Sermon – 18.02.18 – Where am I this Lent?

This was a tough one to write – I don’t know why.  In the end I wrote it the day before I was preaching.  I’d prayed that whatever ended up coming out of my mouth would touch at least one person (for good, not for bad!).  Thankfully I got more than one positive report on it.  I always feel a great sense of honour and some extent pressure, when writing a sermon.  I know I can’t please all of the people all of the time, but I do hope to please (or challenge, or uplift, or comfort, or affirm) some of the people, some of the time.

The sermon was based on the Gospel reading which was Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news.”

Where am I this Lent?

If you take away nothing else from this sermon today, then I’d like you to take away that little phrase.

Where am I this Lent?

Take a moment just to think about that.

When I was thinking about the Gospel reading for today, an image came to mind of mountains and valleys and it lead me to consider how we all have mountain top and valley deep experiences in our lives.

I wonder whether you’re closer to the mountain or the valley this Lent?

And I wonder what today’s reading could say to you about that?

Where am I this Lent?

The start of the Gospel reading has Jesus, joining with many others and going down to the River Jordan to be baptised. We hear that: “…just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.”

Let’s not forget that although Jesus is the Son of God, he is also a regular human being. So what happens next: “…a voice came from heaven…” is not run of the mill. It’s what might be described as a mountaintop experience. Jesus, as with the other people gathered there, has heard John and accepted his message and declared his faith publicly through the act of baptism. Of course where Jesus differs from the rest of the crowd is that he has not sinned. But Jesus wasn’t baptised just for show –he was baptised as an outward sign of his obedience to God. It’s just that God happened also to be his father. And it is when his father speaks and says: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” that this mountaintop experience begins.

So I wonder, in the context of the question Where am I this Lent? Are you there? Are you having your own mountaintop experience? Can you relate to what happens in these three short verses?

Perhaps though when you ask yourself Where am I this Lent? You are a bit more aligned to what happens next.

“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”

We have heard the Gospel reading today from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which tells us that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. A quick glance into some other interpretations gives us sent (NIV), pushed (The Message), and made him go (GNV).

All of this gives us the sense that Jesus, divine yet fully human, son of God and son of man, a real person with real emotions, joys and fears, was not necessarily champing at the bit to let go of his mountaintop experience. Now this is purely conjecture, but perhaps Jesus was thinking that this mountaintop experience was the beginning of his ‘mission’. After all, he has heard a voice from heaven saying that he is doing well; he may have felt empowered and equipped and ready to take on the world. Instead, the Spirit – the same one who moments before had landed on Jesus in the form of a dove – tells him to take on not the world, but the wilderness.

So Jesus – possibly still literally wet behind the ears – goes.

We know that Jesus spent a long time in the wilderness. Forty days and forty nights is long enough when you are comfortable and don’t have many challenges. But when you are trying just to survive, when every day is a struggle, and when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, then forty days and forty nights is a long stretch. We hear that Jesus not only had to contend with wild beasts, but with Satan too.

So is this you? If you were to ask yourself Where am I this Lent? You might not be dealing with actual real live beasts, but perhaps there are things happening to you or to those you care for, that are making you feel like you are in a personal wilderness time. Maybe it does feel like you’re having to struggle with Satan.

Now I want, just briefly, to mention the other three readings given for today. I am of course preaching on the Gospel reading, but the others, in a nutshell are:

The Old Testament reading – Noah, the ark, the rainbow;

The Psalm – God’s steadfast love and faithfulness;

The New Testament reading – references to Noah, to baptism, and salvation.

When all of these readings are taken together, we can identify a very important thread running through them.

In all these readings, God is there. God is there for Noah – and he places a rainbow in the sky as a promise. The psalm talks of God’s everlasting and steadfast love. The NT reading is a letter from Paul, with a reminder to God’s people that God did not abandon Noah, that God is patient, and that God raised Jesus from the dead.   All reminders of God’s presence.

If you are asking yourself Where am I this Lent? the answer could be you might be on a mountaintop of joy, or you might be in a valley of despair. You might be one thing one day and another the next, or all kinds of things rolled into one.

