Monday, 27 July 2009


I spent this afternoon sharing home communion with members of the church who have not been out and about of late. One person in particular featured anonymously in the early life of this blog and reappears today.

This afternoon she was no closer to my reality than in previous months, her mind seemingly locked on a horizon far beyond that of any other but this afternoon I found the poem she has reminded of for months, even though the title, author and indeed the lines themselves have been elusive until now. It is by U.A. Fanthrope.


Sits, holding nurse's hard reassuring hand
In her own two small ones.

Is terrified. Mews in her supersonic
Panic voice: Help. Help Please.

Cries for Mummy, Daddy, Philip, the bus. Tries
To get up, to escape.

Is restrained by adult, would-be comforting
Hands and arms. Fights them.

Is brought a sweet warm drink, and is too shaky
With fear to swallow it.

The nurse cuddles her, snuggles the young amber
Ringlets against the grey.

Is not to be consoled. Her only comfort
The white blanket she hugs.

Whispers, Help, Help, Please. Cries for Mummy,
Philip. She is 83,

Resisting childhood as it closes in.

Thursday, 23 July 2009


Oh I am looking forward to this: having spent many years of my life devoted to a PhD that looked at church and ethics through the medium of music, I am pleased to announce that Scott Stroman, a jazz musician, will be spending a day at our church, Calvary Baptist Church in Cardiff, looking at Jazz in worship (along with other musical styles as well).

Hailing from the Guildhall School of Music in London, Scott will lead us through three sessions beginning at 1:30 on the afternoon of 26th September finishing with an evening event of music and word that starts at 7pm.

Tickets are £10 for the whole thing
or £5 just for the evening.

If you want to know more then call 02920 310414

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Take your time... or not

Putting off some serious work this morning I picked up a book to delay the inevitable only to be confronted with the line:

procrastination is not only the thief of time ... it is also the grave of opportunity.

So of course I thought I'd blog instead!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Never mind the choir, I've been preaching to the preacher

Anyone who engages in the art of preaching may have had the occasional feeling that they are preaching to the choir / worship group but perhaps they will also have experiecned this too: something I said in a sermon, suddenly came alive in the delivery and has been bugging me ever since I said it. Last week I was preaching on Ephesians 4:1-16 and particularly Paul'/s (?) injunction to the churches to live in Unity. I was reflecting on this alongside Jesus' prayer for unity in John's Gospel:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
that all of them may be one, Father,
just as you are in me and I am in you.
May they also be in us


So that the world may believe that you have sent me.

And suddenly it hit me with a new clarity, that this is as much our mandate for mission as teh end fo Matthew's gospel or Luke 4: the quality of the church's life together is our strategy for evangelism. Get the unity wrong at it won’t matter if we have wonderful sermons, or engaging programmes that attract people to church, or even if are distancing ourselves from attractional models of mission and moving to more incarnational approaches.
Jesus tells us that our unity will be our witness to the world.

Because he knows that the world around him is broken and divided, he knows that everyone in someway is trying to out do each other, he knows we’re all getting wounded in the fight, physically, emotionally, spiritually, we’ve all been damaged and
disconnected from the bigger picture

Jesus knows all that and so he prays for us to be at one
With another and with God
Because that’s what leads us into wholeness
And because that’s what will speak most powerfully to a broken world
Perhaps there is no greater proclamation of God’s love for the world than for the church to live lives that are truly reconciled to one another and to God.

But that doesn't seem to feature in the literature I read on mission:
reading the wrong books,
am I just wrong,
or do we need to rethink our patterns of mission.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


By some strange scheduling serendipity I was doing Prayer for the Day on Radio at 5:45 this morning and then was live on Radio Wales for the Weekend Word slot at 7:30. Below are the scripts for both, sadly Messrs Calvin and Jackson did never met ... not even in my reflections ... but you've got to pray they're getting on just fine now. Anyway here's some thoughts on Calvin: Happy Birthday Jean: 500 today

I find it strange in the summer, to emerge from the darkness of a cinema or theatre and discover that it still is bright outside. Daylight forces me too quickly to leave behind the characters of fiction and return to the realities of life.

Of course if the show is true to the promise of the arts, then it will provoke me to think afresh about the real world too.
This is what good drama can achieve.
And it’s also a great challenge of the Christian faith.

Five hundred years ago today a boy was born who would rise to such a task. That he continues to be read and revered half a millennium later is testament to the depth of his work and the dedication of his purpose … his name was John Calvin.

Although he might not be everybody’s favourite, the man ought not to be confused with populist notions of Calvinism. As often happens the man behind the books can be eclipsed by the rhetoric of his supporters and the caricatures of his enemies. So let’s forget the cartoon images of Calvin as an intolerant, black robed legalist who saw depravity at every corner. Because John Calvin’s hope was for us all to see the world in a new light, to understand creation as the theatre for God’s glory.

