Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye
Adam moves to Toronto today...

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Bev's health update 10th January.

I am pleased to say Beverley is home after 10 days in hospital with pneumonia. She is making steady progress although still weak and  poorly. She needs 2-3 weeks bed rest and a 3 month recovery. Her voice is coming back and her creative juices beginning to flow - she was telling me how she would like to decorate the room! I am grateful for neighbours and church family looking after us, popping round and providing meals - what a blessing...

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Bev's Health Update...4th January

Beverley is in hospital recovering from pneumonia. She has been ill for 23 days and in hospital for 9. I am pleased to say she is making good progress - breathing easier, eating, drinking, sleeping better and more smiles. She has laryngitis and braci-itis too. Hopefully she will come home this weekend. I am grateful for the good care she is receiving under the NHS - what a blessing! I also have a fresh appreciation and wonder surrounding breathing - something we take for granted. Having watched  someone struggle for each breath I am profoundly grateful for each easy breath...breathe and rejoice.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

A night at A&E

I spent a night at A&E (Accident & Emergency) last night. Beverley has been poorly for 14 days with flu and laryngitis. Sitting in A&E as the hours tick by you watch a microcosm of life - a middle aged woman with pneumonia (Bev), a 14 year old girl collapsed after binge drinking, another woman knocked down by a car after drinking, an elderly woman with a broken femur after a fall, an Asian family with a distressed child. Then of course you have hardworking staff from around the world - Polish, African, Indian, Filipino, Indian and English. A beautiful, vulnerable world...maybe we should call it Awe & Energy!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

4 Sleeps...

Christmas is almost here. Cards - sent; presents - wrapped (nearly!); food - bought (tomorrow?!); drink - better get some more…; 4 more sleeps and it is Christmas.
Christmas comes, ready or not. No stopping it. Boom!
We spend a lot of time (and money!) each year preparing for and getting ready for Santa’s arrival, more so if you have children – gifts, meals, stockings, presents round the tree, mince pie and sherry for Santa, carrot for Rudolf, keep the receipts safe…so much to get ready before the man in the red arrives. For some of us Christmas preparations started months ago.
Then there is the emotional preparation – gearing up for parties, meals, rounds of visits, family members you like and those who are more challenging! You might even be planning what to watch on the telly.
That is a lot of thought and preparation for the arrival of Father Christmas.
I wonder how much thought and preparation we give to the arrival of Jesus Christ? Christmas is after all Christ-mas. The celebration of Christ. Christmas is that time when we remember the first time He came – born as a baby to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.
And what of next time? The Second Coming – when Christ returns to wrap things up – and not presents! Have we given any thought or preparation for that day?
Perhaps it is time for us to think carefully about the words of the carol:
 “O Holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
O come to us, abide with us

Our Lord Emmanuel”

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Meeting a Remarkable Man.

I met a remarkable man today. His story is sad and uplifting: his first wife of less than a year left him suddenly; he re-married 10 years later and shortly after discovered his wife's infidelity; they divorced; he married again, a lovely lady; they wanted a family but earlier this year his baby girl was still born; his new wife nearly died at childbirth. He has known real sadness and grief in his life yet his faith is deep, inspiring and contagious. He says: "I would rather walk in the dark holding God's hand than walk in the light alone". Remarkable.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Mark & Bev at Prague Christmas Market

It's true - Prague is a lovely city. We went for 2 nights for a break and the Christmas market. It was great. Beverley wondered around with her head down looking at market stalls; I wondered around with my head up looking at the fantastic array of architecture - Baroque, Gothic, Art Noveau and modern. Quite something. The famous clock was better than I thought, the Charles Bridge was better than I thought, as was the river and the hotel. All in all a great time. Prague is lovely.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Sunday Morning Meeting


When thinking about the Sunday morning meeting, consider carefully:
1.Who is the meeting for? This will determine the shape of everything else. If you decide the meeting is for unchurched Harry or Emma then how things look and sound will be very different from if you decide the meeting is for God and for the people of God to meet with Him.
I am going for the latter.
2.Meeting lay-out. Don't go formal, especially if you are a new\small church.Try a circle or crescent chair lay out until you get beyond 40. Avoid the theatre lay out. Remember you are building family.
2.Welcome. Studies suggest that the Welcome and Follow-up is the most important church growth driver. People will forgive an off key in the worship or poor AV slides, but they do want to feel welcome. Be warm, friendly, sensitive without being intrusive. Good cake, tea and coffee helps!
3.The anchor role. This is the person who leads the meeting - make sure they are smart, friendly, informed and engaging. This is a strange place to be for some - explain what is going on ;move things along; don't take long on the notices.
4.Worship. Have good musicians (but not 6 at the front when you are 50 people), who have practised a good choice of songs with prompt words appearing on a well lit screen. Help them be aware of what is happening in the room and pause...don't be afraid of silence.
5.Preach. People expect good presentation with good visuals. Use The Bible well; explain the text clearly; have relevant illustrations; what is the one thing you are trying to say? Pack a punch.
6.The Holy Spirit. Give the Holy Spirit space and time; don't fill the meeting; don't hurry; expect gifts of the Holy Spirit - encourage them if necessary. God has business with His people.
7.Follow-up and feedback. Follow-up with visitors and feedback to the Sunday team.
8.Relax; it's not up to you - Jesus is building His church.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Mark's Review of The Rosie Project by Simsion Graeme

The book for my Book Club this month is The Rosie Project - an entertaining, intriguing and touching tale of a man called Dan, a geneticist, who at the age of 40, decides it is time to find a wife. He begins The Wife Project with a questionnaire in order to find a suitable mate. This does not go down well. Dan is surprised however when Rosie comes into his life - hence The Rosie Project. Part of the appeal of the novel is that Dan has Aspergers traits which makes reading people, social situations and relationships something of a challenge. The book provides great insights into those on the Autistic Spectrum or with Aspergers. It is funny, touching, clever and insightful. The moral of the tale: don't be afraid to be yourself and love others as they are...

