Richard's Blog

God's Great Dance Floor - 20/05/2013

I’m at that age that when, as a family, we attend a social function with a music, my daughter will instruct me in the car that on no account am I to hit the dance floor and throw some shapes and moves to the grooves. Apparently, I’m embarrassing to be around. My son agrees and emphatically states that all “Dad dances” are no good!
This week, I joined 5,500 delegates from 88 countries at the Royal Albert Hall to attend the annual two day Leadership Conference organized by Holy Trinity church, Brompton, London. It was a very special time of teaching, fellowship, prayer, testimony and worship. One song, “Back To The Start, written by Martin Smith (ex-Delirious?) was played several times by Martin Smith and the worship band from HTB. The lyrics and music of this joyous song lift the soul. What’s more, as you will can see from the still photo and the official music video, the song includes a dance.
Guess what?
Worshipping just fifteen feet from the stage... Continued

Names - 12/03/2013

Last Saturday, I took the kids to watch Liverpool play Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium, Wigan.
Arriving early to get a bite to eat, we walked past the main doors of the DW Stadium. A cordon of security barriers had been erected for the Liverpool team bus to park and protect the players as they walked the short distance from the bus to the entrance door. A large crowd of Liverpool fans were already waiting patiently to catch a glimpse of their heroes. Nearly all clad head to toe in Liverpool regalia. I learnt that many had been already been waiting for an hour and half.
We returned some time later, just missing the players’ four-second walk from the bus to the door. By now, the crowd was six deep at the security rails and they were chanting the players’ names. The chanting of the names of their heroes, present and past, continued throughout the match. Liverpool won 4-0.
"Hallowed be your name," I said this morning as I quietly prayed the Lord's Prayer. I've prayed that... Continued

Lessons in Grace - 16/02/2013

As a family, we all enjoyed Les Misérables (the wretched ones) at the cinema. Based on Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel, Les Mis tells the story of Valjean, a French prisoner who is hounded and transformed by forgiveness. The film has gathered critical (8 Oscar nominations) and public acclaim – it was difficult to book tickets at Southport cinema.
As I was caught up in the story, I was struck again how Les Mis is an allegorical story about the Christian doctrine of grace. As such, it connects with us. We can see ourselves in the principal characters. This leads us to consider how we are living as people of grace.
The storyline is built on a critical encounter with a kind Bishop who personifies Christian grace. Following a 19 year sentence for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister, Jean Valjean is finally released a different man. A once impressionable young man has been hardened into a tough convict with an iron will and fists. A man who is known by his prison... Continued

Speed bumps - 15/08/2012

Speed bumps. 
Love them?  Hate them? Tolerate them?
I imagine that very few are in the former category.  This is because we tend to see speed bumps me as irritating obstacles that get in the way and impede our progress at the speed we want to go.
At our church, we have a problem with a speed bump that is placed at the entrance to the church hall that also leads into an adjoining primary school playground and scout hut. Twenty odd years ago, the tarmac speed bump was laid to protect the school children (and adults) by slowing down cars as they approached to park and/or drop off little Johnny/Sarah at school, church toddler group etc. 
The need for the speed bump remains. The problem is the height and camber of the speed bump.  What’s more it is tarmac and not reinforced rubber. (I’ve learnt a lot in recent weeks!). Over the years, cars have got lower and so a few drivers have made comments as they drive over our unforgiving tarmac speed bump that... Continued

Tattoos - 07/08/2012

Watching the Olympics, I’ve again noticed the number of competitors who sport tattoos on their bodies. They join the ever increasing number of footballers and people we pass by on the high street.
I must confess that I do not find tattoos attractive. The thought of willingly branding yourself, forever, with an image, name, symbol, even your country does not appeal to me. This is because tattoos bring to my mind images of slavery and cattle – where the name of an owner was permanently etched on the body of the slave and cattle. But many  people clearly have a different view and want to adorn their bodies with names, symbols and images that are special to them. For the increasing number of Olympians who have tattooed the Olympic rings on their bodies, it may be because they want others to know of their achievement in the years to come.
I’m told that for some, tattoos are simply an art form to improve their beauty. Hmm…
So are tattoos essentially a sign... Continued

