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Several months ago my wife & I handed over our cherished foster child to another carer. He’d lived 12 months with us. An extremely energetic little soldier, he’s battled through seemingly insurmountable difficulties in his short life. Months before coming into our care (August 2018) he was fighting for that life. We feel so privileged to have contributed to his recovery and early development. Writing is something of a catharsis for me and I hope my readers will understand, even forgive, for posting this raw piece on social media. I could designate it: “my bitter sweet symphony”.

DISTRESS – The Bitter

Reading in the Psalms pulled me up sharply days after his departure, accurately describing my feelings (as only Scripture can do, when we discover it reading our hearts) – “I am distraught…” moaned the psalmist, and I responded, “Me, too”. Here’s why:

Yes – distraught that we had to prematurely terminate the placement, and let him go.

Yes – distraught that my wife’s health – an injured hand (that made handling a strong toddler too painful to manage) and experience of severe chest pain – contributed largely to the placement ending

Yes – distraught by a 14 month dither within our legal system – preventing earlier movement towards adoption.

Yes – distraught by the abruptness of it all once we’d reached the decision that we simply couldn’t carry on – a decision I’d assess as among the worst in my life, and which has haunted me since.

Yes – distraught by his absence from our home, whilst seeing/hearing/feeling him all around and remembering many scenarios we’d been through together

Yes – distraught by subsequent reflections – a sense of failure, of abandoning, even betrayal of such a vulnerable child, of letting everyone down – perhaps most of all, of not fulfilling what I believed to be a ‘special’ assignment – and failing to find strength in God to carry on !

Along with this distress other thoughts surfaced, as if from nowhere – painful recollections of my past failures to see through specific assignments/projects – leaving me utterly broken inside, and mindful of a bitter lament I wrote some years ago:

So, yes, “I am distraught…” does capture this miserable episode, with tears a-plenty, resonating with yet another Psalm, where the writer emotes: “I have mingled my drink with weeping”. I can only liken this to the grieving process, comparable with numerous bereavements over the years. An emotional roller-coaster of grief, anger, confusion, disappointment, regret, and forlorn hope. Hope that we may get back to ‘yesterday’ – but forlorn, because it’s just not going to happen. A further aggravating factor must be mentioned here: that well-known human propensity for wanting to take control, to be a Mr Fixit, and organize a way out – which, in this case, has only served to feed the grief.


All of this ‘stuff’ occurred around and within me at the same time as reading through the Gospel of John. Working through the last 8-9 chapters, which detail Jesus’ intimate, emotionally-charged last moments with his disciples, it slowly began to dawn on me that, in a small way, my feelings might well mirror in miniscule form what transpired 2000 years ago, as the Father loved and gave the Son, and as the Son gave His life for our sake. Especially, I pondered how the Father had observed at such close quarters:

– As Jesus’ life developed (30 years in almost total obscurity) before blessing him with affirmation (in Whom I am well-pleased) and anointing of the Holy Spirit (without measure) over a relatively short period of public ministry

– As the insults began to fly – “He’s insane…He’s demonized…He’s a trouble-maker…He’s a glutton & wine-bibber…He’s the friend of tax-collectors and sinners…and so on…”

– As the envy, anger, hatred of the religious establishment grew, leading to plots to get rid of him, many of which failed miserably

– As the betrayal by Judas, the arrest in the Garden, the subsequent trials (before Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod unfolded

– As the scourging, mockery, abuse of the Roman soldiers kicked in – purple robe, crown of thorns.

– As He’s ultimately condemned to death by crucifixion

How was the Father affected by such treatment of His beloved Son. What was His response to those heart-rending words spoken from the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken (abandoned) Me”

What did this do to the loving heart of the Father ?

I recalled a song heard many years ago, and reflected that this was what singer/songwriter, Dallas Holm was attempting to capture when he wrote the following lines way back in the 1970s:

God, it must have broke Your heart to send Your Son away
Knowing all the time the final price He’d have to pay
Left His home in glory and became a common man
And because He did I am what I am

Now I am a man and have a baby of my own
I wonder could I send my baby off and all alone
To help someone, somewhere, somehow to set some captive free
Could I do the same for Him who did the same for me

Yes, how did the Father feel as the Son laid down His life, surrendering His being in those dying words: “Into Your hands I commit my spirit”, as He watches the spear pierce His side and how that mutilated body, marred beyond recognition, is removed from the cross, carefully wrapped in grave cloths, with embalming spices, and laid lifeless in a borrowed, garden tomb for 3 nights in eternity.

