The other day I was walking along the street behind a young boy wearing a brown hoodie. He held his mother’s hand, and they were chatting away to one another as they walked. On the back of his top, in large cream-coloured letters it said, “Be Strong, Be Courageous, Always Be Kind and have Fun.” They were walking quite slowly and as I overtook them, I said to the boy, “I like the words on your top, that’s a good way to live your life.” He was too shy to reply, but his mother beamed at me and said, “Thank you so much. He chose it himself.” She was right to be proud of him.

When so much in the world seems bleak and unpromising, it is a sign of hope that children can recognise the importance of kindness. His hoodie has continued to make me think more widely about what kindness means and how we can try to build it into our lives (along with strength, courage and fun!).

According to one dictionary definition, kindness is the quality of being generous, helpful and caring about other people. It’s more than just being nice, there is an element of intentionality – another person has thought through what might help us and perhaps even gone out of their way or inconvenienced themselves by their act of kindness. They’ve put us before themselves.

What is so interesting about kindness is that when we are the recipients of a kind act, it doesn’t just help us in our predicament or at least make us feel valued, it can stir something within us which makes us want to be kind too. It is not about pay-back or settling a debt, some new good thing has been ignited at a deeper spiritual level. We want to pass it on to someone else by being kind to them in turn, the first ripple of a new movement or flow of kindness. It’s not just about doing acts of kindness either, we need to speak about acts of kindness we witness too, rippling the effects more widely afield. As Amelia Earhart puts it, rather more poetically “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”

Kindness is the outworking of loving our neighbour as ourselves, which Jesus spoke of as the second great commandment. Jesus is constantly referred to as showing compassion to people he meets and to all those with great need whom he healed, taught and fed. His stories too were often about the importance of showing kindness, compassion and generosity to others – the good Samaritan, the parable of the sheep and goats, the lost sheep, and when he received an act of great kindness from a repentant woman who poured expensive perfume on him, he predicted that her story would be told for ever.

Kindness is central to all twelve-step recovery. In meetings newcomers are welcomed and shown complete acceptance, the primary purpose according to the fifth tradition of AA being to carry their message to the alcoholic who still suffers. This requires kindness, which becomes an important way of helping us to stop being so self-absorbed, to look beyond ourselves. That’s how our own healing and recovery come about. If we are thinking about other people, which requires some imagination, empathy and most important of all, action, then we are taking time out from just thinking about ourselves. There is always the need for balance though. As addicts we tend to do everything to excess, so being kind and gentle with ourselves is also important.

Acts of kindness are unilateral and radical. In a world where so much isn’t in our control, we have complete license to do acts of kindness, to pretty much whoever we want, whenever we want to do them. It doesn’t require anything in the way of resources either apart from a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable and put the needs of others before our own wants. The author Og Mandino’s words inspire us to action. “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”

Easter People

On Easter Day, things have moved on from the last blog in which we remembered the path of suffering which Jesus trod in his final days. The betrayal and denial by friends who just hours before had shared supper together, his arrest, rigged trial and execution at the hands of the state and religious leaders, a downward pathway of powerlessness, suffering and pain, which he met with love, arms open wide. On Easter Day everything changes, because Jesus is alive.

The resurrection shows and establishes once and for all that love is triumphant. God was never absent and has been there throughout. Though the darkness was very real, the light has not been extinguished, and never will be. The Easter message of hope is that not only can we survive the downward path and the pain in our lives, but that through the love and presence of God we rise up and grow from the tragedies and failures of our imperfection. This is the story of addiction recovery. This is the story of those who follow the way of Jesus. This is our story.

So, as Pope John Paul II said, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” May the light of Christ, rising in glory banish all darkness from our hearts and minds.


At St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle upon Tyne, England there is a stained-glass window depicting the last supper. It is about 140 years old. In the picture, Jesus is surrounded by his disciples, all blessed with handsome features and dressed in bright colours with gold halos above their heads. In stark contrast, Judas, his betrayer, is wearing a dark coloured cloak, has an ugly face, flame coloured hair and holds a bag of money in his grasping left hand. Most telling of all is the black halo above his head.

