who said that?

I was meeting with some church leaders recently and I said, “The past helps to shape our present but it need not define our future.”

One of the people there asked, “Who said that?”

My answer was not intended to be flippant: “Me.”

They wanted to know who I was quoting, but it was one of the rare occasions when something possibly profound came out of my mouth and I was not aware that I was quoting anyone else. I have since done an internet search for that sentence and while there are others who have written similar sentences and thoughts I am not aware of anyone who has said it in exactly the same way. (If I did inadvertently quote someone else please let me know and I will gladly attribute it to them.)

I have pondered this sentence since: partly because I could not believe I had said something that made sense and sounded like I was quoting from someone intelligent; and partly because I have reflected further on whether it is true. I still think it is. And it can be liberating.

A past success may have enabled us to be in a particular role or enjoy a measure of wealth or fame. But those things can fade if all we do is live on those past glories. I am a long-suffering supporter of a football team that has won domestic and European trophies at the highest level. But the last major trophy was well over 30 years ago and while we still rejoice in that success it is no guarantee of success or survival in the future.

A past failure may have shaped who we are today. But that does not mean that we have to be marked by that failure for the future. We don’t have to wallow in shame and self-pity forever. One of the joys of being a follower of Jesus is that he is in the business of offering forgiveness, fresh starts and freedom from past failure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApparently there’s a saying in countries where there unpaved roads that develop deep ruts in wet weather – choose your rut carefully as you will be in it for a long time.  Once your car wheels have entered a rut you will find it difficult to escape it. The idea is that whether it’s the recent or distant past, events in our life will have shaped and define who we are and where we are today.

But need not remain in a rut. Grace, apologising, seeking and giving forgiveness, reconciliation and renewed hope can help us leave a rut of past failure. Learning from the past, looking with optimism, seeking fresh vision and a willingness to grow can help us leave a rut of past success.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Living on past glories

I have become a convert. I have moved from being a breakfast-time listener to BBC Radio 5 (news and sport) to BBC Radio 2 (music and laughs). That probably says a lot about me, but the conversion is based principally on my enjoyment of Chris Evans and the team (Radio 2) and my getting more and more annoyed with Nicky Campbell’s interviewing techniques and approach to his colleagues (Radio 5).


That little prologue was to set the scene for the main bit. In a recent show, following the Academy Awards (aka Oscars) Chris Evans asked listeners what awards they had received. That got me thinking about awards I have received in the past. There was the time I was playing in goal for Horsham Baptists FC Third XI and was awarded ‘Man of the Match’ even though we lost 9-0 (I kept the score down to a reasonable level apparently!). There was my one and only swimming certificate (10 metres) at primary school, when I doggy-paddled my way down the pool, just making it to then end of the pool before my feet hit the bottom of the pool. I was awarded a School Prize at the end of my Sixth Form for running the Christian Union and School Volleyball Club (and got awarded a parking ticket too when I went to collect it at the prizegiving).

And there was the time when I was a lad in the 1st Torquay Boys’ Brigade Company and was part of a team that won the Brek Trek (hiking race in the Brecon Beacons). We were given a shiny trophy that we were to share between the three of us. I took it home first and promptly forgot to let my colleagues have it until I uncovered it when we were preparing to move to Colchester two years ago! One of the other two team members was then my boss so I cleaned the trophy up and passed it to him so he could have it on his mantlepiece and reminisce for another 25 years before passing it on to the final member of the team.

All this nostalgic glory made me feel good for a while. Then I came back to reality. While remembering good things from the past is great, it is no substitute for living in the present. We can’t live on past glories. I reflected on an exercise we did at a recent prayer meeting. We tried to think of five things for which we were thankful for God that had happened that day. It brought our faith into the present day, rather than living on past events. It’s something I am trying to incorporate into my daily routine so that I can be more aware of what God is doing now, and live with an attitude of gratitude,

To conclude, and bringing together the theme of awards and humour, I leave you with the joke that was voted ‘Funniest religious joke ever’ on the Ship of Fools Website. It was written by American comedian and mammal Emo Philips (pictured).

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. 


I said, “Don’t do it!” 

He said, “Nobody loves me.” 

I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.”


I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” 

He said, “A Christian.” 

I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” 

He said, “Protestant.” 

I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” 

He said, “Baptist.” 

I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” 

He said, “Northern Baptist.” 

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”


I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” 

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” 

I said, “Me, too!”

Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”


He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” 

I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.