yellow book

19 01 2012

So, how was school today?

Probably for most people picking kids up from school that’s the most you can hope for. They’ll talk endlessly about anything else, but anything useful about school…?!  

But we’ve got the yellow book. Ah, the yellow book. The yellow book that tells the truth, the yellow book in which the teachers write their own answer to the same question: how was school today? The yellow book never lies. 

I think a lot of people think that God has a yellow book. In which he keeps records of our behaviour, in which he can look to check whether or not we had really been as good and respectable and well-behaved as we may claim to have been. And of course he keeps the books as they pile up. He logs and catalogues all our misdemeanours. And boy does he hold them against us. He keeps the book in church, in the vestry behind the big dusty Bible that used to be on the altar but no-one knows what to do with now. 

I don’t think God thinks like that at all. He knows all that we do, of course. But there’s no need for a yellow book. Because there’s no need to pretend everything is fine when it’s not. So there’s no need for a yellow book that tells the real truth. The truth is out there already. He knows everything.

Trust that there is no secret yellow book in which God stores up things to hold against us. Learning to embrace that may well be the beginning of wisdom and the foundation of a healthy relationship with God. 

Amazing what you can learn from a simple yellow book. And today was a good day at school, by the way.  



28 12 2010


I’m unbalanced.

Whether that is worrying or reassuring depends on where you are standing and who’s head you are in.

I’m unbalanced because I think using a human brain, usually my own.

I’m unbalanced because it is impossible to grasp the whole of life and bottle it within the synapses, impulses and emotions of a human brain.

I’m unbalanced because it is impossible to grasp the whole of life and try to speak it using the unreliable and inadequate method of human speech.

I’m unbalanced because it is impossible to understand what Jesus was all about and do it justice in a few sentences, words, or a human lifetime.

So, I choose the bits I overemphasise.

us’ smile, more than his frown.
Jesus’ welcome, rather than his rebuke.
Jesus life, death and resurrection, rather than one or the other.
(Or mor
e likely for many evangelicals, just the middle one.)
Like many evangelicals, the ascension confuses me, so I tend to overlook it.

I’m unbalanced, but would rather be unbalanced and tipping towards those than unbalanced and tipping towards the tight-lipped, overly serious and always right.

There’s something worrying about people who are 100% certain.

Something worrying about people whose thinking has no flexibility, no space for being wrong, no acknowledgement that we are all unbalanced.

I try to hold my crazy beliefs lightly, and seriously.
And irr
everently, so I don’t disappear up my bum and out my own navel.

I’m unbalanced because I think the quest for wisdom begins in acknowledging that.

I‘m unbalanced because I don’t think there is another way to be.

I could, of course, be wrong. I find that quite exciting.

barbed wire and trampolines

15 09 2010

I wonder what is is that makes you smile. I wonder what it is that makes you belly laugh. Ministry in St Helier provides plenty of those opportunities, once you learn to bend and flex and go with the flow and understand that unpredictability is the new predictable and bewildered is the new normal.

Mrs Vicarage and Marigold the Lodger were sitting in the lounge last week when an 8ft trampoline came walking down the drive and plonked itself outside our front door. Along with about 8 teenagers.

“We brought you this”
“Oh. What for?”
“For the youth club.”
“We don’t have a youth club.”
“Where will we put it?”
“In your garden.”

hello, I'm your new trampoline

I came home from the running club to find 8 kids bouncing on a trampoline outside my front door. Some rapid thinking ensued (which is tricky after doing 7 steep hill repeats) and we lugged it over our fence into our back garden. You have to laugh!  These are the same kids we have had problems with broken windows, broken vents and broken trust. Every day since then they have knocked on our door and asked to have a bounce. Some quickly drawn up rules and safeguarding meant this was fine, and we have loved seeing them behave like the children they so often aren’t able to be, and I  have enjoyed being given permission to bounce like a loon and pretend I’m in Glee. Even Mrs Vicarage had a go.

This is ministry, this is being church, this is being love, by God’s grace being able to flex like a trampoline even and especially when unexpected things happen. Because Jesus calls us to be a part of people’s lives and not apart of people’s lives, so when good things happen we relax into it and thank God that we see glimpses of the kingdom.

Yesterday things unexpectedly went belly up and some were extremely rude to our Scout leaders and obnoxious to me and the neighbours. It all ended in the church door being kicked and broken and the Police called. Sometimes the unexpected is the trampoline walking down the drive, and we laugh and enjoy it and share their laughter. Sometimes the unexpected is the anger and pain and the frustration at life which seems to end in the building suffering and the Police earning their stripes. And the trampoline of our grace being flexed to the end of its elasticity.

This is ministry, this is being church, this is being love, by God’s grace being able to flex like a trampoline even and especially when unexpected things happen. Because Jesus calls us to be a part of people’s lives and not apart of people’s lives, so when bad things happen we relax into it and thank God that we see glimpses of the kingdom.

