Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red


Yesterday was one of those special moments in life. It began with a lousy train journey meaning Alison and I had to stand in a packed carriageway from Tamworth to London, we ended up hot, tired and sweaty; This was followed by a lousy tube journey, again having to stand, and then we had to get off a station early because they`d shut Tower Hill station because of crowds and having to walk the rest of the way, ……………………………………
but, BOY was it worth it !!!!

The creation itself was spectacular, imaginative etc, but the most moving thing was how the crowds just seemed to accept that this was more than a tourist attraction: there was true reverence, a respect not only for the poppies and their significance but respect for the people around us: no shoving, no pushing to get to the front, but a gentle quietness which transcended the “me, myself and mine” mentality amongst crowds. People waited patiently for a gap to appear and then quietly slid into it, made their observance, took photos and slipped away again.

A respect for humanity, both fallen and still with us.

Privilege to be there.










By the way we spotted our poppy (the one we`ve bought). It was the fifth row in from the fence, 2500 poppies along !

Disprove me if you can !      lol

Jelly Babies for Jesus

image     What a blessed week I’ve had so far. On Sunday I had  a thoroughly enjoyable Baptism service when I returned to Swanwick Chapel on Sunday gone. Not only was I baptising the grandson of two very special friends of mine, but it gave me the opportunity of preaching the Gospel to almost 150+ people (many of whom wouldn’t know the Gospel) took the opportunity to share the Jelly Baby Gospel, which surprisingly not many knew.

Firstly, I gave everyone a jelly baby and then I shared the history that after WW1 they had been known as peace babies, each colour representing a different continent or country, but during WW2 production had ceased because of rationing. After the Second World War Bassetts bought the company and reinterpreted each jelly baby differently they were then produced with individual symbols to tell the Gospel story.

The black jelly baby has a heart on it to remind us that sometimes our hearts are sinful and not how God intended them to be.

The green baby is crying to remind us that God weeps over such a state of heart. I then followed this with the red jelly baby who has the letter B to show that Jesus died for us and shed his blood for us. The fourth baby is the pink one who is crawling like a baby. This shows that when we recognise Jesus and receive Jesus into our hearts then we are a new creation (born again) into a new life and lifestyle.

The yellow baby bears a necklace to remind us that we will receive the riches of Heaven and the Orange carries a bum bag to show that we should be getting prepared to meet Jesus in Heaven and we do this by sorting out our lives here on earth, seeking righteousness and holiness.

I was quite taken aback by how well it was received, but I just pray that it will sit well in someone’s heart.


Monday morning found me in a local Secondary school answering questions (as part of their pre-reformation studies) from their 6th form pupils. A mixed environment of pupils of Catholic persuasion to those of no faith to three smashing girls of the Muslim faith. Boy, were the questions varied? “Why do you wear a dog collar?, “why are you a Protestant, not a Catholic?”, “what’s the difference?” And they were the easy ones!

the tougher questions (from a group of 16/17 heard olds) included “if we are talking about justification by faith, does it not matter what we do?”, “explain the Holy Trinity”, “explain transubstantiation”.  I have to say it was one of the more challenging hour and a halfs grilling I’ve had, but it was easily the most enjoyable. It’s what I wish more people in the Church would do, seriously wrestle with the questions of our faith.


last night we went out on a Circuit Leadership meal, where the food was delightful, but the waitress was surly; trouble was, like naughty schoolchildren, we then ‘acted up’ when she wasn’t around ! Added to the fun of the night.


Then I spent lunch today with Alison and a very special friend catching up and sharing news. A blessed time.


All in all a good few days. Praise the Lord.


The Ambulance in the Valley

Ambulance in MotionIn the September of 1990 I went to the WhiteChapel Mission in London for a Ministerial placement. I lived there for a month, helping with the work amongst the homeless. I found this a challenging time and in many ways it has been a part of the shaping of my Ministry; whilst I`ve never felt a call to Minister to the homeless, directly, I have always felt the need to do what I can and to argue the cause. As a result I was involved in the YMCA sleepout last year, here in Burton, and intend to do the same again this year on November 7th.

