Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Venice by Jan Morris

I have just finished this wonderful book and I can’t tell you how many times I nearly cried at the beauty of the writing about a city that makes me cry because to me it is the most beautiful place on earth.

The charm of the book was that Morris obviously loves the city as much as I do and is able to write about it in ways that illuminate that love and which broaden my knowledge of it. She writes about the history of the place and its people, the art, the culture, the geography and in a way that is never dull. She backs up her grand historical statements with her knowledge of specific Venetian people she knew when she lived there.

I don’t often consider going on holiday with total strangers but my perfect holiday would be going to Venice with Jan Morris. She would be a knowledgeable guide and a witty and fun companion in this magical place.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Twenty two years ago when I first became a Christian I found myself with nowhere to go at Christmas and a friend sent me to stay with a friend of theirs called Meg.  Meg has four children and the whole family welcomed me without question and drew me into their Christmas with their extended family.  We became good friends and when I married Meg sang (beautifully) at our wedding.  As life got busier we didn’t see each other much but kept in touch with Christmas cards.  Yesterday we finally got together after 17 years, and took up almost straight from where we left off.
About 8 years ago we had pet rats and I joined an online community for rat-lovers (It’s true, the internet has a community for everyone).   I learned a lot about caring for rats and made friends with Scarletdemon, a fellow Brit in a mainly american community.  We enjoyed a similar sense of humour and didn’t take ourselves or our rats too seriously.  We’ve stayed in touch online through various blogs and this year she finally gave in and got into Facebook.  After years of virtual friendship we arranged to meet IRL (in real life) so met up in a city between where we live.   The friendship is the same as it is on-line.  We had some laughs, we talked about our lives and commiserated with each other about some of the not so good stuff. 
A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference, and over the last lunch I got talking to someone who I’d seen all week but hadn’t met before.  We went from total strangers to sharing some very significant stuff over an extra portion of Banoffee Pie.  We’re meeting up for coffee and more cake and I think we’ll be friends.
Then there are a couple of other women I’m becoming friends with who are, like me, in Baptist ministry, and we’ve shared the trials and joys this brings.
I never used to be very good at friendship; the mechanics of keeping up contact with someone seemed to elude me (sorry Meg) and I suspect I was too much into my own struggles to notice that other people might want or need friendship with me.  But now I’ve made a decision to be more intentional about making and keeping good friends – it will take some effort on my part but it already feels worth it.  One of my college teachers talked about seeking out what brings you life, and this may be part of that for me.  Being with people who I care about and who care about me, people who share similar struggles and enjoy similar things is life giving, and that feels good.
And now I’m off to ring another friend I haven’t spoken to in a while.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This is just about the greatest invention EVAH!

This is a service that you use when you want to ring a call centre.  You ring the call centre on your mobile, and when they put you on hold you key "**" and the LucyPhone service disconnects you from the call centre but sits on hold for you.  As soon as the bank/travel company/service centre person comes back on the line they hear a holding message from LucyPhone asking them to hold while Lucyphone rings you back and connect you.  Now, I don't actually believe in it but if that isn't Karma I don't know what is! 

This has considerably cheered up a quite mundane Thursday.

p.s. I don't know if the service is available in the UK, but if it is it's free, and if it isn't I'm just happy to know that somewhere this is happening :-)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Coracle Time

I’ve not blogged for the last couple of weeks because I’ve been busy getting things ready so I could go away on my annual retreat with a clear desk and conscience. I managed it and so I’ve been on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland for the last four days. This retreat has become part of my annual pattern and has been enormously helpful for the three times I’ve been on it.

This year we were invited at the beginning of the time to reflect on the story of St. Brendan, who would put to sea in a very small boat called a coracle, and then allow the Holy Spirit to take him wherever he wanted. We were encouraged to put our retreat time into God’s hands and follow where he led. Since I went with no sense of an agenda this was a helpful start.

One of the significant activities of this retreat is to walk across the sands to the island at low tide, following the route the ancient pilgrims would have taken. This route is marked by tall wooden poles, and punctuated by two towers topped with shelters, for those who get caught by the incoming tide. We were encouraged to reflect on what the marker posts are for us; the things in our lives by which we steer, the things that occur that provide a route and mark our movement. Spiritual disciplines and a rhythm of life might be examples of these. And then we thought about the shelters; the places we go to when life might overtake us, and we all need to identify people or places that might be this to us.

However, my reflection on the towers is that they also allow perspective. They are raised up above the route and enabled me to look back at how far I have come in the last year, where I wandered off the path, when the journey was going well. They helped me to get a wider sense of the lie of the land and see how far I’ve still got to go, both personally and in my work, and what the direction of the future journey might be.

The problem then is that I then have to climb down the ladder from the shelter and set off walking towards the next pole in the line, through some rather sticky mud! And I can’t see the rest of the poles from down at ground level, or the point where the pilgrim’s route reaches the island. Never mind though, I’ve seen that the poles go all the way to the end, and that there’s another shelter not too far ahead. And I’m surrounded by friends as I travel.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


So I'm putting together a powerpoint to use during a worship time based on Genesis 1 (I'm actually using Rob Lacey's reading of his Street Bible which is really good) and I want to put together some pictures to illustrate human beings, made in God's image, and commanded to "make babies" so my first stop is Google images and I put in 'baby' and I get a page of white babies, apart from one pic of asian conjoined twins. Then it's not until page 4 when another baby that is not white appears, and it's premature baby, and the conjoined babies again???

