For some reason this morningĀ  I woke up with the desire to try covering my head and see how it felt. As I type, I am wearing a very badly-fastened hijab made from a blue scarf I was given last summer. The scarf isn’t really the right length, and it has tassles on the ends which look odd, but it was the best I had.

I’m not sure what makes me want to cover my hair. I suppose it’s the logical progression from my decision last summer to cover elbow to knee, but it is highly unusual in the Church of England for women to wear any kind of headcovering (with the exception of hats at weddings and christenings), and hijab is so strongly correlated with Islam that I think I would be at risk of offending someone and being misintepreted if I were to wear hijab in public.

But I do quite like the idea, nonetheless. I need to think about why this is though. I think partly it may be that if I dress in a more overtly modest way, it will discourage people from acting towards me in a way that in turn would encourage me to act inappropriately. But I’m not sure that I should be laying that responsibility on other people. Perhaps I should leave my hair uncovered and take a greater ownership of my own behaviour. On the other hand, is it not sensible to take precautions against what I know to be my own pitfalls? If I dress in a way that doesn’t indicate to people that I am off-limits for flirting, bawdy humour and incitement to sin, then I am inviting that behaviour and I know already that I am not always strong enough to resist the temptation to join in, or even alert enough to notice it immediately. Too often I have sat alone in the evening and realised that I had said things or done things which I am not happy with, and didn’t even identify at the time.

In three months or so, I will be moving to a new city – a large, multi-cultural city where I do not know anyone. I’m toying with the idea of it being a new start entirely; the possibility of arriving with my hair covered and starting as I mean to go on. It would give me time to consider exactly what that means in detail; does it mean buying some more suitable headscarves and learning how to wear hijab properly, without the lumps and bumps and random dangling ends? Does it mean finding a more obviously Christian form of head covering? I need to decide at least some of these issues soon, as I am hoping to go and view a flat next week, and it would be good to meet my potential new landlord dressed as I would be when I lived there.

I have looked at more traditionally Christian headcoverings and not found any I like as much as I like hijab, but I’m not sure that “which looks better?” should be the major factor in this decision anyway!

Any advice would be very welcome, particularly if you are a Christian woman who wears a head covering – and especially if you’re a Christian woman who wears a head covering in the UK, as I know it’s more common in the USA.


I’m in a period of limbo at the moment.

In every aspect of my life I feel as though I am waiting. In the immediate future, I am waiting for the end of term. I’m worn out, exhausted, harassed, already mentally in the vacation when I can set my own hours and dictate my own work. And sleep in a little longer in the mornings.

I am waiting for responses to applications: job applications for the summer, course applications for the autumn. On the outcome of those applications hinges my immediate and longer-term future; I want to start planning. I want to hunt for flats and know that I might really live in the ones I find. The ones I have already found, sage words of advice about counting unhatched chickens notwithstanding.

I’ve done everything possible to get onto the course in September, and now all I can do is wait and hope. After three rejections and one almost certain to come after a less-than-impressive interview, my hopes all rest on my fifth and final choice, a last-minute addition to the list. I hope and pray that the inspiration to add that fifth choice was divine.

My interview there was on Thursday, and on the short walk from the train station to the campus I passed a large, friendly-looking church. I walked its perimeter and examined the noticeboard, happy to see that it seemed to be my denomination and my distance “up the candle”. Since arriving home again I have visited their website and sent up a heartfelt prayer that this serendipitous find is another sign. Perhaps in six months that church will be my new worship-place.

I will know for sure by the end of the month. The summer jobs, too, will hopefully have replied by the time April dawns. It’s not bad timing, really. April is a good time to be looking for permanent jobs, if everything else has fallen through. It’s a good time to be looking for flats, a good time for thinking about new beginnings.

In just a few weeks I’ll know a little more certainly what the future holds. But for now, I am trying and struggling to trust that it will all be as it should. The disappointment of the most recent rejection after three months of optimistic hope has been somewhat assuaged by the new possibility of the final choice, but next time there will be no new possibility to take away the smart of an email telling me that my application has been unsuccessful. Or at least, none that I have found yet. But it’s there, somewhere. I am sure of that.

