Relationship in Worship

As a result of focussing in yesterdays Church worship about the nature of discipleship and recognising how special we are to God, I’ve found myself sitting in an empty Church today reflecting on what worship is all about. Why do we bother when often it seems to be routine and “we’ve always done it this way.”

It strikes me that so often worship boils down to peoples preference over hymns, Graham Kendrick vs Isaac Watts, whether we are solemn or loud, arms length and never speaking or all hugging and touchy~feely !  And yet there must be more to worship than this.

`Worth-ship` is about giving God what he is worth; its about what he enjoys or wants and yet so often we personalise it back to what we want. I don’t think that this is necessarily about selfishness but it’s probably because its much easier to know what we want and its hard to know what God wants in worship.

I came across this definition from a friend……………………………     “The nature of worship is simply a recognition and encounter with God. The Hebrew seems to have a root derivation of, “To kiss.” If worshipping is as intimate as kissing, then arms length formal worship may actually at times not be worship at all. I think we have to turn to the language of Song of Songs. Very intimate and powerful imagery. So dare I say that worship is being in love with God. Expressing our love and receiving it from our God.”

If worship is about being in love with God then surely there will be different expressions of worship as each one of us is a different character who expresses him/herself in different ways. We will all have different ways of expressing our love to God.

I like the idea of worship as being an intimate act between myself and God, even if its conducted in a public arena and with countless numbers of people. As always it boils back down to relationship. How much of a relationship do you want with God as opposed to one with Church, with the hymns, the routine, the activities ?

Tonight I offered Alison the chance to walk over to where I was sitting on the grounds that exercise was good for her health; when she got to me I said, in a loving romantic way, “give us a snog !” it may come as a massive relief to all my readers that its not a request I would make of any other person, but I can with Alison because she knows I love her and because over 38 years of marriage we’ve built a wonderful, loving relationship. Now, I’m not going to be so irreverent as to suggest that we should ask God for a “snog” but surely we should desire such a relationship where we can come before him with total honesty knowing he accepts us and welcomes us. That is relationship and I, for one, want to grow more in my relationship with Alison and in my relationship with God.

Things always come in threes !

Things always come in threes, so they say, Ive always dismissed it as utter and complete tosh, but lately Ive begun to wonder; just before Christmas our washing machine broke and thanks to the generosity of church members our washing was carried out faithfully, and although we have got a new washing machinate firm won’t fit it as they think its too tight a squeeze even though its about an inch thinner than the one being removed. Consequently we’ve a carpenter coming to look at it in the morning with a view to altering the bench.

Then last weekend the drainage in the front yard began to smell and water was backing up. We had to call a firm to come and clear the blockage, on the day I was travelling up to the North-east so I was able to leave the mysterious message on Facebook that I was “leaving Alison to sort out the sewage”

Today incident number 3 has happened, as our dish washer has decided to leak all over the kitchen floor which looks like a war zone ! If the superstition is true then we’ll be left alone for a while, but we’ll see. As it is this has been a costly winter so far, in terms of finance (new washing machine) and certainly in terms of time.

In the midst of it all the Chair of District and I had a chat yesterday I which we felt that because of the workload (2 Circuits, supervision of a Probationer Minister, running up to

the NorthEast and other District duties) then for the sake of my health I should step aside as Deputy Chair with a review next January. This has saddened me no end for I will miss the District team with whom I worked, I’ll miss the conversation at District Executive, and the fellowship of those I met around me. It has been a tremendous privilege serving the District and working alongside Loraine, our Chair, who. has constantly shown good pastoral care for Alison and I, and also to learn from the skills of the rest of the office based team.

I have received a huge volume of emails and texts from around the District expressing thanks and appreciation.

Little wonder that our lives feel a bit like the jigsaw in the photograph at the moment !

Totally black and with no light to help reveal the design of the jigsaw, it must be a nightmare to cope with.

I’ll still have a District role in so much as I’ll continue to share the District EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) team; again another talented group of individuals who all bring their skills to bear, and once again I’ll learn so much from them.

However, tonight I still feel bereaved, but it’ll pass.

As I recognise that what I’ll miss most are the people it has made me realise more fully than before that for me, I find the light in a dark world in meeting and sharing with other people; that interaction is what stirs me, uplifts me and inspires me; other people show me the way by their tolerance of me, their support and their generous friendship.

When the world looks really bleak and black, it is easy to hide away but if its possible the best thing to do is try to be amongst people. Sadly the nature of depression (which

thankfully I dont have) is that its too wearying, tiring, mentally exhausting to seek out company or to get ‘out and about’, so perhaps its down to us to be the light in their darkness by simply coming alongside them and being the light in their darkness.

Just a few rambling thoughts; thanks for reading

 

Happy New Year

Saturday January 1, 1785. —

Whether this be the last or no, may it be the best year of my life!                                   John Wesley.

Very struck by these words as we enter into the year 2020 after one of the hardest endings to a year I’ve known. I know a lady whose view on life is that it is so serious there shouldn’t be time for fun and frivolity-theres work to be done-theres a routine to be kept etc. I think we’ve al known people like this. I tend to favour the opposite view; life is so serious you need to find the fun and frivolity to get through it !