If we look again at our Gospel reading, we very easily see at the beginning that God is present, when he speaks to Jesus. It may not seem immediately obvious where God is when Jesus is in the wilderness, as we quite naturally get taken up with wild animals and Satan. But we do hear that when Jesus was in the wilderness, there also were angels who – depending upon the translation we read – waited on him, ministered to him, helped him, took care of him. So even in the wilderness, when Jesus would have felt far from all he knew – the presence of God, through the angels, remained.

So when you ask yourself Where am I this Lent? have a think about how you’re going to feel the presence of God.

Lent is a special time for us as Christians, and as such there are a number of church-led opportunities for you to draw near to God, or to draw nearer than you are right now.

Perhaps you could come to one of the Lent groups, to refresh your knowledge about how the things we do in church draw us nearer to God. Maybe it is that you would prefer to sit and to pray – so you could consider coming to Morning or Evening Prayer. There are also many online and printed resources you can use – because God isn’t limited to a church building – and if you are thinking that you would like to use Lent to become more aware of God’s presence, but are not sure where to start, just ask one of the Ministry Team.

Because wherever you are this Lent, God is near you. Whether you feel God’s presence or not, God is near you. Whether you want God or not, God is near you.

So when you leave this building later today, and go out into the world, and ask yourself Where am I this Lent? Remember that wherever you are, you are always in the presence of God.




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Sermon – 26.11.17 – St Stephen

Here’s the text of my sermon from Boxing Day.  It was our church’s patronal festival and I was given the honour of preaching at it.  I was going through a bit of a ‘dark night of the soul’ at the time, but constructing this sermon helped the darkness begin to lift a little.

The Gospel reading was Matthew 10:17-22

17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Our Gospel reading for today is on first glance a pretty bleak one. All that stuff about being hauled up before the authorities, being flogged, families turning against one another, people being hated. All these warnings about what may happen if people choose to witness about Jesus Christ.  It’s not particularly encouraging.

Hidden in the middle of this Gospel reading however, we have these words:

“…do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for you will say what is given to you in that hour.”

We often seem to find this in portions of scripture – a little nugget hidden amongst all the other stuff. And it’s this little nugget that I would like us to take away with us today.

“…do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for you will say what is given to you in that hour.”

As I was preparing today’s sermon, I felt very much that this was the message to take away. But I also wanted to think a little bit about the reason for us being here in church today (no, not the mince pies and sherry at the end of the service!). The reason being of course that it’s St Stephen’s Day.

Now I’ll have to admit that apart from being aware the Stephen was the first Christian martyr, that’s pretty much as far as my knowledge of him went. So I thought it would be a good idea to read about him a little more – and here is a brief synopsis.

In the early life of the Christian church the followers of Jesus attended temple, but it wasn’t long before a debate arose over the distribution of food. There were two groups of Jews in Jerusalem at the time – those who had been born and raised there, and those who were from outside of Jerusalem but had chosen to make it their home.  It would seem that some of the outsiders were not getting a fair deal when it came to the distribution of food (there is probably a whole other sermon there, but unfortunately no time to go into it today!).

In order to address the problem, a group from the ‘outsiders’ (the Hellenists) went to see the Apostles, who suggested the Hellenists set up a council of seven trusted people who would be able to oversee the fair distribution of the food.

One of these seven was Stephen, and of him, it is written that he was:

‘…full of grace and power [he] did great wonders and signs among the people’.

And it would seem that the issue over food distribution was sorted out, as we do not hear of it again.

However, in an echo from the recent past, there were those who didn’t like Stephen and the great wonders and signs that he did. And the next we hear; Stephen has been arrested. Again with echoes of a recent past, it doesn’t matter that Stephen is innocent of any charges levelled at him, and that the testimonies against him are fabricated, he is, like Jesus, put to death anyway. And again, with echoes of the words of Jesus upon the cross, Stephen says:

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

And then he dies.

But how does all this fit in with our Gospel reading and the nugget that I wanted us to take away with us? Well if you remember, the nugget is this:

“…do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for you will say what is given to you in that hour.”

And just like this nugget that is found in the middle of the Gospel reading, so too there is a nugget in the middle of the Acts reading about Stephen. Well it’s quite a lot more than a nugget actually, maybe more of a chunk.

