playground politics

Picture of Childrens Playground - Free Pictures -

A long time ago I upset our local MP by posting a bloggage that revealed how he had voted against a motion that highlighted the issue of the growth in demand for foodbanks. You can see it here if you want, and it led to a lengthy correspondence with him (he was still unhappy at the end of it). But it was an unusual occurrence because although I consider myself to be a political person and have strong opinions about many issues, I don’t tend to post them here. But it may be time to upset some more politicians…

And it’s because of playground politics.

I would like to think that those who enter politics do so in order to serve the country. I would like to think that those who enter politics do so particularly to care for those who are weakest and most vulnerable in our society. I would like to think that those who seek office do so in order to make a positive difference. And I am sure that if you asked any politician whether this is the case they would respond positively (or if not they would evade the question by answering a different one they would rather have been asked).

But increasingly to me it appears as if many politicians are acting in the interests of their party rather than the interests of the country, and some are even acting in the interests of their own political ambitions above even the interests of their party! How can that serve the interests of those who are most vulnerable and marginalised?

There are all sorts of allegations being made about lies and broken promises by each of our political parties and by the different sides of the EU referendum but the level of disingenuous rhetoric that I perceive is greater today than at any other time. One of the most obvious examples is the £350million for the NHS promised on the side of the notorious bus was an outright lie and nobody now is making that promise. It really bothers me that some of the leading Brexit politicians in this country are busy squirreling their wealth overseas while telling us that there’s nothing to worry about.

But what really bothers me is when politicians (in the UK and USA) label opposing views with a blanket phrase that allegedly discounts them immediately without engaging in the issues being raised. So in this country any criticism of the Brexit plans (or lack thereof) is labelled ‘Project Fear’ and by doing so the criticisms can be ignored in one fell swoop. In the USA criticisms are labelled ‘Fake News’ in the same way. And people believe this because they trust the politicians. If we let our politicians get away with this we may not be surprised if we eventually find that they have removed any sense of personal or corporate accountability for their actions.

It feels like the playground when a child’s taunt would receive responses like, “I’m rubber, you’re glue: whatever you say you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” Or the annoying constant retort, “I know you are, but what am I?”

So what can we do?

Write to your MP when there’s an issue that concerns you. You can send them an email through They are obliged to write back. And if the answer is unsatisfactory, write again. You can use the same process to write directly to the Prime Minister or any other politician (email addresses are

Join campaigning groups.

Join with others who want to make a difference to their community in groups such as Citizens UK

Join with your local church who will (hopefully) be working to make a positive difference to some of those on the margins of our society.

And just maybe we can leave the playground and return to the nobler purpose of politics.

Be blessed, be a blessing


So, dear Bloggists, I have been away for a week with Sally (the wonderful lady to whom I am married) in the Lake District. That is why this page has been silent for the past week – sorry. We had a fantastic time. We walked over hills and down valleys and around lakes. We saw some astonishingly beautiful scenery. We ate some delicious meals. We spent quality time with one another.

I also took some photos. We have recently acquired a new camera as our old one broke and we have some significant family events coming up. It’s what is known as a ‘Bridge camera’ – halfway between a point and shoot compact camera and a complex Single Lens Reflex camera. It has rather a long zoom on it, though. In fact a combination of optical and digital zoom means that it has 84x zoom on it. I didn’t really know what that looked like until I took the photographs below.

We had stopped for a break on a walk around Derwent Water and looked across at Catbells. It was a beautiful view so I decided to take a photograph, resting the camera on a post that was part of the landing stage on which we were sitting in order to keep it stable. This is the view that we had.IMG_0060

After I had taken the photo I look across again and I thought I could just about make out some tiny shapes on the skyline that might be people so I decided to see if I could zoom in on them with the camera. then zoomed in… as far as the zoom would go. This is what I saw!


I was astonished at the level of detail that was achieved from the camera. It was exactly the same view as the first image, I had not moved the camera at all. But instead of mountains and trees and lake and landing stage, there were visibly discernible people and dogs walking across the top of Catbells.

Reflecting on these two images has led me to reflect again on Psalm 8:

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

  You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honour.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

It’s easy to get sucked in by our own ego and think that we are bigger and more important than we are. At times like that perhaps we need to look at the zoomed out picture and realise that we are specks on the horizon.

It’s also easy to believe our own lack of self-worth and think that we are insignificant and irrelevant. At times like that perhaps we need to look at the zoomed in picture and realise that we are significant individuals who are worth noticing.

It’s important for us to see people the same way. It’s important to understand that those who intimidate us occupy about the same amount of space that we do on this planet. It’s important for us to understand that some people have a much lower opinion of themselves than we do. How does that understanding change the way that we respond to them?

