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summer fun August 30, 2010

Posted by Andy in Family.
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August draws to its close and the new school term is almost upon us. It’s been a good summer despite the drab greyness that has been pierced far too infrequently with sunshine. Here are some high points from the last month or so:

1. completing the 351 mile Bar Yar cycle challenge with Ste. Photos here. We have raised about £2,500!

2. Showstoppers Holiday club for primary age children at church.

3. Fortnightly book group discussing aspects of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. A reminder of the importance of fellowship and discipleship in any Christian community.  

4. Quality time with our families including visits to Harrogate &  Bracknell.

5. camping expedition to Bellingham in Northumberland. Visits to Alnwick, Embleton, Jedburgh, Hexham, Newcastle, Durham amongst others. Long live the North East!

6. summer reading has included Tim Severin’s The Brendan Voyage in honour of the Irish monk St Brendan who lived about 1,500 years ago and was quite possibly amongst the first Celtic Christian missionaries to cross the Atlantic to Newfoundland. Another fascinating book I read was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, written by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Following a stroke in mid-1990s he suffered ‘lock-in syndrome’ meaning he was only able to communicate to the outside world by blinking his left eyelid. The book is a testimony to the power of the human mind, its memory, imagination and depth despite the limitations it is bound by. Shona and I also watched the film version which does not disappoint and is equally stunning for its simplicity and profundity. It is a clever retelling of how Bauby’s condition would have affected him, all the better with it coming from his unique perspective. Rather bias I know but in my opinion the film is right up there with the best I’ve ever seen, perhaps because it also contains the U2 song ‘Ultraviolet’ in its soundtrack! Does it get any better than that?!

7. oh and before I forget, how could I not include watching Emilia take those first few pedals on her bicycle without her stabilisers! Maybe she will be doing coast to coast cycle rides before long?


3 points ahead of EVERYONE! August 6, 2010

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What better way to welcome the start of a week’s holiday than to watch my beloved Watford FC in the opening Championship fixture of the new season, thanks to Sky Sports. This season the league looks wide open for the taking and although I doubt we’ll be mounting a serious challenge it’s still good to say after our first game that “We’re top of the league!” It might only be for another 18 hours but still “We’re top of the league!” due to the fact the game was played the day before all the other games. We deserved our victory over Norwich and put on a solid, attractive display in front of the TV cameras. Last season Emilia joined Uncle Steve and I for her first taste of live football when we drew 1-1 at home to Doncaster Rovers. A year on and she can still remember the opposition and the result! Let’s hope this season is altogether less of a relegation battle. Next up it’s Coventry, whose new boss Aidy Boothroyd will certainly add some spice to the game. But for now all I can say is “We’re top of the league!”

running on empty July 9, 2010

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The half marathon event last Saturday from Wolverhampton to Birmingham was good fun, a unique course, too hot and I was glad to reach the end but disappointed not to come in under 2 hours.

Nevertheless I did beat my previous PB of 2 hrs 8 mins but a whole minute!

Next up is the cycle challenge.

Regular updates at http://bar2yar.wordpress.com

Training continues June 26, 2010

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Next Saturday is the Black Country/Birmingham half marathon event and so today I took the opportunity to familiarise myself with the route by cycling along the canal towpath. It also gave me a good distance on the bike as the Bar-Yar cycle challenge looms large on the horizon. For regular updates on the cycle challenge visit: bar2yar.wordpress.com.

Some photos from today’s cycle trip below:

The Coseley tunnel was very dark and if it wasn't for the handrail I don't think I would've felt very safe inside! It was very cool which was a welcome break from the heat of the sun outside.

The transport networks in the Midlands are very good as this photo shows. The canal to Birmingham goes under the M5 near West Bromwich. Parallel to the canal at frequent points is a railway line and the tramline.

Lots of signposts are dotted along the canal routes. Here's one pointing to Stourbridge. I could've taken this route but this would've meant 'chickening' out of the plan to get to Brindley place in Birmingham.

Arriving in Birmingham I came across some dragon boat races outside the ICC/NIA and Sea Life Centre. A good atmosphere with sunshine and people enjoying food/drink. This is where next week’s race finishes. A dip in the water to cool down will be tempting!

