holy habits?

JPRWhiteonWhiteOK ‘discipline’, again…

I like the idea of ‘soft discipline’ (it’s best if you), but dislike ‘hard discipline’ (you should). Don’t we all?

We all subscribe to cultural norms whether we buy the t-shirts or not, and in turn we all soft or hard
discipline ourselves to think in certain ways.

I shy away from many harder disciplines especially superstitious, ritualistic historical ways.

I guess there always has to be motive, or reason.

For the last few weeks I have made the decision to “shave my facial hair” almost daily (otherwise known
as my “shrew”). To be clean shaven – not something that I have made a habit of in the past.

I have been entertaining the idea of ‘habits that help focus the mind’.

This is not for aesthetic, religious, or practical reasons – but as a trigger to remind me of ‘mindfulness’.

At first this seemed an odd idea, but it has produced effect.

I can’t pinpoint what effect, but it’s “a decision”, a catalyst, that reminds and projects onto one’s world

It requires time and action. It’s a physical, visual, sensual and personal act. But what have I associated it

Attitude, worth, image, health, cleanliness, imperfection, routine…

As a single act it’s relatively meaningless, but when combined with other ambitions it seems to resonate.

It reminds you of growth, change, time, nature…

It reminds you of ablution, presentation, countenance…

It requires a daily decision, growth just happens…

To be wild, to sculpt an image, or to cleanse and routinely resolve towards clarity… ?

#holyhabits ?


Sunday Morning Stories

Picasso said “Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”
He also said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” 

It’s become a tradition in our house, along with the wake-up cuppa, for the four of us to have a bedtime(8am) story together, from Leo Sofer.

PT’s “Flowers”

The Palace of Stories is a collection of Leo’s stories for children.

Are you looking for high quality stories for your children that will not just entertain them but inspire them too?
Do you find mainstream culture – be it TV, movies or books – conveying messages to your child that you feel uneasy about?
For thousands of years, storytelling has been humanity’s way of passing on timeless wisdom to the next generation.
The best stories open our hearts, evoke love and compassion, remind us of our inner strength and encourage us to bring our deepest dreams to life.

The richness, and value of “the imagination” is so often lost in our world of instant image, sound and even taste.

Yes a quick-fix pick-n-mix is great every now and then, but we all know that to grow and “be happy, be healthy and get well soon” we need nourishing food.

It’s the same with how we inform and entertain ourselves; inside and above these stories there’s a wealth of truth for all.

As Leo says children can be “as hungry for stories as they are hungry for food… I want to make sure they get the nourishing sort of both!”

He has a website for adults too that we are yet to try as we’re happy with the kids’ stuff.

If you want to try it there’s a FREE PODCAST story every month – check it out.


a simple real ‘down-to-earth’ event


It’s almost Christmas and even the sternest of critics is likely to hum at least a bar of something related to Christmas over the coming few weeks.

Many will have heard the Christmas story again (you can find it in Luke 2:1-20).  Surprisingly the written part of this story is relatively short. The details in the Biblical account have been somewhat embellished overtime by high and pop culture retellings.

For me it helps to ‘realise’ the story to know that the flowery bits are there due to colourful imagination and that in essence it was possibly a simple real ‘down-to-earth’ event.

Many take  for granted that Jesus was born in a stable, it’s hard to un-imagine the imagery; however, the Gospel never mentions exactly where the baby was born – just where he was laid afterward. It’s just one of the embellishments built into mythology surrounding the Christmas story that we take for granted.

Did Mary ride a donkey to Bethlehem? Perhaps, but there are various other possibilities. The Bible doesn’t say how she got to Bethlehem. It only says that she came with Joseph.

Did Mary arrive in Bethlehem the night she gave birth? The Bible does not suggest this. They could have arrived weeks earlier. The Bible simply states, “while they were there [in Bethlehem], the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6). Arriving in town well before her due date would make more sense.

