books · Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Inspirations

I’ve been inspired this week:

  • Inspired to pray by this video from Christians in Politics.
A video from Christians in Politics about Brexit
  • Inspired to take the train by Professor Kevin Anderson who appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme on 9 May. He last flew in 2004 and travelled to a conference in China by train – it took him 11 days. He believes we need to radically change how we live our lives if we are serious about climate change. Have a listen on BBC Sounds – it’s at 1hr 15mins.
  • Inspired to reduce meat and dairy. There is a growing awareness of the damage we are doing to the planet by eating meat and animal products and so when a new vegan cafe opened near my office this week, I was keen to visit. The chocolate brownie I ate yesterday was rich and chocolaty and I’m looking forward to trying the spinach filo pastry.
  • Inspired to pray (again!). I was given a copy of a little book called Five Ways to Pray for Your City. Using words from the Bible, it has short sections with ideas for prayers. Sometimes I find it hard to pray and a new tool can reinvigorate my prayers.
  • Inspired by Rachel Held Evans: #becauseofRHE was the hashtag on Twitter this week as people described how Rachel had inspired them in their faith. Heartbreakingly, Rachel passed away last weekend following a short illness, leaving behind her husband and two young children. I have cried – wept for her bereft family and friends and wept too as I remembered the impact of reading her book A Year of Biblical Womenhood. Writing about Junia, the concubine in Judges 19 and Huldah, she gave me a new perspective on myself and on the Bible. She gave me the the words Eshet Chayil – woman of valour. I will miss her writings and her wisdom.

Christian · Ecological concern · nature · Uncategorized

Creepy-crawly love

I love insects. Really, I do. Over the last year, I have grown to love creepy-crawlies. Now, I’ll still shout for Mr Pilgrim if I see a spider in the sitting room and I’m not saying that I won’t ever swat flies or mosquitoes but I think bugs are pretty awesome.

I’ve written before about my new enthusiasm for butterflies but who doesn’t love butterflies?! They are graceful, colourful, and an inspirational metaphor. Other insects are harder to love but the more I discover, the more my fascination and appreciation grows. I’ve just ordered Extraordinary Insects: Weird. Wonderful. Indispensable. the Ones Who Run Our World.

My enthusiasm has been ignited by the wonder of Small Boy at all things insect. He is currently enthralled by a library book called Find out Bugs. We’ve found a new favourite caterpillar, the woolly bear caterpillar, who lives in the Arctic and takes 14 years to complete the cycle from egg to moth. We’ve learnt there is only one insect which lives in Antarctica, a midge, and we’ve had fun being bug detectives!

Butterfly Conservation have a campaign called Moths Matter, and yes, they do. (Don’t tell Small Boy but Mr Pilgrim and I have signed up to go to a moths night!) Moths matter and so do bumblebees, stink bugs, dragonflies, bombardier beetles and jewel beetles.

Why do they matter? I think insects are great because they just are – created by the Creator, they are valuable in and of themselves. But they also provide many benefits to us, such as pollination and pest control.

Insect populations are decreasing around the world and so let’s do what we can to help. Let’s not mow our lawns as often, avoid pesticides, plant wildflowers, build bug hotels and make sure we always have water in our gardens (if we have one).

Christian · Ecological concern · mental health · nature

Season of singing

For now the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in the countryside; the season of singing has come, and the cooing of turtledoves is heard in our land. (Song of Songs 2:11)

Frogspawn in our local pond; Mrs Blackbird and Mr Blackbird gathering building materials from our garden; bright splashes of celandine by the roadside; the soundtrack of birdsong as I walk to collect Small Boy from school – Spring is here.

A spring is in my step. For the first time in a while, I laugh inside and feel like a carefree girl.

books · Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · mental health · nature · Uncategorized

A blue tit in the bird bath

Illness, an allergic reaction and stress meant our weekend didn’t go to plan. Yet, in the tiredness and tears, were some memorable moments of joy.