Just lately I’ve been… June 21, 2010

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…eating toasted marshmallows with Shona warmed by the chimenea (as above)… wondering if the gladioli I planted in spring will ever flower… setting up a blog for the forthcoming charity cycle challenge: bar2yar.wordpress.com… accummulating plenty of leg miles as I approach the half-marathon… struggling to finish my final NAM reading book (the words ‘treacle’ and ‘wading’ come to mind)… learning to live God’s days one at a time… humming ‘how do you like your eggs in the morning’ (from Chris Evans’ Radio 2 breakfast show)… buying bike parts like oil, mudguards, lights… watching lots of World Cup games… ‘considering the ant’ as opposed to the sluggard (see Proverbs 6)… waiting for Shona to have her first kick from baby inside (happened tonight)… picking radishes but still waiting on runner-beans… writing sermons on parables of talents and unjust/dishonest steward (prefer to call him ‘rascal’!)… listening to Bon Jovi… coveting a vuvuzela… overfeeding the fish… loving the late summer evenings (only just shut curtains, it’s 10.27pm on longest day)… eating fig rolls… checking campsites for summer holiday (going to Northumbria National Park)… attending Boys Brigade trip to police station… leading a service for renewal of marriage vows… filling in my Panini World Cup sticker album which has taken me back to doing swaps in school playground (thanks to Emilia & Esther for a great Father’s Day gift)… polishing up on a magic trick involving a spoon… learning how to ‘blaspheme the money god’ (as suggested by our ‘churches together’ speaker at ‘What do Christians say about money?’ last week)… tidying the garage… nailing a ladybird/bee box to the fence… playing with the girls in the garden… struggling to find overnight accommodation in Shrewsbury… battling with Sky customer services dept (finally concluded today!)… taking eye drops for a nice reaction to something…  and organising the town centre litter pick event.

But one thing I’m not doing this summer: dressing up as Bananaman again!

Some things I noticed from attending Baptist Assembly this week… May 5, 2010

Posted by Andy in Family.

Most pleasant surprise: being told we had overpaid our Innkeeper’s Lodge accommodation charge and were therefore entitled to a nice refund.

Most overused saying: “Baptist family”.

Most welcome change from last year: different styles of music in main sessions, the opportunity for folk to contribute as part of the communal discernment (e.g., writing comments on the white display boards, the 4 appointed ‘listeners’ who summed up conversations they’d had with people on the Monday morning).

Most stressful situation: either the evening meal at the incompetent Wetherspoon’s restaurant, or Esther’s refusal to go to sleep during David Coffey’s evening address.

Most heavenly moment: Hearing from two long-term missionaries who have just come to the end of their time serving with BMS World Mission, having completed about 30 year’s service (having only set out to do about 2!)

Most hellish moment: Shona’s realisation that she had to revisit said Wetherspoon’s to retrieve her (already lost) new prescription sunglasses.

Most random moment: Meeting two very likeable, friendly, older gentlemen (from Eastbourne) at breakfast and subsequently giving them lifts to and from Assembly.

Most humorous incident: Seeing Shona and Emilia stuck in a lift (temporarily!)

Most admired main platform speaker: Anne Wilkinson-Hayes. Her message about mission being more about plunging ourselves into the river of God rather than all about strategies and techniques was refreshing.

Most amazing bargain: the new BU booklet ‘Gathering Around the Table: Children & Communion’. What a bargain at £3!

Most theologically-erudite occasion: Ruth Gouldbourne’s ‘George Beasley-Murray Lecture’ which highlighted the ontological nature of ministry (being) rather than the functional/task orientated approach. The temptation and cultural norm is to be a pragmatist doing ‘things’. But pastors are also called to ‘be’.

Run Reverend Run! March 26, 2010

Posted by Andy in Random.
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I have agreed to run the Birmingham/Black Country half marathon AND do a coast-to-coast cycle ride (Barmouth to Great Yarmouth) with a friend in July this year! More details over at:


The donations received will go towards three initiatives: Hanbury Hill Baptist Church, Brierley Hill Project, Early Childhood Centre (Uganda). Please consider offering some financial support! Every little helps!!

Black Country Prodigal Son Parable January 29, 2010

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Thought it was about time to spread a ‘lil Black Country ‘spake and post a parable from ‘The Gospels in Black Country Dialect’ book. This one is truly bostin!

