Fidget spinners – modern icons?

The other Saturday we hosted a guys’ breakfast at Chapel House and during what I shared I asked them a question: ‘Are you more concerned about being correct than to connect? I first heard Richard Rohr voice this challenge a little while ago when he was talking about the intrinsic value of relationships and that we are not meant to do life on our own. Sometimes, though, out of our desire to be right and have all the answers, we can be so right that we’re wrong ie we sacrifice relationship and connectedness on the altar of correctness!! I’m sure you get my drift. Hope so, anyway!

I had the privilege of praying for a very special couple a few months back and I used a fidget spinner as my intro. I pointed out that God, the Holy Trinity, is going to be involved in their marriage with them and that it is going to be like a divine dance between the three of them (perichoresis for those who like that sort of thing!) and I spun the spinner to illustrate the dynamic of this. Again, this is an example of ‘connection’ and this time illustrates the relationship at the heart of creation – the Divine connecting with all that he has created! It’s a beautiful thing.

In the light of all the above, it is very interesting that a Minister for Loneliness, a project first started by the late MP Jo Cox, has been announced by Downing Street. Tracey Crouch said she was proud to take on the “generational challenge” to tackle an issue affecting about nine million UK people, young and old. The 42-year-old said she would work across political parties in the role.

(NB A 2017 report said loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day). BBC Radio 4 has also announced the results of ‘The Loneliness Experiment’, a nationwide survey conducted by BBC Radio 4’s ‘All In The Mind’. It is the largest survey into the issue of loneliness to date. The survey results indicate that 16-24 year olds experience loneliness more often and more intensely than any other age group. 40% of respondents aged 16-24 reported feeling lonely often or very often, while only 29% of people aged 65-74 and 27% of people aged over 75 said the same. My own Surgery run occasional tea parties for ‘lonely people’ who make appointments to see their doctor because they’ve got nobody else to talk to. GPs have become like modern day priests.

At the same guys’ breakfast I mentioned earlier, I also said that we sometimes (and include myself here) need a fresh perspective on who the folk are around us (the lonely?) that we should be connecting with and I talked about the story of Zachaeus, climbing the sycamore tree, because he was ’short in stature’, so that he could be at a vantage point to see Jesus passing by. He was a rich man and a tax collector, so not one of the cool cats to hang out with in his community, but Jesus spotted him, told him to come down, and invited himself for tea. On the back of this particular ‘connection’, a life was dramatically turned around. Although the wee guy was already being generous and giving half his money to the poor, as a direct result of Jesus spotting in him something that he wanted to affirm and encourage, Zachaeus then seems to get a heart for justice and says that he is going to pay back 4 times what he has overtaxed people. Remarkable. It is possible to be a giant physically, but small in stature, spiritually and stingy in our outlook and outreach.

The challenge to my own heart first and foremost during this festive season is where and with whom is God asking me to have a fresh perspective on my connections, and this is a bizarre prospect, but maybe its time for a bit of ‘Strictly…’ after all!


Autumn approaches

It takes a lot of courage to pray this prayer and I’m sure I won’t pray it, and mean it, every day. As this new post-sabbatical season gets underway, however, I do hope that I will pray it and mean it more though. I yearn that my True Self will be my motivator and that there will be less of my False Self/ego calling the shots. I acknowledge the working of The Divine in my life and in the world, but I also acknowledge that sometimes **** happens and I ask that I’ll be prevented from coming out with trite and insensitive comments as a reaction to that.

Someone asked me how I was feeling last week and I replied, ‘Well…the holidays are over and term has started, but I’m not sure which class I’m in!’ I still feel the same, but two days in Folkestone with a great friend has helped me to feel ok about that. We’ve seriously chilled out, had a curry and a drop of wine, gone for a walk, prayed, watched a few episodes of ‘Suits’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ (though I fell asleep several times during it! He has this way of just challenging me to the core whilst at the same time conferring such honour and dignity. It’s a beautiful thing. I pray for more of that gift in my own life.

I guess my overriding sense at the moment (as we chug along on the Circle Line) is that we are not meant to live this life alone, we need community and those around us who will love us and keep us sharp, protect us and champion us.

Anyway…here’s the prayer:

The Welcome Prayer

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing.

I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.

I let go of my desire for power and control.

I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval, and pleasure.

I let go of my desire for survival and security.

I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself. I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within.


