Hoddidodds for BeeverSteve

something gritty to chew on

Welcome to my blog.

These are not the voyages of the Starship Enterprise but the reflections and musings of a local church minister about to begin a period of sabbatical study.  Some entries will have practical applications whilst others may resemble a Daliesque stream of consciousness. Those are the more personal entries as I’m holding up a mirror to my own thoughts as I reflect on my faith and life’s journey.

Feel free to comment but please respect these words, thoughts and ideas for what they are.  Most of them come from experience; others will reflect my reading and travel experiences over the next three months. Some are reworkings of older material (where is that PhD when you need it?) – a few will probably be written with the effort of getting my allotment ready for winter. (There’s a message in that somewhere, I’m sure).

Some will provoke, others warn or warm – some may even move you. When you do read, ask God what He might be saying to you. I’d love to hear about it.

The working title for my blog comes from two dialect words in use in rural Cambridgeshire until the 1970’s. A slap up meal at Mrs Miggins’ pie shop for anyone who deciphers the true meaning!

Whose way?

L P Hartley’s book “The Go Between” tells the story of a young boy in a Norfolk village who carried love letters between a rich girl and a man of poorer means, who her parents thoroughly disapproved of. In the go between
book, there is a very famous line found in many books of quotations,  that even now causes many of us to stop and think: it is this: “The past is another country, they do things differently there”.

How do you see the past? Frank Sinatra for one, famously sang  ....regrets I've had a few but then again too few to mention...". There probably aren't many of us who can say the same. We think back to our past and sometimes shudder at what we've said or done or even, not done. Yes like Frank Sinatra, at some time or another, we've all done it my way.

Transforming God's people

A couple of days ago, a friend posted a picture on facebook. At first glance, it’s an unremarkable view of open countryside with farm buildings in the middle distance. On closer inspection though, it’s a much more familiar image. There are a few new buildings but the most striking thing of all is the wood which towers over the farm, protecting it from the cold winds from the north and the east.

Farm3
It’s my wood – well, sort of. I spent a couple of weeks in the cold Spring of 1977 getting the ground ready, marking out the rows and later, setting the trees. Well I dug the holes, but someone far more qualified and skilled than me set the foot high saplings – English broadleaves all – into the freshly tilled soil.

Forty years on, a change of ownership later and the wood survives. It stands tall in a typically open East Anglian landscape, visible for some miles and is, no doubt, a welcome shelter for wildlife as well as a valuable windbreak for farm and crops alike

Pushing the wrong button

I’ve had a Buttongate incident recently. Preparing a casserole for our Saturday evening meal, I turned the oven on to pre warm it while getting things ready.  Some 20 minutes later, concentrating closely as I’m wielding sharp instruments to prep some vegetables (with my record you never know), I open the oven door. It isn’t empty.

There’s a few (empty) baking trays, drying out after earlier washing. But there’re not alone. There’s a nice wooden chopping board in there, which is now a very hot nice chopping board in danger of spontaneous combustion. It’s slightly charred at the edges, smoking in the middle. I can’t hide the evidence as I have opened the oven door when Christine is in the kitchen. “Oh Stephen!” just about covers it. Well, it did steam a bit in the sink and one or two cracks have appeared ….offers to replace it with a plank out of the shed fell on deaf ears.

As attempts to get out of cooking go it’s way up the list but, with necessity being the mother of invention, I’m now allowed back. No chances have been taken: when left alone yesterday to prepare lunch, I discovered a handwritten note sellotaped to the oven door “Don’t turn on – birthday cake inside.”

Don’t worry, it’s safe, Sarah ate some a couple of days ago. It was still, noticeably, a yellow hued lemon sponge cake.

The events at home might appear to be a storm in a teacup for some but they are clearly a full blown “Doris” for others. However, it does make me think: what if some other individuals with their fingers on VIB’s (Very Important Buttons) were to press the wrong one?

The Church of England General Synod has recently discussed a report on human sexuality, produced by its Bishops. Although the overall vote was comfortably in favour of accepting the proposals, the voting system, which meant separate votes for the “Houses” of Laity, Clergy and Bishops, meant that the motion failed. It was the Clergy who provided the kick to Bishop Brennan’s posterior: after some sustained lobbying from various quarters, and an alliance involving some very unlikely bedfellows, they rejected the proposals by a very narrow margin.

The most bizarre thing, for me, was the discovery that one Bishop had voted against his own side in somewhat unusual circumstances. The Bishop of Coventry (for it was he) later admitted that, in the confusion, he’d pressed the wrong button on his little box and that he’d really meant to side with the rest of the Bishops all along.

Ok, I admit it. I’ve pressed a few wrong buttons in my time. That includes some interpersonal interactions (aka conversations) I wish I hadn’t had and some behaviours on various sporting fields I seriously regret with the passing of years. The one good thing is that I’ve been able to learn some serious lessons from this – something I hope the good bishop of Coventry also appreciates.

Theresa and Don take note: make sure it’s the right button you press. Some actions have far reaching consequences - the mistakes made by heads of state have a much greater impact than when we forget to seperate the recycling.  Remember: only press the red button when you're certain that you want to reset the heating not to eliminate all human life on earth: it’s the smaller of the two.

Hopes and Dreams

I am not what I ought to be 
I am not what I would like to be
I am not what I hope to be

If you were to take an honest and frank look at your life today, what would you find? Unrealised dreams? Unexpected shortcomings? Unresolved conflicts? Or, indescribable blessings and unlimited opportunities?

The words of Paul which we often read when we share bread and wine, remind us that we are called to examine ourselves - that is our attitudes and our actions - before God (1 Corinthians 11:28). But, this examination is little more than an exercise in self indulgence unless we commit ourselves to doing something about what God reveals to us and to expressing this within the context of our Christian fellowship.

Looking at ourselves carefully can be an uncomfortable exercise: in doing so we will discover things that we would want to deny or would rather keep hidden. The same is also true when we come to look at the church - not "ours" - but God's church wherever it might be and where we know as “home.”

There are always areas where, with the benefit of God’s eyes and guidance, there is room for us to grow. With rapid and far reaching change, not just in the outside world but in the church as well, in what ways might we express or consider this growth? At such a time as this, keeping close to God is vital and prayer is an essential and vital way of doing just that.

The words of John Newton with which I began this letter, continue in this way:

 But I am not what I once was
 And by the grace of God
 I am what I am. 

God's power to change us and to transform His church is undeniable. Let us trust him to continue His work of remaking us and let us pray for His strength to meet the tasks He has for each one of us.