Resurrection me: tasting future glory

Steps leading into light at Manorbier Castle, Cair Paravel, with poem about resurrection
“Resurrection me” by Christine Woolgar (click on the image for full size)

I don’t want to write a long commentary on this poem, but I will say that as I wrote it, I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ sermon The Weight of Glory (bold emphasis is mine):

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people.

It felt fitting to have the image of steps leading into light as the setting for this poem – the sense of journey and pending entry.  But there’s an added layer too: the picture is one I took in a stairwell at Manorbier Castle in Pembrokeshire, which was used in the 1988 BBC adaptation of Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (and which I loved watching when I was growing up). This castle is Cair Paravel, where – in another life, perhaps not so far from our own – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were crowned kings and queens.

The full words of the poem are below. Continue reading Resurrection me: tasting future glory

Grey woman with the staff of Aaron, art by Siku

New profile picture: grey places and the art of Siku

Extract from artwork created by Siku, @theartofsiku  www.theartofsiku.com

If you’ve spent time on Facebook or other social media, you’ve probably seen one of those alerts telling you that a friend has changed their profile picture. You may also have noticed that some friends never seem to change their picture – and others seem to change it every week.

For myself, I’m someone who prefers to choose a picture and stick with it. But a few days ago I updated my Twitter profile and today I’ve made a similar change on this blog. Here’s why…
Continue reading New profile picture: grey places and the art of Siku

Protest banner against 50 Shades "Not consent, not redemption, not a fairy-tale" with quotes from Fifty Shades Darker

Reflections from standing outside the Fifty Shades Darker premiere

The banner I held up during the protest outside the ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ premiere

It wasn’t as bustling or as glitz as the Fifty Shades of Grey premiere two years ago. There weren’t as many presenters and DJs to whip up the crowd; there weren’t as many fans; and there wasn’t as much press. But there were enough.

We were outside the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square, London. The waist-high metal railings had been carefully placed to allow space for fans, space for VIP vehicles and narrow passages at the side for the general public to mill past. The fans who had got there early were already inside enclosed areas while the security detail urged people outside the railings to move on if they didn’t have tickets. Every now and then, you’d see one or two people together dressed in very expensive outfits and you know they actually had tickets to go inside and see the film. Everyone else was wrapped up in gloves, coats and scarves – it being February after all.

The giant screens played the Fifty Shades Darker trailer silently but on repeat throughout the evening, much as had been done with its prequel two years before. And music thumped its way across the square, providing many (myself included) with a well-needed excuse to bob up and down and keep moving. Continue reading Reflections from standing outside the Fifty Shades Darker premiere

The friend who was always there: on faithfulness, creativity and being me

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” John 1:48 (NIV)

In recent months I’ve listened to people talk about the destructive relationships that they’ve left, whether that was with their partners or their churches. In some of them, there was a realisation that the person or religion they thought they knew and had fallen in love with, was never there at all. It left them with a cold, shaky, uncertain feeling.

In recent months I’ve had a growing sense of what might be called the opposite: that the one who I needed most was always there, even when I didn’t realise. Continue reading The friend who was always there: on faithfulness, creativity and being me

Wedding shoes of different colours but similar ribbons and style

Be a priest in 2017: Identify with those who are like and unlike you

In 2017, I want to be known for identifying with people who are both like and unlike me.

It strikes me that 2016 was a year where many people became very keen to sort themselves into groups, groups that are founded on difference. Groups that allow hostility and fear to increase. Groups that allow people to not identify with others.

The thing is, as a Christian, I feel called to do the opposite.

