what to preach?

Sooo, you’re preaching at your mother’s wedding in just over a week’s time and have been asked to provide a reading (from the Bible). What to choose?

Best to avoid some of the Proverbs (“a nagging wife is like a dripping tap”, “better to live on the roof than share a house with a nagging wife” and so on). Keeping well clear of Song of Songs (or Snog of Snogs as I think it should be better named) to avoid blushing, although the temptation to preach on SoS 7:2 “Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine” was briefly there. Avoiding all references to Lot’s wife (who, according to the apocyphal Sunday School blooper was a “pillar of salt by day and a pillar of fire by night.”) Ensuring I do not confuse 1 John 4:18 (“perfect love drives out fear”) with John 4:18 (“You have had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband.”)


I’m not going to tell you what I have chosen (that would spoil the surprise for anyone who reads this and goes to the wedding) but if you want to guess I will confirm if you are right. After all, there are only 1,189 chapters and 31,103 verses to choose from! Statistically the middle chapter of the Bible is Psalm 118. There are 594 chapters before it, 594 chapters after it and if you add those two together you get 1,188. The middle verse of the Bible is Psalm 118:8. What do you make of that? Some people (if you check out their websites) think it is amazing.

But I am less impressed. Firstly because in the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts there were no verses or chapters. They have been added later to help us find our way around, a bit like the section headings in some versions of the Bible. The second reason I am unimpressed is that someone has spent a lot of time working all of that maths out (I got it off a website). That’s like having a Bugatti Veyron (mega-expensive high performance sports car) and only reading the manual that comes with it rather than driving it. The Bible is such an incredible book (to describe it as a book is rather underplaying it) that it begs to be read so that we encounter God. Which bits have you read lately?

Visiting his grandparents, a small boy opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out. He picked it up and found that it was an old leaf that had been pressed flat between the pages. “Mum, look what I found,” he called out.

“What have you got there, dear?” his mother asked.”

With astonishment in his voice, the boy answered, “I think it’s Adam’s underwear!”

A father was reading Bible stories to his young son. He read, “The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.”

His son asked, “What happened to the flea?”

Three boys are in the school yard bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, “My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calles it a poem, and they give him £25.”

The second boy says, “That’s nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, and they give him £200.”

The third boy says, “I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon, and it takes six people to collect all the money!”

Side effects

I have now seen a physician who has taken my temperature, peered down my throat as I said ‘Aaaah’ and diagnosed a sore throat. She was not prepared to diagnose it as Man Flu (notice her gender, see yesterday) and did not give the ailment a name. I felt bereft, not being able to give what ails me a special name. A friend came the rescue though and suggested I call it ‘Bob’ (thanks John!).

The physician prescribed antibiotics to get rid of Bob and in a moment of boredom induced by being oppressed by Bob I read the accompanying leaflet. I was intrigued by the description of possible side effects. There were some which, if they occur, require immediate consultation with a Doctor. Then there was this section:

Other unwanted effects which are more likely to occur are:

* nausea, vomiting or stomach upset

* diarrhoea

* black hairy tongue.

If you notice any of the above side effects, or you notice any other unusual or unexpected side effects and think your tablets may be causing them, please inform…

HOLD ON! Go back a paragraph.

Black hairy tongue????!!!!!

Are they SERIOUS?

I was sufficiently alarmed by black hairy tongue that I looked it up online. It sounds like someone thought that nobody ever reads the leaflet that accompanies drugs so they would slip black hairy tongue in and have a laugh.

Yuck! It’s a real ailment! It looks so revolting that I have decided against putting a picture of it on my blog in case it frightens you away for good. If it’s a choice between vomiting and nausea, diarrhoea and black hairy tongue I would prefer either (or even both) of the first two. (Not that I would like either of them!). If I go into hiding you will know that I have succumbed to black hairy tongue. It sounds like a tongue that has gone feral – living wild and growing a black mane – like the difference between a domestic pig and a wild boar! Black hairy tongue even makes Bob seem less life-threatening.