Judas has long fascinated me. Not with the aim of excusing him or trying to rehabilitate him but to understand what lay behind the decision to betray his friend and once he had, what options remained. A previous blog has looked at this (Pathways: Restoration instead of Despair; April 2020). What has intrigued me this Easter is less about the pathway of Judas, and more about Jesus and how he coped with the betrayal by his friend and his experience of increasing powerlessness through this betrayal as he journeyed from arrest to trial and execution.

Throughout his life, Jesus consistently showed the way of love – to all those he met along the way and most especially to his close group of twelve disciples with whom he spent the final three years of his life. At the last supper he shows this love in a symbolic act of service when he first washes their feet and then shares in a meal where he talks of his impending death. He knows Judas is about to leave and betray him and Judas knows Jesus knows, yet he still does it. The love of Jesus reaches out, but he is powerless to stop Judas. Love is like that. The families of addicts know this only too well. How many parents, children or partners of addicts have loved and reach out in love, desperately hoping that this will be enough to draw their loved back to sobriety, back to sanity, back to them. But they are powerless to stop them, all they can do is love, and that brings with it immense pain and sorrow.

In the story of the last supper, John responds to Jesus’ prediction of betrayal at the hands of one of their number by asking him who it will be. Jesus indicates that it is Judas. Throughout the gospels, the disciples seem to display a high level of crassness and misunderstanding about whatever Jesus says and I’ve always assumed that in this instance John, (and probably Peter too who overheard what Jesus said about betrayal) simply didn’t understand what he meant. But on reading the story again, it now seems obvious that this wasn’t the case; they did understand, yet they did nothing. This is shocking. The anguish which Jesus felt about Judas’s impending betrayal must have been compounded by an immense sense of bewilderment and perhaps an even greater sadness that Peter, John and any others who’d overheard the conversation did nothing to stop Judas. He’d loved them all fully yet at this point, each of them betrayed Jesus in some way by their indifference and passivity.

Soon, as the story shifts to the arrest of Jesus and his trial, Jesus becomes physically powerless in the hands of the Roman authorities, initiated and urged on by the religious leaders. But at this point he is experiencing a different sort of powerlessness – his powerlessness to influence and change the people he knew and loved. We know that this is not the end of the story and that ultimately, they do change – that is, everyone but the tragic Judas who takes his own life before the love of Jesus can finally break through. But today, Maundy Thursday we stay with Jesus and stand in solidarity with all whose love is powerless to change the behaviour or circumstances of someone they love. Despite everything – the hurt and sadness, the suffering and confusion, the rejection, doubt and despair, they stick by their loved one and continue to offer them love and hope. We give thanks for these people.  We pray for them too because they continue to love against all the odds. Love is never easy and it’s costly, but ultimately, it’s the only way to bring healing and life to others and to ourselves too, remembering that we love because God first loved us. Whether we know it or not, it’s this love of God which helps us to keep on loving others.

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Hope at Christmas

This guest contribution is written by Revd Pauline Shelton

‘‘God wants us to know that God loved us before God even made us, and this love has never diminished and never will. Powerful truths written by Mother Julian of Norwich, a remarkable woman who lived around 750 years ago in Norwich, England at a time of plague, riots and war with France — some things never change! That’s what God wants us to know — love, love and more love.

Really? You may be thinking. Where have you been this last year? Don’t you realise how awful2022 has been? There’s war in Ukraine — and a madman in the Kremlin. In Pakistan, floods devastated a third of the land. In Somalia, drought threatens the lives of millions, whilst rising sea-levels threaten the very existence of small oceanic countries. And closer to home, we have Covid, avian flu, and ‘normal’ winter flu, not to mention strikes — while figures show that the gap between rich and poor in Britain is wider than ever. In 2021, the richest 10% of households owned 44% of all wealth, while the poorest 50% owned just 9%. Scandalous. And more and more people are driven to food banks and to desperation.