Thanks to Huw Spanner for these thoughts:

There were no inns or stables in first-century Bethlehem! The Gospels imply that he was born in a house full of family. Ordinary houses then consisted of a lower ground floor where the family’s animals spent the night and an upper ground floor (ie a stone platform) where the family lived and slept. The manger would simply have been an alcove in the side of the platform. More affluent families would have had a first floor – an upper room (as in the Last Supper) for relatives and other guests to stay in.

Early translators didn’t really know what the Greek word meant, so (IIRC) they guessed it meant “inn”. There is no mention of a stable in any of the Gospels in any translation. But first-century Bethlehem was much too small a town to have an inn, let alone a stable. Besides, the reason Joseph was in Bethlehem in the first place was because he had to go back to his home town for the Roman census. Therefore, he would have had family in Bethlehem, and all his relatives would have come down for the census. No one would have stayed in an inn (even if there had been one) if one of their extended family had a house locally – if for no other reason than that it would have been very insulting to their extended family. Joseph and Mary had been engaged when she became pregnant, and they were certainly married by the time she gave birth.

Thus, the situation the Gospels imply is that Joseph’s family home was full of visiting relatives – the upper room was full – so the baby was put in the manger. The house would have been warm, the manger would have had hay in it and Jesus would have been surrounded by his extended family. A very different picture from the one that Christmas carols and cards, and authors of blessed thoughts and Nativity plays, like to paint.

… in essence it was possibly a simple real ‘down-to-earth’ event.



After my last “puzzled” post, an appealing poem by Gerard Kelly was shared with me.
Thanks R.


This poem/prayer is something many can identify with, however, for me, its dressing of religious tones is unhelpful (for me… I think).

I support the idea and practice of “faith and understanding” within various religious subcultures, but personally I have difficuties with our relationship with the terminology surrounding “God”, and the ideology outlining the reality that “is” true life.

For me, a prayer, which is what this is, needs to be ‘real’ for it to truly be exercised; to come alive when read and hence ressonate with the reader.

I applaud such word-smithery for its conviction, and indeed such as this does help many pilgrims to realise their faith.

But for me, for now, I have to rework it to fit my perspective – I guess it’s just me?

For me, the contemporary idea of Christianity’s ‘God’, carries sooooo much baggage, inference, misunderstanding, disillusionment and disappointment…

For me, I struggle to name this reality of ‘God’.  Naming ‘it’ tends to colour it with an often unhelpful character. Even “nature”, “spirit”, “a glorious righteous life-force” might be unhelpful.

But ‘it’ is a reality, and should be sought, embraced and respected.

Fit me In Somewhere
By Gerard Kelly [notes JPR] Fit me in somewhere
In this giant jigsaw, God*.
Somewhere in this work of art y
Select a space my shape can fill
And with a puzzle maker’s skill
Let my contours find their fit without contortion.

Teach me
[help me see] which patch I am[might be], God*,
In the cosmic quilt you’re quilting.
[quilt too positive? Warm and fuzzy?, suggest picture, painting?]
Show me where my square of selfhood is of use.
Let the colourful complexities
Of the pattern that is me
Find their purpose in the placement that you* choose.
[“right place”? I have yet to know god’s opinion?]

Show me my position, God*,
in this group photograph.
Stand me where you* want me to stand.
Put me next to whom you* will.
Make me stand, for good or ill,
Precisely in the place your plan
[your plan? “true life”]demands.

Tell me what I am, God*
in this body you* are building [not sure]:
a tongue to taste,
a nerve to serve,
an ear to hear.
Give me grace
to not be, gracefully,
the parts I am not called to be
and to play with elegance
the roles I’m given.

Fit me in somewhere
In the giant jigsaw, God*,
Somewhere in this work of art you’re working.
Weave your wondrous tapestry
Until the twisted, tangled threads of me,
Surrendered to your artistry,
Form an image that is beautiful to see.