Rohr, Richard. Just This: Prompts And Practices For Contemplation (Kindle Locations 1034-1044). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

Staying Juicy


When we said goodbye to our church family at All Saints Church in the middle of January, as the sabbatical started, my parting words were quoting Dawn French, who said that, as she turned 60 and looked to the future, she wanted to ‘Stay Juicy’. I know what she meant. To stay juicy means to demonstrate life, to keep a freshness and an openness in your thinking, not to become sour, cynical or thinking you know it all because of your so-called experience and age, to make space for others, to be secure in who you are and to enjoy living from your True Self. 

My personal journey of exploration over the last 6 months has given me the time of my life and has left me feeling very juicy! I am so thankful to the army of family and friends who have encouraged and supported me in so many ways. You know who you are. It has been a God given opportunity to rest, wait and receive from my Creator and know that nothing is required of me to be fully accepted, loved unconditionally and empowered to be the best I can, where I am, with what I’ve got! Kaboom!!! 

As I’ve travelled (and I’ve done a fair bit of that!), I have been reminded again and again that there is nowhere that God is not; from quality, animated meals with my adorable family, to hiking the Camino de Santiago, to enjoying the trickle of water in the garden pond at my brother and sister in law’s home in Streatham, where I am currently sitting and enjoying my morning coffee, the earth truly is the Lord’s and everything in it. Kaboom, again! 

I met a friend in the supermarket the other day. I’ve not seen her since before my sabbatical and in the course of our conversation she said, “You have a real peace about you”. My response was, “Yes, that’s how I feel”. Maybe it’s a juicy peace?!!

Whilst I think it’s good to mark the end of my sabbatical (31 July), in lots of ways I am hoping that the experiences and things I have been shown will linger with me for the rest of my life. Here are just a few and I’m sure there will be more to say in due course, as I return to where I started and yet ‘know the place for the first time’:

  • our lives are too cluttered and we need to get rid of stuff (of all kinds!)
  • We are made for connection, relationship and community (we shrivel up inside without it!)
  • Collaboration and not control is the way forward in all areas of life (ouch!) 
  • On the journey of life I am a pilgrim and not a tourist, and sometimes rather than trying to see the whole route ahead of me, it’s about just aiming for the next stage (‘right foot..left foot’)
  • ‘One of the most exciting and terrifying things in the world is a blank sheet of paper’ (Paul Bradbury)

A great friend of mine sent me a text message the other day and here it is:

‘Paul, I have been thinking. Don’t know what you are doing after sabbatical but keep being prompted. If you come back to AS just come back as Paul Wilcox. Nothing more. Nothing less.’

I guess that’s the ‘fullstop’ bit 😎

To be continued…

Jesse James and The Pony Express

I fly back home this afternoon, from St Joseph, Missouri, where I have been privileged to be part of the ‘Water to Wine’ gathering at Word of Life Church, led by Brian and Perry Zahnd. I have been listening to Brian’s weekly podcasts for some time now and when I heard that he was going to be hosting this gathering, I said to Jane, “I think I need to go to that”. 

Once again, it has been a very strategic time for me and, coming at the beginning of the last month of my sabbatical, it has given me an opportunity to review and reflect on all that has been going on…and what re-entry (my July ‘word’) might entail. The town of St Joseph has two particular claims to fame: it was where The Pony Express began and where the life of Jesse James ended (there are museums about both). You’ve guessed it – my thoughts have been very much around the extent to which this sabbatical has been about some things in my life coming to an end, but also about the kind of new challenges and adventures that the Divine might be inviting me to pick up and partner with him in. I came across this very interesting quote this morning in a book I was reading and it got me thinking…


My natural inclination would be to allocate two pages in my  Moleskin journal to start ‘Pony’ and ‘Jesse’ lists, but I’ve decided against that. I do, however, have a few pages headed ‘Re-imagine’ in which I have started to jot a few words/thoughts, but I’ll need to let those jottings sit with me a bit longer yet before I share them. Bear with, bear with…

The gathering was made up of about 250 folk from the USA or Canada, in fact I was the only Brit! That was a bit funny, particularly when I opened my mouth and spoke to anyone 😂😂. I was pleased it was a smaller get together and not at all overwhelming or dominated by big personalities. There was an air of humility and it was more of a conversation than didactic presentations. 

