isn’t it ironic?

In the last week I have posted twice about the renovation that I have carried out on a toy car (see here and here if you have missed them). Today I took my real car to a garage because it has been making some less than healthy noises. I had checked online and it seemed to me that there was a fault with the flywheel.

I have just had a call from the garage and my diagnosis was correct. The flywheel was definitely on its way out and needs replacing – along with the clutch system at the same time (since they are there). I had checked out the price of the parts and had expected that it wouldn’t be cheap and it isn’t. But it needs to be done.

The irony of the situation struck me a moment ago – I have been expressing joy at how my toy car repair has been going while all the time the real one has been slowly disintegrating.

I think you can do your own application here about priorities!

Not much point being able to rev a lot if the car won't move!

Not much point being able to rev a lot if the car won’t move!

What I was actually thinking about this morning is how (for normal non-mechanic mortals like me) if you had asked me to name the parts of a car I would have been very unlikely to have come up with ‘Dual Mass Flywheel’. But it is an essential component. Without it driving would be a very jerky clunky affair, if you could do it at all. The flywheel is the bit attached to the engine that spins around and smooths out a lot of the vibrations and provides continuous rotation within the engine. It would be very difficult to get the power from the engine through to the wheels on the road without other components being torn apart by the torque if there wasn’t a flywheel. It’s also the bit that keeps the engine turning over after you have got ‘ignition’, and is usually the bit the starter motor turns to get the engine going in the first place. *

I have learnt stuff about flywheels today!

Who or what are the flywheels in your life? Who or what keeps you going? What helps you to smooth out the bumps and cope with the vibration of life? Who are the unsung heroes of your life, of your church, of your business, of your community? Who are the ones who are only noticed when they are not there?

Perhaps today should be national flywheel day in honour of those people. Give them a hug, a phone call, a text message, send them a letter, give them chocolate (or a low fat, diabetic-friendly alternative). Let them know they are appreciated.

Give thanks to God for the flywheels in your life.

Be blessed, be a blessing.


*According to the websites I looked at – I don’t really understand too much more than I have written here so please don’t start asking me any technical questions! And don’t get too critical if my low tech explanation is incorrect.


grinding away the grot

Today a very nice man is sorting out some rust on Sally’s car and some damaged paintwork (already there when I bought the car) on my car. I am confident that he will do a good job, but it is a little unnerving having someone take a sanding disc to your car and start making loud grinding noises on the paintwork. I am sure that at the moment there is more of a mess than there was before he started (he’s only about an hour in) but it’s like the old adage: if you want to make omelettes you have to break some eggs. If you want lovely paintwork on your car you have to get rid of the grot first.

And if you want a healthy relationship with God, you have to be prepared to grind away the grot in your life. It may not be easy, it may not be comfortable but it is worth doing. And God gives us his Spirit to help us:

Paul puts it in drastic language in Colossians 3:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

But there’s a counterbalance. Paul did not just tell us to put to death what belongs to our earthly nature, he has a range of positive things to replace them and the desire to do them:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I love the practicality of this. Addicts know that stopping addictive behaviour is very difficult. But it is easier to do if you replace that negative addition with a positive attribute, activity or attitude.

Listen to some worship songs (and sing along?) if you are tempted to think or act in a way that is spiritually unhealthy.

Ask for God’s peace instead of angst, perhaps taking time out to go and relax rather than blowing your top.

Remember that you are forgiven if you are tempted to hold a grudge.

Try and do what is loving in any given circumstance.

Whatever you do, do it with an attitude of gratitude to God, and do it all as an act of worship to him.

All of these have the effect of drawing us closer to God, and that has the effect of making us want to get closer still and sin less.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Dear Insurance Company,

I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In block number three of the accident reporting form, I put “poor planning” as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more and I trust that the following details are sufficient:

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-storey building. When I completed my work, I discovered that I had a large pile of bricks left over. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley, which fortunately was attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor.

Securing the rope at the ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 500 pounds of bricks. You will note in block number 11 of the accident reporting form that I weigh 135 pounds. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building.

In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down. This explains the fractured skull and broken collarbone. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately, by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of my pain.

At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground – and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel now weighed approximately 50 pounds. I refer you again to my weight in block number 11. As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building.

In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles and lacerations of my legs and lower body. The encounter with the barrel, slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of bricks and fortunately, only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the bricks in pain, unable to move, and watching the barrel six stories above – I again lost my presence of mind.

