Superman II – The perfect advent film?

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I got home unusually tired from work a few weekends ago and turned on the telly to find Superman II – Brilliant, I love old films.

Storyline of Superman II is that Superman falls in love with Lois Lane but can’t be with her unless he chooses to give up all his superhuman powers

What happens next is that Clark Kent gets into a fight trying to protect Lois Lane but gets beaten up, actually seeing his own blood for the first time in his life.  Then the world falls apart after it gets taken over by an evil power – In the end, Superman realises that the world cannot cope without a saviour, he says in a later film that when other people hear silence, he can hear the world crying out for a saviour, and has to give up Lois Lane and become a super-hero again to save the planet.

Its a great story, but not real.

Like all great stories, it is based on a real story though.

There is a real life person who gave up his super human powers to be with someone he loved, who was it?… Jesus

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14)

When John talks about The Word, he is talking about Jesus

In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made… Jesus became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus loves each of us so much that he chose to give up everything that made him God so that we could learn how to come close to God.

He took on a human body, having to be born from and be dependent on his mother’s body, born not in a comfortable bed, or even an NHS hospital but in a cold, dirty stable meant for animals.

He had to be a normal child from a poor family, living under the rules of and trusting in his parents, teachers and the Roman Government.

He had to give up knowing everything and being everywhere and had to start to learn what he needed to know, just like you.

He was tempted to do wrong things.

He himself pointed out he was powerless to do miracles, but that that power came from God

Like Clark Kent, he experienced pain, he would have been circumcised as a baby, was so fearful before being crucified that he actually sweated out blood, and then had to suffer beating, flogging and eventual crucifixion.

Superman realised that by becoming fully human he could not save the world.  In the real story though, it is the truth that ONLY by becoming fully human could Jesus save the world.  ONLY by becoming human could he show us how to be more like God.  We won’t all be saved though, in limiting His own power, God gives the ultimate power to us, if we choose to follow His lead He will make us like Jesus, remove the power of death, and raise us to eternal life in heaven, but if we choose not to, there is little he can do.

When you start to open your advent calendar doors on December 1st, remember that the real reward is not the tiny bit of chocolate behind it, but a countdown to the anniversary of the start of the most powerful event on earth, when the all-powerful became the power-less to give true power to any of us lost, vulnerable and needy people who choose it.

There is a hymn that starts

Emptied of His glory, God became a man,

To walk on earth in ridicule and shame.

A Ruler, yet a Servant; a Shepherd, yet a Lamb;

A Man of Sorrows, agony, and pain.

We thank you Lord, that you did all this through your love of us.  We pray that we respond by learning each day to walk ever closer with you. Amen


Genocides & Responses

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IS has now captured ever increasingly large parts of Northern Iraq and is hell bent on exterminating any non-Sunni muslim in those areas, despite the fact that such groups have lived there for millennia, longer even than islam itself has existed. Despite the BBCs inexplicable focus on other minority groups, the largest group affected is the world’s most persecuted group, the Christians. Thanks to the Internet and social media, there is a preponderance of images and reports coming out of that area too sickening to feel comfortable sharing. Search for yourself if your stomach is really strong enough for images of innocent victims of mass shootings, crucifixions, children’s bodies with no heads and collections of heads with no bodies.

And the international community responds by slowly gearing itself up to do what it can to appease the righteous indignation of its various electorates. It seems surprised and ill prepared for this kind of situation, but why? These genocides come along pretty regularly, indeed, it was in response to the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia that the UN developed its “Responsibility to Protect”, and yet still no-one has clear ideas about what to do or how to respond.


Wikimedia Commons

The problem is that violence breeds violence and it is in this escalatory situation that evil finds a verdant breeding ground. Those many individuals, not inherently evil but with all the emotional, spiritual and intellectual maturity of the primary school playground are incited and excited into the designs of the powerful and charismatic few and soon make zealous accomplices and disciples.

But unlike the playground bully, there is no higher authority to appeal to, the international community, once so happy to send their military might into the region and prematurely withdraw again leaving an opening for the present situation, is now reluctant to intervene. For the victims to stand up to their aggressors seems just as fruitless judging by the images and videos circulating, for evil is fuelled by fear and unmoved by courage. Acquiescence appears to be the only option, yet that is tantamount to endorsement.

