Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Christmas update

After Sunday's disappointment when I couldn't go out with the rest of the family we did manage a joint outing yesterday - we all went together to the doctor! A variety of chest, throat and ear problems had struck us down over the holiday but at least I can say my chest infection is improving - slowly!

Sunday, 27 December 2009


With only a visit from my sister-in-law and family to go tomorrow I have survived Christmas. This may not seem much of achievement to most people but this year, for me, it is.

Firstly this is our last Christmas as a family; by next year my daughter will be married and celebrating Christmas with her husband. There were just the 4 of us as our usual Christmas guests, my father and my wife's aunt, both died last year so it was fairly quiet.

Secondly I developed a bad cold the weekend before Christmas which then turned into a chest infection. I'm on antibiotics and steroids and have managed most Christmas events although I missed the midnight service and going as a family to see the Wasps v Harlequins match at Twickenham today. (RATS - Quins lost so my Wasps supporting daughter is going to be insufferable)

Finally this has been an alcohol free Christmas for me but not the rest of them. At the beginning of November I had some sort of breakdown and I'm now on medication which seems to be helping but does mean I can't have any alcohol - a shame as we had some good claret from father for Christmas day and I was on non-alcoholic wine.

So I survived and now look forward to a new year with some trepidation as there are going to have to be some major changes in my life and, as yet, it isn't clear what these will be. What I do know is that God will be with me guiding me and prodding (shoving?) me in the right direction.

Thursday, 24 December 2009


Today, Christmas Eve, I have been listening to a lot, I mean a lot, of carols on the radio and have been very puzzled by one thing - why to the cathedral choirs and their ilk, have to sing everything so slowly?

The word carol means to dance and celebrate but some have been so slow that they would have been more suited to a funeral than celebrating the most important birth in the history of the planet. While I agree that singing slowly can be more dramatic if you over do it you lose the line of the music as it becomes disjointed notes.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

A White 'Christmas'

I mentioned that I had been in hospital - in fact it was a psychiatric unit after I had some sort of breakdown. I don't want to say anymore at the moment partly because this is a public blog and partly because I still have a long way to go before I can say exactly what happened.

While I was in there I took part in a couple of Occupational Therapy classes on creative writing and during one about weather related stories I also wrote a poem. Those of you as old as me and in the UK will remember the winter of 1962/3 when it snowed on Boxing Day and was still on the ground in March; the only time in my life when that has happened. As was often the case we spent Christmas on my uncle's farm near Battle and this poem is my recollection of Boxing Day 1962.

Boxing Day 1962

I woke up, it was light,
A strange light.
Had I over slept?
But the world was lit by a magical light.

Clambering off the camp bed
I rushed to the window.
I saw a new world outside.
A white world.
A world of snow.

Outside the farm was swaddled in snow,
The white drive was decorated
with tractor tracks and foot prints.
The fence posts wore hats of snow
And the trees stood proud in their new white coats.

Christmas had come.
A day late
But to me it was Christmas.
The best Christmas ever.

Thursday, 3 December 2009


Being brought up in a Baptist church I was taught that praying to the saints was an old fashion superstition that had nothing to do with 'proper' Christianity - we prayed directly to God / Jesus without the need for an intermediary.

So what do I make of this article which I read just before I went into hospital?

This got me thinking how many times had I asked someone to pray for me and, if I can ask my fellow living Christians to pray for me, why not those who have, in the words of the Salvation Army, been promoted to glory?

I know this is rather controversial for a Baptist but it makes rather worrying sense to me.

Any comments?

Blog Light

I haven't posted anything on here for nearly 4 weeks for the simple reason that I was taken into hospital the day after my last post and, although I have been out for a week, it's taking a while to get back into normal living. I hope, sometime, to be able to post about my illness but I'm not ready to do so at the moment.

In the meantime I am back and hope to have some new posts up very soon.

Sunday, 8 November 2009


This evening at church we were looking at Hebrews 12 and the place of the mountain in Christian life and my mind went back to my Grandmother who was born and brought up in Chile. She told me that she arrived in the UK in 1919 and spent the entire journey by train from Liverpool to London thinking it must be a foggy day as she couldn't see the mountains. Of course in Chile you are never far from the Andes and she had never experienced a flat land like Britain. This set my mind racing and I wrote the following poem.

Where Are The Mountains?

I looked and looked but couldn't see the mountains,
Your mountains.
'It must be misty' I said 'so the mountains are hidden,
I'll see them tomorrow - your mountains'
Then they told me 'There are no mountains'
And I wondered at how this could be.
I walked and lived in the valleys with no mountains
But still I looked up in case I saw them.
Then, one day, you showed me your mountains.
Mountains that are always there
Where we can meet with you.
Now I walk in the valleys that are only in shadow
Because your glorious mountains surround them.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Is There Such A Thing As A Scientific Fact?

Of late there has been obsession that things should be based on scientific facts which, on the surface, sounds like a good idea. Drug policy should be based on the science, global worming is a scientific fact, the medicines our doctors give us have been subject to rigorous scientific evaluation etc and we will all be sure that we are heading to a bright new future.

But there is a problem, there is, no such thing as scientific fact. Surprised? You should be because it can change the way we view the pronouncements made by scientists.

Let me start at the beginning with something called Scientific Method. Basically it looks like this:

Hypothesis - what, after observation, do you think explains something you have noticed.
Experiment - device experiments to test whether you are right
Analysis - does the experiment prove you right or wrong (start again if it shows you were wrong)
Publish Results - a very important stage (called Peer Review) where others can see if they get the same results and conclusions.

If everyone agrees the outcome is sometimes called a scientific fact when all it actually says is 'The experiments carried out seem to confirm the hypothesis.' Notice that word 'seems' - there always remains the possibility that further experiments will come to different, sometimes contradictory, conclusions.

Let me give you 2 examples, one old and one current.

In 1687 Newton published his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in which, among other things, he formulated methods of calculating the way forces act on bodies to cause motion. At the time these seemed so robust that they became know as Newton's Laws of Motion - laws because they were always right. However in the early 20th century Einstein came along with his Theories of Relativity which, once tested, showed that Newton's 'Laws' didn't always apply.

My second example is still under evaluation but it may turn out to be a very significant find. I, like so many others, was told (at school?) that you tell what the temperature was like in the past by measuring the amount trees grew (tree ring thickness in other words) and we all assumed this was correct. Some researchers in Scotland found they had a good opportunity to check this and their results have come as a very big surprise. It appears that there is virtually no relationship between tree growth and weather but there is one with cosmic ray intensity. If confirmed by peer review the implications for this are enormous; most of what we 'know' about the historical climate is based on tree ring measurements as these were 'known' to be a proxy for temperature but if there is no connection we have been measuring the wrong thing! If our historic data is wrong it throws great doubts on any forecast made using them whether to prove or disprove man made climate change.

