Photo credits

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

Friday, February 27

No Work - day 3

Applying for jobs. Looking further afield. Looking at different branches of engineering.

Using the time to catch up on paperwork and administration.

Since I am now home all the time, I want to use the time profitably with the above and with preparing my next sermon. I would also like to sign up for

But of course Mrs thinks I am only home to help her with housework and looking after the baby. This is a natural tension, which we will have to resolve as best we can.

Thursday, February 26

No Work - day 1

My main hope for work was extinguished, as th local coucil is foced to give work to their 'Outsource' consultant, who is laying off permananet staff and therefore won't countenance using a contractor lik me. This is a big blow - I was keeping my spirits up by the expectation that i would get this work as the manager wanted ME to do it.

Discussed preferences with another agent. Not a vey good one, but ay least he has contacts with obscure local companies that the bigger agents would overlook.

Took my wife to the nearest city for a day trip.

Got cross with the family when they started refilling the food bin before i had cleaned it, which is the most unpleasant weekly task I do at the best of times.

Cancelled some direct debits. Realised I now have to tell the organisations that I have done so, or I will get hit by bank charges.

Cancelled some standing orders. Realised that for the big ones it was too late - I have already paid for this month, which messes up my calculations that assumed I had cancelled them.

Realised there is no money for our minibus insurance in April. It will have to be taken off the road.

Realised that my accountant, the ICE benevolent fund, and various other people all give conflicting information and advice. E.g. yes I can/no I can't claim jobseekers allowance as an inactive freelancer. They spurt ot standard answers from their crib-sheets withou really considering my particular situation. Time to book an appointmet with the Citizen's advice bureau - not that they will be any better, but quite a lot of means-tested benefits require evidence that you have spoken to the CAB.

Still getting encouraging scriptures, but usually ones with a sting in the tail. E.g. God's care for Ruth - but only after he had killed her husband off.

Tuesday, February 24

Verse of the Day

From my Bible gateway verse of the day thing in my side bar on the day I run out of work....

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13) (Read by Max McLean. Provided by The Listener's Audio Bible.)

Need a new client VII

I turned to my wife and said "If women are turned on by rich and powerful men, there won't be much of THAT happening in this house now"

I am out of work.

Today was my last day.

Went for a pub lunch with the colleagues. They gave me a bottle of wine and a card signed by half of them - lack of organisation by someone! the lunch was good but much to loud for the speech I had prepared. So I gave that to them in my goodbye email at the end of the day. Good food anyway.

Basically contractors are leaving in organisation in droves, some given their notice, others reading the signs and going while they can find somewhere else. It's like rats leaving a sinking ship. Those less specialised than me may walk into new posts. I have very little natural chance and rely on a miracle.

For example - on my desk after lunch I found that a colleague from the workplace fellowship had left a card containing a £100 gift voucher. God provides!

My one hope for re-employemt has not died yet. The client has not had internal discussions yet which they promised me they would do today to sort out my position, if any. I'll try them again tomorrow.

My old client also asked for details so that they can get me back when the market changes.

So tomorrow I am off on a day trip with my wife.

After that, paperwork to sort out tax matters and then phone up potential employers till I get bored. Fun!

Monday, February 23

Eucharist and Liturgy make sense

Coming into the Church of England from a non-conformist background, I have always had issues with the Liturgy. Not the words themselves in general, but the simple fact of it's existence. My relationship with my wife and children is not governed by written phrases prepared in advance by others, so why should my relationship to God be so governed?

But apart from that, I have sometimes asked proponents of liturgical forms why we use these particular words, rather than others. The words are OK, I reasoned, but they are not so outstandingly good as to warrant endless repetition over the years. Furthermore, when I visit churches that do use a full liturgy (my Anglican Church uses the minimum) the congregations rattle quickly through words that are really pretty good but without any real meditation on them. Which annoys me. I know some argue that by familiarity, you get beyond reading the words to saying them from the heart. OK, but why rush them?

Anyway, this is all a digression; a little rant to set the scene for my generally negative view of repetitive liturgy.

And one phrase that has particularly wound me up is in the Eucharist - "we offer you our sacrifice of praise" (or something like that). This has always been a trivial phrase in the middle of some good stuff, which doesn't have a direct parallel in the relevant scriptures.

