musings on grass*

Vibrantly persistent meadow grass dances rhythmically to the beat of a breeze

that breathes politely across taken-for-granted landscapes

carpeted in verdant swathes of emerald deep pile.


Flexible it bends before the strongest gale.

Ever-thirsty it greedily consumes the heaviest rainfall

yet dries buttery-beige under the summer sun

to yield, apparently barren, to scythes and balers

and become fodder and bedding

for cloven-hoofed creatures.


And yet, somehow, this humble dried bed-food

was worthy of cushioning the God-child

as confused cattle looked down at a new-born gate-crasher

wriggling, gurgling, crying, hungry and helpless

in their feeding trough.


Vibrant, verdant, flexible and fruitful times do not last.

But even that which has been cut down and seems dead and dry

can become a surprising bed of welcome and encounter with God-with-us, Immanuel.


*I am aware that this title carries a certain amount of playful ambiguity but assure you that this poem was not created under the influence of any substances.

view from my pew 12

Dear Internet

Harrumph. That’s how I felt last week. My long-running late night radio show on Radio Upson Downs, “Hymns on my Organ” has been cancelled. Apparently it was not mainstream enough for a community radio station that only has a maximum audience of 4000 listeners and apparently they could not sell any advertising time during it even though it was only on once a month on a Sunday evening.

organThe format of the show was very simple: people would write in and request a favourite hymn and then I would play it on my electric organ live on the radio. The postbag for the show never actually bulged, but there were usually enough hymns requested for me to fill half an hour and if there weren’t enough then I would augment the list with some of my own favourites – some of which don’t get sung at all at our church now.

In addition to the requests for hymns I did sometimes get other requests of an impolite nature: it took me a while to realise that there wasn’t a hymn called, “For heaven’s sake, stop!” Other letters questioned my ability to play anything beyond ‘chopsticks’ and some seem to have confused me with some sort of medical show.

I took this up with our Minister, Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker, in the hope that he might organise a petition of support to hand in to Radio Upson Downs to get my show reinstated. I must admit that I half-expected him to smirk and pretend to have a coughing fit again (yes, I have worked out what he was doing – the cheek of it!!) but he surprised me by saying that he was sorry that my radio career had come to an end as he used to enjoy listening to me at the end of a busy Sunday.

I didn’t expect that and waited for him to crack a joke. But he didn’t.

He listened to me as I explained how much time I spend preparing for each show. He nodded sympathetically as I bemoaned the radio station’s lack of community spirit. He said how good it was that I was using my hobby to try to bless other people. He even made a few positive suggestions about what I could do in my last show (they have given me one last show to say goodbye to my listeners).

When I told him that I was surprised that he was taking the situation so seriously he floored me with his comment: “I may not agree with you on everything but I know that you are a man who has sincerely held beliefs and seek to live by your convictions. I can see that you are upset about this and as your Pastor I want to listen to you, support you and pray for you.”

Well, I would have skipped home if it wasn’t for my bad hip. Who’d have thought it? When I got home started to prepare for my last show. I looked at my card index of all of the hymns that have been requested (including the frequency of requests, by whom they were requested and hymn book reference number) and then at all of the letters I have received over the years. It was then that I noticed that some of the handwriting looked familiar. Then I realised whose it was – our Minister had written some of the requests!

I was flabbergasted. I hadn’t expected that he would be so supportive. Perhaps I misjudged him. My ‘harrumph’ has turned to a ‘hallelujah’ and I am going to dedicate my last hymn to him: ‘Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love’.

Yours faithfully

Mr QR Grenville-Stubbs

tales of the unexpected

surpriseIt’s sometimes the unexpected things that make the biggest impact on us: the critical comment that came out of the blue; an accident; bad news that shocks us…

I think it is partly because we have to react ‘in the moment’. We have not had an opportunity to prepare ourselves, to think about our reaction, or to brace for impact. We respond with instinct and adrenaline and they are not always the best of partners because they don’t last and afterwards we can feel physically and emotionally shaky because we did not respond in the way that, had we been prepared for it, we would have like to.

Perhaps we snapped back or were rude. Perhaps we got angry at someone else for the accident (even if it was our fault). Perhaps we took the bad news badly and lashed out. I hasten to add that any similarity between scenarios I have sketched above and actual events is purely unintentional and unexpected.

I hope and pray that I might respond with grace, serenity, wisdom and gentleness in those circumstances. I know that this is not always the case. Over-reacting can sometimes do as much damage as the initial unexpected event and we need to ask for forgiveness and set things right if we have not responded in the right way.

But tales of the unexpected aren’t always bad. Following the recent announcement of my new calling I have had some very kind and generous comments from people. I have also had some unexpected cards and letters from unexpected people that have blessed me no end because of the time and thoughtfulness that lay behind the buying and writing and sending. They blessed me no end.

There are those moments when someone tells you that they really appreciate something you have done – something which you didn’t really think meant that much.

There are times when something good happens to you that you might even have hoped for but which you never imagined would happen in reality.

There are unexpected, unsolicited hugs.

There are times when I read parts of the Bible and the words are apposite for me at that moment and it makes me smile.

