Thursday, 6 December 2018

Dancing in space

Imagine you're line-dancing in a small square hall. Your line moves forward with the music until you feel hemmed in by the wall in front of you, not much wriggle-room. Then the dance changes and you ease back away from that cramped feeling, and you can breathe freely again.

Johari came up with a similar idea encouraging us to dance in space. Sometimes it's something we can do for ourselves, but at other times it can only be achieved through others. The art is to make sure we grow fulfilled lives that include reserve capacity to cope with those times when there's too much going on.

A little stress is good. Deadlines can encourage high performance. Too much permanent pressure leads to overload, depression, and exhaustion. Every new new gadget can add to hassle, unless we tame them, and why not? God gave us a command to make sure we look after ourselves. 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself'. We often hear the first half without registering that we can only be true neighbours if we love ourselves.

I had a scam that made me laugh, but raised concerns until the 'punchline'. A message was left on my phone telling my my arrest warrant number, and pending execution! To find out more and avoid imminent death all I had to do was get in touch with Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs department. No doubt I would then be asked for personal details, and a ransom.

If I didn't have a fulfilled life because I was alone and frightened, my reaction could have been very different. Others have had scams about watching porn, needing to resend bank details etc etc. We need to have fresh air in our lives so we see things in perspective.

Incidentally, I recommend [notice 'net' not ''] because it is community run and relies on trust. Some of the others are effectively scams which seek to make a profit from unwanted callers.

So Happy 2019, and may we encourage trustworthiness at every level, so we can live fulfilled lives. If you like, 'dancing in plenty of space'.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Access to Power

The Oxford Natural History Museum houses many ancient artefacts, including dinosaur fossils with enormous teeth. Descriptions are cut into the stone of the building. It could all be rather 'ancient and musty', but there is also a display of an E coli bacterium.

It's a model revealing amazing detail [only made possible through electron microscopes and the like] of an organism so deadly, common, and minuscule. The museum comes alive with such a range on display and helps visitors marvel at the miracle of our natural world, created and sustained by unimaginable Power.

As we celebrate Christmas, we engage with another side of that Power: its ability to become weak in order to be accessible. At one level such an idea is beyond comprehension, at another level it's as natural as parenting. Adults become weak in order to nurture their offspring, and in doing so they become accessible.

But of course it's not just a family thing because, as we nurture each other and learn to share, we grow up to be team players. As a planet we are coming to terms with challenges that can only be faced as 'Team Earth'. Anything else is too small. We're #makingadifference on climate change, plastic, and communication.

However there are at least two other major challenges: sharing resources so economic migration ceases, and establishing sufficient spaces for all species to thrive alongside mankind.

Then we'll have received the Power of Christmas, and really grow up!

My best wishes and prayers to you and yours for a fantastic season, and for all the opportunities of the coming year. Our thanks to Iain for producing the Register to such an amazing standard.

Friday, 5 October 2018

One size ... and peace

I've really enjoyed taking weddings this year. There has been great variety, a mix of contemporary and traditional, and always a sense of meaningful fun. No two have been the same because each couple is different. Bookings are coming in for 2020

What suits one couple might really annoy another. I make sure they choose what's appropriate, and don't impose my tastes on others. Every couple has survived me trying to put them off getting married; most years some change their minds. Far better not to marry than tie the knot with the wrong person! One size doesn't fit all.

The same is true of energy. I might find rock folk music is balm for the soul, whereas you prefer panpipes or chants. Wouldn't it be boring if we had the same tastes. And what energises us changes over time. Those who have the gift of young children might say all they want is sleep. Teenagers might say they enjoy being on the cusp of adult tastes, while still enjoying childhood games and traditions. 

In our Ridgeway Churches there's huge variety of worship, so all of us can find spaces. There are interactive times: Family Friendly, CafĂ© Church, Messy Church, or Bible Study groups. Traditional services abound: Holy Communion, Matins, Evening Prayer. And there are short hybrid occasions: Candlelight Evensong, informal Communion. One size doesn't fit all.

Regardless of our different opinions about Brexit, let's remember the true dividend isn't the bottom line or GDP or national identity or political persuasion or so many other things. It's peace!

Last century more blood was spilt in Europe than ever. The symmetry and strange beauty of thousands of graveyards and millions of graves mock us, and remind us of so many young wasted lives. Many too were maimed in body or mind. Egos, party allegiance, personal opinion or upbringing must recede before the great gift of peace in our time.