The big questions that were being wrestled with were really about how our faith, which can often feel a bit dry, uneventful, consumerist, obsessed with certitude and lacking mystery…boring even (?!), can become like fine wine: rich, sought after, desirable…Life-changing? For many of us, it can almost seem like ‘the party’ (aka life!) is so tough and we wonder what it’s really all about – the ‘Wine’ seems to have run out. Yet the response of Jesus in John Chapter 2 is fascinating; as is his Mother’s, when she says to the disciples, “Do whatever he tells you”. 

I look forward to catching up with you all over the next couple of months, but in the meantime, I’ll pray that the sense of endings and beginnings, as well as that which is continuous, will captivate our hearts. And may we all remember that the party ain’t over yet!





As the beginning of the fourth month of my six month sabbatical, I find myself once again reflecting on the richness of this time, but also starting to allow a few thoughts about ‘what next?’ to occupy my mind (though not too many!). During a recent visit to my Spiritual Director, he encouraged me to think about ‘active passivity’ as a posture at this time. He also quoted TS Elliot, who referred to ‘a condition of complete simplicity (costing not less than everything)…and all shall be well’. I like that. It does require me to be intentional though! I think I would like to to personalise the whole thing by using the term, ‘mooching’, which I have always enjoyed doing, though I must add minus the partial dictionary definition of hoping to get something for nothing! I often go into town for a mooch; I mooch around the shops, I can mooch in a bookshop for ages, I mooch into a coffee shop and the charity shops and junk shops. You get my drift. 

During half term last week, we were fortunate to be mooching in Perthshire, Scotland. Jane, Matt and I spent the time with Jane’s dad around the Aberfeldy and Loch Tay area. It has been glorious with many gratitude moments and opportunities for great walks and leisurely coffees and meals. Wonderful. The ‘complete simplicity’ of wandering along the river for about 10 miles on Tuesday morning watered my soul; the slightly more strenuous climb to see the spectacular ‘Falls at Moness’ and ‘The Birks of Aberfeldy’ on Wednesday was just incredible….

I have also done a fair bit of mooching in my reading, picking up one book and then another, but maybe the variety also makes a statement about me, generally. You can draw your own conclusions about that 😁…

So, we’re into June and my sabbatical ‘word’ of ‘Horizons’ has come into focus. I am excited to continue reading Justin Welby’s new book and particularly as I consider substituting the name of my own city, village, road for ‘Britain’. What are our foundations for hope? Mmmmm…


PS If you are interested, my fellow pilgrim on the Camino, Paul Swann gave an outstanding talk on our experiences at All Saints last week. You can check it out here, its utterly brilliant: ‘Walking With God’ –

Day 8: Santiago to Stansted…and home!

This is the last of my ‘Camino’ blogs. Thank you for your indulgence!

A few reflections:

  • The preparation was vital and really paid off. I have never done anything like this before, but I think I’ve caught the walking bug. My health will benefit from that too.
  • Having made my first reflection, I also think there is a sense in which you can’t plan ie for the inner journey that you go on; you have to just let it happen to you, rather than try and make it happen. But you do have to be open. 
  • As a largely introverted person, I was not sure how I’d cope with feeling the need to interact with numerous fellow pilgrims (seriously, this was a concern!), but the fellowship that existed ‘on the way’ around a common cause ie making it to Santiago de Compostela, somehow made it possible to engage as much or as little as you wanted to. In fact, I think the natural, unforced interactions we had made the pilgrimage richer and special. 
  • I took about six books with me and I didn’t open one. This was good, but a real lesson to me. I am concerned that I am reliant on, and my formation is dependent on, words, whether spoken or written. It was the EXPERIENCE of the Camino that counted far more than any amount of words, and as I was attentive to the incredibly beautiful scenery, cheery ‘Buen Camino’ from other pilgrims, paced myself on the hills, savoured the lovely food and wine and embraced the extravagant hospitality of everyone we met, my heart was warmed and my soul fed. 
  • I’m not sure how I would have got on totally on my own. The companionship of Paul Swann was such a blessing. Not only is he a great and long standing friend, but his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of so many things made our daily walks such fun and tremendously informative! We also share a love of fine coffee and red wine, so that helped to oil the wheels too : )

I could go on and doubtless will at some point in the future as I meet up with you, but for now and in closing, I quote the well known words of TS Eliot and in so doing I pray for me and for you that our perspectives on where we are and where we are going, our own individual pilgrimages, will be refreshed, renewed and re-enlivened constantly:

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Love Paul. 

