Clergy Blogs

Periodic contributions from Revd. Giles King-Smith, Vicar of the three coastal parishes. We also continue to show contributions from the late Associate Minister Revd. Linda Walters
Revd. Giles King-Smith

Reculer pour mieux sauter

Sorry, showing off again. In case your French is a bit rusty, the title of this post means something like - to retreat in order to jump back better. In other words, it doesn't translate well at all ... but here I am in Brecon, on retreat, and hoping to jump back better. We'll see!

For now, I just want to share with you, in the aftermath of the horror in Christchurch, how moving I found the picture of a man standing outside a mosque in Manchester, with a flat cap, a big smile, and a home-made placard, on which he had written:

"You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray."

This man is a Christian, but that in itself is no reason for Christians to congratulate themselves. I would have found it equally moving, had I not known that. For me, there is something very beautiful, very much of the God I believe in, in his message, his smile, and his willingness to keep watch so that those who may be feeling threatened can pray in peace. Even the absurdity of this lone watchman guarding against violence is quite lovely - his cheerful smile says that he's not afraid.

I don't know whether Andrew Graystone intended this when deciding what to write, but his words remind me of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, pleading with his friends to stay awake, to keep watch while he prays.

And then there's the boldness of declaring to a bunch of strangers, "You are my friends". I think this boldness can only come from a deep belief that those we don't know, those who are different from us, are to be approached, greeted, welcomed as friends. This is a stance, a choice, which offers hope to all of us.

So thank you, Andrew, for your message, your smile - and your flat cap. And for reminding us that we are called to treat everyone as children of God, as brothers and sisters, as friends.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Resistance is not futile

a sermon preached on Christmas Eve 2017

This morning, being a Sunday morning, I ... went to the cinema.

As you do - or at least, as we do in our family on Christmas Eve. I had cancelled the usual morning services, not to go to the cinema, but - keeping in mind 2 services on Christmas Eve and 2 more on Christmas morning - to avoid ending up as a frazzled heap of brain-dead vicar.

Anyway ... as we trooped off to see "Star Wars - the Last Jedi", I was reminded of my dear colleague and friend Linda Walters, our Associate Minister who died in February - and specifically, of how much she loved going to the cinema. Every time a half-decent film arrived in Ilfracombe or Barnstaple, or sometimes even in Taunton, you could mention it to Linda and she'd say - oh yes, saw it last Thursday - really, really good. Very rare that you could beat her to it.

So, as we watched, I thought of Linda. And (rather sadly) I started thinking about my Christmas sermon. Having seen some of the previous Star Wars films, and read the reviews of this one, I knew that it would be about a bunch of heroes of "The Resistance" defying the interstellar military might of "The First Order" - which is basically an evil empire with ambitions to rule the galaxy. And as I watched, I asked myself the question I'm now going to ask you:

Am I / are we part of the Resistance or part of the Empire?

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Freedom from fear

Sermon preached at Exeter Cathedral Evensong on June 25th 2017

Based on I Samuel 24:1-17 (The outlaw David spares King Saul's life) and Luke 14:12-24 (The parable of the wedding feast)

"Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David: "You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.""

There are certain situations - or perhaps I should say, certain positions - in which we are particularly vulnerable. While eating, for example, especially when accepting hospitality from others (think Glencoe). Or while sleeping - undefended, unsuspecting, abandoned to a parallel universe.

And, of course, while ... how shall I put this? ... answering a call of nature, doing our business, relieving ourselves ... you know what I mean, even though I shudder to approach this subject - at Choral Evensong - in the Cathedral!

Actually, the most graceful euphemism for this activity, though admittedly rather confusing, is the one used in our Old Testament reading. In a literal translation of the Hebrew, we read that Saul entered the cave "to cover his feet". The use of the feet in the Hebrew Bible to represent parts of the body which cannot be mentioned deserves a whole book, or at least a whole sermon - but not now. (If you're interested, go to Ruth chapter 3, verse 4...)

