Radio 2 Goes Green – a BBC Pause for Thought

I’m way late posting this here, but for online posterity, here’s the text for the 17 May 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2. Listen here.


I was in Scarborough recently for work and went for an early morning run along the beach, where I noticed a group of women in bathing costumes. I stopped to chat and discovered they were going sea swimming.

How cold’s the water? I asked.

8 degrees, they said.

Wow, that is intense, I said. Why do you do it?

One woman said, well, it depends on the day: sometimes it’s just a bit of fun with friends, sometimes for my mental wellbeing, sometimes it’s totally spiritual. You should come with us!

Oh, I said, I gotta work

Tomorrow, then, they said. We’re here every morning.

The next day, I woke up, put on my trainers and thought, we’ll see what happens: maybe, maybe not.

As I ran up, the women called out:

Wahey! You’re going in with us?

I want to, I said, but I also don’t want to! I’m really scared about the freezing cold.

They said: The cold is real, but it gives way to something else, and it’s worth it.

I trusted them. We walked into the surf up to our waists, and then together we dipped down until the sea covered our shoulders.

It hurts, I said.

Yeah, they said. Breathe, and talk to us. I did, and – they were right ­– eventually the discomfort transformed into something totally different. Something serene, something euphoric. A quiet joy flowed into the centre of me and right through me.

The icy waves rose and fell softly, like the sea was breathing around us. And as we swam, we talked. One woman was marking the anniversary of her dad’s death. Another was mourning a nephew born still. Another nursing a hangover from a fabulous party the night before. It was one of those moments when I felt exactly in the right place: somehow at one with the elements, at one with those women, with myself, with God.

When we talk about going green, sometimes we imagine it as a sacrifice we have to make. And while I think that’s true in part, as a Christian, I think of going green mostly as a gift we receive. It’s something good for us; it’s a delight. The flourishing of the planet and the flourishing of all creatures, human and other-than-human – it’s all connected. The ocean’s joy and my joy are intertwined – all held together, I believe, by the God who breathes through everything.

My Favourite Eurovision Song – a BBC Pause for Thought

I’m way late posting this here, but for online posterity, here’s the text for the 10 May 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2. Listen here.


My Aunt Marsha, my mom’s sister, is a maverick in our family. She stood up to my domineering grandfather when everyone else chickened out, she moved cities on a whim, she brought the party wherever she went. At family Christmases, after dinner she’d turn up the music and pull my shy mother off the sofa to dance. They’d hold each other, cheek to cheek, like a couple – swirling, crooning, laughing. Eventually, we’d all join in.

Eurovision never crossed-over to the States, but Marsha would’ve loved it. She’d dance to everything – folksongs, hard-rock, even the schmaltzy pop anthems like my favourite Eurovision winner, Love Shine a Light by Katrina and the Waves. I can imagine Marsha swaying a lighter in the air, singing with the crowds – “And we’re all gonna shine a light together!” as the song goes. “In every corner of our heart … light up the magic in every little part.”

Sadly, in her sixties, Marsha was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. First, she forgot her words, then she forgot people, eventually she forgot how to move her body. As the disease progresses, Marsha is withdrawing into a mystery, and we can’t relate in the ways we used to.

This past Christmas, after two pandemic years of not seeing each other, my mom was determined to gather the whole family, including Marsha, who sat quietly on the sofa as we all caught up. When it was time to eat, my mom helped her to her feet, held her cheek to cheek, and they sort of slow-danced to the table. As they moved together, step by beautiful step, I felt such love between them – in the absence of words, there was a softer energy, a different kind of music.

There’s a Bible verse that starts: “Love is patient, love is kind.” You may have heard it at a Christian wedding, but I think it points to something much bigger. The verse goes on: “Your speaking will come to an end. Your imagination will dry up, your knowledge will die, but love never fails. It protects, it perseveres, it endures.”  Or, as Katrina and the Waves sing it: the love light carries.

