junk mail 2

It’s everywhere. It used to be called ‘Junk mail’ and ‘cold calling’ and now it’s called ‘spam’.
The unsolicited blurb that comes at us from every possible direction. I would like to declare now that I have never ever responded positively to spam or its equivalents. If any spammers are reading this, perhaps you could take note and not bother any more.

I don’t need a rolex (or genuine copy of a rolex!); I have no intention of using my bank accounts to launder money from African (or other) dictators; and I am happy with my body (hem, hem).

Today I checked the spam messages that have come in on the blog (yes, even here!) and was delighted to see that one of the messages has been translated from the original language either by a non-English speaker or (more likely) a computer. What do you make of this:

 I appear forward to approaching back to read your future posts as well

I suspect that they are trying to look forward to coming back… If spam is going to entertain like this, perhaps I am less unhappy about it.

It seems to me that some Christian evangelism is like spam / junk mail / cold calling. We spread the message as far and as wide as possible in the hope that one or two people might respond. Hallelujah for those who do, but what effect does it have on those who don’t? What effect does the street preacher haranguing passers-by with the news that they will burn in hell unless they turn to Jesus have on the majority of people? What effect does the ‘tract’ pushed through people’s letterboxes have on most people? What effect does ranting about Christian values in newspapers have on most people? Even (dare I say) what effect does door-to-door evangelism have on most people?

I fear that these things are used by the opposition to harden hearts and entrench attitudes.

I have always felt that the most effective form of evangelism is sharing our faith with our friends and family by being good free samples of Jesus, and every day that passes I become more convinced of this. That does not mean that we do not articulate our faith – far from it – but we actively seek to be used by God to share our faith with those who know us best.

The regular bloggerel-consumers at this site will now be considering me to be hypocritical considering last week I suggested that targeting those who are ‘warm’ neglects those who are not. Perhaps, except that Jesus was assuming that we would ALL be good free samples of him at home, at work, at the gym, at the school gate, in committee meetings, to our neighbours, on the phone to cold callers (!) and so on. It is not the methodology that is wrong it is our implementation of it. If all believers in Jesus were good free samples the impact on our communities and those who are not yet followers of Jesus would be considerably greater than it is now. If you think about the number of people we all meet in a week then there will be few people who remain uncontacted.

Most of us (if we are honest) would rather keep our heads down. But Jesus does not give us that option. ALL followers are called to be free samples and to make the most of every crossingplace into which God leads us. He promises to be there to help, but he is incarnate in our homes, workplaces and other crossingplaces in us and us alone!

Whose path crosses with yours today? How can you be a good free sample of Jesus to them? Can you make them a cup of coffee? Buy them a cupcake? Help them carry heavy bags? Give up your seat? Offer to pray for them? Be there for them? Give them your presence and full attention?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Warning: Gender roles may have been reversed in this email…

SUBJECT: Update!
DATE: 20/10/2011

Dear Wife….

I’m sending you this email to bring up to date on the events of our family. I tried to talk to you while you were on your computer, but you just kept telling me that you would BRB…..whatever that means. So, I decided to send you this email.

John cut his first tooth today. He’s the one you bounce on your knee while typing. Remember how he giggles when he hears the Uh Oh sound? Sorry about him dropping his peanut butter sandwich on your keyboard. Is it working okay since I cleaned it up for you? Can you read the letters I tried to paint back on your keyboard? Most of them had been rubbed off.

Susie had her first date Saturday night. She had a good time and said to thank you for letting them use your car. She put the keys back on the key rack underneath the cobwebs where she found them. Do you realize that she wears the same size clothes as you do? In case you’ve forgotten her, she’s the one who has you raise your feet when she’s running the vacuum cleaner around the house.

Tim is playing football. He looks forward to going to school now that he has a sport to play. He wanted to know if you would come to one of his games if we bought you a laptop to bring along? Do you remember him?

Lets see…..since the last time I wrote to you (3 months ago), the refrigerator had to be replaced, the dog died from old age, your mother and dad painted the room where your computer is (hope you like the colour), the church has a new pastor, and oh yes….. I have a new job.

Well, I think that’s about it. I’ll email you again in about 3 months. You take care of yourself honey. We all miss you very much and will see you the next time the power goes off!

Your Husband

peace be with you

Yesterday evening I was at a great session looking at how we read and understand the Bible and one ‘throwaway’ comment from the speaker was that the roots of ‘exchanging the peace’ at communion in church is to make sure we are right with one another before we share bread and wine together. This comes from the context of 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul corrected bad habits that the church had got into when sharing communion. It’s not intended to be a hugfest or a way of making sure everyone is welcomed.