Jesus went further, and put forward a vision of peace that runs deep into the soil of our being, and satisfies the soul. It's his peace that knows no end. I recall a dairy farmer in his last days. I asked him if there was anything he wanted to tell me, and waited. I want to be cremated, and I'm at peace. What a treasure.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

... as in heaven

As a child, the smell of pine needles and sea air triggered excitement at an approaching time on the beach. We would run down the snicket with buckets and spades. However, there were constant calls to look out for dog's mess, which created a third but unwelcomed smell.

Go down that path now and the contributions from dogs have all but disappeared. It's a trite example [unless you're a parent cleaning off contaminant] which shows that some aspects of life have improved. Unfortunately we litter like there's no tomorrow.

There's a great deal of positive work going on to check plastic pollution, and it's recognised as a challenge for mankind as a whole. You and I can make a difference. Small changes multiplied over and over really do count. By the way, my wooden toothbrushes are working fine [see my March View]. Every step brings a little more of heaven to earth.

Marie Curie was excited by the discovery of radiation, and spent a huge effort refining radium until she had a concentrated file of it which she carried about in her handbag. At supper parties she would open the bag to show off the blue glow. What she didn't realise is that the radiation was killing her, and possibly her guests. She died of cancer, and in her memory an excellent charity exists to this day.

Nowadays radiation is handled safely, and is a fantastic tool in the hands of medics. It supplies us with roughly 25% of our electricity, thanks to the work of those in the early days of the Winfrith site. It took around 120 years to understand what nuclear radiation is, and how to harness it.

Resurrection was discovered by another woman, Mary Magdelene [as told in John chapter 20]. Some of the earliest writings in the New Testament show that the phenomenon was poorly understood. St Paul implied that it was hardly worth holding down your day job, because Jesus was about to return.

120 years later writers of the New Testament see the resurrection of Jesus as demonstrating love is stronger than death. It wasn't an extension of Jesus' life, but a quality of living that knows no end. It gave us forgiveness that we could make fresh starts, and write a wholesome story with our lives, a touch of earth as it is in heaven.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Good perspective, and peace

Basically the Brits are inside the European Union with lots of opt-outs, and want to be outside with lots of opt-ins. That was the view painted by a Business Daily podcast on the BBC World Service. It got me thinking. 

In other words Brexit will change little, which appears to be roughly the direction we're heading. I commend the podcasts [¼ hour available on digital or internet] because they give different perspectives, and don't endlessly flog the same stories.

But there's another reason: they are full of positive tales. Outlook is another particularly good series. Often media delights in the bad at the expense of the good. The truth is that a huge amount of great events go unreported. Jesus said to his disciples, 'If you continue in my word ... you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' His teaching addressed poverty, illness, abuse, and so on; he didn't avoid the bad, but his focus was always on good news or gospel.

When heading up All Saints School governors, I participated in giving students some interview practice. One thought she had little of achievement, but as I asked her about what she did it became clear she had a wealth of skills and experience to offer. She couldn't believe the truth about herself until she heard it reflected back to her. Another thought school was just occupational therapy, but came to understand it was there to give him the skills he needed. Instead of resenting challenges he came to relish them.

St Paul put it beautifully, 'Whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, if there is excellence and anything worthy of praise, think about these things ... and the God of peace will be with you.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Safe celebration, and just outcomes

On my way to take Padre's Hour at the Air Training Corps I was diverted around the houses by a large screen broadcasting World Cup Footie outside the Rendezvous. 

The atmosphere was amazing, a great sense of fun and excitement. However, to one side I noticed police, ambulance, and security staff making sure someone who had collapsed was safe. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who look after us, especially when we've overdone things.

Jesus taught that we should live to the full and celebrate all that's good, while at the same time keeping a lookout for one another.

And on another subject, the last Wessex Water information pamphlet delivered to every household invited us to rate its performance against other service providers, one of which was Sky with only a 5% approval rating. I have spent 5 months terminating my TV subscription [which had provided an excellent service] and now understand why Sky has such a poor reputation.

The above can be published in the public domain, however I cannot tell you the outcome of my dispute because it includes a confidentiality clause. What I can do is thoroughly recommend the centre for effective dispute resolution [CEDR] which provided an excellent service.
It is internet based, with provision for both parties to upload evidence. This is evaluated independently, and a binding judgement made. Power is held to account by truth. Christians lie behind the foundation of these islands' ancient courts of justice, most of which had a chapel built into their infrastructure.

As we enjoy summer lets give thanks be showing appreciation for those who keep us safe, and all who pursue justice.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Smart thinking, and privacy.

Vans are coupled back to back so that one driver can move two units. The power train uses the front wheels with rear being attached later. As I cycled by I did wonder if it was a spoof, until I saw thousands of pairs.

Smart thinking can throw up unusual ideas. There's a company exploring the storage capacity of electric vehicles. Why not use them as backup power supplies? Tot thousands of batteries together and they can supply substantial energy for those times when we all put the kettle on at the same time.

