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Showing posts from December, 2018

Meeting Royalty

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Have you ever met a member of the Royal Family? The seventieth birthday of the Prince of Wales last month prompted some memories.
A few of my friends and acquaintances have been invited to BuckinghamPalace. I have merely been an onlooker and visited the palace as a tourist. The Coronation Exhibition was very well presented. I enjoyed it with an audio-guide, which included a welcome from the Prince of Wales.

Visiting London as a child, people let me through to the ropes near the road. The royal car with Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh came into sight. As it drew level the Queen leant forward obscuring him and waved to the crowds lining the other side of the road! I have forgotten the purpose of our trip to London, but seeing the royal car was not on the original itinerary. We had followed the crowds.

Once in my student days I emerged from a small railway station to find people lining the road. I asked one of the policemen what was going on.

“Prince Charles is coming. H…

Failing

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Ever failed?

Good.

If you've never failed, you've not lived.

Failure comes to us all at some time in our lives. It could be a large failure, a small failure or something massive. Whichever it is, we will live with the consequences. Oftentimes, so will others.

Last month I failed to do my post for this blog. Not a massive failure, but it was still a failure. I've had other, much bigger failures.

I was once a member of a writing group that set a goal to publish novels every year. We managed for two straight years, but one member decided that they weren't the centre of attention and decided they would act like a seagull. Screech, flap about and make a mess everywhere. With no backup from the other members in the group when facing this person down, I left.

This was a group failure, but I was part of that failure because we allowed someone to get their way and ruin what we had achieved. We'd even been approached by one publisher. (It's the origin of the starfishpc w…

Background Characters

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How vital are your background characters? Their role in your story must be important enough for them to be there but not such that they overshadow your leads. It has never been easy to play second fiddle. It is not always easy to write it either!


I love stories associated with the Nativity, which often involve characters such as the innkeeper and his wife.  I’ve come across a story recently suggesting the innkeeper’s wife was keener than her husband to help Mary (given he’d been rushed off his feet with the influx of guests and the last thing he needed was a heavily pregnant woman also needing accommodation, the one thing he was short of!). I thought the idea was well executed.
So how can we show our background characters in the best light but at the same time ensure they don’t hog the limelight?

I’ve found it helpful to bring a background character into the story early as this flags up to the reader this character is worth watching.  They must be there for a good reason.  Hopefully …

Retelling The Wise Men’s Story as an activity by Trevor Thorn

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This might be helpful for any of your friends called on to lead an all-age service or Epiphany event
The Wise Men’s Tale (Matthew2, 1 – 11): an interactive all-age story


Here’s a way of telling the story of the Wise Men at an all age event involving both children and grown ups. Get the children to join you and split them into five groups (or five individuals) and sit on the ground in their groups - they won’t be sitting still for long so don’t worry if the floor is a bit cold). If you have a centre aisle of reasonable length, spread the groups down the aisle so is present as near a group as possible. . Name each group/ individual: One group has to remember ‘Caspar’, traditionally the name of one of the wise-men; the second remember ‘Melchior’ another wise man; the third group ‘Balthazar’; thefourth ‘Camels’ and the fifth group ‘Servants’. ALL THE CHILDREN have to listen out for their group’s name AND FOR the word ‘Caravan’
As you tell the story - each group has to stand up, turn round and …

The morning after the night before by Tracy Williamson

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I wonder how Mary felt,
the morning after the night before?
I imagine she was at the very least, exhausted
after her epically long and difficult journey
while at the height of her pregnancy.
What thoughts and fears she contended with
I can barely comprehend,
for no one before, since or to come
will ever be called to do what she did.
To birth the son of the living God,
A holy birth, a miraculous conception,
The impossible taking form
inside her own womb.
Beautiful yet terrifying.
Awesome yet incomprehensible.
Why would God choose her, so young and inexperienced?
she had hardly dared to believe the angels words could be true and yet had felt that strange sense of utter peace in her heart as he brought her God's message.  And she suddenly knew that with Him this crazy idea truly would take place and yes she was willing for it to happen.
But now it had happened, they'd undergone that terrible journey and all through that last day she'd known her time was near.  The pains were…