Then this morning I heard that today is World Peace Day. It began with one man’s vision for a day of peace across the world, in 1999, and has grown to become a day that is endorsed by the United Nations.

One of the thoughts underlying the movement is that if we can’t have peace for one day a year, what hope is there for 365 days a year? I appreciate the thought and am so encouraged by the possibilities of this movement, and am in no way critical of what they are achieving. But what I am struggling with is that people in conflict can hold a one day truce and they go back to trying to kill each other. It’s like the famous football match on Christmas Day in World War 1, when the British and German soldiers met in no-man’s-land, played football and exchanged gifts. Then the resumed the slaughter the next day.s. It has resulted in peace in Afghanistan for a day a year for three years during which 4.5 million children have been safely vaccinated! You can find out a lot more about the day at this website. Filmmaker Jeremy Gilley, the founder, became concerned with issues of what it means to be human and peace and has done something remarkable. If there was ever a good candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize he is!

Peace is not simply an absence of conflict, it is a change of attitude that seeks the well-being and wholeness of others. Stopping fighting is a good start, but only a change of heart will make a lasting difference.

A literal translation of Psalm 46:10 is “Let go / surrender / stop fighting and know / be aware / experience that I am God.”

Blessed are the peacemakers… so what will you do today for Peace Day? Is there someone with whom you need to make peace? Can you make a truce with someone with whom you are in conflict? Can you help make peace for others? Can you help people know God so that they can let go of hatred and experience peace?

Be blessed, be a blessing.


A rabbi and a priest get into a car accident and it’s a bad one. Both cars are totally demolished but amazingly neither of the clerics is hurt.

After they crawl out of their cars, the rabbi sees the priest’s collar and says, “So you’re a priest. I’m a rabbi. Just look at our cars. There’s nothing left, but we are unhurt. God must have meant that we should meet and be friends and live together in peace the rest of our days.”

The priest replies, “I agree with you completely. This must be a sign from God.”

The rabbi continues, “And look at this. Here’s another miracle. My car is completely demolished but this bottle of Kedem wine didn’t break. Surely God wants us to drink this wine and celebrate our good fortune.” Then he hands the bottle to the priest. The priest agrees, takes a few big swigs, and hands the bottle back to the rabbi.

The rabbi takes the bottle, immediately puts the cap on, and hands it back to the priest. The priest asks, “Aren’t you having any?” The rabbi replies, “No…I think I’ll wait for the police.”


When I was little we lived in North Devon. My Dad was Headmaster of a nearby village school in Highampton and we lived in a (rented) thatched cottage on the outskirts of a village called Sheepwash. No, it’s not a made up name. It’s a lovely picturesque village that has often been used as the backdrop for TV dramas set in the countryside.

I googled Sheepwash in order to find a photo for you and was doubly astonished. Firstly there’s a second Sheepwash – in Yorkshire. Don’t confuse them. Secondly, the house in which we used to live is now set up with a converted barn for holiday lets. The photo here is of the cottage in which we used to live!

Aaah. Nostalgia.

My memories of that part of my life are pretty hazy. I was only a toddler, after all. I have been told that I swore. My sister had been told off for saying something she had heard (rhymes with ‘rugger’). She had found me in my cot and had taught me the new word. Mum and Dad found her saying, “What is it I mustn’t say?” and me bouncing up and down in my cot repeating the word enthusiastically!

I do remember Mr Trace, though. He was the local farmer from whom we rented the cottage and he semi-adopted me. He used to call me ‘McTavish’ for some reason I have never discovered. I couldn’t say that so would call myself ‘Tabish’. I used to accompany Mr Trace around his farm in his Landrover. I also used to ‘help’ him on the farm.

He had chicken sheds and I would help him muck them out. I had a little blue tricycle with a red trailer and would pedal around to where he was shovelling. He would put a shovelful of ‘muck’ in the trailer and I would pedal around to the pile, empty out the trailer and then head back for more.

I used to accompany him to market on occasions – at Black Torrington. It seems that each time I went I would come back with a new toy tractor. Tractors were (and still are) cool. I would spend hours lying on my side ‘brumming’ the tractors back and forth until I wore them out.

