Knife Angel

Alison and I paid a visit to see the knife angel outside Derby Cathedral last Saturday. It was our second visit, but as the first had been in daylight we chose to visit on the evening and it was even more inspiring. It leaves Derby tomorrow for Chester so if any of my friends are within reach of Chester I want to encourage you to visit it.

As many will be aware the back-story to the angel is a response to the rising statistics of knife related crime within the country and in memory of those who have lost their lives to knives. The sculpture is 27 feet high and made from about 100,000 bladed weapons collected in knife amnesties across the country. Made by sculptor Alfie Bradley the angel was created to bring to a head the needless loss of life, or serious injury that knife related crime costs.

As we stood looking at the sculpture and reflecting on it, I became aware of a group of girls to my right who were obviously out night clubbing. They had stopped to take their own photographs, and climbing onto a nearby wall to be able to photograph over the security barrier. I became aware of them by the loud chatter, the laughter and the noise level. I can’t deny that, although I didn’t tut-tut, I was inwardly thinking “pay some respect, do you realise what this is about; be as overawed as I am……….”

On my way home I thought about it, knowing which passage I was preaching on the following day, from Luke 18:9-14. “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

I began wondering if I was like the Pharisee, looking down my nose on others who did things differently to me. Instead of giving thanks that the girls had taken some time out of their night clubbing to stop and see the angel (unlike others who walked past without regard), was I being judgemental in being disappointed they had reacted differently to me?

Was I any better than the Pharisee, and what right did I have in making the judgement when I had no concept of the girls own backgrounds; maybe they had known someone involved and wanted to stop; maybe they were afraid of knife crime and wanted reassurance; maybe they were making their own observance in their own way. The problem with the Pharisee in the parable wasn’t that he was in the wrong with his observance, but that his observance was all about himself and his belief that he was doing everything right (wasn’t he good ?). However the tax collector didn’t think of how good he was, but realised his own error and threw himself entirely upon God.

Look at the face of the angel, especially in the first picture (in blue lighting) and it looks so sad despairing and full of sorrow. I truly believe that God is sad and sorrowful when we try to rely on our own actions (which can lead to unfulfilled hopes, or in some cases to estrangement from others) instead of throwing ourselves upon Gods grace and mercy; when we choose our own path rather than the path of tolerance, hope and love which Jesus shows us. Look at the open hands and see in them the hands of God reaching out to lead us in a better way. Grasp those hands for in the pain and suffering of Jesus, the hands that were scarred on our behalf, there IS a better way and it’s the way of Jesus Christ, who spoke of peace and acceptance of all people.

I found and continue to find the knife angel profoundly moving and challenging to my own life and the way I treat others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queer ones and dear ones

I used to have a wonderful church steward quite a few years ago now. Vera, with the wisdom of 80+ was my ‘go to’ person when frustration kicked in.

Quite often, after a Church meeting and I was full of frustration at not having gone anywhere (or so I thought) she’d put her arms around me and say “the Lords dear ones and queer ones” to which I’d usually retort, “I know Vera but can I have a few dear ones as I’ve got all he queer ones” (forgetting of course she was of the church I was complaining about !)

The lovely twist to this tale was that a few years after I’d left that circuit I was a volunteer chaplain at the local MHA dementia care home (Methodist Homes for the Aged) when Vera was brought in by her daughter for respite care. She came to me, called me boss, and said without prompting “the Lords dear ones and queer ones“, then waited for my reply ! A lovely moment that was to be repeated every Friday when she visited until I left the area again.

Why am I sharing this ? Well, it’s very easy for all of us to get frustrated with the attitudes, opinions, actions of others without thought about how frustrated they may be with us.

To some we will be seen as foolish and frivolous; to others, unfathomable whilst others may take us as serious and boring.

We all bring to our relationships with others, our personalities which can often be interpreted as different to how we think we are. To those who think I’m too frivolous, maybe on that occasion I’m just trying to lighten the mood, whereas at other times I may be accused of being miserable when I think I’m just realistic. Different interpretations are taken by different people and often according to their perceptions which we aren’t always aware of.

The conclusion to the story of Vera was that one night I told Alison what she’d said and Alisons remark was along the lines of “well if there’s no room for the queer ones in church where should they go ?”A salutary reminder that the Church isn’t for perfect people but for the hurting, the bullied, the oppressed, the unconfident and so on; indeed it’s the place for all who need the touch of Jesus, whoever they are and whatever their need.

 This image was one I took over 10 years ago and it still remains amongst my favourite for in it I see that no matter what’s thrown at it those breakers remain strong and resolute. Notice that they aren’t perfect, but worn down and broken; YET, they remain in place continuing to stand defiant against the elements.

