Take a Break

Posted: June 21, 2015 in Faith
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Let me be honest with you, coming up with ideas for the newsletter each week can be a bit of a struggle. Some weeks I have some notes jotted down from something I’ve heard or seen, but often the allotted slot in the timetable comes along and I stop and think and …nothing comes. In fact that’s a lie. It’s not nothing that comes, but a shed load of distractions; the phone goes, I remember an email I must send, browsing the internet for some ideas I get distracted and so the list goes on. It’s like going to bed at the end of one of those days that doesn’t stop until the head hits the pillow and as it does the brain refuses to switch off but continues to whirl over all the things you’ve been dealing with throughout the day.

Earlier this week I read an interesting article about the rise in aimless walking. The title caught my attention. So much of what we do is purposeful these days, done with an objective in mind. The problem is that this can only go so far before it starts to become inefficient. Some of you know the annual saga we have with our car when the filters in it get blocked. The idea is that you’re supposed to drive it normally most of the time, but regularly you need to drop the gear and take it for a spin at full pelt to heat it up and burn clear the filter system. Trouble is our kind of driving doesn’t suit this and most years just as it gets cold our system gets all bunged up. Humans are a bit like that except that rather than upping the revs to clear the filters, we need to slow down and let the mind unwind. The idea behind aimless walking is to go for a wander, with no particular route or objective in mind and no headphones on or mobile in hand and let the mind wander. This is one of the reasons I like to go for a spin on my bike each day, I find it helps me think better afterwards and work in a more focussed and creative fashion. In case you’re thinking this is just mumbo jumbo or wishful/lazy thinking, God says the same thing; that’s why he gave us the pattern of the Sabbath.

Our midweek Bible Study group were thinking about prayer this week and different ways to develop our prayer lives. One of them relates to this and maybe sharing it is a good way to round up this week – perhaps you’d like to try it with us? Here goes: ‘03 Time Out – We are surrounded by constant distraction and noise. Create space for silence this week by turning off the radio or your iPod on your journeys so they become a place to find quietness and listen to God. If you walk the dog – resist the urge to listen to music. Instead observe, look and listen to the sights and sounds of nature. Just find space, even for 10 minutes each day to be alone and quiet with God – even if that means getting up a little earlier each day or staying up later at night.’

Church Newsletter, 21.06.15


Catching up with a few articles from this blog which directly speaks into my life as a scientist which is where my career path started out and my life as a Christian minister which is where it ended up!

Originally posted on Science and Belief:

Woutergroen, 2008; Jens Maus, 2010. Wikimedia Woutergroen, 2008; Jens Maus, 2010. Wikimedia

If all truth is God’s truth, then science must have an impact on our theology. This was the central message of theologian Steve Motyer’s seminar in the God in the Lab evening series at London School of Theology (LST) earlier this year.

Having taught theology and counselling for a number of years as part of his role at LST, Motyer is all too aware of the connection between mind and brain. Neuroscience is showing that everything we call ‘mind’, including feelings, instincts and intuitions and spiritual apprehensions, is rooted in brain function. Various parts of the brain are active when we pray or have spiritual experiences. If those parts are damaged, then we can lose the capacity for certain spiritual activities and feelings. So the spiritual and the physical are not separate, but intersect completely with each other.

Motyer then used evolutionary biology as…

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Christ’s Antidote

Posted: June 7, 2015 in Faith
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From time to time I like to comment on items in the news in this article and think about what Scripture might have to say about these situations. Two items have dominated the news this week, the first is the horrible roller coaster crash at Alton Towers, and the other is the emerging collapse of the leadership of world football’s organising body FIFA.

Alton Towers first. As most of you know our family are thrill-seeking roller coaster junkies and have regularly screamed our way around various tracks. The other summer we stayed near Alton Towers and rode on Smiler a number of times and totally loved it. It is a ridiculous, zany, full-on, bonkers ride. I’ll be honest and say I would hesitate before climbing onto it again though, and my prayers and thoughts go out to those who have received serious injuries in the crash.