[yet still aware of the tapestry’s thready loose ends on the back ;-)]

*For me ‘God’ carries sooooo much baggage and inference, misunderstanding and disappointment…  


Fit me In Somewhere Also…
(after Gerard Kelly…)O true life, that is right, all-encompassing and real…

Fit me in somewhere
In this giant jigsaw.
Somewhere in this living work of art
Select a space my shape can fill
And with a puzzle maker’s skill
Let my contours find their fit without contortion.
Help me know which patch I might be,
In the cosmic picture you’re, painting.
Show me where my square of selfhood is of use.
Let the colourful complexities
Of the pattern that is me
Find their purpose in the a place that right, good and true.

Show me my position, in this group photograph.
Stand me where‘s best to stand.
Put me next to whom you will.
Make me stand, for good or ill,
Precisely in the place your true living demands.

Tell me what I am, in this body that’s growing:
a tongue to taste,
a nerve to serve,
an ear to hear.
Give me grace
to not be, gracefully,
the parts I am not called to be
and to play with elegance
the roles I’m given.

Fit me in somewhere
In the giant jigsaw,
Somewhere in this living work of art.
Weave your wondrous tapestry
Until the twisted, tangled threads of me,
Surrendered to your artistry,
Form an image that is beautiful to see.

[yet still aware of the tapestry’s thready loose ends on the back ;-)]

O true life that is right and encompassing and real, Fit me in somewhere…



Other people’s shoes…

Reflecting on the ordinary amongst the extraordinary…

The Methodist Church have asked each District to make a prayer symbol to help people to support the Olympics, Paralympics & Cultural Olympiad in prayer.
Rachel Parkinson (of Leicester North Circuit) and her team approached me with the engaging idea: “Put yourself in their shoes…


Put yourself in their shoes simply features 8 images of people and their shoes…

The posters will be displayed in more than 100 community buildings across the district.
The images will also be reflected on in presentations and worship events across the region.
Thanks goes to Leicester College photography students for some of the photos.
I simply designed the graphics and artworked the posters etc.

“The Games” will no doubt focus, elevate and trumpet, extraordinary achievements in the next few months, which indeed should be marvelled at, celebrated and applauded.
These posters will hopefully act as a catalyst causing us to reflect and remember the ordinary in, under, amongst and over the extraordinary phenomenon of the next few months’ Olympiad.

The posters underpin the reflections with the idea “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to share the gospel of peace” from Ephesians Ch.6 v15



I commented on “worship” last October: taking a bath the interaction between things is what make them…

I recently saw someone comment that they “NEED to worship God”, that when they begin to worship “something happens within me… natural selfishness gets kicked out the back door and my heart* opens up to the transforming, powerful, grace-filled-love* of God*.  …it reminds me… that all of the responsibilities and struggles I take on are in his-hands*, and that I can trust him to walk-with-me* and not abandon me, to give me the words and the strength.  …to remember the love-he-has-for-me*, to be open to the work of the Holy-Spirit* and to remind myself that he is that centre. Worship helps me to know that I-am-loved*, and it sets me free to love others, and to see the grace-of-God* at work in the world around me.” 

They commented: “so often in discussions about worship we have a tendency to make worship about us and not about God. …it is important that we don’t forget what it is for and who it is about. In worship God becomes greater and I-become-less*…     I need to worship!”

(I have concerns with some of these * notions)

My admittedly imperfect perspective might be as follows:
I need to worship (to adore, revere, respect, devote, admire, venerate, celebrate?) the thing /notion/sense/power(?) that is bigger than us all”.
When I recognise the reality of otherness and possibilities, it helps to refocus on the bigger picture and review perspectives, attitudes and opinions in a fresh way.
To repeatedly recognise the fabula (story) of ‘life’, and reappraise the sjužet (discourse, perspectives, attitudes, opinions – interaction) can enrich the poor, liven the dead, and can make the blind see.
To review the selfishness that often hinders creativity and open up to the transforming, power of reconsideration.
Life is limited but the clouds move.
This worship reminds me that I am relevant in daily the interaction and it sets me free to let others be.
Worship is about us as part of the fabula and yes, it is important that we don’t forget our place in things.
In worship, life becomes greater and we become more real…        we need to worship!”

