“Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?”

Face - Trying to copeSo begins one of the all time classic songs, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

I had an experience where I felt like that this morning. I had a vivid dream in which I was left feeling really exasperated and upset by a fictional person in my dream. There were a lot more details, but in essence this is the dream:

In the dream Trevor Peacock, the actor who plays Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley, was supposed to be selling me a railway ticket but deliberately delayed it until my train had left. I was getting more and more frantic because the time for the train’s departure was getting closer and closer and he was not doing anything. Finally, just as I could see the train pulling away, he pressed the button to complete the transaction which meant that I had paid for the ticket but it was useless.

For a moment as I gained consciousness I was left wondering whether or not it was real because it was so vivid. I was left feeling the stress, strain and exasperation of the dream. The feelings it had generated were real, even though the dream was fictional.

I would rather none of you attempted to analyse my subconscious mind through that dream. I don’t think it is a dream of biblical proportions where God was trying to tell me something. I once heard dreams described as the way that, while you sleep, your mind files all that has been happening to you. I like that concept. It is quite neat and cute. But if it is true about that dream I think it is safe to say that the filing cabinet needs some attention!

So, what deep and meaningful thoughts have I gleaned as I have reflected on this today? The thought occurred to me that I can be the cause of exasperation, stress and upset for others. If they feel as badly as I felt this morning when I woke up it is something that needs to be dealt with. It might not be anything that I have intentionally done but I need God’s help to be discerning and to have the grace to respond if I have done that.

As communities of followers of Jesus we need to have the grace and courage to tell someone if we are upset by them too. It’s not easy, it can be painful, it can be awkward, but it is worth it as God pours his grace into the situation and the process of healing and reconciliation begins. And somehow, if we all have been honest and vulnerable, God takes that brokenness and makes something stronger out of it. That’s his way, of course, it’s the way of the cross.

Be blessed, be a blessing


unwelcome epiphanies

Last night I had an unwelcome epiphany. I woke up at about 4am with my brain processing all of the sermon preparation I had been doing yesterday. I am exploring 1 Corinthians 2

It's dangerous to wake some people

in our evening service and have been struggling to find an overarching narrative that makes sense of the passage. I had delved deep into the passage with the help of commentaries and prayer and had a sense that I understood what Paul was saying to the church in Corinth (and us) in each verse but there was still an unease in my mind that I had not really made sense of the passage as a whole.

Obviously my subconscious had been processing this while I slept and then, thankfully, I awoke with a concept in my mind that I felt brought the passage alive – even in the fog of waking up at 4am! I managed to kick myself out of bed and stumbled downstairs so I could record those thoughts before trying to get back to sleep. Thankfully (again) this morning the writing is sufficiently legible and coherent for me to be able to understand it and I think make better sense of the passage.

Isn’t the human mind an amazing thing? It can process things even when we are unconscious! And God can engage with our minds when we are in that state. I sometimes wonder whether he finds that easier than when we are awake and easily distracted! I also have a sense that when people (through illness or infirmity) lose touch with this world they find that they are more in communion with God. This was affirmed to me when I visited one of our older members whose memory was almost completely gone and who found it very difficult to talk. Yet when I spoke of God and the church she visibly brightened and was relatively chatty. She also used to join in with singing hymns at the care home when people came in and led Songs of Praise sessions.

I am not diminishing the terrible experience for an individual or their family when they suffer from such illnesses. I can’t imagine how awful it must be to lose touch with the person whom you have loved and known for so long. Visibly they may appear the same, but the real person is lost in the mists of memory loss and illness. Yet, it seems to me, that this is precisely when the God of love will enfold such a person and reassure them of his love and presence. God never stops loving us. Even though our loved ones cannot commune with us, God will commune with them. Jesus is ‘Immanuel’ ‘God with us’ for everyone, not only those who are able to articulate that reality.

This may be simply fanciful theologising but if God can speak through dreams and break through the fog of sleep to communicate with me, my experience of him is such that I cannot doubt that he also breaks through the mists of memory loss and illness and communes with his loved ones – even through the valley of the shadow of death.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Oh yes, the epiphany was unwelcome because of the timing. I know that God never sleeps but I would have preferred that he wait until I was about to wake up at a more normal time!

