It’s a man’s world, but…

… it would be nothing without a woman or a girl, so sang James Brown. I am loving the success of the lionesses, England’s woman football team. I really hope they go on to lift the Euro trophy ahead of the men! This would appeal to my sense of justice.

Women’s football has a long history of being successful in this country and yet was ruthlessly shut down and banned by the FA in the early 1900s. Like so many areas of life, women have had to fight for the right to compete and enjoy what men take for granted.

I find it difficult to understand why men feel threatened by women flourishing. There’s a mistaken idea that persists whereby to allow women to shine somehow robs men. I really don’t believe this to be true. Perhaps if women can be all that they choose to become, men can be released in order to fulfil their God-given potential too without wasting time and emotional energy asserting their abusive power and dominance. I have spent much of my life being a leader in the church who isn’t able to be fully what I have to offer. I have also been blessed to have men in my life who have done what they can to help me thwart this.

Yet, as the saying goes, ’necessity is the mother of invention’. I think the reason there are so many amazing female pioneers and entrepreneurs is because we’ve been forced to be creative so as to find another way. What had meant to paralyse and destroy us has actually led to our liberation and thriving.

Maybe this is the subversive kingdom Mary celebrates as she nurtures the newly incarnated God-King in her womb. The divine Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, “has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, the mighty are brought down from their thrones and the humble are lifted up. The hungry are filled with good things and the rich are sent away empty.” (Luke 1:51-53)

Sometimes I wonder if this can ever happen. I regularly despair at the injustice of the world. But then I hear 30,000 football fans chanting, ”football’s coming home” in support of a team of dedicated, skilful and determined women and, once again, I think oh yes it can!

What is integrity anyway?

Boris Johnson resigns yesterday

We’re hearing a lot about integrity in the news at the moment. But actually what is integrity? The dictionary definition says, “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles,” as well as, “The state of being whole and undivided.” Being honest sounds straight forward enough, but as we’ve seen over recent months truth can be manipulated, distorted and stretched in order to justify all manner of indecency and wrong-doing. 

There’s also the problem of interpretation. My truth might not be the same as your truth because we are filtering events through our own prejudices and expectations based on previous, unique life experiences. We all know how social media can disseminate and perpetuate fake news. What we see cannot necessarily be trusted. I am of the generation that has had their childhood heroes exposed as paedophiles and even church leaders and Christian writers and commentators have been found to have abused their power and positions of trust in the most diabolical fashion.

So where does that leave us? I have always considered integrity to be the consistency between what is said and what is done. I always try to treat others as I would like to be treated and to follow through with action when I say I will do something. This often leads me to initially turn down a request. This is because I need to go away and consider whether I have the time and emotional energy before I commit to the action. However, once I have agreed to act I will give my all to see it through to what I believe is a satisfactory conclusion.

Jesus says something similar in Matthew chapter 7, verse 15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” In my experience people will say almost anything to get you to believe they are decent and trustworthy. Yet, what about their lives? They might appear good and successful on the surface, but how do they treat those around them? And do they let people get close enough to see what is really motivating them?

I think culture has a big part to play in defining what is understood by integrity. We can easily assume we all mean the same thing by such an ideal, but I wonder if this is where self delusion can creep in. It’s astounding how individuals and organisations can say they abide by one set of values and then behave completely contrary to those values when presented with a particular set of circumstances! As Peter Drucker famously said, ‘culture eats strategy (or integrity) for breakfast.’

I’ll give you an example, we say every person is created in the image of God and therefore has equal worth. Yet our organisational structures are hierarchical and those at the top get paid more, presumably because we actually believe they are of greater value. I was so impressed with Traidcraft who following a restructure introduced a flat structure and committed to pay their employees the same wage. You might be a cleaner or the CEO but both are working to the best of their albeit, different abilities in order to bless others and bring glory to God. 

