Category Archives: Life

New mobile toys

Applying the principle of it being easier to get forgiveness than permission I bought some new toys now that I have a new phone (Samsung SIII Mini).

So the phone now has a 32gb memory card and an Android App called FolderSync that keeps the music folder on the phone in sync with the music folder on my laptop (automatically over WiFi).
Then I needed to be able to hear the music so I have three new bits for that. First a cable converter that turns the iPod plug in the car into a 3.5mm jack so the phone can play through the car speakers. Second a wonderful tiny speaker (an X-Mini Kai) which connects via bluetooth and can also be used for conference calls. Thirdly some Motorola S10 bluetooth headphones.
The I decided to go for a better typing experience as the on screen keyboards are too limited for note taking in meetings. So I have a Logitech K810 bluetooth keyboard that I am using to type this post.
Now for the fraction of the weight of my laptop I can have a much richer mobile experience.
Yes I know it is sad, but I do like my toys :-)

Enjoying new sound :-)

For a while now we have been struggling to hear dialogue properly when watching dvds or the tv.

After applying a bit of thought it was quite obvious we have been using the TV speakers since our very old surround sound system had stopped working properly (no signal to subwoofer and damage to a couple of the smaller speakers). The TV speakers are just not clear enough and it gets worse if you turn the volume up.

So while having an afternoon out in Leicester (including nice lunch at Good Earth) we nipped along to Richer Sounds. Have to say the result is a huge improvement. Having a modern AV Receiver means the DVD player and Digital Set Top Box both connect to the AV Receiver and then that connects to the TV and to the speakers. This means we only need to use the on/off switch on the TV, it stays on the same HDMI cable all the time with the volume at zero.

There are a couple of other very nice features of the Yamaha AV Receiver. First the DVD player and Set Top Box box connect to it with both HDMI and Optical Cables which should be best for sound quality. Second it comes with a microphone to automate configuration of the surround sound. Simply place the microphone where your head will be when watching a film, then turn on the AV Receiver and it plays a sequence of sounds to work out the relative volumes for the speakers – very cool.

So back to properly enjoying films with the ability to shake the floor nicely if I want to :-) Yep I love my toys! Plus hopefully when we watch something together we won't need to keep pausing and replaying bits to catch what they have said.

9th Anniversary

Tonight we have been remembering the 9th anniversay of Mum's death. My original post was written two days after: Mum has died.

When I got the phone call with the news I was on a silent retreat weekend with SEITE as my of my ministerial training. In fact I was in an evening silent Communion Service being led by Rev Inderjit Bhogal and had to slip out to take the call.

I remember driving home from Kent and then we all went straight down to Emsworth to join the rest of the family, getting there very late on the Saturday evening.

Today we had a quiet meal with just the 3 of us left at home and we were reminising. Pleased that our youngest, who was 6 at the time, was able to say that all his memories of his Grandparents were good even though he lost 3 of them (all to cancer) that year.

Someone for David Cameron to listen to

I have just been visiting someone that I think it would be good for David Cameron to meet. A lovely lady in her 90's. One of her daughters recently died and we were talking about a whole range of things from her life.

She started talking about her husband who died many years ago. I thought of David Cameron when she described her husbands war experiences and how they affected him. In his Christmas speech our Prime Minister mentioned ""Indeed, God's word reminds us that Jesus was the Prince of Peace." Odd words to preceed talking about service men and women who are at war. Odd words from a Prime Minister who travels to oppressive regimes in the Middle East to sell arms.

I wish he could have heard this lovely lady on the subject of peace.

She described how after the war her husband would sob in her arms as he could not escape memories of standing on the bodies of his comrades, of seeing them die.

She said war solves nothing.

If only our government listened to people like this lady. People who have been trough tough times and come out knowing that violence only breeds hatred and more violence. The only answer she said is love.

What is more, that is of course what Jesus said and lived as well. The politicians of the day killed him for it. Today they simply twist his words to justify their terrible actions.

David Cameron, get in touch if you want me to introduce you to a lady who will help you understand the consequences of your choices.

