Photo credits

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

Monday, July 25

The evolving events (God’s plan?)

My followers will be aware that for the last six months we have been going to a church in the next town. This is where we crash landed following the problems at our old church. This church has been very good to us, and has been a place of healing for us. We have been loved by strangers. It’s good.

But it has always been dubious as a long terms solution, owing to the impracticality of attending mid-week activities and feeling part of community based events.

Mrs has tried to become involved in the mid-week children’s activities, but being severely arthritic and not driving there have been too many obstacles. She was offered lifts, but she would have had to wait for them and she hates being reliant on other people particularly with a toddler in tow. Also, our toddler is starting a five-morning nursery, and so would be unable to attend and hence unable to justify Mrs.’ attendance as well. (You need to attend a group with your own child for some time before people have confidence in you as a leader in absence of your child)

She had recently been invited to join the crèche rota, and I invited her to see this as a beginning that would grow into bigger things. But because of the above transport and locality issues, we concluded that there was nothing for it to grow into.

We love the church, but its impractical in the long term.

We opened our eyes to this when Mrs had a chance encounter on the train to the local city. I say ‘chance’ but we know that with God there is no such thing as a ‘chance’ encounter. The woman she met has a child at the same primary school, but the stronger contact is that her husband is a former work colleague of mine. Both women have recently been ill, and had much in common. But the thing that caught Mrs’ ear was that this lady’s church had a new curate who was keen on starting up a new children’s work.

This church is almost in walking distance form our house. It is on the same bus route as the new nursery.

So we decided to give it a go. Bear in mind that I hate change. It’s easier to turn a supertanker at full speed than it is to make me change church. So I was really reluctant.

But I had written to my first church that I was taking my wife to a place where she would flourish. She could not flourish in the log term at the church in the next town, as described above. So the logic was inexorable: try this new place.

Reluctantly I looked into it. I have always perceived this place as dead and dusty. It has no vicar of its own but shares a vicar with the church that most refugees from our first church go to – people that I don’t like. Not a good start. Some people I know who have come from this church are surly unfriendly people. The website was useless – wouldn’t even open. Not promising!

But we attended.

Walking through the door, everything changed.

A bright room. Traditional, but well lit and recently decorated. Chairs not pews. Thick carpet. A large area at the back with toys and small children roaming freely.

The service was amateurish (run by a recently qualified lay reader) but the content was very good. All ages were actively involved in the service, including a large contingent of ‘special needs’ adults.

Our toddler became noisy at one point (someone had given her a balloon and she was running around shrieking). I went to shush her, but the sides person intercepted me and told me to let her be.

After the service various people we knew (including my former colleague) came and welcomed us and put cups of tea in our hands. The Reader recognised me and we had a good conversation.

And it turned out that that morning they were having their first meeting of those interested in children’s work, so I pushed Mrs into it. Had we gone last week or next week we would have missed it. And I feel it is important to be at the start of something rather than joining someone else’s work at a later stage.

Had we gone six months ago in the heat of our crisis, they would not have been ready for us or us for them.

I was quite emotional throughout, to the extent that I could barely sing some of the hymns. I had a real sense of homecoming.

We would rarely make a choice about a church based on one visit. But we feel this is it.

Of course I may post in the future about how wrong we were. But that’s it for now!


Mrs has been very helpful to me with this.

Her advice to me has been to see those who hurt her at our old church as Christ saw those who persecuted him, and said ‘Father, forgive the, for they know not what the do’

This work on two levels:

Firstly, it gives me her permission to forgive. She was the one hurt, and I could not insult her by smiling at those who hurt her while she was still in pain. But now I have her permission to forgive.

Secondly, it gives me a mechanism to forgive those who hurt her (and me by association) even though they have not shown any remorse or acknowledgment that they did her serious harm.

Even so it is hard to forgive. But the evolving context helps to see how those events, bad though they were, have been woven into the tapestry of God’s plan. (see following post.) Hence forgiveness is beginning to happen.


Neice’s wedding this weekend.