In the New Testament Paul wrote about wild tongues (admittedly not black hairy ones) to several churches. He seems to be convinced that if we do not keep our tongues under control we can seriously undermine or destroy what God is doing. Not by blowing raspberries (or at least not just by doing that) but by gossip, slander, undermining others and all sorts of other destructive talk. If I am repulsed by black hairy tongue, how much do these other wild tongues repulse people from encountering God through his people?

Some tongue twisters: (to be spoken aloud as fast as you can and repeated – preferably in polite company!)

Seth at Sainsbury’s sells thick socks

Eleven benevolent elephants

Red lorry, yellow lorry

One smart fellow, he felt smart.
Two smart fellows, they felt smart.
Three smart fellows, they felt smart.
Four smart fellows, they felt smart.
Five smart fellows, they felt smart.
Six smart fellows, they felt smart.

man flu

I’m currently feeling sorry for myself. I have a very sore throat, runny nose and headache on top of the usual headache. Some of you will be able to diagnose the problem as ‘man flu’. Others will suggest rather disparagingly that it doesn’t even qualify as a cold. It is entirely probable that the diagnoses will be split along gender lines. Women will trivialise the illness whereas men will realise the potentially life-threatening nature of the ailment and how debilitating it is. If you have any doubts, watch this video www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXLHWmjA5IE&feature=related  and it will explain how serious the situation is.

It is interesting how the different genders see the same things from different perspectives. Before we were married Sally and I lived about 200 miles away, which led to lots of letters and visits to the phone box at the bottom of the hill (so I did not rack up a massive phone bill at home). After we had got over the awkwardness of the first time I said ‘I love you’ on the phone and Sally did not know quite how to respond we descended into levels of mushy romanticism that would make a Mills and Boon author cringe. One one occasion I wrote ‘love you loads’ at the end of a romantic letter. Sally wrote back with ‘heaps of love’. But which was bigger? (Harry Hill would say there’s only one way to find out…) I maintained that loads was loads bigger than heaps while Sally insisted that heaps was heaps more than loads.

Construction WasteHow do you resolve a thorny question like that? Who backs down and concedes? Logic would suggest that it depends on the size of the load or the heap as they are not designations of quantity but descriptions of the distribution and conveyance of a number of objects. It is therefore a futile argument. (Not that we argued, we simply wanted to show the other that we loved them more than the other).

I can’t remember who came up with the diplomatic solution but I like to think it was me. ‘I love you heaps and loads.’ Simple. (How many of you Brits are now imagining a meerkat?)

Do we sometimes have the same problem with God? We try to use language in a way that is inappropriate or irrelevant to try to define and describe the supreme being of the Universe who is indescribable. We may imagine God the Father as being like the Cocacola Father Christmas – a jolly old man with a white beard. We may suggest that God would not or could not do something because it breaks the laws of physics (well since he designed them why is he not entitled to set them aside from time to time to make a point?) We might even decide that God is like us in the way that he loves.

I remember hearing a sermon once when the speaker relayed the story of a Father who had come home from a business trip and was greeted by a chocolate and snot-covered child who wanted to embrace him when he was wearing his £400 suit. The father gathered the child in his arms and hugged him anyway. “…and God is like that,” we were told. He loves us even though we are not perfect. Yes, but that seems to trivialise and limit the love of God to being like that of a human parent. We cannot fathom the depths of God’s love for us. Being able to embrace us cost him far more than a dry cleaning bill. He even loves us more than heaps and loads!











At the end of their first date, a young man takes the girl home. Emboldened by the night, he decides to try for that important first kiss.

With an air of confidence, he leans with his hand against the wall and, smiling, he says to her, “Darling, how ’bout a goodnight kiss?” 

Horrified, she replies, “Are you mad? My parents will see us!”

“Oh come on! Who’s gonna see us at this hour?”

“No, please. Can you imagine if we get caught?”

“Oh come on, there’s nobody around, they’re all sleeping!”

“No way. It’s just too risky!”

“Oh please, please, I like you so much!!”

“No, no, and no. I like you too, but I just can’t!”

