Sunday, July 02, 2023

It is Time...

I've experienced a time when I've started to notice the waters are lapping at my feet. There is no threat in this for me, I just feel that I'm entering a phase where change is afoot. I think it all started rougly after a home group meeting, where I'd spoken to a friend and highlighted some of my grievences and my own dissatisfaction both with them and my own contribution to them. To my perception t seems that some of the classic damage I've taken in the past has led me to me throwing up a few robust defecnces. Some of these are understandable. Given my past decisions and the fact it took a case of divine intervention to snap me out of it and give me the courage to break away... I'm cautious in regards to leaving myself exposed to the same weaknesses that led to my earlier downfall. However that hasn't stopped me  from throwing up my own set of "Excalibur tests" for good measure.

I think that night at home group was a way of setting the scene -  a reminder of the state of play as it has stood.

A couple of weeks later, I was due to preach om Isaiah 42, and I chose to use the paternal/maternal instincrts of the eagle as my theme. In truth this has been something that had been close to my heart for many years... and it just seemed to fit naturally to the theme (it was Trinity Sunday), In short, I portrayed the Trinity in terms of the Father being  the parental eagle watching over us, the Son being the first born eagle that has tasken flight and shows us the where to go and how  we grow to go in that direction, and the Spirit as the breeze that lifts the chick when the time is right... to give it the courage to take the step off

Things have taken an interesting turn of late. the ledge. One of the points I made to the congregation was that if we are the chick in the nest, there is no wrong in wheat place we find ourselves. We might need to see where Jesus has led us before going... we may be waiting for the Spirit to  empower us. We might feel that we have takemn a tumble and our ego is bruised... but the Father is able to pick us up and set us ready for another go when the time is right.

I didn't think too much about the implications of that last one for myself... then it happened.

An unexpected opportunity arose that on the face of things completetely terrified me. Somebody had posed me a scenario that completely blindsided me (I'm not going into detail here, as at the moment it is still live). My paranoia, mistrust and fear had kicked in and I went into automatic shutdown.

It took me a week to emerge from that state by which time it might be too late, but I wrote all my feelings down and got it out of my system - why I am the way I am and why I'm so reticent. Kind of hard to do that because nobody ever asks me about stuff like that... and maybe when I do offer a response (or perhaps because of that fact), they are just as uncomfortable about what comes out. However, I did leave my response with a positive end and the prosepect of hope.

Not long after this, I felt God was reminding me of an image from a book I'd read (Grail in Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle). In the book there is a low point where King Arthur has hit rock bottom and is in the doldrums - his sword has been stolen, his queen has been kidnapped and his trusted righthand man has apparently betrayed him. Following this scene, Merlin confronts the king and prophetically strikes the floor with his staff repeatedly and with each strike, he urges the king to shake off what drags him down and look to the state of play an, I got the feeling that God was rep0d encourages him - he needs to rise up and resolve the situation and not leave himself in this fitful sulk.

Likewise, I got the feeling that God was repeatedly striking my floor and telling me to get up and no choke myself on the past. For after all, past is merely prologue... and we are only doomed to repeat if we do not learn from it. I think maybe I've been overlearning it.

On TikTok I've recently come across a few posts with a sermon illustration about the painting "Checkmate". How the human player is in despair becasuse the devil player has seemingly won. The anecdote in  the TikToks talk is basically that the king has one last move to make and the human player is saveable.  Now I've read up on the painting and apparently the literal anecdote isn't true because its hard to tell what the pieces in it resemble on the board. However the moral is true... because the same could certainly be said of the devil's pieces. If we can't see how he's got checkmate, then I would argue his position is not a dead cert either.  I think the truth behind that painting is that it is a character study.  The man who thinks he is losing has given in to his fears and is accepting the devil at his word.  But the thing is that the devil is a confidence trickster. He doesn't have checkmate - he's never hadd checkmate, but his sole objective is to terrify you and bluff you intop thinking he has. Never remove yourself from the game - listen to God's encouragement and accept his guidance and it is never over until God says it is over.