(None of this considers the euphoria, endorphins and satisfaction induced by standing and singing etc – that’s another topic.)


A method in the madness?

Methodism and the Cornish Miner: a worthwhile read of you have 30mins.

I was given this pamphlet recently by a friend of a friend. It was produced in 1960. It’s the type of thing that could easily Have been lost! I found it a worthwhile short read -but then again I can identify with being brought up in the 70s in the pews of Cornish Methodism.

This account details how at a certain point in history, the church and its activities had a great effect… (?)

Even if you have no spiritual life/faith, Christian ideas have always given practical advice about how to handle failure, dejection and loss… etc.

It may be no accident that the huge increase in the incidence of common mental health issues seems to coincide with the decline of religion in the West and the loss of a whole tradition experienced in dealing with, if not answering, life’s unanswerable questions. There might be extreme misdirection but there might be also valuable insights offered by Christian teaching if you can fend off the theological language and hoopla in which it’s dressed.
Download a scanned copy here – GDRIVE link: Methodism and the Cornish Miner

Download a scanned copy here – DROPBOX link: Methodism and the Cornish Miner


Pilgrimage, going outside for some time…

Gotta make it positive! (says the little sprite on my right shoulder).  Awwh *!£#@!##%! !*#&*! (says the little !*#&* on t’other)…

It must have been 15 years or so ago that I wrote “We’re going outside, I may be sometime…”

Sun sets on St Ives
Sun sets on St Ives
‘We’re going outside and we may be some time’
Twenty-five years I grew, nurtured on Cornwall and the Cornish manner, the Cornishness that is now part of me. I still day-dream, of a ‘T’ shirt that announces “I’m Cornish and proud of it…” …is that all I have to cling to? (I haven’t even got this day-dream of mine).
I spent a childhood full of Cornwall’s riches: pebbles a sand, fIzzypop in cans, wind and rain, tunnels, holes, alleys & bunkers, vast sun-scorched gorse torched views, I could see both coasts from our bathroom window.
Spirits of the sea always whisper to me, the loudest whispers I’ve ever heard. I’ve heard in Leicestershire, Crewe and Nice, I saw a little red boat barely afloat.
I cried at the beauty surrounding me as the holidayers screamed and sizzled and I laughed. I sat alone at the end of the phone, I ran with the gang, at low tide, across St Ives Bay, on new years day. We drank and we sang and played in the band. Gran bought saffron buns at Sunday-school treat, and pasties and pasties and pasties. Slept in the snow on the rocks on Carn Brea, laughed at what nan a grandad would say (that’s not the grandad that died in the fishing boat accident). Ate winkles with pins and vinegar picked from Porthleven harbour, got filthy. Held on tight as the storm wind rips so hard it bites. Sat in a haystack in the sun and got covered in mites. I’ve lay for hours and been soaked up by the whole of Mounts Bay, on the clearest ever, hottest ever, hottest ever day. Walked home at midnight from to Camborne from Hayle, met a girl in Redruth and another in St Just, got drunk in Crantock, earnt a wage in St Ives ‘ saw a dream in St Austell, learnt some verbs in Fowey… grew towards man from boy in Cornwall…
…only, they’re all memories.
I return and see the most rugged of faces smile and share the day like children returning to play, waves so worn from years of scorn, skies so blue they seem brand new. A scarred town refuses to frown, yet sings and raises its glasses, everywhere I look I see me and I see pasty smiles, rugby miles, unique Cornwall style saying this is us but we do say we.
I’ve moved away now, don’t know why, but I know I can’t go back. Jane’s not there, Craig’s gone, David’s moved off, So has Jon. Matthew’s in Manchester, Lisa’s in Suffolk, Richard’s in Cardiff, Kay’s in Bath, Lee is in Luton and Mark is in Crewe, and I’m in Leicester for something to do. Cornwall, in essence, has everything, God and the Devil are surely within. but it hasn’t got what I’m looking for. . . . what am I looking for?
I’m going outside and I may be some time…

