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LENT - A thought from Revd Paul Lanham

Dear Friends,

I still shudder at the memory of a junior school assembly one February day about forty years ago. Trying to tell them about Lent I asked if they knew about Shrove Tuesday. To my astonishment they gave a perfect reply. Trying to compose myself I did the same thing about Ash Wednesday and got an even more comprehensive reply. 'How do you know?' I asked incredulously and got the devastating reply, 'Please sir, we did it yesterday'. All I could do was to collapse with laughter and give up, thus proving that at times vicars deserve danger money as well as stipends – but don't get me on that.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 22nd. It is traditionally associated with abstinence as we prepare ourselves spiritually for the events leading up to Holy Week and Easter. But like Christmas and Easter it has both spiritual and secular overtones. People think of giving up something in Lent – smoking, drinking, chocolate are the usual targets. It's the incentive to slim or take more exercise or tidy the roof or garage. All very praiseworthy, especially the last of these in my case. The trouble is that they have a kind of negative aspect, that we should give up what we did before or change a previously tolerated aspect of our lives. And as someone who has been involved in clinical depression for almost 40 years I try and see beyond the negative to the positive.  

Lent may be an opportunity to go beyond these suggestions to how we might use it to deepen our spiritual lives. Courses for study, reading books, deepening our prayer and worship lives, that kind of thing. We need to think of Christianity as a pilgrimage into God rather than something static. It should be exciting, an adventure, something perhaps to live dangerously spiritually. Moving forward rather than clinging to what we have got. Lent is a time for spiritual refreshment, as we start to look forward to the events in the Christian calendar. It's something to approach positively rather than negatively, something to ponder in this grey and chilly month.

Being positive in a very different way since the last issue of Pax Judy has come to live at home after five long months in hospital. Sadly, she is now permanently disabled but as a family we are together again – and she is still alive. We have been enormously supported by the love and prayers of you all and we cannot thank you enough for helping us to this point. Phone calls, e-mails and visits are always welcome. If you don't know how to contact usplease ask Ginni, though if you want to visit us please warn us in advance. And as for Lent I shall be using it to continue to strengthen my voice so that it won't be too long before I can return to the parish after so long; we miss you very much! 

With our love,

Paul Lanham

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At birth we boarded the train and met our parents,

and we believe they will always travel on our side;

However, at some station our parents will step down from the train,

leaving us on this journey alone.  As time goes by, other people will 

board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends,

children, and even the love of your life.  Many will step down and 

leave a permanent vacuum.  Others will go so unnoticed that we do

not realise that they vacated their seats.

This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations,

hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.  Success consists of having a good

relationship with all passengers requiring that we give the best of 


The mystery to everyone is:  We do not know at which station we

ourselves will step down.  So, we must live in the best way, love,

forgive, and offer the best of who we are.  It is important to do this 

because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our 

seat empty we should leave behind beautiful memories for those 

who will continue to travel on the train of life.

I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.  Reap success and give 

lots of love.

I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train.

                                                                     Contributed by Clare Reid

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Before U were thought of or time had begun

God even stuck U in the name of his son

And each time U pray, you'll see that its true

You can't spell JesUs and not include U

You are a pretty big part of his wonderful name

For U He was born; that's why He came

And his great love for U is the reason he died

It even takes U to spell crUcified.

Contributed by Jennifer Veasey

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A thought from Revd Paul Lanham.

Dear Friends,

As some of you may know I had an unexpected minor stroke at the end of May.  A sudden choking led to a total loss of speech and a rather dramatic trip down the A1M to Lister Hospital, complete with flashing lights, etc.  At the time of writing the future looks positive but I have to learn how to speak clearly again; I also have to think more about life in general and how to use my time properly.

The treatment I received was beyond praise.  The ambulance came quickly, the doctors could not have been better.  But above all I was amazed by the professionalism, the energy and especially the caring of the nurses in Pirton Ward where I was a patient for 16 long days.  It also greatly impressed my daughter Liz who is a hospital sister elsewhere and who is one of the most dedicated nurses in the profession.  Thanks to them and to the support and prayers from Judy and myself I can write this column, hopefully with more to come.

Patience is not my strong point and 16 days is a very long time when you are looking at the ceiling and having more injections for more reasons than in the rest of your life put together.  Two passages from the Bible kept recurring as the hours passed.

The first was the conversion of my namesake.  Paul was a man who was always rushing around until he was forced to stop dead by what might be interpreted as being struck by lightning.  He had to think about life because there was nothing else to do - this is my interpretation of his conversion.  'What is life if full of care we have no time to stop and stare?' wrote the poet W.H. Davies.  Sometimes it's good to stop and think about what really matters, about priorities, about values and aspirations, about life in general.  I wouldn't recommend having a stroke as a way of having to do this but it was brought home to me and I would commend such ponderings to you.

The other passage in my mind was the Washing of the Disciples' Feet in the Upper Room.  Jesus was giving service to those who were closest to His followers, but Peter could not accept this.  ‘YOU Lord washing MY feet?’  He says with incredulity.  He would gladly have washed the feet and given service to others; his difficulty lay in receiving service from them.  It is far easier to care than to be cared for.

It reminded me of my last trip to hospital (a 3 week enforced rest after overworking in 1976).  I tried naively to help the other patients who were deeply troubled, but I had to be reminded by one of them that I was in as much need of help as they were.

This has been a really humbling experience and in these past days as I watched the amazing nurses quietly caring so lovingly and unobtrusively for me; they were giving and I needed them.  At times we have to take, no matter how difficult it is - as someone once said to me, 'You can't give what you haven't already got'.  Sometimes it needs a blank ceiling and nothing to do to make us face up to issues like this.

So thanks to Ginni and to so many people who have been wonderfully kind and supporting in what has been an interesting experience that I would prefer not to repeat.  Hopefully Judy and I will be back at the church soon - the sooner the better!

        Warmest good wishes, Paul

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Pasta had not been invented.

“Kebab” was not even a word, never mind a food.

A take-away was a mathematical problem.

A pizza was something to do with a leaning tower.

Oil was for lubricating your bike chain not for cooking.

Olive oil was kept in the medicine cabinet.

Spice went in Christmas Cakes (and so did peel).

Herbs were used to make medicine - I think!

All crisps were plain.

All soft drinks were called pop.

Rice was a milk pudding, and never, ever, part of our dinner.

A Big Mac was what we wore when it was raining.

Figs and Dates appeared every Christmas, but no one ever ate them.

Coconuts only appeared when the fair came to town.

Dinner consisted of what we were given and not negotiable.

Leftovers went in the dog.

Only Heinz made Baked Beans.

Sauce was only brown or red.

Eating raw fish was called madness, not Sushi.

The only ready meals came from the fish and chip shop.

Frozen food was called ice cream.

None of us had ever heard of yoghurt.

Brunch was not a meal.

Cheese only ever came in a hard lump. 

Eating outside was called a picnic not Al Fresco.

Seaweed was not a recognised food.

Eggs were not called ‘free range’ they just were, and the shells were white.

Pancakes were only eaten on Pancake Tuesday - it was compulsory.

The term ‘oven chips’ would not have made sense at all.

Prunes were purely medicinal.

Pineapples only came in chunks in a tin.

Garlic was used to ward off vampires in films, but never to be eaten.

When I read the above it made me smile and brought back other memories from that era.  It also made me realise how far we have come in so many ways......

Clare Reid

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