Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My BLOG is ISFP - The Artist

The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders. They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of.

They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living.

Find out your blog type here

Friday, December 05, 2008

The real meaning of Christmas...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ok, I've been tagged by Rachel at Re vis.e Re-form to write a creed in no more than 140 characters...Here it is:

We trust:
In the Father, source of all.
In Jesus, who lived, died and rose to save us, bringing life to all who turn to God.
In the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in our lives.

I am tagging Dot at Thoughts on a Journey

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

One of the things we have been asked to do on my course this term is change a standard sermon into a story as a way of teaching a congregation. I preached a sermon about the Magi last epiphany, so I decided to have a go with that as my it is!

The Journey

I have always dwelt in the wild mountains of Tibet - cold and remote, wild and desolate, magical almost - a perfect platform for viewing the stars. The science of astrology is my passion and I have studied the heavens since I was a boy. Now I am approaching old age and thought that I would end my days in the foothills of ‘The Great Mountain’: but it was not to be...
My master mage, Yeshi called me to him some months ago when the snow lay thick upon the lowest slopes. The icicles hung sharp and clear, a jagged display along the roofline of his mountain retreat. The whole landscape seemed to melt into the sunlight. Brilliant ice and glittering snow sparkled under my feet as I climbed the final few steps.
Inside, Yeshi explained that he wanted me to help him examine a strange anomaly which had appeared in the heavens. I must admit that at that time I had not noticed it, but my eyes are not what they once were. Yeshi explained that it was a new star and that it shone more brightly each night. Curiously, it seemed to move steadily westwards, as if we should follow its leading. We looked at the ancient scrolls which contained star charts and prophecies and confirmed that this kind of celestial event usually foretold the birth of a King. An exciting thought, if this king was from our own land, but by the position of the star and its constant travelling it seemed that he would be born many miles away, to a people we did not know.
Eager to find out the truth, Yeshi sent a messenger to a Mage that I did not know who lived even further to the east in the land of the Mandarin Lords. Cong-Cheng arrived in the spring, flanked by his retinue of servants, asses and camels, groaning under the weight of his mobile laboratory. Star charts jostled with strange contraptions which he used to measure the constellations and to foretell the future. It was this gift which had drawn him to us. Cong-Cheng had been intrigued by our message and excitedly shared with us his own interpretation of the meaning of the mysterious star. That night, as we gazed into the firelight I realised that his ideas about the coming king surpassed our own in an amazing way. Our meal of roast chicken and rice was consumed with barely a touch to my taste buds as he wove a tale of majesty and power mixed with peace and ultimate sacrifice. This king, Cong-Cheng told us, was sent by none other than the Great Spirit who gives life to all things. This king was to be the means by which we could be reconciled to God himself.
I am ashamed to admit that I had not even considered that a divinity would want to bother with humanity, let alone be reconciled to us. I asked Cong-Cheng to elaborate. It was then that he showed me the ancient Hebrew scrolls which he had in his possession. In them there were prophecies which Cong-Cheng believed related to this star. My breathing quickened..Were we witnessing an event more important than anything we had so far imagined?
We talked far into the night but at last it was decided. We would follow the star until we found the palace where the new leader dwelt. A King sent by God was worthy of worship. We wanted to be there to pay him homage. In anticipation of what lay ahead I packed my scrolls and my astrological instruments as well as the provisions that I would need on the long journey to who knew where?
Many months later, after travelling over deserts and fertile plains, the star appeared to rest over the kingdom of Herod. We knew little of him and made our way through the crowded streets of Jerusalem towards his palace high on the hill. Naturally we expected to find the baby within. But he was not there. Nevertheless, King Herod welcomed up enthusiastically and wanted us to tell him everything we knew about the strange star in the heavens. Then he entertained us royally and asked us to return to his palace to enjoy further hospitality once we had found the child. We accepted his invitation and travelled on our way, little knowing that in a few days time, we would be warned strongly by an Angel not to go back. To do so would be to sign the child’s premature death warrant!
The star flared even more brightly that night. We travelled onwards and came upon the town of Bethlehem, nestled in the hills, quiet and calm...waiting...
At the edge of the settlement there was a modest house. Flat roofed and whitewashed, it shone eerily in the light cast by the ever present star overhead. Shadows ebbed and flowed beneath its beams. A few sheep and goats huddled in the corner of the yard. One goat nibbled curiously at my cloak as I edged past. Lamplight through the window betrayed the presence of those within. Yeshi knocked on the door. A tall, simply dressed man with tousled hair answered the door. He seemed somewhat bemused to see us there but bade us enter. His young wife baked flatbreads and served us a pottage made from a little meat and vegetables - it was all they had. In a corner the child lay beneath a sheepskin blanket in a beautifully carved cradle - a carpenter’s son enjoying the fruits of his father’s labour. I walked over to look at him. He was about a year old and he sucked his thumb as he slept. It was strange but his whole countenance exuded peace. Suddenly I knew for certain that this was the King we had come to worship. The son of a carpenter, living in an unremarkable town, without riches or majesty and yet...I knew...
With silent acquiescence we knelt and laid our gifts before him. Gold for Kingship, Myrrh for death and sacrifice, Frankincense for spirituality and godliness. Each gift selected to match the prophecies we had sought and studied.
‘Truly this King is the son of God, the Saviour who was foretold! proclaimed Cong-Cheng.
Yeshi and I could only bow our heads in silent wonder.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I was reminded yesterday that I only have about a year and a half left before ordination...this came as no surprise, but did set me thinking about how unprepared I really am for the whole thing!