I have mentioned before the similarities to Jesus’ arrest, subsequent trial and execution. But where the stories differ is that Jesus did not say very much in court.  Stephen however, takes the opportunity when asked by the high priest:

“Are these things so?”

to launch into a long and powerful speech – not in his defence but, as it turns out, accusing the people of Israel of idolatry and blasphemy.

I am not sure if Stephen knew when he made this speech, to where it would lead him. I am not sure if he knew he was about to make this speech. But I imagine that the words which came out of his mouth – words which detail not only the history of Israel, but also speak of warning to God’s people not to let it happen again – were God given.  There would have been many gathered in the court for whom these words would have been an inconvenient truth (which was all the more reason to silence the person speaking them). But of course what Stephen’s executors (and Stephen himself) were not to know at that time, would be how his words, and their actions, would be written down and referred back to, through centuries to come.

And of course what Stephen’s executors (and Stephen himself) were not to know at that time, would be how a certain man in the crowd – a man holding the coats of those who were stoning Stephen – a man called Saul, would become one of the most effective means of the spreading of the Good News of Jesus Christ and of God’s kingdom on earth.

And so we return to our Gospel nugget:

“…do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for you will say what is given to you in that hour.”

We may not be called upon to stand up in front of a court and witness. We – hopefully – will not end our days by being put to death by an angry mob throwing stones at us.  But we are called, to bear witness to Jesus Christ. (Incidentally did you know that ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’?)  It might seem like an enormous task at times – how do we witness?  How will we know what to say in a situation which we think calls for us to talk of God?  It’s all very well sitting in church and singing hymns and praying and listening to a sermon.  But how do we carry the Good News out into the world?  Well, I don’t know.  I can’t give a pat answer for every situation that we may come across in life. But I do know this – that by attentiveness to God’s word.  By meeting with God’s people.  By time spent in prayer.  By all these things, then when the times do come for us to be martyrs – to bear witness – then we can trust God that we will say what is given to us in that hour.


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Calm in the storm


‘Stronghold’ Sieger Koder

This is my ‘post-Bishop’ post!

I can’t promise that all my posts make sense, but if you want half a chance of knowing what this one’s about then you’ll probably want to read ‘I’m off to see the Bishop!’ to get some kind of a clue.

The picture that you see above is of a postcard that I picked up in a bookshop recently.  I’ve more recently given this postcard to a friend of mine, but I think I’ve given it the correct title – let me know if I’m wrong – of ‘Stronghold’.

I bought the postcard just a couple of days before I went to see the Bishop, back in December.  I didn’t know then that I’d end up passing it on to someone whom I thought would probably need it more than me; all I knew was that I felt prompted to buy it and keep it about my person.

As I say, I was going to see the Bishop that week.  But the day before going to see him, I was also off to see my Academic Tutor who advises me on my assessed work for the Diocesan School of Ministry that I attend.

So I had a meeting with a Tutor, a meeting with a Bishop, and then an (unrelated) phone conversation with some troubling content.  All within the space of 24 hours.

I was glad I had the postcard.

The meeting with the Tutor had been harder going than expected.  It was to discuss the second part of my assignment.  I’d worked really hard on it and, boosted by the warm reception for the first part, had kind of assumed I’d get the same type of feedback.  Well you know what happens if you assume don’t you?  I wouldn’t say my work was ripped to shreds, but it was torn into quite a bit.  Still, having decided to take the (constructive) criticism on the chin, I took my notes home and vowed to use the episode as a chance for academic development.

Next up was the meeting with the Bishop.  This time I felt I’d done my homework – literally and figuratively (see previous post) and although I was more nervous than on my previous visit, I was more sure of myself.  And actually this time the chat was much better.  I did feel a bit grilled, but I also felt that I gave strong, articulate answers.  Not only about the difference being ordained would make to me and what I would be able to do as a result of it, but also about the type of ministry to which I might be being called.  So I did feel like I was coming from a position of strength.  What happened next then was a bit of a shocker.  Because I actually thought the Bishop was going to say I could go to a BAP.  And he didn’t say that.  He said that if the area of ministry to which I feel called, is an area of ministry to which I could be called, then I should go on a placement to the kind of parish I was talking about. AAAGH!  Now I have nothing against new experiences (well, I do a little bit) and in essence I think it’s a great idea.  But I felt like it was another hoop.  And that I would need to jump a little bit higher.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it is really important to have your vocation tested and I am sure that it will all be worth it in the end, whatever I end up doing.  But just at that moment I could have chucked the towel in.  Instead I said ‘yes that’s fine, I have no problem with going on placement’ (because I don’t really) and again left the office with the hope of returning at a later date.

