Photo credits

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

Thursday, January 31

What do Orthodox Monks get up to?

This was the dream I woke up from this morning.

The radio news presenter woman was screaming hysterically about a group of Orthodox monks who have been testing transsexual moisturiser guns.

Interpret that if you can!?!?!

Money mistakes update

We have bumped along the bottom, but basically OK.

We had enough reserves to get us through to Tuesday. Her cheque did not clear (told you so) but we had just enough food left in the freezer and just enough petrol until Tuesday evening. Wednesday would be the real test – would God bail us out?

Along the way we found odd £1 coins in various places, got an unexpeted refund on something, etc, just odd pounds to get us through.

Eventually we bottled it. We lost our nerve, and late on Tuesday borrowed £25 from our university son just to get us through to Friday. But when I looked to see if it had arrived in the bank, I found that the direct debits we had cancelled but which had been paid anyway had now been re-credited to the account. So if we had not interfered, God’s provision was there.

And now today her cheque has cleared. So we are out of the woods.

We have a lot of hassle sorting out the direct debits again, and our daughter told her boyfriend’s family we have no food in the house (we do, it’s just that she’s picky). But in our hour of need God provided our need.

Monday, January 28

Money mistakes have a spiritual feel

The first mistake was to not send in my timesheet. I had printed it, obtained the client’s signature and scanned it; now all I had to do was email it to my agent. In the rush of the week’s project deadlines, that didn’t happen. So my company didn’t get paid for my time on Friday.

Normally, that would not matter, I would just pay myself from company reserves and the balance would be corrected the following week. This time, it came just after my corporation tax, PAYE tax and VAT payments had all gone out, plus the company has been drained by paying for our house redecoration and my wife’s MA course (which we had expected to get a student loan for). So the company had less than 1/10th of its normal reserves, barely enough for the week’s direct debits.

So I cancelled the direct debits so that I would have some money to live from. Except that it was too late and they got paid anyway.

So I went to my personal account and cancelled the week’s direct debits there too. Same problem. So that leaves me with £3 for the week. That’s not going to get me a tank of petrol to get to work, is it?

Now of course this weekend it was my wife’s birthday, and my daughter’s birthday.

Presents were mostly bought in advance, but we had to cancel the planned family meal out. Mrs had some money already, and also some money which I had already stored in her account for a direct debit on Monday. I warned her not to spend this, as it was too late to cancel the direct debit and we would get charged. But of course she spent it anyway. And she felt she had enough to take the daughter to the cinema (Les Mis) for a birthday treat. And she felt she had enough for a coffee, and a cake. And to get some coats for the girls. And to take the little daughter to the soft play area. So this morning. Her account was over its limit which means the direct debit I gave her the money for will fail and we will get charged. And we have £0 for the week.

(Although she scrabbled together some old change for today’s train ride to college, and also found a £1 coin at the bottom of her handbag to buy a pack of pasta for tonight’s tea.)

The better news is that her parent’s birthday gift was an unusually large cheque. She thinks this will clear tomorrow and that everything will be OK. I don’t think it will clear till Thursday. So we will have no money for food, and no money for me to get to work after my current petrol runs out tomorrow.

This story of disaster upon disaster all coming at the same time feels like the start of the story of Job. So maybe it is not all co-incidence and God is in it and will bring us through at the end. Of course the suffering of Job was real suffering. It’s not that his children were temporarily hidden till the end of the story – he did lose hem permanently. The children he had at the end were different ones.

Of course Job was innocent and much of our current problem is self-inflicted.

But I still have the hope that come Wednesday the miracle will have happened.

Thursday, January 24

God's program

My 4 year old daughter asks:

“Why does God put ‘baby’ programs on cebeebies?” (BBC children’s TV channel)

Fly like a Reindeer

In my 4 year old daughter’s school, the PE teacher has been trying to get her to ‘fly like a reindeer’. I think this was intended to mean ‘tuck your limbs in while you jump’, but my daughter is now convinced that

     A) Reindeer CAN fly (her teacher said so)

     B) Humans can also fly if they copy the reindeer (her teacher said so)

I despair of modern education.