Bodily functions make us vulnerable, that's the point. In this little scene, with its potent mixture of comedy and poignancy, Saul is vulnerable, and David refuses to capitalize on his vulnerability. A couple of chapters further on, we have another version of this scenario. This time, Saul and his men are sleeping as David and Abishai enter their camp; contemplate the KIng asleep, with his spear stuck in the ground beside him; debate whether or not to kill him, with David dissuading his companion; and then make off with the spear and a water-jar as proof of their incursion, before David calls to Saul and - as in the reading we've heard - uses his refusal to take advantage of Saul's vulnerability to drive home the message that he is not Saul's enemy.

The outlaw David, whom Samuel has already anointed as Saul's successor, will not murder the King who seeks his life. David's instinct as a soldier is to finish Saul off. His interest as a political animal is to claim the kingdom at a stroke. But these are trumped by his conviction that to strike at God's anointed one is to strike at God Himself. Whatever Saul's failings - which have led to the Lord withdrawing His favour from him, and will lead to his downfall - while he lives his life is, for David, sacred, inviolable.

And so we have the strange and deeply sad exchange between these two, father-in-law and son-in-law, present King and King-in-waiting, ending with Saul's outburst: "Is that your voice, my son David? ... You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil."

What does this mean - "You are more righteous than I"? At the simplest level, Saul is trying to kill David - David refuses to kill Saul. That's the righteousness equation.

But at another level, it's about freedom. Saul is not free - he is gripped by, driven by, jealousy, fear and rage. David is so free that he doesn't need to take Saul's life. He is free to spare Saul, to offer Saul mercy; and we recognise it as the same mercy that Jesus Christ in his risen life offers us in our hopeless vulnerability. David is free to offer Saul God's generous, merciful love - and Saul is free to accept it or reject it. But as we read on, we realise that, for all his sincere contrition, Saul cannot accept the freedom David offers. He is still bound by fear and rage, he is still unable to deal with his own vulnerability in any other way than by the use of force. He doesn't know how to choose freedom.

And so, David is more righteous than Saul.

And so, we come to Jesus, who shows us what a life lived freely looks like. The banquet in his story is freely offered to all. It's a symbol of heaven. It's a picture of what Jesus himself offers people, over and over again. It stands for God's free gift of His generous, merciful love. Freely given to those who are given the freedom to reject it. They have entirely reasonable excuses - pressing tasks which demand their prior attention, and which belong to a quite different order of reality from the mad, intemperate generosity of the host. Who can argue with excuses like these? Especially with the last one, the showstopper - delivered, we can imagine, with a sanctimonious smirk: "Just got married - can't possibly tear myself away - actually, we're off to Barbados tomorrow - sorry, do hope it all goes well. See you soon!"

Actually, no you won't. The invitation is freely given, and the freedom to refuse it is real, but there are consequences to that refusal. When God calls us, we are free to say no, but there are consequences. In truth, my experience - and maybe yours too - is that our God is far more patient than the host in Jesus' story. He keeps on graciously inviting us, and we get more than one chance (far more!) to respond - but the stakes are just as high as in the story. Do we want the new life, the joy, the freedom God offers us; or are we still wedded to our old, comfortable (deadly comfortable) habits? Are we, like Saul, still fearful of what might happen if we stopped trying to control our lives, stopped trying to defend ourselves, and instead believed - actually believed - that this freedom is real. And more: that this freedom is the only way to life.

To be clear: this is not the freedom to do exactly and simply what we want - as David will discover when, as King, he sleeps with Bathsheba and engineers her husband's death so that he can have her, and then is brought to book by the prophet Nathan in one of the Bible's great stories of telling truth to power (II Samuel chapters 11 & 12). David will learn from this the same truth hammered home, centuries later, by Paul (formerly known as Saul) to the wild Christians of Corinth: the freedom Christ brings is an inner freedom, not an outward licence to do whatever you want. It is a freedom from fear and hatred, and a freedom to love. If love rules your heart, you will be free; and out of love, then yes, you may do what you will.

If love rules your heart ... It's a big "if"!


