Author Archives: SMCjon

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 54

John 4 v 7 – 14

Our Cup Runeth Over

Back in 1966 when I first met my wife Jean, her mum had tea, coffee and biscuits delivered to her door by a company called, ‘Ringtons’. When Jean’s mum and dad moved to Derby in the late 1970s, then so did Ringtons and they still continued to deliver tea, coffee and biscuits to their doorstep. After mum and dad both passed away I didn’t have that heart to cancel the Ringtons fortnightly visits, so guess what? They still deliver to me, it is almost a tradition. Obviously the van has changed and the driver, but the nature of the service has still remained after all these years.

I don’t know if they still supply loose tea any more, but as they supply speciality teas it is quite possible that they do, although I have tea bags.

I think there is something about a cup of tea that is refreshing, even on a hot day,                re-assuring when you need to think through a problem and also the panacea to any state of emergency. No matter what the crisis may be, the first step in rectifying the situation is to put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

As a young man I always drank my tea and coffee with both milk and sugar, however, when I left school and started work, invariably building sites were devoid of either milk, ( that was not ‘off’) or sugar so my taste changed to having both beverages without any additives. One thing that I do find unacceptable is tea made in a cup and not in a tea pot. At home I have a very small tea pot for use when I am by myself and I always make the tea in the pot and pour it into my cup. To me it never tastes the same when the tea bag is placed in the cup and the water added, however, I don’t go through the very British procedures of warming the pot first before adding the tea and the final hot water, or making sure that the water is still boiling when poured on the tea, or any of the other idiosyncrasies that go with making the perfect cup of tea.

I understand that in some Eastern cultures making a cup of tea is quite a long and elaborate process which results in a very small cup of tea. Some techniques involve letting the boiling water cool slightly to allow oxygen back into the water, or pouring the tea from a great height to achieve the same result. At the end of the day it is all down to a matter of taste and as we are all individuals our tastes differ.

For example, before noon I tend to drink tea but after noon I usually drink coffee. This differs from other members of my family who require coffee at breakfast to kick start the day. Other aspects can influence our tea drinking experience and the taste. Does filtered water make a better cup of tea than tap water? Does the shape of the cup or mug affect the taste of the tea? Why, when having multiple cups of tea, does the first cup taste better than all the others? How long can a tea pot be allowed to stand before the tea is undrinkable? Is a cup of tea brewed or mashed?

In this world of intense and complicated technical solutions to almost any question or conundrum, why can’t we answer the question of how to make the perfect cup of tea?

In John’s gospel we find Jesus and the disciples walking on a long and tiresome journey from Judea through Samaria, to Galilee. In that part of the world and at that time of year, it would have been cool in the early morning but quite hot by the mid- day.

We are told that the disciples had ventured off to find food in the adjacent town of Sychar and Jesus had found his way to a spring that formed Jacob’s well. It was noon (12.00 Jewish time and 18.00 Roman time) and the temperature would have been reaching its height. Together with an early start, a long journey and the heat of the day, Jesus would have been tired hot and in need of refreshment.

At the well he met with a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water. Her presence is of great significance for several reasons. She was a loan woman with no companions. It was the hottest part of the day and not a time people would be usually drawing water. She met a man, (Jesus) not only a man but a Jew who spoke to her and asked for water.

It is possible that this woman was a social outcast which could give an indication of why she was there in these circumstances, and she had brought with her a water pot to fill. The water she would drink would refresh her physically but not spiritually.

In this passage we see Jesus reaching out to win the soul of this woman and to set her free from the spiritual prison that she was in. He brought her to realise her needs and also offered to her the solution to her problems. He offered her forgiveness, salvation and freedom, true refreshment which would last her lifetime.

Possibly for the first in her life she was not condemned, judged or ridiculed, but was offered love and forgiveness.

When Ringtons call the driver always has a little speech to promote the special offers on that week. These can range from special offers on biscuits, boxes of cakes and so on. On his last visit he offered me a special pack of hand cream and body lotion

I tactfully explained that I had little use for a large bottle of body lotion but I could make good use of a packet of double chocolate chip cookies

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 53

Luke 14 v 1 – 6; Galatians 3 v 15 – 18

Contrasts

I enjoy watching a television programme on BBC 4 called, ‘The Joy of Painting’, where an artiste called Bob Ross, creates a landscape masterpiece with apparently little effort. During his presentation he uses a number of short sayings for advice to his students. One such saying is, ‘Put dark on light and put light on dark’, making the point that contrasts are important in order to make the whole picture stand out.

This made me think of how often contrasts interject into our everyday life in order to make our life’s picture stand out. There is no corner of our life that is not affected or influenced by this phenomenon, our choice of food, fashion, music and opinions;- now there is a cauldron for discussion, the contrasts of opinions.