One of the reasons we bought our house (and not the one next door) is that the kitchen sink overlooks the garden. Washing dishes on Saturday morning, I caught sight of a blue tit splashing in our small bird bath.

We love blue tits in our house. Small Boy found me reading about birdsong and we discovered that blue tits tweet ‘see see choo choo’. We often pretend to be birds, bugs and sea creatures in our house and Small Boy enjoyed being a blue tit: ‘see see choo choo’.

(If you are interested in learning how to hide like an octopus, find food like a bee or hop like a frog, I recommend reading Howl Like a Wolf).

All four of us gathered by the windows and excitedly watched our garden guest bathe.

In the afternoon, we headed to our allotment. As we parked, we saw a small bird hopping on the grass (a red wing) and long-tailed tits were in the bare trees at the foot of our plot. Later, a robin drew near hoping for some worms (good news for us and the robin, Mr Pilgrim dug up lots!). Mr P threw one to the robin but the bird was too timid and the wise worm wriggled away. Probably for the best!

Little Miss got bored and kept declaring: ‘I want to go the library!’ Mr Pilgrim kept digging while the children enjoyed choosing books and I picked up my order of Fascism by Madeleine Allbright.

I’ve not seen any butterflies yet although there have been sightings on the Herts and Middlesex Butterfly Conservation website. I’m looking forward to seeing my first butterfly of 2019 and wondering what it will be.

My Valentine’s present was A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson – all about bumblebees. They are fascinating little creatures and it’s a delight to read Dave Goulson’s humorous yet scientific (he’s a professor of biology) prose.

Lent is approaching and I’ve bought Wild Lent (full of outside activities to help us encounter God through creation). I’m also thinking about taking up one of the Living Lent challenges, organised by the Joint Public Issues Team.

books · Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Looking back and looking forward

Last year, I had two lists of challenges: Going Wilder in 2018 – 18 countryside activities and the Better World Book Challenge.

I picked up rubbish, developed a new hobby of butterflying, started looking for birds near our home, visited Bempton Cliffs to see sea birds, read a lot of books about nature and wildlife, climbed Roseberry Topping, spent a total of 25 nights sleeping under canvas, looked up at the stars, watched live badgers, walked on beaches in the south-west and north-east of England, had a tour of Church Farm by Farmer Tim, and read BBC Wildlife magazine.

I didn’t achieve my goal of freshwater swimming although I did swim through Durdle Door in Dorset. We also didn’t make it for a walk by a viaduct as when we got there Small Boy and Little Miss were fast asleep and it was raining!

And the reading challenge? I appreciated being more experimental in my book choices and enjoyed trying new genres and authors. My favourite reads were A Woman’s Work by Harriet Harman (a book by a politician no longer in office), The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (a book involving magic) and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (a book nominated for a literary prize).

This year I will be doing the Read Harder Challenge by Book Riot and as last year, I want to use the library as much as possible.


We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. No one is keeping score and there are no points to post. We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out. That’s what this is—a perspective shift—but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.

https://bookriot.com/?p=248175

I also want to read:

  1. Facism by Madeline Albright
  2. William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner by William Hague
  3. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  4. The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr
  5. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  6. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brendan Manning
  7. The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma

Throughout the year I will be reading Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals and The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019.

Other goals:

  • Learn the biblical Hebrew alphabet
  • Go swimming in a freshwater lake or river
  • Discover nature in my local patch – both the hyperlocal and in Herts and Middlesex (Mr Pilgrim and I are booked on a duck identification workshop!)
  • Continue to learn about butterflies
  • Keep picking up rubbish
  • Write a list of what I buy as a way of aiming to consume less
  • Simplify my online life

Christian · Ethical living · Uncategorized

Thoughts before Christmas

The frenetic season before Christmas has drawn to an end and now it is time to rest; the to do list has been abandoned, the out of office is on, and I’m choosing to slow down. 