But I refuse to despair. I won’t give way to the prevailing discourse that all is just getting worse and worse, even though that is how it often feels. Why? Well, it’s summed up in a verse at the start of John’s Gospel – ‘The Word became flesh and lived among us’. The literal translation of that is, ‘The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us’. Only the very poorest live in tents. Tents are rarely permanent homes. They offer very little protection from the weather, or from thieves. God chose not only to become human, but to live among us in a marginal and vulnerable place — in temporary accommodation, in a tent on the edge of society.

And that’s summed up in the word ‘incarnation’. Incarnation means this extraordinary truth that God becomes human. And though at Christmas we may bless a crib or sing carols about mangers, shepherds and angels, the hope that I want to share with you isn’t just about a massive baby-fest. It’s not just confined to Bethlehem, and winter snows, stars and stables, beautiful and moving though all of that is.

Incarnation is about a change in the very heart and mind of God. It is about God deciding no longer to remain distant from the vulnerable world, the mess and fears and muddle and disease of the flawed and fallible people created and loved by their Maker. Instead, incarnation is about God deciding to enter into the midst of our tensions, our political injustices, our poverty and need — to enter into solidarity with wonderful and broken humanity.

It’s as if God said, ‘What if . . .?’

What if, instead of staying within the boundlessness of eternity, I accept the limitations of time and space?

What if, rather than be a disembodied Spirit, I limit myself to the physical body and intellectual capacity of a human being?

What if I come to earth not as the super-gifted child of an aristocratic family, but am parented by people who have no status, no secure home?

What if, rather than being educated at an exclusive fee-paying school, I learn about life through 30 years of anonymity?

What if, instead of being Superman, I make myself vulnerable — vulnerable to pain, to prejudice, to slander, to disease, and to the loss of credibility because of what I say and who I mix with?

What if, instead of choosing elite graduates from Oxford, Cambridge or Ivy League Universities I pick my companions from a random group of tradespeople, unskilled workers, social misfits — and at least one who is totally untrustworthy?

What if, rather than repeating safe cliches as a tele-evangelist, or from the safety of the pulpit six feet above contradiction, I talk face-to-face with real people about the forgotten and disregarded truths about life, faith and social justice in ways that will make religious people so angry that they’ll plot to kill me?

What if all I say and do to save the world by my life, my love and my example leads to hatred and rejection? And what if, rather than returning to the safety of heaven, I accept death, crucifixion — a sentence reserved for those whose love, honesty and integrity are too much for the powers-that-be to bear?

And what if, when I am dead, I don’t stay lying down?

What if that is what Christmas is really all about? And what if we see again this Christmas that Jesus comes among us, not to fix everything as if by magic, but to be in total solidarity with us. To be with us in all the messiness of our lives. To be part of the joys of today and tomorrow — and a part of the tensions and anxieties too. Jesus comes to be part of those, and to show us a truer way of being human. The incarnation is God’s limitless love enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus the Christ. The one born as a baby who pitches his tent in our garden, our yard, our street, our lives — so that incarnation keeps on happening, love keeps on flowing down the ages, always abundant, always pouring from the very heart of God.

Our grief, our pains, our troubles, our addictions, our worries, our loneliness are not the end. Thanks to what starts at Christmas they can be the birth pains of something unspeakably better.

‘The Word became flesh and blood and pitched his tent among us.’

‘‘God wants us to know that God loved us before God even made us, and this love has never diminished and never will.’

May the life of the Christ-child given for this broken and beautiful world be born anew in us this Christmas and always.

With grateful thanks to Revd John Bell, Minister in The Church of Scotland and until recently a member of the Iona Community for his idea of the “What if..” within both Advent and Christmas.

An Advent Reflection

Whilst searching online for an unusual Christmas present for my brother I was struck by the number of websites offering me a memorable “experience”. There seems to be something for everyone, whether that is bungee jumping, afternoon tea, a flight in a hot air balloon or gin making. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these activities but looking at them as a drop-down menu conveyed a rather desperate sense of how far we have all drifted from a pathway of spiritual wellness. In the first world at least, where materialism rules, we desperately fill our lives with possessions, the newest things and latest models, the next labour-saving device, the most amazing experience ever. All of this is just another form of addiction. We numb the pain, fill the void and cope by consumption of goods and experiences hoping that somehow this will leave us fulfilled and whole. But it leaves us hungrier than ever, looking for the next fix.