So next time someone tells you that something is based on the science remember all it means is that the experiments have shown that that a theory might be totally right, partially right or even wrong (interpretation of data can be very subjective.)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Transsexual Jesus sparks protests

Did anyone else see this article on the BBC site?


I must admit my first reaction was 'Oh no, not again.' By that I mean:

Christians who see it as their job to defend God.

Christians making a big fuss about something that wouldn't be noticed otherwise.

Christians moralising instead of spreading the Kingdom of God.

Personally it me me stop and think particularly about the relevance of gender in the next life. Jesus, when talking to the Sadducees made it clear that marriage, as we know it, doesn't apply in heaven so perhaps there is no place for gender at all.

Saturday, 31 October 2009


Sorry I have gone blog light but it has been an odd week - busy because I was off work. It wouldn't have been if my asthma hadn't been playing up but that meant I didn't start the job in the study (installing worktop instead of computer 'station' and a bit of board on a keyboard stand) until Wednesday! All is now done but I'm very tired and achy and, as a result, not feeling at my best.

To top it all the car we bought at the beginning of May (to replace the one I wrote off on Easter Saturday) hasn't turned out to be the ideal car we thought it was. It (an Astra 1.4 estate) is the right size, easy to drive, quick enough, low enough on insurance and doesn't use too much fuel but it turns out to have one major problem - the front seats are designed to do permanent damage to my back!!! I know it's my fault for not having an 'S' shaped curve in my back but the ridiculous amount of lumber support pushes the bottom of my back where it doesn't bend and the the top of the seat pushes my shoulders where they don't want to go - result pain my my left leg and round my chest (triggering asthma.) So far we haven't found a solution to this problem (have tried a Vauxhall main agent, a car upholsterer and a back support that was in the same comfort zone as a plank) so I'm not sure what to do as even short drives are now setting off back problems. I don't won't to change car again as a) this will cost money and b) in every other respect it is the car I need.

What I am getting around to saying is does anyone else get annoyed at people who say how being ill helps them spiritually and that it is such a great spiritual opportunity? I know that there have been things that I have learnt through being ill that I wouldn't have otherwise but when I'm actually being ill it doesn't help at all. When my body is ill my mind and my spiritual life suffer as well and it can be a very dark place. Knowing that it is caused by illness doesn't help as I feel guilty that my spiritual life goes into hibernation and that, in itself, makes me feel down. Am I alone in this? Does this happen to anyone else?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Music to Go By

An Anglican priest has, unwittingly, hit the newspapers for a blog about the secularisation (is that a word?) of funerals and how this is another area of life where the church is being marginalised. Unfortunately he mentioned Tina Turner in one sentence and this, somehow, caught the presses imagination. His original blog (well worth a read) is here:

and an example of the reaction here:

This has sparked many suggestions of music to go out by in the letters page of the Telegraph with suggestions ranging from Elvis singing Return To Sender to Led Zepplin's Stairway To Heaven (although apparently his wife thought it should be Queen singing Another One Bites The Dust.)

Personally I would like to go to the close of Part 1 of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius where the priest and friends sing:

Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul!
Go from this world!
Go, in the Name of God the Omnipotent Father, Who created thee!
Go, in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Son of the Living God, Who bled for thee!
Go, in the Name of the Holy Spirit, Who Hath been poured out on thee!
Go in the name of Angels and Archangels;
In the name of Thrones and Dominations;
In the name of Princedoms and of Powers;
And in the name of Cherubim and Seraphim, go forth!
Go, in the name of Patriarchs and Prophets;
And of Apostles and Evangelists, of Martyrs and Confessors,
In the name of holy Monks and Hermits;
In the name of holy Virgins; and all Saints of God,
Both men and women, go! Go on thy course;
And may thy place today be found in peace,
And may thy dwelling be the Holy Mount
Of Sion: - through the Same, through Christ our Lord.

Great music and a fantastic affirmation of faith. What would your choice be?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Is The Bible Authoritative?

Is the Bible authoritative; can we use it to guide and direct our lives telling us how to behave?

Earlier in this series I’ve pointed out that I don’t believe that the Bible is The Word of God, I don’t believe it’s literally true or infallible and that there are doubts about whether the Old Testament we use today is identical to the books that Jesus would have called scripture. In light of this you may realise that I have a problem treating the Bible, as it stands, as authoritative.

In the past I have had 2 Timothy 3:16 quoted at me as proof that scripture was authoritative but let’s look at what it actually says:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

Notice scripture is described as “useful” and not authoritative but, oddly, I think this is only part of the story. To explain I want to look at another, longer passage, from Luke 24.

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’

There are so many things that can be said about this passage but I want to pick out two important verses: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” and “‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’” It seems to me that the scriptures came alive when Jesus explained how they pointed to Him and that in that very act the power of the scriptures was released so that Cleopas and his colleague (Mrs Cleopas?) said that their hearts were “burning” while this happened. I believe that something similar should happen to us today if we read the Bible as pointing to Jesus under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Authoritative? Yes and no. No - in itself the Bible is not authoritative. Yes – by the power of the Holy Spirit the Bible can point us to Jesus who is the ultimate authority. In a way it’s like the bracelets that my children used to wear with WWJD on them; read properly Bible asks us “What Would Jesus Do?”

I believe that God the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the Bible in ways we cannot understand or foretell, surprising us and pointing us to Jesus, God in human form, and guiding us to live our lives like His. It is the book God intended us to have telling the story of His relationship with the Jews leading up to the climatic moment of the crucifixion. In view of this I believe that reading and studying the Bible are an important part of the Christian life.

Hospital Sign

Beckenham Hospital was recently re-built and re-named Beckenham Beacon (no - it doesn't make sense, a beacon is obviously where you go when injured or sick) and during this work this sign appeared:

The implication is obvious - those with sexual health issues are unclean and have to use a different door to everyone else. However it gets better - look at the location of the sign:

Didn't spot it? Look at this picture:

The arrow for the Sexual Health Clinic points straight to a 'No Entry' sign. Need I say more?

Friday, 2 October 2009

What is it? - The Answer

A harmless hair product - it just looks like a grenade!

Monday, 28 September 2009

What is it?

Should I worry about my wife keeping this in the bedroom?

Jesus Knew the Old Testament

Some years ago, around the time of widespread changes to liturgy, I came across a cartoon of a man in church turning to his neighbour and saying “When we used to say ‘We believe…’ I thought we all believed the same thing but now we say ‘I believe…’ I think we all believe something different.”

The problem with saying Jesus knew the Old Testament is that it didn’t actually exist at the time. The Jews all ‘knew’ which books they regarded as scripture but as it hadn’t been formalised there is more than a suspicion that everyone had different ideas about what they meant. However because ‘everyone knew’ and most of the Jews were still in Palestine there didn’t seem to be any reason to define what they meant.