Jesus was a smart thinker. Take the idea of a day of rest. People of his day had gone all 'health & safety' mad about it. Work of any description was banned. What about healing people then? He put it very simply: rest was made for people, not people made for rest. They had things back to front, and he straightened out their thinking.

Confidence is vital in terms of respecting privacy, and allowing us to deal with things at our own pace rather than under public pressure. In my role I have many conversations, visits, and encounters which cannot be in the public domain. Some have misunderstood because much of my ministry is behind the scenes. But you can't have it both ways.

Parishioners wouldn't keep asking me for conversations if they then heard details broadcast to others. Many of those who wish to know what's going on in other people's lives find that they need privacy when facing challenges themselves.

At the end of May new privacy laws came into being. They can be summed up as everyone [whether big business or an individual] respecting privacy, and never putting anything in the public domain unless there's clear evidence of consent.

The Almighty Creator of the universe, who sustains it through his power, does not invade the human heart ~ he just gently knocks on the door waiting for an invitation. If God respects us, we should respect each other.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Questioning faith

I really appreciate those who challenge my faith because it makes it real. Without questions and comment there is no faith. In this case the conversation took place on a minibus trip back from Twickers. 'Jesus would be hopeless in an identity parade because few people recognised him. How can you believe he came alive again?' And of course retired police inspector Mike Rand is doing the asking!

A couple walk seven miles with Jesus, but don't recognise him until he breaks bread and gives thanks. Is Jesus a dumb teacher? That doesn't fit with the stories he tells: Good Samaritan, Lost Sheep, Sower, and so on. Then he uses powerful images. 'Give me a coin. It has two faces, so there are two truths to consider.' Jesus here is identified through symbols. That's often how we convey deep bonds: a marriage ring, flowers, and sacraments; they are outward and visible signs of inward and invisible truths.

Mary doesn't recognise him, as she stares through her tears at the gardener. In just one word Jesus reveals his identity; he calls her by name. It's recognition through emotion. Smells can be extraordinary powerful triggers. It may be that a loved one died in early autumn, so the first hint of freshly decaying leaves brings vivid memories flooding back.

I've been listening to a podcast called 'Unbelievable?' on Premier Christian Radio. If you search for it and 'Mike Rand' you'll find all the links, and a local who honestly challenges a convinced Christian about evidence. I commend it to you.

Shaggy performed for Her Majesty's 92 birthday. He has some great lyrics to the track 'Keeping it real'. Doubts and questions help to keep faith real. They are a bit like a strand in a three cord rope. If you take away questions from Jesus' conversations you'd end up with very little. He loved debate, and so should we.

Friday, 6 April 2018


Updating software introduces all kinds of 'helpful' ideas. Wally has suddenly turned up on Google Maps, but I don't want to ask 'Where's Wally?' when looking for a route or location. Yes, it might be different if I was reading to a child. And then there are voices .... but I'm going to have a go at talking to one when I feel in the mood.

Of course I don't want to be a grumpy old man, because some of these new ideas will fly. There are fantastic apps I use regularly which really irritated when they first appeared. Things are always updating. You only have to look at the tunes of familiar carols; most are relatively new. Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge is broadcast to millions every Christmas, and it always has some new tunes.

Jesus used many illustrations, and was a powerful communicator. Some of his ideas are in common parlance today. 'Don't put new wine into old bottles' he said. We might update that to 'Don't put new software into old computers!' Sometimes the old technology can't cope; most machines are 64 bit today.

Easter is a constant update of our ideas, of energy, of forgiveness which has extraordinary power to unlock new beginnings. It's an amazing festival celebrated every spring [autumn in the southern hemisphere], but every Sunday is a mini-Easter. In fact 'at all times, and in all places' [to quote the old prayer book] we should celebrate being an Easter people.

Forgiveness is just one facet of Easter, and it can bring new beginnings for terrorists [Good Friday agreement 20 years old], between family members, and [as the pope prayed] between countries and within countries that have not known peace for many generations. We need that Easter spirit.

Updating you on my teeth [March issue], and Fairtrade challenge to Sainsbury [August 2017]: I'm pleased with my first wooden toothbrushes, which seem to do the job well and are wearing OK. It also feels good not to be adding to landfill, where plastic toothbrushes die. It will be interesting to see how the wood burns when the time comes.

The Advertising Standards Agency [ASA] has upheld a complaint against Sainsbury for use of their Fairly Traded tile which is sufficiently close to Fairtrade so as to cause confusion. In round figures the latter is a partnership, while the former is 'big brother' supermarket chain imposing a structure because it knows best. We need justice for producers, so I strongly urge you to follow the ASA's lead and not be conned.