When circumstances change and we can’t relate in the ways we used to, I believe love is the only thing that can carry us through. In life, in death, into the hidden mystery of what’s to come, love is the only thing that will light the way.

“Valentine’s Day”: a BBC Pause for Thought

Here’s the text for the 15 February 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Katie Piper on BBC Radio 2. Listen in here.


I was dancing with my husband at our wedding reception, which we held in a street-front shop in a busy city neighbourhood. We didn’t have much money, but we splurged on the band and it was totally worth it. All night long the music was pumping, the dance floor  packed with our friends and family.

It was during a cover of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston, that I looked over the crowd and noticed two guys dancing together who I didn’t recognize. I said to Jonathan, “Do you know who they are?”

“No idea,” he said.

I thought maybe they were the dates of friends, but then again I was pretty sure I’d met everyone’s plus-one by that point. So I sort of danced us over to them and said “Hey, guys”. They smiled and waved.

I said, “Welcome to our wedding! Umm … Who are you?!”

They said, “Oh my gosh, you won’t believe this: we were walking outside looking for somewhere to eat, and we thought this place was a restaurant, so we came inside. A woman beckoned us in, we assumed she was one of the waitstaff, and we asked for a table for two. She laughed and told us it wasn’t a restaurant, it was a wedding party, but we should stay, have a glass of wine, some food, maybe even get out on the dance floor. So we did!”

I was internally processing this, wondering how much of my cake and booze they’d consumed for free, when Mary Lee, my brother-in-law’s mother, danced on over. She said, “Oh I’m so glad y’all met. Trey and Jonathan, these guys seemed like they needed a party, so I told them to come on in, there’s room for ‘em here.” She danced away into the crowd.

There’s a Bible story where – at a wedding party, maybe right next to the dance floor – Jesus transforms hundreds of litres of water into top-shelf wine. He does this, the story says, to show how extravagant God is – how God’s love overflows our stereotypes of God, how God expands our understanding of what love actually is.

At my wedding, Mary Lee stood in for Jesus and reminded me of that – of a divine love not just between me and Jonathan but pouring over to the wedding crashers, to Whitney Houston, and to everybody dancing anywhere – married, breaking up, searching, happily single, partnered, divorced ­– all of us, I believe, recipients of the extravagance of God.

“When Things Go Wrong”: a BBC Pause for Thought

Here’s the text for the 8 February 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2. Listen in here.

One of the hardest experiences of my life was realizing I needed to ask forgiveness from a friend.

The wrong I’d done was no minor fault. I’d lied to him – consistently, over a long period of time, about something significant and personal. And in the process I’d also seriously lied to myself, so there was a hiddenness to my guilt. It was overwhelming – it had a gravitational pull that drew everything else in my consciousness right back to it.

I knew an email apology wasn’t adequate so I asked my friend if I could fly to visit him the next week – to tell him something. He said, “Of course, it’ll be great to see you”. And he met me off the plane, and we sat in the carpark of the airport, and I shared in detail what I’d done, how I’d gone wrong.

I said I wanted to make it right. And I asked his forgiveness.

It was weird and scary to admit my wrongdoing. It was also weird and scary to hear my friend forgive me and express his understanding, which I hadn’t let myself expect.

Receiving his compassion and grace felt like: jump leads hooked up to my heart, a sudden stream of life that shocked me and revived me at the same time.

This saving energy, which I believe was straight from God, came to me through my friend’s open-heartedness.

If I played any part at all, it wasn’t bravery but an honest acceptance of my own humanness. I don’t mean to excuse it or make light of it. I’m not saying “everyone messes up, so it really doesn’t matter”. By acceptance I mean seeing it, acknowledging it, maybe even letting it be a wound where God can enter. It was painful for me but it was also the greatest relief.

Julian of Norwich, a 14th-century Christian, believed that falling down, getting it wrong, is not only inevitable in human life, it’s essential if we want to grow up.

She wrote: “First the fall, then the recovery from the fall – both are the mercy of God.” I love that. First the getting it wrong, then the healing after getting it wrong – both are God’s great compassion.