During my time in London I came across this poem and it came back to mind again this afternoon………………………..


The Ambulance in the Valley

Joseph Malins (1895)

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighbouring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said,
“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”

“Oh he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,
“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?”

But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.


I have felt challenged by this so many times over the years and yet the question remains why do we, as a society and sometimes as individuals, concentrate more on reactive measures than proactive ones. We plough vast amounts of finance into our hospitals to cope with the results of unhealthy lifestyles (and that includes me), and yet we don’t find ways of proactively encouraging a healthier lifestyle. Yes we pay lip service with small amounts of school budgets encouraging a healthy eating plan but then as a society we pour vast sums at fast food outlets (and yes I know that includes me !)
And yet I don`t know how to resolve it and I am so thankful that others in the shape of politicians have to wrestle with these sort of issues.
However, I also note that the Church isn`t very different. Many speak of a universalist world view in which everyone will be saved and yet don`t speak of the need to some to Jesus. It’s as if we`re saying that the ambulance is Church attendance, well dressed middle class living, pews, incense, vestments etc but we fail to mend the fence of living healthy lifestyles in a day-to-day relationship with Jesus. I`ve even known some people (in Church) who have lived a lifestyle at odds with the mind of Jesus, who when challenged have said things along the lines of “its alright, I`ll be like the thief on the cross, I`ll be still have Jesus when I stop enjoying my lifestyle !”
And yet Jesus challenged his listeners with the prospect of eternal separation from God (Hell), with the warning that none of us know when our end will come, and with the promise that “no one comes to the Father, except by me”. It’s not about living a good life as judged by the world, but it’s about living as a follower of Jesus which ought to lead us into a good life as judged by God. When we can achieve that we`ve begun to mend the broken fence of our life and will have less need of the ambulance at the bottom.
The flaw with that last statement, however, is that it implies that we can be perfect, but I suggest that none of us is perfect or ever will be. A constant joke between Alison and I goes along the lines of me telling her with a serious face “Darling, every morning I wake up, look at you and say `how wonderful for you to be married to me!` to which she usually replies `Yes, I’m often full of wonder about why I`m married to you!` We joke about this because we both know that we aren`t perfect (have a word with my children and they`ll assure you of that) and nor will we ever be. So you see even if we are mending the fence at the top of the cliff until it is fully complete (in Heaven) then we`ll always have need of the ultimate ambulance (Jesus) to lead us, guide us, patch us up when we`ve got it wrong etc. He really is the way, the truth and the life.

Photo by Benjamin Ellis – free for non-commercial use, as long as placed with credited and link to

photo credit: <a href=””>Benjamin Ellis</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Romans 12:1-2

Romans 12:1-2

Those who know me know that my passion in life is evangelism and mission. Earlier this week a question was asked at our evangelism team meeting, “Why do we not affect those outside of our Church?” and the person immediately answered his own question “because our lives do not reflect Christ!”

Tremendous truth in that.

I’ve long believed that the greatest sermon that can be preached will be preached by ordinary people living changed lives. This passage from Romans shows us that.