Well, here we are at (almost) the end of the first week of lent. I have to admit, I am not specifically fasting this lent, or at least not any more than I already was. In January I introduced a set of daily goals for good stewardship of my life – really basic things like eating and sleeping properly, and recognising the importance of actively cultivating my relationships with friends – and also gave up various bad habits, like unnecessary snacking, using my phone as a distraction from the world around me, and using Facebook at all. So I arrived at Ash Wednesday with no clear idea what I could actually give up or change, and the knowledge that any attempt to devote more time to charity or service would result in a total collapse of all the commitments already in my life. I would love to restart voluntary work, and in fact I’ve made enquiries about starting in the spring, but currently it’s all I can do to get through the day without napping. It’s been a fatiguey sort of month.

But lent has nonetheless so far been a time of reflection, self-examination and a concerted effort to grow in my faith. Lately, and coincidentally, I have been struggling a great deal with a particular issue and every sermon or prayer I’ve listened to has seemed to speak directly to that issue. This week in particular there have been some sermons which cut to the heart of our human struggle against sin.

As I type, I am waiting for the knock at my door which will herald the arrival of a friend to chat about our shared struggle. We were baptised together, confirmed together, and have become friends over the last year and a half, and quite by chance we discovered we were also sharing a difficulty which we are reluctant to take to the clergy for guidance. Hopefully we can thrash it out together a little, and if we can’t find a solution we may at least be able to formulate the question.

My prayers lately have all been for clarity, true understanding, freedom from delusion, and the strength to discern and follow God’s path. Whatever that may turn out to be.

There are times when I can’t quite tell what God is trying to say to me. I flounder around trying different things, waiting for the sign that I’m on the right path. Sometimes I just give up and pick the path that looks most appealing. Sometimes I have to switch paths later down the line.

But sometimes, it becomes impossible to ignore the signposts. Things keep cropping up in my life over and over again until I have to throw up my hands and say “OK, I’ve got the message!”.

In the last thirty hours I have heard or seen the name Zig Ziglar mentioned three times. I have finally admitted that I need to go and find out more about him – and from my initial exploration it seems like it’ll be an interesting subject.

It’s hardly a huge thing. But it’s just one more example of how I have finally learnt to recognise guidance. This time it’s just a pointer towards an interesting man with some good life advice. Maybe next time it will be something bigger. I just have to be ready to see the signs.

I’m not sure I can really call it a habit, when I’ve only been twice, but I am attempting to form the habit of attending morning prayer. This time, I’m not dragging myself out of bed at 6.30am to go to the service in the centre of town, but merely at 8am to cross the road to my nearby chapel. Morning prayer is read there every day except Thursdays and Sundays, when communion is held, and Saturdays, when presumably the clergy get a lie in.

I won’t pretend that it’s a well-attended service. In fact, yesterday I arrived five minutes early to find the chapel in darkness and completely deserted. I spent ten minutes sorting out the choir music from the night before, until our senior ordinand arrived and almost fell over in shock to see an actual person attending morning prayer. Today the assistant chaplain joined us, but I don’t think any of the other students ever attend.

I love morning prayer. It’s probably my favourite of the daily offices, after compline. Actually I like evensong too. Alright, I enjoy all of the offices equally, but there’s something special about beginning the day in prayer with other people. I’ve had to accept that given the choice between staying in bed or getting up on my own to read the Bible, I will always choose my pillow. The incentive of not wanting to let someone else down works wonders.

The flipside of getting up at 8am is that I need to get to bed earlier. Perhaps I’m just someone who needs a lot of sleep, or perhaps the fatigue disorder I suffered a couple of years ago has had a lasting impact, but without a regular nine hours I find it impossible to function for more than a few days. By writing this post I am breaking my self-imposed rule to be off my computer by 10pm. A reminder of my word for the year: focus. I will focus on my sleep pattern, and with that, to bed.

It has been a long time since I posted here, and there’s a simple reason for that: I use WordPress for two blogs, and I am too lazy to log out of the one and into the other when I want to update. That is a totally futile excuse, and I hope to stop using it!

