We live in a world of abbreviations and acronyms. Every walk of life has them. In business they are rife. Alas, being a non-business man I have no idea what they mean! Schools have them by the bucket load too. There are SEFs, SIPs, JARVs, GCSEs and the dreaded OFSTED. I sometimes wonder if you need a BSc or BEd or even a BA to understand these.

Of course the world of SMS msgs (mobile phone text messages) and Twitter has encouraged the use of acronyms in an attempt to communicate as much as possible in a few letters as possible. Here’s a test, do you know what TTFN, LOL & TOY stand for?*

I suspect the church uses such abbreviations too. We certainly have more than our fair share of jargon, although I imagine that we are so used to it that we don’t even recognise it as that anymore. thinking on from our church meeting on Wednesday when we started a discussion about how we can be a more welcoming church, perhaps it would be helpful to think about the language we use and either cut out jargon or remember to explain it so that those who are unfamiliar with it are included rather than excluded.

Sport has it’s own set of acronyms. One that came up a lot this week was TDD. In fact a lot of people got rather too excited about TDD. What does it mean? Transfer Deadline Day, the day when the transfer window when players can be bought and sold closes. On TDD speculation and anticipation can sometimes hit fever pitch as pundits, professional and armchair, try and guess what last minute deals will be made, often it would seem involving Harry Redknapp.

What does TDD have to do with the church? Here’s a cracking example of church jargon from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

‘…do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? …And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’

What does this mean? Here Paul is trying to say that we have been through our own transfer window. It’s a bit like saying we were once playing for a club that were not up to winning the Premiership, but we have been bought by a side that are a dead cert to win. Because of our flawed humanity we were unable to gain a place in God’s kingdom, but now Jesus through his love and life has placed an offer for us, which if we accept, will propel us into the winning team and a place in God’s kingdom. Our challenge is to seek with God’s help to live in a style worthy of the club we now play for.

(* TTFN = ta ta for now, LOL = laughs out loud & TOY = thinking of you)


The Fall and Rise of Lance Armstrong?

As a cycling fan 2012 was fantastic. 2013 has got off to a mixed start.

The good news? The route for the 2014 stages of the Tour de France in the UK has been announced, and on the third day it starts in Cambridge, comes down to the Olympic Park and ends on the Mall. Will it come through Wormley? I hope so, that would be fantastic! Regardless of whether or not it does, I shall be there at the roadside cheering my sporting heroes on.

The bad news? The public admission by Lance Armstrong on Oprah Winfrey’s show that he had doped on all of the Tours he won. I remain a keen Tour fan, but am left me questioning the Tours of that time that I loved so much. Were the monumental athletic achievements what they appeared to be? I also feel very sorry for those who weren’t doping at the time.

In a key exchange Winfrey asked: “Did it feel wrong?

Armstrong replied: “No. Scary.”

“Did you feel bad?”

“No. Even scarier.”

“Did you feel that you were cheating?”

“No. The scariest.”

Armstrong continued: “The definition of a cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field. I didn’t understand the magnitude of that. The important thing is that I’m beginning to understand it… I see the anger in people, betrayal. It’s all there. People who believed in me and supported me and they have every right to feel betrayed and it’s my fault and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologise to people.”

As we live our lives as Christians today, Lance’s description of his perception of what he was doing is perhaps a warning for us. It is all to easy for us to measure our behaviour by the behaviour of those around us. The standard we should measure ourselves against, however, is Christ, a measure I know I fall short of, as do we all. Is this a reason to change our standard or deny where we’re at? No, it is only as we bring our failings into the light that we open the way for God to work in us by his Spirit. And this is why, saddened as I am by what Armstrong has done, that I am pleased that he has come clean, for now, if his confession is genuine, he has opened himself to God’s redemptive power.

Review: It’s All about the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels

It's All about the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels
It’s All about the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels by Robert Penn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I inherited a love of cycling from my Dad. I was encouraged to cycle as a child and found I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom and exercise. Living in the Fens at the time, you could go for miles without too many slopes to climb – although now I love the challenge. We also watched the Tour de France together, an annual ritual that has continued to this day, which I have in turn passed onto my son. This year was a year I never thought I would see as a cycling fan – building from Mark Cavendish winning the Green Jersey in 2011’s Tour and the Rainbow Jersey of the World Champion, to the heady heights of Bradley Wiggins winning race after race after race, winning the Tour in 2012 and the Olympics Time Trial – magnificent!

This is the context into which I was lent Robert Penn’s slim book, a no apologies celebration of the bicycle. On the surface it is the story of his quest for a bespoke bike, with parts bought from specialists around the world, but at heart it is a celebration of the history of this great invention, exploring the past of each aspect in turn and the people behind it. His passion shows through on every page and reveals many of the forgotten names behind not so much the races, but the invention and refinement of the bike, and it’s impact on social history. A fascinating read. It’s light in tone, short and easy going, but between its covers lie a substantial amount of information. If, like me, you are a fan of cycling, I’d say you couldn’t go far wrong by giving this book a spin.

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Fallen Heroes

This has been a week of conflicting emotions for me as two of my heroes have been all over the news for the wrong reasons: Jimmy Savile and Lance Armstrong. Their fall from grace has been dramatic.

