Hearts and Stars…

IStarsAndHearts mentioned the other day that true ‘friend’liness, whether merely passing or with the value of ‘times past’, is extremely powerful.

Some will say whatever; “I couldn’t care less…  stop chasing rainbows”.  I find that reaction sad, it’s not about rainbows it’s about the here and now and the person and place around the next corner.  True friendliness can change your world. was created !

People knock social media for its shallowness and frippery, but consider the fact that a significant % of your life is now online (you’re online now), a significant proportion of your spending decisions will be made online. ‘Online life’ is a fact. Like anything, it’s how you interact with (react to) social media that gives it value.

Stars and Hearts

A lot’s been written recently about Twitter’s break this year with its 10-year-old ‘favourite’ gold star symbol and its new adoption of a ‘like’ red heart symbol.

Other platforms already use the heart but for tweeters “Oh no, no, no!” was the initial outcry and a quick reactive poll about the change with more than 9000 votes said  12% liked it and 88% disliked it. No! to the hearts!!  We don’t ‘like’ change do we? I must say when I first saw the little heart I thought it a bit childish and not as worthy as the star .  Not really appropriate for the cut and thrust of twittersphere.

However Twitter has reported that “It’s a change that’s been fantastic for the platform… We see now 6% more hearts, 6% more likes on Twitter than we saw with favorites…”

As I say, a lot’s been written about the and thing – you can ‘like’ a lot of things, but a lot of things can’t be your ‘favourite’.  The heart ideograph has a lot of loaded baggage, as has the star glyph.
Lots of ‘nations’ have stars on their banners but unless I am mistaken none has a heart (yet).  The heart icon has only relatively recently gained the “loves” significance with the 1970’s “I NY”  etc.

In the end all ‘they’ want is our love (& ££££).  But £ aside, is it more effective to heartily think ‘I love this’ with a heart, or register ‘I think this is good’ with a star?  In our European culture, a heart is more emotional than a star.  Oh no, emotion!!  Can’t go there can we?

I have not been a publicly cuddly person, I dislike public shows of affection and I sigh at the mention of “heartfelt wishes” and “send them my love” etc.  And, I hate (yes, extremely dislike; I think it’s quite unhelpful) the use of the heart when referring to the idea of a soul.  But, I have warmed to the little heart symbol. Perhaps it’s living with (and loving) three females or perhaps I am getting old.

What’s in a symbol?

Depending on your culture there can be a lot of connotative significance given (loaded) to a heart or star symbol but from my perspective…

Heart ‘symbol’  emotive, alive, love, affection, romantic, happy, vital, positive, blood, sacred, spiritual, physical, curvy, warm, reality?

Star ‘symbol’ special, scientific, fame, pointy, sharp, characteristic, celestial, attainment, high ideals, distant, imaginary?

Of course there will always be those that hate (Grrrrrrffff!) both stars and hearts, but I say again; true ‘friend’liness, whether merely passing or with the value of times past, is extremely powerful.

Seasonally you can debate and argue about the mythical star in the east and the significance of the story. But I don’t think you can argue with the heart element.  We love because we were first loved 
1 John 4:19 . Immanuel, was made flesh ?

StarsAndHeartsI guess it’s a choice, click  “I love life” or  “I think life is good”

Go on… “you gotta love it!“?




After a recent comments with friends around the phenomena of #conkers, a remarkable seed if ever there was one, I though I’d share the below with you good folks…

I created these a while ago to accompany a friend’s poem.

Do feel free to download and use them in your community as an aid to worship or reflection.

Where appropriate please reference

Please DO NOT use these © images commercially.

Sincere wishes of growth and hope.





Three Poems…

3PoemBMsI have been asked to produced three visuals to accompany the reading of three poems at the forthcoming Methodist Conference – July 2013.

Considering that listening, watching and doing, are all ways in which we can realise new things, these visuals hopefully provide another dynamic to the text of the poems.

The images will be displayed on large screens and will also be supplied as a handy bookmark for reference and contemplation.
You can see the pics here

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Love” by George Herbert.

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me…

“The Kingdom” by R. S. Thomas

It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king…

“How everything adores being alive” by Mary Oliver.