Over the centuries there have been wars generated from a contrast of opinions. My dad had a saying, ‘The whole world is queer bar thee and me – and I’m not sure about thee’. What he meant to say is that his opinion was right and the rest were all wrong. I hasten to say that this was not always the case, after all my opinion was the right one and he didn’t always agree with me.

There are some areas where contrasts are more prevalent than others, for example, in between young and old generations, fashions, religion and politics. I think that when God granted us the ability to have an opinion, he didn’t take into account the political arena.

As in the Law of Physics there is an equal and opposite force, then in politics there is always an equal and opposite contrasting opinion. This seems to regularly descend the Houses of Parliament into chaos between the governing party and the opposition.  However, this freedom of speech and clash of opinion is central and essential to our democratic system of government and from the apparent chaos raises the right decision. (Although that depends on which side you support).

I must say that I recently came across a news item that left me confused and concerned about human nature. It was a news report by an Indian dentist practicing in India, who had contracted COVID virus. She was young and not from the poorer sector of the Indian community. In addition she worked in the clinical environment of the hospital but she had still contracted the virus. In her video clip she was pleading with the countries of the world, including the UK, not to be complacent when it appeared we were successfully beating the pandemic. The virus was still there and had to be recognised and her desperate situation was evidence to this.

The following news item involved a man standing outside a theatre. He was bitterly complaining about the government restrictions that prevented his choir from performing at the theatre behind him. He obviously considered that as the number of infections had reduced considerably, the government should relax the restrictions that prevented the theatre from opening.

Two contrasting opinions both moulded by the situations in which the participants were involved.

I should point out that the young dentist in India passed away shortly after making the video appeal.

The Bible is a book full of contrasts, good against evil, reformation against tradition, life against death and opinions. In Luke’s Gospel we find Jesus invited for a meal at the home of a leading Pharisee. The Jewish leaders already knew about Jesus and had no doubt witnessed some of his miracles and acts of healing. The invitation was unlikely to have been made as a friendly gesture as we are told that everyone was watching Jesus closely. It becomes even more suspicious when a man with swollen arms and legs happens to approach Jesus but Jesus sees through the Pharisee’s plot and turns the tables asking the Pharisee what they would permit under the Law.

The act of healing is not the issue here, but when the healing took place, that is on the Sabbath. Jesus points out that if oxen, (a valuable animal) needed to be rescued on the Sabbath that would be accepted. The man was even more valuable than the oxen so is it not right that he should be saved?

Paul in his letter to the Galatians had a similar problem with the Jewish leaders. Paul preached that to be one with God, (Justification), depended on faith in Jesus Christ. Through faith we can live our lives in accordance with the gospel and share in the Good News of Salvation.

The Jewish leaders violently disagreed with Paul saying that Justification can only come from compliance with the Law of Moses. Paul takes them back to Abraham who was in favour with God before the Law was introduced therefore was Justified by faith and not by acts of works.

I recall, as a young teenager, coming home after purchasing a pair of black suede ‘Winkle Picker ‘ (long pointed toe) boots with a Cuban heel. I thought they were the best pair of boots on the planet and I had shown then to my friend and enjoyed the look of envy on his face. Surprisingly my mum and dad did not share my enthusiasm. ‘Nice’ young people did not go round wearing such shoes, and they would only lead me into trouble. In addition, that style of shoe would disfigure my feet for the rest of my life.

I still wore the boots until the Cuban heels had worn down so far that walking was impossible, anyway they were so out of fashion by then.  

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 52

Galatians 2 v 6 – 10

Give us a Hug

I think it would be true to say that if the COVID restrictions had existed when I was a youngster, I would have probably breathed a sigh of relief. Not just because school would have been cancelled, but also because it would have put a temporary hold on Sunday visits to relatives. Most Sunday afternoons were taken up by loading all the family into dad’s truck or van, whichever he had at the time, and setting off to Rothwell near Leeds or Wakefield, to see mum’s relatives.

Now, due to dad’s role in the war he left the army with a driving licence but never actually passed a driving test and this was evident in his style of driving. Add this to the fact that mum had a very nervous disposition, the Sunday excursion inevitably degenerated into a nightmare journey of mum trying to persuade dad to slow down, not to drive so close to other cars, and to try to avoid every pot hole in the road.

I was permitted to take a toy with me, the intension being that on arrival at our destination, it would keep me quiet. This was successful for a short time but even the most favourite toy becomes tiresome after about twenty minutes, then it turns into a nuisance factor. If the weather was fine dad would take me for a walk round the garden but it was a very small garden. Eventually it came to the time go home, but it was also the time for hugs and kisses. I would hear mum shouting, ‘Come on Derek, give Grandad and Aunty a big hug and a kiss until next week’, and my heart sank into my boots. The aroma of moth balls, the overenthusiastic grip on the shoulders, the wet kiss on my ear, because I had turned my head away, were all a repeat of last week. I have never been one for hugs and kisses and I blame those experiences of family visits in the 1950s. However, in my more mature years I do recognise the value of such physical contact and recent news of the lifting of the restrictions on giving and receiving hugs from family and friends, is welcomed. Although the relaxation may appear to be insignificant in the great scheme of the return to normality, it is actually a major step forward.