Well, we’ll never know or understand fully – BUT as these thoughts poured over my hurting soul, I did fleetingly wonder if what I’ve been experiencing may conceivably have afforded a tiny glimpse into the heart of the suffering Abba (daddy).

(The amazing image of the cross in the ruins of Notre Dame Cathedral – 16 Apr 2019)


Season’s Greetings To You All

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The Long And The Short

On a couple of occasions in the last few years our Sheffield Group of the Northumbria Community, has reflected on this thought-provoking prayer at this special time of the year.

Attributed to the Revd. Tess Ward (ordained Anglican priest, retreat leader and spiritual director) and found in her book entitled “The Celtic Wheel of the Year”, it challenges us to think deeply about priorities to be cultivated and problem areas to be eliminated (or certainly curtailed).

It’s also included in the Celtic Daily Prayer – Book II – ‘Farther Up and Farther In’ which is used by the Northumbria Community

I’m sure it will resonate with many of my readers.


A Midwinter Prayer 

From the rising of the midwinter sun to its setting,

Scatter the darkness with the light of your love, O Shining One.

Make me short on mean thoughts, long on offering words of comfort.

Make me short on being driven, long on paying attention.

Make me short on focusing only on my own, long on looking beyond.

Make me short on obsessive lists, long on spontaneous acts of kindness,

Make me short on mindless activity, long on time to reflect.

Make me short on tradition as habit, long on re-discovery and re-owning.

Make me short on rushing and tiring, long on walking and wondering.

Make me short on false festive jollity, long on stilling and rooted joy.

Make me short on guilt, long on being merciful to myself.

Make me short on being overwhelmed, long on peaceableness as I set forth this day.


North Wales – January 2019

Walking The Labyrinth

I’m delighted to post this ‘reflective piece’ by my friend, Aglaia, following a group exercise of Walking the Labyrinth during a retreat at the Northumbria Community ‘mother house’, Nether Springs on Saturday 12th October 2019. It was shared by Aglaia the following day and expresses something of her apprehension, yet surprised delight at her experience. Aglaia has kindly given her permission for me to post on Ready Writer, for which I am deeply grateful. I hope it will convey something of the wonder of God’s ways.
The Path will not trick me –
It will carry me in the way I should go.
It keeps me safe –
keeps me focused.
It gives me time –
gives me space.
It changes my views.
It helps me look at where I came from –
 and keeps me moving forward.
The path is not made by me.
It is rock, and soil,
It is green, and alive
It is there – before me, and after me.
For all – even the slugs, the woodlice and nettles.
It is a gift – for me – for all.
To be followed.
Yet it gives me space to move along it,
the way I need, the way I want
Slowly, carefully
Heavily, deliberately
Thoughtfully, purposefully
Care-lessly, lightly
With a sway in my hips
My eyes down, my eyes up.
It lets me decide – how I walk
All the while supporting, guiding, enabling, inviting me.
And today – what a challenge !
Others are on the Path too.
And today – what a surprise !
There is room for us all.
What a delight! – encountering others, negotiating others, connecting with others.
And my fears that there won’t be room for me –
that I will have to let go of myself and pick up the others – fade away.
As joy and delight at those encounters, soothe my anxiety.
And the Path says “There is space enough for all’.
And the Path says: “Love yourself, love others – follow me, surrender to me”.
Aglaia Barraclough
I came across this photo of Nether Springs’ Labyrinth in the web’s amazing archive – but unsure of the source or the date it was taken enjoy.


Greek for undisturbed or untroubled “ataraxia” is a place of inner peace or calm, in spite of external circumstances. St Paul wrote these timeless words: “… Your life is hidden with Christ in God…” so adding to the Psalmist’s poetic insights recorded in Psalm 18 (recommended reading). In this reflective ditty I see a movement from inner turmoil (the reality of many of us) to a place of “ataraxia” found through abiding “in Christ” and I pray this will be your felt experience today.


Calm that raging storm within

Tumult of both wind and sea

Still me into quietness

May Your peace hold sway in me


Under shelter of Your wing

May I rest from all alarm

Safely held in strong embrace

Kept from all that could cause harm


Living in that spacious place

Rock of Ages split for me

Trusting in Your loving care

Hidden there eternally


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