This all changed after the Second Jewish Revolt against the Romans (or the Third Jewish Revolt depending if another revolt is counted as the second) in AD 132–136 when the Jews were dispersed from Palestine and it became important to define what books ‘everyone knew’ to be scripture. Since this is around 100 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus it is possible that the books Jesus regarded as scripture during his earthly life are not the same as the ones we have in the Old Testament (with or without Apocrypha.) This could explain why Jesus (and Paul) appears to quote scripture that isn’t in the Old Testament, he was quoting what he believed to be scripture but that hasn’t made it into our Bibles!

Now this becomes a big problem if you believe the Bible to be the literal, infallible Word of God as instead of a set text we have something of a more fluid nature. However viewed as a book telling God’s story and the story of his evolving relationship with mankind it doesn’t matter – what matters is the book we have now. Let me explain that point – I believe we have the Bible that God intended us to have; the right books with the right text we need in them (I’m thinking about things like the end of Mark’s Gospel and the story in John’s Gospel of the woman caught in adultery neither of which seem to be original.)

So do we have the Old Testament that Jesus knew? It seems unlikely but it doesn’t matter if we read the Bible as God’s story and not ours.

I believe that God the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the Bible in ways we cannot understand or foretell, surprising us and pointing us to Jesus, God in human form, and guiding us to live our lives like His. It is the book God intended us to have telling the story of His relationship with the Jews leading up to the climatic moment of the crucifixion. In view of this I believe that reading and studying the Bible are an important part of the Christian life.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Iran Police 'Target Mannequins'

One of my on-going concerns is the way we muddle Christianity with our culture and then try to impose cultural standards as part of our religion. I know that it is a problem for Christians in the UK and USA but hadn't thought about it being a wider issue until I reads this article about the Irainian police clamping down on what they saw as un-Islamic clothing:

Is it really un-Islamic or is it just their traditional culture that they are defending?


Blogging has taken a back seat to upgrading my computer over the last week or so. I was beginning to get the 'Blue Screen of Death' with increasing frequency so I decided that the internals of my PC needed changing before it stopped working completely.
A nice company called Novatech does bundles of motherboard, CPU and memory pre-assembled and tested which I had used in the past and found to be quick to install. However this time the change was so great that I had to completely re-install Windows and all my programs, a 2 day job on its own.
With any luck I will be back to the Bible blogs next week – assuming I can get the wireless router working!!!!!

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Bible - Infallible?

I have noticed that Christians who insist that the Bible is the Literally True Word of God say that the Bible has to be infallible or their interpretation of it falls down; it’s either right or wrong. This is a very modern way of looking at the Bible and of defining truth which is not how the Bible has traditionally been interpreted.

The Bible contains various types of books and they need to be read in different ways. Whilst the history books should be generally accurate (but don’t forget ‘spin’ is not a modern invention) the books of prophecy and poetry have to read in a different way and problems come when people muddle them up – a lot of Genesis is a poetic book about creation and not history. The main issue with reading the Bible is to read it as God’s story and the story of his interaction with mankind, in particular, but not always, the Jews. I know I have said this before but it is something that I have come across many times and, when I remember, I always find it helpful.

If the bible is infallible it shouldn’t, by definition, contradict itself so let’s look at couple of examples where I think it is clear that it does.

Firstly in Ezra 10 you find the Jews who have returned from exile in Babylon expelling the foreign wives they had taken along with any children as they believe that this is what the Law commands them to do. However the Law may not have been as old as they thought and was probably written down during the exile, from earlier oral traditions, and was being written by a people who saw themselves as a persecuted people who were the only ones loyal to God. I had thought that the book of Ruth (and Noah?) was written as a counterblast to this showing that David was descended from a “foreign wife” but modern scholarship has put the Book of Ruth well before the exile and so the Jews should have realised that God was for everyone and not just them. Certainly the Law and the Book of Ruth do not seem to be in agreement.

The other passage I want to look at in Matthew 5 where Jesus gives a series of “You have heard it said… but I say to you…” statements; in particular v 38 to 42.

You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Here Jesus directly contradicts a command given in the Old Testament (Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21) and replaces it with his law. So who is right? On the face of it they contradict but if you read this as God’s story and of his interaction with mankind you get a different picture of a growing awareness of God’s character. An eye for and eye comes from a time of tribal tensions when if someone from one tribe insulted or injured a member of another tribe they would see it as a matter of tribal honour and not just go after the person concerned but the whole tribe and inflicted considerably more injury than they had suffered. In this context “an eye for an eye” is a moderating influence (to stop the tribes of Israel wiping each other out?) but read as part of God’s story it is a partial revelation and the first step towards Jesus command to “Love your enemy.”

Is the Bible infallible? It doesn’t appear to be because of internal contradictions. However if it is read as God’s story and of his interaction with mankind it becomes the story of how we respond, including getting it wrong, and how God’s revelation is partial until fulfilled in Jesus. At that point, and only then, does it become infallible.

I believe that God the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the Bible in ways we cannot understand or foretell, surprising us and pointing us to Jesus, God in human form, and guiding us to live our lives like His. It tells the story of God’s relationship with the Jews leading up to the climatic moment of the crucifixion. In view of this I believe that reading and studying the Bible are an important part of the Christian life.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Bible - The Word of God? Update

Since writing about this my thinking has undergone a slight change. The sharp eyed among you may have spotted that might have noticed that my finally paragraph has gained another sentence: “It tells the story of God’s relationship with the Jews leading up to the climatic moment of the crucifixion.

This comes from a slightly different way of looking at the Bible. We often look at the Old Testament as telling the story of the Jews and the New Testament as telling the story of Jesus, a Jew. However if we look at the Bible as telling God’s Story (something that I have recently found helpful) we in effect have “The Word’s Story” which I think I prefer to The Word of God.

I believe that God the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the Bible in ways we cannot understand or foretell, surprising us and pointing us to Jesus, God in human form, and guiding us to live our lives like His. It tells the story of God’s relationship with the Jews leading up to the climatic moment of the crucifixion. In view of this I believe that reading and studying the Bible are an important part of the Christian life.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Star Struck

Last night I saw a shooting star - only the second or third I've ever seen. Living in London it is hard to see the stars due to the glow of streetlights, security lights and illuminated buildings so I didn't see it in all its glory.

I have often wondered if not being able to see the stars is behind the drift away from faith in the UK. People don't look up at the glory of heaven and wonder; instead they look down and into themselves.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Bible - Literally True?

I have changed the order and decided to tackle literalism next.

One of the things that really annoys me is when people claim that the Bible is literally true – every word directly inspired by God and absolutely correct. It annoys me for many reasons but mainly because a literal reading of the Bible gives rise to 7 day Creationism which, in my opinion, damages the Church’s witness by making us look stupid and old fashioned.

Of course the first question is which Bible? The Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Slavonic all have different books in the Old Testament so if you say the Bible is literally true you need to say which Bible you mean. Besides what we have are only translations and even then we don’t have a single original text. This in itself puts the idea of a literal Bible on shaky ground.

