I give up!


Go on, admit it, you like the cute kitten don’t you?  But what came to mind when you read the phrase “I give up”.  It is associated with defeat, loss and failure.  Maybe you have said it when you have reached the end of your natural resource and resilience and cannot go on anymore.  However, I want to suggest “I give up” can have a totally different meaning.

We are in the season of Lent and lots of people are “giving up” chocolate, coffee, sugar or social media (noooooo!!!!).  But what does this really mean?

Lent is one of the oldest observations in the Christian calendar. But, like all Christian Holy Days and Seasons, it has changed over the years.  Its purpose has always been the same: self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in preparation for Easter. Early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200) wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days, not the 40 observed today.

In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting, but it’s unclear whether its original intent was just for new Christians preparing for Baptism, but it soon encompassed the whole Church.

How exactly the churches counted those 40 days varied depending on location. In the East, they fasted on weekdays. The western church’s Lent was one week shorter, but included Saturdays. But in both places, the observance was both strict and serious. Only one meal was taken a day, near the evening. There was to be no meat, fish, or animal products eaten.  Eventually, various foods (like fish) were allowed and, gradually, over the years, the rules have relaxed considerably.

I see Lent as an opportunity to give up bad habits in order to cultivate good habits so, here is my list of what I am giving up for Lent:-

I Give Up criticism and Take Up Encouragement

I Give Up grumbling and Take Up Blessing

I Give Up pointing out faults and Take Up Praying for people instead

So, what have you given up for Lent?



I’m on the clock guv!


This morning I was leading a devotional time with our volunteers at Enfold (the drop in centre for Homeless and vulnerably housed people) that is run at Church.  It was one of those days when, I had a lot to do and little time in which to do it.

The reflections came from John chapter 7 & 8.  In John 7 Jesus is at the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem and the Pharisees are trying to catch Him out.  In John 8 a woman is brought to Jesus who has been caught in adultery again, the Pharisees are trying to catch Him out.

The thought that came to me was from verse 53 of John 7 and verse 1 of John 8;

Then each went to his own home.

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

 If, like me, you went to Sunday School (or children’s activities) you were probably present with a view of the Pharisees as the villains of the story.  But, I don’t think that is right.  I think the Pharisees were religious men who were trying to do the right thing.  However, they had missed the point!  As I read the words “Then each went to his own home”, a picture formed in my mind of the Pharisees returning to everyday life.  There were jobs to do, rules to keep, tasks to fulfill and advice to give.  They were busy people, trying to do good things.  I could almost imagine their time being so full, that they had no real time for God.  In those circumstances prayer becomes a routine and “religion” creeps in.

In contrast John tells us that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  I think He went there to get away and spend some time in the presence of His Heavenly Father.  For Jesus, prayer is not about ritual it is about relationship.  It’s from this relationship that His ministry flowed.  Prayer was the “energizer” and not the “rubber stamp” of His ministry.

I believe that Bishop JC Ryle is right when he said;

No time is so well spent every day

As that which we spend upon our knees

I felt challenged to look at my own prayer life today.  I realized with a full diary, appointments to keep and tasks to fulfill, my own prayer life could become so easily like that of the Pharisees, routine.  What God wants is relationship.  I wrote this prayer which, I hope, will help you as much as it helped me;


Dear Lord,

Today is going to be busy

Full of meetings and thinking

And often my prayer becomes routine

When, all you desire of me, is relationship


Forgive me Lord, for mechanical habit

Give me a heart that seeks after your will


Open my eyes that I may see your grace in others

Open my heart that I may know the move of your Spirit


Grant to me a greater love

For you

Your people

And those you have put me among






Dear Prudence

circle of friends


I am one of those people who loves language and words.  Recently, I wanted to find out about “collective nouns”.  A collective noun is a name given to a collection of things.  For example a herd of cows, a murder of crows or a murmuration of starlings. The collective noun that I wanted to discover was a group of clergy.  Now, before you start thinking of anything uncharitable, let me put you out of your misery!  The closest I could find was a “prudence of vicars”.  What I have not discovered is, if this applies to Anglican clergy only or, also to non-conformists.

I had a particular reason for wanting to find this out because today I had a “prudence of vicars” in my home.  As chair of our local Churches Together, I invited all the local clergy to my home for lunch.

When I first became a minister, Churches working together was a rare.  But over the years this has, thankfully, changed.  Instead of glaring at our differences we need to look at what we have in common.  I value my friends and colleagues from across the denominations, and I have learnt a lot from the different traditions.  As the “prudence of vicars” gathered I found myself reflecting on the words of Psalm 133;

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!

(Psalm 133 vs. 1- The Message)

But, I believe, these words do not just apply to Churches.  I think these words apply to all of us.  Maybe, we need to look to the things we have in common with those around us rather than glare at our differences.

I hope it will not be too long before we have another “prudence of vicars” at home.  Maybe there is someone that you need to look at differently.  In the meantime, I am going to look for my copy of the “white album”….

The best days of your life?

Traditional Eraser (Copy)

I had an aunt who always used to tell me that “school days are the best days of your life”.  I disagreed. I was not a big fan of school.  I would often find my mind drifting, I would gaze out of the window longing for the day to pass.

