2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Back to Front

Trent and Dove logo reverseI don`t know about you but the older I get the more I realise I`ve changed, and so often everything seems back to front compared to the certainty I had in my younger days.

When I was a teenager it was all about playing football, having a career and precious little else mattered, then I came to know and fall in love with Alison.

When we got married all I wanted was to live in our little house in Plane street, but then what Alison calls my wandering instinct clicked in and I wanted to move.

Even as a young Minister I went into college full of certainties about my faith and how it should be expressed and then on leaving college I encountered `the real world` and realised I would have to fully explain my views to people who didn`t agree with them. But more………..I`d have to learn to listen to their views and try to understand them and even if I still didn`t agree I`d have to find a way of working with them.

I rejoiced in fairly decent health, but now my hearing has dipped considerably and I`m having to face the prospect of increased hearing difficulties as I get older.

I think about the words of the David Bowie song, “Changes” http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/davidbowie/changes.html and especially the line “Time may change me……..”

In other words all the certainties that I had in years gone by have either been challenged or have moved on. If they`ve been challenged I`ve had to learn to reassess and in some cases re-discover fresh certainties. If they`ve been moved on it’s because of a greater understanding of context, situation and above all else, love.

You see, the one certainty I still have is that somehow, in some way and for some reason God still loves me and in Jesus showed that love. All my theological posturing, my ideological assumptions and my youthful rebelliousness have been challenged, confronted, and in some ways confused, BUT God still remains the one I follow. Jesus is STILL my Lord and Saviour. Yes, my understanding may have changed but the relationship is still there and as strong as ever.

And that’s what relationship does……………….it encourages us to listen and learn from the other; it encourages us to change to please the other; it allows for mistakes and for development. I worry about those folk, Christians and non`Christians, who take up entrenched, immovable positions and hang on to them without dialogue and without a desire to see if perhaps God is telling them something different.

I`m reminded of the old joke about a man sitting on the roof of his house because of rising floods. He prays to God “Lord, I know you can perform a miracle and save me; send a miracle now.” After a while a boat comes along and its occupants shout “swim to us” but the man remains where he is “God will save me.” A while later a helicopter comes along and offers to winch him up, but the man shouts back “its ok, God will save me.”

Sadly the flood waters continue to rise and the man is drowned. When he get to the pearly gates he says to God “I`m really disappointed in you; I`ve believed in you, followed you and done all you asked of me and yet you couldn`t send a miracle to help me in my time of trouble.” God, patiently, replies “I sent a boat and a helicopter. How much more of a miracle did you want ?”

The trouble is that those who think that by clinging on to what they first learnt in life (either spiritually or otherwise) will mean they are right in everything, miss out on the God-given miracle of development and on the excitement of always learning something knew about God, about Jesus and about the world we`re called to live in.

I thank God that I`ve matured (and there’s more maturing to be done yet, believe me) and I pray that I will always have the expectation of more to be learnt and experienced.


Today has been a difficult day for me in the light of the news that perhaps I've suffered a renewed hearing loss, and it might take a while to either sort out or compensate in some way (new hearing aids etc.) as you can imagine I feel quite depressed about this, wondering how it would affect my Ministry etc. especially in what is still a relatively new area for me.


However, I try to be an optimist and have been reflecting that as we stand on the verge of another Christmas Day there are still a lot of good things around.


This morning I was in the town centre with my Rotary club Santa's grotto (yes, I was the deaf, fat elf!) raising money for good causes. Over £1500 has been raised over the last few days. Notice, I kept out of the photo.


As I worked I got talking to a non-Rotarian called Derek who for about 25 years has run a charity called Derek's tree, which invites members of the public to purchase a present to give to Derek for him to pass on to nominated children around the town. This year Derek's tree ave away about £20,000 worth of presents donated by the public.

On top of that I recall the £18,000+ raised by the YMCA sleep-out in November, money raised by the British Legion and by Help for Heroes, Children in Need, text Santa (last week), Movember, cancer charities, Oxfam, Christian Aid, relief in disaster areas like the recent tragedies in the Philippines and in Haiti etc. The giving of food to food banks by members of the public as well as by big name organisations like Tescos and Marks and Spencer's etc. The list of giving just goes on and on, and all this in a time if recession.

Generosity abounds in the midst if us and invites us to get involved.

And then I think about tomorrow and realise that we are recipients of the most generous giver of them all – God himself. Christmas Day marks the moment that Gid, voluntarily, gave himself to humankind as a little vulnerable child to show love, bring hope and ultimately to bring our salvation.

Yes, I'll continue to be frustrated by my hearing and yes I'll become despondent about it, but right now I'm focusing on the astounding generosity if God to this world and my issues pale into insignificance under my thankfulness.


