and the winner is…

So the headline news today is that in a well-hyped ceremony to give awards to people who have done their job well some of the people were announced as the winners of an award and then someone else realised it was a mistake and that some other people should have been given the award.

Meanwhile, in other news, three quarters of a million people are trapped in Western Mosul as Iraqi forces seek to expel the IS fighters; people are still dying every day as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe; people around the world (and in the UK) are being bought and sold as slaves; famine is beginning to stalk its prey in South Sudan; politicians are seeking to evade public scrutiny by declaring those who criticise as ‘fake news’ (it happened in the UK yesterday when our Home Secretary tried to defend the Government’s decision to stop taking any more unaccompanied refugee children under the ‘Dubs Amendment’)…
You get the idea.

I am not saying that it was surprising that at an awards ceremony as well-organised as the Oscars the wrong film should be announced as the winner of ‘best picture’. It’s difficult to imagine quite what went wrong, or how embarrassed people felt when the error was realised. But should this be the first headline on the news today? Is this the most important thing that has happened in our world?

I suspect that ‘envelopegate’ or whatever this gets dubbed will be forgotten soon enough, except perhaps by those who made the mistake – it may haunt them for a while, and maybe we should spare a thought for them. Their mistake was made public – broadcast across the world and then becoming headline news. Most of our mistakes are less well publicised (thank the Lord).

I try to remember to offer prayers when I hear of tragedies and crises whether they are global, national, local or personal. I know that lots of you do too. I know that lots of churches do. Will we pray as fervently for those caught up in ‘envelopegate’ as in the other issues I highlighted?

Can we get a bit of perspective back, please, and focus more on the more important things – matters of life and death?

Can we show some grace and compassion to all, please, recognising that everyone makes mistakes?

Can we get worked up enough about the important things in life to pray about them, and then to take action and be part of the answer to that prayer?

Be blessed, be a blessing

sweeping changes


Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

41 ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

A while ago I read the passage above and wrote some reflections on it based on sermons I had heard about it which always criticised Martha and commended Mary. I wondered if there were other ways of looking at what happened…

Bad Martha?

Busy Martha

Distracted Martha

Humiliated Martha? (Jesus defended Mary)

Hurt Martha?

Jealous Martha? (would she have liked to be listening to Jesus too?)

Brave Martha (for telling Jesus what to do)

Being hospitable Martha

Caring Martha

Faithful Martha (exercising the gift of hospitality)

Neglected Martha (working in the background and nobody had noticed)

Devoted Mary

Wise Mary

Spiritual Mary

Smug Mary? (Jesus commended her)

Naughty Mary (going against cultural norms by sitting with the men)

Thoughtless Mary?

Inhospitable Mary?

Selfish Mary?

Scroll through to John 11:17-32. When their brother, Lazarus, died who showed faith In Jesus and who blamed him for her brother’s death? Who’s the spiritual one and who’s the practical one now?

Be blessed, be a blessing

grrrrr computers



I had one of those grrrrr moments over the weekend when my hitherto reliable computer decided it was time to become unreliable. (Before I go any further I would like to make it clear they do not want any “should have bought a Mac” comments please!)

Windows users will know that in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen is the icon for the Start menu. This is the place from which you access your programs and the bits of software that lurk behind the interface and which contain various settings that allow you to customise your experience. Rather annoyingly my Start menu decided to stop. When I clicked on it I got a “critical error” message with a reassuring comment that Windows would try to resolve the problem when I signed in again.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

You get the picture. I checked various online forums and discovered that I was not unique in having this problem. Eventually I found a link on Microsoft’s support website that enabled me to have an online chat with one of their “Answer Tech” people. She was very polite, sympathised with my problems, and reassured me that she could sort them out.

And eventually she did. It involved creating a whole new me – or at least a new profile – and more or less starting again. The process of starting again took a very long time (and is still not complete). I have had to transfer all my files across. I’ve had to find a way of setting up my email accounts so that I did not lose the emails to which I need to reply (and those which I saved). I’ve had to try to remember passwords for websites and programs that I have forgotten.