The really odd thing is that taking the Bible literally is a relatively modern idea that wouldn’t have occurred to earlier generations. As far as I can tell people who unwitting brought this about are John Wycliffe, the Reformers, Robert Raikes – who isn’t as well known today as he should be – and, oddly Islam.

John Wycliffe had the dangerous idea of translating the Bible into English and the translation that bears his name is the forerunner of the King James Bible – the first official translation made available to those who could read. Of course this wasn’t many of the population in the 17th century and this is where Robert Raikes comes into the story as he is regarded as the founder of the Sunday School movement. Now this wasn’t Sunday School as I remember it but it also included teaching all the children to read and write leading to a situation where the common people could increasingly read the Bible.

The Reformers, as I mentioned in looking at the Bible as the Word of God, decided that scripture alone was the guide for the Christian Church (Sola Scriptura) and promptly threw out books in the Old Testament which they didn’t think came up to scratch; Martin Luther even questioned some books in the New Testament. They had placed the Bible at the centre of their faith and encouraged everyone who could to read it in their own language while ignoring the historic tradition of what constituted the Bible.

The Reformers were, generally, educated men who had been taught to read The Bible as literature and to read the truth within the literature not within the words. Let me explain that; in my dictionary there are 4 consecutive words; literal, literary, literate and literature which all stem from the same Latin word ‘littera’ – letter. When the reformers talked about truth in the Bible they, as literate men of letters, were talking about it being literarily true (truth contained within the literature) and not literally true (truth contained within the words.)

I think Islam comes into the picture at this stage as they believe the Koran was literally dictated to Mohammad and, somehow, this idea has moved into Christianity with some Christians believing that the Bible is, in effect, dictated directly by God word for word – despite most of reading a translation.

Since the Enlightenment the Bible has been read as it was a text book full of facts which is not the way the Jews or the Early Church would have read it. The Old Testament is a story about the relationship between God and the Jews; a love story that, in common with a lot of love stories, it is written in poetic, not literal language. The story of the creation, to the Jews, is just that, a story, but one which contained the truth that God created and that He saw that it was good. Talking of the creation stories I have never worked out how the literalist can explain man and woman being created in Genesis 1 and then again in chapter 2.

The Bible should be read as a story which tells God’s story (not ours) and, like the parables of Jesus, isn’t meant to be literal – what would the bride look like in the Song of Solomon if it was meant to literally true! Beside do you really think the Pharisees walked round with planks in their eyes?

I therefore do not believe in the Bible literally but literarily – looking for the truth intended by the original writers to tell God’s story – and using this to guide us on our walk of faith.

I believe that God the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the Bible in ways we cannot understand or foretell, surprising us and pointing us to Jesus, God in human form, and guiding us to live our lives like His. It tells the story of God’s relationship with the Jews leading up to the climatic moment of the crucifixion. In view of this I believe that reading and studying the Bible are an important part of the Christian life.

Chest Infection

I have a chest infection. A few years ago this wouldn't be news as I was having 8 or more a year but since the NHS diagnosed bronchiectasis, something 10 years of a private health scheme had failed to pick up (any from the USA please take note), I have been doing much better. However from the day we got back from our holiday my chest has been tight and my peak flow slowly dropping.

A doctor had checked my chest when I went to have the dressing on a cut in my leg changed but couldn't hear anything wrong but when I went back on Tuesday there was clear evidence of an infection in my right lung. It isn't bad but this is how my last 2 infections started and they became worse within a week so this time we are using oral steroids from day 1 in an attempt to sort it out before it gets worse. I'll let you know if it works!

The next instalment on the Bible is nearly ready. It's a longer piece than I originally envisaged so I'm looking for some pictures to break it up.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Here is one for all pedants that I found on the wonderful BBC H2G2 site (

Imagine you're travelling via British Rail to reach some sunny destination (yes - it can happen.) You've left your suitcase/holdall/internal frame backpack in the luggage rack at the end of the carriage where you would imagine it to be safe – that is, until you hear an 'important announcement':

Please do not leave unattended luggage anywhere on the train. Any unattended items may be removed without warning.

Without too much thought, you head down to the end of the carriage to attend to your bag. It's still there, but it's not doing anything particularly interesting, and you begin to wonder what all the fuss is about. Then you realise what the message actually meant: you must not leave unattended luggage. As you're standing there, your bag is by no means unattended. You are fully free to leave it, and do so immediately.

On the way back to your seat, however, you notice that someone has left their bag entirely on its own. You must not leave unattended luggage, so you stand next to it awaiting the owner's return. Unfortunately, the train reaches your stop before anyone comes to claim it. You panic about leaving the bag, but recall that 'unattended items may be removed without warning'. It's clear that you have no choice, so you take it with you as you head to pick up your own luggage. Fortunately enough, the police come round your house a week later to reclaim the unattended bag. However, some great misunderstanding ensues and you end up having to explain the above to an unsympathetic jury.

If only they'd had an announcement telling the bag's owner not to leave their luggage unattended.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Keep Right?

Glad to see I'm not teh only dyslexic who can't tell his (her) left from right!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Good Marketing!

E-bay just sent me an e-mail suggesting a product they thought I might want - hair straighteners! If you don't know why that's funny here is a picture of our wedding day 29 years ago.

It's about as appropriate as the time I won curling tongs in a raffle!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


I've been thinking about, and experiencing, bereavement over the last couple of days and what that means to a Christian.

Firstly I don't think it is wrong to grieve Paul, in one his letters, talks about someone nearly dying and how it would have added to his grief (sorry - can't find the reference) so if he could feel like that so can we. But why? As Christians we know that when we die we go to a better place so why not rejoice when a fellow Christian dies? Perhaps the answer is that they have ceased to be a part of the Body of Christ here on earth and that part can never be replaced.

John Donne put it better than me in this poem:

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.

Saturday, 22 August 2009


Last night I went to my first ever Prom Concert at the Albert Hall. My daughter arranged it all so after a picnic by the Albert Memorial we made our way across the road to the Albert Hall for the best concert I have ever heard - Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Liszt (Les préludes) Wagner (Tristan and Isolde - Prelude and Liebestod) and Berlioz (Symphonie Fantastique).

The Symphonie Fantastique is one of my favourite pieces of music but what made is special is the orchestra. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is made up of young Israeli and Arab musicians playing together to produce a unified performance. Talking about the orchestra Barenboim says "I'm not trying to convert the Arab members of the Divan to the Israeli point of view or seeking to win over Israelis to the Arab one but I want to create a platform where the two sides can agree, and not resort to knives."

If last night's concert is anything to go by there is hope that good people on both sides can work together to resolve the situation between the Arabs and Israelis.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Berries on the Trees

As they are working on the tram network I have a longer walk once I get off the tram to get into the office and a lot of this is along a tree lined road. Travelling at walking pace I found I noticed a lot more around me in particular the number of bright red berries on some trees.

