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.

scratched into my skin

5 05 2015

scratched into my skin
with flint
are the ancient sins
scar tissue from generations
of hurt
of self-loathing

scratched into my skin
with flint
some still weep and bleed
sores that open again with
every harsh word
every angry voice
every failure

scratched into my skin
with flint
some scars long-dried
yet my skin bears the lines
permanent scars like tattoos
bearing testimony to
my failed past
which will be
my failed future.

This is what I have sensed as we pray for our neighbourhood: that so many wear the sins of generations like scars. So often in evangelism we begin with telling people they are sinful, but here I sense people already know. Given a moment to think about it, without using those words, we all know. 

flint sin Jeremiah 17_Snapseed

We are anaesthetised to it, so we deny we can feel the pain of the scars, but like Judah in Jeremiah 17 our sins – and those that have gone before us – are engraved on us as with flint. I see around me families that bear the generational scars of their fathers – sometimes literally – and wear them like tattoos, sometimes literally. 

With every harsh word, short-temper, every “f@&king shut-up” to a 2 yr old, every hopeless over-tired family of spikey porcupines, every emotionally-deprived man and strutting teenager, we show the world that we are desperately in need to love, and to be loved. 

The lies that have been spoken over so many, lies of inadequacy and failure and uselessness, these are the sins scratched into skin, permanent reminders of the damage we humans do to each other in generational sin. We need these lies to be erased, the flint scratches healed, the scar tissue replaced. 

This is our prayer for where we live. For skin grafts to replace those hurting and painful scars; this is what sin and its judgement are: seeing where we have gone wrong, judging it for what it is, and knowing God has broken the flint that scratches, replaced our sinful nature with love. This is why we are not afraid to be judged. Judgement brings healing. 

this was painted for our day of prayer

this was painted for our day of prayer

The inspiration for this poem, Jeremiah 17, has one of God’s awesome ‘buts’ (pardon the expression). Changing from the image of sin scratched with flint, God continues with these words, which were the theme for our recent Parish day of Prayer:

‘But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.’

There are many such trees in this place, and many households full of love and hope. May there be many, many more. 

the advent sessions // rebuild

8 12 2013

scaffolding houses_snapseedThe local housing association are doing a massive improvement project on local homes. New windows, doors, roofs. Scaffolding everywhere. More hi-viz jackets than you can shake your staffie’s stick at. And it’s about time. A lady I know is in a house that still has bomb damage. From WW2. And she has to pay the bedroom tax.

It reminded me of this promise from Isaiah:

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. (Isaiah 61:4 NIVUK)

In church it can be easy to talk in Advent about awaiting the return of the King to transform the earth like it’s some kind of fairy tale, wishful thinking, the end of a Disney movie with rousing music and glowing sunshine. Get outside amongst scaffolding and skips and hard-working labourers in freezing cold wind and it makes it more earthy. Who knows what the end will bring but in the meantime the transformation of which we are a part is dirty, cold, and hard work. Which is basically what John the Baptist said.  

His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.” [Matthew 3.1-11 The Message]

This is part of a series in Advent using images from the local area. See also: the advent sessions // for candles 

millions of hedge fund

19 09 2013

I’m hedging my bets that although I know what a hedge is and I know what a hedgehog is, I don’t know what a hedge fund is. Which isn’t a privet joke, I’m just telling you where the leylandii lies. 

This week 3 of us in our little church took on a hedge so way out of control it wasn’t so much a hedge round an edge as a wilderness extension.  The root network that extended 2 feet across the pavement was 2 inches thick. Years of abandonment saw nature gradually take over and grow 10 foot high. 

After walking around it and tutting like everyone else, I came round to the fact I should offer to cut it. Then faced all my insecurities like a) the owner (who I have never met) might be offended at my offer, b) if I did it the neighbours might ridicule me, if especially c) I failed miserably to tackle it effectively.  Easier not to bother. 

Thankfully God prompted me in a big way. Mrs Vicarage offered my services. So I went round and they were incredibly grateful. A couple of hours of hacking, cutting, trimming, wheelbarrowing, a few cuts and scratches later 3 of us got this

     IMG_2153   to this       IMG_2154.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s tiny. It’s not solving Syria. But during those 2 hours I spoke to 5 neighbours I’ve never spoken to before. I had conversations about baptism and  “why are you doing that?”. I failed miserably to articulate a decent answer that would please the arch-critic in my head, and nobody fell at my knees asking to be saved.

But by facing some of my fears of ridicule  (nobody did call me a self-righteous go-gooder, but there genuinely were twitchy curtains), I think we did a good thing for the kingdom. What does that mean? In a community where the church is almost totally absent from people’s lives, they saw us doing something unnecessary for somebody else. It is fine for us to think good things; to give money to good things; it is good to talk about good things in our gatherings. But we must do good things where it matters most – not by posting sentimental cliches on Facebook or retweeting worthy Christian speakers – it’s where we live, through relationships, in our streets. 