So anyway, a week has passed since all that happened... but confronted about my own sense of checkmate... I feel like I'm clawing my way back and have got a renewed sense of positivity. Whatever happens, I've learned not to retreat and cave on the broad stroke theme of this lesson. Yes, the specific  circumstance may not pan out... I may lose another piece... but I will not allow the devil to put so much emphasis on that piece... I'm going to push on his king instead. In good time and God's grace, I have faith that the landscape will change. Whatever major pieces of lost, I have a fistful of pawns.... and they are only a step away from becoming knights, rooks, bishops and who knows, even a queen.

This morning at church we wee reading Genesis 22 - God's testing of Abraham. We were asked in the sermon what things that we might be holding onto that God might be asking us to let go of. My heart at this point was drawn to an exchange from Babylon 5... because I was thinking there wasn't much I could add to the conversation... and God was reminding me otherwise:

Marcus Cole : You asked me to give something up, Delenn. I don't have anything left. It's all gone. My brother was the last of our family and he died because of my stupidity. He warned me of the Shadows; I didn't listen. And when they came, I lost, him, our home, the colony where we'd grown up, a woman I was quite fond of. I escaped with only the clothes on my back, and went off in search of these "Rangers" that he'd been going on about. Because he believed in them, and in you. Everything I was, everything I had, all of it, died that night. I don't have anything left to give.

Delenn : Then that is exactly what you must give up. Yes, you have lost much, endured much, sacrificed greatly. But you cling to the memory of your sacrifices, of all the things you have lost or left behind. They drag behind you, like chains of your own making. They can have a terrible power over you, Marcus: the power of grief, and loss, and regret. Yes, you have let go of the people, places and things, but you have not let go of the pain. You have not forgiven yourself.

Marcus Cole : For what?

Delenn : Being alive

There it was again, God's not going to let this go... he's not going to let me go either. It's down to me to rise up from the ashes and have faith that he's going to remove the dead weight that has held me in check. All I need to do is to take courage and stand upon the rock. The only thing that stand between a vibrant pridelands filled with life and the current perceived state of affairs, is a roar!

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Nadhim Zahawi: The Importance of Ministering Justice to Ministers.

This morning, Nadhim Zahawi - the Member of Parliament who was Chairman of the Parliamentary Conservative Party who is also constituency MP for Stratford-on-Avon (namely the constituency that I live and work in),  was fired by the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.


Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford-upon Avon

It was found that he had breached several aspects of the Ministerial Code including misleading HMRC over his tac affairs. This was discovered during his short tenure as Chancellor of Exchequer - the very role that has oversight over matters of taxation policy within the UK. Previously it had been claimed that Mr Zahawi's "mistake" was "careless" and not "deliberate". The subsequent probe found his activities and inactivies made this an impossible line to maintain though, and action had to be taken.

It is not the first time that Mr Zahawi has gotten into hot water over his poor offic. In 2018 at the height of the #metoo movement, he was serving as Children & Families Minister and was caught attending a gala at the scandal-hit President's Club. It was only when he was tipped off that the optics of his attendance were not great, that he made his excuses and left the gala.

Then there was his involvement in the downfall of Boris Johnson. Now I'm not a hypocrite... I'm very grateful that Johnson is political toast, but it should be noted that Mr Zahawi used the opportunity to wrangle up through the ranks and secuiring the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer from the then Prime Minister before promptly turnimg on him and stabbing him squarely in the front. Now you might say that this doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things - he was in that post for under two months. However, the fact remains that by virtue of serving in role AT ALL, he is granted a pension for being in that role.

We also have his role in the expenses scandal some time back, where he notoriously charged the taxpayer his expenses for keeping his stables warm.

When he has been caught out in these findings, his modus operandi seems to be that it's all an embarrassing but honest mistake which he will pay for and do better next time.