Easter updates should be regular, and motivate us to find the power to make a difference for good in our world.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Hiding, and recharging

There's generally something attractive about the young of any species, for example: chicks, cubs, and foals. The way they run for cover when there's a threat is endearing. It's a picture Jesus used when expressing both a rational and emotional response to those confused, misled, or in danger.

When it comes to God's love, going for cover is a sensible response at any age. Hiding under the shadow of his wing is a place of security, but don't worry because we soon emerge to face another challenge in life's adventure. Who knows what's around the corner.

When the Beast from the East collided with Storm Emma we had two days of winter: bread and milk disappeared from some shops; there was panic buying; neighbours turned out to dig paths, tow ambulances, spread grit, and call on those shut inside. It brought the best and worst out in us. It also showed how fragile our infrastructure is.

Churches contain sanctuaries, places of rest and refreshment. Some have nest boxes providing the same in their gardens. Nature tells us we need safe places, and need to recharge our batteries. Why not join in one of many acts of worship to do just that?

You will always find a welcome in the Ridgeway Churches.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Wooden toothbrush?

Keeping our teeth, and planet clean are both vital. BBC's Blue Planet II showed vividly just how much the oceans are being polluted by mega-tons of plastic, from microbeads to rope, to bottles galore. How can you and I make a difference?

We need to make the switch go, to be persistent. What switch? The one that changes our behaviour, both individually and internationally. On her recent visit to China, Prime Minister May gave President Xi Jinping a copy of Blue Plant II. It contained a note that both countries should do their bit to phase out plastic. Iceland supermarkets have promised to do that in 5 years, and our government in 25 which is far too slow.

Each of us has purchasing power, which can make a real difference when it adds up. Fair Trade is a good example of that, and we encourage it through regular stalls at our Churches. What and how we purchase makes a difference, so what about cleaning teeth?

I enjoyed some banter in a local hostelry when I raised the issue. I've just bought my first wooden toothbrush, and I like its feel. When worn out I won't be adding it to landfill, where plastic toothbrushes die. Mine will join kindling wood to help me keep warm.

We did discuss whether a tooth brush could be made of pork scratchings! Once you have cleaned your teeth, you would eat the brush. Sounds great, but of course you need to clean your teeth again.

Jesus said we need to keep on working at what makes a difference. Keep on seeking solutions. Keep praying for inspiration and power for one another. I've been impressed by the Alpha course we've been running. The last session was on making a difference, and it reminded us of William Wilberforce who was determined to get Parliament to pass a law abolishing slavery. It took him about seven attempts, and he only succeeded a few days before he died.

Let's make a difference to clean up our planet.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Change! What change?

Increasing change is the norm
The date of old photographs can often be determined by fashions being worn: man-wigs, flared trousers, beehive hairdos, turn-ups. But now there're several fashion changes each year, so dating today's pictures won't be easy.

Recently our capacity to communicate has increased amazingly, with new platforms coming on stream, and some morphing out of all recognition. So the norm is rapid comms evolution. The first mobiles were enormous, with batteries fading quickly. Now what could be done on a laptop a decade ago can all go through a smartphone, which can do many more things besides.

The rate of change in previous generations was slower. For example, telephones used pulses to dial up numbers through automatic electromechanical exchanges introduced in the 1900s. These operated until 1970s, when tone took over. That's the same technology for decades, which would be impossible today. There are amazing Artificial Intelligence systems just around the corner.

Some things can't change
The truth is just that, true, so it doesn't vary. At a time when fake news abounds, I don't think we need worry. The truth will outlast fads. It doesn't mean that we should sit back. I'm increasingly impatient with those who waste God given energy and time, because we'll never get it back.

Things that don't change aren't necessarily boring; they're reliable. My heart sinks when software decides to update, because I'm not quite sure if everything will still work. The truth never needs updating, but we do need to remind ourselves what it is!

Ecclesiastes is great
I remember first reading this little book from the Old Testament. At the time I was fed up, and sitting on a South Wales beach. When I read Ecclesiastes I felt better because the guy who wrote it seemed quite depressed, and I didn't feel as bad! Out of his questioning of what's really worthwhile in life, he comes up with some real gems: 
'For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die ...
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; ...
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace'.

For years I puzzled about the stones, throwing them away one time but gathering them another. Make your mind up! And then it dawned on me. What is the right policy at one moment in time, might have to be reversed later. Imagine if we said pulse phones are forever, well we'd still be in the telecoms dark ages.

God's timing is key, and one of the skills we need is reading his signals. Reinhold Niebuhr put it this way:
O God, grant us serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.