A place where something is distilled,
where raw material is taken
and turned into a perfect, finished product
which satisfies thirst.

A state of being where all is motionless,
no turbulence or stirring is felt,
not only the storm, but the after-effects of the storm
have ceased, and all is peace.

A state of continuing, still progressing,
still moving forward, still trusting,
not having given up
or abandoned the dream.

Be still.
Be still and know.
Be still and know that I am God.



Setting out is the hardest –
the swallowing of pride,
the rehearsal of words,
the recognition of what is lost.

Even the leaving of the pigsty,
the new normal,
leaving it behind and embarking
on what may, after all, prove a fruitless quest.

And then the weary trudge,
step after painful step,
a wolf clawing at my inside,
faintness from lack of food.

And the wolf clawing at my heart,
assuring me it’s too late,
what’s done is done
and can never be undone.

And just as I give in, lose my heart
to the wolf, resolve to turn back,
I look up and see him,
running hell for leather to meet me,

Break-neck with open arms,
not waiting for my weary steps
to totter to him, but racing to scoop me up
and sweep away whatever has been done.

A poem for National Poetry Day

This is my language, the language of poets.
That is to say, this is the language
in which I speak with You.
Only you understand the visceral dialect
that gurgles up from the deepest place.
Only You have words that respond
in like vein and communicate
before they are understood.
This is our language,
in which we converse,
and I am content
to know and be known.

The Once-A-Year Dustbin Household

Sir David Attenborough’s series, Blue Planet, seems to have succeeded in bringing to everyone’s attention the damage we are currently doing to our planet, particularly through plastic pollution.  The BBC recently reported[i] that even the plastic food trays that we carefully wash out and drop into our recycle bins don’t actually get recycled – as much as two-thirds end up in landfill.  And of course, we fill our dustbins with non-recyclable waste.

As Christians, the Bible gives us compelling reasons to care for the environment.  It tells us that Adam was placed in the garden to “cultivate it and keep it”[ii].  After the Exodus from Egypt, Moses tells the people that the land they are about to enter is “a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.”[iii].  The Old Testament law and Wisdom literature include compassion for animals and nature: “If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young”[iv]. And, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal”[v]  In Revelation we are told that the final judgement will reward those who have obeyed God and “destroy those who destroy the earth”.

But how easy is it to live by those principles?  When even cucumbers come shrink-wrapped in plastic and so many containers are still not recycled, what difference can individuals make?  It’s true that significant change is going to require action by the big corporations and manufacturers, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to reduce waste.  I went to talk to one woman, Rachel Carson, who has dedicated her life to doing as little harm to the environment as possible and, as a teacher, teaching her pupils to do the same.  I was intrigued to know what she does, especially as I had heard that she produces so little waste that her dustbin is emptied only once a year and her recycle bin only about eight times a year.

Rachel told me that she grew up in a very environmentally aware family, with parents who grew as much of their own food as they could and told their children, “You either eat chemicals or you eat greenfly!”

I asked how she started to reduce her impact on the environment.  “I started well,” she told me, “saving and reusing items as my parents taught me.  Then I lost it a bit when the children came along; it ceased to be a priority, but I did continue to grow my own food, eat organically, reuse scrap items, and so on.

“But five or six years ago I saw some pictures by photographer Chris Jordan from an island in the Pacific where lots of albatross chicks were dying because of plastic waste.  I was totally shocked that our arrogant way of life could affect another species so completely.  The parent birds were flying thousands of miles to feed their chicks, and then unwittingly stuffing plastic down their throats.”

Rachel acknowledges that plastic has some good and even essential uses – in medical devices, for example – and that her lifestyle would not be possible for everyone.  “I’m fit, I’ve got a car, I have enough money to live on, but the things I do would be beyond the means of many people.”

Nonetheless, she was delighted when she heard a child at school ask another child whose class he was going to be in, and when he replied, “Mrs. Carson’s”, the first child responded, “You’ll be using a bamboo toothbrush by Christmas!”

I asked Rachel if she found it hard at first, and what advice she would give to anyone else wanting to reduce their impact on the environment.  She told me, “I decided I couldn’t do everything at once, so I made a decision to change one thing, using shampoo bars instead of bottles of shampoo.  And once that was a habit, I changed the next thing.  I did loads of research using social media, blogs and books.  Some people say choose one room in which to eradicate plastic, and once you’ve succeeded, move on to the next room.  The bathroom is a good place to start, using shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes, and tooth powder instead of tubes of toothpaste.  A rubbish audit of your bin is a really good way to work out what’s being thrown out regularly and therefore what action would make the biggest difference to your household.”

