Friday, September 28, 2007


I am not asking for your sympathy, merely offering you the chance to quietly laugh at me as you see me moving cautiously, doing the John-Wayne-waddle. My long-anticipated trip to the day-surgery unit has finally been completed and I have the scars to prove it!

For ten years I have sired far too many children, with quite alarming regularity. Now however, the breeding is over, the big-V, the decommissioning of the gonads is complete, and all weapons of mass reproduction have been put finally and verifiably beyond use.

Now clearly I am feeling sorry for myself, and believe that I am paying a high price! This is however not a view shared by my wife, who points out that bearing all our kids was, on balance, a little worse. So if you see me, hobbling about, with a sheepish-grin, feel free to laugh, mock and point out that it's all self inflicted. Of course when you have a 'surprise addition to the family' when you are 50 years old, it will no doubt be equally hilarious!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Long Live the 1970s

Once, probably in the early 1990s, whem my hair was at its most, er ... voluminous, I went to the barbers to get a trim. As I walked in the door of Warman's in Ashford Middx, Alan (the proprietor) pointed at me and exclaimed, "Look everyone, it's 1974!".

I am slightly more proud of that moment than is perhaps entirely appropriate.

However I am a child of the 70s, so here is a small tribute to that most hairy, flared, and flowery decade -when so much weird and wonderful music was made - and millions of rolls of wallpaper were made with gigantic swirling patterns!

New Coffee Heroes

"The Coffee Exchange" in Dundee is well worth a vist if you are ever in that neck of the woods. They really know how to look after their coffee, and they make the best espresso I have tasted since the much lamented 'Bean Good" cafe in Perth closed eighteen months ago.

Add to this, the fact that the food isn't bad at all, all the coffee is all Fairtrade, the people in the place are really friendly, and it was set up to make money for health and education projects in the developing world; it makes it the place to head for when in Dundee!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Taking some time at Salisbury Cathedral

The thanksgiving service for my uncle was held at Melbury Abbas, a quiet country parish church just outside Shaftesbury. Getting there meant the night sleeper down to London, and then the train to Salisbury where my sister would pick me up in her car. With two hours to spare in Salisbury, and conscious of the fact that my Uncle's immediate family were saying their farewells to him at the nearby crematorium, I headed to the Cathedral. My hope was that I would find somewhere quiet and calm in which to think, remember, and pray.

Salisbury Cathedral is a lovely old building, famous for its huge spire, which towers over the city. I took a few photos and then found a quiet place. Here I was able to both remember happy times spent with with my uncle and his family, and also to pray for them in their grief.

I was calmly sitting in a Cathedral seat when I was interrupted by a member of staff clearing away the chairs. Row-by-row he crashed them onto a trolley and wheeled them away, and it soon became obvious that the chairs I was sitting on where going to disappear next. So I gathered both my thoughts and my possessions and went off for a coffee.

I am not criticising the cathedral or its staff. They run a working church with an important programme to maintain. What I am wondering though is this. Do the church services I am involved in offering afford sufficient time to think, pray, meditate, contemplate or grieve? Or does a programme (however good) sometimes crowd this out? I hope that the extension we are trying to add to our church facilities (though not making it Salisbury Cathedral) will create some space for this, without interfering the valuable programme of events, worship, teaching, children's work etc - that we offer.

When in the seat in the Cathedral I noticed that most of the chairs had little brass plaques on them. The one above was the one right in front of where I sat. It gives four short facts about a man about whom I will know nothing else. I thought about life and death, the shortness of the first, the inevitability of the second, and my soul was stirred. Pressing in on my consciousness was the rugged truth of the old cliche about 'life not being merely a dress rehearsal'. This was compounded by a sense that life ultimately comes from God, and that I am answerable finally to Him for the choices I make within it.

A Time for Everything : (Ecclesiastes Chapter Three)
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account. [a]
16 And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
17 I thought in my heart,
"God will bring to judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time for every deed."

18 I also thought, "As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath [b] ; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal [c] goes down into the earth?"

22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nostalgia - as good as ever...