I then returned to work, and it was there that just a couple of hours later I received a phone call which meant I needed to leave immediately and attend to a really distressing situation.  It’s a situation that won’t be discussed here, but needless to say it helped me put the other stuff in context.  It’s a situation that won’t go away by itself.  It’s a situation that has already improved in some ways, but that could easily rear its head again.  It’s a situation that is way out of my comfort zone (bigger than any placement) and which is draining mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  It’s a situation that scares me.

And so back to the picture.  After the Tutor meeting, after the Bishop meeting, after the Situation.  The picture.  It kept coming to my mind and I kept taking it out of my bag to look at it.  I then transferred it to the kitchen so I could see it more frequently. It’s what kept me going for the next few weeks of rewriting my work, of thinking about placements, of dealing with the situation, of standing waiting for the kettle to boil and trying to keep calm in the storm.

As we approached Christmas at our church, I would find myself in situations (carol service, nativity, midnight mass) where I couldn’t sing the words to the carols, because I felt powerless and lost and angry and sad, all at the same time.  I knew it was due to the emotional turmoil I was going through, and so what I tried to do was keep that image in my mind, let the words speak to me where they could, and just keep calm in the storm.

And then a funny thing happened.  A few days after Christmas, my husband and I were out with my best friend and her husband.  We were talking about our hopes for 2018, and my friend mentioned that someone at the church they attend, had decided to ‘claim’ 2017 with a word, or a phrase.   So my friend and I decided to pray over the next few days as to what we thought God’s message might be for us for 2018.

It wasn’t long before I had a number of things whirling around in my mind, but the one that kept coming back to me in my prayers was ‘Be the calm in the storm’.

That was quite scary for me.  A lot of folks who know me seem to think I am quite a calm person.  Maybe it’s because I’m a bit slow on the uptake (or a ‘reflective thinker’ as my Vicar more kindly phrased it for me!).  And I suppose because I like to weigh up a situation from various angles, I might be seen as being calm.  The thing is though – the picture had reminded me that the calm in my storm was God – it seemed that what God was trying to tell me was that through the choppy waters of 2018, I would need to be that calm for others.


Eventually I realised that, if God could put the thought there, and that if God was going to be my calm in the storm, then I would just have to ‘girl up’ and get on with it.

And I am reminded of the scripture that I’ve mentioned before, and which has stuck with me for a long time now:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV)

So here I am, braced for the storm.  And I know that my stronghold, my God, is braced too.

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I’m off to see the Bishop!

In my previous post on here, I mentioned that I was, amongst other things, waiting to see the Bishop.

It seems quite apt that, just as the season of Advent and waiting begins, my wait to see the Bishop is over.

If you’ve seen my previous post you’ll see where I came unstuck.  It’s because of that becoming unstuck that I’ve spent the last 16 months honing my ‘reason(s) why ordination will make a difference to me‘.  And I think I know.

The thing is, will the reasons I have, be the reasons the Bishop wants to hear?

I’m not going to list those reasons here as they’re personal to me, and to share them just now wouldn’t seem right.

But here’s what’s whirling round my head right now…

  • I hope that I’m not doing this for me (if I’d known how much internal upheaval the whole exploration process was going to bring, then I’m not sure I’d have ever begun).
  • I think that I am doing this for God – because God will not leave me alone.  For ten years now it’s been like a dripping tap and I have not felt easy since that still small voice whispered in my ear.
  • I know that I have had to learn to trust and to rest in God over this last year and a bit.  One lesson I have been learning is I have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • I pray that whatever the outcome tomorrow – whether the Bishop thinks I should go and be BAP’d or whether I should not – that I have the strength to cope with what comes next.

And off I go, off to see the Bishop.  I will report back when I’m out the other side!


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Who and where am I?!

Back at the end of July, after school had finished for the summer (I work in a high school so I had finished too – yay!), I delivered my last session as the Children’s Work Co-ordinator at my parish church.

