Heaven in Ordinarie www.fosten.com
Heaven in Ordinariewww.fosten.com


Thursday 3 August 2023

Once again much water has flowed under many bridges since last I added to this site. No need for tedious explanations, rather I'll offer this selecion of recent birthday pieces and a couple of re-discoveries linked loosely  to this time of year.


Friday 8 January 2021

Ah, yes, a rather full five years have elapsed since the last update. Way too much to cover in this setting. So I'll just add some pieces from those years and then make it my intention to use and add to the site more often from now on.


3 October 2016

It's been a busy time since the last entry. Here is a piece which captures a few minutes during the Summer. 'Cafe by the Ardeche'.


9 April 2016

Spring has arrived, vigorously ... my new hip is settling in well... and off we go again though never quite as before - se 'The last onion'.

13 January 2016

Having passed 60 at Christmas I'm thinking that it is time to stop worriting on with questions of purpose and mortality, and simply get on with living. 'Re-Calibration' is my attempt to do just that.


20 July 2015

Pastoral church newsletters are not usually considered ground breaking literature, but having sweated over this one I thought  it might be of interest to a wider readership than the Norwich Area churches for whom it is intended.

July 2  2015

A day of hot, crackling sun which reminds me of other days like this from a long time ago. The border pinks from our childhood garden which are now blooming here in Pakefield reinforces that good memory. See 'Pink Buttonholes'.

June 15  2015

After weeks of waiting and willing the peony buds to open out into blooms today seems to be the day!

Also a hand out which accompanied two Praying with clay workshops held last Sarurday at the  URC Eastern Synod day out in Cambridge. No expertise was offered by me or required by the particpants but, rather like the peony, creativity bloomed anyway.

April 27 2015

A new week and a new poem relating how events of some 30 years ago came to an unexpected resolution - see 'Miss G's Revenge'. This is followed by a collection of pieces produced for last year's May Day event at the Seagull Theatre.

April 21 2015

Spring is well under way, the sun shines and a quiet few hours have enabled the website to go live. You will see that it is far from complete but some recent material is now available and other archive stuff will appear soon.

March 24 2015

After many months offline the fosten.com website 'Heaven in Ordinarie' is gradually returning. The new site will grow as and when I acquire some 'how to do it' knowledge and find a few moments in which to post material




If you have always wanted to ask me something, now is the time to go for it!

The Oil Lamp and the Sandals


a thoughtful journey towards Easter

and beyond.



In the early 1990’s a series of Lent talks given by Brian Thorne, a psychotherapist and head of student counselling at the University of East Anglia, was published as a book entitled: ‘Behold the Man’.  This combination of professional insight, honest reflection upon his own life’s experience, and a careful reading of the Gospel story revealed to me, firstly, that imagination is a valuable interpretive tool, and secondly, that the closer we come to Jesus the man the more richly may we understand God’s presence and purpose.


Ian Fosten

Lent 2015


The material in this booklet may be freely used, though an acknowledgement of its origin would be polite!


Forward comments to ian@fosten.com  

The Road


So, this is it;

the moment when the waiting ends

and the kingdom of a Father’s love begins;

and yet -  how strange ....


among the cheers

and waving branches

I hear a voice,

remembered, dream-like,

in my mind:

“Here are some stones for bread;

and here is a high place,

and here, the kingdoms of this world”.


That voice invades

the rhythm of their adulation,


becomes a potent throb

which might inflate me

to a grandness made of air,

not love.


I smile;

I thank them for their praise,

and yearn to find a place,

some space where I can hear and see,

and tightly hold your hand.






Bible Reading  Mark 11:1 - 11


Questions for reflection or discussion


If you didn't know the rest of the story what might you have expected to happen from this point onwards?


Were the people mistaken about Jesus identity and intentions?


Was Jesus wise to provoke the authorities and create a crisis?


What sort of power does a donkey riding king wield?


Does that sort of power make you feel uncomfortable?


'.... and yearn to find a place,

some space where I can hear and see

and tightly hold your hand.'

From a young age we are encouraged to behave in a 'grown up' way. Are there, or have there been times when it is more important to be like a child?








After your thinking or speaking keep a time of quiet and in your prayers thank Jesus the donkey riding king for his humanity and accessibility.