You could call me a Marxist, but I just want to challenge us to ponder whether we’ve really thought through what actions are required in the light of what we say are our values. And when we are quick to judge politicians for not living up to the standards we say we espouse, yet who the majority of citizens voted for, perhaps we should more closely examine whether there really is an alignment between what we say we believe and how we live in the light of that revelation. Or, in reality, are we continually compromising our values in order to accommodate an ungodly culture that we unconsciously perpetuate? It’s hard to make a stand and no one thanks you for it. However, it’s the role of the prophet to unmask falsehoods, as well as imagine a better future.

Celebrating Pride

Marking 50 years of Pride at Glastonbury this weekend

When I was a child I was often reminded about the sin of pride. This might be because I was precocious and liked to be the centre of attention, but I think it also says a lot about the values of British culture. After all we don’t want to be like the Americans, brash, showy and over the top!

We were not encouraged to shine, be brilliant or think more highly of ourselves than we should. We were expected to be modest, polite and an attitude that children should be seen and not heard persisted.

As I grew up in a Christian home, there were also the quotes from the Bible about the danger of pride. ‘Pride comes before a fall’ and ‘God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble’, are etched into my memory and psyche.

Yet was this used disproportionately to keep little girls, in particular, from getting too big for their boots? And, as someone who now acknowledges their struggle with shame, has the sin of pride been used as a stick to beat me? Actually, in order for me to be fully alive and the person I was made to be I needed to be seen, nurtured and helped to find my place in the sun. Could this have been done in such a way that I also learned it was possible for me to be my absolute best self while not requiring the crushing or diminishing of anyone else in their own joy of flourishing?

This week I’ve been ill, so I’ve watched a lot of television. As well as huge amounts of tennis and cricket, I binge watched ‘Everything I know about Love’. I found it interesting, and surprisingly subversive, that the ‘love’ in question was actually the plutonic love between best friends. There is a moment when Mags is being publicly shamed on social media for sleeping around during freshers week. She does what I do when I feel shame, that is close all the curtains, take to my bed and hide. She says, “I feel like I don’t want to exist. Not forever, I just don’t want to be here, right now, being me…I feel wrong. I feel like there’s something wrong with me…I’m sorry I’m such a mess..I’m sorry I’m so loud and clumsy and I always get things wrong and forget things and lose things. I’m just this disaster, but I can’t ever seem to change. I don’t want to be this constant storm causing chaos everywhere.” But her bestie Birdy, who is lying beside her, responds with, “You’re not a storm. You’re a hurricane, Hurricane Maggie. It’s like what Katie Perry said, after the hurricane comes the rainbow. See you’re the hurricane and the rainbow. You blow through a place leaving the most spectacular things as you go. No one ever forgets you once they’ve met you.”

At this time of year there is a lot being said about pride. In Eastern cultures we tend to think the opposite of shame is honour. However, in our Western societies maybe it is actually pride. Obviously, pride in our context has been a specific response to the shame and stigma attached to homosexuality. Rightly so, a strong and powerful counter narrative of pride has been necessary to undo the demeaning and oppressive legacy of shame around sexuality very specifically.

Yet, I wonder if we also need to reclaim pride for other areas of life where we’ve been robbed by shame. As a parent, I’m advised to tell my offspring not just that I love them, but that I am proud of them. And, I try to do that when they’ve show attributes or character traits that I’m proud of, such as being kind or showing empathy and not just academic or material success.

Yes the Bible has negative things to say about pride, but it also says, ‘we should love our neighbours as ourselves’ and this morning I was reminded that, ‘it was for freedom that Christ set us free’. That definitely includes freedom from shame.

We all feel shame. While at the same time, we don’t all have a best friend to be there with us in our pain and remind us we are still loved. However, I am not going to stay under the duvet forever. I am reminded of the words by Marianne Williamson quoted by Nelson Mandela at his inauguration as President of the new, free South Africa, ‘the rainbow nation’, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We are meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!” You have permission from the Saviour and Creator of the Universe!