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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Innocence and Experience

A sermon preached at Christmas 2016
William Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience" show us the great visionary poet of England exploring the tension, which we all know and feel, perhaps especially at Christmas-time, between on the one hand that primal state of innocence, wonder and delight which we read back into our childhood, and on the other the world-weariness which comes to us as we grow up and journey on through hardships, disappointments and sorrows. I say "especially at Christmas-time" because it seems to me that there is a deep sense of longing, of yearning, which underlies our bright rituals of Christmas, our carols, our light-bearing trees, our gatherings to celebrate and feast. It is the yearning of people who have seen and known too much, for an innocence we fear we may have lost. We long to have hope, to believe in one another as much as in God, and we long for the simple values of goodness and beauty and truth to become real. And we long for the cynical part of us, hardened by bitter experience - and able, in our information-overloaded world, to marshal battalions of dispiriting facts - not to have the last word.
We long for things to be put right
as they once were
at least in our imagining
many Christmases ago.
Here is Blake in his poem "The Lamb", with a voice of innocence:
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, & bid thee feed
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, wooly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
    Little Lamb, who made thee?
    Dost thou know who made thee?
    Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
    Little Lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, & he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, & thou a lamb, 
we are called by his name.
    Little Lamb, God bless thee!
    Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Blake knew, of course, that there is quite another way of seeing the world, and he expressed this dark, at times hopeless, realism in the "Songs of Experience". Read his poem "London" for a vision of urban misery which finds echoes in the cities of our world today. I've chosen, though, "The Garden of Love", which shines a brutally revealing light on the way organised religion can kill the human spirit:
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And "Thou shalt not" writ over the door;
So I turn'd to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore;
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be;
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.
What Blake was after, what he believed in, was something much closer to the radical vision of Christmas and Easter: God - a human child, dependent, defenceless, in no way exempt from the harsh realities of life; and God - a man executed as a criminal, suffering injustice, humiliation and pain. Innocence is apparently crushed by experience - and yet, as countless little stories remind us, day after day, if we can but notice them, there is a goodness which cannot be killed off, which keeps on rising up, like flowers in the desert. If we can believe it, the story of Jesus tells us that innocence wins. Goodness, truth, beauty and love can never be eradicated.
Two people in particular moved me this year, made me think again, convinced me that there is a way of innocence which is the only true response to the evil in our world.
First, Jo Cox MP was murdered (never mind by whom or why), and her husband Brendon, when asked how we should honour her memory, replied: "Fight against hatred".
And second, Father Jacques Mourad, a Syrian Catholic priest abducted by ISIS in 2015, his life unexpectedly spared, spoke about the need to ensure that we "never make decisions out of fear" - and further, spoke of his conviction that we need a "revolution against violence".
"Fight against hatred", "a revolution against violence" - and of course, the fight against hatred cannot be waged with hate, and there can be no violence in the revolution against violence. This is a call to arms of a very different kind: it is a call to insist on love and peace as the motivating forces in our struggle for what is right. It is a call to a sustained innocence - if you like, a willed innocence - which is born out of hard and painful experience. It is exactly the call which the adult Jesus (perhaps remembering - who knows? - the innocence of his birth and childhood) made on his first followers and makes on us now - Unless you become like little children, there's no way in to heaven.
This is the challenge: for us to understand the baby of Bethlehem, like the man of Calvary, as pointing the way for us to reclaim our lost innocence, and to lay hold of a simple, single purpose - love one another. Don't think twice, don't count the cost - just love one another.
May your inner child be re-born this Christmas, so that, as children, you may know the joy that comes from God, and share it.
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Revd. Giles King-Smith

All God's Children

I want to say something about the killings at the gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12th - since overtaken in our attention by yet more horrors, but fresh in all our minds as I was writing this for the church magazine in the middle of June.

And I want to use the word "gay", which will stir a variety of reactions in Christians, because I think it's important for the Church, and for all people of faith, to hear that word, to acknowledge the reality of a gay community - some of whom are Christians - and to acknowledge also the reality of a history of prejudice, fear and hatred towards gay people, in which the Church has often played a less than honourable part.

Let me be honest: for a moment, I found it fractionally harder to feel for those killed and injured in Orlando than I would have done if the attack had been on a primary school or a concert hall. And then I realised - this is no different, these people no more deserve such a fate than I do.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Divine Love at Easter

"He showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with my mind's eye and I thought, "What can this be?" And answer came, "It is all that is made". I marvelled that it could last, for I thought it might have crumbled to nothing, it was so small. And the answer came into my mind, "It lasts and ever shall because God loves it". And all things have being through the love of God."