This reminded me of a saying of my grandfather, a farmer brought up in the market town of East Grinstead (now a commuter town). When he saw a tree laden with berries he would say "It's been a good year for berries."

I have heard town folk claim that a lot of berries means that nature is providing for a hard winter to come; a very romantic view of nature. My grandfather new better, nature only reflects what has happened.

Friday, 14 August 2009

The Right Answer?

A Sunday School teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with a class of 5 - 6 years olds. After explaining the commandment 'honour thy father and mother' she asked "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?" Without hesitation one little boy answered "Thou shalt not kill."

With thanks to Beattie in The Baptist Times.

A Sad Day For Guitarists

The death has been announced of Les Paul, the man who not only gave us the Les Paul Gibson Guitar but also was the first to use mulitrack recording.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Right or Wrong?

A couple of news items caught my attention today. Firstly there was this:

So far the response from the families of the victims has been mixed. Some say this is the compassionate thing to do others that he should serve his time as punishment / retribution for what he did. Leaving aside whether he did do it (there is some doubt) I wondered whether it was the sign of a civilised country to not only look for retribution but to also be compassionate to a dying man. All this was before it became apparent that, in general, those who thought he should be released were British while the families of the USA victims seem to all think he should rot in jail. Any thoughts?

Then there was this:

So the French government wants to ban a woman wearing something in public that is part of her religious belief. My question is does any civilised country have the right to deny someone the right to practice their faith in a way that doesn't do anyone any harm?

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Bible - The Word of God?

The first time I heard someone suggest that the Bible isn’t “The Word of God” I thought they were mad, stupid, a heretic or all three. I had been taught in a Baptist Sunday School and subsequently in the church that The Bible was God’s Word and that the Christian faith was based on this and nothing else. However, the people who said that it wasn’t were people I knew and respected so it wasn’t easy to dismiss the idea.

The first point to note is that this isn’t an historic way of describing and looking at the Bible; it only appears in the Protestant church at the time of the reformation. The Synod of Trent, an attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to counter the reformation, had declared that unwritten church traditions had an equal authority with the Bible and, in reaction to this, the reformers declared that the Bible was the only authority. It was probably this that led them to refer to the Bible as “the Word of God” even though the Bible makes no such claims for itself. .

The phrase does appear in the Bible; usually when referring to Spirit inspired prophetic utterances in the Old Testament calling God’s wayward people back to Him. These are specific words from the prophets to God’s people and not a reference to the Old Testament as a whole.

So if the Bible is not the Word of God what is? Take a look at John 1 v1:-

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Notice that “the Word was God.” – nothing more and nothing less.

The in v14 we have:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word of God is God Himself who became human and walked this planet as the man Jesus. As mind shattering as this is I believe it goes a stage further; if Jesus is the Word of God so is the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. I am not saying that everything a Christian says is God’s Word but there are times when the Holy Spirit works through us to speak God’s Word into a situation.

So is the Bible the Word of God? I don’t think so; I think that is to limit the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the world today.

I believe that God the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the Bible in ways we cannot understand or foretell, surprising us and pointing us to Jesus, God in human form, and guiding us to live our lives like His. In view of this I believe that reading and studying the Bible are an important part of the Christian life.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Another Holiday Photo

On the bright sunny day of our holiday I took this picture of the Green Man:

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Bible 1 – Introduction

I’m not sure why the idea came to me but I felt I ought to blog a bit about what the Bible is and what its rôle is in the journey that we call the Christian life. I hope that means it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting

I am not a theologian or Bible scholar just someone who was brought up in the church and has thought and read about Christianity since his mid teens. As a result these blogs can only be my understanding of what the Bible is at this point in time; I would have written differently in my teens and, I hope, I would write differently if I re-visited the subject in 10 or 20 years time.

The subjects I’m proposing to look at (briefly) are:

1. The Word?
2. Authoritive?
3. Literal?
4. Infallible?
5. Jesus knew the Old Testament
6. Understanding (mystery)

Any other ideas are welcome but I don’t guarantee that I will be capable of including them.

To try and avoid misunderstanding I will end each blog with a statement of why I think the Bible has an important rôle to play in the Christian life. This is not set in stone so it may change.

I believe that God the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the Bible in ways we cannot understand or foretell, surprising us and pointing us to Jesus, God in human form, and guiding us to live our lives like His. In view of this I believe that reading and studying the Bible are an important part of the Christian life.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Localy caught what?

Can someone tell me how to catch a sandwich? Is it quicker than making them yourself?

Incidently the same establishment had "Half Roast Chicken" on its menu.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A Few Holiday Photos

I'm having trouble getting my holiday photos up onto Facebook so I thought I'd put a few up here and, hopefully, tell you what they are. I only got the camera the week before the holiday have discovered that I can use a digital camera despite the asthma medication shakes that stopped me using our film camera years ago.

The view from the bedroom - attempt 5.

Water feature at a National Trust house called Antony.

View of Exeter Cathedral Close taken from my lunch seat in a pub.

Buckfast Abbey - the only Catholic Abbey in the UK brought back into use since the reformation.

Buckland Abbey - home of Sir Francis Drake and the only example of an abbey church being converted into a house.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Bible

I'm thinking of doing a few posts on the Bible and what I see as misconceptions with the church about what it is or isn't.

Does anyone think this may be a good idea? I probably won't get round to it for a while as I'm off on holiday soon.

Is it OK to worry?

I have been thinking about whether it is OK for a christian to worry about something and whether this is compatible with trusting God to look after us.

What triggered this was having yet another review at work about my sick record when I have had a very clear assurance the God is looking after this aspect of my life. And yet I was worried and stressed and thought I shouldn't be. Then I thought about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed that, if possible, he wouldn't have to go through the passion. Was he both trusting the Father and fearful at the same time?

Any comments?

Monday, 6 July 2009

Yet More Health Woes

On Friday I had the dressing over hole in my shin changed (See National Health Service post below) only to find that it is now infected so I have to keep my leg raised as much as possible (how to you do that in an office?) and I'm on antibiotics.

On Sunday my left arm started to swell and go red around an insect bite which I got in the church garden on Saturday evening. We had moved there for strawberies and cream (and wine) following a concert in the church.

Needless to say I don't feel 100% at the moment!!!

Monday, 29 June 2009

A Special Day Spoilt

On Saturday (27 June) we went up to Cambridge to see my son graduate. After a lunch at his college (Homerton) we piled into a taxi up to the centre of Cambridge for the graduation ceremony in Senate House. Cambridge, being 800 years old, does this in a very traditional way - in Latin! I didn't understand a word but thoroughly enjoyed it.

Afterwards we all met on the lawn outside with the chance to take photos and have then taken. It was when my wife suggested we pay for a photo of all the family that I discovered my wallet had gone so, after some frantic searching, we spent the next hour on the phone cancelling cards! We subsequently heard that some people had been warned about pickpockets targeting the graduation ceremonies - shame we weren't warned.