Yesterday (that is, 1 Jan 2017) one of the readings in the revised common lectionary was Hebrews, chapter 2, verses 10 to 18. The passage talks about how Jesus became our great high priest, and that it was “fitting” that he was made perfect through suffering. As the author of Hebrews puts it in verse 10:

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. (NIVUK)

That might sound a bit abstract and counter-intuitive, but when you unpack it, the message is profound. Continue reading Be a priest in 2017: Identify with those who are like and unlike you

Movie posters from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, with the caption "It all ends"

Revelation 22 for beginners (with illustrations from Harry Potter)

This is a study/sermon, aimed at Christians, to help make sense of Revelation 22, particularly verses 10 to 17. It has some Harry Potter plot spoilers. It might be helpful to read from Revelation 22:10 to the end of the chapter before reading this.

The Fantasy and Apocalyptic Genres

What are the Harry Potter books, written by J.K. Rowling, all about?

If you asked a child that question, they would probably say something like this:

Harry Potter is about a boy, who’s a wizard, and how he and his friends defeat a dark wizard called Lord Voldemort.”

If you asked someone who studied English literature they might say something like this instead:

Harry Potter is about the quest for virtue.”

(Actually, the C.S. Lewis scholar, Dr Alister McGrath, said words to that effect in April 2013.)

If you asked someone who was more historically and politically minded, they might say something else:

Harry Potter is J.K. Rowling’s way of saying that, even if there were such a thing as a master race, the Nazis were still wrong.”

(Actually, that should be credited to my husband.)

All three statements have something to be said for them.

One of the things I love about the fantasy genre of literature and films is the way that strong and stark images can be used to portray truths. They spark the imagination, working on multiple layers at a time; so long as you don’t read them too scientifically or factually, but instead read them in the context of their genre, and the traditions they are drawing from and elaborating on, then the unreality of the story allows you to unmask reality.

What has all this got to do with the book of Revelation? Well, if you want to get your head around the text, you need to understand the apocalyptic genre. Continue reading Revelation 22 for beginners (with illustrations from Harry Potter)

Parable of the great banquet in Luke 14

Serving the marginalised: Glamour and honour in Luke 14

When I was at primary school, we used to play rounders – and I wasn’t very good at it. But then, eventually, I had my turn at being team captain and picking my own team. So when the teacher asked me who I wanted the first name I gave was Ben – the best rounders player in the whole year. Except I hadn’t been listening properly. The teacher’s first question to me was actually to ask who I wanted to have as the other team captain. Needless to say, my team lost.

In Luke chapter 14, Jesus gave some advice to his host whilst dining with him. He said not to pick the places of honour at an event – otherwise, it might backfire on you.

The advice was part of a theme Luke had been building on for various chapters about who is least and who is great in the kingdom of heaven. In these chapters, Jesus condemned the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and called people to share their hospitality with those who were marginalised. (The picture above is one I took of tapestry on display in the Kreuz Kirche church in Dresden; it shows the end of the parable of the banquet described in Luke 14:15-24.)

Continue reading Serving the marginalised: Glamour and honour in Luke 14

Sheet music of Harry Potter music The Room of Requirement on a piano

Music, perfection and play: shedding childhood shame

Sheet music from the film of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

Recently the BBC showed the film Shine. It portrays the true story of a pianist David Helfgott, including the emotionally abusive relationship his father had towards him, how he had a breakdown, and how later in his life he came to be able to take to the stage again.

I first saw this film not long after it was made in 1996; at that time I was a teenager. I was wrapped in piano lessons, music theory and even a placement at the Royal College of Music. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s one of the most prestigious classical music institutions in the UK. And it’s where David Helfgott studied. So yes, I was doing the whole studying classical music thing, because I was young and perceived as gifted. Plus I had enough people around me to claw for the money to make it happen.

I don’t think I understood the film when I saw it. But seeing it twenty years later has dredged up all kinds of emotions and thoughts.

Continue reading Music, perfection and play: shedding childhood shame

What? A study on Nehemiah? And The Gospel Coalition wrote it?

Nehemiah. The next DVD and discussion series held my Bible study group will be on… Nehemiah.