Rachel shops at zero waste shops which she visits when she goes to London to see her daughter, though she recognises that this isn’t an option for everyone.  She also buys from farm shops and local butchers instead of getting everything plastic-wrapped from the supermarket. She showed me two jam jars containing all the unrecyclable waste she has generated this month, but added, “I’m aware that I can do it because I’m privileged.”

I asked how she finds time to shop in these different places while working as a full-time teacher.  She replied, “It’s quite difficult, but I feel so strongly that I’ll make time for it and prioritise it.  I plan it like a military operation; I’m incredibly organised and I devote quite some time to it.  Not everyone could do it.  If I had caring responsibilities I couldn’t do it, but I’m at a stage of life when I can.”

And her advice to someone wanting to start living in this low-impact way?  “Try one thing.  Then when it’s a habit, try another.  Walk the children to school, picking up litter as you go.”  It sounds like great advice for fulfilling Adam’s original mandate to “cultivate the garden and keep it.”

[ii] Genesis 2.15
[iii] Deuteronomy 11. 12 NASB
[iv] Deuteronomy 22.6 NASB
[v] Proverbs 12.10 NASB

This was my entry for the Association of Christian Writers 2018 Journalism competition, for which I was awarded 2nd place.  If you want to hear more from Rachel Carson, you can follow her on Instagram: @onestepatatime61.


To recount in simple terms
the unembellished truth
of the path I have walked down years;
to recall and describe the ways
You stopped me in my tracks
to redirect my steps,
relieve me of a burden
or heal a wound acquired along the way;
to speak of the times Your touch
restrained or drew me back
before my chosen route
led me to disaster;
to tell of how Your power
enabled me to do the things
far beyond my strength or inclination;
to remember with renewed wonder
Your provision for all my needs;
and then to see hearts open,
wounded souls receive hope,
saddened eyes light up
at the realisation of a Love
that only wants to give, heal, restore and bless,
to hear the shy, whispered confessions,
“Aunty I want to forgive the people
who did wrong things to me”
“Aunty I believe this story give me strength”
“Aunty I want to trust because
God will provide for me”
this makes it all worthwhile,
not just the journey of 4700 miles
to come and tell of Your deeds,
but all of it, the whole
of what You have led me through,
worth every tear, every doubt,
every moment of unexpected joy,
every puzzled misgiving
that dissolved into delighted realisation
that You knew what You were doing all along;
every second of it worthwhile
to see the One who has been
my Saviour, Guide and Friend through it all
adored and loved and worshipped
by young hearts renewed in hope.

Hebrews 12. 18-24

Was the Father who would run,
flinging dignity to the winds
to throw His arms around a returning prodigal
ever unapproachable?
Did He, somewhere between Malachi and Matthew,
undergo a Damascene conversion?
Did Jesus really come
to rescue us from an offended God?
Or could it be those arms
were always open wide, that heart
never had anything but love
and yearning and welcome and warmth
but we saw, between us and Him,
fire and darkness and gloom and whirlwind
until the very voice of love filled us
with fear and trembling?
Like the son rehearsing over and over
as his dogged yet tremulous steps carried him home,
“Make me one of your hired servants”,
did we assume He shared our pettiness
and so rehearse our expectation of rejection
until it metamorphosed in our minds
into the hostility of God?
Could it be that Jesus came
not to rescue us from the Father
but to show in living truth before our eyes,
when He becomes incarnate,
love takes on flesh and bone, not to hire servants,
but to whisper again as to Adam,
“You are still my beloved children”?

On hearing the story of the prodigal son for the very first time

the return of the prodigal son by rembrandt

How astounding it must have been
to those first hearers of the story.
After he wished the years away,
wished his father gone and laid to rest,
his palms itching to grasp the lucre,
his mind reeling with the possibilities –
disposable means, available choices,
everything until now denied to him
in a world where every day was a fait accompli;
after he broke his mother’s heart
(why is she not mentioned in the story?
Was her grief too deep, too sacred for public sharing?)
After he squandered his children’s birthright,
and for what?  Not so much as a mess of pottage;
after he dragged his family’s name
into the literal mire of pig dung;
everyone present knew how the story would end.
And even now, I can see the jaws dropping,
The eyes widening,
The slow, delighted upward curl
of the corners of the mouths
spreading quickly into exultant incredulity.
And me, as I read again Your pièce de résistance
I find myself agape too, at how wide of the mark
my picture of the Father has been,
at how insanely recklessly He loves,
how limitless is His capacity
to bear insult and still forgive.
If this had been the only speech you ever made
It would have told us everything we need to know.