Like so many children of my generation, I grew up watching Jimmy Savile’s ‘Jim’ll Fix It’. Each week we’d enjoy his surprises and the dreams he made come true for those who wrote in. I’ll never forget the belly rippling boy who was awarded a fur backed medal so it wasn’t cold on his tummy and the sight of the cub scout pack who asked to be allowed to eat their lunch on a roller coaster! We also marvelled at his charity work, especially his marathon running as he grew older.

As a keen cyclist and follower of the Tour de France, to me Lance Armstrong stood on his own. Maybe his cycling wasn’t as exciting as some of his predecessors to watch, but his achievement in winning the Tour 7 times was phenomenal; unmatched before and after. This was all the more remarkable when you take into account his overcoming life-threatening cancer just as his career was taking off. Like Savile, he also raised significant amounts of money for charity.

Sadly, these ‘greats’ have been accused of abuse and organised doping respectively. No longer are they heroes to be celebrated, but villains to be distanced from.

In no way do I want to condone what they are alleged to have done. These are serious matters and are not to be hidden away or dismissed, but I do wonder, do these actions that have come to light mean that we should discard the good that their fund raising achieved, or the entertainment that their work brought us? When we are children, we see people as being either goodies or baddies. It is only as we grow up that we learn to be more discerning and realise that we are all both; there is good and bad in each of us. In the language of the Bible we are made in God’s image, but tainted by sin. However, when it comes to public figures we forget this; we build people up, and then at the first sign of weakness or wrong, tear them down.

If we are honest, we have all fallen from grace although maybe not as publicly as these two men. Maybe that should make us think twice about how we respond? It also highlights how wonderful today is. As L… climbs into the baptismal tank, he is admitting that he, like all of us, is far from perfect, but at the same time he is celebrating the amazing truth that God, the only pure ‘goodie’, has not rejected him, but in Jesus and his Cross has accepted him and given him the opportunity for a fresh start. Could we ever dare to have the same honesty and yet the capacity to show such mercy and love?

Church newsletter article 14.10.12

Hunger Run – finished!

Just got back from finishing the Hunger Run! Managed with much encouragement, prayer and many cups of cold water, to get around all the churches, squeeze in numerous stops to speak and stills got back with a minute to go! Great to see so many people and to be reminded once again that despite our differences that we are one family. In case anyone is interested, the timings were:

10.30am – leave Wormley Free Church
St. Laurence CofE, Wormley – left 10.37am
URC, Broxbourne – left 10.53am
St Augustine’s CofE Broxbourne – left 10.56am
St Augustine’s RC, Hoddesdon – left 11.05am
St Catherine & St Paul’s CofE, Hoddesdon – left 11.11am
Hoddesdon Baptist – left 11.17am
Hoddesdon Methodist – left 11.18am
St. Cuthberts’s CofE, Hoddesdon – left 11.25am
Riverside Elim, Hoddesdon – left 11.32am
St. Augustine’s CofE, Broxbourne – passed by again at 11.49am!
Wormley Free Church  – 11.59am – finished with a minute to spare…

Now time for a long cold shower and a sit down.

It’s this Morning: The Hunger Run

Ok, so the morning of the run has come (see my last blog post for details). Woke nervous and excited! More churches have come forward asking if I can call in – it has become a real challenge to fit them all in and get back by 12 noon. Not sure if I can do it, but will give it my best shot. Clear blue skies; it’s going to be dry and hot. Definitely need to take plenty of water. Butterflies in the stomach as I type. Going to be a good day.

Preparing for the Hunger Run

This Sunday I’m taking part in my first running ‘race’. I write race in inverted commas as there only me in this race and the clock. I’m running a distance of ~15km around the Churches in our local Churches Together group, leaving our church as the service starts and trying to finish it an hour and a half later as the service ends. I’m doing this to raise awareness of the new Food Bank that we’ve recently started, and hopefully not funds but food as I seek people to sponsor me in items of food per church reached before noon. On the way I shall stagger into churches as invited to say a few words about the Food Bank. This is the bit I dread, not the speaking, but the stopping and starting, which is harder than continuous running.

The idea came to me as I cycled back from some work we were doing around the Olympics at the White Water Centre in Lea Valley. I was thinking of how the Apostle Paul had a two-fold nature to his work, travelling from place to place telling them about Jesus’ love, and at the same time showing Jesus’ love through taking up a collection for the poor in Jerusalem. The Food Bank is our way of helping the ‘poor’ in our region, and this ‘Hunger Run’ is my re-imagining of Paul’s travelling around the churches taking up an offering.

My training has been somewhat erratic with holidays and other activities over August, but I have managed to run the course a couple of times now so I know I can do it. The big question is what impact will stopping and starting have on me physically and time-wise and will I be able to cope with the temperature that is predicted for us, a surprising 28 degrees centigrade!

Painful Carling Cup Celebrations

Thoroughly enjoyed the Carling Cup final yesterday (why, oh why, do finals always happen when I’m working!?..) Managed to get to see my recording of it before anyone gave the score away. Typically Liverpool went about winning the hard way – credit to Cardiff though, thought they were fantastic.

Loved this moment…


…could relate to the joy and the pain coming together. Why did it have to be penalties. I hate penalties.