Author Archives: SMCjon

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 12

Luke 15 v 8 – 10

Has Anyone seen My Keys?

Have you ever lost something and you know that it is in the house, somewhere, but you can’t find it? The situation grows into such a crisis that you can’t think of anything else, it interrupts your sleep, and becomes the only priority in life. Your search starts off as a structured logistical undertaking and finishes up as an illogical desperate grasping at straws, panic.

It happened to me recently. I rent a small stable on a farm round the corner from where I live and I store bits of old tractors and old farming implements there, nothing of great value but of interest. I bought a padlock for the door and the lock came with four keys. One key stayed with the farmer in case of emergency, one key was attached to my car keys, one key was attached to my house keys and one key was attached to its own key fob and hung on a hook inside a cupboard door in the kitchen.

Recently a friend was to deliver something to the stable for me, so I took the key from inside the cupboard door for him to use. As it happened I was at the farm when he arrived so the key was not needed.

A week later I opened the cupboard door and noticed that the hook, that usually held the stable key, was empty. Where was the key? I had a mental picture of the key hanging on the hook but no mental picture of where the key could be now. I asked myself the usual question,’ Where did I see the key last?’ It’s a silly question really because if I knew the answer to that I would know where the key is now so I was not helping myself at all.

So I started to look in the obvious places. First a quick telephone call to my friend to ask if he still had the key, but he pointed out that he never had the key as I opened the door. No luck there then, I would have to look elsewhere. I decided to start with the car, I must have left it in the glove box, but there was no sign of the keys in the glove box or anywhere else in the car. Perhaps the keys had dropped inside the cupboard, so I emptied the cupboard but no sign of the keys. I could try the bedroom; the keys could be on the dressing table when I emptied my pockets, but no sign of them in the bedroom room. The key must have dropped down the side of the cushions on the settee or the chairs so I search all the items of furniture but to no avail. I even move all the furniture to see if the illusive key was behind but only dust was apparent which I vacuumed up.

I thought which trousers I was wearing on that day, could the key be in one of the pockets? Not much hope because I had washed those trousers and would have noticed if the key had been there. I distinctly remember that the washing machine was making a strange noise at the time.

I was running out of ideas but I had not tried the stable, perhaps I left them there and locked up with the key on my car keys. So it was a matter of, get the car out and drive to the farm, but again there was no luck and no sign of the keys.

I know what you are thinking; I still have three more keys so why am I getting so worked up about this one key? It’s a matter of principle, losing something no matter what it is, makes it a big issue and has to be resolved.

By now I am at the illogical grasping at straws stage and actually look in the fridge in case, in a senior moment I had put the key in there by mistake.  Thankfully I am not that senior yet and the key was not in the fridge.

The only benefit of all this searching is that, the car, the kitchen cupboard, the carpet, the settee and chairs have all been cleaned and tidied, but the elusive key still avoids discovery.

Now we move on to the following Monday. I don’t know why Monday tends to always be washing day, it probably goes back to my childhood when mum always did washing on a Monday along with cold roast beef left over from Sunday for dinner.

As I was about to load the washing into the machine I decided to try to establish why it was making a strange noise last time it was used, and on inspecting the  inside of the drum, to my surprise, rattling around was a shiny key attached to a now distorted plastic key fob. I assume the key was in the back pocket of the trousers I had previously washed.

I was delighted for two reasons, I had found the key, and the washing machine had ceased to make strange noises.

In Luke 15 v 8 the woman has ten coins and loses one. She searches and sweeps all day and into the night using a lamp, to find the lost coin and when she finds it she celebrates, but the story is symbolic and has nothing to do with money.

I think the woman represents the Holy Spirit seeking with the Gospel (lamp) for the lost souls.

The nine coins represent the unrepentant whereas the lost coin represents the one who confesses that they are a sinner and out of touch with God. It is interesting that this parable is preceded by the lost sheep, the difference being that the sheep wondered away by its own volition, whereas the coin is an inanimate object suggesting the lifeless condition of the sinner being dead to sin.