There are so many ways in which we are blessed by the unexpected. And because they are unexpected, unsolicited, unplanned, we have not been able to prepare for them or work out how to respond. For that reason I think they sometimes make a bigger impact on us because of that.

If you want the ultimate in unexpected positive outcomes look at the reactions of Jesus’ friends when he met them after his resurrection! Words like ‘overjoyed’, ‘astonished’, ‘amazed’ and so on don’t really begin to do justice to that experience.

Because we are familiar with it we can sometimes downplay Jesus’ resurrection (heaven forbid!). Why not re-read one of the narratives and put yourself in the sandals of his friends who had seen him crucified, thought it was the end of the film and weren’t expecting there to be a sequel? How do you feel?

And perhaps today you can bless someone with an unexpected positive moment. You may find that it makes a bigger impact on them than you expected. And in doing so you may well find that God has used you too!

Be blessed, be a blessing


Crazy babyYesterday evening was full of surprises. Sally and I went to a Salsa night at the church, being held in aid of Christian Aid. I was surprised at just how bad I was, but also that I enjoyed it. I believe that I lack the gene that allows people to dance smoothly and gracefully, but I had a go anyway. Ole!

As I was driving towards the church I was paying attention to some pedestrians in the middle of the road and was taken by surprise by a metal pole sticking out from a market stall that was being erected. In one swift move it took the driver’s wing mirror off the car so that it was dangling simply by some cables. Grrr.

Surprisingly the wing mirror seems to have been designed with precisely this sort of event in mind, and it had come off intact. I was able to push it back onto its mountings and it is back to normal. Phew.

When we got home we were surprised to see something was on the ground towards the back of Sally’s car. Normally it is on the drive, but my car was in the way so Sally had left hers neatly parked facing the traffic flow, outside our house. As we got closer we realised that someone had driven into Sally’s car door, leaving some paintwork and a crease, and knocked the wing mirror off. Spooky grrr.

Annoyingly (and sadly unsurprisingly) they did not leave any details so we have no idea who has done it. It has been reported to the police but unless someone goes and owns up it’s unlikely that we will be reimbursed (not worth claiming on insurance). Grrr.

I believe that we are not defined by what happens to us (surprising or not) but by how we respond to those events. We may be annoyed (grrr) when something unpleasant or upsetting happens, but we do not need to allow that bad thing to define who we are. We can respond with grace, love, peace, patience and allow those things to define us. And if we are followers of Jesus, seeking to be free samples of Jesus, his Spirit at work within us helps us to respond in those surprising ways.

Be blessed, be a blessing

A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse. In the defence’s closing statement the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all,” the lawyer said as he looked at his watch. “Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom.”

He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened.

Finally the lawyer said, “Actually, I made up the previous statement. But, you all looked on with anticipation. I therefore put to you that you have a reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty.”

The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty.

“But how?” inquired the lawyer. “You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you stare at the door.”

The jury foreman replied, “Oh, we looked, but your client didn’t.”

standing up

2011 Crisis at Christams Stand up & Rock flyer

Tonight the lovely Mrs Lear and I are going to a gig. (see picture) It’s a blend of comedy and rock music to support Crisis, but the main reason we are going is the headline act. Sally has been obsessed by Mr Weller since she first heard The Jam in the late 1970s. The first time I saw her bedroom I was intimidated by the number of large posters of Paul Weller and The Jam that covered the walls from floor to ceiling. At that moment I realised that I would always be competing for her affections.

The gig is at the Hammersmith Apollo (of ‘Live at the Apollo’ fame). However they seem to have taken out the front rows of seats in order to create some sort of ‘mosh pit’ for the keen, young, enthusiastic giggers. Guess where we will be…

I suspect I may be the oldest person in the mosh pit. I will certainly be the least able to dance (I have always danced like a dad at a wedding). I am hoping that I won’t stand out too obviously, although being bald with a slot in the back of my head and standing 6’2″ tall may make me a little bit obvious. I intend to make up for it by laughing raucously at the comedians.

Now the thing is that this gig was meant to be a surprise for Sally. A friend had emailed me about it before the box office opened and I intended to give her the tickets as a Christmas present. But I made a mistake. I left my computer monitor on, with my email account showing, and Mrs Lear came into the study for some (still) unexplained reason and her eyes were instantly drawn to the subject of the email: “Paul Weller Concert”. She then accidentally opened the email and saw what it was about, and from that moment the surprise was blown wide open.

Christmas is a time of surprises. There are the unexpected presents (“Socks? Thank you, just what I always wanted.”). The unexpected Christmas cards that always arrive after the last day of posting (did we really forget to send them a card?). There are surprises on the TV Christmas specials (with EastEnders usually trying to be more depressing than the previous years). And there are surprises in church when unexpected guests arrive and bless us with their presence.

I’m not going to segue neatly into another homily about the surprises in the stable. Been there, done that, got the t-towel (for your head, Shepherd-style). Instead I want to pray that this year the surprises are of the pleasant variety, the joy is of the deep variety and the love is of the everlasting variety. (Tomorrow’s bloggage may be of the exhausted variety!)

Be blessed, be a blessing.