“Oh yes you can. Please?”

“NO, no. I just can’t.”


Out of the blue, the porch light goes on, and the girl’s sister shows up in her pyjamas, hair dishevelled. In a sleepy voice the sister says: “Dad says to go ahead and give him a kiss. Or I can do it. Or if need be, he’ll come down himself and do it. But for crying out loud tell him to take his hand off the intercom button!”

I am over 100!

Little things please little minds. I have now had over 100 people visit my blog since I stuck a counter on it. If one of them was you, thank you. And thank you for coming back. Your visits make it all worthwhile. Eventually the counter will be spinning so fast it resembles an old-fashioned petrol pump gauge!

I hope that the visitors who have read my blog have found it helpful. I am interested to see that yesterday’s post achieved more hits than any other. Did people come to the page because they thought I was offering phone upgrades? What did they think when they found out what was really happening on the page? The stats behind my counter do not tell me how long people stayed!

What would it be like if we all had counters attached to us for the number of people we met? I bet we would be surprised. Just a short visit into town today I met one person I knew in the menswear section of M&S (I did not buy anything) and another in the church car park. Add to that the people to whom I spoke in the different shops I visited and contact on the phone with a garage to arrange to get my car serviced. Then I have to include personal hits with my family. And it’s only just midday.

Would any of those people have considered their encounters with me on their own personal hit counters?

And now vaguely relevant jokes:

Cigarettes are a major cause of statistics.

Statistics prove that the number of children you have is an hereditary trait. If your parents do not have children, neither will you.

You can always tell a statistician.

But you can’t tell him much.

>Phone Upgrades


Nokia 5800 ExpressMusic Mobile PhoneMy phone has recently updated its software. (There’s a sentence that even five years ago I would not have thought I would ever type). It is not just a little tweak, it has changed the style and format of the user interface (how I access the stuff on it for the non-jargon literate). There are new icons where there were previously no icons. It has upgraded the maps software so I now have a groovy satellite navigation system for almost anywhere in the world. There are extra ways of accessing people’s addresses quickly. It has improved the way that I can access my calendar / diary. It links much more easily and successfully with my computer in order to synchronise songs, pictures, messages and much more.

It confused me considerably when alarm alerts started coming in. It used to be a simple matter of turning them off by pressing a button, but when I tried doing that with the new buttons nothing happened. It was embarrassing at last night’s Church Meeting when the alarm kept going off to tell me that the Church Meeting was happening and I could not stop it. In the end the phone had to be switched off completely. (I have since discovered that to turn off alarm alerts when they happen I have to do a lovely slide of my finger along the button on the screen rather than just tap it. D’oh!)

And it even makes and receives phone calls!

One of the things that has changed is that the touch screen process is improved. It’s not an iphone (my phone service provider doesn’t have them) but it still has a lovely touch screen that enables me to get grubby fingermarks all over the screen in a clumsy attempt to get different functions to happen (see comment above about alarm alerts). But now, with the new software installed, the touch screen functions are more sensitive and smoother. It recognises different movements across the screen. Clever or what?!

Perhaps God needs to install new software into me to make me more sensitive to his touch and guidance. Ah yes. That’s what the Holy Spirit is doing in us… upgrading our software regularly (if we let him) to help us become more sensitive and attuned to God. You may even see his fingerprints on me!

Phone jokes:

Frank wanted to get his beautiful wife, Betty, something nice for their first wedding anniversary. So he decided to buy her a mobile telephone. Betty was excited, she loved her phone. Frank showed her how it worked and explained to her all the different and varied features on the phone.

On Monday Betty went shopping in the local supermarket. Her phone rang. It was Frank: 

‘Hi ya, Betty,’ he said, ‘how do you like your new phone?’ 
Betty replied, ‘I just love it, it’s so small and light and your voice is clear as a bell, but there’s one feature that I really don’t understand though.’

‘What’s that, Betty?’ asked the husband.

‘How did you know that I was at Tesco?’