But in the midst of the grrrrr have been a couple of moments when I have been able to stop and assess whether or not I needed to reinstall certain software. It’s the sort of software that keeps telling you how important it is and how necessary it is for you to synchronise your life on your computer with various mobile devices. And I’ve sometimes wondered whether it is as necessary and important as it thinks it is but never had the courage or time to turn it off and see what happens. But now, with the new me, I am able to run programs without the software and am finding that actually it s not as essential as it has been telling me.

And actually the timing is quite good because for the last month every time I have switched on the computer the apparently essential software has reminded me that my year’s support is about to expire and I need to pay them some money in order to keep it going. Now I realise I don’t need to. This will save me some money and also stop the annoying pop-up messages. Win win!

And it made me wonder how much of what I consider to be essential to my life really is that important. Last week and Sally and I swapped cars so she could go a long journey in more comfort and I found myself disliking her car because it was not as comfortable or fast or luxurious as mine and didn’t have all of the gadgets and gizmos that mine came with. But it’s a car. It goes. It stops. It’s more than most people have in this world. Cue another attitude adjustment to turn up the attitude of gratitude.

In the Bible many people found themselves challenged to address what is important and essential in life by their encounters with Jesus. When it boils down to it it’s not stuff that matters. The bottom line is that convenience is not essential. You can even live without all of the things that you consider to be priceless because of their sentimental value (even though that might hurt a bit). If you had to do a reinstall of your life there are lots of things you could do without.

What really matters is the quality of the relationships we have with other people and with God. Those are the irreplaceable essential vitally important things, aren’t they? They are what’s really priceless.

So how much do you value them? Are they the priority in your life? Does it show?

Be blessed, be a blessing


What are your priorities?priorities

That’s a good and important question. I can remember a session at Bible College where we looked at this and how you set priorities. We used an urgency / importance matrix like the one below:

The idea is that you evaluate how urgent and how important things are, and then prioritise them accordingly. That is good advice and has been helpful to me as it is very easy to get caught up in only dealing with the things that are urgent (but not necessarily important) as they are the things that seem to have the most pressing deadline.

Recently I heard someone who gave a different perspective on prioritising. You see, pedantically and semantically speaking, you can’t have more than one priority. The question with which I began the bloggage is a non-question because by definition the thing that has priority is the thing that takes precedence over everything else. There can only be one priority. You might be able to work out a lot of other things that are important and / or urgent and work out in what order you are going to deal with them but only one of them is the priority.

So, to change the question I started with, what is your priority? What is the one person or thing that is more important to you than anything or anyone else?

Whatever that is, it’s your god (or God). It’s the thing that has first call on your energy, attention, thoughts, resources, time and so much more. It’s what you worship. Do you need to change your priority?

Be blessed, be a blessing?

the parable of the banquet (revisited)

Embed from Getty Images

It was a very posh do. In a very expensive restaurant. The chef had three Michelin Stars and more were expected. There was normally a waiting list of six to eight months just to get a table. But since he was also the host of the event the chef reserved the whole place for his invited guests.

It was a very posh do. The invited guests all turned up (surprising some of you) in beautiful gowns (the women) and black tie (the men). The tables were arranged in a circle so there was no top table (surprising others of you) and people were allowed to sit where they wanted. The chef had prepared an amazing menu of food for his invited guests. There were twelve courses (if you count the champagne cocktails on arrival and the after dinner mints and coffee). It was the best food that the guests had ever tasted.

It was a very posh do.  Each course was brought to the table by waiters and waitresses who were impeccable in their attire, deferential in their manner and superb in their service. No sooner had a course finished than the waiters and waitresses swooped, removed the debris, cleaned and re-laid tables as necessary and brought the next course in a seamless stream of serene service.

