Monthly Archives: March 2009

What Are Your Worst Writing Peeves?

Adrian asks What Are Your Worst Writing Peeves?

I responded with a couple on facebook but it got me thinking so here are some results (these are not aimed at Adrian's book as I have not seen it). Note that these thoughts relate particularly to theology but may relate to other technical subjects:


  • Please, please, please do not use end notes (either end of chapter or end of book), instead use footnotes at the bottom of every page. I do not mind if these take up a lot of space, but they are a total waste at the end of the chapter or book as I am unlikely to keep looking them up.
  • Provide an index. No, provide several indexes. Subject, name and scripture reference are the most useful. If you think your book does not need an index then I am going to think it is not worth reading and definitely not worth giving any precious shelf (or floor) space to.
  • Do not go for a large format unless there is a really, really, really good reason (there are very few). It is a pain to store, carry and read. It does not mean it will end up on a coffee table but instead will be hidden away from all the useful books in a corner reserved for awkward books.
  • A bibliography is important. I hate academic referencing of my own writing and don't care about formal academic references in your books. But it is important to be pointed to books on the subject that you disagree with (I want to know you have read them and engaged with them). Consider a more chatty presentation of the bibliography eg maybe "X contains an excellent presentation of view Y which I argue against in chapter Z".


First the negative:

  • Do not assume I am an idiot.
  • Do not assume I agree with you.
  • Do not ignore or dismiss those who disagree with you.
  • Do not try to ignore alternative views and arguments against your position
  • Do not bully.

There are excellent examples of these five. See Wayne Grudem (Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth) or Pierced for our transgressions (Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey and Andrew Sach) for two classic examples.

  • Do not ignore history or context
  • Do not think I will ignore integrity (obvious example do not write about poverty from your multi-million $ home)
  • Do not try to hide where you stand in the Christian community. Do not pretend that a position that redefines basic Christian doctrines or beliefs is mainstream.
  • Do not mis-use scripture (see 42: PFOT: The Foreword by John Piper and 42: PFOT: The Foreword part 2 which walks through an example).

Now the positive:

  • Connect both with your tradition and with others in fair ways. Brian McClaren does this well in "A generous Orthodoxy (in a sense the whole purpose of that book).
  • Connect me with the Living God, with a Jesus who matters to the world and to me. Shane Claiborne does this well in "The Irresistable Revolution".
  • Find a writing style that is not too lightweight but is not turgid. You can only get away with a really heavy writing style if you are going to captivate and change me as Moltmann does in "The Crucified God" – few people can manage that (and are they all German?)
  • Really nail your arguments in a helpful sumamry. Denny Weaver does an excellent job in "The Non-Violent Atonement" except that he does not present his model (Narrative Christus Victor) with a useful sumamry, one you can remember and say to people "Narrative Christus Victor is …"

That is enough for now.

Better training and good bike bits

Had a good training ride yesterday, improvement on 42: Climbing practice anyway. It was Ministerial Synod (sort of Church government meeting for Methodist Ministers), held in Wellingborough. So I cycled there. It is just under 10 miles but they feel quite hilly (for this part of Northamptonshire anyway).

To increase the training effect I arranged for a 250mph headwind on the way there. Definitely should have been a hurricane warning or something.

I also towed by Bob Yak trailer, makes me work harder and makes it easy to carry my mini laptop and a full set of clothes.

Two new bits of equipment have made the Giant Yukon fx2 more comfortable and versatile. So here is another Bike bits list:

GR2 Magnesium Handlebar Grips

Fantastic for comfort and increasing the number of hand positions.

Ultimate 5 Classic Large Bar Bag
Good place for your packed lunch, books, coat etc. Nice and solid, easy to fit and easy to open (no fiddly zips).

Topeak Road Morph With Gauge
My favourite pump to carry with you. Very easy to use and capable of good pressure easily.

Tubus Locc Rear Rack
I have one of these on my Trek Road Bike, fantastic as it has a clamp for your U-Lock built into the rack. You always have the lock with you and it does not have to fill a pannier. Plus locking up is much quicker.

That'll do for now.

Climbing practice

Today I was doing some training for my sponsored Coast to Coast ride. So I rode to my first meeting at 10:30am by a roundabout route looking for every hill I could find (but not just riding up and down one hill).

The bad news is that in nearly 20 miles of riding I only managed to find a total of 763 feet of climbing. That was despite going for the hilliest route I could think of that went in a very roundabout way from A to B.

This is a worry.

