Monday, 10 August 2015

Time to start writing again

Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of posts over the last couple of years, life's had a few changes, including moving to just outside London, planning a wedding (we've since had our first anniversary), buying a house (note the 'outside' London- prices in the City are insane!) And now 2 years into a new job, for which I spend a lot of time commuting...

Quite simply writing has been on hold...

But, it is time to pick up my pen/ keyboard again so I hope you'll check back in soon to see what thoughts are brewing... I'm up for any feedback or suggestions for themes or topics, and hopefully I'll be able to part a few more poems that haven't made it up here as yet.

See you soon!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Spiritual Gardening

When I moved last summer, the garden was a wilderness...

It was full of weeds, thistles, long matted grass and tall flowers. It took a couple of weeks to discover a little pond, two apple trees (with eating apples- yum) and that we did in fact have a compost bin. I started picking the dandelion heads to stop them clocking and spreading (I didn't have a spade yet), the neighbours kids would come across and collect handfuls of weeds for the rabbits and to poke around at the frogs in the pond.

In late August, it felt like a prophetic and a spiritual act of warfare to pull out vast amounts of sticky weed and discover plants, even small trees concealed beneath them. It coincided with my summer of freedom (I wrote a poem about it, read it in Pondering Poetry) so the act of setting plants free from the oppression and stronghold of the sticky weed had huge personal and spiritual resonances in working out and maintaining that spiritual freedom in me.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perserverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (The Bible, NIV)
Lately, I've been busy in the garden again, after a winter of not doing much. I brought back a spade and a slightly bent gardening fork from my parents before Christmas, so we could work on the weeds and turn the dream of a vegetable patch into a reality (gardening without tools isn't very effective); We seem to have succeeded in getting rid of the thistles already (fork deep around the roots and pour boiling water into the plant- seemed to work fairly well!), but the lawn was full of dandelions and goosegrass (sticky weed) trying to take hold and some other weedy things that were a big job to sort out.

Underground; particularly in the area set aside for a vegetable patch; as well as lots of weed roots, the ground was full of big bits of rubble, broken up concrete, bricks, glass and pottery and a few random items like plastic cups, an old toothbrush and a tiny dinosaur figurine. I decided it wise to make sure I was up to date on my tetanus jabs despite not being a big fan of needles (but who is?! Thankfully the dead arm from the booster has recovered and the pain is rarely as bad as the anxiety beforehand), I continued scrabbling about in the ground to pull out the unwanted roots and clear the rubble that has also meant my spade in near breaking point! Oops!

In the garden, I was going about actions that were symbolic and even prophetic for what I was working out internally and spiritually. Sometimes, I think we are so disconnected from soul stuff or that it seems so 'other', that physical actions can often engage and activate what can often feel unreachable. I thinks it's Biblical too; gardening provides so many faith analogies and Jesus told stories and parables about the Sower, wheat and weeds, bringing in the Harvest, and in John 15, Jesus said, he was the vine and his Father is the Gardener. Aside from that in the Old Testament there are a number of occasions when God would tell Prophets to do symbolic actions, one of these was Jeremiah; after years of prophesying despair, destruction and exile (Jeremiah was not known for his cheerfulness), he bought a field to symbolise and prophesy that after the exile they would return again.

I feel the garden of Eden needs a mention too. We were suppose to get involved with God and the gardening from the beginning, but when it all went wrong it became hard work and difficult. But that tends to happen when we think we can do it all on our own, as Paul pointed out, we still need to work together with God in our gardens and in our lives;

"So neither he who plants nor him who waters is anything, but only God makes things grow."                   1 Corinthians 3:7 
 It should probably be mentioned that Paul is considering himself and Apollos as the 'spiritual sower and waterer' in the early Corinth church and people are unnecessarily dividing themselves and arguing over whose leadership they come under, of course the answer is not Apollos or Paul; they are co-workers in one purpose and we, as described in the following verses, are God's field.

Clearing the weeds from the middle of the garden were quite successful, but preparing the veg patch was an endless task. Finally having cleared to the necessary depth and breadth I have begun to plant; I've put in a row of potatoes, some spinach seeds, chard, broad beans, a few onions and garlic cloves (these had started sprouting in the cupboard so I put them back in the ground!); I 've also planted some tomato seeds, strawberry plants and a raspberry stick and now I may plant another row of potatoes and some more veg but I have done my part. Hopefully the bugs won't eat it all and I'll remember to water it with a bit of help from the clouds, but there is something amazing and also liberating about trusting your garden and yourself to God,

Do you ever get out in the garden?

Are you a garden warrior- where it feels like a spiritual battle?

Are you a happy go lucky gardener where you bung things in the ground and hope for the best?

Are you a considered gardener, preparing the ground, measuring the trenches, sowing and planting in the right seasons and the right conditions

Maybe you're a potter? Little pots on window sills, or big pots on patios!

Or maybe you forever seem to be digging and never planting or planting but never harvesting, or perhaps even doing anything or everything except the garden!