I was prompted to actually click the button by reading some other blog posts about people choosing their word for 2013. I heard about this last year and I liked the concept: instead of making a whole string of probably unachieveable New Year’s resolutions, you simply pick one word which sums up what you want to make progress on. Some people choose two or three words, some only one. I’ve seen necklaces made with the word on, or stickers stuck to the front of a diary as a daily reminder.

When I was reading the most recent blog post to mention the concept, a word immediately came into my mind. That word was “focus”. It applies to so many things: to staying motivated to work for my degree, to making good decisions about food and exercise, to remembering what my life is really for and who I’m meant to be living it for. I have difficulty with focus; if I had been an American schoolchild instead of a British one I suspect I may have had some kind of attention-deficit diagnosis. But I am perfectly capable of focusing on things if I make enough effort and go about it in the right way. That’s things which are as simple as keeping my desk clear so that it’s an inviting workspace, or reminding myself that it’s ok if I don’t read the Bible EVERY day, and missing one doesn’t mean I should just give up entirely.

I have several things I want to achieve this term. My timetable has altered subtly; two evenings have become free and I have a new activity on one afternoon. I want to make better use of that new time, and also of mornings – get up at a regular time and work instead of sleeping in, which means getting to bed at a regular time as well! I want to eat three good meals a day, and start attending morning prayer more frequently. But I can sum it all up in one phrase: I want to live with focus.

I am a Christian. I believe in science.

In many places, including where I live, these two things are not considered incompatible in any way by the majority of people. In fact, without any statistical evidence I would guess that there is a higher percentage of Christians here than in most towns, and certainly (being a university town) there is a higher percentage of scientists. Some overlap is inevitable!

However, I often encounter people whose opinion is that science and Christianity are simply impossible to reconcile. The Christians point to aspects of the Bible which appear to contradict what the scientists say. The scientists point to their explanations for things about which the Bible says something different. Both of them say “you can’t prove that your theory is true”.

I have never actually had any difficulty reconciling my beliefs in two apparently incompatible things. For one thing, I know far less about science than I do about the Bible. If anything, it is in science that I have a blind, uninformed faith. I am quite happy to accept what I am told by people who have researched the field and made it their lives’ work to provide answers to big questions which I can’t even understand in the first place.

It doesn’t seem impossible or even unlikely that scientific discovery, throughout the course of human history, is the mechanism by which God allows us to grow in our understanding and knowledge of his creation. When I read the Bible and in particular Genesis, I do recognise that if the words are taken to be the literal and complete truth, then they don’t completely match up with what we are told about evolution and the history of the world.

However, I would be very surprised if they did. The Bible may have been divinely inspired but it was written down by human hands. God is so much more than we are; we are told repeatedly that if we were to see him in his true form it would destroy us. Throughout our lives as individuals, but also throughout our lives as a race, we are growing closer to him and more able to understand his messages to us. My analogy is that if I were to ask a four year old to write down my biography, I would present certain aspects of it in a simplified story format, because no four year old would be able to understand the nuances and complexities of some adult conflicts and dilemmas. In the same way, the writers of Genesis and the other historical books were given the truth of creation in a way which they could understand at that point in human development. Had God revealed to them the dinosaurs, fossils, the solar system, evolution and the existence of germs (to choose a few basic concepts which are now generally considered to be basic science, even if people do not always believe in them), they would have been overwhelmed. It required hundreds and thousands of years of careful discovery, step by step, before we reached the point where we were able to make sense of those facts.

I don’t believe we are done yet. There is so much more we don’t understand, and until God calls us home again we will consider to investigate and find out. Generations of scientists will show children how awesome our world is, and generations of priests will show them how to say thank you. Those of us who choose to accept God into our hearts are, in my experience, more inclined to watch a beetle crawling on a leaf or a flower unfurling its petals into the sunshine and say “this is amazing, I am so grateful to be alive and watching this”, because we know that it isn’t an accident that we’re there to see it, or that it is there to be seen.