Medical evidence has proved that giving and receiving a hug or an embrace has a positive effect on our mental well- being, lowers blood pressure, and increases our sense of security and assurance that we are not alone.

Of course it is not just hugs that have been prevented, handshakes have also been banned.  They have been replaced with touching shoulders or elbow which, as well meant as they may be, are no substitute for a good firm handshake. Symbolically a handshake has very serious computations none less than, we shake hands with our right hand, which historically is our sword hand. Consequently, you can’t attack someone with your sword if you are shaking hands, unless you happen to be left handed or ambidextrous. In some business circles the hand shake is still recognised as being an indication of an agreement. As we sign a contract, then an agreement is also binding through a handshake but it can also be a gesture of welcome, friendship, farewell and an offering of peace.

Despite regaining the freedom to embrace our family and friends, we are still reminded of the caveats that need to be applied. The danger from the spread of the virus has not left us and care is still needed. Avoid fascial contact, embrace outdoors, restrict hugs to family where possible, and take extra care with people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID. (Source Government Website).

 In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he relates to a meeting that took place between him, Barnabas, and several of the disciples. The meeting revolved around Paul’s right to describe himself as an apostle, and his theology used in preaching to the gentiles.  Paul had been open to criticism that he was not one of the twelve so could not be an apostle. In addition his theology of salvation by faith was in contrast to that of the Jewish converts and of Peter, James and John.

Throughout the meeting Paul maintained that he had met with the risen Lord Jesus face to face, (Damascus Road), and it was Jesus that commissioned him to preach to the gentiles. Accordingly he had every right to use the title of Apostle. Similarly his theology was no different to that preached by James and Peter to the Jews.

The meeting agreed that Paul is an apostle, accepted his theology and agreed that he should preach the gospel to the gentiles. The agreement was sealed with a hand shake, and no doubt an embrace.

Well I am going outside now wearing my face mask to give my grandchildren a big hug. The only problem is they are so tall I need a box to stand on.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 51

1 Kings v 8 – 24; Galatians 5 v 7 – 11

Bread on a Bank Holiday

There is nothing worse than a wet Bank Holiday Monday. Outdoor activities are limited and those plans for a family outing are shattered. As a youngster, my mum always had a range of suggestions for me to adopt on such occasions, get out your colouring books and pencils, get out a nice book to read, tidy your bedroom, or even worse, sort out your toy box. None of these suggestions were appealing or capable of breaking down the physiological barrier of disappointment and boredom.

So it was on Monday 3rd May 2021 when the rain poured down, the wind blew a gale and the temperature dropped, that I decided to take a leaf from mum’s book, not to do the bedroom or the toy box, but to attack the kitchen cupboards. Tidy them all up, put new wallpaper offcuts on the shelves, something past down from my mum and my mother in law, and throw away any unwanted items.

I started with the food cupboard. It is surprising what you can find at the back of a food cupboard. An opened jar of pickled onions dated 2018, which was opened on Christmas Day and then forgotten, a packet of bread sauce mix of the same era, and a Tupperware container containing the remnants of a packet of Cornflour from an unknown date and time. Then there are the small glass bottles of herbs and spices, Bay leaves, now dried, withered and crispy, Cloves, probably from Christmas 2018 partnered with the unions, and some unknown brown powder without a label.

Having successfully negotiated the food cupboard, I then turned my attention to the other side of the kitchen and the cupboards that are less frequently visited. These are where the electrical goods which were on special offer at the time of purchase, reside. These include, the, ‘Juicer’, which is a gadget for extracting juice from fruit etc. to make a refreshing healthy drink, we bought it at the start of our healthy eating initiative, used it once to see if worked, then put it in its place in the cupboard. It lives alongside the handheld food mixer which is a twin to another food mixer in the adjacent cupboard. Also in there is the toasted sandwich maker and a box of accessories for the hand held food mixer that never seemed to fit properly. Beneath all these snuggly sit the two coffee making machines, one more elaborate than the other, but used just as often.

However, the crowning glory must go to the bread making machine, which I hasten to add, has been used on several occasions. It is a remarkable piece of engineering which with little effort produces quality results. Simply load into the non-stick box the required amounts of flour, milk, salt, butter and yeast, switch on and in an hour and a half, as if by magic, you have a loaf of bread. The house is filled with the aroma of baking bread which triggers a yearning for hot freshly cooked bread and butter.  

