know hope | the hopes sessions #10

20 05 2016

It’s funny what you end up doing
when you pray.
after the no, hope post
a lady from our church painted ‘hope’
on small stones
and left them around the skatepark
and they’ve all been taken
like hope, scattered

Know Hope skatepark .001

I took the advice of a friend who suggested
instead of a comma making
no, hope
adding two letters
so I did
[in chalk, I hasten to add]
then I got carried away
and added a flower and a heart

we pray that all who skate over this
may know hope
not no hope
but a hope rooted and grounded in
joy and peace

This is my first foray into tarmactivisim. 
I liked it so much I made up the word.


bus stop | the hopes sessions #9

17 05 2016

the bus stop outside church
a place of waiting
a place to gather to
and then to go from
a place strangers become
fellow passengers
a place on the way to another place
but not the place itself


a place a lot like church, really.

bench | the hopes sessions #8

1 05 2016

Bench. Outside a hospital.
For paramedics to smoke.
Patients to get fresh air.
Relatives to spot the irony.


Sometimes hope needs a hospital.
Hope gets ill. Tired.

Sometimes hope is a hospital.
Hope gives life. Strength.

Sometimes hope just sits outside.
On a dirty bench.
Come sit with me.
I’m not much to look at.
But hope can sit anywhere.
Even here.


no, hope | the hopes sessions 7

27 04 2016

No hope. Scrawled across the floor at the skate park. Not your average graffiti. I don’t know what it means to the person who wrote it. Or those who ride over it. Maybe it’s a deep statement of existential angst. Maybe someone just kept falling over. Maybe it’s the name of a band.


It spoke to me. Because it is just, there. Slipping it’s message into the minds of those who see it. Pulling down. Sucking out the colour in life.

We are hope people. We might be hope people by hanging out with kids at the skate park. We might be hope people by playing football and trying to model a different way. We might be hope people by standing on no hope and praying. We might be hope people by trying to bring hope with our words and our actions and not just our thoughts.

We must be hope people. The message of no hope is insidious, taking root like bindweed, tearing apart identity and character and repeating itself across generations.

The message of hope puts the colour into the monochrome, breathes life, brings a smile each time you skate over the old graffiti. No hope? No, hope.

things jesus didn’t say # 11 | help

2 12 2014

God helps those who help themselves. This is another of those things that sound a bit like Jesus might have said it. It sounds kind of… motivational. But the only time I think we ever use it is an excuse to not help somebody we don’t think deserves it.


Jesus didn’t say it. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God; the second is to love your neighbour. We do not just actively love ‘hard working families who do what is right’, we actively love those who struggle, those who cannot help themselves at the moment, those who don’t work, those who have fallen no matter who’s fault the fall was. We don’t fill out a ‘deserving’ questionnaire. It might just be our help that gives them the leg-up they need to help themselves. It might not. We still help.

Ultimately, we are not about self-help. We are not about watching others struggle from our positions of power. We are about active love within shared community. Within that, we might be taken advantage of. And we might find we ourselves are helped. I am not afraid of either. Are you?  

More things jesus didn’t say:
1. whatever doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger
2. follow your dreams and believe in yourself
3. everything happens for a reason
4. pray harder and I’ll give in
5. on the third day nothing important will happen
6. I won’t give you more than you can handle
7. other your neighbour as you other yourself
8. faith hope and tolerance, and the greatest of these is tolerance
9. touch wood

jeffrey jelly baby learns about peace

13 11 2014

You’ve never been caught taking close-up photos of jelly babies? Now’s the time. One of the challenges of church leadership is telling the same stories well, or finding new ways to tell the same stories that engage a varied audience. This is something I created for our all-age Remembrance Day service, and have used in assemblies alongside telling it with actual jelly babies on a table. I put it here in case it prompts or inspires you to have a new idea, however strange you feel when you first have it. And remember, the best visual illustrations are edible ones. 

Remembrance- Jeffrey Jelly Baby.001

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Remembrance- Jeffrey Jelly Baby.003

Remembrance- Jeffrey Jelly Baby.004

Remembrance- Jeffrey Jelly Baby.005

Remembrance- Jeffrey Jelly Baby.006

Remembrance- Jeffrey Jelly Baby.007

Remembrance- Jeffrey Jelly Baby.008

Remembrance- Jeffrey Jelly Baby.009

Remembrance- Jeffrey Jelly Baby.010

things jesus didn’t say #9 | touch wood

7 10 2014

“I pray that it works out for you, touch wood.” At which point you find the nearest wood or wood effect furniture (does that still work?), or for comedy value, touch your head. Yes Jesus was a carpenter, but that was his trade, not his prayer ministry technique. The only time he would say touch wood it is if he needed you to hold a speck whilst he took the plank out. 


Is it a harmless phrase? Yes and no. Yes, because there is no spiritual power in wood, so invoking its power is harmless. No, because there is no spiritual power in wood, so invoking its power is harmful. Harmful as it contributes to the eroding of trust in God as the one to whom we pray. And harmful when we touch our own heads, as we do ourselves down and reveal a disturbingly negative sense of our own worth.

We believe in an actual real God who actually really answers prayer. Not in magic or superstition – or worse, a God who doesn’t listen unless we touch a particular type of natural material (or wood-effect laminate – again, does that work?).