Tuesday, January 22

Spiritual Ecstasy

I find that now that I am older, [talking around it using slightly euphemistic language] the intensity and duration of the physical sensations that arise during those ‘special cuddles’ with one’s spouse are much greater than they were when I was young. Long after she has finished, I am still caught in a sort of natural drunkenness, where I have little control. Breathing still rises to peaks. Muscles still spasm. Legs shake violently. I grit my teeth to come back to earth, but can’t. It is actually really really good, but rather embarrassing and I think Mrs thinks I am putting it on, but I’m not. And so, still shaking, I slide off the sofa and land naked on the cold laminate floor – that wakes me up a little but I still lie there for several minutes writhing and groaning, trying unsuccesfully to get back to normal. Then just one look at her sets me off again.  Part of me thinks that this is not normal for a male and that I should go and see a doctor. But why spoil a good thing?

Now I’m not telling you all this personal stuff just to be boastful or vulgar. It’s that I had a similar experience in a very different context.

I was asked to help out with communion, holding the bowl into which people put the used plastic cups from the non-alcoholic wine distributed at the back of the church. This meant that I hen also had to take it up to the table at the front. And then turn round and walk back down the aisle through the congregation. I was filled with a sense of privilege to be doing all this as an act of worship. By the time I was back at my chair I was unable to join the next song. I was speaking in tongues, I was dizzy, and my leg was shaking uncontrollably. I’m not particularly given to manifestations of the Spirit, but I suppose this was one. Somewhere on my trip to the altar and back he jumped on me.

Meningitis responds to prayer

Fri 17:15

Urgent message: Jenny (Not her real name – 2 year old daughter of friends) had spots on her legs. Taken to hospital. Didn’t think too much of it – our daughter had such spots once and it was nothing.

Sat 01:30

(Don’t ask why I was not in bed) Found message from earlier – its meningitis – not responding to treatment. Prayed with my wife.

Sat 09:30

No news. The Mum has closed down her Facebook account. Assume the worst – that the child has passed away and the distraught Mum not able to face the world. But since Facebook was the way we communicated with her, couldn’t help or find out what the situation was.

Sat 11:30

enquired at the hospital, but they wouldn’t tell us anything.

Sat 13:30

dropped a card off at the hospital, with a ‘God is with you’ leaflet. Rounding up as much prayer support as possible via Facebook.

Sat (evening) – still no news. Continuing to pray and try to make contact.

Sun 11:30 during church service. Mum’s Facebook account goes live again. Jenny is alive and fighting it. My wife in tears of relief. Communicated the situation to the Vicar. At the end of the service, he called all the toddler group to the stage and prayed for Jenny.

Sun 14:30 Facebook photo of Jenny sitting up.

Current: (<--- monday="" written="">
Jenny is still in Hospital, but the situation now seems much more stable and her Mum was last reported to be ‘Happy’.

The thing with prayer is that if nothing happens, we say “what’s the point of prayer?” but if something does happen we assume it would have happened anyway. So God can’t win! In this case I think the prayer did make a difference. But even if it was going to happen anyway, now we have become partners in it happening. 

And of course there is no formula; just because it seemed to work this time doesn't mean it will next time.

Wednesday, January 16

Bad day at the office

My colleague kept asking questions (technical ones about the job), but would interrrupt my answers repeating the question, rejecting each of my attempts to speak, but then insisting that I answer.  Tensions rose.  Eventually I lost it.  Threw the papers in the air and stormed off.

Only 30 or more other poeple saw this.

Not exactly a good Christian example. But at least I didn't thump him.

I was going to go home "Sick with stress", but left keys and coat at my desk.  Had to phone somene to bring them down, which of course meant the boss brought thm down, which of course meant a one-to-one which I really wasn't in the mood for.

But, credit to him, he calmed me down enough to go back to work, thereby saving me half a day's lost pay.

The other guy came and shook my hand, but didn't axactly apologise.  Neither did I.  No incident stands in isolation, and this guy has been winding me up for a long time.  He means well, and wears his heart on his sleeve, and is actually a very good engineer, but his mediterranean temperament gets in the way and I know a lot of other people find him hard to work with.

Monday, January 14


The Vicar censored my sermon! 

I have to do the same sermon twice on a Sunday morning – one in each of our two services.  After the first one, the he asked me to consider leaving out a certain section of the sermon. ‘I’ll leave it with you to decide’ he says, which of course is no real choice at all.