When the Holy Spirit finds the lost soul and brings it to God, then there is great celebration as life returns to the sinner. That is how it is with God, the sinners who humble themselves and confess their sins, bring joy to the heart of God. Well its time that I went back to the stable and tidied up the mess that I left after searching for the key. If only I could find my car keys, I’m sure I left them in the kitchen.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 11

Mark 9 v 38 – 41. / John 19 v 6 – 16

Eric the frog sat at the edge of the garden pond, looking across the water to the other side. Eric had started to become a regular visitor to the pond and had incorporated his visits into his daily routine of touring around the garden. He liked to hop onto a pot of a water grass plant at one end of the pond, where he would sit under the overhanging fronds and enjoy being cool in the mid -day summer sun. The pond had a solar powered water fountain and the mist from the spray helped to keep him cool as it drifted across towards his grassy haven. An added bonus was the occasional fly or other insect that trespassed too close to the water grass pot and gave Eric a free meal. It was the perfect place for a young frog, until today.

Today was different. Across the pond, looking directly at Eric was another frog.

It was a type of frog that was unfamiliar to Eric and he had never seen one like it before. It was the same shape as Eric but it was a different colour, Eric was brown but this frog was bright green and had a glossy skin and bright red eyes.

The stranger was motionless and Eric recognised the defensive stance that it had adopted. It was something Eric had used himself in similar situations, when you feel threatened; you freeze and keep as still as you can be, you don’t move a muscle and then no one can see you. That was just what the green frog was doing, so Eric did just the same and the two frogs stared at each other motionless across the pond.

After a while Eric started to get bored. How can that disgusting green foreign frog sit for so long without moving? Eric couldn’t help but notice that there was also a fly perched on the end of the stranger’s nose right between its bright red eyes.

It was time to make a move. Eric summand all his strength and pushed off with his powerful back legs. He launched into an enormous leap onto the water grass pot. He quickly buried himself under the overhanging grass stems and peered out to see where the intruder had moved to. It hadn’t moved anywhere in fact it hadn’t all, and neither had the fly on the end of its nose.

This is all wrong, thought Eric, this is a brown frog pond and green frogs should keep away and go back to their own ponds, after all Eric would never think of invading their pond, even if he knew where that may be. But Eric had to admire the green frog’s self =control, that fly on the end of its nose looked very tasty.

Cautiously and stealthily, Eric moved from the water grass pot onto the side of the pond and approached the green adversary. He moved alongside but the green frog never moved a muscle.

Now full of confidence, Eric addressed the newcomer and said, ‘I say old chap, if that fly on the end of your nose is annoying you, I can remove it if you wish’. There was no reply, so Eric swiftly flicked out his tongue, captured the fly and devoured it in a flash. Still the green frog never moved.

Eric was starting to feel more comfortable with this new inhabitant and felt he was getting to know him better, even though he didn’t move and didn’t talk, at least he did not pose any threat. In fact Eric was beginning to admire the green skin and red eyes.

Over the next few weeks the two frogs became quite good friends. Eric would visit the pond and sit under the water grass, and his green friend would sit motionless on the side of the pond. The two never argued, and the green frog never tried to move, but they were always there for each other, and occasionally they would share the odd fly that landed on the green frog’s nose between its bright red eyes.

How many times in the scriptures do we read about individuals not been accepted into the community?

Jesus chose to use the Samaritan to be the saviour of the beaten man at the side of the road. The Samaritans were not accepted by the Jews and the Jews would not talk or eat or drink with a Samaritan.

This gives even more impact to the account of Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman at the well where he not only spoke to her but also accepted a drink from her, an act that turned tradition and racial prejudice on its head.

In Paul’s letters he constantly appeals to the believers for harmony and inclusion of all races and people. He strives to unite Jews and Gentiles under the grace of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Even the disciples were corrected by Jesus for describing a man who was driving out demons as being, ‘Not one of our group.’

But it was Jesus himself that suffered the harshest exclusion from the people he came to save. The echo of, ‘Crucify him,’ reverberates throughout history as the condemnation of an innocent man to death, so that we can all live.