What if you were a beetle, and a soft wind
and a certain allowance of time had summoned you out of your wrappings,
and there you were…

click titles for poems


Disney… ?

Which story do you believe? Suspend disbelief…
What would the world be without “bread and circus”?
Foolishness? Loneliness? Love hurts… if you fight it…

We received a wonderful gift! However initially the prospect of the trip to Disneyland Paris was dread-tinged. Pop-up plastic tinsel-town, fixed grins and sparkly smiles, with extra salt and sugar, and inevitable apple-pie, s’il vous plaît… humm… “well, the kids will love it”

However, It was quite a remarkable experience. The Americans don’t do things by half do they!  I guess whether it’s love or war they can lay it on with spades and in style?

Generally, at the Disney complex, not a thing was out of place, nothing was tardy or broken, no litter or debris, constant shine polish and the prospect of sparkle. And, that’s not just the facilities and attractions, it’s also the attitude of “the cast”, from the actors to the cleaners, they radiated something “fresh”.  It’s hard to “believe” they did it everyday without dropping the sparkly, shiny, hope-filled ball.

Perhaps the “Euro”-Disney had a certain je ne sais quoi… that an all-American park might not. It has a sense of fantasy that ‘europeans’ might identify with, the mix of languages added to the mystery and the small-world-ness, it somehow aided the suspension of disbelief.

Yes it’s “Disney” and all that stands for (that’s another story), but put aside for a moment, the brands, the money, and the negligence, and what comes through is some kind of hope. As their incessant but agreeable music goes “There’s magic in the air…”

Yes it was sunny, the whole family was together, our children were wide-eyed and in wonderment. It made it easy to imbibe the joy, the glory(?).

Yes, in retrospect it’s to do with hypnosis, hysteria, the chords and phrasing and lyric of the music, “the powwher of suggestion”.  It’s sugar coated, but what is it that the sugar is coating?


We included a trip to Paris, along with berets, pidgin french, Joe Dassin and a trip up the tower etc.  In contrast to my last trip to Paris 15 or so years ago (which involved copious wine, trousers, and piano bars) it was quite a different experience.

I guess the whole experience is coloured by my midlife perspective but enough analysis.

Thanks G&P for the fabulous gift, for us, a trip of a lifetime.

Belive: OK, it is not etymologically correct, but if you can be-live the experience, (and are lucky to get the opportunity), then en-glory it.

Suspend disbelief… what would the world be without bread and circus!?

You won’t believe the dirt, the rain…
This cruel world seems full of such unhappiness
If our lives collide we may get out of this
Surges of light
Breaking the dark
Shining across this universe
If our lives collide then we’ll get out of this
We’ll soar into the never ending universe
Nothing else but gravity will limit us
We will ride our rocket ship and fly away
To the avenue
Of stars

Deacon Blue: “Stars”, “The Hipsters”


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.

Bike Uncategorized

We cycle to know we are not alone…

As you know I cycle. However (bear with me),  cycling as a sport is not my thing. I don’t find the spin and whirl of the latest chrome or carbon gadgets specifically exciting, I don’t find the latest audacious audax or spritely sportif of interest, “different chevaux for different courses” I guess.

Cycling for me is a way of travelling, getting from a to b, but also it can be a catalyst to seeing the world and your place in it in a new way. Not easy to summarise, it’s essentially an ongoing experience, but over the last year or so I have discovered a few notable (and readable) cycling related reads.

One of my first finds was “The Bicycle Book” by Bella Bathurst.

It’s a great read on the essence of the bike and bicycling. I’d suggest an essential starter.

“What is it about the bicycle that so enchants us? And why do its devotees become so obsessed with it?
A journey through cycling’s best stories and strangest incarnations. A brilliantly engaging portrait of cycling’s past, present and…”


It’s all about the bike” by Rob Penn was another good read.

A great enthusiastic study and search for the best in cycling without overdoing the technical.
“the bike’s story, from its cultural history to its technical innovation to the fascinating colourful stories of the people who ride it…. with humor, humility, and authoritative intelligence… a rare and precious portal to the heart and soul of bike culture and its surprising footprint on all of culture”

Recently found, and I’m still reading, a lighthearted but enlightening read “The Enlightened Cyclist“.