Some words of Julian of Norwich. We don't know her real name, but we know that she was an anchoress (a hermit living in a cell attached to a church) at St. Julian's in Norwich - hence the name she is known by. She was born in 1342, and on May 8th 1373, during a severe and life-threatening illness, she received a series of 16 "shewings". For 20 years she meditated on what she had been shown, and eventually recorded these visions and her understanding of them as "The Revelations of Divine Love" - the first book known to have been written by a woman in English.

As Julian pondered the meaning of her visions, she was told: "What, do you wish to know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning."

The true meaning of "this thing", this hazelnut-sized thing, the true meaning of everything, is love.

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An update on the Reverse Advent Calendar

Well school is finished for this term but it was with great pleasure that I was able to take a packed car full of food and treats to the Salvation Army on the last day of term. Students had taken up the challenge and produced some quite amazing Reverse Advent Calendars. One involved a chimney and Santa's feet protruding and inside two layers with 48 gifts, including choclate, soft drinks and basic foods. Others were just boxes filled with food and chocolate, or in the case of my tutor group chocolate, chocolate and chocolate! What really touched me where two boys who won selection boxes for something they had done this term, they were presented with them in an achievement assembly and both gave them to me to take with the Advent Calendars.

Sometimes we judge our young people by what we see on the streets or hear on the news, but let's rejoice that there are so many young people who are prepared to give as well as take so that others can benefit at this special time of year. When we are so taken up with getting ready for Christmas and wrapping presents, decorating the tree and buying or making food remember that some people are not as fortunate as we are. That a simple act of kindness can cause ripples which can have a massive impact.

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A Different Advent Calendar.

This year I have seen a number of postings on Facebook about "A Reverse Advent Calendar". What you do is build your own Advent Box - 'Add to Advent'. Instead of taking chocolate 'out' of a calendar you put one item of non-perishable food 'in' a box each day. At Christmas the full box can go to the Foodbank as they try to ensure no one goes hungry this Christmas. I started to do it and at the side also have another box to which I am adding a chocolate treat - everyone needs something a little special especially at Christmas.
I decdied that it was something I could challenge some of the students to do at school as well - if each person in the tutor group brings something we have a full box which we can then take to the Foodbank and help people in our community.  So in my Assembly on Friday that's what I did to the Sixth Form and knowing them I feel pretty sure they will respond in a very positive way. Next week I have three Assemblies with the younger students and I shall give them the same challenge. School is not just about thinking inwardly it's about being fully part of our community. So hopefully people will see that we care.
How is Advent impacting you this year?
Is it just the rush and pressure of getting ready for Christmas or is it a time of reflection on the coming of our Saviour and what He might He want us to do at Advent?
Perhaps we just need to stop a moment and think how we can make a diffence.


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November is a month for remembering.

All around us people are wearing poppies, a symbol that we remember the lives of those lost in war.

It isn’t easy to remember, when remembering brings back the pain of our loss. It isn’t easy to remember when the relationship we shared had its difficulties or when we feel that there were things we wanted to do or say but didn’t get the chance. Sometimes remembering is the last thing that we want to do or are able to do…

The Christian faith has a strong tradition of remembering. As Jesus approached his own death we’re told that he shared a simple meal with his friends. He urged them to remember him every time they break bread or drink together. He knew that he was going to die but he wanted his friends to know that he would never leave them.

Jesus invited his friends to remember him every time they ate bread or drank wine – an act of remembrance associated with life and all that lies ahead, not simply what lies behind us.

Sometimes the act of remembering will trip us up as we seem to forget what has happened, at other times the act of remembering is our greatest comfort and strength.
We don’t just remember our loved one as a saint but we start to remember the way they got on our nerves or the things that drove us mad – or at least the potential for that to happen.As we begin to remember the things that made us laugh and the things that made us cross, the things that made us proud and the ways they could embarrass us, it’s as though the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are coming back together again…

When we lose someone dear to us, it’s as though a jigsaw puzzle has been thrown up into the air and all the pieces have been scattered far and wide. As we remember, the pieces start to come together – only the picture isn’t quite the same. We have to look closely at what is emerging, but there, in the new picture, is the possibility that we can still love the one we have lost and that the life we did share with them has made a difference to the people we are now.