In Church life we have amongst us and indeed we too are broken and worn down people which is why we come together as community, not as an organisation; a family, not a bunch of strangers bound by the love of Jesus who has first called us into his presence.

In Luke 5:31-32 Jesus answered them, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” How dare any of us think that we’ve got it right; and that we are ‘normal’ whereas those we struggle with for whatever reason are ‘strange’. We are all in need at various times of Jesus; may we be gracious enough to receive from him and from those around us.

 

Scripture also speaks of being fools for Christ, but maybe thats for another blog. LoL

 

 

Ducks

Alison and I have four ducks living with us; well, truth to tell they live in our bathroom as the picture shows. Yellow, Orange, Blue and a black and white Newcastle duck. Of course, apart from the last one they belong to our grandchildren, but I’m proud to own the Newcastle duck

Whats the point of me sharing this with you ? Well, have you ever watched rubber ducks in the bath or even taking part in a duck race down a river ? They tend to remain upright for a while and then the movement of the water unsettles them and in many cases over they go !

Lifes a bit like that as well. We float along quite happily for a while and then circumstances around us (like the movement of the water) upend us and we wonder if we’ll ever get back to normal. The circumstances might be family troubles, health issues, worries, concerns and so on; often they’re just little things but they still manage to throw us off lifespan’s stride.

As many who are on my facebook page will know my hearing has gone under at the moment. My right ear is almost non-existent and my left ear has had a build up of wax/ At the same time the audiology department have recognised that I’m due new hearing aids. My hearing devices are also refusing to communicate with the aids, but until we et new aids we dont know if that the devices or the aids. All in all its conspired to create a day of silence today. I give thanks for Alison and my circuit administrator, Caroline, who’ve dealt with phone calls for me, relaying messages either by text or plain old fashioned shouting. At times its been farcical.

This has been mental health awareness week and I’m aware of how many of my friends are suffering from depression, anxiety, panic attacks and worse. We need to be aware that even the slightest knocks can affect the equilibrium of some people, possibly even those reading this blog.

However, to return to the ducks; when they overturn many will right themselves again and they never sink to the bottom but remain afloat. With determinations possible to come through any storm in life, head down and bear against the wind attitude.

BUT, what about those for whom thats just too much energy needed,; those for whom the will has gone, sapped and there seems to be no hope ? What are they to do ? probably not a lot, but a lot depends on those around them. Its the time for friends, family, church to step up and surround them not with unhelpful advice, or with well-meaning gestures but simply to be alongside, listening, holding and giving time. The community to which we belong are the ones who should be there for folk struggling in life. In effect we are the ones who help others to return to a good life.

And ultimately, as a Christian I would want to say that its God working through us who brings folk the support and love that they need. In the Gospel of Mark (chapter 4 verse 35-41) the disciples are pictured terrified in the boat as its battered by the storm around them. Dont forget these are probably hardened fishermen used to the storms on the lake where they fished, but on this occasion they were convinced their boat would overturn and they would go under. Wheres Jesus in this story ? fast asleep on a cushion !! So they wake him up and he sees their fear, recognises their need and immediately commands the storm to desist. The wind dies down and the rain stops and all is well again. God wants folk to live full lives and so he desires to help.

Today, lets not be the judgemental ones but the supportive ones who carry the love of God for all people.

Mark 4:35-41

Memories

A conversation between Alison and I has sparked memories for me of a wonderful childhood, and I haven’t been able to shake myself out of this frame of mind. To put it into context, the conversation revolved around Dads house. It’s now 2.00 am and I’m struggling to sleep as I keep reliving years past. There are no photos and no profound message but……………………

I’m hoping this might get some things out of my system.

I grew up in a small town in County Durham; in one of its suburbs, called Moorside. Mum and Dad were great parents, and since Mum passed away Dad has been great for my brother and I.

The house is full of memories; I lived for over 20 years in that house, right up till the day I got married to Alison. It was there that I used to play tennis against the wall of Mr and Mrs Chiltern never appreciating how the constant ‘thwack’ of the ball would annoy them. It was there that I successfully broke the dining room window, again with a tennis ball where I missed the part of the wall I was aiming at.

It was in that same garden where I camped for the first time and it was the house and more specifically that I returned to after having all my teeth removed at the age of 10 as they’d never developed beyond baby teeth. On that settee I was to drink soup for several weeks ! Indeed, it was to that settee that I returned on several occasions after some sort of surgery on teeth, ears, nose and eyes. There it was where, in order to cure my ‘lazy’ eye (now recognised as blind because I was born with an undiagnosed cataract) that they covered my good eye with a patch. The intention was to force what they assumed was a lazy eye into working but no-one could understand wy I kept walking into things.