I owe my friend so much – not just for his forgiveness, but for helping me fall – back into God and into life itself.

It’s Good to Talk: a BBC “Pause for Thought”

Here’s the text for the 1 February 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2. The theme is related to “Time to Talk Day, the nation’s biggest mental health conversation”. Listen in here.


I come from a family of chatterboxes. When we get together, it’s never quiet. Stories are spun, jokes are told, laughter abounds.

My Dad is like this everywhere he goes. He’s a motorcycle-riding, fire-fighting, pint-buying, hard-living, exhaustingly-exuberant guy who wants everyone he meets to join the party. His friends call him “Wild Bill”. One time at a pub he convinced everybody in the room to push their tables together into one big, raucous conversation. He moved through the crowd like a cruise director.

I’m not as gabby as him but I am definitely his son: I love a good natter almost as much as he does. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve noticed another similarity between us. We both love to talk, but we’re also both emotional bottlers. We don’t easily share our feelings. We’re prone sometimes to stay on the surface of things, and our chattiness can be an anxious way of avoiding the uncomfortable stuff inside of us.

Maybe because Dad struggles with that, too, he’s been a source of great help to me.

Like when I told my family I was gay. In 1995, in the American South, coming out was really controversial. When told my parents,  very unlike him – Dad didn’t say anything for a while. Finally he spoke up: “Son, I love you, I’m getting us a pizza, we’re gonna talk, and everything’s going to be okay.”

Or a time later in life, when I sank into an unexpected depression that absolutely walloped me. I didn’t know what to do, so I called Dad. And he didn’t rush in with empty words, he didn’t say “push through it” or “don’t worry about it” or “stiff upper lip” or any of that nonsense. He just said: “tell me about it”. And he listened as I discovered how important it is to talk.

There’s a Bible verse where Jesus says: “Don’t be afraid: nothing is hidden that won’t be revealed; nothing is secret that won’t be made known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light.”

Dad’s not really a church-goer, but he’s taught me so much about God. How talking vulnerably – how bringing the deepest and sometimes scariest stuff into the light – is not only good for my mental health, but is also healing for my soul.

My Favourite Tourist Destination: a BBC “Pause for Thought”

Here’s the text for the 29 September 2021 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2. Listen in here.


On the first morning of a holiday, I get up early and go running. Wherever I am, a run shifts my body-clock, gives me the vibe of the place, and serves as reconnaissance for the best coffee joints.

I’ve been lucky to travel in life. Looking back on my journeys, it’s the running I remember most: hurdling tree roots in the Costa Rican jungle, sprinting around Istanbul’s Taksim Square, racing the clouds along the River Liffey in Dublin.

But you can’t holiday every week, so I was thrilled upon moving to the UK to discover parkrun ­– a national movement of free 5K runs for the whole community. Every Saturday I can show up to my local London park, or be a tourist ­at one of more than 700 parkruns across the country.

If I’m not on holiday, it’s my favourite tourist destination….

…Where diverse people gather to run, or walk, push a pram, roller-skate, jog a dog. If they don’t want to run, they volunteer ­– or just cheer. That was a shock at my first parkrun in Birmingham. All around the course, people clapped for us, rang cowbells, yelled “Come on! You can do it!”

I was like: “Am I actually in Britain? What is this bizzare experience? Oh wait! It’s affirmation and public joy!” At parkrun, even the stereotypical British reserve is transformed. It’s so good for us that GPs have started prescribing it.

As a Christian, I think the inclusivity of parkrun is something many churches could learn from: how to celebrate diverse community, how to help people speak of the goodness running through life, how to welcome newcomers.

Once at a Brighton parkrun, the host gathered all us tourists and first-timers and said: “One of the main impediments to trying a race – one of the biggest fears people have – is that they’ll humiliate themselves and be the last person across the finish line.”