God and spiritual growth cannot be bought on Amazon nor are they to be found on a Virgin Experiences website. Neither for that matter are they to be found in other sorts of drugs or material experiences. We grow by letting go, by giving away and by emptying ourselves to allow room for God to work. As we have waited through the weeks of advent, we remember Mary, the expectant mother of Jesus who is the exemplar of this. “Let it be to me according to your will,” was her response. By letting go of her own plans or desires and embracing a far bigger picture, one in which God was pleased to dwell, everything became possible. Through her we are all blessed. The pathway for us is the same. We may not be remembered by future generations as she is, but the response is the same. As the saying in recovery goes, let go and let God.


There’s a marked absence of compassion in UK government policy right now. Whether it’s in the heartless plan to send UK asylum seekers 4000 miles away to Rwanda for processing and residency or the progressive removal of mobility allowances from many disabled people, the tardy provision of visas for Ukrainian families fleeing warfare and violence or the lack of concern for the poor as fuel prices and the cost of living spirals upwards (two thirds of the British cabinet are millionaires), there is a coldness and disregard for those less fortunate who suffer. I suspect that this does not reflect the sentiments of the British people either, but like so much political rhetoric it’s dressed up as a necessary requirement for the times in which we live, peddling the lie that there’s not enough to go round.

I make no apology for this political introduction, because at Easter we have been reminded once again how political expediency works, with the unholy alliance of the Roman occupying forces, their puppet king and the Jewish religious leaders requiring the death of Jesus for daring to challenge what they stood for. His challenge was to offer an alternative way, where achievement, affluence and appearance were not the dominant values. Right at the heart of this alternative way of living is compassion; in the Kingdom of Heaven, loving God and loving others is supreme.

Compassion is central to Twelve Step recovery too, yet another shared hallmark which this blog seeks to highlight. Compassion means “to feel with,” usually in relation to feeling the suffering of somebody else and being moved by that suffering to do something to help them. We’ve talked about mercy in a previous blog (Mercy, Mercy), but compassion is different. Mercy implies some sort of power relationship and possibly the presence of wrong-doing or falling short. Compassion does not have this power dynamic at all – it is simply one human being to another. In the words of William Blake, “Mercy wears a human face, compassion a human heart.”

According to Jesus, compassion is the central quality of a life faithful to God. He tells us to “be compassionate as God is compassionate.” The idea of God being compassionate towards us is potentially life changing. We often think of God as harsh and judgmental possibly tempered by mercy, but compassion means he is alongside us, with a human heart. We are to model this behaviour, and Jesus, the visible image of the invisible God is our pattern or template. There are many instances of Jesus being filled with compassion for somebody – invariably this preceded him healing and restoring them. One of his greatest parables, The Good Samaritan showed us the compassionate behaviour of a traveller who belonged to a despised and outcast race who sees a fellow traveller who has been beaten and robbed and proceeds to rescue and care for him at his own expense. Prior to this the injured man had been ignored by high status people of his own country. In modern day terms, the politician and the priest have passed by with more important things to do, it is the refugee who shows compassion.

Compassion within 12 step recovery is perhaps understandable because every recovering addict has been there too, so can understand the pain and struggle another is going through, both in active addiction and early recovery. People working the programme enter the suffering of other addicts with neither pity nor pride and their caring is frequently both tireless and humbling. It is seen in the way newcomers are treated, which helps them to find a place of emotional warmth and understanding. It is there too in the welcome and acceptance each person receives when attending a new meeting in another place or country. Compassion is woven throughout the programme and is an important factor in the healing, transformational power it holds.

Like gratitude, humility or generosity we must practice compassion so that it becomes an established part of our daily living. The initial “feeling for” someone is often outside our control – we feel pity or sympathy for them without needing to generate it. What we must work at is the response, in which we then do something to help them. Our first reaction is to do something, but very quickly our mind (or other people) tell us it will be too difficult, too costly, too little or just plain misunderstood. We have to practice taking that step to make things better for the person we feel compassionate towards and ignoring the multitude of reasons we might find for not doing so. Remember how life changing it was for us when somebody helped us out of kindness and compassion?