So I was very interested to read in "The Cross of Christ" by John Stott a little of the background to the phrase.

You see, Cranmer was very keen to distinguish between propitiatory sacrifice, that saves us from sin, and other sacrifices that are thanksgiving and praise. So in calling it a Eucharist, and in putting in what I now see as an important phrase in the Liturgy, he emphasises that the Anglican communion service is NOT a propitiatory sacrifice that saves us from sin. In we may offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, but we don't come out any more saved than we went in. Christs sacrifice was 'once for all', and is commemorated, not repeated or continued, in the Eucharist.

So good for Cranmer!

I will now say that bit of the liturgy with more enthusiasm!

Farewell do - parachuting

Tomorrow I will be having my farewell do - a meal at a popular pub restaurant.

No doubt nice things will be said, good luck will be wished, and I might even get a card and a present.

But behind all that I will feel that it is analogous to an aeroplane containing a number of parachutists. Everybody knows whose turn it is to jump next, and that that person has no parachute, and that that person is me. They all have their own parachutes, which of course they need for their own jumps, and nobody begrudges them that. And of course I can smile and wave bravely as I jump. But the fact remains - I have to jump out of the plane with no parachute. And no amount of nice talk, good luck wishes, cards or presents will get around the simple fact that I will be outside the plane with no parachute, accelerating rapidly to certain doom.

Fortunately, my God has never let such things as the laws of physics obstruct him from achieving his purposes in my life.

Need a new client VI

Just had another "no, sorry, we're laying people off at the moment"

Need a new client V

The gravevine and the rumour mill are both full of bleak news and statictics about the number of contractors getting their notice from my current client and it's partners. 16 engineers here. 90% there.

It's going to be nigh on impossible to get a new client in the current climate. These are good people going: people with years of experience and association with the companies. People who are better than me.

But at the Workplace Christian Fellowship today, a contractor colleague said that in 30 years he has only been without work for 5 days. At the end he got a job for which 600 CVs were sent in. The client was too busy to sort them, so when an agent phoned up offering my colleagues services, he was taken on without the 600 CVs ever being looked at.

So I pray for a similar miracle.

Dedication of our baby [Not an infant baptism]

Our miracle baby was dedicated in our morning service yesterday.

All went very smoothly, except that the person typing the dedication liturgy accidentally added the Vicar's male name as an additional middle name for our daughter, which caused the service to come to a complete standstill while every body had a good laugh. We started again, missing out the Vicar's name.

Now don't get too hung-up about the name - this was a dedication, not a christening.

The greatest difficulty for me in moving to the Anglican Church was it's practice of infant baptism. Most of my friends warned me not to go, because this doctrine makes the Anglican Church "in error" (spoken in the tone of voice that indicates heresy rather than a simple mistake). I dismissed them, because I knew the Lord was placing me in this church. But it was still a struggle for me. Surely God knows that this doctrine and practice is unscriptural and actively harmful, making unbelievers think that they are Christians! Yet the Lord did place me in this church.

He has been kind to me, and I have only been present for one infant baptism - for the rest by pure co-incidence I have either been away that day or missed it during a quick toilet break. So I know that he understands how I feel about it.

Now the thing with dedications is that very often they are used by people who don't believe in infant baptism, but still have a cultural urge to have some kind of ceremony or ritual: they still feel a need to have the baby 'done', even if they reject the theology.

Because of this, my own cultural baggage is that my parents were very strongly against me and my siblings being dedicated, and I have inherited their views, and usually been in churches that endorsed those views.

So for my daughter's dedication, I really didn't want this Anglican congregation to be in any doubt about my motives. So I was glad that I was given the chance to speak, and to say that I have not been in the habit of dedicating my children, but that since our daughter arrived only after much prayer and in defiance of medical statistics, therefore we were dedicating her back to the God that had given her to us. Which is also why she has a fantastic name full of deep theology - but I can't explain that on an anonymous blog when she has such a unique name.

Later, the guy in our church who is a former Methodist minister asked me what I meant, and this developed into a very nearly heated discussion in which I challenged him to give me the scriptures that support infant baptism, and he was only able to give me historical and cultural reasons for the emergence of the practice. I regret speaking the way I did, but he should have been able to answer better than he did.