I know most people don’t really believe in the power of touching wood. It’s just words. But words are never just words, are they. They carry a meaning.  Do we trust in the mysterious and magical power of wood (or wood effect…) to look after us, or do we trust in the God who made it.

Let’s mean what we say, or not say it at all. 

More in the cartoon series of things jesus didn’t say:
#1: stronger // whatever doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger
#2: dreams // follow your dreams and believe in yourself
#3: reason // everything happens for a reason
#4: harder // prayer harder
#5: third // on the third day, nothing important happened
#6: handle // I won’t give you more than you can handle
#7: other // other your neighbour as you other yourself
#8: tolerance // …faith, hope and tolerance. And the greatest of these is tolerance.

things Jesus didn’t say # 8 | tolerance

17 06 2014

“Faith, hope and tolerance. And the greatest of these is tolerance.” 1 Corinthians 13, in the “Bland British Values” version, soon to be taught in schools across the country alongside that version of history in which we simply tolerated workhouses, feudalism, Nazism and duck houses. thingsjesusdidntsay8tolerance

Is tolerance even a value? Yes it is, and it can be a good one. Is it one of the greatest? No. As Jeremy Hardy said on the News Quiz, “Are we really going to teach an orphaned, traumatised refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo to say ‘mustn’t grumble’?” 

Tolerance can be a virtue. Surely we’d rather be known as tolerant than intolerant. Except. Except. We are intolerant of injustice. We are intolerant of persecution. We are intolerant of bullying. Of slavery. Of domestic violence. We are intolerant of political ideology that squeezes private profit from anything that moves, even Child Protection services. We are intolerant of NHS managers getting pay rises before nurses. We are intolerant of the elite ruling political class being vacuous of compassion and labour rights and a sense of collective responsibility.

We are intolerant of the fact that we have reduced the call to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God into a bland aspiration to merely tolerate each other, and for that to somehow be a good thing.

Tolerance. It has it’s place. But it’s got nothing on sacrificial love, thirst for justice, unending kindness and generosity of heart. Those are values to be proud of.

things jesus didn’t say #7 | other

10 06 2014

Now that all the furore over the European elections is dying down, it’s time to reflect on the idea of othering. I know this is a delicate area, but to listen to lots of people claiming to be followers of Jesus, or to speak for those who are, you’d think that Jesus had said “And the second greatest commandment is this: other your neighbour as you other yourself.”  thingsjesusdidntsay7otherHe didn’t, of course, he said “Love your neighbour as yourself”. He said that loving God with all your heart and believing your neighbour is as important as you is worship – more important worship than offerings and sacrifices. Despite politicians ramblings about us being a nation of tolerance, so many seem to be actually causing us to do the opposite: to label each other as ‘other’, as different. Which cannot be good. Whether we are pointing at those out of work, those with spare rooms, those who work in finance, those from Romania, those who are Muslims… the list goes on… we seem to be retreating into greenhouses and throwing stones. 

Jesus didn’t say the EU is a good idea, or that it isn’t. This isn’t about that. You can be anti-Europe, or Euro-sceptic, and still love your neighbour. To be against the corruption and interference of Europe does not equate with being racist; to be worried about immigration doesn’t equate with being racist; yet they seem to be being conflated, conjoined.

We as followers of Jesus should be prime examples of those who love and embrace our neighbour, because we are citizens of a kingdom in which Jesus is Lord; we must not be equated with those who ‘other’ each other, making differences between us our defining characteristics. We must not demonise, or let the media soften our resistance to demonisation, and we must not allow casual racism to become respectable again. 

Let’s be careful with our words, careful with our votes, and generous with our actions.

(And have a quiet giggle at the new UKIP local councillors as they realise they are dealing with suburban bin collections and dog poo, not mass immigration.)


things jesus didn’t say #6 | handle

9 05 2014

“I won’t give you more than you can handle.” It sounds Jesus-y. How many times have I found myself saying it, to encourage somebody who is struggling, whilst at the same time thinking that sometimes he really does give us more than we can handle. 


Stephen, stoned. Peter, crucified upside-down. Those are just the early ones. You just have to go on the Open Doors website to see the fate of Christians across the world today. Does that mean they did not or are not following God’s will? If he doesn’t give us more than we can manage, surely they must be? I look at my own life, and the decisions that we believe God has called us to make that have nearly broken us. If following Jesus is reduced to a positive lifestyle choice, it is not a good one. 

It’s too easy a cliche to bring out that God won’t give us more than we can handle. The key verse usually (mis)quoted is 1 Corinthians 10.13, 

And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

This verse is about temptation, not suffering. Suffering is here in Romans 5.3-5

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 

Sometimes God gives us more than we can handle. That is a hard truth. So if your church tells you that he doesn’t, and that he will always give you the resources to carry out his calling; and that if he doesn’t then you must have misheard him… it’s not that simple. We don’t believe in a God who leaves us in the lurch. But we do believe in a God who will lead his followers to their death. Is that the same thing?

It is certainly a challenge to the temptation of the middle-class Christianity that says following Jesus will enhance your life and make everything go swimmingly. That is a danger especially at the charismatic end, and it is up to us to be aware of it. Sometimes we are called to plain old hard graft which prayer ministry will not ‘solve’; sometimes following Jesus will break us, or take us very near. 

I think that’s why it’s called taking up a cross.  

Can we handle that? 

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