The only plus point was when my daughter went to the King's College plodge (Cam speak for porters' lodge) to see it had been handed in there and was addressed as "Ma'am". As she graduated 3 years ago she was wearing her graduates gown and so had been recognised as a member of the university.

Luckily I didn't have the debit card for my wife's account with me so we were still able to go out for an evening dinner.

I am meant to be picking up a new guitar on Wednesday but at the moment I don't have a way of paying for it!!! Hopefully the replacement cards will arrive soon but it is so annoying having money in my account and not being able to get to it.

Anyway no-one was hurt and we cancelled the cards in time so I only lost the cash from my wallet.

To finish on a high note (I never do - I'm a bass) here are a couple of pictures any parent would be proud of:

Update:- The nice people in the guitar shop took a cheque without a guarantee card so I have my new shiny red electric guitar - my first ever electric guitar. However due to the cut thumb (see below) I'm unable to play it at the moment.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

National Health Service

Thank God for the NHS- literal. I have needed the NHS 3 times today.

This morning I needed the nurse at my GPs' to change the dressing on the hole in my shin that I did while gardening on Saturday.

This afternoon I went to my "local" hospital (6 miles away) for the results of a scan on my back and some other tests. It doesn't look as if any further action is needed.

Early this evening I had to go to the nearest hospital (under 1 mile away but doesn't do everything) to have the top of my left thumb taped down after I cut it preparing dinner - which was very late as a result.

At least I'm still here and nearly in one piece!!!

'Oldest musical instrument' found

... and it wasn't Keith Richard's guitar!

Read the full story here:

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Father's Day (again)

Looks like I was at the wrong church on Father's Day:-

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Of Worship Leaders and Pagans

A couple of articles on the web caught my eye today but I still haven't worked out why I think they are connected.

The first was an article about worship leaders becoming pop stars and this triggered one of my on-going worries - when do we cross the line from leading the church singing to being performers? It is something that worries me when I play in church and I don't know what the answer is. We don't, generally, have one person in front "leading the worship" which helps but it is all too easy to turn it into a gig instead of something to glorify God. By the way if you hadn't noticed I don't like the term "worship band / leader" - singing is only a small part of a life of worship.

A short version of the article can be found here:

The other article, in the Guardian, was about the rise of paganism in the UK. It struck me that what was attracting people was a form of pantheism and we in the church have to find a way of connecting with these people if we want to bring them into the Church. One thought - there is a panentheistic vein running through Christianity (the idea of a creating and sustaining God)so shouldn't we be able to find some common ground so that we can get alongside them? Any thoughts?

The full article can be found here:

Father's Day Update

Father's Day went much better than I feared it might have done. To start with I was exhausted after spending Saturday sorting the front garden (missing the Lion's match in the process) so it now looks like the arty picture (I had to rotate it to get it to look anything like it does in real life.)

My son had posted me a card a book of father jokes (My Dad only hit me once but it was with a Volvo - and many more like that) and after church we went to have lunch with my daughter who is flat sitting for some friends from church. Home made burgers and chips with salad - delicious. She also gave me a photo of her on my shoulders when she was very small (and my hair and beard weren't white) mounted between 2 blocks of perspex - it is now on my desk at work.

I was also kept busy playing guitar at church morning and evening. The morning was fairly easy going with just 2 songs for me to play. I wasn't on the rota for the evening but got called in when one guitarist had hives on his hands and the other fell off her horse.

All in all I didn't have to much time to think which, on this occasion, was good.

Friday, 19 June 2009

A Poem

Someone sent me this at work today and I just had to share it.

I want a floating duck house

I want to clear my moat

I need to mend my tennis court

That’s why I need your vote.

I have to build a portico

My swimming pool needs mending

My lovely plants need horse manure

And the Aga needs much tending

A chandelier is vital

Mock Tudor boards are great

My hanging baskets won awards

And I’ve earned a tax rebate.

I need a glitter toilet seat.

My piano so needs tuning

Maltesers help me stay awake

And my orchard must need pruning

I could have said the rules were wrong

And often thought I should,

But somehow it was easier

To profit all I could

The public really have to see

That the rules are there to test

And by defrauding taxpayers

We were just doing our best

The Speaker of the House has gone,

Our sacrificial beast,

But the public are still braying

For our corpses at the feast

What do the public want from us,

Those vote-wielding ingrates?

They really should be grateful

To be financing our estates.

The message is so very clear,

(we’re merely learning late)

That the British way of living well

Is to screw the bloody state.

Father's Day

This Sunday in the UK is Father's Day and, in one way, I'm not looking forward to it. I have already received a package from my son as he will be out of the country but I will miss not giving a card and gift to my father who died last year. Under the joy and happiness of the day there will be the sadness of loss.

My sadness shows that I had a good relationship with my father but what about those who never knew their father or to whom the idea of father meant abuse? What do they make of a day to celebrate fatherhood? Taking it one stage further what do they make of the church continually talking of God the Father - what image does that conjure up for them?

When Jesus spoke of the Godhead as father he was reflecting on the relationship he had with his earthly “father” Joseph. We must always be on the lookout for an appropriate positive image to describe God the “Father” to other people whose concept of fatherhood may be negative or we may drive them away.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Is natural good for you?

Last week my asthma was very bad - I had to come home from work early on Monday and didn't get back into the office all week, although I did manage to work at home on Thursday and Friday. What puzzled me was that I felt fine when I got up and my peak flow readings were fine but within the hour my breathing would get difficult.

It took me until Friday to realise that I had started using a different shower gel on Monday so I swapped back to the old one and my breathing is back to normal. Now I only use Original Source shower products as they only contain natural ingredients but it appears that there is something in the Dragon Fruit & Capsicum shower gel that disagrees with me.

Just because something only contains natural ingredients doesn't mean it is good for you. After all pollen and arsenic are natural products.

I know what they meant but...

I just opened the BBC News site and the first headline was:

Flu risk 'still low' after death

Now that's a relief - I won't haved to worry about catching the 'flu after I die.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Al Gore turned me into a climate change sceptic.

One of the odd occurrences in my life is that watching An Inconvenient Truth was the point at which I started being sceptical about man made global warming. Up until I saw it I had just gone with the flow and accepted that man's activities were making the climate warmer.

There were two things in the film that made me stop and think "that doesn't look right" and, by doing a very little research, made me want to swim against the flow.

The first was the "hockey stick graph" which showed thousands of years of steady temperatures followed by an accelerating upturn in the last few years. Now I wasn't any good at history at school but I even I know that there was a Roman warm period, and medieval warm period which was followed by the "little ice age" which means there can't be a straight handle for the hockey stick.