A Cat's-Eye Christmas, by Eve Lockett

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I knew something was wrong when a tree arrived in the corner of the room. The Guardians had moved a chair out of the way, the one I perch on by the window. I hate it when they change things around, it’s unsettling. And there it stood, a tree. Its smell was powerful, a new smell overwhelming all the smells I’m used to. I scrambled out through the cat flap, and prowled silently across the deep wet grass, checking all the familiar trees, the rustling bushes, the mysterious dark burrows in the earth. Yes, all as it should be. When I returned, there was paper everywhere. The Guardians like paper. They stroke it, hold it, put it on the floor, make marks on it with sticks, hang it up and wrap it round things. I sit on it when I can, mainly because it feels nice, it crackles in an exciting way, and I like to join in what they are doing. I had another sniff of the tree, and even lay down under the branches as I would outside.  No, not good. Too much to process. I climbed up to the top of the …

Nativity unravelled - by Eileen Padmore

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My Christmas starts with liberation of the knitted nativity set from the shoe box where it has lain dormant since January.  Made by hand some two decades ago, each piece speaks to me of the mystery and wonder of that ancient event.  
There is no hierarchy of preciousness: local shepherds share the stage with wealthy foreign travellers, sheep and manger act as essential props for that insignificant newborn.
I wonder if God’s spirit was strong in supporting Mary and Joseph through the agony of producing that special God child in such wretched circumstances.  No running water, sterile delivery pack, pethidine, gas and air or epidural for the mother of the Messiah.  
Then no family visits or congratulations. Instead, gossip and disapproval back home from those who believed the young couple to be guilty of something for which they could not prove their innocence.
The religious establishment missed it, as did the politicians.  No help there.  Soon after, the young family became migrants.  The n…

Before the flood

Annie: You’re back on Twitter again, Martin! How many hours do you spend on it, really!

Martin: Not that many! I do look at it every day. Tell you, what, you learn more from it than you do from the newspapers these days.

Annie: Maybe. Depends who you follow, I guess.

Martin: Well, I follow all sorts. Archaeologists. Scientists. Lefties. Non-Lefties. Not really Right-wingers though. But you can’t miss the things that they say, whatever tweets you read.

Annie: Christians?

Martin: Yes, of course. A lot of church tweeters. And you know, it’s really noticeable how different their tweets are. Look at this: We’ve just switched on a lovely star on the side of the church. What about this: How marvellous the cathedral looks all lit up. And there are dozens at the moment like this one: Just over, our wonderful carols by candlelight service—magical atmosphere!

Annie: You’d expect that right now!

Martin: And there’s a lot that go: Ooh, So-and-so is going to be a wonderful bishop. And then, now and then …

As poor as it's possible to be - by Helen Murray

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Dear God,

It's almost your Son's birthday. Two more sleeps.

There are a lot of reminders at this time of year. 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' and 'Once in Royal David's City', and when the vicar turns Brussels sprouts into symbolism and when the Queen gives her speech about compassion and courage and the vestiges of Christian service in the despair and confusion of our country; when we open our presents and the mountain of wrapping paper reminds me of the miracle of the greatest gift ever given.

And then there's the little plywood crib in church. It's been there for a whole run of Christmas services with what appears to be an elderly Tiny Tears doll lying on a few meagre handfuls of hamster bedding.

I was born in poverty, too.

Not the sort of poverty that speaks of cold and deprivation - oh no. I have, all my life, been warm and looked after and well fed (just look at me); I had my own Tiny Tears with all the accessories. No, not that sort of pover…

Someone has a Name by Emily Owen

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‘Wishing you peace and joy this Christmas’ read the card the postman delivered to me. It was a beautiful card, and lovely message from someone. But who was the someone?
There was no signature, so I didn’t know who was wishing me peace and joy. I tried to find out by checking the postmark and scrutinising the handwriting. That didn’t help.
It was nice to know someone wished me peace and joy but, in the end, I resigned myself to not knowing who that was.
It was as I turned away from the card that I noticed a folded piece of paper by my feet.It had slipped, unnoticed, from the envelope as I opened the card. Picking the paper up, I realised it was not only signed by the sender, it contained some of their news, too. Knowing who had sent me the card made a difference. Knowing their name and knowing a bit about them. It brought extra joy (and peace of mind).
It struck me that, sometimes, perhaps we can fall into treating Christmas a little like an unsigned card.
It’s lovely to go to Carol Service…