There are several references in the Bible to bread making and yeast but one that attracts me is the story of Elijah and the widow in Zarapeth. The action takes place at a time when the entire region was in the grip of a severe drought and famine. Food was scarce and ingredients for the very basic essentials such as bread were simply not available. Add to this scenario a poor widow and her son with just enough flour and oil to make one small loaf of bread hardly sufficient for the son, after which they would face death by starvation, and we realise the impossible situation this woman found herself. Despite this, as she recognised Elijah as being a holy man, she agreed to share what she had with him. 

As with everyone who sacrifices themselves for God’s work, the widow was rewarded with a seemingly endless supply of flour and oil, enough for her needs and her son and Elijah for the duration of the draught. The widow would also witness God’s love when her son took ill and died, but was raised back to life by God through Elijah.

Both Jesus and Paul used illustrations of yeast in relation to the spread of evil in society from a small start to infect many people.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians points out that a small amount of yeast can make a dough rise to twice its size. In the same way evil will from a small source spread amongst society, but the love of God is more powerful and will overcome the source of all evil.

The problem with my bread maker is that the fresh baked bread is so tempting and inviting that you just can’t resist the temptation to try some while it is hot, which results in trip to the local Coop store to buy another loaf for tea.  

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 50

Matthew 26 v 6 – 13; 2 Kings 9 v 1 – 3

Coronation

I was saddened by the news of the recent death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. I had never actually met him but liked him, more admired him rather than liked him. I always felt that he married Queen Elizabeth for the right reasons and not for the glory that accompanies being part of the monarchy. When that time actually came, it was necessary for him to give up his own career and his naval ambitions to become an escort to the Queen of England, a role that did not even have a job description at the time, but he carried out his duties for almost seventy years.

Obviously, as part of the television tributes to his life, there were many references to the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, and the accounts of that occasion brought back many memories for me and my sisters. I was only five years old at the time but strangely I have some recollections of the event and my sisters filled in some of the gaps.

We were living in our mid-terrace house in Lidget Green, a suburb of Bradford, and I can recall my mum talking, over the garden wall, to the next door neighbour about the death of the King and the excitement of the imminent coronation of the new queen. The celebrations were very much a communal event but I seem to remember that my dad along with our neighbours were heavily involved with the organisation of the street or even the neighbourhood, party and entertainment.

Before any celebrations could commence we watched the coronation pageant on the wonder of television. We didn’t have a television set until much later, but a neighbour further down the street had one so we all piled into their house to watch history being made. It was a very small black and white television set in a wooden cabinet with sliding doors that could be pulled across when not in use. The picture quality was not brilliant and the sound was at best scratchy, but we thought it was magical.

As great as the television experience was, for us as young children, the main event was the neighbourhood party in the Methodist Chapel Hall in the centre of the village, (next door to the Second West pub).

The hall had been decked out with flags and bunting, and trestle tables had been set up around the room, laden with food, sandwiches, cakes and jelly etc. Bench seats had been provided to accommodate more people, or perhaps we didn’t have any chairs, it didn’t seem to matter. At one end of the hall there was a stage and much of the entertainment came from there. Communal singing was in abundance. My dad always fancied himself as a singer and never missed an opportunity, much to the embarrassment of the rest of the family. I vividly recall dad picking me up and standing me on the stage to sing a popular song of the day. It may come as surprise to learn that not a word passed my lips as I defiantly stood there in silence, much to the annoyance of my dad, until someone else’s son or daughter came to my rescue and sang the song.

I can remember that we all had special red, white and blue paper hats with The Queens picture emblazoned on them and of course we all had union jack flags to wave. We also received a cup with the Queens picture on the side, and some people received a propelling pencil with red, white and blue stripes and a crown on the top.

In the Old Testament the sign that a king had been chosen by God was when a Priest or a Prophet anointed the king with oil. This ritual was the pouring of holy oil over the head of the chosen person and as the oil flowed from the head down onto the rest of the body, so the Holy Spirit flowed also. Initially the anointing was restricted to any object or person who worked in the Temple such as cups, vessels and Priests but when the Hebrew people decided on the need for a king, the anointing was extended to include the holiness of the God’s chosen person.

Jesus is a King, not only a King but a King sent by God. He was already Holy because he was God’s own son, but the woman, (thought possibly to be Mary Magdalen) , in Matthew’s Gospel wanted to recognise Jesus as a King by anointing him with the expensive perfumed oil. This oil was usually reserved for preparing a body for burial, but the woman was anxious to use it symbolically while Jesus was still with them. She wished to show that, to her, Jesus was her King, Lord and Master. This act of love took place shortly before Jesus was arrested and led to death on the cross. The anointing was brightness against a dark and threatening backdrop.