It is a paradox and for some of us it may take many years to reach beyond the “aching sense of loss” but every time we remember we gather some of the fragments together and the new picture starts to get clearer…

Paul’s letter to those in Rome who were trying to follow in Christ’s way is a remarkable message of the power of love in difficult times. He asks what power there is that can separate us from love and answers it by saying nothing…

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It takes courage to remember. Take courage from Paul’s words that absolutely nothing, not even our grief, can separate up from the love that we have shared with those we have lost – love is stronger than death and love is of God.

Memories don’t just connect us with the past, you see, memories are also what connect us with the future, with hope and new life. As we remember, as the fragments start to come together and we see new possibilities emerging, may we become ever more aware of the bond of love that cannot be broken and, in time, may we become familiar with that place where we can “keep company unseen” even, perhaps, sharing again the intimate glance of a love that cannot be overcome…

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Recharging the Batteries

Last week I returned from just over five weeks in my oasis in Canada. It was so good to leave my life here in North Devon behind and have time to relax, read. meet up with old and new friends and recharge my batteries. As the end of the school year draws closer I feel like I am running on empty and it becomes harder to feel like you are giving fresh bread to the congregation when you preach. Well that is what I feel it might not be true for others. I think having two very demanding roles takes it out of you. So the opportunity to totally switch off is very welcome. Not having a routine of early mornings and having to be at meetings. Not having to write sermons, prepare resources and teach lessons all those disappear when I am away.

It doesn't take long to catch up on the sleep and it is the opportunity to read and have more time to spend with the Lord which I really appreciate.Not having an alarm going off unless I am going on a "trip". Having no one expecting anything of me is just a wonderful feeling. But after the first few days I often go to some verses which are quite familiar, Isaiah 40:28-31 says

"Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
And those verse are so true when we spend time with the Lord and wait on Him he gives us new strength. We don't need to be on holiday, it is true all the time, it is just that being on holiday seems to create the time that I want and need to be with God. Even before I go away I know that if I can find time for God He will meet my need it's just all the other things that get in the way.
So I am back home, I have already taken and preached at three services on my first Sunday back and tomorrow school starts. Yet I feel ready, having had that time to wait on God and spend quality time with him. My challenge in the coming months is to continue to go to God and allow Him to renew me, to make my time with Him a priority so that I can serve Him as He deserves.
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I know that many of you now will be looking at the title of this post and wondering what it means! I didn't know till a few days ago when I was trying to write my sermon for Sunday and was struggling to get a grasp of where I was going with it.

The Lectionary reading is Mark 5:21-43, which contains two famous stories of healing. One is the raising of Jairus' daughter, the other the women with a bleed which she has had for 12 years. I was struggling to make some connections with the accounts which was a bit "different" and started to read a book which said rather than thinking of the words "Talitha Koum" which were in Aramaic to think of the Greek word "Egerio"

Talitha Kum. "Little girl, get up.  This is one of the few phrases which remain in Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic, as if saying these words in the original language hold power and truth and healing in and of themselves. Egeiro - means get up and is used in each of the four gospels to refer to Jesus' resurrection. So this had me thinking about a different sort of thread in the stories about resurrection. 

I guess it made me think that you and I are like both Jairus' daughter and the women with the bleed because in a biblical manner of speaking we are dying. What the end of Mark 5 is saying is that each one of us is having the life drained out of us one way or another by the different things we struggle with. That is until we encounter Jesus. Either we reach out and touch Him or He touches us, and then and only then do we receive the real gift of life.

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The Holy Trinity

Every year Giles seems to be away when Trinity Sunday comes. If you read the June 2015 Mission Community Magazine ( he does say that and then gives a few hints as to what he thinks about the Trinity. So once again I have to preach on this particular Sunday, which is fine except I almost always want to say the same thing!

It is the only festival of the church that celebrates a doctrine – a humanly created statement about the nature of God.  The doctrine of the trinity emerged slowly across the history of the church, referenced but never fully defined in scripture.  It is a human attempt to describe our experience of something that we acknowledge is beyond our ability to describe.  It says that God’s essence is relational, that while the God we worship is absolutely One God, we experience that God in relationship to three persons – God the Father and Creator, Jesus, the Son who heals and redeems, and the Holy Spirit, who enlivens and transforms.  The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that the central characteristic of God is relationship.  That is how and who God is, and we are created in that image.  It is our nature also, to be in relationship.