I have been on two funeral visits this week which I obviously can't comment on in any detail here, it is enough to say that one of them was pretty harrowing. Even though I only had to sit there and care, it was a difficult experience. Whilst I realise how much there is still to learn before I will be remotely ready to start my curacy, I also feel very affirmed in these daunting situations.

It has occured to me that ministering to people is not just what I want to do, it is what I am! Am I changing my theology on the ontological nature of ordained ministry? I'm not sure.. I DO know that I believe that all Christians have a specific calling within which Jesus channels his love and through whom he chooses to fulfill his purposes. Whether that means all are included in the ontological nature of calling (just different callings), I don't know. Can a teacher really not be a teacher when s/he is not teaching or a Doctor not be a doctor when s/he isn't on duty?

I will have to reflect on this further.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We have a very cute pair of guinea pigs called Ginger and Tufty. We recently moved them into their new accomodation which is a rather smart apartment with a grassy area underneath in which they can graze and generally poddle about. Upstairs is their bedroom with warm shavings and straw and of course their food. I should imagine it is bliss for a guinea pig...

BUT, do they ever look beyond the enclosure at the garden beyond and wonder what it would be like to be out there? It must be hard to see the sunny part of the garden when you are stuck in the shady bit, or eye up that lovely bunch of dandelions which are just out of reach. They don't know what it is like not having to rely on me to move them to pastures new or on my choice of food for them. They don't know anything else but our garden. It could get very boring...if they ever thought about it.

Being outside their comfort zone would have its negatives of course. They may be eaten by a fox or injured by a cat! If they managed to find somewhere safe as a bed, they wouldn't be as warm and cosy as they are in the hutch. (No nice warm straw there.) The would have to be totally independent for food and shelter, foraging for what they could get and accepting the unfamiliar.

So why am I musing about all this? It struck me that Christians can be in either position. We can get comfortable in our churches, in the activities which we enjoy and are good at, in the friendship groups we are used to. We can be passive and reliant on the leadership to tell us where and why..poddling about as we have always done. Or we can hear God's call out of the comfort of the enclosure and go where things may not be as familiar; where it may be more dangerous and less reliable and comfortable. Daunting huh? The upside it that God may have the spiritual equivalent of a bunch of dandelions waiting for us, which would have always been out of reach before. We may be able to bask in patches of sunshine at the far end of the garden. We may even visit entirely new gardens never seen before in which there may be lettuces and tomatoes or even more guinea pigs... who knows?

Only those who step out of the comfort zone get to find out! Are you prepared to?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Why do some Christians and branches of Christianity come across at best as eccentric and at worst total lunatics, who need locking up? Is it because they are total fruitcakes or is it because I am just not holy enough to recognise their unique understanding of God's revelation which they enjoy? As an example, it seems as if some feel it is entirely rational to brand Barack Obama as the anti Christ, see this for the full story.

Why is it that a sizable proportion of the church seem to spend so much time debating issues which are red herrings? Shouldn't we as Christians be taking a leaf out of Jesus book (he spent much of his time talking to tax collectors and sinners I recall,) and concentrating on talking to people about their need for God?

