Photo credits

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

Wednesday, July 30

Here it is

This is my 1000th post.

I have been blogging since 2006. So that's 125 posts per year, or just over two a week. Not too prolific, not too silent.

(I have deleted quite a few posts that were defamatory or otherwise inappropriate, and I'm not sure if they are included in the count or not.)

My intention with the blog is to show that the life of a normal mundane man can be varied and exciting - an adventure with God.

I started just with an update of my life to that point. The I followed on with the adventures of conceiving in relatively old age, church ventures, the ups and downs of faith, the ups and downs of marriage (many of these posts have been deleted), and so on.

The current adventure is the total falling out with our Vicar, which is pushing us out of our town and into a new region. On the one hand this is absolutely terrible; full of stress and anxiety. On teh other hand the open unwritten blank sheet future is very interesting to watch as it starts to be made known. We are really stepping out of the boat at this time!

My blog has also charted how I have changed from being completely opposed to the acceptance of homosexual realtionships on the grounds that the scripture reveals these to be contrary to the will of God (i.e. sin), to being fully accepting of gay marriage on the grounds that the scripture DOES NOT oppose them - it's just that we have unwittingly read them through homophobic lenses, not helped by biased and inaccurate translations made by homophobic scholars.

There's also a couple of posts about how I became tolerant of abortion: it is still always a sin requiring the blood of Christ but tolerating it is frequently the least sinful option.

And my current theme or campaign is to draw people's attention to Gaza. As Christians we tend to side with Israel: God's chosen peolpe in the land he promised them. But God is a God of justice, and he states that "Judgement begins with the house of God" (.... this is where I can't find the verse I have always remembered, so I have probably made it up - but its still true). And the things Israel is currenlty doing are heinous crimes, for which god will judge them. And at a time when the worls is outraged by apparent Russian involvement in less than 300 deaths in the MH17 incident, why is the world not outraged by the much greater number of innocent deaths in Gaza?

My blog is not just to tell a story. It is to encourage people to greater faith in times of hardship and to see the working of GOd in every crisis of life ... which I know can be very hard! But it is also to move on from that passive acceptance of God's actions and on to a more active call for justice. We are not called to simply accept God's forgiveness. We are not called to simply to accept God's forgiveness and avoid sinning; we are called to DO good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Justice for homosexuals
Justice for women
Justice for the oppressed

It's coming soon!


It's coming

What is?

Tuesday, July 29

Still a very uncertain future

This is still the fallout from our troubles with our Vicar.

Mrs has now decided that since all of her plans, hopes, dreams and initiatives in the past have been thwarted by enemies (and sometimes by friends and family that don't share the vision) she will now do as she wishes regardless of what anyone else says. This may seem extreme and unreasonable, but it has to be seen in the context of everything that has been done to her; firstly as a perfectly rational response to those things and secondly as a symptom of the psychological harm that has been caused to her.

So she has decided that she is moving to another town, taking our 6 year old daughter with her. She will rent a place there until we sell our house, and then I will join her. Although to co-ordinate with kids’ education, we may still then rent a place in our current town to house our 14 year old who is just starting his GCSEs and our 17 year old who is half way through A-levels, until they finish their respective courses.

The fact that we simply do not have the money for such rentals does not seem to feature in the calculation. She is 'trusting God', and I am infidel for doubting him. Whereas I see it more that she is acting like Abraham, who having been promised a child could not wait and went through human channels (his wife's maidservant Hagar) to get a child, an action for which we still see the consequences today in the Middle East. I think that she is being impatient, impulsive, impetuous, and that she is sowing the seeds for future trouble. I think that there is a time and a place for everything, and that she should wait until the outcome of the tribunal is known next year.

She rejects this, because it would mean the youngest starting year 2 at the same school with a new head teacher who has already shown himself to be inadequate for the task.

And of course every time she does something like this, it is presented to the family as a done decision, without preparation and without negotiation. And so she stirs up resentment, and the truth is that the whole family is being torn apart.

Some may see this as proof that the Vicar was right. I say that she is the product of his oppression and that had she been allowed to flourish in her God-given ministry then none of this would be happening. The damage is real and severe. That is why we insist on a tribunal.

Monday, July 28

Announcements on a crowded train

"I can't depart this train with arms and legs and butts hanging out"

"Please remember there are small children on this train, so be careful not to [PAUSE] squash them"

Thursday, July 24

My miracle baby is now 6 years old

How we prayed for that baby.