I am almost sure I have, in the loft, a Coronation Cup with a picture of the Queen on the side. I’m not sure if it is actually mine or someone else’s that I  picked up on the day, –  after all I was only five years old, one cup looks very much like any other when you  are five years old. 

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 49

Galatians 4

Mixed Messages

Due to the slight relaxation of the COVID restrictions that have recently been introduced, I had a visit from my daughter and my great granddaughter, Imogen. She is eighteen months old now and I have not seen her this year, apart from images on a mobile telephone screen. We had a really enjoyable afternoon in my garden, thankfully in warm sunshine.

They arrived about noon and departed about two thirty during which time Imogen never stopped running circuits of my garden, pushing a push-along car around the lawn or being pushed on a three wheeled trike around the lawn. Even in periods of, ‘rest’ she insisted on diving in and out of a pop up tent pretending it was a swimming pool. I have no idea where her energy came from but it was certainly not on a low tariff.

Eventually, it was time for them to leave and go home and as my daughter fastened the straps of Imogen’s car seat, there was a suggestion that Imogen would probably be asleep before the car reached the end of the road. I have my doubts about that, but it is quite possible that I will be asleep before the car got to the end of the road.

After they had left I reclined in my garden seat with a cup of coffee and realised why God, in his infinite wisdom, has designed human beings to have children while at a relatively young age. It is obviously the only time of life that they can keep up with the antics of their offspring.

However, this does not obviate grandparents from more sedentary responsibilities in the upbringing of their grandchildren and at some point in time the inevitable question will arise, ‘ Grandad, what do you know about long multiplication and division?’. Of course the answer has to be, ‘I know everything about long multiplication and division,’ after all I am Grandad. At this point the homework books suddenly appear accompanied by paper and pencils and grandad begins to regret such an impulsive reply to the original question.

Not to be deterred, the pencil glides across the paper and zeros are moved to the right and decimal points are moved accordingly and low and behold an answer appears at the bottom of the page, followed by a look of bewilderment and a statement of, ‘ We don’t do it like that at our school.’

Then follows a lesson on how they calculate such mathematical problems, ‘At our school,’ with vertical columns appearing and disappearing along with numbers and zeros, and eventually, as if by magic, the answer appears at the bottom of one of the columns.

‘That’s the answer.’ The child eagerly points with the pencil, and with a slightly smug smile adds, ‘And its right.’

I am speechless. It’s the same answer that I arrived at.

How could the education authorities have the audacity to change the method of calculating long multiplication and division after sixty five years without consulting me?

It has to be said that the home tuition, that has been recently imposed on many parents, does have its dangerous side, as mixed messages and variations in methods of working, can inevitably be confusing for the young student. It is for that reason I always stick to, ‘How it is done at our school’.

Mixed messages are something that is a reoccurring problem for Paul in his letters to his churches, particularly in his letter to the Galatians. Paul’s theology that he preached to the predominantly gentile congregation in Galatia was built around justification by faith in Jesus Christ, the good news of the gospel. This theological message was welcomed by the believers but in Paul’s absence, false teachers with Jewish allegiance, preached that believers must obey the Law of Moses before they could be one with God. As this was diametrically opposed to Paul’s teaching there was obviously confusion in the minds of the believers.

Paul maintained that that the Law only served to highlight the sins of the Jewish nation and that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins have been forgiven. Accordingly it is through faith in Jesus that we are saved and are one with God.

It was a complex issue, difficult to understand for the Jews so even more difficult for the gentiles. Thankfully as Christianity spread globally, Paul’s theology was accepted as being in line with that of Jesus Christ and the claims relating to the Jewish Law were overturned.

My grandchildren are now all grown up and passed the need for assistance in long multiplication and division. Conversations have now changed and terms such as ‘The Law of Probability’ and ‘Quantum Physics’, and ‘Calculus’ roll readily off the tongue, (theirs not mine). Even the gestation cycle of a dairy cow is an acceptable subject over Sunday tea.But Grandparents have a secret weapon called, ‘Wisdom’.  It is wise to listen, eat your meal and at the earliest opportunity, change the subject.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 48

John 20 v 19 – 23; Galatians 2 v 1 -10

Friends

As the mist rises above the road map of the government’s plan for easing the COVID restrictions during the coming year, we have the opportunity to reflect on the effect of the pandemic on our lives.

Without doubt our lives have changed and I am sure that some of the changes may stay with us. Working from home, for example, is now a permanent feature of working procedures for many people and internet trading is now almost the norm. Groceries home delivery, once a common service, (Granville in Open all Hours), then became extinct, but now is much sought after again.

One aspect of life that has been subjected to great pressure is that of friendships. Eighteen months of social separation has resulted in many friendships being put on hold, with people not meeting, not sharing, and not maintaining that social link that is so important.