As a friend of mine often reminds me, all of us are wounded, bandaged travellers on the road, sometimes wayward, often lost, invariably pretending that we are okay, but always, always in need of compassion, longing to be free, hungry for heaven. In the words of the Dalai Lama, “love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

What is Gratitude?

The question, once asked,

lay heavy with uncertainty

about the answers it might bring.

Yet they came quickly and willingly

the nine-fold response

painting a clear picture,

defined in large, bold, brush strokes

as love and faith in action

and a recognition

that we are all blessed

if only we take the time to look.

Sometimes though, gratitude appears

as a benevolent mugger

catching us unawares,

giving gifts

instead of taking from us.

But mostly, gratitude is found

when we choose to seek her out,

our upturned faces taking time to recognise

her quiet and gentle presence

in the radiant glory of the morning,

a brief moment during the day or

the velvet stillness of the night.

Through journaling

quiet introspection, prayer

and honest examination

we see her shape and features.

But the most vivid colours  

of the artists palettes

appear in the finer detail.

No longer an abstract painting

or identikit, it becomes a true likeness,

a portrait that we all recognise –

walks on a wide golden beach,

safe landing at the airport,

a movie to watch,


fresh water,



All five senses

alive to the abundance

of the riches around us.

Swimming in the river,

a good book to read,

a hot steaming bath,

the warming energy of sunshine,

or perhaps a cosy chair

in front of a glowing winter fire.

Good education, modern medicine,

the sound of children playing,

red kites gliding overhead,

the smell of the earth after rain

or wild garlic in the woods.

Writing songs, stories and poetry,

knitting (and finishing) a scarf,

the first sign of seedlings,

a fine supper prepared

from random leftovers.

Fashioning clay and wood,

their textures and smells

enriching the experience,

deepening the satisfaction

of creating something

where once there was

raw nothingness.

What is gratitude I asked,

both curious and uncertain,

and in reply you painted a portrait

of beauty.

I asked nine friends to tell me what gratitude means to them. Some work a twelve-step programme, others follow in the way of Jesus, some do both and others neither. This this poem weaves together their many answers – definitions of gratitude, how to be more aware of it and the things they are grateful for. Many thanks to all of them for so willingly sharing their ideas and experiences.


I was making some toast for breakfast the other morning when I heard someone on the radio talking about the start of the season of Lent. “Here it is again” he said, “summoning me once more to reflect on and change how I live my life.”  It set me thinking about change.

I remembered a day some years ago when I showed a small group of church leaders around a Twelve Step Day Treatment Centre that I was involved with. They saw the facilities, heard about the programme structure and met with some honest, articulate people in early recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. The visitors seemed to be impressed by the changes these people spoke about and the new spiritual pathway that they were treading.

It turned out that Frank, an Anglican (Episcopalian) priest was not completely convinced and in our closing discussion he aired his doubts. “I can see that their lives have improved for the better compared with when they were drinking or taking drugs,” he said, “but aren’t they just replacing one addiction with another by attending AA or NA meetings all the time instead?”

There were many answers I could have given, but I was beaten to it. Ellie, a Methodist deacon responded quickly with a passionate and perceptive reply.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “Don’t you see Frank, this isn’t just a change, this is transformation. It’s so much more radical.”

The conversation moved on, but I was intrigued by Ellie’s profound answer and talked to her about it later, when the others had left. She elaborated on her comments.

“As I see it, getting into recovery is not a minor adjustment in life and neither is a decision to follow the way of Jesus. They both involve a fundamental change of mind about how we deal with the mess of our lives because the coping strategies we’ve been using are not working and our eyes are finally opened to see it.”

This was certainly my experience and seemed to fit with how twelve step recovery works.  As Step One puts it, “our lives had become unmanageable.” In other words, we’ve got to admit we’re broken before we can begin to be made whole. The change required to do this is a paradigm shift, or transformation as Ellie put it, because it’s not just the addictive behaviour that has to change but our whole perspective and existing assumptions about life too – how we view and react to ourselves, other people, events and everything around us. The same goes for following the way of Jesus. No wonder that’s sometimes referred to as conversion.