The doctor had just laughed - with is head thrown back and for a long time - when  in our 40's and with six kids already we told him that we wanted a vasectomy reversal.  Under these circumstances it wasn't available on the NHS, so we spent £2500 for it to be done privately.  And then we took ages to conceive, with two miscarriages along the way.   Where was the God we believed had told us prophetically to have another child?

But then at last came the successful pregnancy, and the astonishingly beautiful little baby girl, who was such a great delight to us and to all that know her.  Six years later, she is still a delight, still wonderful, still beautiful, and now we also know she is bright, intelligent, confident, social.

She's not so great at church things though - "the Bible is boring".  She likes an active and creative Sunday school, and she likes Messy Church, but she shows little sign of any underlying spirituality.  Yet if God has purposed her into existence, we believe that that will come in time.  God has certainly used her as a catalyst for my wife's church work, and we believe that he will continue to use her albeit in changing ways as she grows older.

Happy Birthday, my lovely baby!

Tuesday, July 22

Kids Talk 4

My five -year old spells the word "result" as "wizult". I can see where she is coming from, and blame Michael Gove's over-emphasis on phonics.

Wednesday, July 16


Spent my Birthday in Grasmere. What a lovely place!

Typing while asleep

Mrs asked me to type up her latest MA essay the other day. It stretched late into the evening, with her dictating and me typing. It went past the time I frequently fall asleep in fromt of the TV. So, while she dictated, I fell asleep. This did not stop me typing - I still typed 4 words. When I woke up again, I had actually typed the right words in the right order: each word having two spelling errors but still remarkably good, considering I was asleep at the time I typed! (I don't type that much better when I am awake.)

Later in the eveing I performed less well, giving her three lines of KKKKKKKKKK in the middle of a paragraph.

She is proof reading it today, so we will see how angry she is when I get home tonight!

....but is it right?

..... to collect model railway track, engines, carriages and scenery, all costing £££, when there are stariving people in the world? I don't believe God expects us to ONLY feed the poor, but when it comes to the last judgement, the one who has fed the poor will go to heaven ahead of the one who has a finely-modelled train layout.

Monday, July 14


Triple-B Q?

The extra B stands for 'British'. That means that once we had decided that the long dry spell could be relied on for the afternoon and we had set all the stuff out in the garden and got the charcoal going nicely....


Playing with trains

When I turned 40 I started listening to Radio 4.*

When I turned 45 I started listening to Classic fm.**

Now that I am turning 50, I have a sudden urge to play with toy trains again.

I started dropping hints to the kids some time ago, and so they clubbed together and got me the Western Master Hornby set. And I am very pleased with it. Or at least I would be if it worked! My first train set as a child was clockwork, then I got an electric one, but now this is the computer controlled age. No longer do you just wind it up and let it go, no longer do you plug it in and turn the 'go-faster' dial. Now you have to upload the software, set the com port, connect to the internet to update the software, etc, etc. And of course it does not work. The computer will not talk to the DCC controller; it denies its existence. No matter whether I follow the instructions to the letter, or apply common sense, or get my Oxford Engineering student son to look at it, it doesn't go. The 14 year old boy did get it going while I wa sout, but then unplugged it, and it would not start again.

So I am currenlty a very disgruntled and dissasitisfied Horby customer

* A British radio station that focusses on mature discussion

** A British radio station that broadcasts well-known classical music

Who can explain ....

.... why my son, who recently dropped out of his Spanish class because it was 'too difficult', is now trying to teach himself Japanese using an on line course?

Friday, July 11

I didn't strangle the Design Manager

But I don't know how.

Last year I wrote a report, which was checked and reviewed by my boss. He is a notoriously vigorous checker/reviewer. His catchphrase is "Let's check that again". So by the time it had got through him, it was a pretty good report.

This was then passed to the project's Design Manager, who broadly accepted it. It was then passed on to the Senior Design Manager - a man from a different engineering discipline with a slightly different outlook. He reviewed the report again, and this time it required a lot of changes and it went backwards and forwards between all those involved many times before it was good enough to satisfy him.

The report had in effect been reviewed to death.