Can You Tell What It Is Yet? - 26/07/2012

Childhood memories came flooding back as I walked around the Walker Art gallery recently.  We were visiting the retrospective exhibition of work by Rolf Harris. A uniquely talented Australian who continues to engage, entertain and inform people today in art, music, documentary film making and gentle humour aged 82.
As we inspected the exhibits and watched film clips of the artist at work, I heard his familiar catch phrase once again:
“Can you tell what it is yet?”
Then, as in years past, as I watched Rolf paint from a blank canvas in his unique way, I was intrigued and engrossed. What was the artist up to? What did the lines, squiggles, broad brush strokes of paint mean? It all seemed so haphazard. And he was humming and laughing as he created. Clearly happy. And every so often, Rolf would turn to the camera and ask the viewer with a sparkle in his eyes:
“Can you tell what it is yet?”
And I found myself studying the canvas intently, trying to work... Continued

Walking On The Moon - 10/05/2012

I think it’s a sign of getting older.  In recent weeks, I’ve enjoyed watching several television programmes that look back on previous years from a social, cultural, political and economic perspective. The programmes are both funny and serious.  As I’ve watched, my memories of those years have been triggered.  And it’s been fun to share these with our family.
In the car yesterday, the song “Walking on the Moon” by The Police came on the airwaves.  It was a real blast from past. As I joined in with Sting as he sang the lyrics and tapped the steering wheel in time with Stuart Copeland’s drum beat, I was transported back in time to 1979 when this song topped the charts. In his autobiography (“Broken Music: A Memoir”) Sting alludes that the song was partially inspired by an early girlfriend: “Deborah Anderson was my first real girlfriend...walking back from Deborah's house in those early days would eventually... Continued

Muamba and Dawkins - 22/03/2012

A few weeks ago, Professor Richard Dawkins filled the airwaves and then debated Archbishop Rowan Williams at Oxford University, to broadcast the results of his latest scientific research in his continuing mission to remove God from public and private life. 
The articulate Professor, who does raise some pertinent questions, was anxious to tell us that people aren’t as religious as they might claim to be and so really, we ought to remove faith from any connection with modern life.  The full title of Dawkins’ survey was to discover “the extent to which adults recorded as Christian in the 2011 UK Census (or who would have been recorded as Christian, if they had answered the question) believe, know about, practise and are influenced by Christianity, as well as their reasons for having described themselves as Christian in the Census”.  Here’s a quote from the press release issued by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science:
“UK... Continued

Back To The Future - 08/03/2012

We’ve recently enjoyed watching a favourite film as a family – “Back To The Future”. Set in 1985, it’s about a young man, Marty McFly, being inadvertently transported back in time to 1955 by a time machine (a De Lorean sports car) and his efforts to return to the present without upsetting his past. The film prompted an interesting conversation as to what my wife and I were like as teenagers.
Having enjoyed the film, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from an American friend on a similar topic.
Imagine you could go back in time and talk to your younger self?  What would you say?
An American author has taken this intriguing thought and solicited the replies of various celebrities.  These have been published in a book “Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen Year Old Self” (note: a percentage of the royalties go to the aid charity Medicin... Continued

Sincerity, Sculpture & Coca-Cola - 24/02/2012

One consequence of our move to electronic media as the primary medium of communication has been the decline in letter writing. The change continues to have far reaching implications – beyond the decline of Royal Mail!
One small change that I’ve observed is the change in the language that we use when we communicate.  Largely for brevity, new words/phrases and spellings have arisen and others have been dropped.
One such word is the word/phrase “sincerely” that is used to conclude a letter.
It is thought that the origin of this word derives from two Latin words and a practice in the ancient world. The two Latin words are sine meaning without and cera meaning wax. Sincere therefore means without wax.
In ancient times, marble sculptures were a popular civic and domestic decoration and a sign of wealth and power. Demand was high and sculptors... Continued