“But don’t worry about that,” he said. “We have a volunteer whose job as tail runner is to make sure everybody else gets across the line first. At parkrun, no one has to worry about finishing last.” I mean, how good is that?

I thought of Jesus, whom I believe always takes the place no-one wants: the last place, the losing place, so we don’t have to worry, so we can experience a life run not by fear but by freedom.

So, happy tourist running, good people. May you be surprised by a good vibe and public joy.

What Am I Thankful For?: a BBC “Pause for Thought”

Here’s the text for the 22 September 2021 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2. Listen in here.


One Christmas Eve, my husband and I took a late flight to my hometown. We arrived after midnight to my sister and brother-in-law’s house, and crept quietly down the hallway so we didn’t wake our niece and nephew, aged 8 and 4 at the time. They had no idea we were coming.

At dawn, we heard them run downstairs, ready for presents. My sister texted us to make sure we were awake, then told the kids that their first gift was hidden under the duvet on the guest room bed. We heard their feet quick on the stairs, our door creaking open, they came in curious, we could hear them breathing, wondering aloud what the big lump under the duvet could be – two bikes, maybe a small pony?

Finally they pulled back the covers. We yelled “Surprise! Merry Christmas”, and their faces lit up with shock and delight. For a second they had no words, then they screamed, “It’s our uncles!”. They jumped onto us, laughing, full of love. I tear up just thinking about it.

My sister filmed it so we could watch how happy they were when they found us. To search for something ­– and to find it – is a beautiful thing.

But what I remember most from that Christmas morning is how wondrous it was for me to be found. Our niece and nephew did the finding; but my husband and I got to experience the joy of being looked for, being discovered.

Sometimes in spirituality we’re in active search mode ­– we’re looking for wisdom, we’re seeking hidden treasure. And that’s important.

But I think it’s also important to realise that we are the hidden treasure being searched for – and to let ourselves feel the gift of being found.

The old hymn says it: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, I once was lost but now am found.

As a Christian, I believe God has already found each of us. Before our first breath, actually, before our first opinion, before we know anything, we have been found. That’s what I’m most thankful for.

And when I forget, God reminds me again, in the moon seeing me on a night walk, in a friend calling out across the pub, in a child’s delight, in a song loving me through the radio. Thanks be to God.

My Proudest Achievement: a BBC “Pause for Thought”

Here’s the text for the 15 September 2021 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2 – about learning to admit that I am wrong. Listen in here.


I remember the night I sat across the table from my friend Mark, with a notebook in front of me. In the notebook, a long list I’d been making for weeks. Mark and I’d met in an addiction recovery group. And I was at a crucial place in the recovery process, which suggested that I make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself – and then admit it to another person.

Mark said, “why don’t you open the notebook and start by sharing the things you’re scared to death of telling me?”

The thing is, I was scared to death of the whole list! Some people’s proudest achievements involve conquering their fear by climbing a mountain or running a marathon. For me, it was jumping out of an airplane into sobriety and hoping that the parachute would open.

Now, I trusted Mark – he’d been there before, on the other side of the table – so I took a deep breath and jumped. I went through every item on that list: every resentment and my part in it, every story, every offence and failure. I surveyed the inner wreckage of my life – and to the best of my ability, I described the exact nature of my wrongs.

It is the most profound spiritual experience I’ve ever had – coming clean about everything, having it held by Mark with compassion, looking at it all with a liberating honesty. Later on, the recovery process suggested I make another list – of people I’d hurt – and that I try to make amends and put it right.

It’s weird, I know, to name this as my proudest achievement. It’s not something you’d normally put in a trophy case or on your resume of accomplishments! It’s not really even an achievement ­­– it’s less something I did and more something other people helped me into.

Still, it’s the truth. Honestly. My proudest achievement is that, quite well into adulthood, I started learning how to say: “I was wrong”.

And not just to say I was wrong, but I am wrong, because in my life, at least, there’s still plenty of daily material to confess.