(For me being slower means less internet, more play, more cups of tea and more Sorkin dramas!)

I last wrote a post a month ago and since then I have tried to sit down and write several times but struggled to put my thoughts into words. In some ways, I am still in that place, I don’t have a theme, an activity or a specific reason to write yet I need to write to process the swirling thoughts.

A Just Christmas?

This year I’ve tried to buy less and to buy better (fair trade and zero waste) and, as last year, presents are wrapped in old maps. We’ve wanted to be generous and for our gifts to be a sign of our love and appreciation to the recipient – I’m not sure how well we’ve done here, and I know that in the busyness there are cards I’ve not written and presents I’ve not bought.

A visit to the Lego Shop did result in some unplanned unnecessary purchases but every time I look at my new Wonder Woman Mini Figure key-ring, I remember the Wonder Woman pose and feel empowered!

Photo by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

Amid the busyness of the past month, I managed to have a few hours to myself and went for a calming walk one day in my local nature reserve to look for birds. I don’t find it easy to choose a peaceful activity and as I set off it did feel like ‘a waste of time’ but in a week full of work, volunteering, appointments, Christmas preparation and children’s parties, it was a vital sustaining pause.  

Advent began with Small Boy, Little Miss and Mr Pilgrim being ill, but our activities have gone well – better than expected! The Jesse Tree book has been very popular with Small Boy and Little Miss. They’ve enjoyed colouring in the pictures and listening to me retell the Bible stories. My Christmas tree hat gains me more attention than I thought but I think it’s made people smile! Our reverse Advent calendar has been good, and I will do this again – buying the items in advance certainly helps.

I will finish now with a quote from the Advent devotional, God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas (a collection of writings from
Dietrich Bonhoeffer), that I’ve been reading – words that I’ve been reflecting on throughout this month.

And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly . . . . God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and the broken.”

May you know God’s nearness this Christmas.

Love, Dido x

Christian · Ethical living

Bake, write, give, play, pray

I like shopping. I like buying new things. I like having stuff. But I know I consume too much and I want to live more simply. But this is not something that comes naturally to me.


So I’ve written a list of five activities for Black Friday (by the way it’s also Buy Nothing Day!) to position myself away from the pull of purchasing and possessing.


1) Bake a cake – did you know that bananas are the UK’s most wasted food? I’ve used our squidgy bananas to make (hopefully!) delicious banana bread. Creativity – even if it’s a simple cake – is a fantastic antidote to consumerism. 


2) Write a letter – I’m going to write a letter (with a pen not a keyboard!) to a friend to thank her for her decades of friendship.


3) Give – I’ve found some books to share with the Community Book Swap and will take some clothes to a local charity shop.

4) Play – Small Boy and Little Miss are full of creativity, imagination and enthusiasm. They don’t seem to want or need that many toys for their games of ‘pretend’. I’m going to enter their worlds joyfully and with a grateful heart. 


5) Pray – I will spend some time praying for my family, my local community and the work of Tearfund

Christian · Social justice

The Justice Conference

I have just spent two days at The Justice Conference – well, almost two days, I missed the evening sessions as finishing at half nine is just too late for me now! I hope to catch up the sessions I missed through purchasing the talks on a USB.

Not too far from home, the conference was at The Drum in Wembley, the UK’s greenest public building. Little Miss, Small Boy and Mr Pilgrim came with me on the train on the first morning – a train ride is fun when you’re small and I was glad of the company!

My head is still spinning as I begin to process the sessions and seminars. Full of poetry, drama, talks, panel discussions and audience questions, the days were full of challenging content. I want to think more about:

  • Encouraging young children to engage with the Creator and the natural world (I found out about a church that meets in a park! Park Church, Luton)
  • White privilege
  • Climate change
  • The theology of justice – I will be reading Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma
  • Making space to be creative and the importance of creativity
  • The Pilgrim family’s giving
  • Connection and holism – why is it that many of us don’t join the dots and see how our the way we live our lives (often in over-consumption) has an affect on others? Why is there still a dualism to our thinking? What can be done about this?