It was a very posh do. At the end of the meal the host thanked the guests for coming. The guests all thanked the waiters and waitresses. They left significant tips for them. Some guests had made sure that they remembered the names of those who had served them and made sure that they thanked them personally. In the end one of the guests proposed three cheers for the waiters and waitresses and there was a thunderous series of cheers. The waiters and waitresses felt very good about all of this.

The chef, meanwhile, had gone home.

Be blessed, be a blessing

the parable of the lost zeros

In 2007 I was in Ghana for a meeting of the Baptist World Alliance. I changed a small amount of currency into the Ghanaian currency, cedi. I was impressed by the ‘wodge’ of notes that I got, especially with all the 000’s.DSCF0907 I felt wealthy. (And when I saw how some people lived I realised I really was, but that’s another story).

Then, while I was in Ghana, the currency was devalued. Essentially they knocked off lots of zeros from the value of each note. The old notes were suddenly worth a lot less and after six months would no longer be legal tender and would be worthless. It felt strange paying for things that were worth a couple of cedis with notes that had thousands of cedis on written them but were in fact worth only a few cedis!

Because the notes were worth so much less I brought a couple back home with me and gave them to my children as souvenirs. They ‘filed’ them in their bedrooms…

…Just recently a couple of these thousand cedi notes re-emerged and the children looked up their value on the internet. They did not know that they were no longer legal tender and were rather excited to think that they had banknotes worth thousands of pounds. The excitement diminished somewhat when I told them that they were worthless.

That’s a lesson that Jesus tried to teach us. In his parable about a wealthy farmer who kept building bigger barns to store his increasing crops. He planned to build a big enough nest egg on which to retire and then…

…let’s just say he experienced an unexpected devaluation in his currency.

Jesus described him as a fool for focusing on what wouldn’t last.

Be blessed, be a blessing


cloudNo, you aren’t experiencing some sort of strange cyber double vision. The image in this bloggage* is the category cloud from the blog. I try to tag most of my bloggages. Apparently it makes it easier for people to find me. But it also reveals, through this clever cloud thingy, the emphases in my reflections.

If you aren’t familiar with these cloud thingies, the larger the word the more frequently I have written about that subject. I am pleased about the relative size of those words and how that represents the emphasis of my bloggerel*.

I would love to think that those are also the most popular words used in our church and I hope also that they represent the emphasis of my life. I can’t claim that they always do, but that is my aspiration and ambition.

What would a category cloud of your life look like?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*If you are unsure about these words, let me explain. ‘Bloggage’ relates to a blog post. ‘Bloggerel’ relates to the words and thoughts within a post.

just a thought…

what to underline and what to delete? That's the question...

underlining or deleting?

This is not a criticism. Let me get that out there first. I am using something that happened this week to make a wider point.

This week the Church of England met in Synod. Without making any judgements at all it is interesting to me to consider how many of the subjects of discussion and debate at Synod were subjects about which Jesus was completely silent…

Remember, this is not a criticism, but an observation.

I recognise that some of the subjects were issues that did not exist in Jesus’ day. I recognise that he had plenty to say about values, attitudes and behaviour of his followers which had relevance to the subjects under consideration. And I am not saying that the subjects were unimportant or irrelevant. No (just in case you disbelieve me).

But (and here’s the wider application) I do wonder how much of what gets Christians hot under our collars and takes up time and space in church life is stuff that Jesus is not as bothered about. I am not going to list any by way of example because I don’t want this to be seen as an attack or support for any particular issues or causes that would distract from my theme.

A while back it was popular for us to ask “WWJD?” – ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ Perhaps we should also have “WAJP?” on church meeting agendas (local, regional, national, international), on our prayer lists, and our sermon subjects: ‘What Are Jesus’ Priorities?’ How different would those agendas be if we really took that seriously? How different would our praying be? How different would our sermons be?

Just a thought…

Be blessed, be a blessing

enter the matrix

I am not sure when I first came across the matrix that is supposed to help you prioritise

Click on the image to go to the source website

I have always found it helpful, but there are a couple of problems:

Who decides whether something is urgent or important? What I consider important, for example, may be considered unimportant by others.