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

ENS - Empty Nest Syndrome

With 3 sons living away and a daughter now married, here we are - ENS. Empty Nest Syndrome. Pyschologists tell us: "ENS is a sense of loss, sadness and lonliness that occurs when children leave home"Every parent goes through it and feels it to a greater or lesser extent - especially mothers. It is normal. For those who have close family, it is a feeling of emptiness. Where did all those years go? What now is my purpose? Our life has been filled with children, their things and their friends. Life. Noise. Interruptions. Comings and goings. Now it is quiet.
Time to embrace a new season. Fresh opportunities and freedoms: travel, study, hobby, serving, friendships.
Time to invest in marriage. New things together, fresh intimacy.
Beverley thinks it is time to foster...help!!

Friday, 29 September 2017

Is God solitary or lonely?

I am a bit confused - 2 leading scholars have made provocative and contrary statements. On the one hand AW Pink writes of the solitariness of God - he is sufficient in Himself and has no need of you; Tom Wright on the other hand speaks of God being lonely, hence creating Adam and Eve and us. So which is it - is God solitary or lonely or both? For my part, I cant help thinking about God the Father in communion with His Son and The Holy Spirit. Solitary...lonely...mmm?
For me too, the whole Bible narrative is a love story - a story of God's love for people, His desire for a people who will worship Him, befriend Him and walk with Him - in the garden of Genesis and the city of Revelation; a story of God sending His Son Jesus to teach us how to live - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart..."; a story of God preparing a new heaven and new earth for His friends. Is God solitary? I think He has no lack or need of anything, but chooses to share His world with us and invites us to know Him and love Him. Is God lonely? I don't think so, but I do think He invites us to be His friends forever. What do you think?

Thursday, 21 September 2017

PUG is here again - Parental University Grief

It is that time of year again when many households up and down the land are filled with the excitement and anticipation of a son or daughter leaving home and going to university for the first time. Often however, the emotional impact of the new life and new term is most keenly felt by those left at home - by mother and father (and brother or sister). We often underestimate the impact of a son or daughter leaving home for the first time. There can be real sadness and a real sense of loss. I have a name for it: PUG - Parental University Grief. It took me by surprise. No-one told me about it. I was not prepared for its impact. Psychologists tell us that a child leaving home has 29 life-change units (out of a maximum 100 for death of a spouse). So don't be surprised if a wave of sadness comes crashing in on you - quite normal for a loving parent (or a first-time student); be aware of friends too who might be reeling from PUG and don't know how to express it.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Highlights of Westpoint 2017

Westpoint is an annual event hosted by Commission churches, part of the Newfrontiers family. It takes place at Westpoint, Exeter. With so much going on, it is difficult to highlight only a few things but here goes: the weather - glorious; Andrew Wilson doing Romans in an hour https://goo.gl/kUv8Uf Guy Miller speaking in front of his "book case"; Indian worship; terrific spread of seminars including Tanya Walker; making TV programmes for TBN and GodTV; live with BBC Radio Devon; bakeoff, circus skills, falconry; an amazing offering and...being with my church family. Great time.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Autism and Aspergers - do we need the labels?

Apparently there is a rise in the numbers. Some say it is "the new childhood epidemic"(Kenneth Brook) - Aspergers, ADHD, Dyslexia, ASD and other conditions. Some professionals say we are just better at recognising the signals and symptoms. What I am trying to figure out is - do we need the labels? Is it helpful always to box a child or adult in because their brain might work differently, or should we seek to understand why they might be neurologically Atypical? And support individuals and families with intentional energy and resource?
A positive step is to drop the D from ASD, as if all children (and adults) who think differently have a Disorder. Many are highly intelligent and given patience and opportunity have become scientists, programmers, game designers and more. Gates, Job, Einstein - some say are on the Spectrum. Silicon Valley is called Aspergers Valley by some. Autistic Spectrum is probably better, although some say we are all on the Spectrum somewhere...(Tony Attwood)
Is Neurodiversity a better term and should we "think more intelligently about people who think differently" (Steve Silberman)? Should we celebrate Neurodiversity like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek - multiracial, neurologically diverse, accepting and bringing out the best in each (Carol Greenberg)?
Most importantly, let's love the individuals and the families.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Prepare to fall off a cliff - Giving My Daughter Away.

I asked a friend what advice he had for me in giving my daughter away on her wedding day. "Prepare to fall off a cliff", he said! Today is the day. I don't know if I will fall off a cliff but I am faced with a collision of emotions - excitement, nervousness, tension, sadness...but most of all gratitude. I am grateful for the beautiful daughter she is. I am grateful for watching her grow and being part of her life. I am grateful for the blessing she is. I am grateful for the good and right choices she has made and grateful for the good choice of life partner in Joe Gubb. Falling off a cliff?...I want her to jump off a cliff and fly...

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Homosexuality, the church and television.

There have been 2 interesting TV programmes recently about the church and homosexuality. One on BBC Three Does God Hate Queers? makes for uncomfortable and challenging viewing when hearing the stories of how some gay and transgender people have been treated. https://goo.gl/vzHg4D It made me wonder how welcoming are we to the LGBT community? The other is the ITV1 series Grantchester. Rev Sidney Chambers, played by James Norton, when not solving murders with Inspector Geordie, Robson Jerome, is trying to reconcile the God of The Bible with the culture around him and his feelings. His friendship with his struggling gay curate is both tender and challenging. "you are not an abomination Leonard, God loves you". See https://goo.gl/NyEHhn