It was the author Ian Fleming who once noted in his James Bond book "Goldfinger":

“Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: 'Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action'.”

I put it to you that Mr Zahawi's history of actions goes far beyond happenchance, and coincidence... ad should be classed as enemy action. You might consider that he has received his punishment from the Government - having been consigned to the backbenches at least for now. But as his constituent, I'm not happy to leave the matter there. So what should be done?

Well ironically, Mr Zahawi provides the suggestion himself in a blog on his own website, written in April 2010, entitled - People Power. kicking out bad MPs:

However our People Power manifesto changes that introducing a right to recall if a Member of Parliament is found guilty of wrongdoing. So unlike in the current system whereby MPs, who have broken the rules and have been officially sanctioned by parliament and the Standards and Privileges committee, can continue to represent a constituency until the next election, we will give constituents the right to recall their Member of Parliament. Under a conservative government if an MP is found guilty of any wrong-doing then a right to recall will be offered to his or her constituents. This process will begin with the filing of a notice-of-intent-to recall petition to be signed by at least 100 constituents and submitted to the local returning officers. A recall petition will then be circulated within the constituency. If this petition has been signed by more than 10% of the electorate (in the case of Stratford by 6,936 people) within 90 days then a by-election will be triggered. This is a radical change, and a change that is truly needed, it removes the concept of the “safe seat” and makes MPs directly answerable to their constituents over the whole, parliament not just every five years. Most importantly it will force MPs to remember who they are are there to represent first, their constituents.

I remember that Mr Zahawi was a vehement supporter of Brexit and yes indeed, my constituency sadly voted for it. However, during the debate the major employers in his seat (most notably the National Farmers Union), spoke out against it. Whatever your views on Brexit, I'm forced to consider that his position in the debate was just another case of the pattern - the enemy action. One does not simply ignore the most important voices  you have a mandate in your tenure to represent. For me, this all points to a potential personal agenda and that for me seals the deal. Mr Zahawi should go on trial locally for the future of his political seat.

Indeed I believe that the Recall of MPs act as limited as its scope unfortunately is, does contain the remit in clause 3 to do this:

If an MP is convicted of providing false or misleading expenses claims, regardless of whether they are imprisoned.

It seems to me that this has been satisfied, so my appeal to my fellow constituentts is to get om this... because the betrayal (though internal) is to my mind as bad as that other Stratfordian MP of old's (John Profumo), external one.

Or perhaps to put it in the words of Stratford's favourite historical son William Shakespeare:

For this revolt of thine, methinks, is like another fall of man.



Sunday, October 30, 2022

An Epic E-Bike Eclipse Excursion in Espana?

 For the past couple of years I've had my mind on a possible adventure on the continent - more specifically I've been looking at the prospects of travelling a route along the ancient pilgrim trails that lead to Santiago de Compostela. In short I'm aiming to do the Camino de Santiago or in English, the Way of St. James.

The Camino in case you didn't know is a network of pilgrimage trails that leade to a church in northwest Spain. It has been a journey (I wouldn't call it a destination, as any person with an ounce of spiritual enlightenment will tel you that pilgramage is never solely about the destination), since medieval times. However here in the uk, it has found a new lease of life since the Camino adventures of some celebrities have been televised on the BBC, and even more recently the former children's TV presenter and accompilshed artist -Timmy Mallett, went on his own Camino and documented it in his book. You can read about it and his motivations behind his pilgrimage briefly on his website, or even better buy his book and get the full "Utterly Brilliant" lowdown. It is Timmy's journey that has provided me with a lot of my recent drive,,, largely because he used an E-Bike and as I'm not the most active person (at present), and if my current plan bears fruit, I'll be off on my intended journey in the height of summer... and as we have seen this year the climate in Europe in August has proven to be capable of being deadly. I have had to conclude that to avoid becoming barbecued and dessicated, I'll need to make my own journey a two wheeled one.

So why do I want to go in August when the height of Camino seasons tend to be in May and October?

