Link – December 2018:

On social media, I am often invited to take part in “top ten challenges”. These involve having to choose ten examples of a subject (e.g., ten films that left an impression on me (at time of writing: The Terminator; Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey; Naked Gun: from the Files of Police Squad; Hellboy; Withnail & I; Monthy Python & the Holy Grail; Army of Darkness; Jason and the Argonauts; Star Wars; The Princess Bride)), posting one of these on a daily basis, and then nominating a friend to have a go themselves.

So, without further ado, my Top Ten Bible Bits – if you find yourself nominated, I’d love to hear your top ten.

1. John 3:16
Advertised on a thousand sports placards when I was growing up, this verse tells us a vital truth about God, his view of the world (hang on, aren’t we meant to struggle against the world?) and, more importantly of us – that we don’t need to perish: the offer of eternal life starting now is a wonderful thing.
I nominate: anybody who wishes that Newcastle would score a few more goals now and then.

2. Daniel 14:1-22
Found in the Apocrypha, if at all, in most non-Catholic Bibles, this little story is a very early example of a locked-room mystery with some almost-rationalist supernatural-debunking “my lord, whose footprints are these?!” It’s told with verve and humour. I’ve included it here because finding it surprised me, it’s good fun, and it adds weight to the “Bible as a library containing many different genres” position.
I nominate: anybody with a soft spot for golden age detection.

3. Genesis 1-3
God made a good world and we screwed it up, with disastrous consequences. In later years, phrases like “in our image”, “become like us”, added to the mystery – a royal we, one god among many, trinitarian thinking? Even later, the buck-passing, excuse making seemed very contemporary indeed.
I nominate: anybody who could do with the reminder, “…and it was very good.”

4. Jonah
Possibly my favourite book of the Bible. It packs an awful lot into four short chapters, and the title character is a proper misery-guts from start to finish. I love the reminder it provides that God is far more interested in mercy than judgement (those Ninevites, really deserved some high level fire and brimstone judging). I also take comfort in Jonah being utterly unfit for purpose and still getting used to sow the seeds of the Kingdom.
I nominate: anybody who feels God is calling them to unpleasantness.

5. John 3:17
Clarification of the point made in the previous verse, and a very welcome reassurance to a boy who feared the coming judgement. This verse set me on the long road to realising that the gospel was one primarily of love, not judgement (some concepts took a little longer than they should to take root) and is the first example I can remember of thinking that sometimes we separate verses that really should be kept together.
I nominate: anybody worried about what God *really* thinks of them.

This article originally appeared in the December edition of Newcastle Diocese’s Link Newspaper. Part Two will follow in February.

Link – November 2018:
A Canine Pirate Kingdom?

My daughter was bought a little soft toy dog for her second birthday. It was wearing a stripy top, had a patch over one eye and a red bandanna emblazoned with the skull and cross-bones. Pirate Dog has sparked an interest in piratey things as much as anything can hold the attention of a two year old. She now has a pirate hat (or two), a pirate flag and loves to play ‘pirates’ which is basically climbing stuff, sliding down poles, and making a hook with a finger and going, “Arrrrr!” There’s been a lot of fun and enjoyment, beyond just playing with Pirate Dog, for her – and for her parents and grandparents, forced to join in.

A long time ago, a friend gave me a sign-up code for an online journalling site, saying, “I thought you might like to write a bit more.” I did indeed like writing a bit more – and, over the years, the things I have written have made people laugh, think, cry, ask questions, and (I hope) pointed them towards a more loving God than maybe they’d been expecting. That code led indirectly to me writing this column for the Link.

Towards the end of my time in junior school, I was bought a new translation of the Bible to replace the Good News Bible I’d had for the previous six years or so. The NIV was a more challenging read, which encouraged me to look at passages afresh and, if memory serves, was the first Bible I read through – from dark brown hard cover to dark brown hard cover. Eventually, at university, I would pass this Bible onto a friend who was in the early stages of coming to faith, and would eventually go onto to be ordained and introduce countless people to the news about Jesus contained in the Bible. Although we’ve both moved onto more up-to-date and accurate translations, that Bible served us both well as we grew into the faith we have today.

Jesus said “The Kingdom of Heaven is like this…” and talked about small things that spread and grew: yeast, working its way through dough until a whole batch of loaves would rise; a mustard seed, growing into a massive tree that filled the sky. These were everyday images in the first century but are a little less commonplace today.