In my opinion, the world would be better if we all tried this, people of faith, agnostics and atheists all together. Instead of signaling our amazingness all the time, can you imagine if prime ministers and presidents and all of us started with: “You know what I struggle with? Or “let me tell you about a time recently that I was wrong.”

We could all be proud of that.

Where Were You When?: a BBC “Pause for Thought”

Here’s the text for the 8 September 2021 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2 – about Jesus and walls of oppression coming down. Listen in here.


There was no Twitter in 1989, of course. I heard on CNN that the East German government was allowing crossing over the border into West Germany. The violent incarceration of a generation of people since the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 – was over.

I was born in 1975 in the US, in the middle of the Cold War. And its images were seared into my mind – from history books and spy movies. Images of a world split by hatred, divided by a wall of hostility and barbed wire and weapons.

But also images of people risking everything to cross the wall – climbing over it, tunnelling under it, jumping from windows, breaking through borders in the boots of cars. Sometimes successful, often not, but people never stopped trying because, as it’s said: “once a truth is seen, it cannot be unseen”. It lives inside of us – rising and bracing, until it shines out.

On the afternoon of November 9, 1989, I was 14, in front of the television after school, transfixed by crowds of people ­– young people, old people – dancing on the wall, hammering holes in it and reaching hands across to friends never met, busting barriers and popping champagne bottles.

At Christmas that year, my grandma asked me to write a prayer for the family dinner. I didn’t know how to pray, but I wanted somehow to thank God for the crumbling of the Iron Curtain. I found a Bible verse: “Christ is our peace. He has made us one and broken down the dividing wall, the wall of hostility between us.”

A couple years later, my grandma travelled to Europe, and she brought me back a fragment of the Berlin wall, a palm-sized chunk, you can see the graffiti on it. She said: “I remember what you prayed.”

A generation has passed since then. I’m 46 now, not 14, but I still have that piece of concrete. For me, it’s a sign that walls still need to come down ­– in Afghanistan, around the world, in my own judgmental heart – but it’s also a trust that their foundations are already broken beyond repair. The battle is not over, but in a sense, it’s already won, because what’s been seen cannot be unseen, and the truth is shining out.

The Meaning of Life: a BBC “Pause for Thought”

Here’s the text for the 25 May 2021 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2 – about trees, physics, and falling in love with God. You can listen in here.


There’s a tree I used to climb when I was a kid.

I loved its branches, sturdy and wrinkly as elephant legs – how they cradled my nine-year-old body and lifted me into communion with the sky and the rain and the bats that hung upside down in the leaves.

My parents weren’t really church-goers but I was a spiritual kid. And my first experience of falling in love with God was lying on my back in that in tree.

My first experience of grief was going to climb it one day and finding it on its side, blown down by a storm. As my friend lay dying, I walked into its muddy roots, as vast underneath as its branches on top. I saw weird creatures who lived with the tree on the other side of the ground from me.

Deeper in, the roots became a cathedral. I felt an energy flowing around me – the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.

It’s not like I hadn’t known about roots before – I’d studied my science book. But there’s a difference between knowing about something and actually meeting it for the first time. This meeting gripped me: I realized there was so much stuff underneath the surface that I hadn’t seen before, and this unseen stuff had been holding me up all along.

Now I’m sure my younger self would not have said of that experience: “this is the meaning of life, this is ultimate reality!” But I believe that IS what I came into conscious contact with that day. Not only the tree and its roots, not only a new part of me – but an encounter with the life force in us both, the everlasting love streaming between me and the tree and everything else in the universe.

We name that mysterious connectedness in different ways.

A physicist calls it entanglement, where two different things separated by a huge distance are still somehow physically affected by the movement of the other.

As a Christian, I call it the Body of Christ, the fundamental unity of everything, seen and unseen, visible and invisible – all somehow held together by God.

The nine-year-old might just call it: Wow!

All those descriptions are good, in my opinion. But maybe the best is the nine-year-old’s. Because the meaning of life isn’t merely knowing about the meaning – it’s encountering it, meeting it, and falling in love. Wow, indeed.