So be proud. Not just this week in June, but all year round. What would the world be like if we could all do that, for most of the time? Sounds like the kingdom of heaven to me!

The Buttercup Prayer

I was away on retreat last week. The weather was glorious and surroundings beautiful. I was inspired to write this prayer as I observed the buttercups opening to the sun. You can replace the word ‘sun’ for ‘son’ if you feel comfortable praying to Jesus.

Let the sun warm you.

Let the sun enliven you.

Let the sun restore you.

Let the sun melt your coldness.

Let the sun lighten your darkness.

Let the sun rekindle hope.

Let the sun spark dreams back to life.

Let the sun shine on new possibilities.

Let the sun sparkle on the path of your new tomorrows.

Let the sun guide you, strengthen you and bless the days ahead.

The Pioneer Gift – a love story

I really like the film ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and must have watched it a million times! What I find fascinating about it is the different approach to love that the two Dashwood sisters Eleanor and Marianne adopt. Hence the title. One seems very sensible and level-headed, yet nurses a secret hope. The other is passionate, romantic and indiscreet, almost allowing herself to be destroyed by betrayal and rejection. I resonate with this story so much because I see the two sides of myself represented in these characters. As Marianne asks throughout the film, ‘is love a fancy or a feeling?’

As you have seen from my previous blog, I have been reflecting on the relational dynamic between the pioneer and the institution. I had a great conversation this week with a friend and she really helped me to see that the issue at the heart of what often goes wrong is trust. But why does trust break down to be replaced by control? On reflection, I think it comes down to fear. The institution fears losing what it has and feels threatened by the critique of those who see new possibilities. Yet I am reminded of these words of Jesus, “For whoever wills to save his life will lose it and whoever will lose his life for me will find it.” (Matt 16:25) This seems equally true for institutions, as well as individuals. By seeking to maintain the status quo and go for the safe, tried and tested model of growth, organisations can become irrelevant and their fear of loss actually becomes reality.

So what is the antidote to fear? Well, the Bible is clear on this too, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) And what is love? Yes, “Love is patient and kind and keeps no record of wrong.” However it also, “does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but delights in the truth.” I wonder if pioneers are misunderstood because when we think of love we only remember the first part of 1 Corinthians 13. Yet, as the passage continues, there is another way to express love. And that is to say the difficult, truthful things no one else is honest and brave enough to say.

I love like this not because I want to wound or destroy, but the exact opposite. I want the best for those I care about most. I love enough to be unpopular. I love enough for my intentions to be misconstrued. I love enough to be excluded and humiliated. However, there comes a point when I also love enough for the consequences of poor decision-making and misdirected strategy to come to pass and I love myself enough to say no more.

In addition, I love God enough to create the new thing without it benefitting the institution. “Is love a fancy, or a feeling? No. It is immortal as immaculate Truth.” So, neither is love dead. “It is my love’s being yet it cannot die, Nor will it change, though all be changed beside; Though fairest beauty be no longer fair, Though vows be false, and faith itself deny, Though sharp enjoyment be a suicide, And hope a spectre in a ruin bare.”* Love will always remain and, even though I choose a different path, be assured I continue to grieve the loss just as keenly.

*Sonnet VII by Hartley Coleridge

The Pioneer Gift – A fairy tale

Sanguine Pelican – Lino cut print by Fuchsia Voremberg from 2021 Moon Calendar produced by Simone Kay and Lewis Kay-Thatcher

I’ve been reflecting on the relationship between pioneers and the institution and what goes wrong. This story came to me which explores this dynamic. It is just my imaginings and I’m sure you will find different ways to interpret it.

Once upon a time there was a handsome prince who would one day become king. He looked at his father’s kingdom, and while there was much that was good and holy, he could see how things could be done so much better in order to generate even more beauty and creativity in the world.