My daughter is a keen fan of the television series, ‘Friends’,(now only available on specialist channels), The story line revolves around the escapades of a group of young friends, totally different in characters, as they battle with the ups and downs of life, often leading to hilarious situations. The important message in the series is that they all support each other no matter what happens. The strapline being, ‘I’ll be there for you’.

The importance of friendships is something that is often overlooked but it is clinically proved that we need good friendship connections to maintain our mental and social wellbeing. Friends can celebrate good times, and support during bad times. Friends can help to prevent loneliness and give an opportunity for companionship. Friends can increase a sense of belonging and purpose.

I have to say that all my friends from my school days are no longer in touch and as I moved around the country I have lost track to where they are now. In my teenage years I spent most of my time with a friend Ian Norris. We were totally miss matched, he was tall and I was short, he was very intelligent and I was not, he came from a wealthy background and I did not, and he was two years older than me, but we had some great times. Unfortunately I lost touch with Ian in 1969 and despite several efforts I have never been able to trace him. 

As with many people Jean and I had special friends who after over fifty years I still keep in touch with on a weekly basis, even through the COVD crisis. Our families have grown in parallel and we have both experienced great celebration and sadly disasters, but as the saying goes, ‘A celebration shared is doubled and a disaster shared is halved’, (I have no idea who actually said or wrote said that) . I can’t wait for the time that I can arrive at their doorstep with an overnight bag and shatter the peace and tranquillity of their home.

Possibly the strangest group of people to become friends were the disciples. Most of them came from different backgrounds with different skills and experiences of life but during the three years of Jesus’s ministry they learnt from his teaching, developed spiritually from his preaching and were influenced by his love for each one of them. In return they devoted themselves to Jesus and with the exception of Judas, returned their love for him

The disciple’s friendship developed into interdependency so much so that after the crucifixion we find them gathered together in a locked room supporting each other, hiding from the authorities, trying to make sense of what had happened and of what to do next. It would have been easy to scatter across the country, individually blending into society anonymously, leaving the past behind and staying safe. But they chose to support each other and carry on the work as Jesus would have wished.

It is interesting to note that that in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul relates to a meeting in Jerusalem with the disciples Peter, James and John. This meeting is likely to have been twenty years or so after the death of Jesus indicating that the disciples were still a friendship group at that time.

As Ian Norris was two years older than me, he passed his driving test before I was even old enough to drive. He bought a 1936 Morris 8 car in which we travelled all over the country for various reasons. Unfortunately the car regularly broke down and as we had no AA recovery, Ian’s dad was frequently called out to come and rescue us from some remote place. Eventually Ian’s dad threw in the towel and gave him his mum’s car a nearly new Mini which was much more reliable, – not as much fun though.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 47

John 10 v 11 – 18

Staff Shortages.

Let me introduce you to my staff.

Now you may be expecting to me to introduce you to my typist, my researcher, my type setter and my distribution team , but as I don’t have any of these people at my disposal , I would only be introducing you to myself.

So, let me introduce you to my staff.

I purchased it in 2018, from a National Trust shop at Hunter’s Inn in Devon. I was on holiday with my daughter, my son in law and my two grandsons and staying at a farm near Paracombe. Leading from the farm was a footpath that eventually led to Hunter’s Inn and then on to Hells Mouth, a secluded bay and rocky outcrop jutting into the sea.

We had undertaken several walks during the week and all had terminated in a steep incline to reach the final destination. Now I really enjoy walking, – downhill, – but I’m not over keen in walking uphill especially, as so often happens, that by some act of mischief it appears that someone increases the incline of the path making it far steeper coming back than it was on the outward journey, (or so it feels).

I had noticed that some of the  more experienced and hardened walkers had enlisted the help of walking sticks, modern light- weight aluminium with plastic accessories and nylon straps to wrap around the wrists. These sticks obviously propelled the walkers up the steepest slopes as they all seemed to pass me with minimal effort. In view of this revelation I decided that it was time that I invested in this simple but apparently effective aid to my fell walking and where better to buy one than from a National Trust shop one of which happened to be at Hunter’s Inn.

Unfortunately, on searching the shop I discovered that the world and its wife had also decided to purchase the before mentioned sticks leaving only an empty rack where the sticks should have been displayed. However, not accepting defeat I rummaged around at the farthest corner of the shop and found the one and only walker’s staff. It was made of Ash, (the label said so), and was 1.6m, (5 feet) long with a metal shoe at the bottom and a hole drilled through the top to house a leather strap to go round the wrist. This was far more superior than a 1m, (3 feet) long aluminium stick with plastic appenditures, this one was the real thing and it was for me.

When I had recovered from learning the price, I paid the National Trust volunteer the money, (she gave me a complimentary bag as I had spent so much), and left the shop better prepared to face the rigours of the return journey and that soul destroying final incline.