E tode em a parable abahrr a bloke wi tew sons, The yungist asked is fairther ter gi im is share o munny. Is fairther gid it im. The chap went tew anuther country an blewed it all in. Wen e’d got nuthin left, e went ter wairk fer a mon wot sent ‘im ter fayd pigs. E’d a bin glad t’ate the pig swill but the mon udn’t gi im enny. E felt as tho’e wus starving ter jeth an dissidid e’d rather goo back wum. E’d ask is fairther ter fergi im an be one of is sairvents. Wen is fairther sid im cummin e run aht ter mayt im an med ever such a fuss on im. E got the sairvents ter dress im up in daycent clews an shews an purr a ring on is finger. E ad a fat calf killed soo’s thay cud aye a fayst an rijiyce cus e’d fun the son e thort e’d lost. The eldest son day alf gerr izself in a paddy abahrr it. E’d bin a gud son an stopped wi is fairther. Jesus tode em that God ud fergi sinners an luv em if thay’d gi up Thayer ayvil ways. 

From the old to the new January 1, 2010

Posted by Andy in Family.

A quick list of some 2009 highlights:

Best film: The Boy in Stripped Pyjamas.

Best restaurant: difficult to choose, but top two must be French Connection (Stourbridge) and Jimmy Spices (Birmingham).

Best football match: Monday 11th December (Watford 3-1 QPR), witnessing Watford’s Lloyd Doyley score his first senior goal whilst watching Sky Sports at home (it’s only taken him 10 years!)

Best photograph: the fully-grown sunflower with a dazzling sunset in background.

Best music experience: U2 360 Tour at Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield, in August.

2010 has now begun and during this forthcoming year I’ll have to make good use of some lovely birthday/Christmas presents I received, such as my new Aria bass guitar and amp, garden tools, photographic book and running shoes. But not simultaneously.

Keeping hope alive December 22, 2009

Posted by Andy in Reflections on Ministry.
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My turn tomorrow (23/12) to post on the Advent Hopeful Imagination blog…

It’s that time of the year when Advent begins to merge into Christmas. The anticipation and expectation of the last month now blends into the joy of announcing that a Saviour has been born. And we are being held in that hope.

At the Tate Modern in London there is a new exhibition, 30 metres in length, 10 metres in width, creating the impression of entering into a vast black hole. The Polish artist, Miroslaw Balka, said he is trying to remind visitors of recent Polish history – the ramp into the black hole chamber is like the entrance to the Ghetto in Warsaw, or the trucks which took Jews away to the camps of Treblinka or Auschwitz. Says Balka, “You’ll start to touch darkness. I’m touching the subject of disappearing”.

For many during the joy of Christmas, darkness still lurks. The threat of redundancy, a friendship turned sour, a broken marriage, a tarnished reputation, an empty space at the dinner table… Black holes come in various forms.
But we are called to hope, and Isaiah the prophet historically and poetically described how the people of Israel were to go into a black hole… and then come out of it again. The southern kingdom of Judah lies in wait, its days are numbered. Babylon was to mercilessly trample all over the nation. Dark times, indeed.
But we are called to hope, and spurred on by the interesting reflection given on the Hopeful Imagination blog on 8th December by my father-in-law (thanks Alan!), I decided to use Isaiah’s image of a tree stump (chapter 11) as the dominant theme at our Carol Service last Sunday evening. A shoot will come up, a Branch will bear fruit. New growth will occur, and peace will mark the new Messianic age through the coming of the Anointed One of God. A message brimming with the hope that still remains so applicable to our world today.
In 1945 some graffiti was found on the wall of a basement in Koln, Germany – where a Jew is thought to have been hiding from the Gestapo:

“I believe in the sun even when it isn’t shining, I believe in love even when I am alone, I believe in God even when He is silent”.

Thank God that in Christ the silence has been shattered, the black holes of life are shot through with brilliant light, and we can go on our way rejoicing again.
A year after the black hole of 9/11 the theologian Walter Brueggemann wrote a reflection in which the theme of hope-ful-ness was all-pervasive. He included the words:

“We turn to you in that heaviness, for we do afresh ponder our mortality, think about our naked exposure, fully cognizant of the fragility that is the truth of our lives. And so we turn to you seeking assurance, consolation, embrace. And you receive us, faithful mother who holds, sure father who welcomes and embraces, and we settle in peaceableness even midst the chaos, we do… and we give you thanks…. You are risen in power and wonder; you are risen out of the shambles of death and terror and doubt and fear; You are risen to turn the world to peace and justice and freedom and well-being; You are risen with healing wings to cure our diseased hurts and our public pathologies… Let us, good Lord of the dying and the living, hide ourselves in Thee. And then let us follow your Easter way, that the world shriveled in deathliness may turn to joy and to newness”.

(Inscribing the Text: Sermons & Prayers of Walter Brueggemann, 2004, Augsberg Fortress, p1175-177)

The people walking in darkness have now seen a great light, so may God keep hope alive in us.