‘I thought you were a man!’ said a colleague I met for the first time, and then she and I both laughed, as did others who overheard the conversation.

This new colleague was expecting me to be a man because most people addressed me and referred to me as ‘Chris’. There were four members of staff known as ‘Chris’ and the other three were men. In their case ‘Chris’ was short for ‘Christopher’ , but in my case it was short for ‘Christine’.

We all laughed about the comment made by this colleague, but she apologised to me later and told me that she felt embarrassed about it. I wanted to reduce any future confusion and embarrassment, so I asked to be named as ‘Christine’ on any rotas and so on at work. I made the same request at church.

At church I think this is particularly relevant because I am one of the musicians and my name is regularly on the rota. We have been in an interregnum for almost 18 months and we have several guest preachers helping us out. When they have me as a musician they know they can expect the musician to be Christine, a woman, whereas a unisex ‘Chris’ on the rota might put them in the embarrassing position of finding, on arriving at our church to lead the service, that the male musician they were expecting is actually a woman.

I now introduce myself as ‘Christine’ to all people I meet for the first time. Family members and friends still call me ‘Chris’, and that is fine.

On Twitter, my name is Christine – I am sure you understand!

One last thought – my heart goes out to teacher Joshua Sutcliffe who might lose his job because he inadvertently ‘misgendered’ a pupil who suffers from gender dysphoria. The fact that Joshua believes that God created us male and female has been held against him, but I think he really did his best in a confusing situation with a pupil he had never met before.

Lord have mercy.


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Praying for a stranger in the supermarket

I still can’t quite believe that I did this! I’m still not quite sure why that young man spoke to me in the first place.

He came alongside me as I was walking up to our small town with my shopping trolley and he smilingly asked me how I was. I had no idea who he was, but this happens from time to time – I’m a retired teacher and former pupils seem to be better at recognizing me than I am at recognizing them. So I asked him, ‘Do I know you?’ He laughed and told me that we had not met before but he was feeling bored and wanted a chat. Nodding towards my shopping trolley, he asked if he could walk to the shop with me, and added,  ‘Tell me to f*** off if you get bored with me.’ I replied,’ If I do I’ll use different words.’

He talked about how he was new to the town and what a terrible town he thought it was, and what dreadful people lived in it. He sprinkled every sentence with the ‘f’ word. He wanted to know details about my life – how old I was, where I lived, if I liked to drink, if I was married. I didn’t want to answer most of his questions, but I commented that I thought I was a fair bit older than he was. He laughed and said that was obvious and told me how old he thought I was, which was six years older than I actually am, so I was not flattered, but I was amused.  I also told him that I don’t drink because, although I like alcoholic drinks, they don’t like me, so I haven’t bothered with having a drink for  years, apart from a sip on special occasions.

By this time, we were approaching our church, so I told him I’m one of the musicians there, whereupon he told me I was the only posh person he had met in this town. No one has ever described me as ‘posh’ so I wanted to know why on earth he thought I was posh! ‘Well, you don’t drink, and you don’t swear, and you’re religious.’ Aha! Then he said something I have heard several times before, ‘I don’t believe in God’, and I replied with something I have said several times before, ‘ But God believes in you.’

As the supermarket finally came in sight and we were about to cross the road, he asked me if I’d like to hear his story. I said I would like to hear it, but I was a bit pushed for time because I had things to do at home after I’d done my shopping. So I heard his story – as we walked into the supermarket, as we stood on the travellator, in the aisles as I put items into my trolley and he followed me around.

Eventually he asked me, ‘Why do you believe in God?’ After all my years as a Christian, I was surprised to find that I was at a bit of a loss to know what to say for the best. So I responded with a question, ‘Why don’t you believe in God?’ He told me that after all those problems he had had in his life, he had nothing to thank God for because God had done nothing to help him. I said that God does not give us everything we want, and that when He does, we sometimes have to wait a long time for it. I also told him that friends and colleagues prayed for me for a long time before I became a Christian. ‘Why were they praying? Were you ill?’ I didn’t want to give him all the details of my health problems, but I told him that I had been ill and that I collapsed at work. ‘And are you better now?’ I told him I’m OK most of the time, but that I have ‘off days’.

Then I added that it was wonderful that my health had improved, but that what was more important to me was that I became more patient and more thankful for small blessings.

‘Is that what you are telling me? To be more patient and more thankful?’

It hadn’t occurred to me to say that to him, so I told him that only God knew what was best for him, and I asked him if he would like me to pray for him. He nodded and I lay my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him there in an aisle in our busy supermarket.

He became quiet and seemed to be thoughtful and then he said,’ I’d better go now, sweetie. Thanks. sweetie.’

I will keep him in my prayers.

Jesus told us to love our neighbours and I suppose our neighbours are all those we come alongside in the course of our everyday lives. I still don’t know what to make of this encounter, but God knows everything about that young man and everything about me and I believe that God listened to my prayer for that young man and that He will answer it in His way and according to His timing.
















Wintry weather and safe footwear!

I want to be safe indoors, too, so I’ve just ordered some Rieker slippers in a sale. I need a good fit and soles with a good grip, and I know that I can rely on Rieker for both of these things.

