Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Wednesday, February 27

Believer’s Baptism

Well, my youngest has passed the lower age limit for ‘believer’s baptism’ in our diocese. He’s always been a bright and mature lad, but recently he has taken to asking very deep questions about the trinity etc, which really challenge us. (eg Recently my wife was discussing with one of the Mums at the school gate the case of their mutual friends - a Christian couple from a nearby church – whose marriage had broken down and the disgruntled and cynical man had allegedly said ‘God is divorced’, and my lad’s ears pricked up and he wanted to everything about this weird concept of God being divorced. Also he has recently been worried that he might actually be ‘on the devil’s side’ and misleading himself about his faith – we have reassured him that inasmuch as he ever did belong to the devil, he has been fully redeemed. If he really was on the devil's side, it wouldn't cross his mind to worry about it)

So we had already resolved that when he passed the relevant birthday we would enquire about a ‘believer’s baptism’ for him. His Birthday fell on a Sunday, and behold, that very morning they announced that next week will be a baptism service, and could any potential candidates be made known etc. Needing no further divine guidance we approached the vicar afterwards, and now the boy will have a token interview with our assistant minister (they trust my judgment and the interview is a mere formality, but I don’t want him to be done by pure nepotism) before the big day.

You would think my parents would be pleased, but they were concerned that it was something we were putting him forward for rather than coming from his own initiative. I see their point. But in the Bible baptism took people as soon as people declared faith, without waiting for them to become accomplished theologians. The commission is to make disciples, baptising them etc. “Believe and be baptised” it says (it always says it in that order). In an older person I would definitely wait for consent. But I know my son believes, and as a parent I have to provide some leadership with regards to the actions that stem from belief.


Well, this morning’s event was pretty insignificant in global terms. But by UK standards, we only get one of these every 25 years or so.

The quake woke me and the kids up, but we passed it off as a strong gust of wind until we heard the radio reports in the morning.

Richter 5.2, apparently.

Monday, February 25

I hit a child with my minibus this morning.

I hit a child with my minibus this morning.

I was following another car, and the boy just ran out from behind a parked car. There was nothing I could do. Fortunately it was just the wing mirror that caught him, and that is hinged and folded back, so apart from a sore shoulder no harm done. But that boy was only inches from death. I was only inches from losing my license, hence my career, hence my home, and probably my wife and family too.

So if my driving has calmed down such a lot this year, why does God reward me with such a serious accident? I suppose my reward is that the child is not dead.

Whose fault was it? Well, the kid ran out and there was nothing I could do. Was I driving with due care and attention? This is where your memory starts to play tricks on you. I am fairly sure that I was following – tailgating – another car, but then, had it turned off and was I accelerating away? I am fairly sure that I was not speeding – at the time I had not the slightest twinge of guilt and felt satisfied that I had been within the limit. But then, was I? Or had I crept up to 35mph?

It happened right outside the boy’s house, so I was able to take him straight there and hand him over to his Mum, explaining what had happened. She took the news very well considering, but I suspect the shock may only now be beginning to sink in. Since the boy seemed OK we did not report it to the police, but of course he may deteriorate during the day or the Mum may realise she has an opportunity to make a fast buck by suing me. I suppose that’s what insurance is for.

Vicar interferes with sermon again

Well, my latest sermon, based on “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell, seems to have gone down well. This despite the Vicar doing his usual act of interfering and asking me to do things differently form what I had planned. Fortunately I am used to him doing this now, and almost expect it. And to be fair, it is usually an improvement. But it does rile me that he does not implement his recommendations in his own sermons.

My son was on the PA system that night, and resisted all urges to turn me off.

My sermon was primarily about spiritual maturity, not getting dogmatic about things but being able to stretch ones faith and work with people who disagree rather than building exclusive doctrinal walls. Since it was a communion service, I was going to ask people as a practical exercise to approach the table with either a more or a less sacramental idea than they normally would. Mr Vicar extended this, by making me ask people to get up form their chairs and form groups – i.e. transubstantiation in that corner, consubstantiation over there, symbolic remembrance over here, etc. The idea was that people would then discuss these ideas, and possibly move to another group. Of course the groups comprised like-minded people, so it wasn’t 100% successful. But it made people think, and that was the main thing.

The disturbing thing is that our Vicar didn’t really seem to be aware of the range of opinion, and found this line of teaching to be quite informative. Since the Eucharist is central to Christian worship, I would like to think that an ordained minister in the Church of England has been fully trained in the theology around it.

Friday, February 22

“Time to remarry after divorce”

A lot of people using search words like the above find my blog.