I caught a podcast recently where Ernie Rea and his guests discussed “Pilgrimage”.
Beyond Belief’ BBC Radio 4 : “Every year more than 100 million people around the world go ‘on pilgrimage’, the biggest mass migration of people on the planet. Two and a half million Muslims visited Mecca for last year’s Hajj and over 600,000 visited Graceland to worship at the shrine of Elvis Presley. Is there something in the human psyche which seeks fulfillment from… [pilgrimage]?”

I understand pilgrimage to be: a journey outside the norm or an escape to something significant – typically aiming for a place of importance central to or ‘at the heart of’ a person’s world view. A seeking to discover, understand or be healed? The ‘quest’ is sometimes linked with oracles and finding a source of counsel or understanding. It would seem this is a common human experience that has been specifically studied and written on widely.

To venture outside of the norm…
I read books to discover? escape? understand?
I watch films to discover? escape? understand?
I listen to music to discover? escape? understand?
I sing and play music to discover? escape? understand?
I cycle to discover? escape? understand?
I surf the web to discover? escape? understand?
I imbibe festival and celebrations to discover? escape? understand?
I wander the countryside to discover? escape? understand?
I feed the birds and talk to my pets to discover? escape? understand?
I live to discover? escape? understand?

Most weekends we have a holiday “Holy Day” where we make an effort to do something to discover, escape, understand or experience something out of the ordinary.
Are we ourselves on an ongoing macro-(micro?)-pilgrimage to the outside?

I wonder as I wander… outside for sometime…


Talking a bath!??

I recently asked, what is “this”…
We have an urge to do “this”, to look further, to ask and to share, to grow to be thankful…
“This” is ultimately fulfilling, enriching and purging…
It’s not interested in assumptions and restrictions…
It can be vibrant and effervescent as well as reflective and contemplative…
It can focus goodness and growth and transform decay and death…
It’s more than that…
It’s fecundity, nurture, and cleansing
It’s for the multitude and the you…
What am I…?
And a friend answered… “a bath?” This made me smile ‘cos to a certain extent it was a right answer. Humm….

The above was actually my initial response to the question in a contemporary context what is “worship”?
Do what?.. to celebrate… simulate… reflect a bigger picture, of the right-eous, the essence of life and growth… of a god?
With a post-evangelical, post-‘churchless-faith’ mindset, I’m afraid I find myself having to start with a blank page.
I have found past experiences of Christian subcultural behaviour to ultimately be disappointing, distracting and unhelpful.
I’ve entertained various approaches and seen vibrant and effervescent celebrations as well as reflective and contemplative encounters and will agree that goodness can be focused, shared and grown in many Christian meetings, however sometimes meetings can become self-fulfilling.


Clubs are all well and good but to me the idea of celebrating the essence of a God-centered truth should be more than a club activity.
I hoped real living life might lead to a truer worship than some labeled coded activities – but alas individualism is ultimately ‘in vain’…
‘In vain’ we individually search for sense, reason, peace and ‘more’ – but often on our terms. I do wish to look further than myself but as you might expect it seems impossible for one to see beyond what one can see – especially when ones experience of others is disappointing, distracting and unhelpful.
But the interaction between things is what makes them fecund, or as someone else once put it ‘where two or more a gathered, there will I be there also’ – I agree we need to meet and share to feed the multitude… but I’m not sure we need to sing “shine Jesus shine”… ?
I’m going for a bath.