I know too many people, including dear family members and good friends, who have had bad falls, and I have become increasingly wary about this, especially as I am now what is officially described as ‘elderly’ (though at times I still seem to have the heart of a youngster!)

My first scare in the bad weather was in the autumn when negotiating fallen leaves on a wet pavements  left me thinking that I had better stay at home or get some good all-weather boots with solid serrated soles – I got the boots (Rieker sale again!) and I love them. So now I’m all set for the ice and snow if we get it, which we probably will.

It seems that my interest in  safe footwear is not a bad thing at all –  I recently read an interesting, informative and reassuring passage on geriatric care* in ‘Being Mortal'(Atul Gawande). In this passage, Gawande, a surgeon, described how he called in  at the ‘Center for Older Health’ in the hospital where he worked and, with the permission of patients, sat in on some visits from the chief geriatrician. In this particular passage of the book Gawande describes the consultation with an elderly lady  who was ‘in good condition for her age’ but who ‘faced everything from advancing arthritis and incontinence to what might be metastatic colon cancer’ – yet the geriatrician spent most of the time looking at her feet! Here are some excerpts from the passage about the geriatrician’s interest in the lady’s feet:

” ‘Is that really necessary?’ she asked, when he instructed her to take off her shoes and socks.

‘Yes,’ he said. After she’d left, he told me, You must always examine the feet.’ ”


“The single most serious threat she faced was not the lung nodule or the back pain. It was falling.”


“The three primary risk factors for falling are poor balance, taking more than four prescription medications, and muscle weakness. Elderly people without these risk factors have a 12% chance of falling in a year. Those with all three risk factors have almost a 100% chance.”

The geriatrician suggested that the lady might make some changes in her lifestyle and, almost a year later, Gawande visited this lady, who by then was 86: “She still lived comfortably and independently in her own home. And she had not had a single fall.”

So far I have read the first 60 pages of this book, and I am looking forward to reading the entire book – 282 pages in all.

I still remember the years when I used to swan around wearing pretty shoes with stiletto heels. I am now looking forward to the delivery of my ‘sensible slippers’ and I am sure I’ll be as thrilled with them as I was with my stilettos of bygone years. Aging is another season in life, and I am finding it all rather interesting, despite my aches and pains and gradual decline in health and competencies. And I am finding Gawande’s book really helpful and encouraging, despite its rather sobering title – no wonder it is a bestseller!

  • I just thought I’d mention that I don’t really think of myself as ‘geriatric’. I actually think of myself as a ‘young’ Senior Citizen. This is probably because we have several delightful friends at church who are old enough to be my parents 🙂




Charitable giving – I wish I could give more…

… but I can’t, because I live on a low fixed income, and most of my charitable giving is already spoken for.

I admire the dedicated volunteers who knock on doors , but more often than not all I can offer them is my praise for their work. Most of them respond well to what I say, but a few have tried to pressure me into donating and remind me it’s a good cause. I don’t disagree with them about that, but what I can’t agree to is signing up for regular monthly donations, which is what many of them request.                                                                                                               Charity tins in supermarkets are a different matter. We can make a one-off donation of whatever amount of cash we feel able to give, which may not be much… but ‘every little helps’, as one well-known supermarket reminds us in a different context.

A few years ago I helped with collecting for a charity in a supermarket. I did not shake a tin at anyone, because I don’t like it when people shake tins at me! Several people donated. Interestingly, most donations were made by elderly people, disabled people, and parents who had been pulled towards our stand by children who wanted a badge or a sticker. Many people walked past us, eyes averted. At one point, I counted the number of people who walked past and worked out what we would have collected if each one had put just ten pence into our tins – quite a lot, actually. So now I am no longer embarrassed about putting as little as ten pence in most tins I see, because I know that such small donations soon mount up.

I don’t know whether I should be posting the ‘every little helps’ slogan here, but it really is true – no donation is too small (in my opinion, anyway 🙂 )


Dandelions and forget-me-nots

  I took this photo last year because my young grandson loved these flowers so much. He enjoys helping to mow the grass, but he said he wanted these to be remain untouched because he thought they were so lovely. They are actually weeds, of course, but I do agree with my grandson , and I think that these uninvited guests in my garden did arrange themselves rather prettily.                                                                                                                                                                                   S5000494

The simple joy of polishing shoes

They are all lined up now – five pairs of newly-polished shoes, and one pair of newly-polished boots – and I still can’t quite believe the sense of contentment I feel when I look at result of my polishing efforts, and the enjoyment I felt when I was actually polishing them. I even looked forward to my polishing session with much the same anticipation as I looked forward to a visit to the beach when I was a child. A friend commented to me years ago that I seem to take delight in ‘little things’ – it seems that I still do!

Footwear has become increasingly important to me as I navigate the autumn of my life. I love fashionable footwear, but comfort and safety are more important, and I try to combine fashion comfort and safety. One of the most important things for me is a good fit. I take a half-size, which means that I usually buy Clark’s shoes, because they are one of the few manufacturers which produce half-sizes. Clark’s shoes are not cheap, but I rarely pay the full price, because I wait until they are ‘on offer’ in the sales. I also buy Rieker shoes, because , although they do not do half-sizes, their sizes are generous and I  can wear a size 5 comfortably. (I also buy them in the sales!)