Genocide is nothing new and seems to occur with increasing regularity. Whilst in each case the context is unique and complicated, surely there are enough similarities for the international community to by now have an initial response protocol that can be put in place swiftly whilst a more considered approach is prepared in the longer term?

If previous genocides are anything to go by, this abhorrent frenzy of brutality will eventually run its course. Its consequences and their knock-on effects will be devastating and preparation and intervention are needed now to save what can be saved. Too little too late is just too inadequate

Breath of Aslan

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Over at BIGRead14 this lent they are working through a book of poem-prayers by Stephen Cherry.  I have been much enjoying this so far and, since recording it a week or so ago, have been particularly thinking about my little contribution to it, reading the “Breath of God” poem.

So much I am thinking and feeling about this one at the moment, but one thing it keeps bringing to mind is the various descriptions of the power and effect of Aslan’s breath in CS Lewis’ Narnia books.

I leave you with an example or two from each book.

The Lion opened his mouth, but no sound came from it; he was breathing out, a long, warm breath; it seemed to sway all the beasts as the wind sways a line of trees. Far overhead from beyond the veil of blue sky which hid them the stars sang again; a pure, cold, difficult music. Then there came a swift flash like fire (but it burnt nobody) either from the sky or from the Lion itself, and every drop of blood tingled in the children’s bodies, and the deepest, wildest voice they had ever heard was saying:

“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts.”

 “Hush,” said Susan, “Aslan’s doing something.”

He was indeed. He had bounded up to the stone lion and breathed on him…I expect you’ve seen someone put a lighted match to a bit of newspaper which is propped up in a grate against an unlit fire. And for a second nothing seems to have happened; and then you notice a tiny streak of flame creeping along the edge of the newspaper. It was like that now. For a second after Aslan had breathed upon him the stone lion looked just the same. Then a tiny streak of gold began to run along his white marble back then it spread – then the colour seemed to lick all over him as the flame licks all over a bit of paper – then, while his hindquarters were still obviously stone, the lion shook his mane and all the heavy, stone folds rippled into living hair. Then he opened a great red mouth, warm and living, and gave a prodigious yawn. And now his hind legs had come to life. He lifted one of them and scratched himself. Then, having caught sight of Aslan, he went bounding after him and frisking round him whimpering with delight and jumping up to lick his face.

What put a stop to all this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls. What he could hear was breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very large scale, and Shasta got the impression that it was a very large creature. And he had come to notice this breathing so gradually that he had really no idea how long it had been there. It was a horrible shock… Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” it said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told

Then, after an awful pause, the deep voice said, “Susan.” Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. “You have listened to fears, child,” said Aslan. “Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”


As soon as the Lion’s breath came about him, a new look came into the man’s eyes—startled, but not unhappy—as if he were trying to remember something. Then he squared his shoulders and walked into the Door.”

Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, as Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.

The voice had been growing softer towards the end of this speech and now it faded away altogether. Jill looked behind her. To her astonishment she saw the cliff already more than a hundred yards behind her, and the Lion himself a speck of bright gold on the edge of it. She had been setting her teeth and clenching her fists for a terrible blast of lion’s breath; but the breath had really been so gentle that she had not even noticed the moment at which she left the earth. And now, there was nothing but air for thousands upon thousands of feet below her.

Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

“Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.

My Mum’s on Facebook

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My mum’s on Facebook, I can’t think why
She said she thought she’d give it a try
But now what I shared with Tim & with Fred,
I mistakenly shared with my mum instead.

Just a silly old comment, a harmless update,
Nothing to make anyone all that irate.
But mum saw it there and blew a fuse –
She knows that they’re not really my views,
It was only a joke, I’ve got no problem with race
And I’d never say something like that to his face.
So now she’s trying to make me say sorry
But I just can’t do that, I’ll feel such a wally.
And Tim will be loving it, hiding his smirk
When he’s done just the same, that bloody old jerk.

Why don’t mums get it, it’s between him and me,
Fred was the only one else meant to see
And anyway it’s just the way that we talk,
It doesn’t mean quite the same as she thought.

But then, if she saw it and got offended that way,
I wonder who else might have read it that day?
Hopefully not Dan, cos he actually is black
And we’re really good mates; he’d be taken aback
Surely not my teachers or that man in the shop
Who I’m trying to impress so he’ll give me a job?

They’re not online friends, I think that comments won’t show
But is that how it works? I don’t actually know.

When my mum came on Facebook, one thing I found out,
That public & private isn’t always clear cut
So that one little post, be it ever so brief,
Might, one day, go viral and cause so much grief.