Instead they seem to be getting involved in pointless arguments and speculative rhetoric, like the Pharisees did. This kind of pejorative, ego driven criticism really makes me mad!! Even if Barack were some kind of anti messiah, will discussing it in detail help? Yes, we are called to be aware of false prophets and to be on our guard, but the endless debate and speculation over so called 'end of the world prophecies' is just pointless! Wouldn't it be better (if those who believe this stuff have integrity), to encourage Christians to get out there and triple their evangelistic efforts, if they truly believe that the end is so close??

I have to say that if we are looking for the powers of darkness, then I am more worried about this branch of the church being a tool for Satan. Who knows how many searching people are being put off looking into Christianity because of this sacremongering tripe? Whilst they are debating the reasons why Barack, (or any other politician they don't especially like), is or isn't the anti christ, they have taken their eyes off the real task of speaking to people about Jesus.

It's not as if we are not warned in scripture keep our eyes firmly fixed on the ball...Paul tells us not to get involved in arguments over pointless things in Titus chapter 3..

8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

If they feel that they are correct; then fine, get out there and intensify evangelistic efforts! After all, if the end times are that close then evanglelism can be the only rational response...If they are wrong, what immense judgemental damage have they done to smear and damn the integrity of Barack Obama?

Who will be next to receive this kind of vitriol I wonder?
Anyone else who doesn't quite fit into their particular understanding of Christianity I suppose..I'd better hold onto my hat...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pastoral ministry can be hard...especially when bad situations don't seem to change and you are at a loss as to what on earth you can do. It can be frustrating when you think you have it all worked out and then a situation doesn't go according to plan..
The problem is they're MY plans, not Gods...
Pastoral ministry can also be one of the most fulfilling tasks you can ever be part of, when you find that you have been used by God to help, even just by listening. Listening is SUCH a vital part of ministry and I am learning that more and more. As a naturally gregarious and fairly vocal person, it can also be difficult for me, but it is getting easier, especially as I see the difference it can make.
Keep them coming Lord...I'll do my best!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This is an extract from the the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus and was written in the 2nd or 3rd century. It describes what is different about Christians and how they live. For me it is a challenge to my Christian faith and how I live it out. How wonderful if others could see this kind of faith in me and in the rest of God's church...we have a long way to go I fear...

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Striking stuff!

Friday, August 08, 2008

It's our 20th Wedding Anniversary next week and we celebrate this weekend. We have always tried to do something special, a weekend away in a lovely hotel, dinner out, trip to the theatre...fabulous. But what is really important, is for us to spend time away together, just us. I think some people see it as selfish to go away without children, but I think all couples would benefit from making time for one another. All too often the busyness of everyday family life can get in the way of the relationship which should be at the heart of a family. We guard that closely and I hope that we will continue to do so.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

One year down, two to go!
Everyone I meet says how quickly my ordination training is going..and in some ways I agree. It doesn't seem long ago at all since the First Years on the new SNWTP course gathered for our first weekend away. Yet I am just back from Summer school and the first year is over..eeek! (See photo above of the end of year Panto..'Snow White and the Seven Ordinands' - a play wot I wrote, in which we students satirised the course and staff as much as possible!). Here's a quick extract

Wicked Queen: Reflective Mirror on the wall, Who has the brightest hair style of all?

Mirror: I’m not sure, I’ll have to think a little more carefully about it, maybe do a pastoral cycle on it, look at some relevant artwork, re-read Laurie Green, and then reflect a bit more. Could you come back a week on Tuesday?”

Wicked Queen: No I couldn’t!!! I’ve got endless assignments to mark, I only have a very small window to find out the answer!!! Tell me now, or I’ll smash you to pieces!!

Mirror: Oh ok,I can be an Activist under pressure! Your hairstyle is definitely the brightest and coolest in the land!

Wicked Queen: That’s more like it!

In other ways it has seemed an age since I much has happened. I've met so many new people, i've stretched my thinking and my abilities, my views have been challenged and reflected upon...(Oh how I hate Theological Reflection!!!!) It's been a fantastic experience though, and I thank God for every bit of it so far. I just hope that my 'formation' (whatever that actually is..) is successful and my course study of the Bible has such a positive effect that I am, as Paul says 'equipped for every good work'. Because, am I going to need it!!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.

Do you run through each day
On the fly?
When you ask "How are you?"
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?
You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.

Ever told your child,
We'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time
To call and say "Hi"?
You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift....
Thrown away.
Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.

David Weatherford.