Top Gear - 09/02/2012

A highlight of the week is sitting down to watch “Top Gear” with the family.  The new series (number 18) does not disappoint. Clarkson, ‘Capt. Slow’ and ‘the Hamster’, the ‘Three Wise Men’ continue to lark around in expensive motor cars and entertain an estimated worldwide audience of 350 million people who watch in 170 countries.  Given that this is an entertainment programme made by ‘petrol heads’, I was a little surprised when one of their reports prompted me to pause and reflect on my walk with God.
Three expensive supercars were the subject of a series of challenges to determine which was best. Before embarking on a long drive, a team of skilled technicians from Lamborghini and McLaren were flown over to test and recalibrate their cars for the gruelling task ahead. I was struck by the time, care and expense that was invested to ensure that these supercars would perform to their full potential. 
As we watched... Continued

Presence: Claudia Schiffer, Lincoln & Us - 19/01/2012

Have you ever been in the presence of someone famous? 
In my PML (pre-ministry life), my business career introduced me to a number of famous and “important” people.  The experience of being “up close and personal” with someone who is a celebrity or distinguished, or who wields influence and power, is fascinating. As I recall some of my experiences, it’s interesting to remember how people around the famous person reacted; how “the” person came across to me and how I felt and acted in their presence.  Being in the presence of a “special” someone is memorable.
Presence is a powerful thing.
As I reflect, I recall that the experience differs according to the proximity of presence to “the” person. My experience of spending an hour with Claudia Schiffer, a supermodel, was very different to that of her fans and the paparazzi who her security kept securely away outside of our place of meeting. Her admirers clamoured... Continued

Gym, Guitars and Milton Jones - 29/12/2011

The first post after Christmas brings the first ‘big question’ of the New Year – do we renew the gym membership?
It’s a time for honest reflection. Of good intentions made; of the reasons why resolution has again failed to be matched by action; of the calculation of the “actual” cost of each visit attested to by my waist size.
As my wife and I were considering this, the sound of our son strumming his new electric guitar filtered over us. He’s enjoyed learning the acoustic guitar for six months and asked Santa for an electric guitar and amp to help cultivate his passion. Unobtrusively, our son regularly ‘disappears’ to a room to practice and did so again this morning. We paused our conversation and listened. He’s doing really well. I went upstairs to listen and congratulate him. 
My reward was a contagious smile that revealed his delight in his instrument and pleasure in his Dad’s surprise visit. As I watched his... Continued

Great Expectations - 22/12/2011

I’ve just bought one of the presents on my list to Santa. My wife is not happy! Browsing in a bookshop, I couldn’t resist the offer on the newly published biography of Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin. This has been released to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the birth of arguably the greatest novelist of Victorian times next year. 
Arriving home with my purchase, I was delighted to then see the trailer for the forthcoming BBC adaptation of Great Expectations that will air after Christmas.  Featuring Gillian Anderson (see image), David Suchet and Ray Winston, this three part adaptation may match David Lean’s classic 1946 adaptation (see photo). Published in 1860, Great Expectations is a parable of social ambition, of expectations taken to extremes, and is one of Dickens's darkest psychological dramas.
Seeing the trailer on television and reading about the forthcoming “thriller” feature film adaptation with a new ending... Continued

James Lovell's Diary from Apollo 13 - 01/12/2011

One of my earliest childhood memories is watching the launch of the final Apollo space missions in the early 1970s.  Colour TV had just arrived in many homes in Britain. There was a real sense of excitement as millions shared in the epic journeys to the heavens.  We were all caught up in these adventures beyond our stratosphere.  So much so that I remember saving up special coupons from Weetabix cereal to claim a free Apollo model that had to be made from card.  My friend down the road had the bigger (and better) Airfix model which he painted with great attention to detail.
This sense of wonder has stayed with me.  Over the years, I’ve read several books about astronauts and watched many documentaries.  Ron Howard’s 1995 film “Apollo 13” remains a favourite that our children have recently discovered.  We enjoy it because it celebrates the calm ingenuity and courage, under immense pressure, of Commander James Lovell, his crew and... Continued

Rearrangement: Diverting the Flame - 18/11/2011

Some years ago my parents come to stay for a few days. We enjoyed a very happy time together.
A week after they had returned home, we noticed smoke emanating from our recently bought coal effect gas fire. On closer inspection, we saw that a large scorch mark had appeared to one side of the insulating back board. What’s more, we noticed that the gas flame was being deflected away from its correct place, burning the insulation board, creating smoke and so failing to generate the intended heat for which the fire was designed.
So we called the engineer. When he arrived, having inspected the fire, he asked:
“Has anyone moved the imitation coal briquettes from the front?”
“No we haven’t”, my wife and I replied, feeling a little like naughty school children.
“Well, someone has and what they’ve done by rearranging them is to deflect the gas jet to the wrong place. That’s why your fire isn’t working and the damage is serious.”
Then... Continued