The house was the scene of many birthday parties and other occasions including the one where I held a fancy dress party for my friends. I turned up as Mark Spitz, the olympic swimmer in nothing but my speedos and seven supposedly gold medals. I still have the embarrassing photo which was taken at an inappropriate angle making it look as though I was naked.

It was at the foot of the stairs where I opened the fateful envelope on my ‘o’ levels (GCSEs these days) and discovered I hadn’t done as well as I’d hoped and it was precisely on that bottom step that Mum hugged me and told me to believe in myself.

I brought home two girlfriends to meet Mum and Dad, but the great delight was bringing Alison home, where Mum and Dad took to her immediately. I can still remember Mum standing at the kitchen sink telling me how beautiful Alison was; Alison still refuses to believe it, but to me it’s true. I don’t think Alison was ever formally invited into the family as Mum and Dad took it for granted, even offering her a house key when we first started courting, much to her amazement.

I remember the time Mum and Dad went away and Mum left strict instructions that Alison and I weren’t to get up to anything. Alison came to visit on the first day I was left on my own and as we watched telly the light bulb went. I went to retrieve a new one and promptly proceeded to change the bulbs, forgetting to turn the light switch off. Of course the new bulb suddenly came on, I got a shock and dropped it, whereby it smashed off the side of the dining room chair I was standing on and shattered all over Mu and Dads deep pile carpet. I hoovered every day for that week to ensure no glass was left, and when they got home they were seriously impressed by how tidy the house was. I think Alison came down every day after work to help me do it.

Or the time my mate Guiness and I were left on our own and we tried to recreate a scene from Batman. I leapt over the sofa and landed on Mum and Dads plastic coffee table (they were all the rage those days) and shattered it into I don’t know how many pieces.

Thinking back to the kitchen I can still remember the excitement when my brother, Andrew, brought home a microwave oven. Alison, her brother Stuart and I stood and watched a potato revolve inside and we were amazed at the miracle cooking before us. Even though we couldn’t see anything but the potato it still seemed a wonderful moment.

Much of Dads house still contains items of real nostalgia for me, and I’m still determined to find the bottle green platform boots I ‘borrowed’ off my brother and never quite got round to returning !

It was from my bedroom that I planned out the Chapel plays we used to perform, jotting down ideas and thoughts. Again Dad was a great support as we stored many scene flats in his garage for a few years. That same bedroom saw me dressing up as David Bowie and ‘performing’ in front of the mirror as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Jean Genie, moving on later to Freddie Mercury knowing that I had the rest of Queen hidden around the bedroom. Yes, I even used the mythical hairbrush as my microphone. Dad still has the same mirror but I’m resisting the temptation now.

The last time I was to leave my home was on the day of my marriage to Alison, and I left to the wise words of my Mum “as you leave this house you’re my son but you’ll return as Alisons husband”. In her way she was handing me over to the woman I loved and the woman she loved and trusted entirely.

These are only a few of my memories, and believe me there are many many more; some good and some bad but thanks to the love of the people around me that house was the scene where I put down the roots, foundations for the rest of my life. One day the house will be sold but I will always look back fondly on it.

If you’ve got to this end of the entry, thanks for putting up with my nostalgia, and I hope and pray that your childhood was as good as mine.

Thanks

 

Wedding fun ?

Parts of this were pasted on Facebook yesterday, but I’m still reflecting on it today.

Yesterday was one of the most bizarre wedding blessing I’ve ever had: in a colleagues church and led by a smashing Pentecostal Pastor, Barry. As my colleague was away she asked me to supervise and keep an eye on proceedings.

What my colleague didn’t know was that they’d invited almost 400 people into a building which holds 150. We got them all in to the church and hall ensuring aisles and escape routes were kept clear.

The couple concerned had already been married in a civil ceremony elsewhere and this was to be a blessing of the marriage, but coming from the Pentecostal tradition they wanted to treat it like a marriage ceremony without the legalities, so we had a full blown affair of a bride, a groom, bridesmaids, pageboys, best men etc. We had wonderful

coloured hats and creations, magnificent African designs, a white floor carpet with the names of the couple on it, 3 video operators, a choir and a soloist !!!!

Due to start st 12.00 the brides entrance after the 8 bridesmaids,  pageboys and 6 best men began at 12.34

Whooping and hollering whenever anything significant happened such as the entrance of each bridesmaid, the reading from Corinthians and the close of Communion.

The Pastor who led the service, Barry, was a lovely man and took it all in his stride, but the guests didn’t acknowledge in any way the hard graft that the steward and his wife put into meeting their every need and demand; the couple concerned never said thank you or anything and indeed one of the bridesmaids only spoke to me as if I was the bouncer telling me “don’t let any more in through this door !”