It is surprising how walking with a staff adds to your confidence and agility and as we continued our walk towards Hells Mouth I began to depend more and more on my new purchase. The rhythm of the tap, tap of the metal tip to the staff on the stony rocks gave an assurance that we were making progress. It also became a source of annoyance to the rest of the walking group and earned me the nickname of, ‘Long John Silver’, or ‘Gandalf’ from Lord of the Rings.

It was when we ascended the steep incline leading back to the farm that the staff came into its own. Periodically I could stop and lean on the staff for support while I had a well-earned breather.

Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd’, not any shepherd but the good shepherd. In saying this he emphasised that he would do anything to protect his flock. He would never desert them when danger threatened; he would never leave them hungry but would lead them to the greenest pasture. He would never see them lost or not knowing which way to go and would lay down his life for each one of his sheep.

The Shepherd always has his staff or crook and Christian art often depicts Jesus as the good shepherd with his staff ready to guide and protect, support and lead us through life and its storms. The hired shepherds work only for money and don’t own or care for the flock. When danger comes they will run away and leave the flock to the mercy of the wolves, but Jesus never abandons his sheep, he knows each one as his father, (God) knows him and he knows the father.

In the autumn of 2018 I returned to Paracombe, along with my trusty staff, by myself and spent a few days walking the footpaths. While walking a narrow road I came across a herd of sheep, (well two or three) that had escaped from their field. By stretching out my arms and my staff, doing my best Adam Henson on BBC Countryfile impersonation, I helped the farmer retrieve the escapees.

I’m relieved it was not his bull that had escaped.   

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 46

Nehemiah 2 v 1 – 5

Ireland – From Darkness to Light

There are many aspects of Ireland that fascinate me, I love Irish music, the intoxicating   blend of Irish pipes, fiddle and drums. The Irish language, as with the Welsh tongue, is lyrical and from the throat so different to the English. I find the Celtic influence intriguing particularly in their art and religion but also I find the past turbulent history of the Irish people both interesting and disturbing. From battles with invaders, to famine and persecution, to mass exodus to other lands and the internal turmoil of recent years, throughout history I think the people of Ireland can best be described as bruised but never broken.

Despite my interest in Ireland, I have never visited the South but I have journeyed to the North of Ireland on three separate occasions.

My first visit was in the mid-1970s at a time when the involvement of British troops as peace keepers was at its height. Along with one or two other youth leaders I accompanied a group of teenagers, who had successfully won their way to the finals of a national quiz organised by the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs, (MAYC), to the previous year’s quiz winners in Northern Ireland.  

The finals were held in a place called Dungannon, not too far from Belfast. We flew from Luton airport to Belfast, and then boarded a coach for the short journey through the city to a boarding school in Dungannon which would serve as our accommodation and the quiz venue.

Driving through Belfast it was hard not to notice the boarded up shops, bars and restaurants that had been the victims of the bombers and similarly in Dungannon we passed the burnt out shell of what had been the main post office. Evidence of the army presence was unavoidable with fortified towers and barbed wire in the streets of some parts of the town. One evening we came across an army patrol moving through the town centre. The soldiers looked to be not much older than the teenagers we had brought to the quiz.

The atmosphere in the town felt very uncomfortable although there was nothing that could have been interpreted as being threatening, in fact the enthusiasm and hospitality of the Irish organisers was second to none.

My second and third visits were both to the City of Belfast, the first to a National Conference and the second to a ‘Core Cities’ meeting representing Nottingham City Council. These visits were in the early 2000s and the difference that thirty odd years had made was remarkable. The centre of the City had been transformed since my Dungannon experience, with new shopping complexes, leisure facilities, hotels and a state of the art conference centre which doubled as music venue and during our visits there was no sign of any military presence, or was it that we were we not taken to the relevant areas of the City?

Nehemiah was a troubled soul. He was living at a time when the Jewish nation had been scattered across Babylonia, with only a few ‘undesirables’ left in the ruins of Jerusalem. Nehemiah had been fortunate insofar as he was serving the King in his palace as a wine waiter (slave), but his thoughts constantly took him back to the city of his ancestors.

When news reached him from Jerusalem to say that despite the passage of many years no work had been done to restore or rebuild the ruins, he was devastated. He knew that God was calling him to return and rebuild the City walls but would the king permit him to leave the palace and go? Not only did the king give his permission for Nehemiah to go, but he also gave him letters of authorisation in order to obtain materials to complete the work.

We could say that Nehemiah is the patron saint of project managers as he successfully returned to Jerusalem and in the power of God he organised teams of people to rebuild the City walls, despite facing opposition from rebels.

When the work was complete the scattered nation could return to the place of their ancestors and their spiritual home where God could reside with them again.