I let go of the rope!

of sermons and cam belts

Because of other things happening later in the week, today is day one of two days of sermon preparation. It feels a bit strange because I do not usually tackle a sermon until later in the week and I will have had longer to ponder. It remains to be seen whether or not this is a good or bad thing.

I have also taken my car to the garage to have a new cam belt fitted. It seems that it is about due a new one, and given what happened to a previous car when we did not get a new cam belt and it broke, freeing up the valves in the engine to go and play in new places (fatal for the engine) it feels that this is an important thing to do (albeit an expensive one!).

In my weird and wonderful world I think that the two things are linked. I will try to explain why with the help of some correspondence to a newspaper (The Times I think). A while ago someone wrote to the Times (for the sake of argument) and said that they had been to church each week for thirty years and could not remember one sermon. What was the point, it was clearly not doing him any good. Perhaps he should stop. A lengthy and sometimes humorous correspondence ensued, which was ended by another letter. The final correspondent wrote to say that he had eaten meals every day of his life for the previous fifty years but he could not remember one. Clearly they were not doing him any good. Perhaps he should stop.

In an interactive world where you can find almost anything with the click of a mouse sermons may seem an outdated and unlikely way of communicating. But I believe (and, yes I would say that) that a sermon is more than just someone talking at a congregation for a while. I believe that God, who inspired the Bible-writers to write, is just as present when I prepare a sermon. And he’s equally present when it is preached. He takes the words and applies them to us (preacher included). It is another way in which the word becomes flesh (for theologians and pedants the lower case letters are intentional to distinguish from John 1.14).

Last night I was at a prayer meeting with our deacons and they helpfully reminded me that the spoken word is more powerful than the written word. Apparently it was a nineteenth century American preacher Phillips Brooks who described preaching as ‘communicating truth through personality’. I think there’s a lot of truth in that! But it’s more than that. It is incarnational. It is a meeting place between God and humans in which his Spirit is as fully involved as well as we are.

That places an onus on us (word play unintended but enjoyed). The preacher needs to ensure that we are preparing prayerfully and seeking to hear what God’s Spirit is saying today through the words he inspired centuries ago. The preacher needs to ensure that we communicate that truth clearly and relevantly today. And the congregation need to come having a desire to hear, a willingness to listen and an intention to respond.

So what has this got to do with car cam belts? Well… Sometimes it seems to me that sermons are like emergency rescue organisations like the AA or RAC (other emergency rescue organisations are available). They come when we are in a crisis and show us how God can help. Others are like a cam belt change. There is no obvious problem but it helps us avoid them later on. The amazing thing is that because God is involved the same sermon can do both of these simultaneously without the preacher being aware of it at all!

An elderly woman walked into church. The friendly steward greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps.

“Good morning,” he said, “It’s lovely to see you today. Is this your first time with us?”

“Yes, my dear, it is,” said the old lady.

The steward handed her a hymnbook. “Where would you like to sit?” he asked.

“The front row please.” she answered.

“You really don’t want to do that”, the steward said. “The minister’s sermons are really boring.”

“Do you happen to know who I am?” the woman inquired.

“No.” he said.

“I’m the minister’s mother,” she replied indignantly.

There was a pause.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

“No,” she said.


Bob is contagious

My car is called ‘Shrek’. That is because when you look at its shadow when the sun is behind you the sticky-out wing mirrors and bulky body shell make it look like the animated character Shrek’s head. The observant among you will have noticed that while the car in the picture bears a strong resemblance to Shrek (my car not the animated character) there is a fundamental difference. Can you spot it for 100 points?

Sadly Shrek has been poorly. He caught the automotive version of Bob (see ‘Side efftects’ blog last week if you don’t understand that reference) and has been coughing and spluttering since. He had a service last week (after he had caught autoBob) and they did lots of lovely things to it to help Shrek run better. But they did not cure Shrek of autoBob. After the service, when he was running smoothly he sounded really happy that he had had a service. But then from time to time he coughed and spluttered again, sounding like a VW camper van rather than a well-tuned Renault.

Today the mechanics cured Shrek of autoBob. Apparently one or two of the ignition coils were failing. They replaced all of them (on the basis that if one or two were failing the others would go soon). I am hoping now that the car is happy and will not suffer any further complications from autoBob, or side effects from the treatment. (What is the automotive equivalent of Black Hairy Tongue? Suggestions welcome!).