Friday, March 28, 2008

When I'm In Heaven

When I'm in heaven
Tell me there’ll be kites to fly,
The kind they say you can control
Although I never did for long,
The kind that spin and spin and spin and spin
Then sulk and dive and die,
And rise again and spin again,
And dive and die and rise up yet again,
I love those kites.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be friends to meet,
In ancient oak-beamed Sussex pubs
Enfolded by the wanton Downs,
And summer evenings lapping lazily against the shore
Of sweet familiar little lands
Inhabited by silence or by nonsenses,
The things you cannot safely say in any other place,
I love those times.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be seasons when the colours fly,
Poppies splashing flame
Through dying yellow, living green,
And autumn’s burning sadness that has always made me cry
For things that have to end.
For winter fires that blaze like captive suns
But look so cold when morning comes.
I love the way the seasons change.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be peace at last,
That in some meadow filled with sunshine
Filled with buttercups and filled with friends
You’ll chew a straw and fill us in on how things really are,
And if there is some harm in laying earthly hope at heaven’s door,
Or in this saying so,
Have mercy on my foolishness, dear Lord,
I love this world you made – it’s all I know.

(Adrian Plass)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It's Easter Sunday tomorrow and as a Christian I am inevitably thinking about the wonder of the resurrection. What a turnaround that was for the disciples! Jesus executed in the most horrific way, beaten, taunted, nails driven through his wrists and ankles, hung on a bare wooden cross and left to die in unbearable heat. Body broken, dead, buried, finished...

Then the impossible, he greets Mary in the garden and the message is out, 'He is risen!' Jesus, God himself in human form, conquers death once and for all and pays the price for my sin and yours...Instead of eternity spent apart from God, we can be with him. Now that really is a turnaround!

I sometimes wish that I could have been there with Mary, met Jesus and showed my gratitude there and then. The truth is though, that I can and will be thanking him not only tomorrow in church but every day of my life. The more time I spend with him, the more special Jesus becomes and the more amazing is the gift whuch he secured on that first Easter day...

He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!

Here's my most recent assignment. It's a book review on one of the core texts for our Mission in Britain Today module.


‘Mission Implausible’
Duncan MacLaren.

This book is an examination of why Christianity has become so unpopular in Europe, when in most parts of the world religion is intrinsic to society and culture. MacLaren also looks at the few areas of Europe which have strong religious cultural expression, so that he can gain insight into what makes religion relevant and necessary in these societies.

In examining these concerns, the author makes detailed use of sociological analysis. He explores possible phenomena which may have caused the descent into unpopularity that the Christian faith has had to endure. These include industrialisation, urbanization, and consumerism. He asks how these processes have impacted upon the Church in Britain.

MacLaren observes that modern Europeans find the claims of Christianity to be implausible. Science and technology are certain, faith is not. He calls this ‘technological consciousness’. If society’s disinterest in religion is partly due to a crisis of credibility; understanding how something becomes credible to the modern mind will give insight into effective missiological practice.

MacLaren’s examination of shifts in the workings of the social order were absorbing, particularly the pages on community. By looking at the culture of modern society, Christians can devise a missiology which is relevant for today. As he asserts, old style preaching on street corners is out of step with modern culture. Knocking on doors is now counter cultural and is seen as an infringement of privacy. This was enlightening as I have certainly found such methods awkward and discomforting. He notes that we are a society used to making lifestyle choices by browsing, weighing up and considering the options available.

What also intrigued me was that consumerist mindset affects expectation. A demand for interest led activity hi-lights why passive church is often regarded as boring and why initiatives like Alpha are so attractive. All of these assertions would also sit well with the current philosophy of the ‘Fresh Expressions’ initiative. The last section entitled ‘Credible Witness’, examines three apparently disparate ideas: distinctive, inculturated and engaged community. MacLaren asserts that Christians should be weighing the three together and not see them as mutually exclusive. I would interpret this as being distinctive in our morality, theology and values, inculturated in the way we present these ideas and engaged in politics and the concerns of the world.

I was disappointed to find little practical application of the above insights. Case studies linked to some of his observations, showing how churches can assimilate modern culture into their presentation of Christianity, would have been helpful. MacLaren stops short of addressing how distancing Christianity from undesirable modern practices can be balanced with absorption of culture. It would also be fascinating to explore how the cultural language of today could be used to present the age old truths of Christianity.