To all my readers a very happy and blessed Christmas, and may the love of the Christchild surround you


President of the Methodist Conference: Christmas address 2013

I thought that people may be interested to read the following……………

From the Methodist Press Office

The Revd Ruth Gee, President of the Methodist Church, has called on the Methodist people to celebrate God’s generosity by being generous disciples.

In her Christmas message, the Revd Ruth Gee urged people to “celebrate and share the generous love of God who mothers us and longs to wipe away our tears, and to nurture us so that we can become the people she has created us to be.”

Her message also advised people on how to respond to God’s “generous love” which is “offered to all”.

“We should respond by being generous disciples,” she said. “We can be generous with our time; time spent with God and time spent with others. Only if we spend time with God will we grow to know God better.”

The full text of the President’s Christmas message follows:

When I first went to Yorkshire I had to learn a new language. Apart from three years when I was at university in Hull, I had lived in the south of England, and there were words and phrases that were completely unfamiliar to me.  I learned that having a pot on meant that you were wearing a plaster cast and that to ‘play pop’ was to make a fuss. I learned to sing about chiming Christmas bells between the verses of ‘While shepherds watched’ and I discovered that the ‘Cornish’ served in the lunch club was nothing like the Cornish Pasties enjoyed in the South West.

One word that was often used by people in Yorkshire was ‘real’. People were said to be real if they were genuine and trustworthy. To be described as real was a seal of approval, it meant that a person or a thing was authentic and true.

Several years ago, I visited Florence. In a number of places in that city you can see replicas of Michelangelo’s David and they are very beautiful. If you want to see the original sculpture, you need to go into the Academia, in which it is the major exhibit. The David in the Academia is ‘real’, it is undoubtedly the real thing and it stands out from all the copies. As you look at it you can see the skill, the style and the technique of Michelangelow, there is something of the artist himself in his creation.

At midnight on Christmas Eve, in many of our churches the central candle will be lit in the Advent wreath. The white candle symbolises the birth of Jesus, the light of the world. This is the start of Christmas. This is the moment when we remember that: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory.” It doesn’t get much more real than this. In Jesus we see, and we encounter, the creator of the universe, the artist who weaves the fabric of our being. This is the reality that God is with us.

God is with us – how exciting and awesome is that? In all the busyness of the festival, don’t forget to be excited. Christmas is not only for the children! Celebrate the birth of Jesus, and share the good news of God’s generous love as widely as you can. Celebrate and share the generous love of God who sent his only son so that we might know the father through the child. Celebrate and share the generous love of God who mothers us and longs to wipe away our tears, and to nurture us so that we can become the people she has created us to be.

I remember so clearly the first time that I held each of my children in my arms. I remember the overwhelming love I felt for them and I hoped that they would love me too. I couldn’t demand their love, I have no right to it, but I longed for it. If you kneel at the manger this Christmas and look into the eyes of the baby, you may find that you are filled with love and you might discover a longing for the generous love of God?

God’s generous love is offered to all of us and invites a response from us. How can we respond?

We should respond by being generous disciples. We can be generous with our time; time spent with God and time spent with others. Only if we spend time with God will we grow to know God better. How generous are we with the time we spend in prayer? I find that it is all too easy to rush through prayer or to be distracted by other worthy things, which are themselves impoverished if they are not grounded in prayer.

We can also be generous with our resources, with our gifts and skills and with our money. And we can be generous with our love, love of God and love of others which is often shown when we engage with, and respond to, challenges and needs in society.

In all this we are joyful. We are filled with the deep and real joy of those who know that they are loved and valued beyond measure. When we have this much real joy in our lives we have to celebrate and we have to share.

I pray that you will all have a joyful, peaceful and blessed Christmas and that you will find the space and the time to kneel at the manger, to look deep into the eyes of Jesus and to glimpse the glory of God. Then you will know that Christmas is real.

Annual letter

As many Ministers do at this time of year we are sending out our annual letter to let people know how we are, and I thought I`d pop it on here (or at least the public parts of the letter) in case anyone was interested.

IMG_0951Dear Friends,

Yes it’s true, if you didn`t already know, we have moved yet again and this time to sunny Staffordshire. To the promised land of Burton, flowing with Marmite and Marston’s (beer).

Because of health issues (stress, mainly) which began to take its toll on Michael towards the end of last year it was felt important to curtail a very happy appointment in Borders Mission Circuit and seek out pastures new. Thanks to the often maligned Methodist Stationing system we found ourselves surrounded by packing cases in this brewing town, which is where Michael was Ordained 20 years ago!

We now live just  about a mile from the town centre, within walking distance, half a mile from the railway station, 5 minutes’ walk from Michaels main church (St. Thomas’s) and most importantly of all only 20 minutes’ walk to the Pirelli Stadium home of Burton Albion FC.