On the birthday he came of age, the king showed his love and pride in him by granting him enough power to begin creating the better world he could see so clearly in his mind’s eye. On that same day, the wise woman who lived in the woods gave him a special birthday gift. It was a fire bird with the most striking red plumage who always sang the truth. When the bird flew, she sang her prophetic song and new life would spring up in what looked like dead and desolate land. Yet the bird could only be seen by the prince and the wise woman. Everyone else was unaware of the significance of the gift he had been given.

So the prince set about turning his dreams into reality. Together with the fire bird, he explored forgotten bits of the kingdom bringing healing and restoration to places that had been ravaged by war and famine. Regularly the prince purposefully strode out from the palace with the bird on his wrist. And when he released her to fly, a spirit of hope, joy and new possibility was let loose in his father’s land.

As word of the success of the prince’s endeavour began to spread, the king became concerned that he would not be able to keep up this rapid growth and transformation. So he begged his son to take a wife to share the work with him in order that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed and become discouraged. For a while the son was able to resist the increasingly persistent concerns of his father. But, eventually, he too became persuaded that he needed help to achieve all he believed was possible.

The prince took a wife and together they began to build in the places which needed reconstruction. They worked hard and buildings went up, rivers were redirected and barren fields began to sprout crops. Things were going so well and he enjoyed co-labouring with his new wife so much, he clipped the wings of the fire bird. No longer did he need her help to do the resurrection work they had started together and he didn’t want her to fly too far without him. Yet despite grief and frustration, she continued to go ahead, as far as she was able. And there were times newness sprang up in unexpected places.

However, the prince did not really like this. He wanted his and his wife’s endeavour to prosper without the assistance of the fire bird. He knew the places that should be rebuilt and wanted just him and his wife to be responsible for this amazing turnaround in the fortunes of his father’s kingdom. He no longer enjoyed the assistance and companionship of his gift and began to resent the influence of such a small and insignificant creature on his grand plan. So, to curtail her activity further, he locked her in the castle.

Here too the fire bird flew around and tried to bring her gift. But she could only sing the truth. Once her song had been one of love and hope for the future. Now it was shrill and critical of the prince and his wife. The prince took to throwing stones at the bird when he caught sight of her and covering his ears to block out the song which was increasingly desperate and rage inducing.

Finally, he decided this situation could not go on. He set a trap to catch the bird, put her in a cage and covered it with a cloth. The bird grew silent. She could no longer see the sky and bring her gift to anyone or anything. There was no way out and she lay at the bottom of the cage waiting for a different kind of release, the freedom of death.

Then one day the wise woman came out of the woods to see what the prince had been able to achieve with his vision and the gift he had been given. She was impressed. There was life and energy in places where previously there had only been devastation. However, she also began to notice something else. It wasn’t so much who was present and engaged in communal life, but those that were missing; the uneducated, the poor, the sick and there was a lack of diversity of age, colour and tribal identity. The wise woman was confused. She knew this wasn’t the fruit of her gift!

She sought out the prince and found him hard at work with his wife and the others he had recruited to his cause. They were doing good work, but she was surprised that there was no sign of the fire bird. The purpose of her gift had been to make the work easier and more joyful. Yet he had chosen the harder road, which at the same time appeared to the king and his subjects the most obvious and sensible one.

She asked what had become of her gift and he began to curse her for giving it to him. He went back to the castle retrieved the cage and threw it at the wise woman in disgust. She picked up the cage and at the sight of her the bird began to stir and find her voice. The wise woman uttered an incantation and instantly new feathers grew. The bird began to flap around her cage. The wise woman opened the door and set the fire bird free.

The scarlet songstress soared high up into the broad expanse of blue sky. Once more she could bring the gift of her song and release divine resurrection power in the world. Never again would she let a prince, or anyone else, silence her and she lived happily ever after.