In the middle of the night a wife awoke to find that her husband was not in the bed beside her. She got up to look for him and found her husband standing over their baby’s cot in the nursery. Silently she watched him from the doorway.

As he stood looking down at the sleeping infant, she saw on his face a mixture of emotions: disbelief, doubt, scepticism.

Touched by this unusual display and the deep emotions it aroused, with eyes glistening she slipped her arm around her husband.

“A penny for your thoughts,” she said.

“It’s amazing!” he replied. “I can’t believe it!” He paused before continuing. “I just can’t see how anybody can make a cot like that for only £50.”


It’s late in the day but I have finally found some space to stop and reflect… before rushing off to another meeting. Sorry to any of you who have been waiting patiently for me to post some bloggerel today.

the view from inside our car - which is why I call the car 'Shrek'

So, following on from yesterday’s pathetic effort by me, by my computer and by Microsoft, all seems to be happy again in studyland. It did require the ultimate computer techie solution… turn off and on again. There were one or two grumbles from the software, a couple of passwords got lost, but on the whole it was fairly painless.

That last paragraph was for the benefit of anyone who read yesterday’s bloggage and was on tenterhooks to find out what happened next…

Actually, what I want to reflect today is on a dream I had recently. I don’t think it was caused by too much cheese and while it may be one that means nothing I have been wondering whether God has been speaking to me through it, and to our church. I shared this at our Church Meeting last night and it generated an interesting and valuable discussion.

The dream is very simple. I was being driven in our car. The car was very sluggish. It accelerated even more slowly than usual. We went onto the A12 Dual Carriageway and while the car eventually reached top speed the engine was labouring hard to get there and keep us there. Finally we realised that the handbrake was still on. As soon as we released the handbrake the car leapt forward and was much easier to drive.

The question I have been pondering for a couple of weeks now is whether this is from God (it was more vivid than a lot of my dreams) or whether God wants to speak to me / us through it. I shared this at the last Deacons’ Meeting before last night’s Church Meeting. I feel that this may be a parable of our church.

We are functioning successfully as a church. New people are joining us, there is plenty of activity, people are being blessed, are coming to faith and are being baptised. But is the handbrake still on? Is it harder work than it needs to be? I have wondered whether the handbrake is my / our attitude to prayer. If we were a more prayerful people how much more could / would God do through us and in us?

I am not only talking about corporate prayer, but I am not ignoring this at all. But for each one of us a desire to pray more starts with us as individuals before it spreads through us as a church.

I’m still testing this to see if I have heard this right. But I am praying that God’s Spirit will be free to inspire us to pray, to want to share more of our lives with him, to involve him in all that we do. More thinking and praying to come…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

No direct link with the theme to today’s joke unless you’d like to suggest one:

A dodgy-looking guy walks into a very classy restaurant and orders a steak. The waitress says: “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can pay for your meal.” The guy admits, “You’re right. I don’t have any money, but if I show you something you haven’t seen before, will you give me my supper?”

The waitress, both curious and compassionate, says, “Only if what you show me isn’t risque.”

“Deal!” says the guy and reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a hamster. He puts the hamster on the ground and it runs across the room, directly to a piano. The hamster then proceeds to climb up the piano, and starts playing Gershwin songs.

The waitress says, “You’re right. I’ve never seen anything like that before. That hamster is truly good on the piano.” The guy sits back and enjoys a fine steak supper with all the trimmings.

Shortly thereafter, he asks the waitress, “Can I have a piece of that fine blueberry pie I see on the dessert trolley over there?” “Only if you got another miracle up your sleeve”, says the waitress. The guy reaches into his coat again and pulls out a frog. He puts the frog on the table, and the frog starts to sing up a storm!

A stranger from a nearby table runs over to the guy and offers him £300 for the frog. The guy says “It’s a deal.” He takes the three hundred and gives the stranger the frog. The stranger runs out of the restaurant with dollar signs in his eyes and a big smile on his face.

The waitress says to the guy “Are you some kind of nut? You sold a singing frog for £300? It must have been worth millions!”

“No”, says the guy. “The hamster is also a ventriloquist.”

21 today!