After the quiz in Dungannon, which incidentally we lost, we returned to Belfast via a visit to a Peat Bog, where we viewed some artefacts that had been uncovered then boarded the plane to return to Luton .On arrival we were met by anxious parents as it transpired that after we had left Dungannon for the Peat Bog there was an incident in the town that was reported on UK television news.

We were oblivious to the event but parents were very aware of it. 

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 45

Judges 7 v 1 – 8

Take up Your Arms.

I have just completed reading Captain Sir Tom Moore’s autobiography which is a fascinating read. Although there are obvious differences, there are many parallels between his life experiences and those of my own father. I suppose it is inevitable in many ways due to their similar age and therefore generation.

Both were Yorkshire men, Capt. Tom being born in Keighley and my dad being born in Barnsley but moving to Bradford, a stone throw from Keighley. Both had suffered bereavements at an early age, my dad lost his mother and sister while Capt. Tom lost his uncle.

I have to admit I know very little about my dad’s childhood, I don’t think he shared a great deal even in conversation when we worked together. I know his father, (my Big Grandad), remarried after the death of his first wife, and had quite a large family to his second wife creating a second generation of siblings to my dad and his immediate brothers and sisters.

As was the case with most men and boys in the Barnsley area at that time it was expected that as soon as age permitted they finished up underground in the coal mines, (down t’pit) or at best working on the surface but still at the colliery and dad was no exception.

Then comes another parallel with Capt. Tom, motorbikes.

Dad used to tell the stories of his adventures on his Matchless 1000cc bike as a youth with similar experiences to Capt. Tom on his motorbike. I think dad still had his bike when he met my mum but I don’t recall either of them indicating that mum ever rode on it. It is interesting that despite dad’s passion for motorbikes, he strictly forbade me from having one. To this day although I have driven most types of four wheeled vehicles, I have never ridden on a motorbike.

Similar to Capt. Tom, dad’s passion for motorbikes was pivotal in his role in world war two. Dad used to tell the tale that after conscription and basic training; officers asked if any of the new recruits could drive. Dad put up his hand but failed to disclose that he had only ever driven a motorcycle. He along with one or two other men, were taken to one side and presented with the keys to an extremely large tank transporter, which was a very big articulated lorry specifically designed to carry tanks. For the majority of the war, dad, and his tank transporter, where in North Africa transporting new tanks to the front line and bringing damaged tanks back for repair.

Captain Tom, first had command of a tank then moved to be an instructor in tank warfare, but he was stationed in Burma.

There was a time when dad was re-introduced to a motorcycle but details of this escapade were always sketchy both from dad when he was alive and research after his death. It involved dad acting as a dispatch rider on a motorcycle but whatever the purpose behind the operation or the eventual result of the action was never revealed. It earned dad a mention in dispatches and he was honoured with an Oak Leaf to add to his medals.

I noted that Capt. Tom also had a similar experience as a dispatch rider for which he was also decorated for his actions.

On de-mob dad chose not to return to his previous employment and attended a rehabilitation course in building construction at Thorpe Arch near Harrogate, something that was to be the blueprint for his employment for the rest of his life.

Dad and his three brothers started a building business called, ‘Turton Brothers’ and carried out building work across the Yorkshire area. In the early 1950s dad decided to go it alone and formed his own business which he ran until retirement. Capt. Tom on the other hand returned to his father’s building business.

If we read the Bible, Judges 7 v 1 – 8, we see there were even stranger methods of selecting suitable soldiers for battles. Judges describes the period in Israel’s history after the death of Moses and Joshua, but prior to the introduction of their monarchy. Over this period several notable people established themselves as great leaders and ‘heroes’, (Judges) of the Jewish nation. One such leader, (Judge), was Gideon.

Gideon had the unenviable task of facing the mighty army of the Midianites and he started to recruit his own army to attack the enemy camp. He achieved in assembling a force of 22,000 soldiers before God intervened, instructing him that if he followed God’s instructions there would be no need for an army of that size. When the army would have victory they would claim it for themselves and not accept that it was down to God’s power that they succeeded. God wanted an army of just 300 men to destroy the Midianites, and then it would be clear to everyone that God is powerful.

The selection process involved taking out all those who were afraid, those who did not want to be there, and those who drank water from the river in a certain way, (lapped the water up with their tongues). Eventually God had selected 300 men from the original 22,000 for Gideon’s army.

Gideon followed God’s instructions and armed his men with a trumpet and a glass jar containing a torch and by creating fear and confusion they drove the Midianites into frenzy and they began to fight amongst themselves.

Notwithstanding the fact that dad rode a motorcycle, drove a tank transporter, drove army surplus trucks and vans for the business and a car for himself, he never passed a driving test , – and you could tell.

His driving licence came from the army and entitled him to drive just about everything.

Derek T.