You’re missing the point, guys! You may be asking about a point of law, but time does not bury your past sins. God does not endorse serial monogamy. You need to re-evaluate your plans and motives, and seek fresh guidance from the Lord.

(Yes, we can have sins forgiven and we can have a new life through our Lord Jesus, and we can debate the theology of remarriage where your ex was sexually unfaithful. But ‘time’ does not come into the equation except perhaps to check that you are not just ‘on the bounce’, and that is not a fixed period. )

Monday, February 18

Theologically Conservative, Liberal at Heart

So God has sorted me out. Fed up of me clamouring to Him for an answer, He has put me into the True Freedom Trust – a place where I could be theologically conservatively comfortable while at the same time acting in a fraternal and accepting manner to my gay brothers and sisters in Christ.

This in itself is a miracle, for which I thank Him.

So why am I still tossing and turning at night?

Well, my next sermon, based on Hebrews 6, is about realising that the simplistic black and white faith I had as a child is not a reflection of the full glory of god, and that as I grow older and wiser, it becomes more complex and less clear cut.

Now if you preach, you have to practice what you preach.

So is now the time to become less black and white about homosexuality?

What I want – what my heart truly wants - is to be in a church where people who find themselves to be gay can have their partnerships celebrated; free from persecution; finding full acceptance.

But our faith is not about easy, convenient answers. And just because we think something is loving and beautiful does not mean it is right in the eyes of God – witness the case of the man who had his father’s wife and the church was proud, proud but wrong. Our faith is not about making God rubber stamp what WE think is OK. It is about examining our lives in the mirror of Scripture; to see if we match up. And if there is a difference, it is us who must change. And it is about inconvenient obedience.

So I remain theologically conservative, but liberal at heart. And if I was a pew filler, it might not matter, but as a licensed Reader with a little bit of influence on church policy, it does matter what I say and think. And it matters that what I say and think has to be correct. I don’t want to teach or encourage error. I don’t want to condemn what is good, or condone what is bad. And the conflict between my conservative and liberal views – held with equal passion – tears me apart.

And if I feel this way, when I am not even gay, how do my gay brothers and sisters feel?

Lord God, send me clarity of vision, to love as you love, to be pure as you are pure, to teach as you teach.

binding and Loosing

I know I promised a post on Binding and loosing a la Rob Bell, but I've been busy doing other stuff. the promise still stands.

Thursday, February 7

God still works

For some time I have been praying for suitible opportunity to say things that I needed to say (well, accrued confessions, actually) to someone. They had been weighing on my mind, and i wanted to speak, but whenever it seemed like it might be the time, the words stuck in my throat. When she was in a good mood, I didn't want to spoil it, when she was down, it ws clearly not kind to dump more on her. So I prayed. And the next day, etc.

Eventually I picked up the Bible - the Message [massage?] version. In Corinthians, talikng about the man who had his fathers wife and the church is told not to accept it, the message says something like "Of course, he will be devastated, and you will be embarrassed, but isn't devastation and embarrasment better than damnation?" So I knew it was now time to speak. Next time I met the person (5 mins later), God in his mercy steered the conversation naturally so that the topic was right and the mood was right so that I could add my piece without it seeming artificial or out of place or bigger than it really was. And so: no devastation, only a little embarrasment, no damnation, and a lot of peace.

What a good God we have, eh?

Wednesday, February 6

It’s true – there IS a God!

This is demonstrated by my wife’s against-the-odds pregnancy. God told us to have a baby, we did what we needed to do and despite the doctor’s mockery and cynicism [and after a long slog and much doubt] the baby is now on its way.

But, as described in my previous posts, we want this baby to be a gateway to areas of service.

Now, in our church we are currently doing Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Community for lent. (By the way, see Kyle’s excellent discourse on lent here.) Part of the lesson is to make the most of every opportunity to speak to people, breaking out of our normal circle of friends. So when my dear wife was at the school gate waiting for our kids, she saw a couple to whom she was once introduced but has not spoken to since. So, obedient to the church’s teaching, she approached them and made polite conversation. This developed into a deeper conversation about children, which lead on to her telling the story of our near-miraculous conception. And as part of that, my young-looking wife admitted her true advanced years, and the woman gasped, and threw her arms around my wife.

It turns out that many years ago she had a sterilisation, of which she now repents, but being in her thirties though that it was now too late. Obviously I am skimming over the story here. But the upshot of it is that my wife’s obedience has resulted in her speaking God’s words into that couple’s life: that they too can (and should?) have another baby.

Doesn’t it scare the pants off you when God transforms from an abstract concept into a real being who DOES things?

