Off the couch

I recently completed the NHS Choices Couch to 5K plan. It’s a series of podcasts that promises to get you running from 0 to 30 mins or 5K in a set number of weeks. There’s a coach who gives encouragement, (she keeps saying, “you’re doing great”, even although she has no idea whether you are or not!), timings are all set, and the music makes you run faster just to get away from it. It’s good!
Of course you could listen to all the podcasts, get the running gear, read the hints and tips and never get off the couch. Now wouldn’t that be silly!

So why do we not think it’s silly to listen to talks, buy a bible, read books, sign up for spiritually encouraging notifications, and never get off the spiritual couch?

I was prompted to ask that question by listening to a talk by Bill Hybels entitled Stronger in Faith.(
His basic premise is that if we want to grow stronger in faith we need to work out. And we do this in stages:
1. Get off the couch
2. Take some steps
3. Take some more steps
4. Reach your goal
And Bill makes an interesting point. He says don’t wait until you have the power to do the difficult thing – end a relationship, quit an addiction, forgive a wrong – because it’s when you get started that you get the strength, what he calls “power along the way”. When you get off the couch, faith grows, God shows up, and step by step you grow stronger.

At that start of Couch to 5K I found it difficult to run for a minute; by the end I could run for 30 mins. I have faith challenges that have me still on the couch, but I’m getting off the couch today (maybe just for a minute!) and stepping up, anticipating that power along the way will become reality.

Come, step with me!


Keep pedalling

No longer do children have stabilisers on their bikes as they did back in the day. No, balance bikes are the thing. Because it has no pedals, no chain, and no stabilisers it helps the child learn balance and steering first.  My grandson is a whizz on his.

balance bikeBut if he is ever to be a Bradley Wiggins, he will have to learn to pedal.

As in biking,so in life.

Tom Wright says that, “Being a Christian is like riding a bicycle; unless you go forward, you’ll fall off.”  But what does going forward as a Christian mean?  There must be something about getting your balance, learning to steer a new way of life, pushing into the Jesus way. However, we need to learn to pedal. If you want to travel decent distances, negotiate the puddles with dry feet, get from A to B with soles left on your shoes, you need to pedal.

So what does pedalling as a Christian look like?  Is it going to church on Sunday, reading the Bible, praying, serving others?  I’m sure all these are pedalling elements, but consider what Tom Wright says next – “At every stage of Christian experience, what you most deeply need is not something other than the king himself. You always need more of him. He is what it’s all about.”

More of Jesus?

Maybe think tandem now.  It’s scary being on the back of a tandem – you can’t see more than the butt of the front rider, you can’t steer, but you can turbo charge the tandem if you pedal in sync.

Is there something about following Jesus that’s like that?  Stick close, don’t fight to steer, keep in balance and work in harmony with him for the ride of your life.

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Jammies – the new lycra?

A few thoughts on why stomach crunches are less painful if you do them in your jammies!


  • Fitness experts say to wear something “lose fitting and comfortable” for exercise
  • You get up and at ’em first thing (unless you put your jammies on in the afternoon – just saying)
  • It’s easy to lose count if you’re half asleep
  • You can lie down afterwards and start the day again when you’ve recovered
  • It stops you taking yourself too seriously; after all exercise should be fun
  • no need to spend money on special clothing
  • if bananas can, you can
  • Wearing your (Christmas) jammies is a Youtube sensation – enjoy!

And good luck with the fitness routine.


Something for the weekend

exilioI spent the weekend in company of a refugee family, a single parent whose ex partner is controlling and manipulative, another young woman who has left her husband because of his addictive behaviours, families who are struggling to make ends meet, people who are facing tragic ill health…

And I have to ask, “Is Jesus really enough for them?”

Is Jesus really enough for me?

My friend Eddie was helping us to understand what Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Colossae. He helped us wrestle with the great truth – “At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that!” (Colossians 1:21-23)

Jesus is enough because he has been there. He has entered into human suffering, has shared it, has transformed it and “put our lives together”.  But following Jesus is tough! Paul knows that (he’s in prison as he writes this letter). Following Jesus is not something for the weekend. It’s a “for all time”, “with all I am” deal.” Perhaps it’s only in taking faltering steps with him that we find out whether he really is enough.

