Tuesday, June 25, 2019


For months our TV has been playing up.  The remote button has failed to register '1' which has meant much jiggery-pokery as we use 2 or 9 and go down or up to find some channels.  The guide button has also failed.  Then several channels we used to receive have gone totally blank and even some that we can see occasionally cascade into pixels at inconvenient moments.

We have repeatedly (you're telling me) promised each other that we would get onto the TV helpline .....and weeks have passed.  Part of the delay comes out of past experience when neither of us could understand instructions given us over the phone as an increasingly agitated agent told us which leads to disconnect and buttons to press.

I got the impulse last week to finally deal with it.  I got through to an agent who called me 'Dahrling' She said her birthday was near mine and clearly could see that I was an old boy who would respond to her affection!  Help! It was obvious I needed a new remote she declared and ordered a replacement to arrive the next day.  When it did we could hardly believe the difference it made - we recognized just how slow many other buttons had also become.

However, the problem with the programmes would need a two hour session she said.  This was booked for yesterday.  With abundant affection she began the session by asking me to go to one of the missing channels.  Promptly, with the new remote, I did.  Then I needed to press a couple of buttons before hitting an entirely new purple one.  Instantly the dead channel became alive.  I expressed my delight.  Two hours were not needed.  She gushed her joy dahrling.

'Why didn't we do this before?' questioned Carol.  What a good question.  And it applies to a number of more significant issues too!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Less usual moments 2) Magician's touch

At my watercolour evening class (3 years ago) the teacher advised us to use good quality paper, paint and brushes.  He particularly mentioned sable brushes - wonderful for holding paint and flowing lines etc. he said. I quickly found out that they were priced top of the range...really top.

While in Wheaton (where we once lived) we saw that the art shop is closing down after over 100 years of family ownership.  Everything is marked 50% down so I looked at sable brushes.  Under lock and key they were originally priced $300-500 plus.  The brush I had my eye on was still nearly $240 half price!  A week later they had reduced prices again but it was still $180.

The salesman saw us dithering.  Carol said she might make it a special birthday gift for me. Then he spoke: 'Honestly, sable brushes are over-rated.  I have one and it's nice to use but you can get really good brushes much cheaper.  After all, it's the magician's touch with whatever brush they are using that really counts.  The brush doesn't do the magic.'

I laughed.  Partly because he was doing the shop out of a sale by being very unsalesman-like.  But mostly because he is exactly right.  It's the artist and measure of their gifting that really matters. That applies to other aspects of life too, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Less usual moments - can you smell burning?

While we were in the US most days took usual shape.  However, one or two odd things happened. One occurred on our shorter flight (just under 2 hours) between New York and Chicago. As we were seated on UA755 Carol asked me if I smelt burning.  I detected a very slight smell and dismissed it.  An hour into our flight which had left on time the captain announced we were returning to New York. Somebody was unwell and there was a maintenance problem. Finding a doctor on board quickly resolved the medical problem - the young lady returned to the seat behind us saying it was just nausea.  But....the maintenance problem continued.

Returning, we were told the plane was being taken out of service because...guess what?  The oven was faulty and a new oven had to be fitted.  It had been smoking!  Carol was right.  Of course. Waiting in the departure lounge, with a drip feed of sometimes contradictory information we were eventually informed the same plane was being refitted so that we would be flying on it after all.  Bottles of water and snacks were provided to keep us going for the five hours' wait.

It is tedious to relate how the flight was further delayed on the runway and the luggage took ages to appear at baggage claim.  The journey had taken  as long as between London and New York. Deplaning, Carol mentioned to a stewardess that she had smelled burning when we first sat down. 'If only you had mentioned it!' she said.  Would it have made any difference?  We shall never know.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Back from the US

We have just spent nearly four weeks visiting our family in New York State and friends in Illinois where I worked for over 15 years.  Though woozy because of jet lag we rejoice in the many many good times sharing with family and friends -it seemed we had only been away a week rather than the year (with bad health and all...).

All those who have lived for a time in two places can experience the weirdness of transplanting between cultures. Gerald Locklin wrote this poem: Where we are

I envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london,
wales and spain,
l.a. and paris,
hawaii and switzerland.

There is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are.  I have
always loved both the freshness of 
arriving and the relief of leaving, with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.

We are profoundly grateful for the powerful Christian friendship that marked the freshness of arriving.  There are so many stories of meeting up with friends - three times in Illinois different groups, adding up to over 40 people, arranged group meetings.... and every day was packed with conversations and food.  And the weather was warm and bright too. We are truly grateful.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Gleanings 26) Thanks for these beginnings

I admit that dipping into the archives, as with these cuttings, is likely to have mixed value and limited appeal.  And this is true of trudging further through years of sermons and ministry in Blackburn.  I have already told the story of my ministry in Cambridge (at length!) and do not propose to prolong telling the Blackburn ministry.

Suffice it to say that, above all else, the large number of sermons through my seven years spent there helped me grow into lively expectation of preaching Scripture. 2 Tim. 3:16 declares that Scripture is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness and though I recognized (I think) early on how easily it can be manipulated I also learned about the power of God's word.to transform individuals and a community. Time and time again God's word struck through sermons like a two-edged sword.  So, in my personal development I can see how my early experiences laid foundations not only for the demanding pulpit in Cambridge but for my passion and writing about preaching in the later part of my life.

To satisfy curiosity I should report that this first year ending with the "Sit In' led to a five year story during which the vision for a new church developed into reconstructing striking new premises with over £70,000 given by church members and friends.  A Community Room was also developed with a full-time Church Social Worker becoming a partner in ministry.  Blackburn's chief executive was quoted in the paper: The church should be congratulated on its spirit of adventure in undertaking this reconstruction, which besides giving a spiritual uplift to the town has made a significant contribution to the architectural heritage.

I shall always be grateful for these beginnings - I learned a great deal. Thank you for following some of these gleanings.