Better anti-RAPE campaigns

This is appalling A seasonal warning on rape? Don't ask a Met policeman | Zoe Williams | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Why can't we make things clear:

Without a freely, deliberately and consciously given YES then all sex is RAPE.

There is no such thing as an invitation to RAPE

There is no excuse for RAPE nobody deserves it

The survivor of rape is not to blame, by definition they did not ask for it.
Rape campaigns should target the people who commit rape not the people who are raped.

British camping delights

So we are at a very nice Caravan and Camping Club Site at Boroughbridge, the only concern is that this site has flooded 7 times this year.

This afternoon we have had a massive thunderstorm, complete with hail and very heavy rain. Much of the site is now covered in large puddles requiring a rather roundabout route to the (excellent) toilet block.

However, I now have the Environment Agency Flood Warning page that is specific for this site bookmarked and so far there are no flood warnings since the end of June.

In these conditions our Dandy Designer seems just about perfect :-) A tent is no fun when it is so wet and with either a caravan or motorhome you start to worry about getting it off the pitch. Compared to every other folding camper/trailer tent the insulated PVC roof and sides are very nice when the weather is not amazing.

Here we are earlier in the week, hoping that pitch 13 will be luck for us.

2012-08-04 09.10.17
Note our TV aerial, for the first time we have digital TV while camping. Good thing we came prepared because it always rains a lot in Yorkshire when the Olympics are on (this is our 2nd experience of a flooded Yorkshire campsite during the Olympics).

This is also the first time we have paid for WiFi on a club site, apart from a couple of glitches it has actually been pretty good.

Funeral of a Mother-in-law

Yesterday was difficult. The first family funeral since I was ordained.

Fay, my Mother-in-Law, had passed away early on the 14th after a short stay in hospital.

Fay was the last of our parents and so for us that generation is now all gone.

As with our other parents we chose to have a service at the crematorium followed by a thanksgiving service at Church. Rachel, my superintendent minister, conducted the service at the crematorium which helped a lot. I gave a short reflection on Fay's life based on Philippians 3:12-14.

At Syston Methodist Church there were members from Syston and from Raunds Methodist Church where I served for 5 years (Fay had moved there to be near us and was very much part of the Church there for nearly 4 years). Also a minibus load of staff and residents from Aigburth, where Fay has spent the last two years (and been exceptionally happy there).

I just about held myself together for the service. Very unusually I had prepared a full script and given Rachel a copy. I think I only had her reaching for it once, ready to take over if needed.

We used Ruth 1:16-17 and Romans 8:38-39 as the texts. The Ruth reading seemed a wonderful fit for the way that Fay committed herself to new communities many times during her life. The Romans reading also reflected the confidence she always showed in her faith. Christine, the Aigburth Chaplain shared some memories and also led some of the prayers. We also had a slide show set to Bernadette Farrells version of Psalm 137 – one of my favourites.

We included some of Fay's favourite hymns as well. "What a friend we havge in Jesus" at the Crematorium. At the thanksgiving service we had "Praise my soul the King of Heaven", "One more step along the world I go" and "Love Divine".

Of course we also had food to follow which was very kindly prepared by members of Syston Methodist Church.

Habits not resolutions

After proving to be a complete failure when it comes to New Year resolutions I have decided to follow what seems to work better for me.

I have been using HabitForge since August 2010 and it has been hugely helpful in getting me riding bikes more regularly (I have now ridden a bike 428 days in a row).

So I have created two new habits on  HabitForge. One is a negative and one a positive and they are both aimed at my general health/wellbeing.

The negative one is to have no late night snacks. I am appalling for scoffing lots and lots of unhealthy stuff late at night. I know I feel better when I don't (and not doing this makes the biggest single difference to my overall weight) but I still do it. This bad habit sets me up for a number of others (such as very late nights), however, simpoly knowing how bad it is doesn't help me kick it. I find New Year resolutions don't work for this type of behaviour as it only takes one miss early on and the New Year resolution is broken and loses all it's impact. The daily habit instead helps me focus on achieving long runs of days and allows me to restart immediately after any failures. Anyway to allow myself a tick in the habit achieved box it will mean nothing but water or herbal tea after we finish our evening meal.