These are "the garages" - the place where as a child I played for hours and hours, days and weeks. During the winter, this uninspiring patch of suburban tarmac was Wembley, Anfield, Old Trafford or Highbury; as me, the neighbours kids and pals from school, fought out our heartfelt battles for imaginary sporting glory. All summer long it became Lords, The Oval or Headingley, with makeshift stumps at each end. I can still remember the nervous anticipation of watching the school opening bowler Kevin Brooke sprinting in to bowl at full speed, and the ecstasy of driving the ball back past him to the fence, or the agony of hearing my stumps being demolished behind me. This drab arena was once the setting for some epic sporting dramas, diving headers, goalies saves, cut-shots through the fence and many a bookable 'undue celebration'. Play was usually only punctuated with trips to collect balls from neighbours gardens, and we knew well which ones would cheerfully throw them back and which would interogate and intimidate.

This might well be the dullest photo on the internet; but as I look at it, I can hear the 'boom' of the ball crashing into the aluminium garage doors, the feel of the bat in my hand, the pleading 'howzat' of a young bowler to an imaginary umpire, and feel the tension of sudden-death penalty shoot-outs and the grazing of countless knees on tarmac.

Out and about, camera in hand!

People who have had the privilege of living in a beautiful place all their lives sometimes seem to take it all for granted and simply fail to stop and let their jaws drop in suitable appreciation for the beauty all around them. The best thing about growing up in suburban London is that it singularly denied me the opportunity of becoming glib and dismissive about natural beauty!

We all went for a walk up Kinnoull Hill, this is a small walk for Boris and Norris, but still quite a challenge for little Doris, who fell asleep before making the summit. I managed to carry her to the top, and it didn't prevent me from taking a couple of shots of the hill's classic view. Above the folly that is perched high on the cliffs above the Friarton bridge, which some historic eccentric thought made the Tay look like the Rhine! Then below, the view from somewhat Narnian ' stone table' looking eastwards, down the Tay, accross the Carse of Gowrie.

The highest point of Kinnoull Hill has had some of its fine views restored by the felling of some of the larger trees. St John's kirk in the town centre is now visible once again from the hill-top. By the time we got here though the light was getting a bit grimy. Swinging the camera Northwards captures a hazy view of the Tay, the back of Muirton on the left and the grounds of Scone Palace on the right.

Book Notes: Building a Better Body by Simon Jones

I have just finished reading this book - which has been on the go for quite some time now. It is a fascinating and provocative look at the whole way we go about viewing the church and being the church, written by someone who is a "critical insider"!

This book makes a great companion volume to Stott's "Living Church" in as much as they approach the same subject matter in radically different, yet mutually enriching ways. Stott's concern is to grapple with the biblical texts and to seek to build our contemporary authenticity by conformity to their patterns. Jones, on the other hand, wants to engage with not just theological ideas, but also with real people - folks who have struggled with church, have left the church, been hurt by the church or who long for the church to wake up and fulfill its potential. It is his interaction with all these elements which causes him to ask far-reaching questions about how fit-for-purpose our traditional models of church-life are for the realities of contemporary life.

If like me you are thinking through the issues of church, read Stott and gain a real understanding of what we should be about; then read Jones and engage with the difficulties of achieving it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

She means kissing.....

Boris (7): "Dad will you come out and play cricket with me?"

Mum: "No, Daddy's coming here to spend some quality time with me."

Boris: "What?!!?"

Norris (5), (with a groan): "She means kissing."

Oh, really?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Don't Mention the Coffee!

"Don't mention the coffee.
I mentioned it once,
- but I think I got away with it"

Ah, that's better!

Fairtrade Gourmet-blend espresso, from The Bean Shop in Perth!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Corsican Sunrise

Corsica: Solenzara

"The Last Resort" on the shores of the "Great Septic Sea". It looks lovely at night, with the camera doing a long exposure out over the sea from our apartment window.

Corsica: The Mountains

The Corsican mountains are just stunning. Crazy hairpin bending roads cling to them in all kinds of unlikely routes which traverse great cols which link up the various ranges of mountains and regions of the island. Photos of hills and mountains never do them justice - our photos of the Corsican ones are massisvely dissapointing, because the real things are breathtaking.

Corsica: Odd

I have posted another photo of this particular tree up on here previously (only to be asked if it was to be entitled 'self portrait'). However, when you spot a tree which is a genuinely weird as this, it's worth stopping the car, taking a photo and posting it twice!

Corsican plumbing seems to be a bit of a disaster area as far as I can tell. Our apartment looked to have all the plumbing that one could wish for - except that the kitchen sink burped and gurgled day and night and the drains sometimes blocked completely. Fortunately the owner of the apartments, Mdme Storai, lived next door to them and she seemed to be a dab-hand with the drain-rods, and every time they blocked up she cheerfully lifted the manhole cover and rodded then out for us all.

