Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I've travelled through snow and ice, through traffic beyond belief, to England (which was officially closed - the bridges, both of them were shut) and back, to friends and with the dog all the way, returning home to a burst water pipe and no heating, and tonight at our Midnight Service, Aled spoke of journeys and how travelling together is better.

So I would like to wish all who travel with me a very warm seasonal greeting, and add my concurrence to Aled's thoughts. All of us at times feel that the way is lonely and the road uncertain; but that photo on the previous posting is a picture of intent - we do this together. Christmas is the season when above all others we hear the angels sing God's heart that we do this together - that we are not alone, that he walks the paths of this world with us, and so the snow and the ice and the fear and the closed bridges and unexpectedly long detours are not things we cannot bear.

For there is a Saviour. Someone who makes life safe.

Thanks to those who comment and those who just read, to those who constantly peruse these pages and those who dip in, to those who stop me in Tescos to ask questions and those who email me or phone. I wish you Joy; I wish you glory; I wish you peace. I wish you all that this season foretells and promises and whispers and shouts, and I wish it today.

* * *

A burst pipe and no heating? But a wonderful plumber who was here in no time and sorted it out. The journey is not free from pain, but with help and good company and the right person at the right time, even the pain is not a total disaster. Blessing will shape us if we let it.

Merry Christmas.

I am overwhelmed as ever by the generosity of people - thank you all. I cannot list every gift and giver here, but I am grateful to every one - more than I can say. And Matty too! Both of us are relaxing after lunch now, and after visiting someone in hospital and taking a beautiful walk in Castle Coch woods - snow on the ground, sun in the sky, perfect. Thank you, to all and above all, to Jesus, who has filled our hearts to overflowing today.

Monday, December 21, 2009


OK. We walked in the snow this morning, and then drove to Cardiff for Matt's scan.

He has a small cyst on his kidney, and very high blood pressure. His blood levels and the protein in his urine show chronic renal failure. Kidney disease. On the down side (it's some down side) there's no cure - dogs don't get transplants. On the upside, we have caught it very early, and first we will try some medication, then we'll try to get his blood pressure down, and maybe then we'll see a specialist to see if there's anything else to be done. We may change his diet. He's nine. He might live really well for years - a presumptive diagnosis isn't written in stone on a memorial tablet.

And yes, I feel rotten. But God is God, and I will praise Him; or, as Habakkuk puts it:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Here We Go Again...

Matt has been having skin problems. Can't spell it, but you wouldn't want it - scales and flakes all over his back, and at the same time something similar which may or may not be part of the same condition around his eyes.

Simon, Matt's Vet in residence, called in Nicola, his skin expert, to make sure we were doing the right thing. She prescribed antibiotics - which Matt vomited up: he doesn't like antibiotics. Eventually, with the help of medicine they give to dogs having chemo so they keep their stuff down, he took them. And is getting better.


Just to make sure that's all it was, we did some blood tests. And a urine sample. Oh yes. I had to sort that bit out. (I originally wrote "I had to do that bit" but realised one or two of you might misunderstand!) I'll let you imagine the fun that was.

These tests had a slight spike on them - nothing amazing - but one level was maybe just over what you'd expect. A kidney indicator. So we did them again a couple of weeks later. Second set were slightly higher than the first set. And today, a couple of weeks on, we did them again. Third set higher still. All still not exceptional. None of them the kind of thing you'd bring a dog into the vet's for. All of them too low to be showing any outward signs -

Well, he's a bit off his food, and I think he's lost a bit of weight. I'd put that down to being on the antibiotics. None of this has anything to do with the skin stuff. If he hadn't been going in for that, none of this would have been spotted.

None of what?

We don't know. But on Monday he's having a scan on his kidneys, just to see. Here we go again. O Lord, thank you that if there is something that needs looking at you made us look at it. And please - make Matt well.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Present!

St Catherine's application to the Big Lottery Fund has been successful!

We asked for £104,066 to complete our fund for salaries for the children's worker (St Catz Kidz) and senior worker (St Caths Plus) and the Big Lottery have granted us £109,106 - because they say we made an error in our National Insurance calculations, and so we need slightly more than we thought.

How amazing! More than we asked for!

The Big Lottery Fund has been more than helpful throughout the whole process, and though the application process is not easy, they have been fair and several times asked us again to check details - right up to the last minute as they were making decisions. We found them excellent.