I have become more conscious of the importance of safe footwear since the autumn leaves started falling and I have been carefully tip-toeing around wet leaves on rainy days. I know too many people who have had bad falls in bad weather, and I am wary, so some of my shoes and boots are ‘foul-weather’ footwear with strong, ridged soles. I have just ordered another pair of ‘foul-weather’ boots ( at sale price, of course!), and recycled a much-loved and well-worn pair of boots. One good thing about Clark’s and Rieker shoes and boots is that they last a long time, so I can comfortably budget for them. I have a friend who loves Hotter footwear as much as I love Clark’s and Rieker 🙂

I just had another glance at the line-up of my newly polished footwear, all clean and shiny  – how I enjoyed the cleaning and the polishing of them! Next on my list is polishing my handbags – I usually buy them in the sales, too 🙂

‘How Great Thou Art!’

The words of this wonderful hymn were my waking thoughts this morning and I remembered other occasions when these words came to mind, especially the occasion when we stood at the highest point in Berchtesgaden, Southern Germany, the location of the Hitler’s wartime hiding place, das Kehlsteinhaus ( ‘the Eagle’s Nest’). That exquisite land, temporarily hijacked by the Nazi dictator, and familiar to many of us who have seen films about the war, now belongs to a charitable trust. It is available for all to see, and is back where it belongs, God’s gift to all of us.

The beautiful Alpine view from that point extends for as far as the eye can see and I found it impossible to capture it on camera – as we stood there, we were in it, and we were part of it. It is no longer Hitler’s domain. I thought then ‘evil is finite – God is infinite.’ As we read harrowing accounts of wilful destruction in the news day  by day, it is hard to believe that evil is finite – it seems to rage on, and we feel powerless to stop it. Then I think of the words,’ Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away’ (Matthew 24:35). It is difficult for my finite mind to  encompass these words. I find it less difficult – and even comforting – to think of the finite nature of Hitler’s evil regime and the evil regimes of others,  but more difficult to think of myself, and more significantly of the whole world as we know it, being finite, yet the idea of God’s infinity brings me peace, comfort and joy.

‘Oh Lord my God! when I in awesome wonder

consider all the works thy hand has made,

I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder

thy power throughout the universe displayed…

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee,

How great thou art…’

[Stuart K. Hine]


Learning NT Greek…and realising that I knew a bit more than I thought I did!

I didn’t expect to be thinking about kleptomaniacs and cardiac arrest when I embarked on reading St.Matthew’s gospel in Greek, but think about them I did. I now find myself thinking increasingly about the extent to which Greek has been woven into the English language and I am enjoying the realisation that I actually know a bit more about Greek than I thought I did, and that I am not a complete novice after all.

I’m sure that many people already know that ‘kardia’ is the Greek word for ‘heart’ and that the ‘klepto-‘ in ‘kleptomania’ comes from the Greek root ‘kelptes’ (to steal)… but I didn’t know this, until recently. Another ‘aha’ moment  for me came when I was reading the passage about ‘treasures on earth’ (Matthew 6:19)  and I realised that ‘thesaurus’ comes from  the Greek word for ‘treasure, store’  (thesauros). After all those years as an owner of a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, how could I not know the etymology of the title of the book? My answer to that question is the same as my answer to many other similar questions – because I had other things on my mind, other things which took up my time and energy.

I’m really enjoying learning Greek. I made a slow start because it took me a while just to learn the alphabet. I was already, as no doubt many of us are, familiar with alpha, beta , gamma and delta (from grades at uni) and with pi ( from maths at school). I came unstuck at first with letters which I think of as ‘false friends’, for instance the ‘r’ that looks like a ‘p’, the ‘n’ that looks like a ‘v’ , and the ‘s’ which looks like an ‘o’ with a tiny flick at the top on the right-hand-side. I’m gradually becoming more familiar with it all.

The other NT Greek group members have considerable knowledge of Greek, and they have made we very welcome and I am learning a lot from them. I think that the fact that I grew up in a bilingual community ( in Wales) may also have stood me in good stead, because I was aware at a young age of people speaking a language I did not understand, but I was not daunted by it – I was just intrigued and wanted to know what they saying!

My own specialism was German, so I am not daunted by the intricacies of grammar, word order and so on, though I do need to brush up on some things, such as the passive subjunctive!

My next step its to try to work out how I can post words in Greek script on this blog – my laptop can do that, but unfortunately I can’t …yet.

So far, everyone I know who has studied Greek is very enthusiastic about it, and I have been given a lot of encouragement and help with my new venture.

My last word… well, for now… is that I think that the Greek script is very elegant. I really enjoy writing it and trying to make my handwritten version as lovely as the printed script in my Greek copy of the New Testament.

St. Theresa’s Prayer

‘May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that you are exactly

where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received,

and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into your bones,

and allow your soul the freedom to sing,

dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.’