FIFA? Who am I to comment on this story? It is so hard to know what is really going on here beyond the reporting from Western media outlets. It would seem that the organisation’s top hierarchy is corrupt to greater or lesser degree, something that the Bible has a lot to say about with its practical messages about justice and fairness in trade and general life. It is interesting, however, that beyond our media, other parts of the world are reporting it quite differently and have a contrasting impression of Sepp Blatter and his colleagues. Hopefully the investigations will be themselves fair and unbiased and the truth be revealed and responded to appropriately.

There is a link between these stories. In both cases much of the reporting has been over-dramatic (The Sun’s headline about the Smiler crash, I’m looking at you) and the commentary over the top. Blatter has become a hate figure and demonised by so many who don’t know him and don’t know the truth about what’s going on and are simply feeding on the general hype around the case. There’s a form of ‘political correctness’ these days that calls us to feel the need to express moral outrage at such events in a way that simply feeds others in escalating the scorn or hatred or ridicule.

In the New Statesman this week Amanda Palmer, herself a recipient of such vitriol reflects on its cure. Courting controversy in her choice of words, deliberately so I’m sure, she writes her thoughts about how to respond to figures who by their deeds or words stir up such hatred in us. ‘I am, perhaps, an extremist in this regard,’ she says. ‘But I am starting to think that the only true antidote to extreme hate may be extreme love, a radical empathy. Jihads of compassion. Crusades of kindness. A movement in which we attempt to love our enemy . . . Oh, hold on. Jesus already said all that. Wait – did it work?

A provocative final sentence which she leaves hanging unanswered. Did it work? Does it work? Will it work? In many ways the answer is no, we still have hatred and violence and retribution. On the Cross Jesus was killed trying to overcome with love and his followers still haven’t brought an end to scorn and slander and worse. But I have faith, faith in Jesus and his Father that as the Bible says and the resurrection supports, eventually love wins. That is why I’m willing to give Palmer’s exhortation a go and try out what Jesus preached and demanded of his followers. One day love wins.

Review: In the Blood

Posted: June 1, 2015 in Books
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In the Blood
In the Blood by Steve Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one has been sitting on my Kindle for a while now, as have the others in the series, having picked it up believing the combination of family history and crime could make for a novel take on the genre, which it certainly did. he basic premise is that Jefferson Tayte, a professional genealogist, is sent from the States to the UK to investigate his client’s past. Whilst here, that past comes to meet him as it quickly becomes clear that someone doesn’t want it unearthed and is prepared to use any means to ensure this. It’s a quick, pacey read. One tip I gleaned elsewhere was to keep a pen and paper handy to write the family tree on as it emerged – I wish I had done that. Would have made it easier to follow and rewarding as clues emerged. The style of writing does perhaps betray occasionally that this is a first novel, but the plot and content means this isn’t a deal breaker at all. I look forward to seeing how the character and books develop over the rest in the line.

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I treated myself the other week to getting the latest book of short stories by Neil Gaiman, one of my favourite authors, out of the library. He’s a fantastic writer with many clever ideas and stories to tell. One of his greatest talents in my opinion is his ability to have fun with words, to play around with them. For example in one of his books he picks up on London Underground tube station names and speculates what it would be like if we took them literally. Just who is the Baron from Baron’s Court, and what is his court like anyway? Who or what is the knight of Knightsbridge and so on. Brilliant! Trigger Warnings, his new book, is full of such playfulness. In one of the stories he speculates on if you can have inventors, whether you could you have uninventors too? The main character is such a figure and the story tells about how he set out to uninvent all the inventions that have made the world a worse place since he was born (of course it’s foolishness to change the past before you were born, as Back to the Future warned us, all sorts of crazy family implications may occur). You know we were told that there’d be flying cars by now? Well, there were, but he uninvented them – the skies got just too congested. It’s just as if they’d never been!