In conclusion, this book is an excellent analysis of how social trends affect society’s attitude to Christianity. MacLaren comes up with some fascinating theories and insights. However, he includes little practical application or pragmatic concrete examples which I would have found illuminating and helpful.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Primeval fire fused a cradle of rock.

Borne by the rocking tides,
smooth sand folded its hollows;
frail seeds flew
on the winds' shoulders;
blessed by soft rain
and warmth of sun,
grass and herb
bound the shifting dunes.
Lastly, trusted servants came, led by Christ
to build a home for restless souls,
a beacon to shed forth His light.

Lord of rock and tide,
of sun and air,
Bringer of light:
may Your blessing rest
on this Your house.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Well, with one term of Ordination training under my belt and the second one started, I feel less like a new ordinand than I did. Actually, so far I haven't felt much like an ordinand at all (whatever they actually feel like?). I think this may have something to do with the method of training I've taken. Being on a local course and therefore part time means you immerse yourself less in the process. However, you do get to stay within the 'real' world and for the moment anyway, remain involved with your own church which has been great.

The lectures for both modules, 'Biblical Studies'(my degree subject) and 'Theological Thinking' have been very good so far, although I have found the whole Theological Reflection thing difficult to get to grips with. It's not that I'm not used to thinking theologically, I just find it difficult having to do so to a set formula. Some of the stuff we did more recently (see my art reflection as one example )were easier to grasp and more grounded in the Bible which I feel to be essential. For me, thinking theologically cannot be separated from the Bible and nor should it be.

Well, I'm away next weekend at the Diocese's conference centre for another study weekend, which so far have been the best part of the course for me. It's also where I feel most like an Ordinand, because I can fully focus on that and nothing else.
Scary to think that in under two and a half years we'll be ordained...gulp!

God's given me a great group of friends too, who are not afraid to have fun and be as flippant as I am! You know who you are!!! I'll buy you a drink on Friday...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Now that my son's birthday is over and I've caught up from being ill with flu at Christmas, I've finally got time to comment on our FABULOUS trip to Lapland for 4 days in December.

We went with a company called 'Emagine' and they were brilliant from beginning to end. We stayed in the Hotel Jeris which is set in the forest on the shores of a lake within the arctic circle. At this time of year the lake was totally frozen and looked like a giant ice rink. There were toboggan runs right outside the hotel and we stayed in our own log cabin with its own fire and sauna!

The activities were very well run. We had a snowmobile safari which lasted all afternoon during which each family met Father Christmas. We sat in a wooden house on benches covered with reigndeer hides to wait, around a huge fire whilst a lovely lady cooked us pancakes and we drank hot chocolate...excellent. An elf led us to Santas house and we had about 10 minutes talking to him. Tom was entranced and hugged him as we left...bless. We visited a husky farm and drove the huskies ourselves. We strapped on snow shoes and went for an adventure into the forest. As well as all of this we tried ice fishing, ice hockey, kick sledding and cross country skiing as well as riding in a reigndeer sleigh. Phew!

If you haven't been and have children under 10...I would urge you to go! Even if they're older, they would still love it. it was probably one of the best holidays we've had...highly recommended.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Art Reflection

Maurice Denis. Holy Women Near the Tomb/Saintes Femmes au tombeau. 1894

This picture depicts the events of Luke 20 v11-18 on the morning of the resurrection when the women found the tomb empty. In the painting, the figure who spoke to the women about Jesus, is painted in the background. He is also painted in warm colours as if bathed in light. The women are painted in somber blues and greys. I love the contrasts of light quality in this picture, which for me symbolize the difference in mood that the women must have experienced when they were told that Jesus was risen. It is as if the artist has captured a moment in time when extreme sadness turns to hope. The group of women are split into two groups. On the left the two women who are bare headed appear to be waving to the golden figure. Their uncovered heads suggest that they are open to his message and are immediately affected by it. The other women on the right do not yet seem to have noticed him and remain shrouded, perhaps in gloom.
For me the whole painting is an example of how we can respond to the good news of Jesus resurrection and symbolizes the joy and light which his presence in the life of the individual can bring; if we only believe.

“This is the great truth which fills our faith with meaning. Jesus, who died on the cross, has risen. He has triumphed over death; he has overcome sorrow, anguish and the power of darkness ... In him we find everything. Outside of him our life is empty.”
(J. Escriva, Christ is passing by).
In Conversation With God Vol 2: Lent and Eastertide