And of course we are really grateful - to them, to everyone who helped us in the course of the application, to all who wrote in support of us, to political voices across the spectrum, and to our God who answers prayer. This is the most wonderful Christmas present.

It means that both workers are now secured for three years - full time. And as we have only just begun the St Caths Plus project, this is especially exciting there. We shall take time to make sure we are making all the right decisions and hope to have further news on that front soon. Our aim as a church with these projects is to make people's lives better in every way we can, and we are thrilled that this grant makes the work we are doing secure for the foreseeable future.

Jane Davidson, our Assembly Member, is also delighted with this award. She says:
“I am delighted that the team at St Catherine’s has received this much needed funding, and look forward to seeing the great benefits the money will bring. I would like to offer my congratulations to all those involved, and would encourage anybody interested in the facilities on offer to pay a visit to St Catherine’s.”

Esther Sowerby, who headed up the fundraising, is pictured here with me, holding the cheque from the Big Lottery Fund. (It's a publicity cheque - we can't actually take this one to the bank!) She also runs the St Caths Plus pilot project at the moment, and today, as the news is announced, is taking 30 of the members of that project on a trip to see the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff Bay.

Over the first term of St Caths Plus project, up to seventy older people have benefitted from the work Esther and her volunteers have done - and that's from a project that has been running just two days a week. As we now consider how to make it full time, alongside Trish Tazzini-Lloyd and the very successful St Catz Kidz programme, we face an enormously exciting time. Jesus tells us to love God and to love our neighbour. We believe in caring for all in our community and hope these projects go some way to making life in Ponty better for many, many folk.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Can't tell...

I just can't tell you. I'm really sorry. No, I can't.

I had a wonderful piece of news today, but it's embargoed till December 18th. So I'm not allowed to publish it. It's nothing to do with the church hall, in case one or two of you are thinking about that.

And in the midst of feeling pretty low, a good day with good news is a real blessing.

O - I so want to tell you. Shhh - I mustn't. Not allowed - I'd better go now -

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Getting Back On The Horse

Or the hearse, to be more accurate.

Life goes on, and so does death. My context is to have a tragedy and then keep on helping others through theirs. So today I buried somebody else; another family and different tears. Stories I don't know, and grief that I safely observe without drinking too deeply.

The way we would all rather do grief.

Of course, I haven't just switched off from Rob and his family. His father sent me an email last night, with further kind words about the things I have been trying to do for them, and some of you who were there on Monday have been generous in leaving facebook comments.

George and Elaine, Rob's parents, have a special grief, it seems to me. In addition to losing their only child, they have purposefully arranged for his burial near to their grandchildren - who live with their son's estranged and almost divorced wife. They are old, and will not often get to see their son's grave. They took photos of his final resting place so they have a memory of the spot. Gone his voice on the phone, his visits, his emails, and gone even a chance to pop out and leave flowers and shed a tear for these elderly folk who now mourn their son in absentia.

Just off junction 11A on the M5. Well, I might drop by, I pass that way occasionally.

I was thoughtless to my own mother when I returned on Monday - no, not thoughtless; but I appreciate she needs me to be more communicative, and I was unable to speak. I was unable. Disabled by the day.

People should be. Why? Is not Rob in heaven? Is this not a good thing? Of course; but I grieve not for Rob - not for his state, not for his life with Christ, though perhaps there is a sadness that he has not lived to share his children's growing up; every parent would want that. I grieve for George and Elaine. For his marriage to Ruth which had ended though Ruth always hoped it had not. For his children growing up without their father. For the people from a former church who emailed me such a sad letter that I could not even bear to reply.

I grieve a friendship. A man younger than I. A human being with talent and promise and capable of so much. Gone. And yes, the Lord has a better plan than I, but in my ignorance, I grieve. I miss Rob. Though in recent times we had not been as close as once we were. I grieve that was my fault.

And get back on the horse and watch others do the same thing. It is life. We carry these things, and if we carry them, then we must carry them to the cross. Not alone. Asking for help, for (at the least) a helping hand to bear the burden, and hopefully for one stronger than us to take them from us altogether. In time. If possible - if we can learn to trust and let go.

"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."
O to find rest for my soul.
O to find rest.