Close up of sheep standing in rough pasture in warm evening light with one sheep looking directly at the camera. Text on top: Son of Jonah (a poem reflecting on when Jesus reinstated Peter) Faith in Grey Places

Son of Jonah (a poem reflecting on when Jesus reinstated Peter)

Today’s poem draws on the story of Jesus reinstating Peter in John 21:15-19. I always found this a strange story growing up, but struggled to put my finger on why. It seemed odd that Jesus would distress Peter by asking him the same question three times, or indeed respond to that distress by telling Peter that Peter would die for him. 

There was also the question of the Greek and what that meant. The first two times Jesus asks if Peter loves him, he uses the Greek agape for love, but the third time, he uses philia which doesn’t have such a rich meaning. I was sure there had to be deep significance in all this but I couldn’t see what it was. (Peter responds with philia each time.)

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Picture looking out to the sea from the edge of the shore with yellow and pink sky. Word: The morning after (a poem for when your faith has been rocked) Faith in Grey Places

Loneliness in the morning after (a poem for when your faith has been rocked)

Today’s poem draws on the time after Jesus’s resurrection when he had breakfast with seven of the disciples (John 21:1-14). The disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing, but when Jesus tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, they catch a large number (of large fish). 

There are various ways to take this story. You could say the disciples were returning to what was familiar to them, though I’m more inclined to think they were doing it to relax as much as anything else. I also think the large catch was an affirmation of what they were doing. 

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Woman sitting on the edge of a balcony in a city looking up at a large sign that says "JESUS SAVES". Text over the top: A sonnet from a modern Thomas (reflecting on what it takes to share our faith). Faith in Grey Places

A sonnet from a modern Thomas (reflecting on what it takes to share our faith)

The lectionary readings this week include the story of Thomas recorded within John 20:19-31. When Jesus appeared to his disciples, he wasn’t there, and then he wouldn’t believe them until he saw Jesus for himself.

He said he would need to see the marks in Jesus’s hands and side before he believed. What I find remarkable is that when Jesus does appear to Thomas, he offers Thomas his hands and side. Almost as if he wants Thomas to believe. 

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Neutral choice (a poem inspired by Mary of Bethany when she anointed Jesus with spikenard)

For lent and Easter 2021, I’m writing a series of poems, each exploring the theme of agency through the lens of stories from Jesus’s passion. This first one is inspired by Mary of Bethany when she poured a pint of spikenard over Jesus’s head.

Actually, the gospel accounts vary. 

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Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 5: Revelation

The twelfth day of Christmas, Epiphany, was yesterday. We have officially moved beyond the Christmas season. And this devotional series ends today. It is, after all, day 40. 

I’m not sure I quite knew what I was biting off when I planned this series. It’s definitely been a stretch assignment, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and the skills I’ve learned. 

If this series has encouraged you, refreshed you in your faith, or given you new insights, I would simply love to hear. Please use the contact form or message me via Twitter or Facebook

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Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 4: Fire

Today I want to share two images: one of water and one of fire. But they’re both from the same film. And the plot needs some explaining. 

This is your spoiler warning. 

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a children’s fantasy-adventure 3D animated film. It was made in 2010, directed by Zac Snyder, based on a series of books by Kathryn Lasky. 

Condensing several books, the film has pacing and tone issues. But it is the most visually beautiful film I have ever seen. So much so, it often took me a while to put my finger on what was resonating with me. 

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Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 3: Ways

As any consent activist will tell you, boundaries are crucial to your health and wellbeing. Transgressing boundaries is inherently unfaithful. It’s no accident that in the Lord’s Prayer, in its traditional form, we ask God to forgive us our ‘trespasses.’

I’ve long believed it’s important to respect God’s boundaries. If God has set them, then they must be both ethical and important. But whilst I still believe this is true, I don’t act on it in the way I used to. 

You see, I used to believe I had stay well within the lines. I’d be nervous not to get anywhere near God’s boundaries. I believed the onus was on me to build up my own little guard rails to stop me from coming close. 

But then I wondered: what if I don’t need to be like that?

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Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 2: Growth

Shame. 

People say that shame is the feeling you have when you believe something is inherently wrong with who you are. Guilt, on the other hand, is feeling there’s something wrong with your actions

But actually, shame stems from a fear of exclusion. It’s not just about how you relate to yourself, but how you relate to other people. 

I learned about this when I read a definition from a 2003 paper by Thomas Scheff. He wrote that shame is:

“the large family of emotions that includes many cognates and variants most notably embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, and related feelings of shyness that originate in threats to social bond. This definition integrates self (emotional reactions) and society (the social bond).”

Scheff, Thomas J. “Shame in Self and Society.” Symbolic Interaction, vol. 26, no. 2, 2003, pp. 239–262. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/si.2003.26.2.239. Accessed 23 Dec. 2020

Suddenly a whole heap of experiences made sense to me. Including those times when I haven’t felt shame. 

You see, when I felt no shame, it’s because I had no fear of exclusion – even if I was aware that something I had done wasn’t fabulous.

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Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 1: Meeting

“I think we’ve found Screwtape’s opposite number.”

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imagined the plight of an ordinary Christian man. His story is narrated through letters – written from one demon to another, both trying to ensnare the man’s damnation. 

His ‘opposite number’ is a character in a radio play I wrote a few years ago. I hadn’t been thinking of The Screwtape Letters, but then a friend made the comparison. And I loved it. Best of all, my angels had sass and character; the good guys were savvy and wry. They had the best lines and the best laughs. 

In 2019, I started work on another script. This time, you could say the themes were closer to those in TheScrewtape Letters. A guardian angel has a supervision meeting about his ‘assignment’ — being a Western, white, middle-class, Christian man. Who’s overwhelmed and teetering on depression.

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