Desire, Don Draper & Me - 20/10/2011

The latest iPhone has just been released. Following the recent worldwide “Blackberry Blackout” which caused consternation in schools, colleges and in the workplace, the launch of the final product blessed by Steve Jobs has generated astonishing interest and media coverage. For example, “The Guardian” newspaper gave a whole page to Stephen Fry to eulogize about the wonders of this amazing new phone in the News section; twittersphere was ablaze with comments and “Newsround” on BBC TV told my daughter that the launch of the iPhone 4S had broken sales records!
The world clearly has an insatiable desire for an Apple. Like the traditional Apple product of Eden, PLC, the iPhone 4S is pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom. Its’ immediate success also raises the whole issue of desire and the spiritual life.
Desire is usually given tough treatment in religious circles. Author James Martin notes that we usually associate it with sexual desire... Continued

It's Not Rocket Science - 05/10/2011

This may appear bold but I believe that spiritual growth is not complicated.
It’s measured by love. If someone asks how my spiritual life is going, the first diagnostic question to ask is: Am I growing more or less loving like Christ these days?
Love of God and love of people are intrinsically related. It’s not just that we are supposed to love people if we love God. We are whole beings, and if we do not actually love people, we are not actually able to love God - because God genuinely loves people, and if we love Him we will love what He loves.
As a Christian and as a Vicar, it’s a dangerous thing to talk about the love of God, because I can give myself credit for being ‘pro-love’ simply because I talk about it even though I may not always demonstrate love. This sometimes can be in those times when my “public” face and voice are not in view. How am I to God when no one is watching? Is my heart really God’s heart? I'm human and I'm not... Continued

Fruit - 28/09/2011

Love it or loathe it (as my young son maintains he still does), we recognise that fruit is good for us. Nutritionists tell us that we are to eat and enjoy 5 portions of fruit each day.
Fruit appears in the bible. Ignoring the name(s) of specific fruits (e.g. Apple in Genesis), the word fruit appears 198 times.
As a church, we’re currently considering the person and work of the Holy Spirit in our teaching programme. A primary work of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling and empowering presence of God in every Christian, is to produce fruit in followers of Jesus.
What exactly does this mean?
Paul, the apostle who wrote a large part of the New Testament, helps by offering an explanation in Galatians 5:22-23 “...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
So the Holy Spirit works in Christians for these fruits to grow, to ripen and flourish.
But for whose benefit?
A common misunderstanding... Continued

Signs on the Bedroom Door - 12/09/2011

As a child, did you have them – signs on your bedroom door?
I did and our two children do.
Our daughter’s sign, written in her lovely handwriting reads, “R’s room. Please Knock...” and underneath the words “Thanks” with a smiley face.
Our son is more forthright, “J’s Room. Trespassers will be abducted by aliens!”
Why do children post signs on their bedroom door?
It’s more than being part of growing up. I think that these signs are a demonstration of our innate desire for independence and control. This begins in early years. We all want and need to have our own space. And in this space, to exercise ownership and be in charge. To be in control. To have dominion. To have a kingdom and to be the ruler.
Although we may grow up and remove the signs from our bedroom door, we still all have a kingdom. But our kingdom is not a space, a geographic area that can... Continued

Dashboard lights - 01/09/2011

Driving home last night a warning light and message appeared on the car dashboard: "Service Overdue"
As I continued my drive home, the orange light and message set me thinking about the whole concept of "idiot lights" –warning signs that are critical, obvious and so unavoidable that even a person of limited engineering intelligence can grasp them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if marriages came with them, or children, or bodies?
Or most importantly – our souls?
For the soul is a mystery to us. It is so deep that the soul is the one component of human existence that the ancients would actually address directly, as if it were another person, “Why are you downcast, O my soul?”(Psalm 42:5)
Many of us are more concerned about monitoring the well being of our cars than monitoring the well-being of our souls.
Many of us are, rightly, more concerned about monitoring and maintaining the well being of our bodies than monitoring and the well-being of our souls. Just... Continued