The positive one is something that I know I should do and do manage occasionally but not with much regularity is stretching. I don't mean a simple stretch while lying in bed but a set of stretches to improve my overall mobility and flexibility (both of which are pretty poor). Again it is strange to me why I find it so difficult to do regularly something that makes such a big difference (far less back pain and so many things are just easier to do when you can bend more easily). So again I am going to try the daily habit on this. To tick the box I need to do several minutes of careful stretching (I think just after my morning shower is the best time for me).

The first target for both these habits is 21 days in a row, at this point it is claimed your body/mind adjusts and you have got them ingrained. For me to be sure it takes a lot longer than that which is why I still monitor the daily cycling habit after well over 400 days in a row.

Ordinary life,mutual submission & decisions

 

In 42: Decision making, mutual submission and God's call I responded to a question that came in a comment on my post "How to do theology?" where "Priest" wrote:

 

I'm keen to know how you work 'mutual submission' out.

The particular challenge related to decision making in response to God's call.

I am concerned though that it might be seen as a cop out situation. After all major life decisions about responding to God's call don't tend to come around everyday.

So this post is more about how we work out decisions in ordinary life.

Again the same ground rules apply.

First, the framing of the question is important, so something like:

How does decision making work in general life for a married couple who see each other as equals without fixed roles defined by gender.

Second, I am certain that every couple will have their own way of doing this. The way that Jane and I do things won't be right for everyone, what works for us comes from our personalities, particular gifts & experiences, our family backgrounds, culture etc. So this is not a set of instructions for how others should make their decisions but instead reflections on what works for us.

Third, this is inevitably neither complete nor accurate. We don't have a fixed decision making process, things have evolved over time and circumstances vary. One of the beauties for us is the flexibility that equality gives – decisions don't have to wait for the "right" person, the one with authority.

Anyway given all the caveats, how do we make decisions?

Now we get to the hard part. I have spent a good part of the evening thinking about that and in one sense I am a bit stumped.

How we approach things is generally straightforward, we talk about them and we plan them. We involve our sons in many decisions (like obvious ones such as where we go on holiday, which appointments for ministers go on the short list, choosing a car).

But when it comes to the actual decision it just isn't very clear. I think that we just reach a point where one says to the other "Ok shall we decide to do X" and the other says "ok". It is definitely not always the same person and sometimes if things are tight for time or one of us is eager we just go ahead and decide for us both (again I can think of many examples when each of us has done this). We don't really have many areas where one of us always makes the decision. Certainly we always share decisions in major areas like finance, home, education, holidays etc.

I guess when it comes down to it the whole thing hinges on the related issues of mutual submission & mutual trust. I know that both Jane and I are comfortable with the other making decisions, I know that we both trust the other completely in both making decisions but also in discussing with us. We know that the other is always looking out for us so we don't need to worry about whether we have been "consulted" or not. Does that mean the other would always make the same decision as we would – of course not, but that just isn't important to us.

I look back over 23 years of marriage and I can't think of decisions that Jane has made that I am unhappy with, I can't think of things that I wished I had been consulted on. Maybe we discuss more things than I am always interested in (I would be quite happy to abdicate from all decisions about gardening for example) but on the other hand the bonus is that I enjoy Jane's company and enjoy talking with her.

When things have gone wrong (and of course they have) there has not once been a situation where one of us has blamed the other for a decision.

We had a major financial crisis after we had been married a few years that was caused by a combination of falling house prices leaving us with lots of negative equity (our flat with a 95% mortgage nearly halved in value), at the same time Jane was made redundant and the freeholder of the block of flats invented legal costs that gave us a bill of 10's of thousands of pounds. We had lots of sleepless nights and it took us over 10 years to get things sorted out (with several job changes each on the way to achieve that), yet at no time did we have a problem with how decisions had been made or what decisions needed to be made.

Another critical factor for us is the way that one of us can step in and help the other out when their decision making is impaired. That can happen in lots of ways from simple tiredness (with Jane a morning lark and me a night owl there are plenty of times when one of us is not very awake and it is better for the other to make decisions that might affect our safety such as when driving).