Quotes I didn’t use…

“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen” –  Benjamin Disraeli

“At its heart, the journey of each life is a pilgrimage through unforeseen sacred places that enlarge and enrich the soul” – John O’Donohue

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” – St. Augustine


Day 7: Santiago de Compostela

It was great to have a day yesterday to decompress, rest my feet and savour the sights and sounds of the glorious city of Santiago. 

Our first task for the morning was to find the ‘passport office’ for ‘peregrinos’ and obtain the famous certificate of completion! We only had to queue for about 1.5hrs and did manage to make the mass at noon in the Cathedral and I’m so glad we did!! There was standing room only, but the atmosphere was electric. I’ll never forget the magnificent swinging of the huge ‘botafumiere’*  over the congregation. A real memory right there. 

I spent most of the afternoon mooching around the old part of the city (think Bill Bryson!), resting and reflecting on the last week. Felt privileged. 

It was brilliant to stay in the same hotel for two nights on the trot and I’ve been so impressed with the high levels of extravagant, generous hospitality wherever we’ve stayed, stopped for coffee, or had our evening meals. The 10€ ‘menu de del dia’ for peregrinos really has lived up to its reputation, with a three course tasty meal, plus a bottle of wine, bread and water on most occasions. The hotels have all been spotlessly clean, with working showers and crisp white bed sheets. Welcome luxury at the end of a day’s walking. The breakfasts provided have been ample; so ample as to provide a wee takeaway ‘sneister’ in a paper napkin to go with morning coffee!

(*67kgs of silver swinging through the air at 200ft with a dustpan full of incense. Apart from the religious purpose, one of the reasons historically was to keep the smell of pilgrims at bay!)

Day 6: Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela

I was reminded yesterday that it is about 6 years since Paul Swann and I led a guys’ retreat together at Kemble House and on one of the evenings we watched The Way, the film starring Martin Sheen. A seed was sown and I nursed a dream that one day I might be able to do that pilgrimage. As we walked together into Santiago yesterday afternoon, passing Monte do Gozo* it was an emotional time. A goal was being reached/a vision fulfilled and you can’t beat it! (See note below). My great friend Joan Collier had made little crosses for Jane and I, plus Viv and Paul. I carried mine all the way and placed it at the base of the monument on Gozo as a symbolic act and it felt great. 

A great blessing of this trip has been that we have sent our luggage ahead of us to the next destination each morning (we’ve stayed in 7 different hotels!). This requires planning each morning what is required for the day ahead and being willing to trust that everything else will arrive where you need it at the end of the day. In a time of not talking yesterday, Paul and I pondered how this practice can impact the rest of our lives ie what is the essential ‘stuff’ for today and what is the burden/baggage that I do not need to carry? As men of faith we believe that one of the great promises of God is that he is our burden-bearer. I’ve been intentionally following ‘the way’ of Jesus for over 30 years now, but I’m still learning how to do this 😁😁.

(Monte do Gozo (Hill of Joy) is a hill in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. It is known for being the place where Christian pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) get their first views of the three spires of their destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. At 370 metres (1,210 ft), it is the pilgrims’ last hill and last stop before reaching the cathedral, with about an hour’s walk still to go, and by tradition is where they cry out in rapture at finally seeing the end of their path.)

Day 5: Arzúa to Pedrouzo

We did it! After quite a challenging day walking yesterday and albeit on a pizza, we hobbled like two old men from our hotel, decided to get involved, embrace the culture and eat the local Gallician delicacy of octopus last night. As my Gran used to say, ‘It was nice, but I wouldn’t crave it!’ There have been many ‘firsts’ on this pilgrimage….


To appreciate everything around us as well as listen carefully to what has been going on inside us, we have agreed to not talk for chunks of time and that has been a real blessing, as much as we both enjoy talking! 😉 I find that my default mindset during those times is one of thankfulness and great gratitude. I am so appreciative for starters of all those who have released, encouraged, sponsored and helped practically to make this possible. Honestly. I was thinking yesterday about Penny, my Diabetes Nurse (Hi Penny!) and my podiatrist, Philippa (Hi Philippa!), both of whom have taken a great interest in what I’m doing and have really spurred me on – I salute you! 

We can’t do this life on our own, can we? Nor are we meant to! I pray that I will return even more appreciative of the army of people around me who help me to do life and that I will always be on the lookout too for those to whom I can pay it forward.