Time passed. Things happened on the project site; some of the recommendations of our report were implemented. But the Senior Design Manager and the Design Manager moved on to new roles. A new Design Manager and a new Senior Design Manager move in. The project has languished for a year, waiting for someone to drive it and for other things to happen on site. So the Design Manager asked me to update the report and provide a baseline for the current position. Which I did, making quite a good job of it if you don't mind me saying. Of course my normal checker/reviewer is now busy on other jobs. The next person in line for the role is off on long-term sick. So they bring in a stand-in: one of the top engineers in the field from a major consultancy: a national expert. (When I say 'bring in' I don't mean literally. He spent three days here, but since then he has been in an office 200 miles away which does not help communications). So I get my updated report reviewed by the national expert. And like I say, it’s now a good report so it only has to go through two iterations before he's happy.

The report is now even-more "reviewed to death"

I submit it to the Design Manager.

He replies; "It's very hard to understand .....", and provides a list of queries.


I called my boss over for a chat and basically said: "Look, this report has been reviewed to death multiple times by some of the best people in thecountry. It is now a gold-standard report. If this chap can't understand it, is that because none of us are capable of writing a report, or is the problem that the Design Manager is not competent to do his job?" we are, after all, a professional engineering organisation, and if we write a professional engineering report to professional engineering colleagues, surely we don't have to dumb it down to primary school English? Surely it is possible to assume that the recipient does have some experience of the standard processes in use in his field?

My boss did not provide consent for me to strangle the Design Manager. In fact, being a better Christian than me, he was able to calm things down and arrange a meeting. By the end of the meeting, the design manager understood much of what he had failed to get the first time round, and on those issues was happy to accept the text as it was. There were also a few additions which I do agree were beneficial. And then we made some changes to the report which really shouldn't be necessary.

I have now sent it back to my far-away reviewer for him to approve the changes. I hope he does not still feel a need to justify his salary with a red pen!

Wednesday, July 9

Bombing the Vicar's garden party

It was the Vicar's garden party.

I only found out because my kids went.

To be honest, whilst we want them to be free and they are only going to be with their Friends in the youth, it still hurts.  Going to church is one thing - its relatively neutral ground.  But his garden party is on his house, using his utensils, his food, his toilets, his chairs.  It hurts to thing of our children fraternising with our worst enemy, when he is the cause of all of the things that cause them distress - such as our desire to move away form the area.

So I have had to work quite hard this evening to silence the voice in my head that tells me to ring the police with a hoax call about a bomb at the Vicarage........

Some vessels for ignoble use

The on-going slow motion train crash that is my wife's life continues, with further impacts smashing into her from a different source this time. Can't give details. But it does mean that some of the glimmers of hope we had for the future have been extinguished.

So there is this verse that I remember as being about a potter making some vessels for noble use and some for ignoble use. I can't remember what version that is in - probably the SaintSimon's Vague Memories version. According to Bible Gateway there is the following, which I think is the one.

Romans 9:21New International Version 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?(A)

This basically means that the potter makes the fancy vase for displaying the Queen's flowers at Buckingham Palace, but he also makes the urinals, WCs, and chamber pots in the prisoners in the dungeon pee and poop into. It is necessary for the ignobles to acknowledge that though their tasks lack glamour, they are actually more important. So what if the Queen has no vase! But there will be trouble if latrine facilities are not available. Mrs and I feel most definitely pooped on at the moment, with injustice after injustice poured on us and our whole life devastated. I survive to some degree with an almost Islamic fatalism - it is the will of Allah - only slightly tempered by the Christian assurance of God's love and benevolence through it all, and I am reasonably good at taking the rough with the smooth. But I suspect that if I quote that verse at Mrs she will give me a black eye.

Monday, July 7

Response to comment on my previous post

Steve Finnel strikes again with yet another irrelevant self-promoting shouty and theologically flawed drivel!

Why is he posting this on a post about me being ill?  Because he has written a piece which he feels proud of and trawls around for somewhere to dump it unthinkingly with his paste button.

The flaws in it are many.  But lets start with his basic assumption about the point at which Paul 'believed'.  Paul's 'belief' on the road should not be confused with 'faith'.  As Christians we often make this mistake, and there is indeed a large overlap.  But there are differences.  It is possible to believe without faith (James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder).  It is possible to have faith without belief (Mark 9:2 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!).   So Steve Finnel’s assertion that because Paul believed on the road but wasn’t baptised until later therefore salvation by faith is incorrect – does not work because while Paul believed on the road that it was the Lord Jesus speaking to him, it was only after meditating on this while fasting that the belief grew into faith which was then completed in the baptism.