Excellent event. Good church, good speeches, good reception with fantastic food. Excellent weather. The only fly in the ointment being the presence of the bride’s evil stepmother (real Mum passed away). Evil stepmother’s treatment of the bride has often had us on the verge of calling in the authorities. But now she was there in her outfit masquerading as ‘mother of the bride’. Faugh! But apart form that it was a really really good wedding.


My toddler’s third birthday party was on Sunday. A really good event, bringing in many of my wife’s contacts from various churches and ministries that she was developing. Bodes well for the future of our play church initiative that we are trying to get off the ground.

Tuesday, July 19


Surprised myself by joining a yacht club on Sunday.

Sailing is not really my thing. I don’t get on well with cold, wet, or wind.

But my 11 year old has expressed an interest in sailing, and the opportunity is there, so it’s my parental duty to sign him up for it if I can. The only trouble is that they require adult supervision, so I have to join too.

Next my 17 year old, keen to join the RAF and needing every proof possible that he is THE BEST candidate, also wanted to join so he can demonstrate he has had adventure training. So by then it became cheaper to join as a family rather than as individuals.

I sent a text later to my other academic non-sporting son away on his summer job – “You are now a member of a sailing club”. He replied sarcastically “That’s convenient – just now I was thinking I really should get back into sailing!”

More church confusion

Since our Church crisis around the turn of the year, we have been attending an Anglican church in the next town, about 10 miles away.

After a slow start, it has been very good, and we are beginning to start to feel that we belong. People have taken us into their hearts and been very supportive during my wife's illness.

But there is the rub of the problem. She is ill. Part of our intention for joining this church was that they have an excellent children's work both on Sunday and during the week. Mrs was planning to exercise her gifts in this children's work. In fact, in my resignation letter to the old church I said that I was going to put her somewhere where she would flourish.

It's not worked out that way. Her illness and her inability to drive mean that to go to the midweek activities she would be reliant on a bus and a long walk. And when she has tried it, especially with her illness, it has not been practical.

Furthermore, in a separate story, or young daughter is moving to a new nursery which meets on different days which means that Mrs is n longer available on the days she would be needed for the children's work at the church.

So she is not flourishing. My purpose in taking her there has been thwarted.

Meanwhile, in what she sees as a divine encounter (on a train to the city) she met an old friend who is from a different Anglican church within our own town. We had previously dismissed this church as not appropriate for us. But apparently they have a new curate, new plans, a new vision for children's work, etc.

So Mrs is now keen to at least visit, and see what it is like. Is it better to be a big cog in a small machine, rather than trying to get involved in a big church where they don't really need you?

Its a good plan. I hate change, but I can see the merits, and i see strongly the need (as promised) to put my wife somewhere where she will flourish.

The drawbacks:

This church shares a Vicar with another one where the Readers are all people who left our previous church, people that we don't particularly want to fellowship with, but if I were to act as a Reader in this church I would almost certainly have to go to team meetings with them.

Its a dead church in a dead suburb. (but God likes breathing life into dead bones)

The children's work is (apparently) dire. (but we want to be a part of the change)

And most importantly - our 11-year-old son is just moving up to the youth work at the church in the other town. This is an outstanding youth work, which he is very keen to continue with, and which we want to keep him in, and we have always said his needs are one of our priorities. we asked if he would be interested in joining his older brothers and sisters who remained at our old church, and he was strong in his reply that no, he wants to stay at the remote church.

Given this, we don't want to disturb him by experimenting with visits to this new church.

Also, it is now summer and everything is quiet and not a true picture, but we don't want to delay our experimental visits until September.

also, with the new church, we haven't even managed to find their service times yet because they have no Internet presence. We hope that we could somehow coordinate taking our son to the remote church while going to this one ourselves, but I can't see tat working in practice.

So. there is a need for my wife to find fulfillment. There is a need for my son to be enthused by the faith and not disrupted by frequent changes of church. there is a need for me also to be in place where my Readership will to go to waste.

Its a mess, and we don't know where to turn.

Better news

It seems I may have been mistaken about the 5 points for failure to give details. I had wrongly got it into my head that it was a standard 5 points, and that their lack of mention of points was just that it was standard and that when they talked about endorsing the license, the 5 points were automatic.