When I saw this sunflower pushing through the barbed wire of our garden fence it seemed to me like a picture of the beauty and the pain of ministry, of living and working on St Helier, and of life for so many. The beckoning smile of the sunflower and the cruel sharpness of the wire. So there we are. Barbed wire and trampolines. An unusual combination for another unusual week…

prooftext postcodes

8 09 2010

Like many over the summer I found myself driving in unfamiliar places. Like many I didn’t research my route in detail beforehand. Like many I turned on the SatNav and followed the blue line. Like many I ended up sinking in a lake. Ok, I didn’t. But I did a few dodgy routes and wrong turns and wished afterwards that I had an actual, old-fashioned map that showed all the roads, not just the one I’m on.

in sweden, all signs are this funny

The problem with satnavigation is not usually the accuracy – it does normally work in the end – but the context. Simply following the blue line to my friends in St Helen’s was fine, except that I realised when I got there that I had no idea whereabouts in St Helen’s they lived. I couldn’t name their road, because all I used was a postcode. I was in their house, but didn’t know if it was north or south of the town, surrounded by woodland or a dense urban sprawl; when they spoke of the East Lancs road that cuts through their neighbourhood I realised I didn’t know what it was, even though I had driven on it.

I think this is something like how many of us read the Bible. We zoom in to the text like it is a postcode on a SatNav. I would like to go to… women in leadership please, or homosexuality, or creation, or tax avoidance. Our super-speedy internet sites like Bible Gateway help us out – there’s your key word, there’s your proof text. Blindly we follow the blue dot to our destination. So when someone says, how did you get that meaning from that passage, we say isn‘t it obvious? When they say no, not really if you look at the context, we say but it must be true it says it on the screen. It’s a bit like typing High Street into your SatNav and following it to the first one it finds. They are all the same in name, but entirely different in context.

told you

We need to take the time to get the map out. The map that shows us the big picture, the entire road network, the shows us where we are and where we are going, the map that gives us the information to decide on the quickest route or the most interesting route or the one that avoids the High Street.

We need to read more of the Bible, not just the proof-texts; we need the big picture, we need to understand why things are said and where they are said and sometimes more importantly what is not said. We need to interpret the Bible as an inspired work of art, an anthology of poetry and prose and thoughts and prayers and longings and desires and we need to notice all these things as we pass through them to our final destination. And sometimes stop and get out and look and have a coffee. Enjoy the journey. See the trees. Catch the view.

Otherwise we are in danger of ending up in the wrong place, with no idea of where we are or how we got there. And then it gets cloudy, the satellites give up, the batteries die and we wish we’d brought the map after all. Except it’s at home. And we don’t know how to use it.


18 05 2010


There is a brick.
Old, used, dirty.
From a bathroom, a house, a wall,
Inside, outside, who knows.
But what was once solid, stable, full of purpose
Now, discarded, broken, useless.

Until today.
Today the brick was rediscovered,


Rescued from the skip
From the pile, from the ground.



Reclaimed and chiselled and cleaned and reshaped.
Reclaimed and re-made.
Reclaimed and chosen and saved and tenderly loved.
A brick?
A humble old brick.


A new brick, for a new wall.
Mis-shapen, chipped, scarred.
A wall with reclaimed old bricks
Is patchy, odd, shabby.

and re-made.
The old made new.
The old made new.

Bricks:reclaimed (I didn't build this one!)

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in different ideology

14 04 2010

I was lucky. I first voted in 1997. I was part of the revolution that finally demolished the 18 years (almost my entire lifetime) of Tory rule. I even went to a Blair rally! I didn’t sing along to Things Can Only Get Better but I held the coats of those who did. And I have a signed copy. Democracy felt good, felt real, felt necessary. There was fear in the Tory eyes, mine was the only Labour poster in a uni hall of residence full of Tory public school boys… And we won! My poster stayed up for ages. And will we ever forget the face of Portillo?

style or substance?

It’s never been quite the same since. Tony Blair stole the Tory policies and New Labour never looked back. Without a real difference in ethos or ideology between the parties, it was all on the charisma of the leaders and the art of communication. For all his faults, Blair won that battle hands down. He still would. And now…?

Finally it seems there is a difference. First Labour launched their manifesto. I think it was about economics and deficits but I was bored. Brown does not have charisma. Then the Tories launched theirs, and something happened. I heard something different. It’s not about charisma, Cameron is about as vacuous as the power station he launched the manifesto at. It is about ideology.

a little presumptuous?

They want to ’empower communities’, they want us ‘the people’ to be more responsible for our own government. It’s the classic party division. It’s an ideological difference, an ethos. Remember those? Blair sacrificed ideology to gain power, and Labour have managed to hold on since, claiming to be for the ‘working people’ but really hoovering up the all-important middle-class votes. Now, in the absence of policies that are much different, the Tories have rediscovered ideology.