I usually get given the Philipian jailer, who was baptised with all his household, which 'must have included infants'. But read on - it says a few verses further on that 'they all believed'. So it was believers that were baptised.

I am also given Philipians chapter 3, where it links to circumcision, which is of course administered to babies to bring them into the covenant. But of course, circumcision brought the biological descendants of Abraham into the physical covenant with Israel. Christians become spiritual sons of Abraham when they have faith. And so as soon as possible after coming to faith, they are brought into the covenant of faith through Baptism. That is the parallel with circumcision. There is no scripture that teaches that our physical babies are saved by that relationship, and the decline of the church as our children evacuate - whether baptised or not - is evidence plain for all to see.

Now I am cross with myself again, because this was supp0sed to be a post rejoicing in my daughter and I've got side-tracked into narky polemics. But there you go.

Penultimate day of work

This is my second to last day of work.

None of my leads for future work have come up with anything yet, though it is a bit premature for some of them.

As things stand, the day after tomorrow I will be without work.

And yet, I am a lot more calm than I was last Monday.

Church last night was good, with many relevant songs about standing firm in the faith etc. I suppose that's why I am in a better place this week.

Friday, February 20

Last Friday

This is my last Friday at this client.

It would be really nice if I had something to go to next.

Or at least if I knew if it was going to be a long-term unemployment or just a couple of weeks or months then I could plan accordingly. Should I wind up the company or try to keep it going? Who knows?!

Oh well.

Tuesday is my last day. I'll go out to lunch with the friends I have made here, and do a little farewell speech, and try to weave a sermon into it without them noticing.

Of course, I am supposed to be full of the joy of the Lord, and full of confidence that he will find something for me, and that should be the root of my 'sermon'. But the truth is, bad things do happen to Christians, and I am still full of anxiety. I know we are told "Do not worry for you father in heaven knows what you need", but I suspect that his list of my essentials is shorter than my list.

Anyway, on the good side, and supporting my faith, is the fact that my parents are dipping into their savings to keep us going for the first month. So there is a loving God up there!

Current leads:
  • Work with former employer for two weeks, subject to manager approval next week, with a possible return in the new financial year if they can agree a programme with the Environment Agency.
  • A client in a city 2 hours away is interested in my CV - yes, that's me they're talking about - but they want permanent staff not contractors and i can't take the cut in income or permanently living away from home. Also, my previous bullet would be incompatible with this.
  • A client in a city 5 hours away has a vacancy matching my hydraulic mdelling experience.
  • I'm told the CAD section here is short staffed, especially for 3D expertise. Well, I did some 3D AutoCAD in the late 90s so I have sent them an email enquiry. I very much doubt that they can afford my learning curve time. It would be good to stay at this site owing to my involvement in the Christian Fellowship, and allegedly my involvement in the gym. But CAD people usually get paid much less than chartered engineers, so it's the matter of the cut in income again.

Thursday, February 19

IR35 and marriage

In the UK there is a tax regulation IR35 which is designed to enable the government to regard a contract or agency worker (such as me) as a disguised employee of the client for tax purposes. Naturally, IR35 is for the benefit of the government, not the contractor. It means that if you stay in the same place for too long and get settled in, the tax man will hit you with income tax and national insurance on the whole value of your invoices without reference to your real expenses. In short, you probably end up paying £xxk more tax than you should.

The key points in determining if you are a disguised employee are:
  • personal service
  • direction and control
  • mutuality of obligation

Now, in my inexpert opinion, a test of a good principle of law is that you can apply the same principle in other areas. Lets take marriage for example. If the tax man can prove that in my relationship with my wife:
  • I provide her with personal service with no right of substitution
  • She tells me what to do
  • I have obligations to continue my contract with her
then of course I am a disguised employee of my wife, and should be taxed accordingly. :)

My conclusion is that IR35 is an unfair tax rule.

Need a new client IV

The outlook is still very bleak.

It turns out that I am not eligible for most state benefits should I not find work. eg Mortgage interest relief is only for mortgages less than £XXk, so I would be left out.

So next month is looking like an unprecedented disaster for me and the family.