Enchantment - 25/08/2011

David Cameron now speaks of a “broken society” instead of a “big society”. Recognition of how the riots have forced a public and honest examination of a complex web of issues and their causes and sparked a desire to “heal and mend.” I’m encouraged by the debate and hopeful.
But how can you change people’s minds, win people’s hearts and lead people’s actions?
You enchant them.                    
It’s an old fashioned word. A word that we tend to think about only in relation to fairy tales and naive, innocent children.
It’s a word and an idea that I have recently rediscovered having read a book which prompted some serious thinking. The book is called “Enchantment” and the author is Guy Kawasaki. He is the former “Chief Evangelist” of Apple Computer, a sought after business guru and bestselling... Continued

Iona - 30/07/2011

As the ferry left the tiny port of Fionnphort on the island of Mull, conversation amongst the 9 passengers sitting outside in the early evening sunshine stopped abruptly as our eyes were all drawn to the Abbey that dominates the skyline of Iona. A short trip across the Sound - journey’s end for me after a 12 hour trip that required car, two long train journeys, a ferry from Oban to Mull and then an hour long bus ride through wonderful scenery to the second ferry at Fionnphort. A journey that introduced me to 6 strangers who were intrigued by my modern day pilgrimage to where, in 563 AD, St. Columba and 12 companions landed to found a Monastery and introduce Christianity to Scotland and Northumberland.
Situated in the Inner Hebrides, the island of Iona is just 3 miles long by 1 mile wide. Swept by ocean winds, there are few trees and the terrain is ruggedly beautiful. 120 people live on the island earning their living as crofters or in meeting the needs of the thousands of tourists... Continued

Hope in Brixton Prison - 19/07/2011

Presenting my passport to substantiate my identity, the affable Prison Warder apologised that he had to check "the book" to confirm that I could enter the prison for the morning. Looking through the thick bullet proof glass, I saw him consult a very large book on his cluttered desk and scan down the list of hand written names to find mine. Thankfully it was!
"Thanks for your patience Vicar. We don't yet have a computer to process visitors."
With that surprising insight, the heavy locked door was opened and together with my two new friends from the church in Peckham, South London, we were ushered in. Brixton prison was built in 1819. Since that time, the footprint of the prison has not changed. Four wings and related buildings seek to accommodate and rehabilitate an ever increasing number of inmates. Space is tight.
As we made our way to the "training suite" (the grand title for the converted kitchen which is very spartan), I was struck by how decrepit everything appeared to be - paint... Continued

Memories & Dreams: An Encounter in Washington D.C. - 10/07/2011

In the sweltering summer sunshine, the Mall was a riot of colour and activity. The Mall is a large tree lined expanse that is at the centre of Washington D.C. It is bordered on either side by the Smithsonian museums and government departments; the Capital and Lincoln Memorial at either end and the White House to the middle on one side.
The Mall was full of people. To add to the tourists and locals who work here, coaches were disgorging streams of high school students on their annual trip to the nation’s capital.  Each student wore a luminescent t-shirt bearing the name of their school, state and occasionally a tag line such as “Proud Of Our History”.  Each school wore a different colour t-shirt so the crowds of loud teenagers thronging the entrances of the museums created a rainbow of colours as they lined up to enter and learn about their past and their identity.
Washington D.C. has a unique feel.  Sharp suited and power dressed people stride down the... Continued

Cars - 31/05/2011

A garage with bays to repair eight cars and an assortment of cars parked outside in a bustling suburb of Chicago – nothing remarkable about that. But you would be wrong.
I first heard about this ministry 15 years ago when I heard Bill Hybels (Senior Pastor) speak in Edinburgh. He told us how a new Christian, a car mechanic, had approached him after the service with an idea. Noticing the number of people in need in the congregation, particularly single parents, who drove “beat up cars” the new Christian asked if he could offer his time and talents to repair these cars? He also shared his observation that other members of the church appeared quite wealthy and wondered if they could be invited to donate their cars to those in need when they came to replace them? From this idea, the CARS ministry at Willow Creek began and continues to flourish.
Hearing Bill Hybels that day was significant in my decision to explore the call to ordained ministry and so as I toured the facility... Continued