This is the point I am starting at, where the sermon will go from here I have no idea but I better get on and write it!


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Understanding God

One of the hardest things for me in my walk with God is understanding when things happen which seem "out of the order". Like when that nice loving caring person gets an illness and the moaning complaining one has great health, when a child dies unexpectedly and before parents - the order is wrong.

I guess it's because God didn't give us the ability to understand everything He does, though that seems rather glib especially when these things are happening. In Isaiah 55:8-9 we read

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We cannot physically comprehend all that God does and why He does things the way He does them. Yet often, we live in a frustrated state of asking God why and arguing with him about it. The truth is God loves us, more than we can actually comprehend and He has plans for us but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. We all go through difficult times and sometimes life isn't fair but God never changes and His love for us is constant, the same yesterday, today and forever.

I am in one of those times when I don't understand and when people are asking me questions and I don't have answers. But I found the prayer below which I am sharing because it sums up what I am thinking and feeling at present.

when I can't understand

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A Facebook Challenge

I don't often take up these challenges on Facebook but I felt this one was a really good one. It asked you to post scripture for 7 days. Either verses of encouragement or ones which were your favourites or had special meaning. I found it really uplifting to see what my friends posted after I challenged them. Each day you challenged a different person to start the challenge so there was a cascade of scripture. I thought I would share the scriptures I used so here they are:

Day One: I just love the promise that this scripture gives
Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

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imageLent is almost half way through now, it seems to be flying by! So how are you getting on with your chosen "fast"? I actually decided that this year I would take on a number of things rather than giving them up. You may ask why and I guess my response would be that for someone like me who lives a very busy life giving things up is easy but taking things on is much more of a challenge. I have to find the time from somewhere and have to stop and do it. So in the 40 days I am reading the Bible all the way through, though I have to use the Sundays as well or I can't really do it. I'm also doing something called 40 Acts where I am challenged each day to do something. So for instance today it was called BOGOF - the challenge to buy something where you were offered one free and give the free one away, or leave money behind the counter of a cafe to pay for peoples coffee.

Sometimes it sounds so easy but finding the time to do it can be difficult, but my neighbours enjoyed some nice cakes today and have benefited from a number of the tasks, which has been great for opening conversations. Perhaps the one which I now know brought great joy to someone was to send a card by post, something I only do on birthdays and I'm beginning to do even that electronically. I sent a card to someone who has been a real encouragement to me for a number of years and just told her how important her support and prayers had been. A few days later I got a phone call saying how lovely it had been to get the card and how much it was appreciated.

I have also started to think about what Lent is all about I know it is suppose to help us understand Jesus fasting for 40 days in the wilderness but I am not convinced it really does. It wasn't something Jesus commanded us to do as it wasn't instituted until AD360 and it was not about fasting but spiritual renewal for the preparation that Easter demanded. Then gradually its meaning has been changed and I suppose the very fact that I have taken things on reflects that.

I am still looking at Lent and what it means for me but I pray that whatever you are doing that you will be blessed by God and be ready for Holy Week.

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I have been thinking a lot about peace over the last few days because of things people have said to me and situations I have encountered. I went to my dictionary and it talked about no more wars, when fighting ceases, and tranquillity of spirit. I think this is how the world sees peace but of course as Christians we experience the peace which God gives.


I was reminded of an old hymn “When peace like a river”. It’s a very old hymn but the first two verses struck me in a new way;


When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

when sorrows like sea billows roll;

whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.


Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


There is a worldly peace we have when everything is going our way, but the peace God gives is a totally different quality of peace than that which the world gives. It’s a peace that passes our understanding; it makes us peaceful when all natural reasoning says we should be upset.


I know it’s easy to say these things and sometimes so much harder to do them to allow God’s peace to reign in our hearts in these difficult times when we struggle to see God. I think it goes back to letting God’s word become a part of us, to not just be something which is in our head as mere knowledge, but in our hearts and a part of our being. I know that the journey from head to heart is probably one of the hardest but when we manage it there is real blessing.