Redemption and penalty shoot-outs

On Monday I finished a 6000 word paper on shame. I’ll be presenting this at a conference called ‘When Woman Speak’ in Melbourne on 15th-18th August. Obviously, it’s a huge honour, as well as being vaguely terrifying! In it, I decided to focus on how to find healing from shame. However, following England’s first ever successful penalty shoot-out in a football cup competition, I may have to slightly re-work my conclusion.

For some time now, I’ve come to think of my shame as a stone. A huge rock that when I’ve stepped out in courage and vulnerability has come crashing down, threatening to crush me entirely. I picture it having fallen on me as if I were a healthy and verdant plant, with a stone now lodged at it’s core. Because it didn’t kill me, or completely destroy me. In fact, over the years, I’ve grown to accommodate the stone and have continued to flourish and put out new shoots in spite of it. Yet there are moments when the pain, disappointment and rejection that the stone represents gets triggered all over again, and I’m re-shamed or right back in, what Jill McNish calls, “the godless vortex.” (Transforming Shame: A Pastoral Response, p.143)

So, as I embarked on my paper and, at the same time, found myself back in that wasteland of hopelessness and desolation, I told God I could not live with the stone anymore and I needed to find a way to be rid of it once and for all. One of the ways I thought this might be possible, was to reframe the story I tell myself in order to make sense of the shame I’ve experienced. But, I guess I’ve always struggled with this idea because it seems a bit forced or artificial. I concluded, therefore, that maybe what I needed was some profound divine encounter to heal me from shame. I have a good friend who has written a wonderful and encouraging testimony of how God has done just that! I’m totally thrilled for her and can see the amazing transformation that has been brought about as a result of God’s healing. However, that is her story and not mine.

Then, I thought, well maybe this reframing of my story just happens naturally over time. I’ve observed how already when I recount previous life events what I include and leave out changes. Some things no longer seem relevant at all and other incidents take on new meaning given the unexpected or surprising twists our life journeys take. When, on Tuesday, I was presented with a modern day parable.

The England football team, managed by Gareth Southgate, who’d failed to score the penalty that knocked England out of Euro ’96, were once again confronted with their nemesis – the dreaded penalty shoot out. In the weeks leading up to the game, there has not been a press interview or article that has not reminded us of past failure and disappointment. And actually, in that moment, as Harry Kane stepped up to take the first spot kick after extra time, I wondered if perhaps we had to hold our nerve, face our collective fear and come out the other side having finally broken the ‘hoodoo’. A nation held it’s breath, and we came through victorious! But what I found remarkable, was not only that due to his previous experience Gareth Southgate was able to show such empathy to the young Columbian player who missed his penalty, but that he’d said to his players, “you do not have to be defined by the past, we write our own stories.”

Rather, then, than expecting the stone to be removed, I think I will decorate it and turn it into a thing of beauty. For, maybe, I need to accept that shame will always be a part of my story. But by acknowledging it and redeeming it, I believe I can now move beyond it into a brighter and braver future.

Mission is…

the eternal heartbeat at the centre of the universe.
the rhythm of an unparalleled love with no end and no beginning.
Longing to reach us,
to touch us,
to impress the truth upon us –
we are free to be the unique person we truly are.
We are loved and acceptable.
That’s it.
End of.
No qualification or exemptions.
No need for a constant desire to please.
No fear that we don’t quite measure up,
No exhausting battle to keep up a pretence and conceal the weakness, jealousy and rage.
A persistent anxiety that we might not have done enough,
the nagging doubt that we’re just ordinary and maybe don’t even deserve to be seen.
Yet even more than this,
we are celebrated for who we are!

The Creator gazes on us as a mother looks upon her newborn baby.
The Divine Spirit whispers an endless stream of love, encouragement and affirmation.
We spark interest and bring joy to the Redeemer and Liberator of humankind.
But we don’t see, hear or perceive.
We’re blinded by disappointment,
Made deaf by grief and betrayal,
Our perceptions are distorted by fickle friendship and past experiences of conditional love.