I am very bad at riding up hills and there are not many hills to practice on. The advice in a magazine is to find hills that take at least 5 minutes of hard climbing but there are none within 10 miles of home.

On the Coast to Coast I have 13,600 feet to climb in three days. Around here it will take me two weeks to find that many feet to climb.

Oh dear. I'll have to take some time to drive to hillier parts to get some concentrated training in – of course the time just before Easter is a terrible time to make time for cycle training when you are a minister. After Easter I do have a few days of holiday and then a 4 day course.

Meanwhile more sponsors welcome at

Moving Methodism: Who are we for?

Rhea commented on one of my posts (42: 17 ideas to prepare for marriage or civil partnership) so I looked her up.

Hence: Moving Methodism: Who are we for?

For me some great measures of when Methodism has moved forward will be when:

  • Everyone who feels about themselves and life as Rhea does knows that they are welcome at every Methodist Church, event or manse. That when they meet Methodists they will feel accepted, loved and valued as they are.
  • When every self-help group, every professional, every charity, every volunteer, every friend, every neighbour, every family member who is in touch with a person struggling as Rhea is, knows they can put them in touch with Methodism (at any level and in any place) and they will be loved, welcomed, accepted, valued, cared for and supported.
  • When every Methodist person and group can respond to people as do our projects such as the Whitechapel Mission (slogan: "Bringing hope where there is only despair").

A challenge to think about in our Churches. How will you welcome Rhea when she comes in or calls you?

Rhea wrote:

1) I bought box cutters tonight (er, technically last night) which I used for the first time in over 5 years…

2) I'm afraid that I'm not strong enough to be a gay Christian (meaning, I'm not strong enough to be both)…which would then lead me to have to give up Christianity (since being gay isn't a choice).

3) About 3 and a half years ago I had a REAL
chance at getting some seriously good help for a lot of the 'issues'
that I have. Unfortunately, I listened to my pastor over my doctor
(that's the UBER condensed version)…and now here I am afraid
that that was my last chance at getting 'real' help, and that I'm too
far gone now.

1 and 3 are obviously related. I mean, if I'm a
'lost cause' then buying box cutters and slicing up my arms isn't that
big a deal…really, it's simply something that is inevitable.
Regarding number 2, people talk all the time about how strong I am, and
I fuckin' I sure as hell don't feel strong. I don't like
people talking about how I AM strong (usually this discussion
of me being strong has something to do with the deaths of my parents).
I feel like I can see the importance of sticking with my convictions,
not just for myself, but for those that will come after me. The thing
is, I just don't think that I can do it. I feel too weak. Perhaps I'm
just selfish…I dunno. I don't want to help blaze a trail for those
who will come after me…that sure sounds like selfishness to me. But
again…if I'm a lost cause, then what does it matter?

My life
is a waste. If I were to die now, then the inheritance that I'm
supposed to get in two years will instead go to charity. At the moment,
that seems like a far better place for that money that with me. I'm a
waste. I don't see any redeeming qualities in myself. I don't know that
I even want to see any…if they do exist.

just can't do this on my own…that's why I went back to number
1….well, that, and if I kept eating Dairy Queen instead I'd be 300
pounds before the end of the semester.

But don't spend too long on the thinking, instead get busy on the welcoming, loving, accepting, supporting and caring. That way we see once again Moving Methodism.

Nice Bike bits

I confess that I don't use bikes in their standard specification very much – although in my defence I am not the worst offender on the planet, for that Vik is an inspiration :-)

I am constantly surprised that so many people treat a bike as a black box, something that is fixed and can't be changed. In part that is because cheap bikes are such poor value and don't last long enough to make it worth spending any money on them. Also because when you buy a cheap bike any upgrade seems expensive.

On the other hand if you buy a good bike to start with then it is going to last and last, it is going to be (much) nicer to ride and the extras won't seem so expensive (compared to the cost of the bike and also to the extra miles you will ride a nice bike).

So here are a few of my favourite upgrades of the moment.

If you have a mountain bike and do not use it on real mountains (ie your riding is on roads and Sustrans routes) then changing the tyres can give you a huge speed and comfort boost. Equally if you ride a road bike around town then fitting larger tyres can increase comfort (and puncture resistance) greatly without a huge speed cost (eg go from 23mm to 25mm or 25mmk to 28mm if clearances allow).

For example I have just switched my Mountain Bike from Kenda Tomac Nevegal DTC Tyres to Schwalbe Marathon Cross MTB Tyres. They will be nothing like as good in deep mud or loose soil, but that is not where I spend a lot of time riding. On the road the difference is obvious in noise level and speed.