After reading a truly excellent book on Esther last year (from which the picture below is taken), I’ve been distinctly uncomfortable about Nehemiah. Or perhaps, it’s not that I feel uncomfortable about the book itself. Rather, it’s the fact that I have only ever heard Nehemiah preached about in positive terms.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Nehemiah is known for rebuilding the ruined walls of Jerusalem. Continue reading What? A study on Nehemiah? And The Gospel Coalition wrote it?

My choice in the wake of Orlando and Brexit

I wrote this for my fellow Christians after the Orlando shooting on June 12th. Then Brexit happened on June 24th. Now it seems more relevant than before.

I have a choice to make.

My choice is that I am going to go out of my way to let people who are different to me know that:

  • I’m not a threat to them,
  • I care about them, and
  • they can be themselves around me.

And this choice increases in importance if I have theological or political points of disagreement with these people.

Continue reading My choice in the wake of Orlando and Brexit

Holy Spirit dove prayer adoration

Welcoming the Holy Spirit

I was tasked with writing a prayer of adoration for Pentecost – and came up with these ways of describing the Holy Spirit. For a while afterwards I wanted to put them to a picture, though it’s hard to find images for the Holy Spirit that do justice to this wonderful person of the Trinity. Imagine my delight then, when I was able to photograph a lectern hanging, whilst visiting a small village Methodist church.

May this be an inspiration for you.

Continue reading Welcoming the Holy Spirit

Bible pages open at Luke chapter 1

His name is John: Elizabeth writes to Mary

Luke chapter 1 from the pocket New Jerusalem Bible, published by Darton, Longman and Todd

I was contemplating what it must have been like for Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. She went  through childbirth in her old age, knowing she would not live see her son minister and having to wrestle with the religious and political tensions of her culture. It can’t have been easy. This is an imagined letter written from Elizabeth to Mary (her cousin and the mother of Jesus), inspired by the events told in Luke’s gospel chapter 1, verses 5-25 and 57-80.


Elizabeth, a delighted mother whom God has mercifully remembered in her old age,

To Mary, my dear cousin and blessed mother to be,

Peace be with you.

It seems but a day since you returned to Galilee, and yet I know it has already been some three months. Please forgive me for taking so long to write to you.

When the time came, John was born with mercifully little difficulty. As much as I was overjoyed to know that I would bear a child, and that I could be certain of this because the message had come from an angel of God no less, I have not always had confidence in this promise. I have had to entrust myself to God’s faithfulness each and every day that my frail body would have the strength to carry and deliver this little life into the world. But now it is done and he is here.

Continue reading His name is John: Elizabeth writes to Mary

Ruth and Boaz Bible

Love vs Abuse: a drama sketch about Boaz and Ruth, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife

(Ruth chapter 3 in my pocket New Jerusalem Bible, published by Darton, Longman and Todd)

This is a drama sketch based on two Bible stories: Genesis 39:1-20 and the book of Ruth.

Boaz:
I’m Boaz.

Mrs Potiphar:
I’m Mrs Potiphar.

Boaz:
I’m a wealthy landowner from the tribe of Judah.

Mrs Potiphar:
I’m married to the Captain of the Guard to Pharaoh himself.

Boaz:
I’m a bachelor who’s coming on in years.

Mrs Potiphar:
I’m an underappreciated trophy wife.

Boaz:
A while back, a woman started working in one of my fields. Her name was Ruth.

Mrs Potiphar:
A while back, my husband bought a new slave. His name was Joseph.

Continue reading Love vs Abuse: a drama sketch about Boaz and Ruth, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife

The rebranded blog is here!

So… I’ve just given the blog of a new look, but more significantly it’s got a redefined focus. Yes, I’ll still be blogging about that grey area, 50 Shades, but thinking bigger too.

There are (or will be) three main themes of this blog:

Lines in the sand – on consent and boundaries

Life outside Eden – on sexual expression and gender

Love in eternity – on faith, hope and God

If you like what I write, you can also now follow me on Twitter: @hope4greyplaces