I had been involved with the children’s work (though I don’t like to call it ‘work’ as that suggests hard toil!) for ten years, and had looked after the Sunday school groups and other activities, for nine.  It was a time of huge spiritual growth for me, and one in which I learned to accept that I can’t know the answers to everything, that children are incredibly perceptive (sometimes unnervingly so) and that if you can’t explain a concept to a four year old, then you probably don’t understand it yourself!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, at the end of July I delivered my last session.  I received some lovely gifts, a ‘big up’ from the Vicar, and lots of ‘thank you’s’.  It was lovely.

And at first I was ok.  A couple of years previous, I had taken three months ‘off’ doing anything to do with the children’s work.  I’d been doing it for seven years and was feeling a bit jaded if I’m honest.  I’d also been allowing God’s voice about exploring my vocation, to penetrate a bit more than previously.  I didn’t really think about it being a trial run for not doing the children’s work anymore, but I did know that at some point I would need to stop doing it, as much for the chance for fresh blood and new ideas to be allowed to flourish, as for myself.

My time away from the front line was fruitful and formational, in that instead of x amount of hours per week being taken up with planning, overseeing rotas, thinking of themes, putting practical things in place, I was able to just ‘be’ with God.  At first I’d thought I would read this theological book, or spend time doing that amount of Bible study.  As it happened, I didn’t really do those things.  But I did spend more time in prayer and resting in God’s presence. And God was more than happy to welcome me.  And what He seemed to say to me was “Keep going.”.

Continue reading

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I will give you rest: Matthew 11:(16-19), 25-30

Some folks appeared to quite like the sermon I preached on Sunday. (And actually after my last post about prepping up last minute, this was a proper last minute  one – Saturday night no less!) So here it is…

If I was to come round each of you this morning and ask how you’re doing, what kind of answers might I be likely to get?

There might be quite a number of you here this morning who would be up on cloud nine…I certainly think that a few of the folks who are here to celebrate this morning’s baptism would be among those. And why not? The welcoming of a new person into the life and family of the church, is indeed a cause for celebration. And rightly so.

There’d probably be a majority of folks who’d say ‘I’m fine’- because that’s the easiest answer isn’t it? It’s the easiest to give and the easiest to hear.

I wonder how many of you though might pause, and think, and say “Actually Rachael, now you ask, I’m not so cracking. I’m tired. I’m weary. I’ve got some burdens.”

And I wonder what I’d say to that?

I’m going to show you a little something I’ve brought in from home now…

I try when I can, to do an exercise DVD. The one I’ve been doing for a while now involves using hand weights. How much do you think these weights weigh? Well, together they’re about 10lb. So that’s not too heavy – in fact it’s a bit heavier than a most newborn babies – and probably less than she weighs right now – but they’re heavy enough for me to notice that I’m holding them.

So, 10lb. Do you think you could pick up these weights and hold them with your arm straight out to the side of you like this? You might manage it for a minute or two, but what about all day? I doubt it! The longer you hold them, the heavier they feel.

That same thing is true of the burdens we carry around with us. Not a pair of hand weights of course, but burdens of a different kind. Burdens that sometimes have been with us so long that they almost seem like they’re a part of us.

Perhaps you’re having a tough time at work.

Maybe your family aren’t getting on very well at the moment.

It could be that you’re worried about a friend or a relative, and don’t know how best to help.

Perhaps there’s stuff going on in your relationships with people at church, and it’s making you feel hurt and confused.

Maybe you look at the news on tv or in the papers or on facebook or twitter and you feel the weight of the world’s burdens falling upon you and you wonder what on earth is going on.

I remember, each time I was mum to a new person, feeling an incredible burden. Don’t get me wrong – I loved and love children with a deep and abiding love. But the burden I felt was that of the challenge of caring for them, nurturing them, being one of those responsible for their welfare. Keeping them safe. It was then and still is now, at times, almost overwhelming.

And yet – and yet – what we hear from this beautiful passage in the Gospel of Matthew are these words of encouragement. Jesus said:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

I’m going to put these weights down now.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and I will give you rest.”

I am sure we have all heard the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

It’s just that sometimes, we feel there’s nobody we can share that problem with. Nobody whose reaction we can be sure of. Nobody who might not say ‘I can’t handle this, it’s too much’ or on the other hand who might dismiss your worries as being insignificant.