Secondly, no right-thinking proponent of ‘Salvation by Faith alone’ actually means precisely that.  The phrase was coined in opposition to the idea that Salvation could be bought from the Roman Catholic church or that it could be earned by accumulating sufficient good deeds, or by sufficient accumulated participation in church sacraments.  So the phrase should really be understood to ‘Salvation is not by those Catholic methods we reformers grew up with’.  The book of James makes it clear that true faith is made known by the deeds it produces.  The doctrine of Salvation by Faith Alone does not mean that you can go around professing faith but continuing to live unchanged.  Thus saving faith is revealed by repentance.  But repentance is not of itself, saving faith.  There are many repentant people who have turned away from lives of crime who do not have faith in Christ.

Thirdly, Steve has this notion that salvation is by Baptism.  Neglecting the obvious case of the thief on the cross who was saved by his faith in Christ without baptism (and I don’t swallow the ‘special unction’ nonsense that some invent to get around this), the scripture does not support this view.   Steve has his nice progression from faith through repentance and confession to water baptism.  But the scriptures do not present these as a progression.  They come across to me more as parallels, things that should happen pretty much simultaneously.  If anything, the water baptism is almost like an extra, the icing on the cake.  Take for example my favourite story – the household of Cornelius – because it blows apart all these systems that we try to build up.  Peter is preaching to the people, and while he is ‘still speaking these words’ the Holy Spirit came on all who heard.  So:  If Peter had not finished speaking, how did they have sufficient understanding to have faith?   Yet the Holy Spirit came on them, which is normally supposed to happen after water baptism!  And did they confess?  They spoke in tongues praising God, but is praise confession?  And did they repent?  Peter was still speaking – they had not yet had a chance to analyse the implications of a message they had not fully heard on their lifestyles.  So on what basis were they the offered baptism – faith, confession, or repentance?  It was none of those – they were offered baptism because it was clear that God had moved into their lives and made them Christians, like those Jews present.  The baptism did not make them Christians, it acknowledged their Christianity.  They were saved and became Christians by the invasion of the Holy Spirit; by the sovereign will of God, not by the faith, confession, repentance or baptism that our theology tells us are required.  God is so much greater than our theology!  So muc more loving and accepting than the boundaries and hurdles and procedural steps that we put up to keep people out of the Kingdom of God.

So, where in the Scriptures it does talk about baptism as if it washes away our sins in the way Steve points out that it often does, it is not actually the waters of baptism that achieve it.  It is the fact of being baptised into Christ that saves us, because in the baptism into him we become partakers in his death and resurrection and receive the removal of sins by washing in his blood not in water.  The symbol of baptism represents that we have signed up for the deal, and that is what those scriptures allude to.  They do not imply that the baptism of itself washes away any sins.
Put it this way: there are many people who have been baptised in accordance with the formularies of their respective churches who are most definitely not Christians (Adolf Hitler being one!), though they might proclaim to be so.  And there are members of churches that do not practice baptism, considering it to be a symbol rendered meaningless by the passage of time and culture (or churches that delay baptism for one reason or another) who though very unbaptised are still manifestly Spirit-filled saved Christians.
Personally I would not lean to either extreme.  I do believe baptism is primarily symbol that does not save us of itself (although like the first time you take communion it can be the means by which the essential steps of Salvation can be implemented) but that does not mean that it is dispensable or meaningless.  Its like a marriage ceremony, which I would see as essential for a Christian couple in the west but not all cultures have marriage in the way we do yet God would still acknowledge their relationships as he did the polygamous patriarchs and Adam and Eve who never went to church or to the town hall but were still acknowledged as a couple by God.

And on a final note – having become a Christian at age 5 I was baptised twice: as a Plymouth Brethren at age 13 and as an Anglican aged about 42.  I kid you not.  (The Anglican one was technically a ‘conditional’ baptism because they didn’t believe the photo of my first baptism, but I still accuse them of being Anabaptists!)  And I affirm that my sins were washed away when I was 5, and that I was a Christian long before my baptism(s), and that my baptism(s) were public declarations of my Christianity and forgiveness and cleansing, not the vehicle by which those things came.

Ephesians 2:8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works  [and I comment: "works such as baptism"], so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do


Ruined the weekend. 