The other point was the "graph" Al Gore produced showing the historic movement of temperature and CO2 in the atmosphere. If I had presented a graph like that at school with no scales it would have been given back to me unmarked. It also brought to mind my sixth form stats teacher who pointed out that we could measure the height of the school entrance step and the height of the bushes planted beside the door and prove conclusively that as we trod on the step we were pushing it down and the bushes up - a correlation does not prove cause and effect. In the case of atmospheric CO2 recent research shows that historically the CO2 change happened after the temperature change - not surprising as a dissolved gas (carbon dioxide in this case) always becomes less soluble with increasing temperature. Again something I learnt at school.

My big problem is that most climate change sceptics use this as an excuse to do nothing about our over use of the worlds resources whereas I believe that, as Christians, we should be cutting our use of all the worlds resources to sustainable levels and ensuring an ethical division of resources around the world. Here in the UK our oil and gas consumption per person is about 2.5 times the global average which is socially unacceptable even if the world’s current rates of consumption are sustainable.

God gave us a beautiful planet to look after and enjoy not exploit.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

101 Things

From Stephy's blog.

To participate, just copy and paste in your own blog, and bold all of the things you have done.

1. Started your own blog (doy)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (if you count the worship team at church)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyworld
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (Pilate in the St John Passion at church)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight in your underwear
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Ran a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain (I’m sure we must have done this)
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason (Got = given)
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favourite childhood toy (My mother used my baby toys to start the church crèche)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby (a bit difficult for a man – my wife has had two)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Seen Mount Rushmore in person
101. Learned to play an instrument (Provided chord bashing counts as playing)

Thursday, 4 June 2009


Since my daughter got engaged the entire household has been rushed of its feet trying to get everything booked for next April. Despite having the best part of a years notice we have had trouble getting a venue big enough for 170 guests so will be using a marquee on the church lawn. This means we still have to get someone to do the catering but have have booked the car and photographer.

I'm hoping that once we have everything booked life will quieten down for a while.

2 Medical Mysteries

The first mystery is that I have been having trouble walking since before Christmas as my left leg wasn't working properly. It wouldn't move through its full range and was noticeably weaker than my right leg which meant I was walking with a limp all the time. I went to the doctor who sent me to a consultant who sent me for scans and tests.

On Monday I saw a doctor who tested the leg by sticking a probe to measure the electrical responses straight into the leg muscles. By the time I left my leg felt worse and wasn't always locking the knee when I walked so that I was in danger of falling over. This continued through most of Tuesday but by the evening the leg was feeling a lot better - in fact completely better! I now have full movement back in the leg and can walk properly again although it will take a while to get back to full speed. As far as I can tell the test has cured the problem which we thought was caused by a nerve trapping in my back! I wonder what the scans of my back will show.

The second mystery is this, as well as the leg problem the doctor was also testing my left hand to see why the little and ring fingers on my left hand were numb - something that is making playing the guitar hard work. Apparently I have cubital tunnel syndrome with the nerve trapping in the elbow. However according to an article on the Daily Telegraph website this is caused by using a mobile phone too much - something my family will tell you I am in no danger of doing! Read the article here:

Friday, 29 May 2009

Family see Jesus image in Marmite

A family claim to have seen Jesus on the inside of the lid to their Marmite jar; full story here:

While this seems to me to be just another case of the human brain looking for patterns where none exist it did make me stop and think. If God is omnipresent he is as present in a Marmite jar as in church or in our hearts. He may not be the magic genie who is going to grant us 3 wishes but more importantly he is with us at all times.

So next time you open a jar just remember how close to God you are - even if you can't see His picture in the lid.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Early Morning Text

I turned my mobile on this morning and just as I put it in my pocket a text arrived from my son (the rest of the family got it late last night) saying:

The main thing the Atonement does to benefit us is to give us access to a divine love on whose power we must rely in order to become better persons (Philip L. Quinn, Abelard on Atonement)

which was a bit heavy going for 6:45am!

However I spent the tram journey to work thinking about it and came up wit the following points:

We can't make ourselves into the person God wants us to be - we must let Him do it.
Atonement gives us access to the very nature of the Trinitarian God - Love.
For a fuller quotation and an original view on 19th centaury thinkers see my son's blog at:

Saturday, 16 May 2009

The Green Man

On the 1st May I went up to Cambridge to pick up my new (second hand) car - see post on Low Saturday ( if you don't know why I needed one. My son, who is (hopefully) studying in Cambridge met me and we were having lunch in the Maypole pub when a group of folksingers turned up - including the character in fancy dress in the photo.

This reminded me of a holiday my wife and I enjoyed a few years ago visiting cathedrals in east England. In several of them there were carvings or pictures of the Green Man - a character from pagan folk tradition and nothing, I thought, to do with Christianity. However as the Green Man represents re-birth it could be used as a starting point to talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The UK is now a post-Christian society and while a majority of the population say they believe in God they do not have the knowledge of the Bible and the meaning of the Christian festivals of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost which could have been taken for granted 50 years, or less, ago.

The challenge to the Church is how to communicate with people who have no understanding of our faith so perhaps we need to learn from our Christian forebears and start with examples from their culture that can communicate the Gospel.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Kings James Version

Coming to work by tram today I noticed that the man next to me was reading the Bible. Oh good I thought - then I noticed it was the King James Version (Authorised in other words.)

Why do people still use a translation that is a) not as accurate as more modern transaltations and b) isn't they way we speak / write now? It's not that I don't like the language of the KJV, in fact read well it is a thing of beauty, but it becomes a barrier between those inside the church and the majority of the population outside. The New Testament wasn't written in classical Greek but in the vernacular so that it was readily understood.

P.S. Please excuse the spelling mistakes but I'm blogging this quickly at work and the Spell Checcker doesn't work.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Important Announcement

My daughter is now engaged to her long time boyfriend. For more photos go to her blog at

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Great Offer

I know I have been a bit blog light of late but life has been rather hectic. I have a couple of posts in mind but need a bit of time to get my dyslexic brain round the words so I thought a quick post was in order. I was looking a tin of soup in my local convenience store recently when I spotted this offer that was too good to be missed:

If you can't read the price on the tin it's 99p! Needless to say I didn't buy 2.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Chritianity and Homosexuality

This blog has been prompted by something Miss California allegedly said. The wonderful Stephy has blogged on this here:

but rather than blog on her Comments I'm setting down my thoughts in my own blog.

A few years ago we had a major issue at the church I attend when someone in an active same sex relationship applied for membership. At the time I came within a whisker of leaving the church when the vote went in favour but, in retrospect, this had more to do with the way the issue was handled than the outcome. I was starting from the view that the Bible banned homosexuality and nothing in the discussions changed this point of view because there was no attempt to examine and explain the scriptures. Instead the arguments in favour were all based on modern social thinking to the point where one person said that if we rejected this it would go against everything she was learning in her secular counselling course. I'm sorry but a secular source is not an authority within the church.