The truth of the matter is that its somewhere in between both, but I’m of the opinion that we can either let life pull us down, or we can bow our heads bear against the wind style and plough on. Please note this isn’t an opinion on those folk who genuinely have to live with depression, but its more about those who have an off day and declare that life is terrible !

This year Alison and I are seeing in Hogmanay in a very different way; we’re babysitting ! And let me tell you it’s the best one yet !

I remember the days of our youth when as a gang we used to kick the evening off in the Grey Horse pub at about 6.30 pm, go onto someones house (usually whichever couple had got married that year) for a buffet and to drink the New Year in. At about 12.30 a.m. we’d set off and go around everyones houses, first footing (wonderful Scottish tradition) ending up back at the home of Alison and I at about 6.00 a.m. where I’d cook breakfast for whoever was still standing ! Going back further I can remember Dad being kicked out of the house by Mum at about 11.55 p.m. so that after 12.00 had struck and the new year started, Dad could first-foot us  bringing with him the traditional piece of coal (to give us warmth), salt (to give our lives flavour) and a coin for the kiddies (so we’d always be wealthy). Of course the first-foot always had to be a tall, dark, handsome man and Dad qualified entirely. When Alison and I moved away, Dad was always our first foot whenever he came to stay, and as you’d expect I’ll be thinking of him at midnight.

However until then no party games as before, no board games as before, Alison is currently upstairs looking after Emett and I’m downstairs with a Pernod and lemonade. We might not even see each other again this year , lol.

But even though its the quietest new year Ive known, and after the toughest Christmas I feel that I can still look forward to 2020. Why ? because I’ve spent my time reflecting on the treasure I have………………….

A beautiful wife, Alison, who I adore, a fantastic family in Rebecca, Vicky,

Michelle, Mark and of course the FoxCubs asleep upstairs, Piper and Emett. What more could I ask for. I add to this my wider family of Andrew, Cath, Stuart, Sue and all their family. I think on all the friends I have, Judith, Alison W, Stuart, Caroline and so many more ranging from across the world in Romania (must get out there in 2020) to here on the doorstep.

I reflect on how supported I am in the Church from Loraine to each and every steward in my circuit/church teams who without question allowed me to take time off following Dads passing.

I think of how their support helps me in my Ministry and in my health issues, especially over my hearing. I give thanks for the care and patience people show me; today I’ve given thanks for the audiology unit here in Burton for the new hearing aids I’ve been given and for the care with which I was treated. I also give thanks for Becca, our District Wellbeing Officer, who by her words and care lift my spirits.

I could go on listing all the blessings I have but the list would take too long and you’re probably bored already. Suffice to say I am, most of the time a glass half-full person, who has the occasional blip which is forgiven and forgotten by those around me; and its for all these reasons I feel that I can step out confidently into 2020 and try to live each day as if its my last but best. I believe that as long as I’m still breathing God has a purpose for me (even though I often miss it) and if he’s supplying the breath then I don’t want to waste it.

Finally, my thanks to you for faithfully following this blog (some of you since 2007); it serves to remind me of how blessed I truly am.

Happy New Year

 

 

Its been a strange time………

I’m fully aware that I haven’t posted anything since Nov 19th, when I posted about Dad. This is an attempt to catch up and reflect on the last 5 weeks.

Since Dads passing I have been reflecting and giving a huge amount of thanks for the privilege I’ve had of knowing him. Many in my Churches have spoken of his kindness, his smile, his generosity and that brings a lot of comfort.

His funeral service was a real mixed affair, for Dad would never have guess that in attendance would be 5 clergy, including a past President of Conference and a current District Chair who phoned to pass on his condolences. And many would be surprised to see this ‘august’ body sharing memories with the landlady of one of Dads local pubs, The Turf, alongside one of her barmaids. Dad had the ability to treat everyone as equals and never put on airs and graces for anyone. Alongside them we were touched that family had travelled from London and Crawley, messages from New Zealand and neighbours and friends who have supported him and us. Within the Methodist District I received cards and good wishes (texts, emails) from all over the District and beyond. Truly touched and humbled.

After the funeral Andrew and I have had to start thinking about sorting out Dads affairs, disposing of his possessions and eventually selling the house. The clearing of the house is hard and brings with it the mixture of laughter and tears. Anyone who has had to do this will be familiar with the phrases “do you remember when….” as photographs are sorted; “who shall we give this to……” as possessions are shared; and my favourites “why did he keep this ?” or “why on earth did he keep three toffee hammers, umpteen paperclips, bent nails, pieces of paper and Rebeccas spare leg ?”

Not an easy task but one conducted in the knowledge that he was a good Dad, and we’re doing our best to honour this.

Of course at the same time I had to prepare for Christmas, and that was a strange experience this year. Even though last year Dad was in the care home and I didn’t see him I was still able to talk to him through Andrew, but of course this year there was that empty void. It was hard and I won’t lie I shed tears and found it a struggle to even put the Christmas tree up. However I did it eventually, as it wouldn’t have been fair on Alison to have robbed her of the experience, so up it went, along with our nativity scene.