Making me smile and think…
“Discussing the trials and triumphs of bike commuting with snark, humor, and enthusiasm: If we become better commuters, will that make us better people?”

It’s great when you find the reading of books build on each other. Indeed, when unrelated books enforce each other and start to agree and colour a picture in your mind, then life can seem more real.
In “Shadowlands” we imagine C S Lewis “we read to know we are not alone”.
I suggest we also can cycle to know we are not alone.


Incidentally, TBB borrowed from the local library, IAATB and TEC via KoboBooks.
I guess the drawback to readers of the ebook paradigm shift is that I can’t lend you the book to read…! ?
*** Incidentally, 5 years on and I read real books, the e-reader needs charging ***


Enchanted by the sparkle of novelty.

It rained the other day (you may have noticed). My initial reaction was:

“glorious ride in rain, utterly invigorating and uplifting, joyous, rain-in-mouth, deacon-blue-in-head, alive!!! #initialunconsideredreaction”

After the endorphins settled, my slightly more-considered reaction commented on the “Blessed Rain” see below

And today; the wet ride in was again ‘refreshing’, but I came to consider that we’re often enchanted by the sparkle of novelty.

The novelty of rain, sun, the new, the old, the different, the shiny, the dull, the kill, the birth, …

When we perceive new things we are often enchanted and drawn to the joy that they evoke.
That joy might be temporary, fleeting or deep and wholesome – it might be nurturing and essential or unhealthy and toxic.
I hope we can all realise any opportunity for enchantment but be wary of its captivating effect on our perspective and attitude.

Make the most of ‘the different’ today, en-joy it, but be mindful as you might also have too much of a good thing?

Be alive, get wet, dry off, be alive!

[Facebook post]

Blessed Rain?

On the cycle ride in today the rain was (just a tad) refreshing.

Yup, it was wet, grey, and not-warm, but other than that, we’re all alive! (those that are that is).
I guess it’s a fine line between seeing the rain as a blessing or a curse.
Some say, “nowt such thing as bad weather just bad preparation.” ?
I dare say farmers, flood victims, and those with leaky roofs, might disagree with that. (I do feel for the flood victims. I wonder if town-planning and traffic infrastructure is part of the cause?) Perhaps you can have too much of a good thing…
But on the whole, we do tend to generally curse the (blessed?) rain.
Yes, we’ve had our fair share of it this summer, but let’s not always curse it.
“Oh it’s a miserable day” I hear. Umm… no, you’re “being miserable” about “the day”!?
Today I rode in; I could have focused on negative observations;
Cold, wet hands, wet feet, cars without lights in the rain, cars with poor condition screen demisters and wipers, the majority of school-kids with nice new blazers and no coats(!) in pouring rain (that’s teens for you I guess), poor visibility, wet leaves on the ground, puddles, spray from cars… no sun…
Or might I focus on positive observations;
Alive, rain-in-your-mouth, invigorating rain-on-head, the freedom of cycling is heightened by the stream of smoking almost-stationary traffic steaming into the city, Deacon Blue (Raintown) in my head, the joy of passing the usual pedestrian suspects, “morning!” with a smile, the toddlers loving their pink umbrellas, the thought of nature needing life-giving water…
Be alive, get wet, dry off, be alive!

…then after a day in an office…
Blessed Rain! Be alive, get wet, dry off, be alive!



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…




I thought “Imagine a world where nothing rhymed”… a friend was bemused by this. I hadn’t thought much about it, but it just resonated with me. And so I pondered a little more…


I’m thinking rhyme is when things work together, then things just sing, create, live, love, blossom and grow… when simple combinations can trample or crush big ideas, when a few letters can illuminate the fabulous…
Think of our world without any of this rhyming.
A language where we can’t sing about a thing, with the ring of a hymn, and dance and prance and discover by chance… the warmth of a flame and chill of the lame…
Birds flying is a rhyme in a most fundamental form – birds fly high in a sky… A place where a birds can’t fly? A world without such, imagined realities would be dull indeed.
Stuff needs to go together.
The interaction between things is what makes them fecund…
Alas we so often fail to see the rhymes around us, we clash and deny the beauty and often struggle to reach harmony, I guess it’s due to bad grammar and ‘stuff’.