Apparently when one plumbs in a shower in Corsica, one does not sense the normal obligation to build the thing from parts which match in any way. The shower we had, didn't slot into its wall-bracket at all. The photo above is of our make-shift DIY shower head bracket. Not pretty, but effective.

We had heard about the dodgy plumbing before we went, what we had not been made aware of was that the electrical wiring was of a similar standard. One night whilst I was cooking the tea, we kept getting power-cuts. Eventually the owner knocked on the door, looked in and saw all our food simmering and frying away on the four cooker rings. "Quatre!!" "Quatre?!!!" she cried in abject horror and complete disbelief. Apparently you are supposed to know that if you use more than two rings on the hob, the power to the whole block would disintegrate!

The Corsicans love their charcuterie, which is something of a national dish. And here is some, wild, alive, kicking and holding up the traffic on the road to the Col de Bavella.

This village has one main road through it. It is a very narrow road, which is not wide enough for two lots of cars to pass each other. Very sensibly therefore they have installed traffic-lights at each end of the village to ensure that cars do not meet each other in the centre of the village and cause gridlock.

This all works very well, until a bus takes so long getting up the hill that it fails to clear the one-way section before the lights at the top of the village turn green, allowing traffic from the other end to pour into the narrow road.

We watched exactly this happen and sat for 40 minutes completely stationary enjoying the view, the heat, the wasted time and the ensuing pandemonium. Best of all the coach driver at the front of the queue coming up the hill, had a punch-up with the lorry driver at the head of the traffic coming down the hill. Lots of yelling, arms waving and gesticulating exploded into violence, and the passengers separated the two angry drivers.

Much better than T.V.!

Corsica: Rivers and Hospitals

Corsica is home to many magnificent rivers which flow out of the high mountains in the centre of the island, and which are popular destinations for Corsicans who head there to spend days in the sun. They build dams across the rivers, creating little lochans to which people come in their droves to sunbathe, dive, climb and picnic.

It was at one of these river-pools that I made a valiant attempt to be a good and dutiful husband and father - which went sadly and horribly wrong. My wife had been swimming in the Great Septic Sea, and so naturally was nursing an unhappy stomach - so I took the kids out for the day. We found a nice gorge, (below) and climbed down into it with the intention of building a dam, and having a dip in the resulting pool. Following a nice ice-cream in a cafe, we carried picnics, sun-cream, hats and little daughter down into the gorge, and the fun began. Boris worked well, standing in the river, taking the dam construction project very seriously, Doris took off her sandals and splashed up and down in the shallow water, while Norris worked away too, fetching rocks from the banks and carrying them down into the water for Boris to add to the wall. Our dam was taking splendid shape, starting to rise in height across a narrow section of the river bed, and holding back a good amount of water, when... the still mountain air was split by a searing scream which echoed and amplified off the rocky gorge-walls around us.

I spun round to see young Norris (who else?) sitting on top of a boulder, clutching his foot and screaming. I was about to rebuke him for the dreadful noise when I saw that the beautiful pure-white boulder he was perched on was running with his deep, red blood which was pumping from his toe. The rock he had dropped onto his sandled toes had lifted his big-toe-nail right up in the air, it was barely connected to his toe at all - and blood was venting from it.

He was unable to walk, little Doris was too small to climb out of the gorge, and there is no way I could carry both of them. Boris, however sprung to the rescue - gaining ten years of maturity in less than ten minutes, he gathered up his little sister and carried her to the top of the gorge, and stayed with both of them while I ran for the car. "Don't worry if I am car sick, drive as fast as you can!" he said. I did.

The A&E department at Porto Vecchio was .... different. They refused to try and re-set the nail, they refused to allow time for anesthetic to work and just yanked the nail out with pliers. The worst of it though was that the doctor who did it, not only was wearing old boots and jeans, but had a moustache which started under his nose in the conventional manner, but then on reaching the corners of his mouth turned downwards and headed for the bottom of his chin. Once reaching the base of the chin, each end of the magnificent moustache then hung three or four inches below his chin resting on his shirt. I quite fancy growing one myself, next holiday maybe!

We were very grateful to Lord and Lady Lucan who uncannily were on hand at the hospital to translate for us, and to look after Norris and Doris while we were in the A&E. They were only there because their hire-car had brken down.