A difficult couple of days this week at Dads house as it will be over the next few weeks as Andrew and I grab a bit of time together.

Throughout this my right-hand woman in the shape of Caroline has spent time in hospital; Caroline acts as Circuit administrator and as my P.A. and she’s the one who protects my back, listens to my moaning, my wacky ideas and is generally there for me. However, because of her hospitalisation, her health has had to come first and there is much that I would have normally shared with her that I’ve deliberately kept quiet about. When she’s well enough we’ll have a good catch-up and I’ll no doubt get a right ear-bashing !  She’s a great help to me and I’ve missed her.

Finally, we stand on the edge of a New Year, 2020, with all of its surprises pleasant or otherwise, but if the Christmas season is to remind me of anything it is that of Christ incarnate. God understands our tough times, our family times, our laughter and our tears because in the Christchild lying in the manger he has been human. He knows human feelings, fears and fun. Because he has walked this earth as a human being he has understood the last few weeks when I’ve missed Dad with such an ache in my heart and he’ll be with me as I step into the new year.

And as I sit here and reflect all I can come up with is that I don’t understand why, but I know that “God is good, all the time” even at those moments I don’t realise it.

 

Dad

Dear friends

I write this evening with that strange mixture of grief and joy, for a week ago on the Wed of 13th November 2019 my wonderful Father, Charlie passed away.

Although he has been poorly it still came as a shock to receive the phone call to let me know. As you can imagine this last week has been full of busy for my brother Andrew and I as arrangements have had to be made, and I had to travel to the North-East. Family members have had to be notified from as far afield as New Zealand and others as close as Dads next door neighbours. Some arrangements were made together and others over the internet and by phone. However I think the bulk is done now, so we can think on our memories.

Memories of a much loved Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather. Dad was always there for us, growing up and into adulthood. He could be relied on not to interfere but to support us as we went along. When I had a lot of medical issues as a young boy, involving all my teeth removed at 10 years, my hearing difficulties, eyesight matters it was Dad along with Mum who was simply ‘there’.

When I told them I wanted to marry Alison it was Dad who hugged her and assured her that she wasn’t new to the family for she had always been a part of the family, as far as he was concerned.

As a young local preacher it was Dad who drove me to all my services, sometimes hearing the same sermon several times but never complaining. Later when I learnt to drive I could tell that I drove differently to him having learnt in a different era, but he was still supportive by not slamming on his imaginary brakes too often, when a passenger. However he still managed to ‘offer advice’ but not always when I wanted it !

 Two of Dads proudest moments came firstly with my own Ordination when he travelled to Derby and Burton to see me be Ordained into Presbyteral ministry; only 7 weeks after Mum died. I still wear the stole he bought in her memory and although he must have missed her dreadfully that day he never complained about the unfairness and simply played the role of the proud Dad. The second occasion was in 2010 when he firstly attended Alisons Ordination as a Deacon in Derby followed the year after by her Ordination as a Priest in the Church of England. I have a photo of him somewhere with a big beaming smile; hope I can find it.

Dad was a people person, whether in Church or having a pint at a variety of different pubs and clubs he would engage in conversation and be sought out for a friendly word. An impish and mischievous sense of humour, he was always looking to tease, right up to the end. When I saw the lovely twinkle in his eye I knew I was being teased. “How are you Dad” I’d say and he’d respond without hesitation “terrible !”. When he eventually began to use his walking stick which he should have used years earlier, it became another weapon with which he’d prod the person he was teasing.

A lovely quote from our New Zealand cousins describes a tour of NZ that Dad and their Dad (Uncle Thomas) as “a right couple of likely lads” (a lovely Geordie reference in there). Ian also says that he never saw Dad upset, argue or say a bad word of anyone. Well, like the rest of us he wasn’t perfect but he was a real gentleman, teaching Andrew and I respect for others, care for people and the need for hard work (especially for other people).

The first photo in this article was taken at Kensington Palace when I took Dad for a tour on his 80th birthday. He enjoyed the tour and was then surprised when I told him I had arranged high tea in the Orangery. This was a novel experience for a lad raised on dripping sandwiches, and he thoroughly enjoyed it until he saw the prices on the menu. Complaining about the crusts having been cut off he announced “at that price I’d have not only expected the crust but the rest of the loaf as well” much to the amusement of the waiter. On the way home he was pacified with steak pie and chips in a small greasy cafe outside Kings Cross railway station !

I remember when Mum died (on a Sunday), he made his way the following week and told me that he cried every step of the way, remembering how 7 days earlier he had taken the walk with Mum. When I said that the Chapel would have understood his rely was “I know that but its my rock”. Dad would never shout his faith, but in that phrase and in the way he lived his life I have no doubt whatsoever that it was a strong ad passionate faith.

I could go on for there’s so much more to say, but …………………..

Next week when we say our final farewell there’ll be a whole host of other memories to share no doubt (Andrew will have memories different to me) but every memory will reflect the gratitude that Andrew and I have that we have been privileged to call Charlie Redshaw ‘our Dad’

Rest in Peace, Dad

we love you

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.