My kind parents may be able to lend a month's income, but that would need to be paid back. At least it would keep me off the streets for now, and things may improve with the new financial year in April.

There are only two very slight sniffs of optimism.

One of my agencies has found a client that is actually recruiting! It's just that they're not recruiting contractors like me, and it's two hours drive which is just that little bit too far for a daily commute on top of work and domestic life.

The other sniff is one of my old clients, who may have a bit of budget left for two weeks work for me in March. I was hoping this client would have two months starting in April, but apparently the funding organisation has put that off till the following year.
Many homeless men, far from being ne'er-do-well drunks and druggies, were once wealthy business men that made a bad decision. I can see myself joining their ranks. I desperately need a reliable income for my family.

I can't help noticing that while God often saves at the last minute, he is not obliged to do so. And in the case of Daniel's friends, it was only AFTER they were chucked in the fiery furnace that they were saved. And many other men of faith were (and are) martyred without any last minute rescue. So whilst one trusts that God will care in all circumstances, He is quite entitled to allow unemployment and home repossession within those circumstances.

Please pray for his mercy, and that a more long term and ideally local contract opportunity will arise.

Sad banana

I put my lunch in the big pocket of my coat.

I hand the coat on the back of my chair at work.

The chair runs backwards and forwards during the day.

The coat gets caught under the wheels.

The banana is not improved!

Friday, February 13

Philosophy for the despondent

The glass is neither half empty nor half full:
the glass is an opportunity for further filling.

When you are in employment and your mortgage and lifestyle depend on the income from it, you are trapped. You dare not jump off the juggernaut. You are railtracked into continuing in that career and trying to advance and progress within it.

Being made redundant gives you an opportunity to completely rewrite your life. You no longer have anything to lose, so anything can be attempted.

So strangely, I am almost looking forward to it!

(Notwithstanding all the above, whatever direction the Lord takes me, please pray that I will be able to feed, clothe and house my family.)

Thursday, February 12

At what point do I tell the kids?

Need a new client III

Well, I've had my interview.

No, I've not got the job.

Unemployment looms.

Repossession (forclosure) looms.

Apparently I fall between two stools: too expensive for the junior role but (having been out the the relevant feild for two years) not sufficiently hot to step into the senior role, and they can't wait for me to brush up.

All of my lines of enquiry have now reache dead ends.

I can go back and try to pick some of them up again.

And I can send my CV to a whole load more agencies. But I've already sent it to the most relevant ones! My only hope at present is that some of the jobs I previosuly rejected for being too distant are still available.

Doom and gloom all round.

At times like this its important to remember that God is not surprsed by these events, and can also see what is around the corner, and writes "I know the plans I have for you......plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future"

It's just that the plan might include a bit of unemployement and separation from the treasures of this world, and that process, while ultimately good, will still be painful.

Normal life is an adventure with God.

Wednesday, February 11

Need a new client II

Finally pinned down my potential client for an interview tomorrow. Looks hopeful.

Monday, February 9

Need a new client

The clock ticks ever closer to the end of my current contract, and I still have nothing definite to do afterwards.

There is one guy who is supposed to be calling me back on what is a very hopeful lead, but still by no means guaranteed. I am still in denial, still quite chirpy, depsite my finigernails getting rapidly shorter.

I know that God has always sorted me out in the past, and I trust him. But there's always the slight anxiety that Christians are not exempt from times of trouble, and that while God helps them through those times, they are still trouble. Sleeping rough is still rough, even with the Lord's comfort!

So I pray that a definite new client will be found, so that I can pay my mortgage in March and not put my wife and kids into homelessness. But this is all part of my normal life adventure.

It would be very useful to get the contract mentioned, because it is on the same business park and I could stay in touch with the same workplace christian fellowship. But for tax purposes, a more remote client would be better.

Wednesday, February 4

Advice for theological students: ten steps to a brilliant career

I'm sure my regular readers have already seen this, but if not, read, and laugh at yourself

The Dark Clouds of Conservatism

I have come to a new way of seeing my life.