Surprisingly, I don’t mind a bit. I was saying things that really need to be understood in context, and using words to mean the same thing, or else they become probably blasphemous.

In the context of a sermon on ‘Worship’, and emphasising the aspect of ‘Worship’ that is an expression of love: in fact defining ‘Worship’ as the expression of love, I noted that in the Book of Common Prayer marriage service, the man says to the woman “I worship you with my body”. In Christian marriage the man represents Christ while the woman represents his bride, the Church. Thus the man, speaking as a symbol of Christ, says to the woman as symbol of the Church “I worship you”. One would expect the church to worship Jesus, but Jesus worships the church.

So having explained all this in detail, I said to the congregation (slowly for emphasis) “Jesus – worships – you”

This crossed a line for some, and I’d already had a member of the congregation challenge me on it even before the Vicar came to me.

No fair enough, if in your definition ‘Worship’ divinity is attributed to the thing worshipped by the fact of being worshipped, i.e. either it is the one true God or an idolatrous imposter, then it is blasphemous. I knew it may be controversial, and I genuinely don’t mind being asked to take it out.

But I had already defined ‘Worship’ in terms of the expression of ultimate love. And I think it is perfectly reasonable to say that Jesus expresses ultimate love for us.

But … With my thinking cap working overtime ….2 Peter 1v4 says “you will participate in the divine nature”. I think we underestimate our future status. So, is my suggestion that wrong even by my opponents’ definition?

Discuss, but don’t burn me at the stake.

I’ve met ‘Jesus’!

….my son’s Spanish friend at University.

In Spain it is quite common for people to be called ‘Jesus’ and to hear Spanish mothers telling their son Jesus to stop misbehaving. Perfectly normal to them – really weird for me.

Tuesday, January 8

Game of Thrones

A sudden 'Nr 2' urge takes hold of me and I quick-step to the gents.

Both cubicles occupied!

Move quickly to the adjacent disabled loo. Occupied!

Quick, downstairs to the toilets behind Reception. Full!

The disabled one looks as though it may be free, but I get a random irrational attack of shyness and don’t want to test the door while people are nearby.

Back upstairs, along to the far end of the building where there are three cubicles in the other gents. Full again!

The disabled one there is also busy.

Beginning to panic. Getting seriously uncomfortable.

Down two floors to the basement canteen where the gents has 8 cubicles.... closed for maintenance! (Must be the source of the trouble?)

Back upstairs, resigned to queuing like a girl. Fortunately there is now a free one. Relief!!!

(That’s a total of 18 cubicles that weren’t there for me in my hour of need!!!)

Monday, January 7

Mrs MA

She has to hand in three 3000 word essays this week. Which of course means that she wants me to finish typing and formatting them. And of course she thinks this takes priority over the fact I have to prepare a sermon for this Sunday.

(Also this coming weekend – take two other sons to two other universities in different directions, and attend someone’s 40th party. In fancy dress as a 70s children’s cartoon character.)

Also, having settled into a routine of Monday and Thursday evening lectures, she now has a mixture of Mondays (afternoon or evening), Tuesdays (early evening), Wednesdays (Afternoon and early evening) and Thursdays. This messes up our childcare duty balance, and means I will have to take time off work and lose pay accordingly. GRRR!

Memory loss

This time its not my Mum – its me!  My USB memory stick fell apart sometime during the 560 mile round trip I did visiting my Mum and taking my son to University.  I have the outer shell, but not the memory.  It was all my company accounts, my timesheet system, and my private finances and letters.  The last back up was in November, which is not too bad I suppose, but it will take me some time and a lot of effort to recover.

Mum - less nuts

Mum is now in a home, and seems to be much more settled. I was able to visit her this weekend, and found her looking and sounding much better, eating well, and almost happy.

She still has moments of serious confusion, probably resulting from dreams that she remembers as real.

One story is that one time she was sent to bed early in the home, because she had started telling other residents she was getting reduced fees because she was a retired missionary and it was a ‘Christian’ home. (She is paying full fees in a secular home.)

Another story is that while she was in hospital, some men came round attacking all the women but were stopped before they got to her. They did take her rings though. (My sister has the rings).

But in between these rants, I can have quite a long conversation with my real Mum. And that is good, because I thought I had lost the real her to senility.