Yet some of us have glimpsed a different reality.
A place where when we’re lonely and on the edge, we are welcomed into community,
when we feel vulnerable and broken, we are protected and shown compassion,
when we’re in need, we are given what we lack,
when voiceless we’re provided with opportunities to speak,
when powerless offered space to exercise our gifts and express creativity.
It’s also where all living things are respected and considered of value.

Yes we continue to make mistakes,
the wounds are still very much part of our story,
we remain capable of causing immense pain to others, as well as ourselves.
But we seek to grow in self awareness,
confidence to admit our folly,
and a willingness to trust relationships are strong enough to ask for forgiveness.
We feel inspired to go and see where the Sacred is already at work,
join in with their transforming activity,
find the meaning and purpose for our lives,
by revealing a vision of what the Divine intended,
even before the first atoms collided,
and which we look forward to as our eternal inheritance.

28 October 2017

Advent Reflection

Call to worship

When the world was dark
and the city was quiet,
you came.

You crept in beside us.
And no one knew.
Only the few
who dared to believe
that God might do something different.

Will you do the same this Christmas, Lord?

Will you come into the darkness of tonight’s world;
not the friendly darkness
as when sleep rescues us from tiredness,
but the fearful darkness,
in which people have stopped believing
that war will end
or that food will come
or that a government will change
or that the Church cares?

Will you come into that darkness
and do something different
to save your people from death and despair?

Will you come into the quietness of this town,
not the friendly quietness
as when lovers hold hands,
but the fearful silence when
the phone has not rung
the letter has not come,
the friendly voice no longer speaks,
the doctor’s face says it all?

Will you come into that darkness,
and do something different,
not to distract, but to embrace your people?

And will you come into the dark corners
and the quiet places of our lives?

We ask this not because we are guilt-ridden
or want to be,
but because the fullness our lives long for
depends upon us being as open and vulnerable to you
as you were to us,
when you came,
wearing no more than diapers,
and trusting human hands
to hold their maker.

Will you come into our lives,
if we open them to you
and do something different?

When the world was dark
and the city was quiet
you came.
You crept in beside us.
Do the same this Christmas, Lord.
Do the same this Christmas.

Cloth for the Cradle, Iona Community


Light looked down
and saw darkness.
“I will go there,” said Light.

Peace looked down
and saw war.
“I will go there,” said Peace.

Love looked down
and saw hatred.
“I will go there,” said Love.

the Lord of Light
the Prince of Peace
the King of Love
came down
and crept in
beside us.


“Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it,”
proclaims the ancient word;
light stands firm against the dark landscape of reality,
warmth prances in rooms too long drafty.
Each of us holding a flickering candle;
seemingly insignificant one by one, yet magnificent when held together.
Each of us making a choice to stand in the light;
proclaiming the indisputable presence of unquenchable light.
Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Flash Fiction – Incineration


One of the values of Sacred Space Kingston is creativity and story telling. A member of our community, Denise Dale, has been attending a creative writing course and we wanted to share one of her recent stories. Be warned, it’s a murder mystery and a bit gruesome! So please don’t read if you are of a nervous disposition. However, it’s a well written and engaging tale, so we hope you enjoy it. Thank you Denise for being willing to post it.

Ray remembered sweeping her up into his arms and swinging her round, laughing together. It felt like they were the only two people in the world.

Driving home he recounted their first date. Ray had admired her from afar for months and had asked a mutual friend to introduce them. They hit it off straight away and talked and laughed all evening. Ray knew then that she was the one for him. He didn’t want anyone else, Lucy was his soul-mate.

“Fancy a spin on the motorbike Lucy? I know a stunning secluded beech where we can take a picnic”.

“That sounds wonderful Ray”.
They packed a cool box full of food and wine and off they rode. Lucy was used to riding pillion and leaning over at just the right time. Today however as Ray took a corner somehow the bike skidded and went over. It landed on Lucy’s leg. Lucy was in hospital for a number of weeks and had to have a plate fitted.