But of course as Christians, we believe that there is that one person who’ll listen to us when everyone else is too busy, or too full of problems of their own, or too far away, or too judgemental, to listen to us.

We believe and trust in the words that Jesus said in Matthew. Words that are as relevant today as they were then.

And if it’s not enough that Jesus said those words in Matthew’s Gospel…God’s Word is full of promises to help us in times of trouble. Here are just a few: “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.” (Gen.26:24) “The Lord is my strength and my shield, in Him my heart trusts.” (Psalm 28:7) “The poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.” (Psalm 34:6) The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. (Psalm 145:15) “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). The list goes on.

Does that mean that if we will ask him, God will take all of our troubles away? No. Does it mean that the problems at work will magically disappear? No. Will the troubles with family and friends be forgotten and never mentioned again? Probably not. Will getting on with everyone at church be a piece of cake? If only! Will God look at our troubled and suffering world and put an end to all war and terror and despair? I think we know the answer to that. Will God make it so that we never need worry about our children, about whether we’re doing a good job of parenting (or even just being a ‘good enough’ parent)? That would be nice – but helpful? Probably not.

But, this we do know. God will be with us. Through our struggles – whatever they may be – He will help us. He wants to shoulder our burdens and all we need to do is take them to him. In the words of the hymn by Fanny Crosby:

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.

What a privilege to offer, everything to God in prayer.

Oh what peace we often forefeit, o what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

So let us remember this – when the load is too heavy, He will help us to carry it – and there is no burden that is too heavy for Him.


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By, With, In

I found this cross in the boot of my car recently.

So I put it in the front of my car.  I’m not completely sure why.

But an interesting thing has happened.  It’s made me a better driver.

I don’t mean that in some magical way, I can reverse park in one go every time.  Or that I always remember to apply my handbrake at a STOP sign.  Or that I M.S.M* every seven seconds (although for any traffic enforcement officers reading this then yes, I always do those things…).

I like to think I’m a reasonably safe driver.  That I’m aware of my surroundings and that I take into consideration every time I get in that car (particularly when I’m transporting my loved ones) that I’m in charge of a heavy lump of metal that can potentially take a life.  And our car only has a couple of scrape marks…

I like to think too that I don’t give in to road rage.  That if someone is intent on cutting me up then if that’s what makes them happy, go ahead my friend.  Or if someone in front of me is a bit of a ‘Sunday driver’ then hey ho, we’re all on a journey.  Jog on (although if you could jog a bit faster, that’d be handy).

I know though that there are times when – though not road rage exactly – I give in to, what shall I call it – ‘road annoyance’.  It ends up being more a state of mind than an action.  But it’s there nonetheless.

And it’s horrible.  The things I think (or say out loud – with my kids in the car for goodness’ sake).  The shakes of the head, and yes, at times – the slamming on of the horn (forgetting it’s there to alert to danger, not to make a point) are not becoming.

Because actually, what good does it do?

And so – this cross.

It a visible signal to me of what I believe inside.

That Christ lives in me and I in Him.

And would Christ berate a fellow traveller for making some mistakes along the way?

I doubt it.

I mean I know he got cross with people (look at the temple table turning thing).

But I kind of think that was more to do with a greater injustice than someone pushing in.

Or pulling out of a side road.

Or driving too s-l-o-w-l-y…

A couple of years ago I read this book during Lent.


And the image of this book came back to me just a couple of days ago.

And when I took it down from my bookshelf it struck me that the background, which I’d originally seen as a stained glass window, now appeared to me to be more kaledeidoscopic (is that a word?). I don’t know if that was intentional, but it made me think – what would I focus on if I was looking at the world through a kaleidoscope?


I think my focus would alter depending upon the twists and turns.

But of course the central image would remain the same.

And that’s pretty much – for me – what the book says.  And it’s well worth a read as Graham Tomlin says it in much more eloquent language than I use and with insights much more profound!  In fact in his introduction he writes:

“When I put on my glasses, as I do first thing in the morning, from that moment on, I am hardly aware that I am looking through them – they have just become part of the way I see…My glasses enable me to see…by actually changing the way I look at something…and in the very act of looking, they change the way I see the world.”