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Peace – on earth?

“Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.”

Loch Garten 2

Peace on earth must have seemed like a pipe dream to the shepherds who heard the original words; we still seem far from the promise, even in peaceful settings, as we sing today.

Or are there glimmers of hope?

These past days people have been talking about the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the great theme of his life – forgiveness and reconciliation. Presidents, commentators and ordinary people have been challenged to think of the cost of forgiveness for this man – laying down any rights to retaliation, shaking white hands, saying “no” to the temptation to avenge.

When he was released from prison, Mandela made a speech at City Hall, Cape Town, in which he assured the people that he was an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances. He was clear about his message but he was not a messiah.

“Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans. I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all! I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people.”

I haven’t seen much evidence of an outbreak of peace in the 23 years since Mandela, the “not a messiah” spoke these words.

So let’s loop back to the angels (of Hark the Herald). They were clear about their message.  A baby – “The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today.”  In humble circumstances, God himself came to reconcile with his enemies.

Just as the Magi looked in the wrong place for the Messiah, I wonder if we’re looking in the wrong place for peace. We look for peace between nations, peace as the opposite of war, peace that brings security and safety.  Peace that is “out there”, that is for world leaders or politicians to establish on our behalf.

What if “peace on earth” is an inbreak rather than an outbreak – peace with myself, peace in my relationships, and fundamentally peace with God? What if I have to forgive in order to experience forgiveness? (The niggles and squabbles of life are right there, aren’t they?) What if I have to abandon my desire for an apology, forget about “who started it”, or who kept it going? What if I listen to what God says to me, not what he says about others? What if I admit that I am wrong, that I need a Saviour?

That’s my challenge for Christmas…and God himself is passionately committed to seeing that his promise of peace won’t fail.

“For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!” (Isaiah :6-7)

How do you see it?

3D-coke-bottle Fancy a drink?  This giant Coke bottle looks like it would hold enough to quench your thirst nicely, don’t you think?  Sadly, if that’s what you’re after you’ll be disappointed because this Coke bottle is a flat image created by pavement artist Julian Beever. It’s all a matter of perspective…in art and in life.

As you may know, I’ve had a flat season since my father died. And there’s no escaping it. However, there is another way of seeing that’s as real as the flatness. There’s the celebration of my Dad’s faith-filled, interesting and generous life; the gratitude for his quiet, unfailing support of me and my family; his acceptance of and championing of Alistair at a time when “Downs Syndrome” meant adults being led by the hand rather than living independently; his faithfulness to my Mum and the love that gave me stability and a positive role model. To say that I miss him doesn’t touch it. But it’s in the missing that I’ve seen again the value of a life well lived.

And I’ve experienced love and support from friends and family (kind of unsurprising) and from the most unlikely people (very surprising). That’s given me a new way of seeing others, and an awareness that, whatever the specifics, we’re bound together in the struggles of life. I am beyond grateful.

Today I met a friend whose father died two weeks ago.  I was reminded again of the words that Paul wrote to the Christian community in Corinth – “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

As my flatness lifts, I want to hold on to the different way of seeing others, to learn from the blessings that grief has brought, and to be open to sharing hope and comfort with others, even the very surprising.

Flat season

Natural Seasons are part of the fabric of life, the way markers that guide us through the year and give us anchors amidst the fragility of change. But are the “seasons of life” like that too? Although there are undoubtedly beautiful, sunny seasons of life, I think of the term being used in the context of needing to get through something difficult or painful. “It’s a season of life” – it will pass, the clouds will part and the sun will shine again. I’ve been in such a season.

I’m calling my season, “Flat”.


One of the symptoms of my season has been an inability to write. Oh, I’ve managed work-related emails, handouts and evaluation forms, the shopping lists, the to-do lists. Indeed I’ve needed the written lists to keep an element of progress through the season. But that’s not the writing I love. Writer’s block, blank page terror, flatness – call it what you like.

You see…

Four and a half months ago my father died.

And that’s all I can write about it just now.