I have been told that I also caused trouble. On one occasion Mr Trace left me in the cab of his Landrover while he went to check something and when he came back he could see two chubby little legs sticking up. I had managed to slide head-first through the steering wheel and got myself stuck. On another occasion I apparently shorted out the Landrover by sticking my fingers in the socket for power tools.

Why all the reminiscing? I am not sure what triggered it, but I do know that I treasure that time with Mr Trace. He was so kind, patient, generous and I looked up to him (literally and figuratively). He was a significant person in my formative years. I am sure he did not think of himself in that way. I am sure he just thought of himself as an ordinary man.

We have the privilege of being able to do that too. Not only for children and young people, although that is a massive privilege and responsibility. But for those who are young in the faith. Whether we like it or not, whether we realise it or not, other believers are looking at us and basing their experience and image of Jesus on us.

They need our patience when they make mistakes. They need our encouragement. They need opportunities to use the gifts that they have and grow in their faith. We all need to be able to look at our fellow followers of Jesus and see glimpses of him to we can seek to emulate.

Be blessed. Be a blessing.


I was thinking earlier this morning [sound of readers fainting in surprise] and for some reason the phrase ‘leave nothing behind except your footprints’ came to my mind. Psychologists may have fun with analysing that but I want to lead you along my train of thought that came from that starting point.

FootprintsThe phrase is one which is used to describe how we should treat the countryside when walking through it or camping in it. In other words take all your rubbish with you, leave no human-made objects behind you and minimise the impact on the environment to that which will soon fade naturally.

I realise that it is not intended as a description of our life, but I sometimes wonder if sometimes I live in the same way – leaving nothing behind me except my footprints. Most of us want to be remembered when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, and I guess most of us want to be remembered fondly. But what will be our legacy? Not financial, but what difference will our lives have made?

I think this is where it links to yesterday’s blog. How many people will give thanks to God because we led them to him? How many people will be in heaven because of us? How many people will give thanks to God because we were his hands and feet and voice and hug and encouragement and cook and shopper and gardener and chauffeur and … and … and…

This is not so we can have a great eulogy at our funeral or so there will have to be a full-page spread in the paper to print our obituary. It is about making a difference in the name of Jesus so people will say how wonderful he is.


WARNING – if the ‘footprints in the sand’ reflection / poem is precious to you I would advise you to stop reading this blog at this point and re-read ‘footprints in the sand’ instead for your edification and encouragement. Reading on will probably ruin it for you.


Still here?

You have been warned.

A man had a dream. In his dream he saw himself walking along a beach. He looked back and saw footprints in the sand behind him and realised that he was looking at his life stretching out behind him. He saw all of the major events in his life.

As he looked he realised that alongside his footprints there was another set of footprints that belonged to Jesus – his constant companion.

He looked closer and realised that there were occasions when instead of two sets of footprints in the sand there was only one set of footprints.

The man turned to Jesus and asked, “Lord, why are there times when there is only one set of footprints? Is that because you were carrying me?”

Jesus turned to him and smiled. “My son,” he said, “that’s when we were hopping!”

Keep on hopping with Jesus 😀

Some people won’t be on the pitch…

Gross generalisation the first: there is a sense of collective disappointment across the country because FIFA is not holding a World Cup Finals in England for at least the next 20 years.

Gross generalisation the second: the sense of collective disappointment is concentrated among the males in the population.

Gross generalisation the third: lots of people are blaming the media (The Sunday Times and BBC’s Panorama) for us not being awarded the Finals in 2018 because they ‘exposed’ alleged corruption within FIFA.

If, in reading these gross generalisations, you found yourself thinking, ‘I don’t agree with that statement,’ it confirms their identity as gross generalisations. If you found yourself thinking, ‘I agree with these statements,’ it confirms that they are true. Either way I win. Woohoo.

In churches we are not usually crushed in the stampede to volunteer to help out with different activities. I have a dream that one day it will be like some of my primary school lessons where every child had their hand in the air desperate for the teacher to pick them.

Let’s magnify that dream a lot. What would the world be like if countries spent as much time and effort  trying to eradicate poverty, hunger, homelessness, deprivation, people-trafficking, unfair trade practices, exploitation, bonded labour… as they have done trying to be awarded the World Cup Finals?

Is that just a dream? Is it only going to happen in a parallel Universe? Or can we make it happen through prayer, campaigning, lobbying, and action? If you are on Facebook and want to make a start, sign up for Superbadger from Tearfund.

One last thing. Qatar 2022???? See this video for an example of the quality of Qatari football.