Today, a year after their first date, they were meeting for lunch in their favourite restaurant and Ray was planning to propose to Lucy; he’d bought the ring last week but hadn’t plucked up the courage to ask her yet. After lunch they drove to the nearby woodlands where he was planning to propose to her by the lake.

“Ray I have something I need to talk to you about”.
“Me too, you go first though”.

“It isn’t good news – Craig and I have been seeing each other recently, it started off as friends, however, we discovered we have feelings for each other and I am in love with him. I am so sorry Ray I know this must come as a shock. I do still care for you though, I’m just not in love with you anymore.”

“Ray was stunned, he hadn’t seen this coming.

“Well maybe it’s infactuation Lucy not love. I love you Lucy we belong together.”

“I am sorry Ray but it’s over.”

“I am going to see him now but I wanted to see you first and tell you in person, it felt the best thing to do.”

“Goodbye Ray”. She leant forward and gave him a peck on the cheek and turned to go.

Returning home he cleaned the car, took a shower and began lighting a bonfire in the garden.

That night his sleep was disturbed with dreams of happy times with Lucy mixed with their final hours earlier that day, when she told him it was over and she was in love with Craig.

The next morning he heard his Mum shouting up the stairs.

“Ray, phone call for you. It’s Lucy’s Mum”

“Ray do you know where Lucy is? She didn’t come home last night and I know you met her for lunch yesterday. She’s not answering her mobile and I’m worried sick.”

“She told me she was going to see Craig, have you contacted him?”

“Yes, he says she didn’t show up. If she contacts you can you let me know? If I haven’t heard by noon I’m ringing the police.”

“Yep will do”. Ray’s heart was pounding and his mind racing.

He drove to the woods where he had been with Lucy yesterday. “Please be here, please be here”. He saw her pink leather handbag and picked it up. He began recalling the events of the previous day….

“Hello anyone at home?” he sighed with relief when no-one answered. He went to the bathroom, washed his hands and picked up his Dad’s keys to crematorium, which he knew would be closed today.

There were plenty of coffins in the room each containing a dead body. He couldn’t fit her whole body in with some-one else, he would have to cut her up and divide her into several coffins.

“I had to do this Lucy; I couldn’t let any-one else have you, you belong to me. Craig wasn’t your type he wouldn’t have made you happy like I would.”

He laid her body on the floor. He picked up the axe and began dismembering her body.

“I remember how these arms used to hold me so tenderly”. He said picking up her left arm, removing her bracelet, watch and rings. Holding her ring finger in his hand he said softly,

“I was going to propose to you Lucy by the lake, I had it planned; I know you would have said yes” Taking the engagement ring out of his pocket he placed it on her finger. “You are mine forever”.

The axe was sharp so it was easier than he had expected to cut off her legs and head.

Using the casket key to open each coffin he slowly and carefully arranged each small body part in a selection of coffins, holding his breath as the stench hit his nostrils.

“I loved every part of you Lucy – I will never forget you. This day could’ve turned out so differently if you had stayed with me.” 

Ray turned the key on the final coffin “Goodbye darling I’m sure we’ll meet again some day”.

“Ray you’ve not eaten much tonight are you OK?”

“Yes Mum I’m fine”.

“How was your day Dad?” he said trying to change the subject.

“Well, a strange thing happened. We were burning up old Mr Parker and found a metal plate amongst the ashes”. “His family were adamant that he’d never had anything taken away or added. So it’s a mystery where they came from.”

Ray smiled at his parents nervously, hoping his parents weren’t joining up the dots.

The doorbell rang and Ray’s heart started beating fast and his hands felt clammy.

“I’ll go” said Ray’s Dad.

“Ray it’s for you – it’s the police”. 

Denise Dale has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this Work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.