Monday, February 4

Prayer works

On Friday, I came to the conclusion that I had dropped an almighty clanger at work. The passive emergency bypass weir that I had designed for the XYZ screen could not possibly work. It would be overflowing all the time, not just in emergencies. What is more, it was impossible to fix the error - it simply can't work. It's the wrong approach to the problem. And I felt that I had gone wrong, negligently, in my calculations.

So my last act on friday was to email the project reviewer - who was working over the weekend - to let him know. (ie we are struggling to meet deadlines which we will be penalised for missing)

I then spent the whole weekend worried and trembling in anticipation of the ... no I can use that word on a Christian blog, lets say 'telling off' that I would get on monday. I asked my woife and kids to pray, which they did.

So, when I arrived, rather than having the usual cup of tea and blog surfing session before starting, I went straight to the reviewer, and found that he wasn't as cross as I expected. For a start, my error was not a negligent one. I had thought I had not completed an iteration or a common sense test, but in fact I had just missed out a required freeboard somewhere else in the calculation - a simple error rather than a really stupid one. And furthermore, I had now discovered a flaw with the type of screen proposed by my mechanical engineering colleagues, and we are now referring the matter to the manufacturer to get it resolved.

Now the cynic will say that all that would still have been the case had we not prayed. But the Bible teaches that our timeless God knows our prayers before we speak them, and I think it says he is already sending the answer.

So I remain convinced - prayer works.

Hope 2008

Our evening service last night was ‘moved’ to be held as a joint service with other churches in the town. It was hosted and led by the Elim church, but all manner of Anglicans, Baptists, brethren, charismatics, free churches etc where there.

The evening was part of Hope 2008, a major initiative in this country for churches to work together to achieve things. In the words of the director of the Evangelical Alliance, we need to change the image of the church form a million wagging fingers to two million open arms.

All this is good.

But the thing that struck me as amusing was the combinations of people in the room. Our town is sometimes described as an ‘ecclesiastical roundabout’, because people keep swapping churches. They get disgruntled with one church and go to the one round the comer instead. And yet these people, who have left each other, were now stuck in the same room promising to work together. God has a sense of humour, does he not?

Engineering for sexual health

Listening to “Start the Week” on BBC Radio 4 on the way to work this morning…

The logic starts in Kensington High Street. There used to be pedestrian guard rails along the edge of the pavements (that’s sidewalks to you Americans), but these were removed and there has been a reduction in the number of accidents because drivers are now being more careful, taking more responsibility for themselves. (This is corroborated by articles in New Civil Engineer - the magazine of the Institution of Civil Engineers)

The next step is the increase in smoking among teenagers co-incident with an increase in advertising for nicotine patches as part of ‘no-smoking’ policies – the kids now think that they can give up when they want to.

This leads the discussing on to America. [I’m only reporting what I heard on the radio here] Apparently Oprah Winfrey has been complaining about an increase in oral sex among teenagers. But this has happened in the states which have introduced stricter abortion laws for that age group, with requirements to tell parents etc. So, the kids feel less safe having sex, and go for the intimate ‘kissing’ instead, and this has resulted in a reduction in sexually transmitted diseases.

Clearly, tough love works, whereas excessive protection (guardrails, abortion etc) can be counterproductive.

Friday, February 1


This blog is titled 'Normal Life Adventure'. The idea is that as I write about my 'normal' life with God, I will reveal how life an apparently mundane is actually an adventure with God.

So, it's all supposed to be about guidance and miracles.

Lately there has been very little in my blog about this side of my life. I got tired of writing that it was all falling apart, that my faith was weak, that I was doubting my ability to read what God is telling me. And I have spent a long time getting embroiled in theological rows, which I enjoy and learn from, but which are in some ways very unproductive.

In this post I return to the blog's theme.

God tells me what to do. I do it. (well, that's the theory, at least)

In this post I talk about Pregnancy. The few brave souls that have followed my blog since it started will know that my wife and I have been trying for a baby, believing it to be God's plan for our life. It's long story - the latest post on it was this one. It has been long and hard, full of ups and downs, joys, depressions, two miscarriages etc.

Now after all of that, I am happy to announce that we are pregnant again. I have been wanting to say earlier, but waited until now becasue we are now past the stage where the previous miscarriages have occurred. And we have seen the scan - a living baby, wriggling, with its heart pounding away vigorously.

So now, I have a happy wife again. She has smiled properly for the first time in a year. She has started to emerge from deep depression, and started to get involved with things at church again. She is deliberately using her story as a witness, to tell of how God is working in her life. We have never felt the baby was just to give us pleasure, we have always seen it as also being a gateway to other areas of service in the church and the community. And now it is happening. And it's good news, and we are very pleased.