I was brought up in a very conservative church. It taught me what I needed to know about salvation by faith, and about subsequently living a life worthy of that calling. Also, it gave me many tools: hermeneutics, exegesis, a broad knowledge of the Bible, etc. But it was very strict – not to me – I had a great childhood and having been brought up that way it just seemed normal. It was only as an adult that I started to look around, and found that other churches, with the same devotion to scripture, came to radically different conclusions.

My first move was to accept the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit as being for today, not just the apostolic era prior to the completion of the Bible.

My second move was to understand that women can indeed have a role to play, speaking and leading in the church. And they don’t have to wear a hat in church.

After that He moved me to an Anglican church. I found that some fairly sensible people believe in infant baptism, and the Lord has not yet struck them down!

Next I realised that not everything taught by the Roman Catholic church is inherently wrong. The Lord has his chosen ones within that organisation.

And I learned the value of church history, and how it can help us to understand the Scriptures. It shows us where the church has got it wrong in the past, and helps us to see that often our own interpretations, which I was brought up to believe were a return to the original scriptures, are actually just a perpetuation of errors introduced relatively recently.

I have also moved on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

I feel that I have moved out of the darkness and into the light; out of a narrow, self-perpetuating, insular perspective of the Christian life, and into a much broader, more inclusive, more tolerant, less arrogant way of looking at it.

I suppose this is illustrated by my avatar – the fern leaf reaching out from the dark shadow and into the light.

I hope that I continue to expose myself to the light of God, and that he will protect me from the twin errors of going too far and throwing out the baby with the bath water.

I thank my parents for the start they gave me, and find it sad that I can’t tell them how I have moved on from it.

Monday, February 2


I actually did some work today!

And I actually went to the gym for the first time in 5 months last week. Maybe that is what has helped my concentration.

Sunday, February 1

God's word to me

After doing the largely academic phase of my study of the theology of homosexuality, and coming largely to the conclusion that we have misread the scriptures and that the awkward verses of the Bible do not in fact ban homosexual acts, and having come to the conclusion that 'one flesh' can and does apply to homosexual relationships, I then set my studies before God. I placed them in front of his eyes for his perusal. I prayed:

"Lord I have come to the limit of my human understanding, and of my ability to make a decision based on reason. I now ask you to give me a divine revelation, and to show me which way I should go. I won't look for that revelation, since I will be reading into everything the answer I want."

I didn't give any timescale for an answer - its not for me to dictate such terms to God. But I was basically hoping it would come within a week. I was expecting a prophetic word from someone, or for something to jump out and surprise me.

My complete falling-out with my friend in America made me think it was a negative answer, but then I felt that was from the devil rather than from God, and this seemed to be corroborated by our reconcilaition. So the row ended up neutral in terms of guidance, and I was still searching.
In tonight's evening service the sermon was about simple prayers and simple answers. So I asked again. And then the final song said it all. Of course I can't remember what the song was! But it was a song celebrating the creation, and how each star is known by name. Who can question the individuality that God has built into his creation? I don't expect my reades to fnd this convinceing because God's word is personal - as Aslan ould say "that's not your story". But it was the answer to my question. God has made homosexual people as they are, and celebrates them that way. I now wish to join in that celebration.

I am still cautious about this, I may still be wrong. I am too scared to keep asking God for comfirmation, but it is such a big issue that I am really terrified of going wrong. But for now, until God directs me otherwise, I accept homosexual relationships as I do hetersexual ones. And if I am wrong, well the Lord knows I am wrong for the right reasons.

Faith Healing

I was talking to one of the newer ladies at church today. She has recently been introduced to the church through our Mums and Toddlers group. I noticed that he two year old daughter wears glasses and I was asking about it. Apparently it was a very rare condition - she gave me the name beginning with A twice but I can't remember - a condition which is genetic and "will only get worse." She had been struggling to cope emotionally with her daughter having the condition, which is why she had started coming to church to seek support.

She said that the last time she went to the hospital, there had been some kind of commotion amongst the various doctors and consultants, who were fussing over the test results, and she worried that something was seriously wrong. But eventually they came to her and said there had been a 30% improvement in the girls condition, which as I have said 'can only get worse'. This was an enigma for the doctors. But not for the church - it turns out that the church's prayer/healing team has already spent time with her, praying for the daughter. So clearly, a miracle has taken place.

We don't know why it was not a 100% healing, but continue to pray.