In some way or another, I have considered myself each of these (although for me the 'considered gardener' is only in theory and intention), and my battle with weeds and bugs and rocks is not over, but I hope you feel inspired to get outside or get potting things for your patio or window sill, whether you have produce to eat as a result or not; Gardening is definitely good for the soul!

I hope you get a harvest in your garden or perhaps in the metaphorical gardens you are putting down roots, but God is as much in the process as he is in the outputs and outcomes, so, whether anything actually grows or not, I'm going to join in with Habbakkuk* and rejoice in God, my Creator, my Saviour and the greatest Gardener ever.

Happy Gardening.... in the Garden and the Soul!

*Habbakkuk (one of the OT prophets) wrestled with a lot of life's big questions about justice and suffering and God answers him... by the end, this is where he's at...

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights."

Habbakkuk 3:17-19

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Shrove Tuesday

Today is Shrove Tuesday, better known as Pancake Day! I assumed this was the case particularly in most Western countries, but I found myself explaining the concept to some American friends who moved over to England at the end of the summer so perhaps not?! Anyway, as my site is called 'Pondering Pancakes' I thought a ponder on the subject was apt.

Hopefully, you've had time to have some for breakfast, my fingers still smell of lemon from squeezing it on ours. We (my housemates and I) were joined by a friend who also brought the milk and the eggs (we were running low after the creation of a (very yummy) bread and butter pudding.) It was good to share the fun of strange and traditional combinations and flipping pancakes with a fairly high level of success. There's still a poll about your favourite pancake toppings, and a simple and adjustable pancake recipe for you to use if you like. For a smooth batter add the milk a little at a time while making a paste with the egg(s) in a well in the flour.

Shrove Tuesday marks the eve of Lent, with Ash Wednesday tomorrow, technically the forty days do not include Sundays as they represent a day of celebration marking Jesus' resurrection and victory. There are a few different traditions and variations including the Ambrosian tradition where it starts on the Sunday (6 weeks before Easter), and involves forty consecutive days. Forty is a fairly symbolic number in the story of Israel and Jesus. The most common association with Lent is when Jesus went into the desert at the start of his ministry where he fasted for forty days and was tempted by satan.

The other key story is when Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness having been rescued out of slavery in Egypt before entering the promised land! I think this is where my ponderings and preparations are wandering this Lent; reflecting on and realising the freedom we have already gained and the freedom we are heading for, and what it is to walk free and be free. You can get Israel out of slavery, but you've still got get the slavery out of Israel! or as someone put it the other day, "sometimes we need freeing from what we are already free from!"

Traditionally, Lent is a time of fasting or giving up luxuries in preparation for Easter when Jesus died on the cross and three days later was raised to life again. Pancakes are suppose to be the time to use up all the luxury items, like sugar and eggs! And so in anticipation, many people will buy more eggs, sugar, syrup and the shops are already stocking easter eggs, which others will buy in a warm up to Easter in addition to those to be given at Easter. Many others will have a second (or third) attempt at their new years resolutions, give up chocolate, cakes, alcohol, tea, meat, smoking, second helpings, or take up going to the gym, running, eating breakfast or start a new hobby. There is also a move towards 'what can I do' rather than 'what can I give up', like helping a neighbour with the shopping, saving energy or getting more involved with the local community. 

Lent is a good opportunity to be a bit more disciplined or focussed in your devotional life, reading the Bible and other inspiring books, getting stuck into prayer, getting outdoors to appreciate God as Creator, playing worship music. There are loads of things on the market and the web to encourage you and help you keep on track this lent, there are even apps for your phone! But, whatever you do; whether you include the Sundays or not; whether you cut back or pick up, it is not about manipulating God, Lent is a time to prepare our hearts. We are now under a new covenant which is about grace, which means that while we can be deliberate, we no longer need to be legalistic, therefore, when you set yourself targets like 'must try harder', stop, and ask God to help you. In our weakness, Jesus is our strength, and as a few wise people have pointed out recently, the word 'radical' means to get to the heart or the root of something, it does not mean being an extremist swinging from one extreme to the other. 

If you are struggling or wondering with discipline without falling into the trap of legalism and 'ought to's, I really recommend Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline". It is truelly inspiring and a looks at the spiritual disciplines in a way that gets to the heart of it, and is full of life and joy. In fact, whoever you are- I highly recommend it and DON'T gloss over the first chapter "The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation", read it, before you look at the specific disciplines it works through.

As for me, I think my Lent will be a bit like my Shrove Tuesdays- using up the chocolate and treats I have without buying loads more and flipping more pancakes, running (mainly because it gives me life and I still have the crazy idea that running a marathon could be possible) and catching up and trying to keep on top of my 'Bible in a year' plan which I've managed to get to day 45 (think I should be on day 50something) but all this is by the grace of God- I've learnt that when I get behind to ask for help and go back to it, rather than beat myself up about it, or put myself down as a failure.

They may resemble belated new years' resolutions, but really at the heart of it all it is feasting on the life and abundance of God, rather than feasting in our consumerist society, it is about realising the freedom we've been given and walking the way of the cross with Jesus-knowing he has already paid the ultimate price, once and for all.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Yellow Snow?!

The sky and the weather forecasts have been threatening snow in the North-East all week.