Compassion in Action in Chicago - 24/05/2011

It's 7.30am on Saturday morning. Along with eight other new volunteers, I'm sitting in a large room that has been nicely furnished with desks and computer terminals. As I look around, I notice an interactive wipe board on the wall. We start to introduce ourselves as we await the arrival of Monique, the shift supervisor. What connects us all is that we're christians and members of Willow Creek church - six miles down the road- who have volunteered to serve in the church ministry that seeks to help those in need.
Based in a 11,000 square foot facility, the Community Care Centre is open five days a week. Staffed by volunteers, the Care Centre provides emergency food relief and practical help to those who need it in the local suburbs of Chicago. The shift manager, Bill, who greeted me warmly an hour earlier, pops in to say that Monique is on her way, apologising that she has been held by traffic. I later learn that she commutes 90 minutes every Saturday morning to serve in this ministry and... Continued

Charleston - 10/05/2011

Steeped in history, Charleston, South Carolina is a beautiful city in a wonderful location. In my first ten days of my sabbatical based in St. Michael's church, I have made new friends, learnt much and many ideas and thoughts have been stimulated.
One reflection has been the blessing of kindness. Whether it was the sympathetic reaction of the airline employee to help track down my lost luggage; the caring way in which a cashier in a petrol station gave me directions (and ensured that I understood!); the warmth of welcome from my gracious hosts; the generous openness and joyful inclusivity of the staff team (and members of the church) afforded to me....kindness matters. I feel different.
I know that we may choose to be cynical but I think that we would all agree that we "know" when we encounter authenticity. The kindness that I have received, the kindness that I have observed in many forms particularly in the church, is real, deep and generous - and people notice. For when the kindness... Continued

What do you see? - 17/04/2011

 Looking at the picture, who do you see?
 A young woman or an old woman?
 This familiar illustration reminds us of something profound –  perspective matters.  How we see things is influenced by our  perspective.
 Have you ever played the quiz game of looking at photographs of  everyday objects from an unusual angle?  Viewed from a different  angle, it can be surprisingly difficult.  This reminds me how easy it can be for us to take things for granted and to fail to recognise and value them because they are so familiar. This can be true of so many aspects of our lives – family, friends, health, hobbies, creation...I believe that it can also be true of our spiritual life. 
The Easter story, the image of the cross, the events of Holy week in church can be so familiar that, consciously or unconsciously, we can fail to recognise and appreciate the wonder, meaning and application to us.  This is why Christians... Continued

Rest - 31/03/2011

 It’s a word that we don’t use very often - probably  because so many of us don’t rest. We want to. We    really do. To take time out. To be away from  everything that we normally have to do. To just be  and do what we want, when we want with who we  want. To be recharged by time away from the noise  of the day of the day.
 If you’re like me, you know how it is and where it is that you can find rest.  But yet, we find it difficult to actually rest. There’s so much going on. And then when we finally find time and space to rest, we find ourselves worrying about doing nothing. 
Rest is unproductive – isn’t it?
No it isn’t. In creation, as God created order out of chaos and perfect society, he set aside one day for rest. In the Ten Commandments, God tells people that they should have a day of rest.  But rest is about more than inactivity, it is about restoration... Continued

Apple & The Church - 15/03/2011

Popping in to the Apple Store in Liverpool One led to me think about the similarities between Apple and the Church – not to mention the lessons that Christians can perhaps learn from Apple.
When I arrived a few minutes before 9am, I joined a queue! The shop was light, airy and everyone is encouraged to “have a go” with the products.  Nothing is hidden inside and you can try all the products in the Apple range. The representatives (not sales assistants) are invariably cheerful and welcoming.  They know their products are great, relevant and highly desirable.  Perhaps this explains their warm, easy going confidence and willingness to approach every customer in a relaxed and friendly way.  What’s more, they all smile and enjoy good natured banter with visitors and their colleagues.   The company clearly encourages and enables its representatives to be "real”.  And they are as they naturally strike a connection with each visitor... Continued