However, it also works in more significant ways. When my Mum had just died and Dad was terminally ill with cancer I was suffering from depression and so Jane took over all the things I could not cope with (basically anything that involved making a decision). That meant stepping in as Managing Director of our business, it meant running the family, our finances and home while I moved in with Dad to care for him. I never had any fear that she was taking over or anything like that, she acted as a kind of safety buffer for me and did it so well that many of the people around us never even knew that I had been unable to cope and had run away from everything.

I have read many claims of the need for a final decision maker from those who believe in Male Headship, but I just don't get it. I look back on our marriage (and also my parents) and I cannot see a single instance where Male Headship would have been a better way to make decisions. However, I can see countless occasions when Male Headship would have resulted in worse decisions.

Why would I choose to have a system that would reduce the ability of my best friend, my partner and the person I love above all others to contribute all her gifts, skills and commitment to our lives?

Even more to the point why would the God who loves me so much want me to do that?

Decision making, mutual submission and God’s call

In a comment on my post "How to do theology?" "Priest" wrote:

I'm keen to know how you work 'mutual submission' out.

This is a common question for people who only have experience of Male Headship (commonly marketed at Complementarianism). 

For those of us who have grown up in "egalitarian" homes and/or whose relationships are not based on hierarcrhy or headship the question can easily apppear odd. We can struggle to understand why this would be considered a problem. Our confusion is often increased by the scenarios that are suggested as examples of situations where equality and mutual submission won't work.

One of the common challenges I have heard is without a single person to make decisions how do you quickly decide how to tackle an armed burgular who had broken into your home? One of the key problems with the scenario being the assumption that tackling an armed burgular is the best option whereas getting the family out of the house (something that can be done better by two of you working together) and calling the police is likely to be a much better option.

"Priest" asked a different question and one that is more interesting:

When I got married, my wife felt God had given her a desire to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, more specifically to unreached people groups. I, on the other hand, felt God had placed the local church we were part of, on my heart. What would you advise me to do in such a way that my wife feels honoured and respected?

I think this is worth answering in some detail in the hope that others will find it useful.

First, the language of the actual question is based in a view of Male Headship that does not match my understanding of the goals of a Christian egalitarian marriage. So instead of:

What would you advise me to do in such a way that my wife feels honoured and respected?

I feel it would be better to word this differently such as:

How might we decide what God is calling us to as a married couple so that together we casn respond to God's call and grow in our faith, discipleship and relationship.

In other words I am not following a path of mutual submission so that my wife "feels honoured and respected" but we both do this so that God may be honoured and our relationship strengthened as part of our journey into life in all it's fullness.

Next, I am certain that every couple will have their own way of doing this. The way that Jane and I do things won't be right for everyone, what works for us comes from our personalities, particular gifts & experiences, our family backgrounds, culture etc.

So how do we work out what God is calling you to do? Especially when you have different understandings or are "hearing" different things?

One factor in the equation is that compared to most Complementarians we are rather more Postmodern in our understanding. That means we are less likely to frame choices as discrete, mututally exclusive options. We are also less likely to see any revelation/understanding of calling as being complete and crystall clear.

This means that we are open to taking a while to making a decsion. If you like Myers Briggs then this emphasises P rather than J on the Judging element of personality (but don't worry if you think Myres Brggs is a load of rubbish that is not a core belief or a requirement). Not all decisions can be made slowly, but where a decision affects the whole of life it seems sensible to us to take as much time as is available to make as good a decision as possible.

So with the difference in understanding of God's call that "Priest" gives we would be considering together and with family, Church & friends lots of things. For example are these callings really incompatible? Might we be called to support/challenge our local church in world mission? Might we be called to support a local church in a place where there are many unreached people? Might the unreached people actually be in our wider community? Might the timing be sequential for example to work within the local Church while undergoing missiological training before going elsewhere? Might we be called to stay in this country and Church while funding ourselves for extended mission trips each year? Who else might God be calling us to work with (Churches already doing mission around the world, other churches where we live, parachurch organisations).