In my day, if a teacher spotted you half a sleep they would wake you up with a piece of carefully aimed piece of chalk.  The chalk could be made to bounce right in front of you and soon got your attention!  If you were messing about in the classroom, something a little larger like the board rubber was used.  Teachers today have lost these useful tools, a “smart board” doesn’t have the same effect!

Of course, the real point of the board rubber was to clean the chalk board or, erase mistakes on the board.  A quick wipe over, and the board was clean.  If only life could be like that.

There is a book in the Bible called Psalms in which the writers express a whole range of feelings and emotions and, this morning in church, we looked at one particular Psalm 103.  In it, the writer speaks about how God erases our mistakes with His forgiveness.

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us.

(Psalm 103 vs. 12)


That’s how complete God’s forgiveness is.


As one commentator says;

God is big enough to pick me up when I have fallen. God is big enough to clean me up when I have gotten dirty. God is big enough to “cleanse me of all unrighteousness.” It is God’s Forgiving Grace that keeps me going.

And when Jesus saw the crowds.  Saw the people that were gathering around Him He knew the burdens the rules the guilt the failure of their lives and He said these words to them

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

(Matthew 11 vs. 28 – 30)

God’s forgiving grace is better than any board rubber because, it not only erases, but it works deeply within us to change our lives.

Please do adjust your set


Yes, I did get that right, for those who think it should have read “please do not adjust your set”.  Let me explain…..

This morning I did quite well, I even had time to take the dog for a walk before I needed to get to the office.  I am very blessed to be living beside the sea.  We did one of my favorite walks – Holland Haven.

There is a little spot, just down by the sea where I like to stand and pray.  As we got to the spot this morning, there was nobody else around, so I stood and looked out to the horizon.  What I saw was interesting.  As I looked straight ahead there was beautiful sunshine, I could see the horizon and the turbines stretching out for miles.  When I moved my head slightly to the left, the sky was dark and the visibility was poor, the view was “unseeable” (not a proper word I know but, I hope you know what I mean).

So, there I was moving my head backwards and forwards like I was watching a tennis match!  Good job there was nobody else there!  Same morning, same time, same sea, same place – two different views.  But, isn’t that always the case?  I know there are some people who are pessimists and there are some who are optimists but, I think this runs deeper than that.

When I look at the life of Jesus, I realize that He saw exactly the same people as the Pharisees  and yet He saw them differently.  Same people, same time, same place – different view.

I believe that Jesus calls us to “please adjust your set” and look at the world with God’s eyes.  To see potential where others see failure, to see hope where others see despair to see acceptance where others see rejection.  Surely, this is “pie in the sky” thinking you say (go on admit it!!!!).  I think not.

“Adjust your set”, dear reader, change your vision and it’s God that helps you to do that.  In  the words of Corrie Ten Boom;

Look at the world , you’ll be distressed.  If you look within you’ll be depressed.  If you look at God, you’ll be at rest”

Is it time for you to “adjust your set”


Prayer and Prejudice


It was the wonderful Adrian Plass who once wrote “God’s two greatest inventions are bacon sandwiches and salvation”.  I know what he means, I love a bacon sandwich (salvation’s great too!).  But, it was the humble bacon sandwich that has challenged me recently.

Some of the men that form part of our fellowship have wanted to set up a men’s prayer breakfast and, if I am honest, I was not too keen.  Why?  A couple of reasons.  Firstly, I have never been happy with ministries that exclude a proportion of a fellowship.  I suppose I have seen the damage that christian’s have done to each other by excluding women from fulfilling their God given calling.  Secondly, I had an image in my mind of what “men’s ministry” looked like and it wasn’t something that appealed.

Prejudice simply means that we have “pre-judged” something, whether that is a person, race, gender or even a ministry.  I believe that throughout His life and ministry Jesus challenged prejudices and through His Holy Spirit, He continues to do so.

So, I gave the men’s prayer breakfast a go.  I enjoyed the bacon sandwich, I enjoyed the fellowship, I enjoyed meeting and chatting with a really great bunch of friends.  I have, since then been to a curry night and, later this year, will be going to The Gathering (organized by Christian Vision For Men).

What also thrills me is that some of the ladies in our fellowship are now exploring the possibilities of their own gathering (although I understand no bacon will be involved!).

What I have learnt is that when we confront our prejudices, we can discover something that becomes really valuable to us.  So, go ahead, why not give something new a go, who knows what you may discover as you do.




Best laid plans…


The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,

(Robert Burns To a Mouse 1786)

As Burns night is almost upon us, I thought I would begin by quoting the great Rabbie Burns!   But, strangely enough, these words seem to reflect my week.

I began my week with ideas and plans all in place and everyday, something went wrong and nothing I planned got done.  How do you manage when things don’t go as planned?  I have a tendency to get frustrated and i can find it very stressful.

I found myself reflecting that most of the most inspiring moments of Jesus ministry came from interruptions, His “best laid plans” were interrupted on many occasions and it’s from these His ministry flowed.

Perhaps, instead of getting upset at the interruptions, we need to learn to look for the opportunities in the interruption.