Kevin Spacey, Grace & Generosity - 22/02/2011

On a long car journey with loved ones, in the pub with your friends or over coffee after dinner, have ever you played the game, “If a film was to be made of your life, what actor would you cast to play you?”
 For me, accepting that it won’t be Brad Pitt (although we’re the same age),  I  would       cast Tom Hanks. My wife disagrees because she says, “I’m not that funny”– ouch truth hurts!  Undeterred, I suggested Kevin Spacey who is currently Artistic Director of the Old Vic theatre as well as being a Hollywood superstar – and Jo agreed. Can you see the  resemblance?
 I’ve had the privilege of seeing him on stage as well as all of his films. He’s  one of  those  actors who never fails to impress and inspire me. And my favourite film of his? 
At the risk of appearing sentimental, it is “Pay It Forward”.  Not because of the acting... Continued

What the President Prays.... - 08/02/2011

Along with so many in St. John's, I have found our current teaching series "Thirsty?" about prayer to be both challenging and immensely rewarding.  It's been great to share, with increasing openness and depth, with others what is on our hearts and then bring our hearts to the Father's heart - and then share how God has responded.
With this in mind, I appreciated reading President Obama's address at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C last week. I hope that you may also appreciate learning what is on his heart that he brings before God in his regular personal prayers?  Do read on.....
"Thank you so much. To the co-chairs, Jeff and Ann; to all the members of Congress who are here, the distinguished guests who’ve travelled so far to be here this morning; to Randall for your wonderful stories and powerful prayer; to all who are here providing testimony, thank you so much for having me and Michelle here. We are blessed to be here.
I want to begin by just saying... Continued

Wii, Pyramids & Wonder - 20/01/2011

Playing on the Nintendo Wii the other day with the family, I found myself being amazed by the technology. This led me to think about all the other electronic devices that I enjoy - and to thank God for Steve Jobs at Apple! This then set me thinking about how technology has advanced in my lifetime. I can remember the first home computer which my friend Simon owned and my sense of envy as he zapped aliens from the programme that ran from a cassette tape.
So I started to tell the kids about what we had in my youth and how fortunate they are to enjoy these wonderful things. Perhaps it’s a sign of old age? The kids tolerated my discourse and then put me in my place by teasing me about being old (because a few grey hairs are also appearing) and said they would buy me some slippers if I didn't stop!
I wonder, what are the things that cause us to express wonder?
A group of geography students had been studying the seven wonders of the Ancient World. To conclude their lesson, their teacher... Continued

Ebay, Freddie Mercury & Advent - 29/11/2010

I've been taken aback this week.  Everyone I've spoken to in the past seven days, when we’ve discussed Christmas, have told me that they have bought all their presents and wrapped them up!  Yet, as the ticker on eBay reminds me, it's still 27 days to Christmas. 
What's going on? Is it just me or is everyone else better organized?  But I am organized - we do know what Father Christmas will kindly give to all our family and friends.  The lists have been written and submitted to the Chair of the Finance Committee. Bureaucracy moves slowly in our household....
The thought strikes me that Christmas is getting earlier and earlier. Talking to a sales assistant in John Lewis, she told me that the Christmas department opened on 1st October!  The cynical part of me thinks that this is simply because the retailers want us to spend with them. We've only got so much money, so the canny retailers are tempting to us to spend what we can with them right now. And... Continued

At Anfield - 25/11/2010

I took my son to Anfield on Saturday to watch my team (West Ham) lose miserably to his (Liverpool).  When Glen Johnson scored the first goal after some shocking defending, I disconsolately picked up the match programme and my eyes fell upon an advert for a new book - The Anfield Songbook (RRP 9.99).  The first line of blurb began “Anfield is a place of worship...”  That set me thinking as I looked around at all the fans, many dressed head to toe in Liverpool clobber. There was no doubting their identity and commitment. Who they admired and venerated.
In an effort to raise the performance of their team, the West Ham fans below us then decided to raise their voices.  As they sang “Bubbles...” (and a few other funny anthems), the crowd then screamed suddenly and  hysterically as my sons’ hero, Torres, threw up his millionaire hands and appealed to the Ref. Penalty !  After a quick look up to the stands for inspiration (from Stevie... Continued


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