Sleepless nights.  Feverish dreams.  Muscle aches.  Lack of motivation and energy.   Painful coughs bringing up thick bitter-tasting sputum.

All the usual stuff.

I'm ok now.

Saturday, July 5

Crisis of faith paradoxologically improves

So my faith has been down for a while as the train crash of theological doubt meets the cataclysm of our church troubles.

But I was beginning to improve.  My daughters gave me 'Paradoxology' by Krish Kandiah (link below), and I had read the first few chapters and knew that it was good, scratching where I itched.  But last night I went to bed early, struck down by a harsh man-flu.  And I read the chapter on Habbakuk.  It was as if Krish Kandiah had had a window into my life and used it as the source material for his text on how God is so unpredictable, ruining our favourite theologies and taking away from us the jobs he has so clearly given.

God Spoke.

I was getting through vast quantities of tissues with my running nose, but my face was wet with the tears of a man who has yearned for God's voice, and then hears it.   The creator of the universe pauses a while from his task of spinning galaxies, and looks down at me, and says "It's OK - it's all part of the plan".

And then I remember how often in this blog I have had doubts and crises and then written "God sorts me out"........

I should be ashamed, really!  Its time for me to learn the lesson.

Tuesday, July 1

General update

It's been a while, and stuff has happened.

The case

We were interviewed by the C of E equivalent of the CPS yesterday. We had though from our research that his role is basically that of prosecutor, but until a decision has been made to proceed with the case he has to be neutral, weighing up the case to see if there is something to answer. So after our interview he went to interview the respondent. Hopefully he will be able to see the case very clearly.

Perhaps a bigger worry is that he informed us of the timescale - it will be about NINE MONTHS!!!!! This is not what we wanted!

The move

We visited our scenic town which we (i.e. she) have decided we want to move to. Part of the motivation for this visit was to start getting to know the churches in the area, so we pitched up at sample number 1. This was a sort of fresh expressions place, not sure what denomination/stream it is attached to if any. Modern and evangelical in its flavour, and very slick in its presentation. The music was outstanding, but perhaps more importantly we both felt able to worship for once. The 'progressive' church we have been temporarily/experimentally attending as refugees/students is very cold in its worship - statements about God and society rather than worship addressed to him. So it felt really good to sing love to Him again. Also, the progressive church says it 'welcomes everyone', i.e. it is inclusive, but I would not say 'welcoming'. We have been going for months and they have only just started to ask our names. At this evangelical church, there were welcomers at the door to show people the ropes and the pastor and several others all asked our names.

The car costing a fortune.

We stopped to watch some charity assailers with the windscreen wipers going, and flattened the battery. The breakdown man attached a gadget to it which said it was 'goosed' and that we would need a new one 'within weeks'.

The next day (Sunday) we did our trip to scenic town, but all the way there and back it was running really rough, with low power making me change down for minor hills, and dashboard lights flashing at me. We made it there and back somehow. Booked it in to the garage on Monday. They said it needs £72 to plug it into the diagnostic machine, and then £860 to sort the fuel swirl problem, £250 for the coil and plug set, and a further £250 for the cracked rocker cover.

Well, I said don't do the fuel swirl, because you have previously told me about that and accepted it is a low priority item. I told them to do the plugs and coils, because it felt like a misfire and I thought that would fix the problem, and told them to only do the rocker cover if the plugs didn't fix it.

So they did the plugs, and then phoned me to say it had only made a slight improvement, the engine was still not performing, and I would need to do the rocker cover as well. But I insisted that I wanted to try it and see how I got on. So I fetched it and paid my bills. (It turns out the high-pitched-whine came from my wallet, not the gear box.) I got in, and drove off - very nicely and smoothly. It was back to the way it had been before the weekend - a little rough in the morning as per the fuel swirl problem, but nothing to worry about. Basically, they were trying to rip me off by telling me the coils had only made a slight difference, to make me go for the bigger but unnecessary job.

So anyway, now I have a fixed car and a determination to use the cheaper non-branded garage round the corner from my house.

So of course on Monday night, while watching the sunset with the lights on, I flattened the battery again. This time the breakdown man (a different one) attached a gadget which said 'Good battery'. He told me not to replace it, just be careful not to leave my lights on. So who do you believe?

The son (the depressed one)

... has a job. I was trying to sort something out for him at my client's office, but he sorted this by himself, through his own network of friends. So it can't all be bad.