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The Imitation of Christ: Spiritual Formation Book 2

"This is my hope, my only consolation, to flee unto thee in every tribulation, to trust in thee, to call upon thee from my heart, and to wait patiently for thy consolation." The second of my  four books for spiritual formation  is The Imitation of Christ  by Thomas à Kempis.  The introduction to my copy starts off by saying that 21st century readers may wonder why they are bothering, which hardly seems like a recommendation!  I have to admit I finished it with a certain sense of relief, but there were some hidden gems along the way.  It's rather like reading the book of Proverbs.  There's no story or explanation of a theme, but there are astute observations, honest prayers, the occasional flash of humour, and quite a lot of repetition. Thomas à Kempis was a priest in an Augustinian monastery in the 1400s.  Presumably his life conditions favoured the silence and solitude that he advocates for in  The Imitation of Christ , but also gave him opportunities to observe conf
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In memoriam: Miriam Blake

In my review of 2021 , I mentioned that my grandma died in October.  Now, she deserves much more than a single line in a summary of the year.  I'm not sure I can do her justice even in a full blog post, but I thought at least I would share a few memories with you. Grandma and Grandpa, 2018   All of my mum's side of the family is American.  I've lived in the UK my whole life, except for four years in Texas, but my grandparents still managed to be a large part of my growing up.  Each week, a  blue airmail letter arrived, covered in Grandma's swirly cursive handwriting, and bringing news of her garden, the family, pets and church.  At Christmas, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the big box from America, filled with presents wrapped in thin, soft paper.  I remember clothes particularly - I guess they were easy to pack - sometimes slightly odd, due to the difference in styles between the countries, and sometimes something we would love and wear for years. And of course, the

2021 - A Year in Review

Well, this is why I should do regular blogging - because trying to catch up on a whole year at once takes forever !  But it's kind of fun looking back.  It feels like a long time ago that we were homeschooling in lockdown, back in January and February!  As the restrictions eased and the weather improved, we got out to some new places and some old favourites.  We visited family (and they visited us!), kept busy at work and school, followed England's football fortunes in the Euros, and made some furry friends. A local alpaca farm Of course, these are the edited highlights.  We had a few ongoing issues as well - some have resolved themselves, so that I look back and think, "Oh yes, I'd almost forgotten we spent ages dealing with that, " while others are still chuntering along in the background. Big events We had a summer holiday in Somerset - we stayed in a dinky little AirBnB cottage and visited Wells Cathedral, Glastonbury Tor, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Blue Anchor

Advent Listening

I know halfway through Advent is a little late to be recommending things to listen to in Advent.  But I had to listen to it before I could recommend it, didn't I?  Anyway, even if you haven't got organized for the first half of Advent, there's nothing to stop you giving these a try for the second half. The first recommendation is a book, but you can also listen to the author reading a chapter each day. I can't remember where I picked up Penelope Wilcock's The Hawk and the Dove trilogy, but it came into my life from somewhere, and I enjoyed it.  Then I discovered she has a blog, where she writes about simplicity, and living with less, and little anecdotes about her home and life.  And then I bought Into the Heart of Advent , subtitled Twenty-five conversations with Jesus . This book laps you with peace and tranquillity - the calm of a winter's morning, sitting by an open fire, standing out under the stars - yet it never lapses into sentimentality or wishful thin

The Normal Christian Life: Spiritual Formation Book 1

"I have never met a soul who has set out to satisfy the Lord and has not been satisfied himself.  It is impossible."   The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee is the first of my four books for spiritual formation that I'm reading this year.  Watchman Nee was a Chinese Christian who was converted in 1920 and was able to spend many years in preaching and evangelism.  However, after the Communist revolution he was imprisoned, and died in jail 20 years later.  The Normal Christian Life is based on talks he gave in Europe in the 1930's. What are the main themes of this book? Nee starts by saying that it's possible that the normal Christian life has never been lived by anyone except Jesus - which is hardly an encouraging beginning!  He then goes on to outline his view of such a life, using the book of Romans as a guide.   He certainly sets a high bar: for Nee, the normal Christian life is based on a knowledge and experience of death to our old self through the cros

Paint the room red (or blue)

 We've reached that stage in life. That stage where you've lived in a house for several years, and now all of it really needs redecorating. And moreover, your children have Opinions about what colour their bedroom walls should be. So, we entered the dread portal of B&Q, came out several cans of paint heavier, summoned up some paintbrushes and a lot of extra energy, and got started. Let loose with a can of red paint... First up was Toby's room.  Previously a light purple, it's now a bold teal with dark blue curtains and lampshade.  It's a really nice colour.  I painted the ceiling a pale grey, too, but I still need to sort out the woodwork, which will eventually also be pale grey. I completed Toby's room in the summer holidays.  Ever since then, Theo has been nagging to get his room done.  A seven-year-old has nagging skills of similar persistence to the unfortunate widow begging for justice in Jesus' parable.  Last weekend, I finally gave in and devoted