Guess I’ll have to be careful before I send something new
Cos the next person I offend might be you!

Seeking Olympic God


At its most basic level, competition is not something that fits too snugly with a Christian life. It is not just about putting your goals and successes before those of others but actually involves seeking success through the subjugation of others; a far cry from St. Paul’s request to “encourage one another and build each other up” in Thessalonians 5:11

I remember from my own days as an international oarsman just how much top level athletes have to focus on themselves (and admittedly that of their crew) and their own needs and desires in order to truly excel. The sport (whichever it is) must take absolute priority to everything else and it can be extremely hard to see beyond it.

I particularly remember an occasion where a family funeral, lasting a long weekend as it was in The Highlands, was going to impact an important time-trial and there were certainly tensions. Fortunately on that occasion, we were all able to take a step back, see the ridiculousness of the situation and recognise that priorities had become unhealthy. Looking back on it now, I wonder to what extent my sport had become a form of idolatry and I wonder if elite Christian athletes today struggle with such issues.

The context of the Olympic games makes things more interesting. The ancient games were fundamentally pagan, with ritual sacrifices to Zeus being as important as the racing itself. It is understood to have come to an end at the end of the 4th century with a Roman ban on pagan practices. In founding the modern games, Pierre de Coubertin wanted the them to be religion-free, or more expressly “a religion above and outside the churches”. Yet the lighting of the olympic torch (an idea started by Hitler) begins in Athens with a prayer to the Gods Apollo and Zeus and since 1928 all gold medals bear the image of Nike, the goddess of victory. I find it a little distressing that this is the ultimate prize our elite athletes sacrifice so much in the pursuit of.

And so it is no surprise that Christians across the world, and especially in the United Kingdom, have been praying that God will be glorified through these games.

And there He was, right from the start…
Some struggle with the Hymn “Jerusalem”; I love it. Verse 1 reminds us of a time when Christianity was embedded in the heart of this country and verse 2 rousingly exhorts us to fight ceaselessly to bring Him back. Over the rest of the evening we also heard some great versions of “Guide me, oh thou great redeemer”, “Abide with me”, “Good Christian men rejoice”, and “The arrival of the Queen of Sheba”. As I tweeted at the time;

One other theme was the hilarious sketch around the music of Vangelis, “Chariots of fire” with its gentle but powerful reminder of the clear, simple and uncompromising faith of Eric Liddell. Since then the tune has been played with almost nauseating regularity; the witness of Liddell’s faith will simply not go away.

I was there when Team GB won their first gold medal. It was incredibly exciting as Glover and Stanning shot over the line and the atmosphere in the stands was fantastic… and yet He was also there in a very public way, as the British national Anthem played and we all broke into song praying for God’s blessings on the leadership of this nation. Like the National anthem or not, it is a prayer that calls on God by name three separate times in a single verse. It has been truly brilliant, with each gold medal we win (and we have won a lot so far), God’s name is invoked three-fold.

Despite my international rowing, I have never been a sportsman. I loved competing in my own sport but am not, as a rule, especially interested in others and did not even follow rowing (beyond the careers of my friends) with particular enthusiasm once I had given up. I have, however, been thoroughly enjoying these Olympics. I have been so impressed with the humility of most of those who have won their gold medals, and even more impressed with the grace of those that have not achieved the medal colour or success that the heightened expectations of a nation have heaped on them. I have enjoyed how patriotism, however jingoistic some might consider it, has been so healthy and unifying in our country the UK, when it is so often associated with drunken, aggressive and confrontational football supporters.

I recognise just how amazing an achievement it is to merely qualify for the olympics, let alone earn a medal. Yet Paul reminds us that in the race in which we all compete there is no finite number of gold medals, the everlasting prize is there for all those who have “not slept from endless fight”, have sacrificed much and have earned it. Therefore, “run in such a way as to get the prize”, 1Cor 9:24 (I wonder how many in ministry have preached on this text over the course of these weeks?)

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast” is one of Liddell’s famous quotes from the film and it resonates well with the muscular Christianity model. However, man’s striving to push the limits in the Garden of Eden led to the Fall and it was Cain’s competitiveness that led to the first murder. Is our curious and competitive nature help or hindrance in our walk with God? Or am I simply looking at all this just a little too confusedly?