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Bucket List

Do you have a Bucket List? The one below isn't mine but it's certainly got some good ideas in it! I started to think about it as I read the scriptures for this coming Sunday and thinking about what I would be saying.

We celebrate the "Presentation of Christ in the Temple" or "Candlemas". As I was writing the sermon I began thinking about Simeon waiting for the Lord's Messiah to come, knowing that it would happen before he died. I'm guessing he was old and that for him this was the last thing on his Bucket List, but what a thing and far bigger and greater than Simeon would have imagined.

It then took my thoughts to the film "Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, two cancer sufferers who become the most unlikely of friends and end up spending three months together - each fulfilling a "bucket list". What they discover is that bucket lists have more to do with living fully and faithfully than dying. They end up discovering that what gives them the greatest joyare not the selfish, self-centred items but the things they took for granted like a meal with family or the love shared by friends. Nicholson's character learns the hard way through the death of his friend which makes him re-engage with his estranged daughter and sense the saving grace which flows from forgiveness.

That thought is so very profound and is the basis of our own faith. We know the grace of forgiveness and the joy of faith. So am I saying we should have a "Bucket List"? Well I think that is up to you but I do wonder if we have one that we should take a leaf out of Simeon's and the first one on our list should be a "genuine hope to see Christ" and hopefully we would soon learn that can happen in so many different ways day by day when we genuinely look for Him.

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Faith quote from Revd. MArtin Luther King Jnr.I’ve been thinking about faith and all that it means to me after a conversation with a student this week. I saw this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. and realised how true it was. I thought of how I felt when I first had varifocal lenses and the difficulty I had with stairs but that I needed to take that first step or I would never get anywhere or conquer the stairs.

Faith is something which is hard to explain but so important to have and my mission this week is to try and explain it in a more convincing way, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to my student.

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What does it mean to rejoice?

I’m still praying through the verses from Philippians but it seems this week that there is not a lot to rejoice about with the various things that have been happening with friends and family. Then I wondered if I actually knew what “rejoice” meant.

So I went to a dictionary to look at what the word meant it said:

“To feel or show great joy, happiness or delight about something”

That didn’t really change the way I was feeling to be honest, I couldn’t feel any of those things about the situations that I had encountered the last week. Then I thought is there a difference between the word in an early and a spiritual way so started to do a bit of research.

I found that there is a big difference between earthly happiness and spiritual joy. Earthly happiness is produced and maintained by events, by things, by experiences, often involving money and moods and materialism. Spiritual joy is a product of one’s good relationship with God through Christ and is constant. Earthly happiness fluctuates greatly as things happen or do not happen.

You can be broke and in jail yet “rejoice in the Lord.” Paul did not enjoy good living conditions when he wrote these words in Philippians. He was in chains and a condemned man, but he had a constant joy because of his faith and he wanted all believers to have the same.

This word “rejoice” cannot be understood properly if you equate it with earthly happiness. Earthly happiness depends on circumstances that change daily. This spiritual joy is a product of one’s faith in Christ, and this joy can endure changing earthly circumstances. It is that constant hopeful, peaceful, joyful state of mind – knowing that even when things here on earth are against you, God is for you – and you, by faith in Christ, are firmly attached to Him.

I’m still finding it hard but at least I can look at it through slightly different glasses which I am hoping might help.


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Praising God

Just before I went back to my “other” job, teaching at Ilfracombe Academy, I decided it might be a good time to revisit a book called “From Prison to Praise” by Merlin Carothers. Praying my verses the book came to mind and so I took it as a prompt from the Holy Spirit.  I’d read it nearly 40 years ago when I first came to faith at university and a friend had suggested I might like it. It’s only small so I thought I would read it before I went back to school. It didn’t take me long as I remembered as I started to read it how “fast paced” it was. It is about Carothers faith journey and how he learnt the power of praising God in every situation.

As I read it again it challenged me and made me think about what the book said and what the verses in Philippians 4:4-7 were saying to me. I confess I certainly haven’t got to the same point as him in praising God but I am finding on those occasions when I do, that I see little openings of light into what have seemed very dark situations, or just felt lifted and supported by God.

Perhaps praising God in all situations is something we should all try more often, the Bible says:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

I know it isn’t always easy in some of the situations we experience but taking small steps of faith is so important.


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