We would be praying and looking for doors opening/closing. We would be talking & praying together about the possibilities, about our developing understanding of God's calling for us both. We would be doing all this in the knowledge that both of us are willing to put aside our own preferences for the growth, happiness and discipleship of the other.

We would be doing all this in the belief that when we are seeking God's will and being willing to submit to the Holy Spirit then God will take our choices and work for good in them. We will recognise that we might get things wrong and miss some of what God asks but through that God will still work for good and will honour our intentions while forgiving our mistakes.

In otherwords we understand that the decision making process is almost as important as the decision. If we model love for God and love for our neighbours in the process then the decision will allow us to love God and our neighbours. If we honour the Holy Spirit in the process then the Holy Spirit will bless the outcome.

We also operate under assumptions that God is not going to call us to break up our marriage or hurt each other. That all of us are equally loved and called by God

All of this is called Christian Discernment. Decision making about God's call on our lives is a big big issue. It is not to be taken lightly or without using all the resources that God gives. You might find it helpful to think of these in terms of the Wesleyan Quadritaleral (Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience) being worked out in Christian Community (at the levels of marriage, family, local Church Community & wider Church).

For us the decision about whether I was being called to leave IT and our own business to become an itinerant Methodist Minister had the biggest potential for radical change for us and in many ways was the biggest decision of our marriage. Previous decisions about job changes while difficult were easy by comparison:

  • In the first few years of our marriage Jane changed jobs a couple of times for better prospects, related to training as a Civil Engineer.
  • I left the United Bible Societies to work in the City of London because the work was changing, because the amount of travel I did was upsettling our children and because we were struggling with negative equity.
  • We started our own business because we were approached with a wonderful opportunity of a two year contract to get us started with some security and because we wanted to work together & have more time as a family. It provided a way for Jane to return to work in a way that worked with a young family.

Training for and then becoming a Methodist Minister was much bigger with lots of questions:

  • had we understood God's call correctly?
  • what about all the employees in our company (over 15 at this point)? What did it mean for their futures?
  • what about our children? It would mean part-time studying for 6 years for me which would take a lot of time away from the family. It would mean moving around to places we didn't choose with potential disruption to their education.
  • what about my parents who were moving into retirement and had handed over their business to us? What did it mean for their dreams and relationships with people who had worked in the business for many years?
  • what about Jane's parents, particularly as her Dad was being treated for cancer? What would it mean for our support for them?
  • what about money? It would mean a huge pay cut (for us both) and we had a large mortgage on our home. Jane would have to start a whole new career as well.
  • what would it mean personally? Jane had chosen to marry a computer programmer not a minister. I liked working with technology more than people.

In the end it meant that it took 10 years from my first call to ministry to being stationed for the first time (admittedly for the first few years we thought the call was a joke and didn't take it seriously). When we started to take it seriously (due to a sleepless week for each of us as God repeated the call time and time again) we put lots of effort in to testing it and exploring it together and with others. For us it was also important that this call was not just about us but that the Church also tested it and so the recognition of the wider Church was important not just because the call was to be a minister but because we felt that the Church needed to be part of the decision.

For me this fits with Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 especially verse 8. When it comes to responding to the radical calls that God makes on our lives things are different when you are married. When it comes to God's call for people who are married then the call has to be discerned in the light that you have become "one flesh" committed to each other for the rest of your lives. Fortunately, God honours our marriages and so respects the process by which we discern and respond to the call.

Our process may seem long and complicated compared to the view proposed by male headship supporters (God called me and I made the decision for our family because God appointed me as the head of the family) there is one other critical factor.

When we respond to God's call things will not always be easy. We will be attacked for the decision and we will struggle at times. However, when things are difficult the process by which you came to the decision makes a huge difference. If this is a decision you have made together as equals then our experience is that you will be far more able to support and encourage each other at these difficult than if one of you made the decision on behalf of all. Inevitably the level of commitment you each have to the decision is greater when you have been fully involved in that decision.

Simplistically, I know that the decisions that we make together are better decisions than I would make alone. Of course that is not a surprise given that I married someone far more intelligent than me :-)