-directed.Can laughter do that?

I think it can and I like to think that, as we say goodbye, we might focus on that wonderful sketch where Dame Edna enters the Royal Box where King (then Prince) Charles and dear Camilla are sitting. As ever she makes (creates?) a fuss but before she has time to settle, an usher arrives and pointedly shows her a ticket which suggests she’s in the wrong place. As she gets up, she turns to Camilla and says, “They’ve found me a better seat!”.

I’d like to think that is exactly what God has done now for Dame Edna and, of course for Barry.  I know that there will be laughter.

Here’s a reflective poem by the lovely John O’Donohue,
which says things I have been thinking about, in a very special way.

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.

John O’Donohue
for Equilibrium. A Blessing.

[Mr. G]

Meeting points on earth

Photo of the Japanese Garden at Kew Gardens, by Gill Henwood.

The photos on this page are are a reminder of the myriad places where our planet bursts forth with joy and in signs of the amazing creation which unites peoples as they share the natural culture of each land.. Beauty is something we share and think about on Earth Day, April 22nd 2023.
All that brings us together can become a deeper determination to work together for the Earth as we invest in our Planet.


we thank you for this earth, our home; for the wide sky and the blessed sun, for the ocean and streams, for the towering hills and the whispering wind, for the trees and green grass.

We thank you for our senses by which we hear the songs of birds, and see the splendour of fields of golden wheat, and taste autumn’s fruit, and rejoice in the feel of snow, and smell the breath of spring flowers.
Grant us hearts opened wide to all this beauty; and save us from being so blind that we pass unseeing when even the common thorn bush is aflame with your glory.


photos of the Japanese Garden and Pagoda at Kew Gardens, London

Earth day preparation

Self-seeded Primrose photographed in the Lake District by my friend Gill Henwood.

These Primrose set the scene for me for Earth Day which the world celebrates on Saturday. We know that the world is in a bit of a mess but there is so much joy to celebrate in God’s Creation. We can change the world if we acknowledge God as our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. If we show gratitude along with determination there is much we can achieve. Often it is in little things but with big appreciation that we can turn things towards the good.

God of creation, who loves all he has made and all that has evolved, open the eyes of your people,
that your love might be reflected in our care for the planet.
Through Jesus Christ, who walked this earth and calls us by name.

Creator God,
We acknowledge that as your handiwork,
we stand alongside all that you have made.
Trees and rivers, mountains and valleys,
soaring birds and scuttling creatures,
all are held within your care.
May we grow in our love and appreciation
for the fabulous variety around us;
and may our awe and wonder draw us closer
to the natural world, and through it to you,
the God of all things.
We pray in Jesus name,

Revd Cate Williams
Environment Officer, Diocese of Gloucester

For the Beauty of the Earth is a Christian hymn byFolliott S Pierpoint (1835-1917).Pierpoint was 29 at the time he wrote this hymn; he was mesmerised by the beauty of the countryside that surrounded him. It first appeared in 1864 in a book of poems entitled “The Sacrifice of Praise.”

For the beauty of the earth
For the Glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:

‘Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of grateful praise

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale and tree and flow’r
Sun and Moon and stars of light

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child.
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild.

For each perfect gift of Thine
To our race so freely given.
Graces human and divine
Flow’rs of earth and buds of heaven.

[Mr G]