Looking Through the Cross: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2014
Graham Tomlin Bloomsbury Continuum 2013

But what does this mean for me day to day?  What would it mean if as soon as I woke up on a morning, I could put on a pair of ‘God glasses’?  If my ‘God glasses’ were in essence a big kaleidoscope in front of my eyes?

Well I think it would mean that, in every situation, interaction, altercation, reaction, I would try to think ‘Where is God in this?’.  I might try to see round, through, next to, above, underneath, the situation.  I could try twisting the kaleidoscope to get a different view.

Sometimes I might have my hand over the hole where the light gets in.  Sometimes I would decide that I wouldn’t want to wear my kaleidoscopic God glasses because I would be carrying too much other stuff. Sometimes I’d put them on but keep my eyes shut.

But there might be times when I do let the light in.  When I put some of my other baggage down.  When I open my eyes.  Those will be the times when I see beauty.  I look through kaleidoscope/glasses and see the myriad different colours and patterns and permutations.

And when I’m driving in my car, I do try to wear those kaleidoscopic God glasses. And a fellow traveller makes an error of judgement (either on purpose or accidentally) I glance through the cross that is ever before my eyes.  And I try to view my reaction to their action, through that cross.

And I think I’m finding that even in my car, in the hustle and bustle of rush hour traffic, the boredom of sitting in a queue at a junction, the trickiness of a challenging driver…God is by me, and with me, and in me.

And, I hope, I in Him.

*Mirror. Signal. Manoeuvre.



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There’s something about Thursday

Over the past 18 months or so, my Vicar has very kindly let me loose during various Sunday morning services to try out my preaching skills (so far, nobody has shouted ‘heresy’ – and seeing as I’ve done a couple of Trinity Sundays, that’s probably a minor miracle…).

Now when it comes to sermon prep, don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy it.  I think it’s amazing how, given time and prayer and contemplation, a person can – hopefully – plug in to what God wants to say and – hopefully – say it.  I think it’s even more amazing that often what ends up coming out of my mouth, is not necessarily what I was planning on saying at all.  And more amazing still?  God reveals more of Himself to me, and more of myself to me too, whilst I’m prepping.  Wow!

But there’s something that I don’t understand.  And maybe I never will.  Why oh why can’t I prep a halfway decent sermon before Thursday?  It’s not like I haven’t tried.  I’ve tried this evening.  I’ve got my Bible, I’ve popped my thinking cap on, I’ve picked out a line from the Gospel reading…

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

…and I’ve been pondering on and praying about it, since Monday.  And all the words and ideas are whirring around inside my head and on my paper in note form.  But they just, won’t come.


And the daft thing is I know this isn’t writer’s block.  It’s just ‘Pre-Thursday-itis’.

It’s the same when I’m doing stuff for Junior Church.  Monday Tuesday Wednesday – nada.  Thursday – ta-da!

I’ve spoken to a number of preachers over the years about this phenomenon and it seems to be borne out that it’s almost (almost) the later the better.  In fact one person that I knew a number of years back, used to completely avoid anything sermon like until Saturday teatime.  Blimey Charlie – now that is cutting it fine.  But I guess that ‘the wind blows where it will’ and as long as it’s not in the form of hot air coming out of someone’s mouth, then all will be well.

So I’m going to go now.  I’ll probably put some washing in, clean something that doesn’t need cleaning, faff on facebook and generally try to while away the hours until Thursday – and hopefully inspiration – dawns!







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Here I go!

“Don’t know about the future, it’s anybody’s guess.” So ran the theme tune to Blossom (showing my age now) back in the ’90s.

I think it’s going round my head now because well, I don’t know about the future. I don’t know if this blog will make it past one post. I don’t know if it’ll be readable or a load of old tosh. I don’t know if I’ll look back on this in years to come in the way I look back on my old diaries with a wry chuckle and a relief that they weren’t published (oh dear, first mistake there!).

Anyhow, back to the point.

I really don’t know about the future. But I have a God who does know. And this blog will be all about the journey that I’m on with Him, and through Him and in Him.

And to quote some lyrics from another song that also frequently makes an appearance in my head…

“I know who holds the future and He’ll guide me with His hand.

With God things don’t just happen, everything by Him is planned.

So as I face tomorrow with its problems large and small.

I’ll trust the God of miracles, give to Him my all.”

I journey on!

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