Young Norris is fine, and is now showing the first signs of re-growing his big-toe-nail. What we were impressed with however was the country's "Good Samaritan Law" which states that it is your legal duty to render assistance to anyone you see in trouble. The cafe where I left the three kids while I ran to the car, not only sprayed his foot with a sterile Iodine solution, but wrapped it up to keep it clean too. Without this he could have had significant infection and lots more problems. We went back for ice-creams the next day, to thank them and show off his dressings and limp!

Corsica: The Great Septic Sea

Young Boris gave his old father a lesson in snorkling. He was a natural at swimming up and down admiring all the fish. I was a bit less successful at it, and kept inhaling lung-fulls of water and emerging spluttering from the sea looking dazed. "The Great Septic Sea" did its work of course, and we were all victims of dodgy tummies as a result, all part of the fun I suppose. Boris has since learnt at school that the Nile (one of the great feeders of the Great Septic Sea) is the 'world filthiest river'. Nice.

This is not a bleached whale, neither is it some grotesque inflatable toy for the kids to play on, rather it is your-truly, the hideous one, actually managing a bit of snorkeling.

And here's my wife, suntanning her toes.

I can't sunbathe. I don't know why - perhaps I need to go to lessons or something. It's not that I haven't tried either. I have under instruction from experts like my wife, applied ghastly sun-cream to relevant areas, found a nice spot to lie-down in and shut my eyes. A minute passes, another minute passes, and I am beginning to fidget, a third minute passes and I am begining to get bored, by the time five minutes is up I am ready to pack-up the stuff and go and do something interesting with my holiday. The answer to beach-bordeom is to do interesting stuff with the kids. When not inhaling salt water through a snorkel or hiring a pedalo, we found that the kids just loved digging. Here' s hole.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Book Notes: Four Gospels One Jesus? by Richard Burridge

This book is a little gem, a fascinating study and insight into how we should handle the four gospels and how we have so often gone wrong in the way that we have done so.

is highly accomplished academic literary critic, and this volume brings a wealth of his skills to bear on the texts - but (unlike in his previous works) he brings his writing style down to a popular level making some very profound material accessible to the ordinary person seeking to read, study, understand and respond to the gospels.

The core of his argument is that each of the gospels paints a different and distinct picture of Jesus, was written for a different reason, with known materials sifted for specific purposes. Mistakenly, gospel readers have tended to 'systematise' the whole, far too early in the process of reading. That is to say they have sought to blend the gospels (especially the synoptics) into a blander, merged gospel, obliterating the unique nature of the individual portraits presented. This, argues Burridge, is to do a great disservice to the texts themselves as literary entities which are worthy of consideration in their own terms, and also to ourselves as we will fail to grasp the four vivid pictures of Jesus they present and which we are meant to respond to. Certainly a holistic merger of the information must take place as we seek to understand Jesus; but this is, according to Burridge the last stage in the process.

He provides a great illustration of his point. On a trip to Chatsworth house, he saw many portraits of Winston Churchill. One of a family man, one of a war leader, one an elderly prime minister and one a retired man quietly painting. He points out how foolish it would be to construct a montage featuring the painters-palate, some children, a tank, military fatigues, all in the house of commons! Instead each picture must first be allowed to speak before we seek to assemble a picture of the whole. This is a lesson which much popular theology has simply failed to grasp in its handling of the texts.

then goes on to sketch the four portraits, and the reasons for their construction; the Jewish Messiah of the Matthew's gospel, the mysterious Lord of Mark who leaves questions unanswered and issues hanging; the compassionate Christ of Luke's gospel whose special love of outcasts and the poor is so well loved; and the glorious high-Christology of John. He points out that each of these not only informs our picture of the whole - but may be particularly relevant for our life and faith at different times - as they were written for specific circumstances in the first instance.

This has not only given me a new appreciation for the gospels as literature, and the gospel authors as skilled writers; but also a new dimension of understanding the Christ whom they portray. This is good stuff! Thanks to Dr Stumpy Greenisland for yet another very good book recommendation.

Book Notes: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I had heard that this was a pretty weird book, and so when I saw a copy in el-cheapo's remainder bookstore in the town, I grabbed a copy and waited for a suitable moment to have a read. I wasn't disappointed either, it was not only well worth the 50p I had to pay for it, but it was indeed as weird as had been promised.