What happens to the not urgent and not important stuff? Do we ever get around to it?

If you put this matrix onto the gospel narratives about Jesus it doesn’t seem to fit. Surely going to his friend Lazarus when he was gravely ill was urgent and important, but Jesus waited a few more days and Lazarus died (okay, yes Jesus did raise him back to life later).

In the midst of a crowd, on the way to see a sick girl, a woman touched his cloak. Surely that’s unimportant and not urgent, especially compared to the child? But Jesus stops and asks who did it in order to bless that woman whose faith in Jesus healed her. (And yes, later Jesus did heal the girl, who had died by the time he got there).

But he seems to spend a lot of his time with people whose needs were considered unimportant by the majority. He got angry with his friends who considered blessing children to be unimportant and not urgent and turned them away.

Get the idea?

So, onto the matrix above I would like to superimpose several layers. One is what I consider urgent and important. Another is what the church I serve considers urgent and important and the third is what God considers urgent and important. Where they match – hallelujah! Where they don’t, God’s matrix takes priority.

Be blessed, be a blessing.


gavelWhat do you do when there are no rules? What happens when new and as yet envisaged circumstances arise for which no rules have been written? To an extent that seems to be what is happening with social media and how it is being used in our society. we are having to work out the best ways to use social media and what to do with use that could be deemed inappropriate. The companies that run the social media software have their own rules and parameters, but they do not have the same weight as laws written in statute or handed down by courts as legal precedent. There has been significant litigation recently from people who claim that they have been libelled through what has been posted on social media. There was another case not so long ago where a ‘super injunction’ became redundant through the sheer volume of sharing of the subject of the injunction that spread virally through social media. Lawyers have great fun (at our expense) exploiting legal loopholes in these circumstances.

So what do we do?

One possible response is anarchy: everyone does what they want. The problem with that is that you will end up with conflict between those whose actions are incompatible with each other. Another possible response is that someone makes up the rules as we go along. Of course that ‘someone’ has to be given authority that everyone accepts, and we would have to accept short-term chaos until the rules have been written. A third possible response is that we rely on our legal system to extend and apply existing laws as far as possible based on precedent and ‘common law’. but that is cumbersome and expensive and there is a legal maxim that ‘difficult cases make bad law’.

So how do you apply that to the Bible? The Bible has nothing explicit to say about nuclear weapons, the Internet, global warming and many other significant influences on our contemporary lifestyle. The 10 Commandments say nothing about driving cars. If we were to seek to live our life solely by the rules in the Bible there will be significant gaps where we would have to say that it has nothing to say.

That is where we rely on principle rather than rule to guide us. Arguably you could summarise the principles of a biblical lifestyle as living lovingly and justly. That is very crude summary that it would cover any and every situation. We could ask ourselves what is the most loving thing to do and what is the just thing to do. If there is conflict between the two I would always err on the side of love. When godly love and justice combine we end up with grace, forgiveness and mercy and we find ourselves at the foot of the cross.

Some people are much more comfortable living by rules while others find them rigid and insufficiently flexible. Others are happiest living by principles while some find that too vague and uncertain. Obviously a happy balance has to be found but it is worth recognising that behind every rule is a principle. Principles of love and justice lie behind the 10 Commandments for example. And if you extend them through those specific Commandments you can find freedom and certainty in the same place, which I think is what Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the Mount.

For example, the 10 Commandments say “you shall not murder” and Jesus said that we have broken the Commandment if we are angry with another person. The principle could be that because we are called to love as God loves we should respect and honour everybody. we should keep our emotions in check because we can be hurtful and violent with our words as well as our behaviour.

if we start from godly principles we will find that the Bible has plenty to say about every subject. They may not be explicitly worded rules and regulations but principles of love and justice are always topical.

Be blessed, be a blessing.