Michael is still a Superintendent Presbyter but this time with responsibility to draw two Methodist circuits together to form the Trent and Dove Circuit. There are 16 churches of which Michael has pastoral responsibility directly for one and supervisory responsibility for a staff of 5. He also has responsibility for encouraging evangelism across the circuit and also for the Burton town centre to see what Methodism can contribute to the centre. The circuit comprises Burton to Uttoxeter so it covers quite a distance.

Of course such a move also required Alison to leave her joint Parish of Crich and South Wingfield where she was curate and as she wanted to remain in the Diocese of Derby (Burton is in Lichfield Diocese) we had an anxious time waiting to see what was possible. The Bishop, along with Graham the Rural Dean, found her a position in Emmanuel Church, Swadlincote (known locally as Swad.) and her new title is “Associate Curate to be known as Associate Priest in Repton deanery and Missioner for retired communities in the Repton deanery” Quite a mouthful but designed to build upon the experience of her work as a Chaplain in Maple Leaf Dementia care unit. Swad is only about 20 minutes from the house and it’s a good road to get there so travelling isn`t difficult. However, because Alison isn`t paid in her role she has kept her Chaplains work on at Maple Leaf House in Ripley (Methodist Home for the Aged)and that involves a journey of about 30 minutes each way. She attends three days a week, and continues to love the work. We`ll see how the winter affects the travelling.

Both in Burton and in Swad we have been warmly welcomed and made to feel as though we`re at home, and we look forward to many years here. They seem to be good folk here and there is the potential for growth.

Both of us continue to travel around with our work; Michael continues to run the Mission Shaped Ministry course and lead/teach about Fresh Expressions, evangelism etc. in different Churches and circuits (available for booking!). He was even honoured to be invited to write a piece on behalf of the National Fresh Expressions Website about the relationship between Superintendency and being a Fresh expressions practitioner.  Alison continues to build up her knowledge of Dementia care and also now gives talks in different places about this and the work of MHA.

Thanks to the generosity of the Bishop of Derby and of Michaels former Circuit we are both going to Israel for a week long pilgrimage in January 2014 so all of our excitement is building towards that. Those of you who follow Michaels blog or either of us on Facebook will no doubt hear more of as it happens.

Michaels Dad, Charlie, continues to do well as does Alison`s Mum, Freda. Both are feeling the effects of having reached 85 years but Freda is as busy as ever and Charlie as mischievous as ever! Both remain in their own homes with good neighbours and good friends around them. As we write this we are getting ready for Freda who is spending Christmas with us, whilst Charlie is going to Michaels brother, Andrew and Cathy for Christmas.

The final member of the family, Sasha the dog, has also settled extremely well and has continued her daily duties of sleeping and eating as if no change has ever taken place!  No change there.

We do hope that this letter finds you well and that you are in good health. May we wish you a very happy Christmas and all of the peace of the Christ child this season and into a very blessed 2014

Mike and Alison


What is it about the current craze that seems to be doing the rounds at this moment in time ? I refer to “the selfie”, the taking of a photo of yourself and posting it on Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites.

In recent days we've had President Barack Obama and David Cameron posing for a self-portrait at Nelson Mandelas memorial, followed by a simply superb cartoon on the newspaper of St. Peter and Nelson Mandela doing the same at the pearly gates. I saw one a while back of a pop fan at a Robbie Williams concert. She turned her back on the stage and took the photo. Trouble is it looked as though she had a leprechaun sized pop star standing on here shoulder. What's it all about ? Is it about claiming some sort of reflected glory from the fame of others.

And then there are the somewhat seedier selfies of celebrities taking their own photos and trying to look sexy at the same time. What's it all about ? Is it some sort of self-promotion, an attempt to remain in the public eye ?

There is also the endless round of youngsters taking selfies and sending them to each other. What's it all about ? Is it about trying to be the coolest in the gang ?

Or is it all just a bit of harmless fun ?

Whatever it is about (and I suspect it's harmless fun in the majority of cases) it reminds me that humankind is often self-obsessed; our image is important to us, hence the style magazines, the rise of the dieting firms like slimming world and weight-watchers (although for some that is about health), the beauty tips, the fashion trends. We want to look good for that makes us feel good and gives us confidence.

The trouble is that being constantly concerned with self-image and with what others think of us puts an amazing amount of pressure on us.

And we approach that time of year when we are reminded that selfies are not what it's all about. Think about it, God had the biggest palace (Heaven), he was the coolest (all of Heaven worshipped Him), He was all-powerful (anyone who could speak worlds into being is pretty awesome), His image was the best of all.

What did He do? Gave it all up for us. From the palace of Heaven to the poverty of the stable; from the coolest to the poorest, from the most powerful to the most vulnerable as a baby and why ?