I’m glad others are thinking about similar ideas, do have read of http://pickingapplesofgold.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/olympic-fever-and-being-christian.html

Moving on… Where we’re at


Well its finally happened…

Where we’ve been

Nearly a year ago, as I made my leaving speech at my last school, I recall expressing a belief that good things in life needed to be worked for but the crucial things came along “easily, quickly and unexpectedly”.  It had been a tough year, we had felt called (and several, unrelated incidences made it very clear) that we should leave the position I enjoyed serving in as a teacher and housemaster but, despite great CVs and many high level interviews, we had always come off second.  We simply could not see where we were being called to and it was scary.

The anxiety was genuine, it meant losing our job, income, school house, daughter’s school and yet our faith meant we genuinely believed something amazing would turn up by the start of the academic year and it was brilliant, but no surprise when it did.  A week into the new year I found myself in negotiations with a small private, primary school needing a headmaster.  Very frustratingly, we did not feel able to take it.  We rather felt that God was offering this as a safety line, it was actually not ideal and He was very much hoping we would choose to follow Him into the unknown.

Moving up the Ishag Glen by Karl and Ali

Since then life has been hard…

We’ve moved about a little (briefly living in a roadside inn), have had constant financial worries, limited work, pride-swallowing with job seeker’s allowance, new school issues for our daughters, disagreement with each other over decision-making, a student assault and a fractured rib, constant job applications with little response even for very basic roles.  We simply could not agree on how we were being called forward.  At times we have felt very distant from the God we proclaim to follow.  At other times, however, we have felt His calming presence and soothing nature so tangibly.

Where we’re going to

Really we felt God was holding us back, preparing us for something or, more accurately, doing work within us.  Last week, out of the blue and having been offered no permanent work all year, I was offered three jobs in the space of a few days, all were local and all I would have enjoyed.  They seemed to come “easily, quickly and largely unexpectedly”.  So, next term I am supporting the RS department at Milton Abbey and from next year I shall be supporting Sandroyd prep school, heading up their IT dept as they renovate and innovate their facilities and teaching.  I am really looking forward to both.

What we’ve learned

This time has been odd. but we have had the opportunity to explore our faith and understand the nature of God and His work in the world around us a whole heap better.  We come out of this time re-envigoured, refreshed and stronger.

If three things have made this time easier for us, they would be…

  1. The constant reminder that, despite the hardships we were struggling with, we were blessed.  We have friends around the world, and know of many others, daily struggling with a great deal more than we had to endure, so much so we feel awkward describing our time as tough at all.  Our daily needs were daily met (although not always in the ways we imagined) and we have better learned to trust in Him.
  2. Prayer to and Praise of God.  Aware of the many blessings He has provided has drawn us closer to our maker.  deeper and more regular communion with Him has enabled us, if not to see the bigger picture, to understand that there is one and that we are an integral part of it.  Patience and reliance on Him and His timings has allowed Him to prepare us for that future better and quicker.
  3. Fellowship with others has also brought us closer to Him.  on one level this has meant staying close as a family, sharing and supporting each other and necessarily withdrawing somewhat from the social whirl that was our life before.  At the same time, however, commune with others on a deeper level than ‘conversation round children’s tea’ has brought God closer into the midst of our conversations in a real but intangible way.  Social Media has been brilliant for this.

We do not see ourselves simply picking up where we left off.  spiritually speaking we are now playing a whole new game, or maybe its just on another level.  We have moved on up but find ourselves at the bottom of a new pack and and but are keen to keep progressing.

From a practical perspective, we have been given a great opportunity to engage better with God, family and the wider issues of the world.  Please pray that this time we’ve had continues to be meaningful and relevant; boarding schools have a funny way of getting their staff completely immersed.  We love that, have been missing it and are looking forward to returning to it but are keen to now keep the wider perspective in balance as well .  Please also pray for successful purpose in our lives as we explore and develop the new roles we are moving into, that we can be used by Him for his purposes through all we do and fulfil them to the very best of our abilities.

I am just going outside…


Today is the 100th anniversary of the fateful day that Captain “Titus” Oates announced to his frozen, exhausted, and desperate colleagues that immortal line…

“I am just going outside and may be some time”

He knew, struggling with severe frostbite, that he was a millstone around the neck of his team. He knew that without him, they stood a chance of making it back alive (although we know this was not to be).  He knew too, as did his friends, that he was off to his death. The man is remembered as a hero.


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