It’s investing in the hedge fund. Investing by those who loaned us the equipment, those who give me the freedom to cut hedges as part of my ministry, and those who have their time to help. I think those investments are always worth it. Cut the hedges, pick up the dog poo. Because we love our communities. Yes, other people should do it. Of course. But for myriads of reasons they won’t, don’t, or can’t. If we can, then we must try, even if we experience ridicule, or apathy, or obliviousness. We might not be thanked, we might not see people asking how they might be saved… we do it anyway. 

This is our hedge fund and it’s all about investments with no guarantee of any returns. And we might be left with millions of someone else’s hedge in our back garden. Can we face that?   

the lent sessions // lamps

24 03 2013


Look carefully at this picture and you’ll see we are getting new lampposts in our street. They shine brighter, with a brilliant white light, not the dull orange glow from before. It’s quite a job though. Each lamppost individually replaced, with 2 men a lorry and host of tools. And the weather is bad.

If you want new light, sometimes you have to put the work in. You need to don the high-viz waterproofs, step into the freezing rain and dig the hole. Jesus saves us by faith; he can bring the kingdom how he wants; but he chooses to partner with us. We might be happy with our dull glow. But there’s new light. New life.  

Many won’t notice the lampposts being built. But they will notice the new light.  

the lent sessions // cloud

5 03 2013


They say every cloud has a silver lining. This is not true. Some do. But not all of them. Some are just dark clouds full of rain.

They say everything happens for a reason.  This is also not true. It doesn’t. Sometimes bad things just happen.

Of course, God can transform every dark cloud into much needed rain, or dissolve it into sunshine. Of course, God can turn a bad thing into a good thing. But he doesn’t always. And we don’t need to pretend he does.

He is still God. 

This is part of a mini-series during Lent using images more than words. I am not a photographer, so they won’t be the best pictures. But I want to use pictures from what I have seen and heard around me as a starting point for reflecting on God, because we don’t have to be in the countryside to see God. Previous posts include bathroom, balloon, george’s and zebra.    

the lent sessions // zebra

2 03 2013

Circle zebra crossing_SnapseedI cross this zebra crossing most days. Almost without fail, when I stop the car for a pedestrian to cross, they say thank you. This always makes me smile. Old men, old women, mums with kids and builders with sandwiches, school kids, students, everyday people. 

Our area can feel quite depressed, and a lot of people feel down about life. But they still have time to say thank you. 

They say its the small things that get you down. Maybe sometimes its the small things that should lift us up. 

the lent sessions // george’s

27 02 2013

To know an area, you need to find spaces to watch and listen. This is mine. George’s Cafe. 

George's Cafe_Snapseed

Life is here. Builders on lunch break, mums with kids, couples having a cheap treat, men who live alone and need some human contact… I reckon everyone eating here has walked here, which means they are under my pastoral care. Local.

Life is here. Community is here. Ministry can’t be done in isolation reading books in the study. Get out more.

God bless George’s.

This is part of a Lent series called The Lent Sessions, using photos of my local area and experiences. Previous posts include // bathroom and // balloon 

the lent sessions // balloon

16 02 2013
look up

look up

balloons tangled in a telegraph pole
when one persons Valentines’ blessing
becomes the blessing for the whole street

what seemed like a loss, a waste, a costly loosening of grip
maybe an unexpected gust of pneuma
or a risky climb to show love to one other

becomes beauty, shared

you just have to look up to see it

the lent sessions // bathroom

13 02 2013
St Helier bathroom 2012

St Helier bathroom 2012

This is a house near us getting a new bathroom. Ready-made, hoisted up on a crane over the terraced roofs and down. A minor inconvenience for those around as the roads is closed, but what a difference for the family.

The bathroom is where all the bad stuff goes. Down the toilet, down the sink, through the plughole and away. Regular cleaning keeps this process running smoothly. But sometimes the whole system is worn out and needs renewing.

Today is Ash Wednesday. Today we get new bathrooms. Today we take on the inconvenience of repentance so that the means by which the bad stuff is removed can be renewed, refreshed, and for some, replaced. We may well repent frequently, but even with regular cleaning sometimes we are worn out and a deep clean is necessary, especially where sin is concerned. So, in humility, we invite God in. And we do it together, in community. 

We celebrate when God does something big in us.  You can’t keep a new bathroom a secret. Maybe today will be the day for us. 

This is the first of a mini-series during Lent using images more than words. I am not a photographer, so they won’t be the best pictures. But I want to use pictures from what I have seen and heard around me as a starting point for reflecting on God. Sometimes they will be pictures of places I have been, but probably mostly from around where I live.

Here’s a little taste of British Pathe history for you about the original new bathrooms of the 1960’s and 70’s:

Read more here.

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