I don't know how google's search engine works but I'd love to hear an explanation of why this might be?

Friday, July 02, 2010

What is truth?

As an adherent of a world religion (christianity) this is an important question. Is the bible true? Is it true that Jesus rose from the dead? What does Jesus mean when he says he is "The way, the truth and the life"?

The latter questions seem to hinge on how you answer the first; if the collection of words we call the bible is only a man made set of myths with no connection to any historical reality then the answers to the second two questions might be different. So if we say the bible is true, how is it true? Is it true like the news is true? Which news do you mean? The BBC or Fox, or the newsletter I got from a political party in May? And which bits of the bible are we wanting to call true? the historical narratives might be true, but what truth is there in a song of worship such as a Psalm?

If we want the historical narratives of Jesus' life to be true how are they true? Are they unbiased reports from dispassionate observers with perfect recall and photographic memories? or are they something else in which fact and interpretation are so closely intertwined you can't separate them.

I'm reading "New Testament Interpretation" by Ian Boxall, and "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places" by Eugene Peterson. Boxall points out that even the people who first observed the man Jesus and made a memory of what they had seen were already interpreting it and seeing it differently from others who had seen the same thing. I was at a meeting a couple of evenings ago; someone said something about a situation and I heard her concern and irritation with that situation in what she said and the way she said it. The following morning, someone else who had been at the meeting commented in a way that suggested she'd heard something quite different. I'm fascinated by that because everyone is telling the truth, as they see it, but we've already got three versions, and probably another one each for all the other people at the meeting. Imagine how many versions there must have been of the feeding of the five thousand!

Then we take our experience and we use words to communicate it but the words we use are inadequate to describe everything that went on, they only stand for the reality of what they describe, they aren't the reality of it. Peterson discusses the doctrine of the Trinity, describing it as a map of the country of God, but not God himself. It's related to the country and enables us to explore it, but it isn't the thing itself.

Sometimes the words we use are blatantly lies. Jesus did this a lot, except we call them parables. There was no specific rich man who sold everything he had to buy the pearl of great price, so this isn't a true story. But there is so much truth in it because it cuts to the heart of what Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of God. There is truth at the core of the Harry Potter universe: the truth that a life laid down willingly because of love can have the power to conquer even death, yet Harry Potter is "only" fiction.

So what is the truth? My answer is that I don't know which bits of the bible are true in a factual sense but there is great truth in there mainly because it points me to the one who called himself the Truth. So my answer to the question is to say it’s the wrong question; the right question is Who is the truth? But these are just my words....

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Battle of the Somme

One of my hobbies is genealogy and in the process of explore my ancestors I discovered that my great grandfather,Joseph Thomson Jackson, died in the slaughter of the first day of the Somme. This battle was supposed to have been the decisive turning point of the war with two huge mines destrying the german lines and allowing the massive british forces to break the line. Unfortunately the mines didn't destroy the german lines so when the british advanced at walking pace they were mown down by machine-gun fire. My great grandfather was in the 4th Battalion Tyneside Scottish regiment. His battalion sustained one of the heaviest casualty rates of the war, and he was one of them.

I had never heard of him until I discovered his name in the course of my researches. He is my mother's father's father, and she never spoke of him. But yet I am strangely moved that this unknown ancestor lived and died as part of this epic struggle. I'm also moved that his wife Mary Rachel was left alone to raise a family in Newcastle, and that she may even have lived to hear the news that her son Lawrence was killed at El-Alamein in 1942.

My views on war are mixed - can we not solve our conflicts in a less wasteful way? Are the british forces in Iraq and Afghanistan really protecting our freedom? But today I take my metaphorical hat off to great grandfather Joseph and his comrades who walked to their deaths in a hail of bullets, and to those who actually serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A strange new world...

...and now I'm fiddling about amending my profile and stuff I've discovered the magic that is the random question...which works in a really weird way:

It asks you a question, you answer it, but then you check the box to get a new question, then you save your updates. That results in my question being "what is the best tape to use for sculpture?" to which I appear to have answered "by saying it in a french accent" when in fact I was answer another question entirely????

This could get very surreal...if it hasn't already.


Part of my job is to to an all-age slot in the first part of the service on Sunday mornings.

A couple of weeks ago an older member of the congregation told me that my talk was the Mickey Mouse part of the service.

Thanks a lot, I thought to myself.

However, he then elaborated: When he was a small boy he went to the cinema every Saturday morning and the programme included a serial, a western, the main feature and a Mickey Mouse cartoon. He liked Mickey Mouse so he looked forward to that bit the most because it was funny.

I think that's a compliment....

Getting going again

As you can see I've had this blog lying dormant for quite sometime and never done anything with it. However recently I've been reading some good blogs and thought that I might have a go myself. It seemed to me that the mark of a good blog wasn't that it was brilliantly written, or that the content was earth shattering, but that it was interesting to me, so I decided that I would ramble on a bit and if anyone is interested that's good, but if they aren't I'll still have had a forum for rambling. And I do like a bit of a ramble...