Having had that whinge I recognise it was a special occasion for the couple, their family and their friends, but at the end of the day they were just using the Church as a building conveniently situated half way between all the travelling guests (London, Gloucester, Scotland and Guiana).

And to top it all the £12.50 I’d put in the collection plate to encourage the guests was increased (out of 400 people) by the magnificent sum of £15 making £27.50 ……… and when we turned round even that had been nicked !!!!! (That may not have been the wedding guests but maybe an opportunist from the street.)

All in all one for the memoirs.

Reflection

So what am I to take from it all ? None of these folk will ever come back to that Church, and as the couple (and presumably others) already belong to the Christian faith in their various areas, then it could be argued that there was no benefit to the local Chapel whatsoever; that would be true but Scripture reminds us that we don’t do things for our benefit but for His glory. I truly believe that God was glorified in the noise, chaos, and the nature of the worship; these were people who wanted to come before God in His house and give their marriage to Him.

Secondly, we modelled true Christian hospitality and generosity to ‘strangers’ as the Bible urges us to do.

Maybe God is teaching us all a lesson in this, firstly to glorify Him and secondly to honour His people that He created by showing graciousness and hospitality.

YMCA sleep out

Further to my last blog ( a few minutes ago) one of the small ways in which I try to help others is through the annual YMCA sleep out; some years I simply pay a sum myself and other years I seek sponsorship. This year will be my 7th sleep out and I’m on the search for sponsorship at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MikeRedshaw

I understand that folk can’t give to every charity that makes an appeal and so I’m not offended if you read this and don’t give, but please pray for me as I sleep this year neither in the graveyard nor on the concourse at Pirelli but as part of the YMCA village, with my pop-up tent outside the main stand.

The photographs are of previous years: What will this years look like ?

Make my night even more comfortable (!) by helping out and/or praying.

 

Thankyou

“So what’s the story ……?

Ive just finished re-reading the Connexion magazine from the Methodist Church and have found it to be truly inspiring in many places. Not only are copies delivered to every Methodist Minister,  for Church use, but it can also be found online at https://www.methodist.org.uk/media/12459/the-connexion-magazine-issue-15.pdf

From the article written by our President of Conference, Revd Dr Barbara Glasson to articles on Church planting, our Methodist heritage, racial justice and much more, I have found this edition to be one of the best that the Methodist Church has produced and Im so thankful for it. I would encourage readers of this blog to pick up a copy from Church or look at it online. I’m thinking seriously about using it for a study group in either Trent and Dove or South Derbyshire Circuits (or both together !)

I’m particularly encouraged by the article from Barbara Glasson entitled “Embodying God’s grace” and the way she reminds us that ‘doing small practical things graciously is at the heart of who we are as Methodists”

I’m particularly reminded of the time when Alison was expecting our first child; because of high blood pressure she was frequently in hospital. The lady who took me ‘on note’ as a young Local Preacher (she knows who she is) took it on herself to frequently land at my back door with a casserole or a simple meal, so that when I returned home from work I didn’t have to cook and therefore could get to the hospital to visit Alison. For me that was a life-saver. As she reads this I hope she grasps something of my enormous gratitude for her generosity, even though she probably didn’t think she was doing much at the time. She gave me more than just a love of preaching, she shared with me the generosity and Grace of Christ.

Sometimes we think we can’t do much to improve the world; we feel helpless in the face of natural disasters, racial hatred, discrimination, , illness and so on but there is so much that we can do I our own area. I once heard a story of a man walking along a beach in which hundreds of starfish had been washed ashore. As he looked at the number of dying creatures in the baking hot sun, he saw a small boy throwing one back into the water. ‘What are you doing ?” he said, “you can’t possibly throw them all back. it’ll make no difference” The boy pointed at the sea and simply replied “Its made a difference to that one !”

Within Methodism we have been challenged to have a year of testimony and I want to begin by asking “what’s our story …..?” Is it a story of conversion, of opportunity, of helping someone, of making a difference ? We all have a story to tell, whether it be a small generous gift like the one I received or the opportunity to work overseas for charity. It may be a story of how we received a call to preach or to the Ministry, or it may be a story of starting a new venture amongst the homeless, but whatever it is I ask you to “tell that story of what God has challenged you to” and allow others to hear and be challenged as well.

 

p.s. Three times over the last couple of weeks I’ve been asked to put my story (ies) into a book. I don’t think it will be of interest and I also think that just about every Minister in the land has stories to tell so why should I be any different ? However, I’m praying it through to see if God is challenging me towards my next sabbatical.