And then perhaps we need to realise that God sees us from both perspectives. He sees the whole big picture of life, the Universe and everything, and he sees the details of each person: our needs, our concerns, our joys and our sadness. And both views matter to him intensely. Knowing that he sees the big picture can be reassuring when we can’t. Knowing that he sees the individual issues and is interesting can be reassuring when we can’t see a way ahead. That knowledge is possible if we look with the eyes of faith.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Grandma’s lamp

I love the simplicity of this image yet it is clearly a desk lamp(

I love the simplicity of this image – yet it is clearly a desk lamp(

I have a desk lamp that belonged to one of my Grandmas. I have had it for a while and when I came to Colchester I thought it would be useful at the church.

I put it on my desk in the ministers’ office at the church when I was setting up there, and it lived there for the past 6+ years. (For you grammar pedants, it was an office for both ministers so the apostrophe is in the right place here even if it never got changed on the door!). Yesterday evening I went to the church to empty out some bits and pieces from the office (cue more lumps in throat and tears in eyes – what a softie!).

I almost forgot to pick up Grandma’s lamp because it had been a regular ‘fixture’ on my desk for the past 6+ years and I had grown used to it being there. As I was gathering up my bits and pieces I noticed Grandma’s lamp and realised that I needed to bring it with me. I managed to get it gently in my bag and brought it back. I have found the perfect place for it above my desk and realised that I could have used it there much more helpfully than I used it in the church office.

Two brief reflections on that:

Do we treat people like Grandma’s lamp? How often do we become so familiar with people that we take them for granted? How often do they blend into the background and we forget that they have a story, an inherent value and significance?

And is it also possible that we are like the lamp? We may be doing wonderfully where we are, but might God have us use our gifts in another way or another place in order to bless people in a different way? This is what is happening to me this week!

Be blessed, be a blessing

fashion advice from my socks

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAYes, I have started to take fashion advice from my socks.

Before you invite the men in white coats to come around let me explain. When my wife, Sally, is around I will sometimes invite her to tell me if, for example, my tie goes with my shirt or a shirt is okay with my trousers. She has a good eye for these things. But she’s not always around when I am working out what to wear. You may be able to tell when those occasions are!

And then yesterday I had an epiphany – I can get fashion advice from my socks. Some of my socks have two colours on them and those colours work well together. So if I wear clothes with those colours on they should match too. For most of you this will not be new news. But for those who are fashion-impaired like me, it’s a great help. It’s not a foolproof system, of course. I won’t be taking fashion advice from the comedy Homer Simpson socks I was given for Christmas a couple of years ago, for example. And I do realise that some socks are designed with contrasting colours so that they are deliberately outrageous. But I think that on the whole my socks will give me good fashion advice.

I have now started to look for advice from other items of clothing. So far my jumpers have not helped me make technology choices and my jackets have not told me anything helpful about banking.

Of course strictly speaking it’s not the socks that are giving me the fashion advice. I am drawing on the expertise and experience of the people who designed my socks and put those colours together.

This epiphany has led to a couple of reflections for me. One picks up from yesterday’s bloggage about spaces and taking people for granted. There are so many people we take for granted in the supply chain that gets our food, provisions and property to us. Unless you live an entirely subsistence existence you will be reliant on others. Even if you have grown your own food you are reliant on the power suppliers who provide the energy for you to cook it. And even if you have a wood burning stove you are still reliant on the person who built the stove, your saucepans, water suppliers, crockery and cutlery makers and so on. We are interconnected but sometimes don’t realise how much we are interconnected.

The second reflection picks up from something I was saying in my sermon on Sunday evening – God speaks to us through unexpected people and circumstances. In the passage we were considering from Joel 2:28-32 God was promising his beleaguered people a new era and a new engagement with him. In that era the human limitations that had been placed on his activity would be swept away in a deluge of his Spirit: no longer would there be divisions based on age, gender, status or any other divisions. All people will be able to receive his Spirit and be in a relationship with him.

I have always been fascinated by the account of Balaam in the Old Testament (Numbers 22). He was a prophet (someone who spoke God’s words to people) and had been given instructions by God about what he should do. But he was being disobedient. He was on a journey God didn’t want him to take and all of a sudden his donkey turned off the path. Then it stopped and would not budge. He beat the donkey but it would not budge. Then we read that “the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth…” and his donkey spoke to him! The donkey had seen that God’s angel was ahead of them ready to smite Balaam and had stopped to save his life.

Regardless of what you make of that narrative, the point I take from it is that God will speak through the most unlikely of sources. I wonder who you would consider to be the most unlikely person through whom you would hear God speak? I think you should listen to them a bit more carefully in future because God might have something to say through them! And if you feel like Balaam’s donkey, be encouraged that God can speak through you too.

Be blessed, be a blessing