This got me wondering, what would you uninvent if you could do so? What inventions or fashions do you think have made the world a worse place – serious or flippant, I’d love to know!

An alternative take on this story would be to ask not what you would uninvent but what you would undo. Are there things you’ve seen or heard you wish you hadn’t? Are there things you’ve said or done that you wish you could undo? I’m sure the answer for all of us would be yes despite protestations otherwise, we all have regrets, for all of us there are ‘if onlys’. Of course our regrets have a role in making us the people we are as we work through the consequences; to go back and undo the past would change us and others and maybe not always for the best. Adversary breeds courage, suffering character, and reflection on our wrongs and frailties can make us humble and perhaps a bit more gracious (perhaps taking liberty with Rom. 5:3-4 but I think it’s fair). Like the pearl, sometimes we need trouble to bring out the beauty in us. I think add much as it sounds a wonderful idea, being an undoer sounds far too dangerous to me! My vision and understanding is far too narrow.

Maybe this is where God’s wisdom shines. As Romans tells us, he uses all situations for the good of the believer (Rom. 8:28) – could this also include times when bring suffering on ourselves and others as will as when others are the cause? He forgives and forgets (PS. 103:7-12), whilst leaving us to face and grow through the consequences of our actions under the guidance of his Spirit.

Church Newsletter Article, 17.05.15

Today I woke to the sad news that another guitar hero of mine has gone, the great B.B.King, one of the last of the original electric blues players who created this wonderful music. Here’s a video which my brother brought to my attention (thanks!) featuring both B.B.King and Gary Moore, another much missed musician who could make this instrument cry like no other.

Richard III & Us

Posted: March 29, 2015 in Faith
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On Tuesday Kate’s Father and I drove up to Leicester to join the queue of people gradually shuffling around the city centre in a snaking chain to enter the cathedral and see the coffin of Richard III before his re-internment on Thursday. Considering the remains inside the small casket are of someone who none of us knew or have any real connection with, it was a strangely moving day. Benedict Cumberbatch caught it well I think when he expressed it as being an event when our history rose from the past to meet us before returning again. I may well reflect more on this before Holy Week is over.

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I was really impressed, however, not only with the dignity and sense of occasion, but also with the way the Cathedral took advantage of the opportunity to connect with those who came. The queue was when we joined it some two hours long. Not long after it looked as if it had reached the four hour length of the day before. That’s a lot of people hanging around. They could have easily been left to it by the church, or complained about by the regular worshippers who were being ‘put out’ for the week. But as far as I could see the church (by which I mean the people there) saw it not as a hindrance, but as a chance to share something of God’s love. We were regularly greeted by smiling church representatives alongside the official event guides. From time to time they would come down the line bringing free drinks and a massive basket of very welcome mints! A particularly cheerful clergyman stood in the middle of the first section of the queueing system chatting to everyone as they passed, and handing out leaflets entitled Richard III & Me. This not only had a section about Richard III and his legacy (the fact that we were here remembering him some 500 years on), but also pondering another King for whom the crowds came out on the first Palm Sunday and his legacy some 2000 years on – what does he have to say to us and how should we respond. Brilliantly written and professionally produced. Very effective and appropriate for the occasion.

The church was supposed to have been closed to the queue during service times, but they had obviously had a re-think and asked themselves both how would they get everyone through if they did that, but, and more importantly, what did it say to those in the queue about how the church saw them. They kept the doors open, and it was during this time period that we passed through, quietly walking through a running service and past the coffin of a king who died 500 years ago. More than a little surreal! Despite the fact the service was ongoing, we weren’t made to feel awkward or resented at all, in fact we were made to feel quite welcome and the preacher was clearly not just speaking to his regular congregation, but us flowing visitors as well, giving us a message to ponder on too.

I came away having been touched by the sense of occasion and by the warmness shown by God’s people there. I also came away challenged to think once more on how our conduct communicates our deepest held values to those around us.