God was not only to be discovered in the church, but in the world. And not just in the wonders of nature or the beauty of the arts. If all life carries with it something of God’s glory, then finding glimpses of heaven here on earth is not the sole concern of priests or poets, it is present in the tasks that any one of us may attempt today, as nurses or teachers, journalists or politicians, as children and as parents.

Lord God, may we enter the light of your glory today
In whatever occupies our time
In whoever crosses our path
May we discover something of You. Amen

And now ... here's some thoughts on Michael J. and the rest of this week:

This has been a memorable week …
or at least it’s been a week of memorials.

The unveiling of the poignant tribute to those who died in The London Bombings was not quite the same as the fans who gathered to say goodbye to Michael Jackson, and that Hollywood farewell was very different to those who stood quietly in the rain to honour the fallen service personnel whose bodies were returned home from Afghanistan … but everyone was committed to an act of remembrance.

A few weeks ago I went back to the town where I grew up. My old school yard was pretty much the same, but I was horrified to discover that new class rooms had been built where there used to be the carcass of a once proud oak-tree that had a hole within its trunk, big enough to conceal boy. I was surprised at the strength of my reaction ... how angry I was that they'd removed this witness to my childhood: couldn't they tell that it was special, after-all, I'd left my initials carved into its bark.

I don't remember now, why I must have spent a number of lunch times with a blunt pen knife, making my mark and recording the date, but perhaps somewhere, even at eleven, I was trying to ensure that the earth had some memorial of my time upon it.

It’s a longing most of us will share ... it’s a dream that many will pursue.

But this week has given us these many different moments when people have been concerned, not with carving their own name into history, but in honouring people who’ve died, offering their last respects to someone they loved and who is now most dearly missed.

In ancient times we might have erected a standing stone for such a purpose, in the bible they often built an altar to remember some significant event or person: now days we may sing hymns at a grave or leave flowers at the side of the road. The Christian Church has had its fair share of building memorials, but what the faith has always taught us is that the greatest memorial we can build to anyone is to continue what they've have done, to live how they have lived.

That’s why the first disciples tried to do the things of Jesus and why many Christians still attempt the same today. The greatest thing to do, he once said, was to love God and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

Such a life is not an easy one
but imagine what our children would remember of us
if that were how we lived.


Thanks to the 6 points of separation / connection of the internet and by the grace of Spotify I have just discovered Samuel Beam and the band Iron and Wine: apologies to those of who you have been listening to this great music for years, (why did you not tell me). But for those of you who like your music whisperingly intimate and flip-your-soul insightful (and with the optional extra of your singers extra hairy) Beam's album Around the Well is the new favourite on my ipod ... until i get the full set of his CD's in the post.


Another Prayer for the Day from Radio 4 ... tommorow its John Calvin's Birthday ....
so it'll be less tomatoes and more TULIPs!

This year I’ve changed where I grow tomatoes. For two summers now, my crop has failed and a friend who knows about such things advised I make the move. She quoted Albert Einstein’s famous line that it is simply madness to keep doing the same thing, and expect different results.

Perhaps Einstein deserved another Nobel prize, this time for stating the obvious, but it’s amazing how even after personal crisis or international disaster we do return to the same old things, but expecting that somehow, life will change. So often we see catastrophes that result from the changes we have made to the global climate, but we seem incapable of doing what is necessary to avert calamity. The world goes into financial turmoil, but we carry on with economics that have seen wealth and opportunity being taken from the poorest people of the planet.

Most of us are aware of the need for a healthy diet and an exercise regime, but even after warning bells, or a shock to our system, too often our lifestyles settle back to the way they were before.

But we are not destined to this madness of mistaken repetition. The prophets told the people that God would do a new thing for them, finding fresh streams in the waste places of their lives.

When it eventually happened it was not so much a thing as a new person, one who lived in ways that ran counter to so much the world had ever known. Jesus was so different that they killed him for it, but some folks say he’s still doing new things in the lives of people who will dare to pray for change.

Lord in whom all things are possible
Lead us into patterns of life
That will bring good news
and lasting change to our world

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Caravans and the Three Mile an Hour God

Good morning,
I don't normally find pleasure in other people's misfortune, but the other week it was almost inevitable. We were on holiday in Scotland. We'd caught an early morning ferry before driving across the open roads that cut through the rugged highlands. The views were truly beautiful and I couldn't help but smile as the radio warned me of other people facing tailbacks on motorways, congestion on ring roads, and delays to commuters of more than an hour.

Maybe someone up there saw my smile because no sooner had it flashed across my face than I found myself behind a caravan that slowed my progress for the next ten miles.

Whether you are stuck behind a mobile home in the countryside or in between two lorries on a motorway there's not much you can do but stare out at the world around you.

Later on, when all the travelling was over, I lamented the tedium of such journeys to a friend, but he reminded me that Jesus spent a lot of time on the road as well, moving round the towns and villages of Galilee, but most of the time he walked, seeing the world at a steady 3 miles an hour.