Well, my plan is to travel on the Camino in 2026, because this is a year of total eclipse. It will also be in the week of my late father's 86th birthday and 30th year in my employment in my current job (in fact fate has so far been kind to me in my planning as the days of annual leave entitlement I have accumulated due to COVID lockdowns in the past two years have led me to having so many that I have been afforded the opportunity to use them in a one-off sabbatical (which is kind of fitting, given the old tradition that a 30th year in employment somewhere is something to celebrate).

However I'll obviously need to make preparations.

Where am I going to start; how long will it take to get there and back again; where will I stay; what budget shall I set for an appropriate bike; what spec will I need; finally, how should I go about training (terrain and length of bike journeys preceding to increase fitness and route readiness?

All of these questions and more, I hope to explore in the months and years leading up to what I hope will by *my* Camino.

Watch this space.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

"You Never Knew"

You never knew...
How dark was my night;
When you extinguished a torch held too long and crushed childhood dreams.

You never knew...
How disappointed I was in you;
When I had grown a little and gained self respect, but a moment's flirtation at an inappropriate moment surprised and annoyed me.

You never knew...
How proud I was of you;
When you had willingly contemplated a much harder path for a divine purpose, even though it seemedto my mortal mind to be a waste of temporal material.

You never knew...
How happy I was for you;
When in backing down from the most extreme aspect of that path, you carved out a new road for yourself, filled with hope and promise of future blessing.

You'll never know...
How I have watched from a distance;
Your harsh struggles with the brokenness that has accompanied those blessings, you have come to be respected in my eyes.

Until that Day before Almighty God to whom all thoughts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden, when we all know fully - even as we are fully known...

You'll never know.

Saturday, October 15, 2022


Revisiting my blog after what seems like an eternity, is a surreal experience. Even logging into the platform that hosts it reveals much has changed  (although thankfully the fundamentals seem intuitive enough and the editor visuals seem largely cosmetic).

I'm minded to think of my childhood haunts on the edge of Cold Comfort Woods in Alcester - they too, were sanctuaries of mine.  I'd usually find a place alongside the Spittlebrook that ran alongside the dirt track leading to the woods that was lined by trees. The gentle flow of the stream coupled with the wind softly blowing the btanches were a  source of tranquility and a place for me to mull over my thoughts... much like this place was when I first set it up.

Here's the thing though; from time to time I neglected those places for one reason or another (busy school or work schedule, places to go and people to see), but I always came back... I never forgot them.  Sometimes I'd have to clear the place out and make them accessible by pushing through thorns and brambles, or occasionally get a helping hand from mother nature where deer had crossed the stream from the other side and forged new places I could use.

I guess that sometimes this place can be like that. I may go away for long periods be it through distraction, priorities or being lost in my thoughts.... but it always here.  My reasons when I come back are diverse (on this occasion I want to voice my thoughts  on a topic and I want to see where it will end up if I just push the big red button and publish it.

Sometimes when I do, like an archeologist it feels like I've stumbled through a cavern or underground tunnel that breaks open into the works I have fashioned in this place... the whispers of words I have spoken or pondered in the past... the treasury of memories and dreams long forgotten, and the echo of hopes resounding off the walls.

But they aren't forgotten... they are always waiting for me and whoever wonders among them, only slightly veiled beneath the surface and awaiting rediscovery.

Even now I'm reminded about a piece I wrote several years ago concerning digital footprints and how what we write online might be here long after our time in some format... and that our words are a witness to our thoughts and feelings... that how we may think time and tide erase those things and consign them to the shades of lost memory... science has proven that even prehistoric footprints can be recovered.

So here I am again weilding my machete and chopping dow overgrown roots and branches, brushing off the dust and uncovering all the things that went before... thinking what needs to be added next. Sometimes I think a refit helps these processes, like the Doctor's TARDIS having different "scrensaver" modes.

Let's see what the future holds.

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