  1. Verse 1 Paul urges readers “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” It’s not about what other people think but its all about what God thinks. Pleasing Him is what counts and giving him everything we can, time, talents, gifts, finance, our whole lives therefore becomes a spiritual worship. But to do so it involves sacrifice. So Paul says we have to present our bodies, all that we are and all that we have to God; God first, us second. Then it becomes a spiritual worship. The great Christian theologian, Thomas A Kempis, upon which much of our current westernised Christianity is based once said “A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver ” GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. But there must be more than this. Truly what are these sacrifices? They have to be more than simply time, energy, finance etc. No, I think that Paul is going much deeper.
  3. Lets look at the adjectives. Firstly LIVING. We offer our bodies because of what Christ has done for us. Corrie Ten Boom (80 yrs old) preaching in Copenhagen on these verses. Two young ladies invited her back to lunch; unfortunately lived on 10th floor and no lift. (Not what you want at 80 yrs.) She struggled up to 5th floor and collapsed into a chair, ready to give up. God whispered it was important to carry on. When she arrived on 10th floor met the parents of one of the young ladies. Neither a Christian but were interested in the Gospel. Corrie led them to faith in Christ. All because she reluctantly sacrificed her own body to go where God led her, despite the cost.
  4. HOLY The covenant service in the Methodist Church speaks of how some areas of discipleship are attractive and others costly. “Christ has many services to be done: some are easy, others are difficult: some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests, others are contrary to both; in some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.” D.L.Moody once said “A holy life will make the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns, they just shine.”
  5. ACCEPTABLE To whom are we to be acceptable? In a marriage our first desire must be to please the other person, the one we profess to love. So it is with God also. King David in the O.T. wanted to buy some land from a subject and use it for worship. The owner says he can have it free of charge, but David insists on paying. “Why?” “I will not give to the Lord that which has cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24). Discipleship and giving must cost us something to be genuine. It may be financial, material, emotional, psychological, and even social. We show our love to God because of his love for us, but it will cost us, or it should. Vs 2 goes even further as it speaks of transformation. J.B. Phillips translation says “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould”. Message Bible “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your own culture that you fit into it without even thinking” Street Bible says “Don’t get moulded by what the adverts say you should have/should do/should be”
  6. This is what it amounts to. We must desire to be changed. Its no good hearing this sermon and going home and doing nothing about it, other than saying “What a good time we had in Church” No, if we’re going to have an effect upon society then we need to desire to be changed into what God wants of us. But it’s hard isn’t it not to conform to the world?
  7. Leslie Newbiggin once observed that just as a goldfish is not consciously aware of the water in which it swims, so we are often unconscious of the culture we live in and its values. How easily have we accepted things under the banner of ‘tolerance’. Whilst I don’t want a return to the puritanical, holier-than-Thou, Christian life there are times when we have become too tolerant. Not about being judgemental on others but about examining our own lives.
  8. Note, Paul talks of renewing of our minds; i.e. from within. Spiritual transformation involves a battle for the mind, because what we think affects our attitudes and actions. Not about intellectualism, but about changing our mind-set.
  9. We begin with Bible reading. Several years ago the Bible Society launched BibleFresh , a year of finding ways to get the Bible out into the public domain. We need to be people of scripture, sharing it with each other, building each other up with it, encouraging each other. There is no substitute for sharing the Bible in a group study. God speaks through people and through his scripture.
  10. Not enough to read the Bible and discuss it. Many in Church know their Bibles better than me, but there are also many who won’t allow scripture to shape them. Biblical authors didn’t write their books just to be read or heard, but designed them to generate action. Bible isn’t just to be read, its to be done.
  11. Famous preacher once said “Never finish your sermon without telling your congregation what you want them to do about it.” Perhaps we ought to re-word that to say “Never finish your Bible reading without deciding what you’re going to do about it!”
  12. CONCLUSION Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.My prayer is that we will all be compelled by the Holy Spirit into changing our lives so that they conform to Gods Kingdom, and so that others may see our Lord Jesus Christ in us and that they too may offer their lives as a living sacrifice.
  13. Issac Newton, First Law of Motion.


I'm away at Llandudno this weekend with the annual Rotary Conference at Llandudno and for the first time since joining the organisation it has given me a dilemma.
You see I spent part of this afternoon walking up the Great Orme with all of its majestic beauty and part of the afternoon on the beach and the sea. One is rugged and green whilst the other is flat and wet. Which did I prefer ? It's hard to say and I could have spent longer on each.
This weekend I travelled as a member of Burton Rotary Club but met friends from West Ashfield where I was a member up until a year and a half ago. I even met a friend from another club entirely.
Who should I sit with ! Who might be offended ? What a dilemma. I resolved it by spending time with each club !
Why do I count this a privilege ? Because it reminds me that Rotary has given me friendships in different places just as the Church has given me a family in a lot of different places.
What a privilege to have friends