The Table

The meals we shared

in different ways and places

on our journey,

have all been special, sacramental,

you might say.


This meal, no less,

and infiltrated by

a prowling sense of

expectation - anxious, tense

yet eager,


longing for the

entry of a kingdom,

of God not men;

embodied in his look and knowing



The talk turns sour;

‘betrayal’ is the word,

though, having said,

a smile as if was seen dawn breaking,



The meal proceeds:

past liberation is

recalled, but now

weaves, patterned, into hope and future



The plates are cleared,

the cups likewise, and lives

that we had led

are left as we step lightly into

the garden.


Bible Reading  Mark 14: 12 - 26


Questions for reflection or discussion


Imagine the scene. If you like, view it from the perspective of some of the characters involved.

Had you been present what feelings might you have had before, during and after the meal?


At this final meal with his closest friends do you think that Jesus is giving a religious instruction, acting out a parable, or something else?


The Church has turned this historical mealtime into a 'sacrament'. By doing so what has been gain? What might have been lost?


In what sense might every meal you share with others (family, friends, ducks! ...) be considered 'sacramental' - that is, a meeting place between people and God?









This story is about one familiar door closing and another, less certain door opening. After your thinking or speaking keep a time of quiet and offer to God an ending and beginning situation in your life, or in the life of someone close to you.



The Garden


A crowd,

a group,

a few,

now me;

so close to you my Father,

yet so alone.

How good tonight

if I could be like them,

asleep -

too tired to face

the always searching, probing Word:

‘This is how it is,

how better this,

for which the world was made’.


How enviable their sleep.

Would that I might step backwards

from this fence and dream until

Your morning breaks.

Instead the moonlight catches on the razor-wire,

glints and sparks a brutal invitation:

“Come, try me”.

My flesh contracts,

my spirit sees too clearly

what is beautiful and good and promised

on the other side.


Now up

and stretch,

embrace the cruel wire

for those asleep:

my hour has come!



Bible Reading  Mark 14:27 - 42


Questions for reflection and discussion


Take time to imagine the scene


Had you been watching from the shadows how would you describe Jesus - his words, his appearance?


Why was Jesus frustrated by his disciples? What had he expected them to do? Why?


What exactly were the options open to Jesus? Where might choosing differently have led?


How did Jesus come to feel confident about where the next step lay for him?


Often the idea of 'knowing God's will' puzzles us. Does this story help your understanding?












After your thinking or speaking keep a time of quiet and in your prayers offer to God any hard choice or a decision you need to make.



The Trial


You question me,

but who and where are you?

And which of us the Prisoner

enclosed by lattice bars,

imprisoned by tradition,

status and the Law?

And where is life and death

within your universe;

does living God have place?


I see the face which frames

your accusation,

wizened, drained of sweetness

as an apple stored too long,

bitter and regretful,

soured by fear.


I am, “I AM”,

but by your say-so,

defined by anger

and hatred of the truth

which lives to set you free

if you might weep,

lay down your parchment

and clenched fist,

clenched mind,

clenched heart.


Be born again,

not by the Law,

but by the Father’s gracious love.




Bible Reading  Mark 14:53 - 65


Questions for reflection or discussion


Imagine - then describe the scene


What were the Chief priests and the others trying to do?


What were they defending?

What were they attacking?


Why, to begin with, does Jesus remain silent?


What is the effect of Jesus' answer (v. 62) upon his hearers? What effect does it have on you?


Consider the final picture of Jesus - blindfolded and taunted. What thoughts does that image evoke?














After your thinking or speaking keep a time of quiet and in your prayers become mindful of attitudes or fears which prevent you or someone close to you from being free to be true to themselves.


The Cross

Departure and arrival

and waiting ....

waiting  as a wheel spins

within a wheel;

the outer, raw, worldly pain,

betrayal and desertion;

the inner, small, tight,

spinning with intense light

and tuneful hum

which is the song of all creation

and the Father’s love.


This inner wheel spins faster still,

the outer, loose upon its bearings,

takes on irregularities and lurches

between heaven and earth, shakes

within its mounting as steel might bend

and concrete crack, draws in

torn flesh, warm blood for lubricant

until, with crack of sickness

the wheel breaks, frees

into a million pieces, flies

to every corner of the earth:

and all the tearing, grinding,

slicing  sounds of earth

condense into a single human cry;


“It is accomplished!”