When we have used mountain bikes for general purpose use and for touring we have always put on big slicks such as Continental Ultra Gatorskin MTB Tyres they make a huge difference to speed on roads as well as having much better grip (on road) than a knobbly tyres designed for mud.

I much prefer riding distances with clipless pedals and shoes (ie the shoe has a cleat that clicks onto the pedal). It is more comfortable and less tiring. But around town it is a pain to have to change into cycling shoes for every ride. I have a tried a variety of pedals with a platform on one side (for "normal" shoes, crocs, flipflops etc) and SPD the other (for longer rides). Currently my favourites (by a mile) are Shimano A530 SPD Single Sided Touring Pedals.

More to come.

17 ideas to prepare for marriage or civil partnership

This list is in response to a couple of posts that I have read recently giving marriage preparation advice for men that is all about self: preparing yourself to lead, preparing yourself to become a man instead of a boy. Looks to me as if that is only helpful if you intend to marry yourself.

So here are 17 tips that apply equally to both partners and apply whether you are preparing for marriage or a civil partnership.

  1. Learn to listen. Either take a course in listening skills together or buy a how to book at work through it together.
  2. Learn to share openly. Write each other love letters or emails that share your dreams, your hopes, your fears and your life story. Then meet and talk about them.
  3. Learn to be honest. Discover how to share things that you do not share with anyone else, to be honest when you know you will disagree.
  4. Learn to open your closets and show the skeletons that are hidden there. Do not let this be a surprise after exchanging vows.
  5. Take up at least one new hobby/activity/pastime that your partner loves and that you have never tried. Let them choose what it is. Together try something entirely new to you both.
  6. Consider issues relating to loss. What will each of you lose through this permanent commitment? What might you lose in the future? How do you deal with loss?
  7. Watch each others favourite film and tv show. Read each others favourite book. Discuss what they mean for each other and the influence they have.
  8. Share your traditions. How do you celebrate birthdays, Christmas etc in your families/traditions. How are you going to face the differences (for example if one is lavish with presents and the other modest).
  9. Explore your faith together. Maybe you share a common faith, maybe not. Do you understand the others beliefs? Do you respect them? What are they going to mean for the way they want to live? How do you feel about the commitment they require, the attention they need? What about the relationships with others that will be part of your faith journeys – are you both ok with them. Is there an agenda or assumption that one of you will change? Is either feeling resentful or isolated or threatened and if so what is going to be done about it? Does either/both faith tradition have a recognised scheme of preparation for marriage/civil partnership? If so then do it together.
  10. Share the top 10 things you like about the other. Talk about them together. How does the other feel about you liking those things?
  11. Share the best 5 ways in which the other has made you feel loved and valued (and thank them), discuss them together.
  12. Share the most irritating things about the other, the habits that wind you up, the behaviour that makes you mad. Not just as a list but as a discussion on what you are both going to do about this. Is change expected, possible or realistic or is it about attitudes and expectations?
  13. Make a budget. Agree your spending priorities and how you are going to organise your finances. Are you going to have a completely shared finance or what? Do you have compatible spending habits and lifestyle expectations? Can you trust the other with all your money? Have you really faced the challenges and expectations?
  14. Explore aspects of your personalities. This does not have to be through formal techniques (but you might enjoy finding out a bit more about yourselves and the interactions between you through something like the Myers Briggs personality types). Look at how you each respond to stress and how you unwind. Can you recognise the symptoms of stress in each other and know how to respond helpfully. What about anger? Do you know when the other is angry and what causes it and how to respond?
  15. Look beyond yourselves. How are your friendships with others, your relationships with your families? Is there some kind of balance between you or are all your friends from just one of you?
  16. Compile a list of the best ways your partner would like to celebrate good news and a list of nice surprises. Share the lists and get marked out of 10. Discuss where you were close, where you were far off and your own reactions to the lists.
  17. Seek a couple to act as mentors. Ideally they should not know either of you much better than the other, you both need to respect them and see them as role models. Obviously they should be in a stable and secure relationship. Spend time with them and share your journey of preparation with them.

Oh and if you still want to know what not to do then see Role Calling: Boys Becoming Men and Role Calling: Learning to Lead.

Moving Methodism: 1001 things to do with pews (once they are out of the Church)

1001 things to do with pews (once they are out of the Church)

Please write the following 1001 times:

When the pews are out of the building you may sell them, recycle them or donate them to the nearest Anglican Church. We do not care. Just get them out of Church!

Please note that currently this is not the official policy of the Methodist Church in Great Britain – but it should be :-)