Having just moved into his new office in Whitehall, pompous, newly promoted Lieutenant Commander Rodney Grant [Royal Navy] was sitting at his desk when Leading Seaman Jones knocked on his door. Particularly aware of his new position, the commander quickly picked up the phone, told the seaman to enter, then said into the phone, ‘Yes, Admiral, I’ll be seeing him this afternoon and I’ll pass along your message. In the meantime, thank you for your good wishes, sir.’

Feeling as though he had sufficiently impressed young Jones man, he asked, ‘What do you want?’

‘Nothing important, sir,’ Jones replied without batting an eyelid, ‘I’m just here to connect up your new telephone.’

>The Return of the Redeye

>ping pong paddle 3Take one large house on the Suffolk coast in the shadow of a nuclear power station. Add about 80 people of all ages. Allow to blend for about five days. Garnish with good weather, new friendships, exploration of the Bible, late night conversations, wide games and several people falling in the boating lake. Et voila! You have a wonderful church holiday at Sizewell Hall. Thanks to everyone who was there, who visited, who organised, cooked, led groups, prayed for us and who played in the table tennis tournament (I am too modest to mention who won it).

I came back having had a wonderful time, but very tired. I feel like I could sleep for a week!

While we were there someone commented that it was a bit like the Acts 2 church community where we shared so much of our time, space and selves. They are onto something there. Is this one reason why God seems to speak powerfully on occasions when groups of Christians go away together, whether it is to big events like Sprinkle Harvest or Roll Survivor or whether it is a youth group going away for a weekend or a church holiday like ours at Sizewell Hall? Of course there are other reasons too, such as being away from distractions, being put into a different context, intentionally going somewhere to encounter God as well as being part of a temporary community.

One of the things that is different from the Acts 2 church, however, is that they were outreach-focused. All of the events I have described are focused inwards, on those who are attending. The Acts 2 church grew not because they were so lovely to each other but because they were expressing their faith practically. I am constantly challenged by the phrase ‘they gave to anyone as they had need’. The traditional way of seeing that is to think that it is about looking after the needs of all the new believers. But the ‘anyone’ is not qualified. If they really did look after the needs of anyone who was in need I think that would explain how they grew so rapidly and how people were being added daily to their number.

So what happens on these wonderful occasions away is only really significant if we put into practice what God has said to us while we have been away when we get back.

Two stories about holidays, at least one of which is true:

Two ladies went on a skiing holiday with a Christian travel group. While out on the slopes one day one of them felt the need to relieve herself. Obviously there were no toilets so her friend suggested she go behind a pile of rocks where no one could see her. The lady ski-ed over to the rocks and crouched down, one-piece ski suit around her ankles.

Unfortunately she had not taken her skis off, and they were pointing downhill. Before she knew what was happening she was sliding down the hill with her ski suit around her ankles!

The poor lady was mortified and spent the rest of the holiday locked in her hotel room. On the last night while the rest of the group were having a closing talk and worship session she sneaked down to the bar. While she was there she saw a man with a broken leg. Full of compassion she walked over to him and started up a conversation.

‘How did you break your leg?’ she asked.

‘Well it’s a funny story,’ said the man in plaster. ‘I was out on the slopes earlier in the week when I saw the funniest sight. I saw a woman zooming down the mountain with her ski suit around her ankles. I was laughing so much I fell over and broke my ankle…’

An ardent traveller decided to spend most of her Mediterranean holiday sunbathing on the roof of her hotel. She wore a swimsuit the first day, but on the second, she decided that no one could see her way up there, and she slipped out of it for an overall tan. She’d hardly started when she heard someone running up the stairs. She was lying on her stomach, so she just pulled a towel over her rear.

“Excuse me, miss,” said the flustered hotel manager, out of breath from dashing up the stairs. “The hotel doesn’t mind you sunbathing on the roof but we would very much appreciate you wearing a bathing suit as you did yesterday.”

“What difference does it make,” the lady asked rather calmly. “No one can see me up here, and besides, I’m covered with a towel.”

“Not exactly,” said the manager. “You’re lying on the dining room skylight.”