I now realise that there is a rnage of 5 to 10 points for the offense. On my oter charge, where there was a range of 3 to 9 points, tey speciifed 3. So the absence of a specified number of points for failing to give details, together with their comment that since it ws a technicality they were only endorsing the license, more likely means they are not giving me any points for it at all.

I shall wait to see what they have put on my license when it comes back to me.

More pet hates

  • People who tell me my shoe lace is undone. I know! I'll do it in MY time, thank you. I have bigger fish to fry at this precise moment. Yes you mean well, but actually you're just interfering in my already-stressed day.

Wednesday, July 13

Court case outcome lessons

Aall this provides good fodder for sermons on the myths we hold about God and sin

  • Myth 1 Christians are exempt from the troubles of the world

  • Myth 2 So long as you mean well ....

  • Myth 3 I am a good person/I have only sinned a bit, so God will forgive me for the little things I do wrong ....

  • Myth 4 I do a lot of charity work which will balance out my sins ...

  • Myth 5 God won't hold you to account for breaking laws you didn't know about (you know, when people say 'what about those who have not heard the gospel?')

The truth is: in British law you are not judged for the good you do 99.99% of the time. It is the little things you do wrong that get you in court. I can tell the magistrate that yesterday I helped an old lady cross the road and put a tenner in the colection for Africa, but the magistrate will say 'I don't care - you were still driving carelesly on the day of then incident'. I can say (I did say) I didn't know about that law. The magistrate did not say 'Oh, thta's OK then, go away and don't do it again'. I was still found guilty, despite my ignorance of the law.

[I am talking about the verdict here - good character IS taken into account for sentancing]

This is British justice, which is generally held to be one of the best legal systems in the world.

Why do we think that God will have a lesser standard of justice than our own, bending the rules to suit us?

The Bible says 'without the law there is no transgression'. God wrote the law, not to trip us up, but to make it clear to us where we were going wrong. But now that the law has been written - "he who breaks one part of the law has become a law breaker'.

So we are stuffed. we have all broken one part or another of God's laws, through ignorance or through eliberate rebellion. And for that little sin, that 0.0001% of our allegedly saintly lives - the bible says 'The wages of sin is death'. Not the wages of a lot of sin is death! Just any sin is enough.

None of us have a leg to stand on.

Which all seems like a very negative message.

But this is only half the story.

The other half is about the love of God. he takes no pleasure in condemning us. He sticks to the rules and apllies justice - death for sin - but he does not enjoy it. (note that our 'little' sin has had consequences on other people who demand justice from God)

Therefore, God himslef came down to earth in the form of Jesus. He became man. He lived the perfect life satisfying every detail of the law. 100%. So he had no death of his own to die. Then he received on our behalf the wages of our sin - death. He took us into himself, so that we died with him. So that we came back to life with him.

The just requirements of the law have now been fulfilled - we died in Christ.

We are justified - in right standing in the eyes of the law.

No more death.

Instead - life with God.

A new life with new gifts and skills to live a life in harmony with our fellow humans and with God and with our envirnoment. A fresh start.


Come and join in!

Court case outcome

…guilty on both counts.

The breakdown of the fine is:

Failure to report: 5 points, (range 5 to 10 points), but they accept it was a technicality so no fine (range up to £2500)
Driving badly 3 points (range 3 to 9 points) and £300 fine (range £200 to £800 normal, but can go to £5000 – i.e. it was on the low end – it was not seen as a serious breach)
Costs £500
‘victim surcharge’ £15

Totals: 8 points and £815. Ouch. I’ll pass a hat round later. (No I won’t – I can pay from funds saved for this purpose in my limited company)

Annoying points:
Defending myself I was not permitted to cross examine my own witnesses, which meant I wasn’t able to draw out of Gracey some important points
The policeman who had originally grilled me, when it was his turn to answer my questions his only answers were ‘I don’t know [blank stare]’ and ‘I can’t remember [blank stare]’.

Lessons learned
Despite not being a legal document The highway code is treated as such anyway.
If the police ask you a question and you have even a small doubt about the answer, tell him you don’t know and stare blankly.
While driving carelessly always avoid cyclists
Not knowing about laws doesn’t exempt you from them