On Monday there was a short flurry of snow during our youth club, which didn't last long, and it's been very cold ever since, but no snow. Yesterday, the weather forecasters announced a "YELLOW SNOW WARNING", which they later changed to a "Yellow weather warning for snow" with a bit of hindsight!! Brilliant!

I started running again this week. I woke up one morning, with the crazy idea that maybe I could run the Edinburgh Marathon this year! Despite the very cold mornings and minus temperatures ('C), I've managed to get myself up and out on some short mile and a bit runs. (Only 25 more miles to build up... is it possible before the end of May?!) and this morning as I was finishing my short "long run" (2 miles!) this morning, a few stray snowflakes began to fall. The snow then set in and although it's not very deep yet, it's still falling!

I feel compelled to point out that the snow is very white and not a hint of yellow in it! But if you do find any yellow snow; Don't Eat It!

Also, if you're thinking of doing anything crazy like a marathon, give yourself time to train and build up your fitness. Although, I haven't been running in a while, I've done a couple of half-marathons in the past, I run about the football pitch most weeks and I'm healthier than I've ever been... I just need my fitness to catch up now. 

I've no idea if I'll be ready in time, or if I can keep it up, but goals and ideas can help motivate, so it's a bit of a dream but I gotta start somewhere. Watch this space...

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Where are you from?

Every so often, I have a look at the stats on my pages. Amazingly between my two blogs pondering pancakes and pondering poetry people from all around the world have visited my sites. This includes the UK (of course!) Russia, China, Germany, France, Australia, the United States, even Latvia!!

I would love to hear from you, get feedback on any of my posts or generally about the site. I'm also a bit curious about who is looking/ reading.

If you'd like to tell me a bit about who you are or where you are from that would be good. :-) The stats give very general info- it doesn't even differentiate between England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales (just lumps it together as the UK), so whether you are on the same island (England) as me or whether you are on a different continent even I would love to hear from you. Even if you are just 'passing' through as the surf the web!

As a final thought, Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day) falls on 21st February this leap year! Xx

Please don't give any specifically personal details! No surnames, addresses, phone numbers etc. I do not take any responsibility for others who may not be as trustworthy.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Confessions of a Youth Worker

My name is Kat and I am a Youth Worker!

It is far more than just a job; it is a part of life!
It can induce tears, joy, frustration, celebration...

You need to be a jack of all trades.
On some days it seems shallow, or just run of the mill,
On others you are on the front line, responding to life's biggies.

It can make you realise why you do youth work on some days
and question if you're really cut out for it on other days.

It affects eating and sleeping habits;

10pm becomes teatime. You get home late after a session buzzing and generally hungry to talk, think and eat! Before you can sleep you need to wind down, talk to anyone who will listen... and digest!!!

But then again, breakfast was probably around 11am*, because if you get to bed before midnight then you’ve done well, so lunch migrates to 3pm, because you realise you haven't eaten yet! and you know that it needs to keep you going until 9 or 10pm... and so the cycle continues.

*n.b. The last FOUR days, I've somehow managed to get up BEFORE the rest of my house!...and they are busy interns* (*people doing an Internship year at my church)! I know some people leave the house before 7.30am, but for me, this is the equivalent of the crack of dawn!

You're not scared of walking around in the dark (without a bulletproof vest) ...but you'd prefer it if it wasn't raining!

You talk to random people in the supermarket and the street, say hi or smile to groups of young people as you walk home with the shopping, instead of look down at your feet or try and avoid them altogether (and every so often hear them go, "Who is she?!"... as you remember that you're not at work so "I'm a youth worker- we've been working round here for a little while" is not the right response... on this occasion."

Your head is full of icebreakers, games, ideas, tenuous links, stories, naff jokes and random information that you are ready to pull out as the need or opportunity arises and your boot is full of random games, craft materials, rolls of paper, boots, waterproofs, plastic cups and a bottle of squash!

It can throw you out of your comfort zone a lot and simultaneously feel like the most natural thing in the world!

This is Youth Work; the land of
'Informal Education' and the privilege of getting alongside and being part of young people's lives, of opportunities to inspire, challenge, encourage, learn (both ways!) and delight in the gems when they arise, of making plans and programmes then throwing them up in the air to see where the wind takes them, wondering where it will go! This is youth work!

You (the readers) might have realised by now that I say 'you' and 'your' when I really mean 'me'. It's an old habit, but I guess, some of you may share some the experiences above in some way, shape or form. So it's my way of opening up life and work to you in a way that hopefully, you can connect with!

This is the first of many youth work posts. I'd love to hear your thoughts, stories or experiences and it's great when people join this site (see right), you can even follow by email...

Coming soon...

Faith fuelled youth work
: looking at faith and youth work when you are not working in faith-based settings!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Pondering Poetry

I've just launched a new blog especially for poetry. It's been exciting realising that out of nowhere I'm able to write poetry and I'd like to share it with you.

I've carried on with the pondering theme and there is a link between both sites at the top of the side bar, but for ease and so you can read today's poem, "Do you want to be a Zebra?" check out the blog

Pondering Poetry