Salinger wrote this book on the premise that it was the autobiographical outpourings of the somewhat mangled mind of a young man named Holden Caulfield. The book begins with the story of his expulsion from various schools, his friendships and relationships, and his gradual collapse into a nervous breakdown.

By unswervingly maintaining the voice of the Caulfield character throughout the book, the reader is taken further and further into the tangled thought-life of this boy. His cynicism directed at both worthy and unworthy targets, his inability to comprehend the implications of his burgeoning sexuality, the violence and abuse that he suffers; and his parents incomprehension of the situation make for a disturbing read. You only need to Google the title to see the deluge of reviews and responses that this controversial little book has generated.

In many ways this is an unpleasant book, written from the perspective of a character who is so detached from social graces that he bears the most unpleasant parts of his soul for all to see - and be repelled by. Yet as an exercise in writing from within the mind of a character, with an odd view of the world, in a sustained voice and style - it is brilliant.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"Quote Unquote"

"Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms or in a more peremptory urgent manner; than the command of giving to the poor?"

Friday, September 07, 2007

Uncle Brian

Uncle Brian. R.I.P.
- A Genuinely Lovely Man -

Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan

Glenfinnan Viaduct from Sgurr nan Coireachan's lower slopes

Victor Meldrew and I had a brilliant day in the hills yesterday - driving up to Glenfinnan and doing a couple of Munros which are reached by walking up the glen underneath the arches of the famous railway viaduct. Our expectations of the weather were very low, we were promised rain, cold and no-views so by 9:30 we set off on a steady trudge through the early morning gloom the three miles to Corryhully and the foot of the hill.

Thankfully the weather forecast was unduly pessimistic, we had a couple of very light showers, and it did get a bit cold on the tops; but the clouds broke from time-to-time, the sun shone through the gaps and we enjoyed wonderful views until the fog engulfed us again.

The conversation, as ever with Victor, roamed seamlessly from the sublime to the ridiculous, the thoughtful to the farcical. We had some good chats about the church housegroup stuff on one hand - yet on the other we were both somewhat bewildered by his flatulent productivity which was at quite frightening levels. If the Montgolfier brothers had known Victor they could have circumnavigated the globe.

The round of Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan is quite a long walk, it took us eight-and-a-half hours to complete the 22.7km and 1,600m of ascent. The ridge between the two Munro summits, over a series of tops is easy to navigate thanks to the presence of a line of old fence posts. However what look on the map like a series of undulations feel like quote big climbs in practice, making the day hard work; this coupled with the six mile round trip walking from the car-park to the foot of the hill-proper.

The only real rain we faced started when we were a mile-or-so from the car, and we were glad to get changed out of our very wet hill-gear and head to the Monadliath Hotel for a good pub meal to end a fine and splendid hill day. Special thanks are also due to Lord Lucan, Mrs Boom and HH, for helping look after the kids so that I could escape for the day!

Right, a word about the 'Ron Hill's'.....

Now I'm not saying that they look good. I'm not saying that they suit me. I'm not saying that it isn't a bit grim for the onlooker to have to observe a slightly tubby, heading-toward-middle-age hillwalker such as myself squeezing himself into them. All I am saying is that I can't find any other hill-gear which is a comfortable, functional and easy to wear- even underneath waterproofs.

It makes my wife squirm with embarrassment every time I put them on, I know the photos are damaging evidence against my credibility (oh, as if any further were needed) and I know that they are the hillwalking equivalent of dodgy miniscule Speedo's in the swimming pool. However the bottom line remains this, I wear them for me to feel comfortable in, not for you to look at.

I am in the hills, I am happy and feel fine; so verily I gesture rudely in the direction of the fashion-police, throw aesthetic sensibilities to the wind - and hey, if you don't like what it looks like then you can walk in front.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Even more Holiday Snaps

A couple of shots of Pitigiliano, where after a long search we found a great pizza restaurant, the sister-in-law was feeling really ill. On the way there we had ice-creams at Bolsena and on the way back a boat ride around the lake. Incidentally the local delicacy there is eels from the lake. They are truly grotesque!

The final shot is of the swimming pool in the sunshine. Any astute blog-readers who are also part of our church will recognise this image as a backdrop used on Sunday's notices!

Yet More Holiday Snaps: Orvieto

The holiday house we had near Orvieto was adequate, but the area was lovely. The sister-in-law, Simon and their kids were there, which was good - the only down side was that she brought her tonsils with her which duly became infected and she was ill, I mean really not well!