Illness is a strange thing, robbing us of our normal ‘joie de vivre’, that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that we have when we feel healthy… and speaking French apparently. I think that there are times when we suffer from the spiritual equivalent of Bob or autoBob. Following Jesus becomes more of a struggle than a joy and we find that our spiritual get up and go has got up and gone.

I have found that when I become aware that this is what has happened to me God helps me to recover – usually through a combination of being refreshed by taking time and space to read the Bible and pray, listening to (and sometimes singing along with) inspiring music and receiving encouragement and blessing from the ministry of others. The key thing is to realise that we have caught GodBob. How are you feeling?

Car-related humour. Genuine statements written on insurance claim forms, sent to me by a friend in the industry:

“The car in front hit the pedestrian but he got up so I hit him again.”
“I started to slow down but the traffic was more stationary than I thought.”

“A car drove away at speed catching our client who went up in the air and his head went through the windscreen and then rolled off at the traffic lights a good few feet away. The car then sped off and miraculously our client remained conscious and managed to cross the road.”

“I am responsible for the accident as I was miles away at the time.”

“I had one eye on a parked car, another on approaching lorries, and another on the woman behind”.

“I knew the dog was possessive about the car but I would not have asked her to drive it if I had thought there was any risk.”

“While proceeding through ‘Monkey Jungle’, the vehicle was enveloped by small fat brown grinning monkeys. Number three fat brown monkey (with buck teeth) proceeded to swing in an anticlockwise direction on the radio aerial. Repeated requests to desist were ignored. Approximately 2 minutes and 43 seconds later, small fat brown monkey disappeared in ‘Monkey Jungle’ clutching radio aerial.”

“I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in- law and headed over the embankment.”

“To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front I struck the pedestrian.”

“I was thrown from the car as it left the road. I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows.”

A customer collided with a cow. The questions and answers on the claim form were:
Q – What warning was given by you?
A – Horn
Q – What warning was given by the other party?
A – Moo


>Cosmetic surgery for cars


My car has been having cosmetic surgery. No, not bumper botox or silicone implants in the airbags, it has had a paint job. Around Christmas I managed to catch the corner of a wall with it as I was pulling out of a parking space and this left some deep scratches in the paintwork on the offside (right) rear door and beyond. Through a member of our church I found a man who does bodywork repairs in his own workshop and does so at a reasonable rate.

I left the car with him on Saturday and we collected it yesterday. He has done a great job. You can’t tell where the scrape was. Not only that but he washed the car thoroughly so that when I collected it it was gleaming, even in the rain.

The car repair reminded me of my theme from yesterday of how God deliberately chooses not to remember my sins that he has forgiven. It is as if it never happened. Of course I have to bear the human consequences of my actions and may need to apologise or make amends to those who are affected by what I do when I fall short of God’s ideal. But for God the repair is perfect. You would never know there had been anything wrong. We gleam again – good as new! That’s God’s grace at work: giving me what I can never earn and do not deserve because he loves me.

Some car repair humour:

Mechanic to customer: “I’m afraid I could not get the parts to repair your brakes, so I’ve made your horn louder.”

Customer: “My car is making a funny noise.”
Mechanic: “Can you describe it?”
Customer: “It is coming from under the bonnet and sounds like: ‘Please help me, please, please, please can ANYBODY help me?’
Mechanic: “Hmm, that sounds serious. It sounds like your engine is about to die.”
Customer: “Maybe, but it’s been getting quieter recently so perhaps it’s going away on its own.”

Customer (angrily): “Listen, when you installed this premium battery three months ago you said it would be the last battery my car would ever need. It has stopped working after only three months!”
Mechanic (horrified): “I’m very sorry,” he apologised. “I didn’t think your car would last that long.”

A man was having difficulty selling his ancient car. The car had over 300,000 miles on the clock and nobody was interested. He was chatting with his friend about the problem. His friend whispered behind his hand, “There is a way to make the car easier to sell, but it’s not legal.”

“That doesn’t matter,” replied the chap, “I just need to sell the car so I can get a better one.”

“Okay,” said his friend. “This is the address of a mate of mine. He owns a car repair business. Tell him I sent you, and he will turn the clock on your car back to about 50,000 miles. Then you can sell your car with no problems.”

The following weekend, the man made the trip to the mechanic. About one month after that he bumped into his friend again. “Hi! Have you sold your car yet?”

“No way,” replied the man, “Why would I want to sell a car that has only done 50,000 miles?”