However since then I have learnt to read the scripture in a contextual way and this raised all sorts of questions that a literal word based reading doesn't even think about. Firstly in the Old Testament the arguments against homosexuality are based on the need to grow the population and the treatment of women as breeding machines and property; neither of which are consistent with Jesus' teaching on the place of women in society and marriage. Secondly Paul's teaching in Romans may have coloured by his view of temple prostitution (male and female) having been brought up in a Greco-Roman town and so may only apply within that historical context. Thirdly I usually get the "God made them male and female" argument thrown at me when trying to discuss this but there are a significant proportion of the population (between 0.05% to 1% depending on where you get your figures) who are transgender; i.e. neither male or female in the conventional understanding of those terms.

As a result I have moved from an "anti" position to one of "not sure but I don't see Jesus condemning it." Interestingly the person who nearly split the church by joining now only appears when his "son" comes to church parade as a Cub Scout lending credence to those who say a lot of these issues are politically motivated; I for one am happy to see him there and make a point of speaking to him and making him welcome.

If you want to know more I would recommend the book An Acceptable Sacrifice (ISBN-10: 0281058512) which was written to inform the debate within the Anglican Church (without much success from what I've read) for further reading.


If anyone is following this blog apologies for the the lack of posts. Since writing off my car I have sunk back into a slough of depression; something I have suffered from periodically since my late teens. Now is not the time to blog about this but, once I'm back to "normal" I will try and blog about it.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


I have just seen Sir Jackie Stewart on TV talking about the problems he had a school due to his dyslexia; a condition that wasn't diagnosed until he was 41. I was in my 30s before I found out why I couldn't write neatly and found the order of letters in words confusing. He was told he was stupid whereas I, probably because I was good at maths, was told I was naughty but neither of us enjoyed school.

However I can think of a couple of plus points to being dyslexic; I think in pictures not words so I can sometimes grasp complex issues quickly and I always stop and think "how does this sound" before putting anything into words on paper (or screen.) This stops me putting things down too quickly and regretting it later. I worry that on-line people can react too quickly and put things down that either they would never say face to face or phrase it in a way that can easily get twisted. Needless to say I won't be Twittering!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Low Saturday

I always find the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday a difficult day as if everything is in suspense; the mood of loss from Good Friday carries on and the joy of resurrection has yet to arrive. As a result I tend to have a quiet day but this year I took it to a new low by wiping out my car and damaging 2 others while parking just over the road. My foot slipped off the brake and onto the accelerator while backing with the door open (to check I was somewhere in the region of the kerb)and the car shot back, bent the door (and wing) round the tree, hit the next car causing a lot of damage and it, in turn hit the third car. All my fault and because my beautiful car is 10 years old it is very unlikely to be repaired.

Only the plus side no one was hurt (although I ache a lot and am having trouble sleeping) and the lady whose car was wrecked commented about how good the Friday Walk of Witness had been - she is a member of another local church.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and, guess what, it didn't feel as joyous as usual. Having slept badly I went back to bed while the rest of the family went to the 8am communion and breakfast at church. I did make the 10:30 and 6:30 services but it felt like going through the motions.

So please excuse me for not posting "HALLELUJAH - HE IS RISEN" as this year I am still in Low Saturday trying to work out things like where I will find the money for a new car, deciding what size car, how will I move stuff out of my Dad's place (if we have finally sold it) in my wife's (small) car, how to get my son's stuff to / from university etc etc

It is all to easy to get so caught up in the joy of Easter Sunday that we can forget that for some just raising a smile that day may be difficult due to realtionship breakdown, depression, physical illness etc (or even a car crash). This does not mean they are spiritually defective but that the rich flow of life has left them in Low Saturday; ressurection joy will come but not just yet.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday Flowers

Walking back from our local churches' Good Friday Walk of witness I noticed this wonderful display of flowers:

The point is the building at the back is a public lavatory and it just made me smile about how we try to dress up the things that embarrass us. Then I thought of this:

Since it was added to our church in the 1970s it has definitely enhanced our worship making the cross the focus over the communion table. However Jesus’ cross was nothing like this – it was crudely carved rough timber that would be very rough against the skin and not a nicely planed piece of oak. Isn’t that what we always try to do? Tame and civilise the rough harsh world that Jesus walks in even today.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Fig Tree and the Mountain

This week I have been following a reading plan by Nick Page which takes you through Holy Week in chronological order. I haven’t bought the book yet but will for next year.

What struck me was the way events I’d always come across in isolation are actually part of a whole in particular Mark 11:12 – 24. This has usually been presented to me as 3 stories; the Fig Tree, The Cleansing of the Temple and Faith to Move Mountains but it is, as far as I can tell, one single prophetic act by Jesus foretelling both the destruction of Jerusalem and the rise of the Church as the new Israel.

The fig tree is used throughout the Old Testament as a symbol of Israel and so when Jesus finds no fruit and declares that it won’t bear fruit again He is signalling the end of Israel as God’s people. He immediately goes into the Temple and drives out the money changers turning over the tables. In doing so He will have brought at least part of the system of sacrifices to a halt; prophesying by His action the end for the need for animal sacrifices from the end of that week.

The following day the disciples notice that the fig tree has withered and point this out to Jesus who responds with:
“"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.”
The phrase “Faith to Move Mountains” has gone into common use to describe someone of a very strong faith who, by comparison, makes the rest of us feel that we are failing. However Jesus never said that, He clearly says “this mountain” - The Temple Mount which rose over them as they walked from Bethany to Jerusalem that spring morning. Jesus is telling the disciples that they, when they become the leaders of the Church, will replace the Temple as the means of God’s grace to all nations.

One final point, many years ago I was told that Jesus cursing a tree that had no fruit out of season was a sign of His humanity, someone snapping under pressure. In isolation it looks like that but not when read in context. One of the scary things about Jesus’ actions in that last week was that He was totally in control of everything and still went through with it for us.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009


This is my very first time at blogging so I thought I'd better explain why I'm bothering. As an evangelical Christian I get fed up, annoyed and exasperated by the number of evangelicals who don't bring their intelligence to bear on their faith; my pet phrase is "Don't leave your brain at the door when you come into church" - hence the title of this blog. As well as putting forward information I have found useful you will also find me raging against the misuse of Christianity.

The other subjects likely to come up are music (I chord bash on the guitar and sing in a choir), sport (I was never any good but I enjoy watching - particularly my son playing rugby), disability (I'm a dyslexic with knackered lungs), my family (wife and 2 adult children at home) and fun (God gave us a sense of humour so I expect he intends us to use it.)

Will anyone read it? I don't know, particularly as I'm not telling my family to start with!
Will it make any difference? I hope so, if just one person reads this and realises that they are not a useless heretic for not just accepting everything they are told in church it will have been worthwhile.

Finally thanks to Stephy (if you find this) for, correctly, blocking Anonymous posts and forcing me to finally get my own ideas on-line.

God bless