Why are people reticent to reveal their age? After we reach 29 it seems that we would rather not tell people how old we are. We may say we are ‘twentyteen’ or cough violently as we are revealing our age. Or there’s the good old fail-safe ’21 again’.

happy birthday
I am 21 today.


Okay, it’s my 21st Wedding Anniversary, not my birthday, but at the age of 43 that seems to be more a more significant and important celebration to me than my age. 21 years of being married to the wonderful Sally! 21 years of seeing her gorgeous smile. 21 years of … you get the idea. This would be a long, self-indulgent and perhaps nauseatingly sentimental blog entry if I kept going! It struck me this morning that I have been married to Sally for almost half of my life!

Running on EmptyThe Bible encourages us honour and venerate those whose personal odometer is clocking up impressive numbers.We are to recognise and draw on their wisdom and experience. We are to take care of them. We are to consider them blessed by God.

There’s a verse in the Old Testament (and quoted by Peter in his first sermon) that both amuses and puzzles me:

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

(Joel 2:28)

Dreams seem to be aspirational and ephemeral. Visions seem to be dynamic and, well, visionary. I like the idea that dreams are our minds way of organising and filing the thoughts and activities that we have – helping us process them and make sense of them. Visions seem to be more about looking to the future than reflecting on the past.

Is this how we work out whether we are young or old? Do you dream dreams or do you see visions? If you have both, perhaps that’s middle age!
The significant aspects of that passage are not musings on the differences but recognition that God pours out his Spirit on ALL people. How he speaks to us and through us is not as important as what we do with what he says. To pre-empt any Harry Hill-esque evaluations of dreams and visions (which is better?) it seems to me that in God’s wisdom he is telling us that we need young and old – those who can look to the future and those who can reflect on the past.
It’s my wedding Anniversary today (did I mention that?). Sally told me this morning that last night she had a dream that I gave her an expensive necklace to celebrate our anniversary.
“What do you think it means?” she asked.

This evening she will find out.

I’m going to get her a book on interpreting dreams!

what goes on in your head in the night?

Yesterday I had a really good idea for a blog entry. Or at least I thought it was a good idea. Today I can’t remember anything about it, except that it seemed like a good idea. It’s so frustrating. It’s as if during my night’s sleep the internal white board on which I write the important stuff I want to remember gets all smudged so that it is illegible in the morning.

At the same time I found myself awake at 5.21 this morning (I looked at my clock) with my mind rehearsing lots of the things I am going to do today. Why couldn’t it wait? Why did my brain decide that 5.21 in the morning was a good time to go through the day and wake me up in order to do it? Someone needs to tell my brain that if I have a good night’s sleep I am more likely to be able to cope with the day than if I have been awake half the night thinking about it.

I quite like the theory that dreams during sleep (as opposed to daydreams or aspirations) are when the brain does all the filing of things that are important in your life. That makes sense (until I start to think about some of the dreams I have had!). It helps explain why some dreams seem to have meaning. It also provides an opportunity for God to put some new files into our lives for us to file in the ‘woaah’ or ‘really?!’ section. Just ask Joseph (of technicolored dreamcoat fame).

I have only had a few dreams that I felt had direct meaning for my life. The most dramatic was when my family was on a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads. I was only four (I think) but had a vivid dream in which I could see my teddy bear floating down one of the Broads. I shouted out “My teddy’s floating!”

This woke my mother who thought, “He’s thrown his teddy overboard!”

She jumped out of bed to come and see the problem…

…into water that came up to her knees. The boat was sinking. My teddy and my dream had saved us all from drowning in our sleep (I may be exaggerating the danger levels for dramatic effect). I have often wondered whether that dream was a message from God. On its own it was a weird dream. In that context it was exactly what we needed to hear. The same seems to be true in my life of lots of other occasions when God has spoken to me – through other people, through circumstances, through passages in the Bible. On their own they are insignificant or strange. But in that context they are just what I needed to hear. I guess I need to make sure I am always listening.

String of pearls 4After she woke up, a woman told her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Valentine’s day. What do you think it means?”

“You’ll know tonight.” he said.

That evening, the man came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Delighted, she opened it to find a book entitled “The Meaning of Dreams”