Maybe, The Kingdom of Heaven is like a soft toy, Pirate Dog, that was given to a girl, who played with it and around it, drawing in her parents their friends and their friends’ friends until the whole world was playing at being a pirate.

Maybe, The Kingdom of Heaven is like an invitation to write, and the words spread out through the world touching lives and inspiring everyone to write their own, better stories.

Maybe, The Kingdom of Heaven is like a book (The Book), passed from hand to hand, leaving wisdom in its wake and changing those who briefly give it a home.

What small thing could you do to start The Kingdom of Heaven filling the world?

This article originally appeared in Newcastle Diocese’s monthly newspaper the Link

The Small Things We Leave Behind (Part 13)

Magnificent Gauntlet

Gauntlet Beer Pump cover

Many years ago, my brother gave me this old beer pump cover – heaven knows where he got it. Since then it has decorated shelves at various places and in the most recent house graced the top of the corner cabinet that used to belong to my Grandad. When we were packing up, it didn’t look like we’d be able to take the cabinet with us but would need to leave it as a fixture (or would it be a fitting?) and there would be very little space for random ornamentation, so the Gauntlet left our collection.

Two days later, I came back to get the house letting-ready and took the corner cabinet back south with me, where it now resides with no Gauntlet-topper, looking more impressive but less fun.

The Small Things We Leave Behind (Part 10)

The Fabled PurpleStation

An original Playstation that has been spray painted metallic purple

Many years ago, when I first owned a PlayStation, it was a dull grey, which was entirely unsuitable for a bringer of the fun. I took it apart and spray-painted all the parts in a metallic purple, waited for it to dry and put it back together again. It looked fabulous and served me well, but it has been somewhat superseded and won’t be coming with us.

Free to a good home, collection only.

The Small Things We Leave Behind (Part 9)

Three for the Price of One

pint glass, humorous desk sign and a coffee machine

The pint glass will be sorely missed – I found it in one of the Church House cupboards years ago – it swiftly became attached to my desk and helped keep me hydrated up until my final day at work when I washed it out and left it on my desk.

That is the third coffee machine to possess that spot in the office after two previous machines died in varieties of horribleness. It was bought by a colleague after the last one stopped working and my boss said “in the divorce, I keep the coffee machine.” So, I cleaned it out and left it behind.

The humorous sign was a gift from a colleague – the name can be re-written and there are a selection of ‘statuses’ for a successor to choose from…

The Small Things We Leave Behind (Part 8)

Empty Shells

The box for the Judas Priest Remasters Boxed Set

In the run up to the rapidly approaching move, there are several things that have become part of my life for the past few years that there’s no longer any call for and which must regretfully be got rid of or left behind. I thought it might be fun to share some of them.

Years ago, this boxed set was released gradually with the big case and the first four albums in the initial release and subsequent remasters released every couple of months. It felt like it took me ages of popping into the local record stores and asking “is the next batch in yet?” to complete the set – and for a while it looked awesome on the shelf with my other collections.

When I moved into lodgings a little later on, I transferred all my CDs and DVDs into slip cases in a flight case and put the boxes into storage, fully intending to put them all back out on display when I moved somewhere with enough wall space to cope with the shelving.

Today, I took a car load of CD cases and boxes to the tip.

Another, aptly-named, victim of the purge was the case below (which is going to a mate who might be able to do something charitable with it).

battered case for Metallica's 'Live Shit Binge & Purge'

The Small Things We Leave Behind (Part 7)

Some Iconic Photo Opportunities

Cullercoats, St George, taken from the other end of Tynemouth Longsands - on a DSLR view screen
In the run up to the rapidly approaching move, there are several things that have become part of my life for the past few years that there’s no longer any call for and which must regretfully be got rid of or left behind. I thought it might be fun to share some of them (this might be the last post).

Every time we go to Tynemouth, I take yet more pictures of the church (Cullercoats, St George) at the other end of the beach. It’s probably one of the most photographed views in the North East but I always enjoy it. I’m going to have to find replacement views, especially since the new place is about as far from the seaside as it’s possible to get in the UK.

The Small Things We Leave Behind (Part 6)

My Name on a List

A pile of rotas
In the run up to the rapidly approaching move, there are several things that have become part of my life for the past few years that there’s no longer any call for and which must regretfully be got rid of or left behind. I thought it might be fun to share some of them (this might be the last post).

It was time for the new rotas for intercessors, scripture readers, and chalice bearers at church this morning. For the first time in a long time, there wasn’t one waiting for me to collect…

…like a metaphor