The inner wheel spins on,

humming unperceived,

until it might perform

for those who are not deaf

within a garden  auditorium.


Bible Reading  Mark 15:21 - 41


Questions for reflection or discussion


Verse 31: 'He saved others, but he cannot save himself!' What do you learn from Jesus' response to these taunts:

- about Jesus?

- about yourself?


How might you answer the question posed in verse 34?


(Verse 36) Why was there no dramatic and faith-giving last minute rescue?


Is it significant that Jesus is supported at the end by a group of women?


The Gospel writers seem divided in their understanding of Jesus' last words: a cry of dereliction or, alternatively, of completion? What do you make of this apparent contradiction?


After your thinking or speaking keep a time of quiet and consider Isaac Watts' response to the death of Jesus:

'... love so amazing, so divine,

     demands my life, my soul, my all.'










The Cliff


For more than thirty years

I’ve climbed. At first

the cliff had not appeared so high;

in any case, the way was clearly marked.

But as I gained in height

companionship deferred to solitude

and, higher still, loose pitons,

rope ends frayed  bore witness

to other’s failed attempts.

Sometimes the chosen way has led

to gullies, blind,

or else to murderous overhangs

which might have been traversed

were not for those I carry on my back.


False summits have racked-out my mind,

and resolution would have failed

but that your voice, spoke softly

from the cliff top, drew me on:

and times when tiredness overwhelmed,

and peace seemed only in the letting go

and falling to uncertain, certainty below,

you held me to the rock, refreshed my soul.


How awesome  now

to see the dawn fringe pink

the grassy top, almost

in reach  and yet eternity away

for one whose strength is gone

and lifeblood drained.


Reach down your Father’s, lover’s arms,

and lift me home!



Bible Reading  Mark 15: 42 - 47


Questions for reflection or discussion


How would you describe the role play by Joseph of Aramathea in this story?


In what sort of circumstances might a ministry of 'laying well to rest' be useful?


Meanwhile, however we picture it, Jesus enters a borderland between life and death; earth and heaven; the life we know and eternity ...

Is this a comfortable place to be or do you prefer to hurry on to Ester morning?


On what occasions do people  travel through or loiter in 'borderland' situations?


'... Reach down your Father's lover's arms,

      and lift me home!'

What words would you use to describe the relationship between Jesus and the Father?

Which of these words echo your own experience?







After your thinking or your speaking keep a time of quiet and in your prayer hold out to God someone or some place where strength and hope appear to be exhausted.




And then ....




Mysteriously real and present,

exceeding all experience:

encountered in a garden, room,

or roadway; unmistakably



Whatever else has changed

his way of paradox  remains,

and offers unexpected hope

where conflict and dis-ease

know none.


And thus it is that

Juliana, Dietrich, you and me,

who know him most

when pain is raw and nights are long,

may with him rise.






Notes on the poems

The road  I have long believed that Jesus was not an actor following a script but a person confronted by countless choices, struggling recognisably with the options,  yet fully open to the Father’s  leading and utterly dependent upon His loving purpose.


The table  An attempt to capture something of the tension but also the  promise of the Last Supper.

The garden  .... pictures Jesus leaving the uneven support of his followers for solitary themes of obedience, integrity,  and the costly choice of love.


The trial  Jesus poses the questions, ‘Which of us is the prisoner?’  and, ‘Who is being judged?’


The cross  There is a limit to how far imagination decently may go with this part of the story. Instead the image of a wheel within a wheel suggested itself. The outer wheel, like some enormous contraption, breaks loose from its mounting and embarks on a path of indiscriminate destruction. The inner wheel, such as you might scarcely notice at the heart of an intricate clock mechanism -  tiny, precise yet keeping time for the whole.


The cliff  Again, it would be hard for the imagination to be let loose between death and resurrection without slipping into the macabre or the absurd, and so another analogy is used. The New Testament writers were clear that it is God who ‘on the third day raised Jesus to life’ , and so this poem explores the paradox of how dependence and independence (the climber and the rescuer) belong together in our relationship with God.


Resurrection (on the final page)  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed for his opposition to the Nazis in April 1945. 600 years earlier Lady Julian of Norwich discerned the true power of God in Jesus’ suffering.

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© Ian Fosten