Because as we are reminded throughout the Gospels in so many words and deeds, “For God so loved the world……..”. Surely a 'selfie' speaks of some sort of inherent selfishness (which we all have ) but Christmas is a time to be reminded that it's actually all about others!

So, this year can we put others first? Can we put ourselves last? After all God did that for us.

Couldn't resist a couple of selfies…….. Just for fun of course !


500th post

My 500th post; it feels like quite a milestone. What to write ? Where do I begin ? My thoughts turn back to the question “What have I written about since that first post on May 27th 2007”. What began as a simple journal to inform my church folk of what I was up to during my sabbatical has turned into quite a record of my thoughts and feelings ever since, and I`m amazed at how many people keep coming back regularly to see what I`m up to. In that time I`ve thought about the use of food in our life journey and how it features regularly in the Bible (Mar 23rd 2010. I`ve reflected on “the cosmic, creative, snowball” (one of my favourite images) on Nov 22nd 2007. Jan 18th 2013 found me wrestling with the concept of honesty in sport and I got some criticism as a result (!). I`ve also delved into the ridiculous for on Sept 28th 2009 I was appealing for help to learn how to use my new mobile phone and on Sept 17th of this year I posted two silly photos of “Michael’s drink store” and “Alison’s Jersey ice cream”.  I hope I`ve used the blog to raise awareness of issues such as the homeless in Burton that the YMCA are trying to support (Nov 9th 2013) and still stuck by my thoughts of communicating Church matters to the people in the pew as I covered attendance at various conferences (such as June 29th 2012).

So what am I to make of it all ?  Whats been the point ? Well, I hope its been a bit of a mixture, a cocktail, for people of thoughts, ideas, complaints, hopes, dreams and throughout it all I hope that some have found inspiration in it, some distraction from their own worries, some have found humour, and some have just passed the few moments browsing.  If nothing else I hope its brought a different flavour to peoples lives.

The photograph is from Jan 1st 2008 “Waingroves wild and wacky cocktail bar”

Waingroves wild and wacky cocktail bar

For me it has been challenging and it has been good to reflect on things in my life. It has been enormously helpful and at times incredibly therapeutic but immensely enjoyable. I have also been encouraged by the sheer number of people who now read this, for those who send comments (if only to prove to me they read it !) and for those who I know use it in order to pray for the Redshaw family.

To you all a great big thank-you.

Now for the next 500…………………….


I am a child of God


Was very fortunate to be able to go to Old Trafford today to see Newcastle beat Manchester United. Even more privileged to experience 76,000 people remain totally silent for a minute in memory of Nelson Mandela and then burst into a minutes quite deafening applause. A mark of respect for a world figure and for what he has achieved. Really put the game and world of football into perspective; we often say that sport can transcend cultural barriers, but in this mark of respect we were reminded of a man who did just that.

I wonder what affect our lives will have on others, for it is dangerous to eulogize so much about Nelson Mandela (and others) because of what they did on the global stage and forget the tremendous influence that many unknown people have within their local communities and amongst their families.

Yesterday I took the funeral of one of my church members and remarked how she had served her community as a volunteer within the local hospital for 25 years; I think of Janet from a previous town I lived in who would spend her days visiting elderly folk for no other reason than to “break their day up for them” or Brian who for the last 10 years has popped into a neighbour’s house and offered to do shopping etc for them. These, and others, are the folk who like Mandela seek to serve without desiring any other reward than the knowledge that their little bit has improved the world.

Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, a dirty, degrading task but he transformed it into a beautiful act of kindness and so he asks us to be the servant of others without seeking glory or reward for ourselves. In this way the world is changed bit by bit, day by day.

Just imagine a world where everyone sought the best for everyone else. Impossible? we`ll never really know unless we begin ourselves.



Nelson Mandela

“No-one is born hating another person, because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite” wrote nelson Mandela in his book “Long Walk to Freedom”

Tonight many of us are mourning the passing of this great man who taught the world so much about love, graciousness, tolerance, understanding and the way to live.  Many of us are shedding tears for someone we never met but felt as though we have known him our whole lifetime.

Many of us remember campaigning for his release, boycotting the banks over apartheid and doing what we could against the evil which had imprisoned him for 27 years. How surprised we were in 1990, when upon his release he declared forgiveness and vowed to help build a new South Africa, without any colour or cultural divide. How inspirational was his Truth and Reconciliation Commission which did so much to diffuse tension.

Many of us have watched since the blossoming of this country, and yet it is still in its infancy with great violence. Tonight we pray for a peaceful remembrance of a man who desired peace, and did much to bring people together.

All the trivia and pettiness that much of us live in (and engage in) dissolves into nothing when something like this happens. Truly a man who left his mark not just on a country but on the whole world. Truly the worlds hero.

Now we simply pray that the country truly holds together.