Travelling at that kind of pace probably helped him to become such a keen observer of life, gathering the insights that would reappear in the stories he told. Nothing much to do except pay attention to people and places, the times and seasons. I think that's when Jesus would've done much of his thinking and even his praying. Could it be that he was stuck behind a camel when he realised that in God's kingdom, the first would be last and the last will be first?

Lord, who knows what we might discover this morning
If we're moving slow enough to notice:
Help us in the busyness of this coming day
to keep pace with you Amen

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


This was my Prayer for the Day from Radio 4 this morning:

On the inside of my wedding ring an inscription marks the date when I gave up my bachelor life. My wife and I tied the knot in the year 2000, so working out how long we’ve been together is a simple mathematical process. But people warned me at the time that my bride would not thank me, if in twenty years, the best I could remember was that it all happened sometime around September.

Thankfully, so far, I’ve never needed a reminder and maybe that’s because the day still holds happy memories for me.

There are other days that I’ve tried hard to forget and that is probably true for everyone. Their recurring presence is not welcome in the diary of our minds and if we could banish them then we would.

For some of us today will be the anniversary of when life was changed forever. Perhaps when we lost our job, or the trust of someone dear to us, the date of that accident or when we took the phone-call from the hospital. And today will be remembered as the time when four years ago, 52 people died and hundreds more were injured in the London Bombings.

As Jesus approached his darkest day, he asked his friends to remember him with a simple meal. It could’ve turned into a morbid fascination, except that death was not the end for him. New life was born out of that most cruel of events, and in the moment of his resurrection a fresh future was unfolded, one that the church remembers regularly, a time when all tears are wiped away and every hurt is healed: it is a future to remember.

Lord God who comes among us as wounded healer
Heal our hurting memories
And lead us to a time where all is well.

Monday, 6 July 2009


Back on Radio Four this morning with a Prayer for The Day.

I suspect that if you're like me you often wonder if these observations on life that feature in such broadcasts or in sermons really ever happened, or if they are fictions created to help make the speaker's point. Well I can only comment for myself and for today, but there's a photo here, taken seconds after the event referred to.

Good morning,
A month ago my wife and I travelled to the Scottish Island of Iona. Over the years we’ve often spent a week living in the restored Benedictine Abbey there. But this was the first time our daughter came with us. She’s nearly two now and we thought that she’d enjoy the grassy spaces, sandy beaches and the clear blue waters.

We were not wrong … she had a wonderful holiday, except for all the wind. She’d never encountered gusts as strong as those on a Hebredian island, even in the summer. Imagine her surprise when she went running round a corner, to be lifted off her feet and thrown down to earth.

Undeterred she got back up: ready to do battle with the assailant. But to add insult to her astonished injury there was no-one there to grapple. As another rus
hing whoosh left her struggling to stay upright she shouted in defiance, waved her arms in defence, but fundamentally she was stunned her inability to get a grip on her enemy.

She may be too young to know it yet but I suspect there’s something deeper for us all in that. Our toughest battles are often against those things we cannot get a grip on. The fears that rush in at the beginning of a day, the doubts and the worries that often threaten to blow our lives off balance and land us on our back.

Jesus never promised anyone that such struggles could be avoided, and that has rarely been the testimony of those who tried to follow him, but we may be sure that God is with us, strengthening our spirit for the coming day.

Lord your perfect love
Can drive fear from our hearts
Give us the courage to wrestle with life
And make us strong this day
by your Holy Spirit

Saturday, 4 July 2009


I've been away at BUGB Racial Justice Training and then a week's holiday in sunny (yes really)Ireland. I just got back in time to record six Prayers for the Days for BBC Radio 4 on Thursday. This was all pretty tight as the first one was broadcast this morning at 5:45 am. Just in case you were not up so early (I know i wasn't) the script is below. I'll put the rest up as they go out.

Americans round the world today will be in jubilant mood. This is Independence Day: a national holiday when friends and families go to baseball games and concerts, picnics, barbeques and firework displays. They will be remembering the birth of their nation, the day when many years ago they declared their Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

From that day on the character of independence has been deeply enshrined in American life. We see it played out often on the movie screen from Hollywood, maverick heroes win the day against incredible odds and all without the help of anyone, except perhaps the token female.

Of course Independence can be a positive characteristic: I remember the joy when my daughter could stand up on her own, and when she learnt to walk, but it can have its downside too. The poet John Donne famously reflected that No man is an island, and in the Book of Ecclesiastes, the bible reminds us that two are better than one, if one falls down then a friend can help them up.

That is the power of interdependence: For all the values that is found in national and personal autonomy, real strength in life often lies in being working with two or three or even more; giving and receiving help.

There will be times for everyone when circumstance will leave us feeling that we can’t go on, moments when the only thing that makes tomorrow possible is the helping hand from friends today.

Or as we try to work together for the common good, this morning might bring the opportunity for us to return a favour and offer our support to someone else.

Lord God
may we remember today
Our dependence on another:
And in those who offer us help
May we see your face. Amen