Saturday 17 March 2018

Lent reflections 5 - Footsteps

Direct my footsteps by your promise, and do not let any kind of iniquity rule over me.

As we each find our own ways to mark the season of Lent, we follow in the footsteps of centuries of others who have spent time preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

Footsteps can be slow and meandering, or fast paced, but we all leave them wherever we go. There are often discussions about our carbon footprint - the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of our activities. But what about our spiritual footprint? All our words or actions will affect someone or something in one way or another. By practising environmental spirituality we can leave a better legacy for God's creation, just one example is the effect discarded plastic is having on our oceans. 

We are channels of God's blessings in a world that can be compassionate and more environmentally friendly because of our spiritual footprints.

Footprints in the Sand by Mary Fishback Powers

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."                                              

Karen Ette

Sunday 11 March 2018

Lent reflections 4 - Mothering Sunday

Everyone has a mother, most know the love and friendship they have, or had, with their mother, and some never knew, or know, who theirs is, or was.

In the UK and Ireland, Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent meaning that it falls on a different date each year. (It has no connection with the American Mothers' Day, which is celebrated in May.)

Hundreds of years ago it was important for everyone to return to their ‘mother’ church in the middle of Lent, once a year. The church where people would worship on most Sundays was called their ‘daughter’ church. Girls would leave home early, sometimes as young as ten, and go to work as domestic servants. Midway through Lent they were allowed one day’s holiday to return home to their family and to go to their ‘mother’ church. They would take a cake, which they would have baked themselves whilst they were learning to cook. If the cake lasted until Easter then they were considered to be a good cook. They would have had to walk home to visit their families and on the way would pick wild flowers, violets maybe or celandines, and they would take them to the church or give them to their mothers.

Whilst attending church on Mothering Sunday there was sometimes a ceremony called ‘church-clipping’. During this the churchgoers would hold hands and form a circle (if there were enough people) and they would then walk around the church. This may have been a Pagan ritual originally, but is more likely to have symbolised love and friendship.

There are almost three hundred references to Mother in the Bible.

Friday 9 March 2018

Strangers on a Train - Review

Based on the 1950s novel by Patricia Highsmith, Craig Warner has breathed new life into this classic story.

The Grand Opera House, York staged Strangers on a Train from the 5th – 10th March 2018 where the scenery also played a leading role in the production.

The play opens, as you might expect, in a train carriage. Guy Haines (Jack Ashton) is reading Socrates by Plato and is repeatedly interrupted by whisky-swilling Charles Bruno (Chris Harper). Both the book and hip flask play important roles too. Bruno's (bottomless) hip flask keeps the strangers topped up and Architect, Haines, tells Bruno that he is on his way to Metcalf in Texas to expedite his divorce from his wife so that he can marry Anne Faulkner (Hannah Tointon).
Bruno believes that they can help each other, and at the same time, get away with murder – Bruno wants to be rid of his father, and Haines his wife. The scene ends when they chink their glasses and agree to do the deed for each other.
The scenery then takes centre stage and moves into place depicting the frontages of buildings that slide open to reveal different rooms in different houses and offices. Video footage is played onto them to create a greater sense of place. There is even a moving stairwell and an old locomotive. Each tableau moves the story forward into the next scene.
Whilst Guy Haines is enjoying time with Anne she receives a telephone call, which leaves them both stunned – Haines's estranged wife has been murdered.
Charles Bruno is a rich alcoholic with an abnormal fondness for his mother and a growing attachment to Haines, suggesting that he is also gay. Each scene depicts the manipulation, blackmail, and manoeuvring of Haines by Bruno to get him to reciprocate and kill his father and Bruno grows more and more deranged. Haines is bullied and becomes visibly oppressed.
Act two is driven by the arrival of Arthur Gerard (John Middleton) – a private investigator employed by Bruno's father, and then his mother after her husband is murdered.

There are a few humourous moments to lift the sinister ones, usually where Frank Myers (Sandy Batchelor) is involved. Gerard finally confronts Bruno when he resolves the mystery of his father's death.

The scenery slides away for the final scene, which sees Haines and Bruno, who Haines refuses to call Charles, in a deserted engine yard. All is resolved – or is it? Will Haines slide even deeper into purgatory?  

The cast, along with the remarkable scenery, draws the audience in from the start.

Chris Harper, (Charles Bruno) is quite scary as the manipulative closet-gay, alcoholic psychopath with an uncomfortable, abnormal affection for his mother.

Jack Ashton, (Guy Haines) who for me was the outstanding star of the show, portrays a man sliding deeper and deeper into an unwanted nightmare. (** see news below.)
Helen Anderson, (Elsie Bruno) brilliantly portrays the doting mother and Hannah Tointon, (Anne Faulkner) is irritating and outstanding in equal measure.
John Middleton, (Arthur Gerard), Charles’s father’s best friend and detective, fathoms out the relationship between Guy and Charles and his analysis and confrontation with Charles drives the conclusion.
The American accents were excellent and carried impeccably throughout the performance (although I swear John Middleton's had a slight Yorkshire twang).

**Jack Ashton will be running in the London Marathon in April for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) dedicated to preventing male suicide, which is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the United Kingdom. To support Jack and read more about this charity please go to:

To see a full review with excellent photography, then York Mix is marvellous.

Saturday 3 March 2018

Lent reflections 3 - stop complaining

Do everything without complaining or arguing.

One of the most common phrases heard at the beginning of Lent is: "What are you giving up?" Chocolate is a favourite choice, then biscuits, alcohol, cakes, the list goes on. But who are we giving these up for? Are we doing this for God or for ourselves? Of course we could put the money saved by not buying these items into the Sunday collection, but do we? Why not give up grumbling and complaining instead? 

There are seventy-eight references to complaining in the Bible (International Standard Version) and nothing good comes from any of them. Of course, if we have been wronged or there has been injustice, then we should protest, sometimes on another's behalf, but how often do we grumble over trivial annoyances such as the weather, which is something we can do nothing about anyway? 

Perhaps if something irritates or irks us, rather than grumbling about it, which can be a destructive reaction in itself, we should hand it over to God and think of how many times Jesus complained when he was fasting in the wilderness.

Show hospitality to one another without complaining.