“So what about Frank’s assertion that people in recovery are just switching to another slightly less damaging addiction by going to meetings?” I asked her. “I imagine he attends church far more often than most people go to AA meetings but I don’t think he’s addicted to it.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” said Ellie with a laugh. “As I see it, attending AA or Church meetings are only the outward signs of the inner transformation and not the change itself. People attend these meetings because of the inner change and because they help us to commit to and maintain the change by spending time with other like-minded individuals. They can show us how to deal with the damaging addictive behaviour, mistakes, sins or whatever it may be in a different way, one which is far better thought out.”

Again, this rang true for me. I was keen to find out more.

“Transformation is definitely about embracing the new but isn’t it also about letting go of the old ways of thinking and behaving?” I said. “In recovery this is most obviously seen by stopping drinking or drug taking, but really it goes much deeper than this and is about a change in all behaviours. So many people in long term recovery have said to me that after a while the addictive substance or process is no longer the problem, it’s much deeper things like anger, resentment, ego, self-pity and fear which need to be dealt with.”

“Yes,” said Ellie. “Jesus certainly saw the need for this inner transformation, not just in his teaching about a new way of living where we love our neighbour, but in recognising that our problem lies deep within, wrong reactions and conduct come from our hearts and unless these are transformed, everything else is superficial and cosmetic. Time after time in the gospel accounts of his encounters with people, Jesus talked about this deeper, inner transformation which we need to undergo and his offer to help us find this new way.”

“Exactly!” I said. “We let go of the familiar old patterns and enter a new world, the counter-intuitive one of the Sermon on the Mount where we give to receive, we become great by serving and we surrender in order to become free.  Twelve step recovery is full of this counter-intuitive behaviour too, but it doesn’t come easily.”

“It certainly doesn’t,” said Ellie. “Have you read any Richard Rohr?”

“I love his stuff,” I replied, “I’m sure friends of mine get sick of me mentioning him.”

“You may already know this quote then,” she said. “Rohr says something along the lines of spiritual transformation being the process of letting go and living in a confusing dark space for a while, allowing yourself to be spat up on a new and unexpected shore. That’s why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol.”

I’d not heard that but I liked it. Going into recovery really is like a period of darkness before entering a new land. Fortunately there are people who’ve now become familiar with that new land who are ready and willing to welcome the newcomers and help them to find their way around. All part of the new life of service. The same goes for those following the way of Jesus. The Kingdom of God that he spoke about is very new and very different from how we naturally think, what we thought we knew and the ways of living that we had become familiar with.

The sound of the toaster popping up brought me back to the present day. The man on the radio was right. We do need to be summoned periodically to reflect on and change how we live our lives, because new places and pathways quickly become routine and familiar. Lent offers us this time for self-reflection, when we dig into the layers of our hearts and minds and find the inner seams of unhealthy thinking and behaviour towards God, others and ourselves and set about correcting them.

I thought about one final comment Ellie had made.

“We can get too caught up in thinking it’s all about us. Whilst we play our part in the process, transformational change is not really about us and what we do. God chooses to ‘co-produce’ it with us as they say these days, so we do play a part, but in the end, transformation is all about God’s grace working in us.” She paused and then laughed. “I’d love to talk to you about grace because it’s one of my favourite subjects, but we’ll have to come back to it another time. My car is on a meter and I really don’t want another parking ticket!”

Sadly, we never did have that conversation about grace but I received an email from her a few days later thanking me for the visit which gave me a flavour of how change and grace are connected. At the bottom of her message there was a quote by Ann Lamott, writer, follower of Jesus and recovering addict. “I do not understand the mystery of grace, only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

Much as I’d like to be instantly transformed into a new way of love and self-giving, it’s going to be a life-long process. Fortunately, Lent is here again, suffused with grace, to shake me from my lethargy and to challenge me once more to follow more closely in the way of Jesus.