IMG_20181104_142434

The highlights from me were the variety of voices – there was a diversity in gender, colour, nationality and background. An LGBTQ+ perspective was missing though.

My favourite speakers were Mandisa Gumada, a South African woman from Green Anglicans, and Micah Bournes – my new favourite poet. If you have time, I recommend listening to some of his spoken word poetry.

I’ve signed up to Jeremy Williams Make Wealth History blog and am looking forward to reading his book, The Economics of Arrival, which comes out next year.

Hopefully, as I read and write and think and talk, I will be able to share further thoughts here.

Christian · community

Walking

The first time I walked down our road, it was not our road. I was praying for a new congregation my church were starting in the community.

A few weeks’ later, I walked down our road for the second time. As Mr Pilgrim and I left a church meeting explaining the vision behind this new congregation, I said ‘let’s be part of it’.

So even though we lived in a different part of town, we joined this new congregation never thinking that this would be for the long-term.

A year later and heavily pregnant, I walked down our road in the dark November rain. It was still not yet ‘our road’ but almost. We were about to buy what is now our house but I was having doubts. Wanting to hear from God and hoping for a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from him, I walked the streets and prayed. For the first time, I felt a glimpse of God’s love for our community and that love has became my love. I never heard that ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

We moved in and I walked. Walked in the rain. Walked in the sunshine. Walked to help my baby sleep. Walked to get out of the house.

paul-dufour-63736-unsplash
Photo by Paul Dufour on Unsplash

Two years later, weighed down with fears and pregnant with Little Miss, I walked in the balmy heat of late summer. Walking to manage my gestational diabetes, the aroma of the lavender in people’s front gardens lifted my despondent spirit.

And today I walked. The houses are no longer houses, they are the homes of people I know. The school isn’t just a school, it’s our community.  I walked past places we know and are known: the post office, the pre-school, the churches, the Red Box collection point and the Green. I saw love, community and beauty.

IMG_20180804_125048

As I walked today, I remembered the first time I walked on this road. I remembered walking while pregnant in the winter rain and then in the summer sun, and I give thanks for God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Christian

Am I growing?

At the start of the academic year, I reflected on change. Small Boy was about to start in the nursery class at our local primary school, I went back to work after a year’s leave, and both Small Boy and Little Miss were going to be looked after by a new childminder.

It’s now the end of the summer term and sitting here on a hot and humid July’s evening, last September seems such a long time ago. Both children have grown and developed so much in the last ten months – as one would expect them too. Physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, there have been huge steps forward. Literally, in the case of Little Miss who started walking in October!

mother-445008_1920

But have I grown?

What does it even mean for me to grow?

Am I growing in my relationship with God? Am I more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more patient and more kind? Am I more gentle, more faithful and more self-controlled?

There’s a story in the Bible of two sisters: Martha and Mary. Friends of Jesus, they open their home to him. Martha works hard preparing the house for their guests while Mary sits and listens to the intriguing itinerant rabbi. Martha becomes angry with her sister and appeals to Jesus, who then gently chastises his harried host: ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’

I have always identified with Martha and find Mary irritating. I would have been angry with her too! I am an activist, a list-maker, a doer. I love the feeling of satisfaction when I achieve a goal – even if it’s just a small task!

list-2522751_1920

But Mary has chosen what is better.

I cannot escape the thought that growth isn’t about my achievements or my knowledge.

Am I sitting at the feet of my rabbi? Or am I rushing around trying to serve him?

I know I have written about this before and I’m embarrassed and frustrated that I still seem to be in the same place.

I still long for something deeper but struggle with the demands of my days.

Maybe it’s also sometimes easy to keep moving than to stop.

I think I will wrestle with this for many years to come.