Ideology is what makes politics interesting. Ideology is what should drive policies, not the other way around. At least with an ideology you and I can argue until the cows come home about how things should or shouldn’t be done in general, because we can do that. What most of us can’t do is argue about whether Capital Gains Tax should go up or down. Because most of us don’t know what it is.

I think the Lib Dems have an ideology too...

So, finally, we can talk about the election. Winston Churchill said that democracy is a terrible system of governance, but the best one there is. So, do you think local people should have more say in local policies? That means you, by the way – do you actually want more say, will you actually volunteer to help run things or get involved, or is it a good thing for ‘other’ people? I certainly know there aren’t people queuing up to be school governors, Scout leaders, local councillors… Call me cynical, but just as an aside, isn’t this ‘community’ that Cameron trusts to be empowered the same ‘broken Britain’ full of scroungers, illegal immigrants and yoofs on ASBO’s that he always goes on about?

I think the 6 weeks of election indifference just got a little more interesting. We should not be indifferent to ideologies. We should have different ideologies. We should believe in different ideologies. We should believe in ideologies that benefit the poorest people in society, which may not be us. Societies should be judged on how they treat their poorest members. So, which ideology is it?


Postscript: see St Aiden to Abbey Manor blog for what the three main leaders have to say to Christian voters…


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24 01 2010


does it have to be everything
why everything?
put it down
put it all down

hopes plans families dreams books sitting running passion everything
follow me
everything forever?
follow me
following me is not like wandering through a shopping centre and splitting up and arranging to meet at starbucks a bit later
follow me
I don’t know
half-following is much easier fewer dilemmas conundrums heartaches things to think about people to smile at planks to walk
put it down
i like my stuff
follow me
put it down?
ow me

a slumdog sent[i]mentality

1 10 2009

D. It is written.

If you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire, you will know.

Some things we see or experience or know can connect us with something bigger than ourselves, something awesome and powerful and terrifying and hopeless – true desperation, poverty, horror – and yet something so hopeful the hairs on the back of my neck rise and make me want to shout out loud in a slightly embarrassing way “you see, there is more!!”.

Something, dare I say, spiritual.

it is written

it is written

When I see a film like Slumdog or The Constant Gardener or The Interpreter or many others that deal with the harsh realities of life I find they connect me with my spirituality – as if we can ever be “disconnected” – far more profoundly than a church service or a beautiful mountain scene or those horrendously cheesy posters with a big dog a small cat and a cheerful bible text.

Spirituality can so easily become entwined with sentimentality that it becomes nothing more than something about positive feelings. About me, my life, my well-being. In popular speak it refers to that un-identifiable something or other, usually accompanied by a “warm feeling”. A spiritual experience usually means a personal, inward looking one.

The moment...

The moment...

But that is not a spirituality that sits well with Jesus. Sentimentality like that is too easy, too shallow; it cannot engage with true pain, with poverty, with torture, with utter hopelessness and desperation, with mediocrity or the plain dull; it cannot engage with the cross, the resurrection, with Jesus as Lord. It fears and resists being linked with a god who self-empties, who gives of himself and does not clutch his divinity or majesty but instead is willingly sent to be and to know and to love and to be loved by his human creations.

It is, of course, a start. We must feel and we must express sentiment. But that is not where it ends. There is a greater, deeper, more profound and beautiful and challenging and uncomfortable aspect to us that if we remain disconnected from it, we cannot be fully who we are created to be.

We are called not to have a sentimentality, but to have a sent mentality. It does not have “i” in the middle. So we must see films like Slumdog, or find some way to engage with real pain – which is far more than knowing it exists and feeling sorry for it – because it is to the middle of that pain that our spirituality is sent. To be part of the hope, the change, the light. That is the hope. Always the hope.

Our spirituality therefore must be robust. If it is weak it cannot stand among the slumdogs or the millionaires. And it must be centred on Jesus, not on the “I” of me. If it centres on me, then it has nothing to offer or give except me, and no-one to be sent except me, and that is not enough because only Jesus is. True spirituality must be about being sent to the mess, not sentimental about it.

In the beginning…

18 08 2009

In the beginning there was God, and he created a curious world. And curious minds. I have a curious mind. In the beginning there was God, and he created wisdom. I am a searcher after wisdom. In a world that needs wisdom. Even if it is found by me.

If you are interested in sharing this quest for wisdom with me, I offer this blog as a place to share experiences and thoughts, thinkings and dreamings. Hopefully like a well-earned rest on a long walk. But maybe like a traffick cone in the road that slows the traffic down for no reason.  Either way, I hope you will enjoy reading it, will be inspired through it, will laugh with it, will get frustrated at it, and will find wisdom, even if you have to go somewhere else afterwards for it.

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