These pictures show the town centre, the caves under the town centre, and a view of the old town perching on top of its hill from where we were staying. These ones will enlarge if clicked on!

It was in Orvieto that I made a mistake which could have been costly and which might have ruined our holiday altogether. Doris and I didn't join the rest of the exploring the caves under town centre becuase she was asleep in her pushchair. It was while I was with her, in a cafe, that I lost my wife's purse which pretty much contained everything we needed! I re-traced my steps, looking everywhere and when I got the cafe, the owner was waving at me clutching the purse! Phew! I shook his hand and gave him my most effusive ever "grazi!". He just shrugged and said my favourite Italian word, "'prego"!

More Boring Holiday Snaps: Orvieto's Duomo

We enjoyed a stiffling hot week with Simon and family near Orvieto, a beautiful medieval hilltop town, famous for it's scenery, steep and narrow streets, piazza and Duomo (cathederal), and infamous for Orvieto Classico - an overly sweet white which might be Italy's answer to Leibfraumilch!

The photos are of the Duomo, it's magnificent facade, some of the strange carvings which protrude from it and a wonderful sculpture inside it which portrays Mary and (presumably Simon of Cyrene) grieving over the crucified body of Christ, just after it has been taken from the cross.

If you want a more witty account of our time in Orvieto, with better photos, see Simon's write-up, here!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Church: Pulling Ideas Together

One of the unexpected benefits of blogging is that it has turned into a place where I can dump information - which if left on bits of paper in the house would never be seen again! In my recent readings on the church I have saved a few gleanings from different sources which I am now seeking to pull together.

At our church conference in May, Stuart challenged us to think of the church in terms of four dichotomies. The church should seek to be (he argued):

"Faithful" - rather than- "Successful"
"Relevant " - rather than "Trendy"
"Careful - rather than - Professional"
"Authentic" - rather than - "Fraudulent"

As previously blogged here, I. Howard Marshall has demonstrated that the heart of the New Testaments references to church are as a community of faith which not so much gathers for worship services, as equips believers for worship, which is service in the world.

In his book "The Living Church", Stott argues from the pattern found immediately after the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2: 42-7 that the church should be performing four functions, (i) learning, (ii) caring, (iii) worshiping and (iv) outreaching.

If in addition to this we are to describe ourselves as being at heart, "the community of Christ" (as I would want to), then perhaps with all of this something useful is being to emerge.

If the community of Christ is who we are...
Stott's quadrilateral tell us what we should do...
Marshall's analysis shows us which direction that this effort should go in...
Blythe's dichotomies tells us about how we should go about this business....
It looks cluttered and a bit of a fuddle - but diagramming it helps me to clarify thoughts, so:

(click to enlarge - sometimes works!)

Savage, but hilarious!

"Quote Unquote"

On Friday my wife had worked a gruelling fifteen hour day, including a meeting at lunchtime. In case you are wondering, she is technically 'self-employed' so she doesn't even have to opt-out of the European Working Hours directive! This came at the end of a very tiring week and she was exhausted. In a fit of uncharacteristic consideration, before taking Boris off to his football training at 10:30 on Saturday morning, I took her breakfast in bed.
Spotting the tray heading up towards the bedroom, Boris exclaimed:
"Breakfast in bed?!! Why!? ...Dad - it's not Mother's-Day you know!"


There presumably must be a hidden clause deep within the smallprint of the 'Single European Act' that stipulates that every country in Europe is allowed to have fast, clean, reliable and efficient trains which are cheap to use; except Britain! Mussolini has lot to do with it in Italy apparently, his greatest achievements seem to have involved railway timetabling, but fascist dictators can't be the whole reason, after all France has railways but didn't embrace Fascism, and the Vichy regime were hardly going to build a new infrastructure in the middle of war!

Mussolini or otherwise - we took a day trip to Florence on the train. The ride was excellent, and train travel remains the best way to see a country I think. It would be good one year to explore Italy by train!

Florence itself was a mixed bag. Not only was it extremely hot, but it was also cripplingly crowded, with several hours of queues to get into the most noted attractions like Michelangelo's famous David sculpture or the Duomo. Only the tower next to the Duomo had a short wait to get in, so Boris, Norris and I endured the hundreds of narrow steps to the view-point at the top; this was fantastic!