Eric had another fright recently. A monstrosity appeared on the side of the pond. It had a red pointed head, a yellow chest, and a blue back. It had a strange bearded red face and held a stick with a piece of string that dangled into the water.

It also now calls the pond home; obviously it has no other gnome to go to.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 10

1 Kings 3 v 6 to 9

A Wise Decision.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine recently. I think he was bored so he telephoned me for something to do. Our conversation moved onto vintage and classic cars and he shared with me his theory as to when a car was vintage and when it was classic. I am aware that there are many critical subjects for conversation in today’s society, but the issue of categorising old motor cars appeared to be of great importance to my friend. He was anxious to explain his theory that if a motor car was manufactured before 1950, it is classified as, ‘Vintage’ and any motor car manufactured after 1950 but before 1970, was classified as being, ‘Classic’. (I hasten to point out that this was my friend’s theory and other theories are available).

When I pointed out that I did not entirely agree with his views, he quickly changed the direction of the conversation by saying that regardless of the age of the vehicle, it would be a wise decision to have an engineers report. Of course I could not argue with this opinion because it was to a great extent a common sense approach to buying any motor car, but I pondered over the, ‘Wise’ bit of his statement. What do we actually mean when we say, ‘A wise decision’?

I looked, ‘Wise’ up in the dictionary and discovered that; ‘Wise’ (adjective) is showing experience, knowledge and good judgement. It was debatable as to whether I could apply that to my friend’s theory of vintage and classic cars. In addition if wise is the adjective, then wisdom must be the noun, and does my friend have wisdom?

I looked ‘Wisdom’ up in the dictionary and discovered that; ‘Wisdom’ (Noun), having experience, knowledge, good judgement and the quality of being wise.

Not a great deal of help there, so I applied wisdom to some common phrases and sayings; ‘The wise old owl’, ‘ The wise old sage’, ‘The three wise men’.

I suppose the common denominator could be, ‘old’, so does that mean that wisdom comes with age? This would confirm the need for the experience element of the definition, but the owl only has knowledge of a limited nature, that of survival and reproduction which is not what I would consider as being knowledgeable.

The old sage would fulfil the experience but again the knowledge may be difficult as my impression of an old sage is more like an old hermit or some other solitary figure so knowledge could be limited specific applications.

As far as the three wise men are concerned, was it wise to seek out Herod to find out where a new King had been born?

So who do we consider to be wise and to have wisdom?

I recently watched a series on BBC 4 about great thinkers, Aristotle, Socrates, and Confucus. All these people where great philosophers and thinkers who reshaped the social and political focus of society in their time and some of their thoughts and theories are still accepted and adopted in the world today, but did they have wisdom?

Both Socrates and Aristotle were considered as being too radical for the political powers of their day and were both eventually executed. Confucus became disillusioned and found it difficult to cope with life after the death of his son and died really of a broken heart.

They were all great thinkers and philosophers but do we consider them to be wise?

Confucus tried to help us. He said that, ‘The route to wisdom is through goodness’. So can we add another element to our definition, experience, knowledge and goodness?

My moto is, when in doubt, what does the Bible say? I am instantly guided to 1 Kings 3, and the reign of King Solomon. Although we know that Solomon had great wisdom, he does not fit into our profile of being wise.

Solomon was born wealthy and lived a, ‘Jet setting’, life style. He was as crazy about wheels as any 21st century seventeen year old with a sporty hatch back. Solomon imported chariots from Egypt and horses from Arabia. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines and he came to the throne when he was a young man, so where did his wisdom come from?

We are told in 1 Kings 3 that God visited Solomon in a dream and asked him, ‘What is it that you want me to give you?’ Solomon replied, ‘The gift of Wisdom so that I can rule the nation’.

Solomon could have asked for anything, great wealth, long life, power over his enemies, but he put all these things to one side and asked for wisdom. We could say that it was a wise decision because God gave him wisdom and all the other things that Solomon could have asked for as a bonus.

So that is the answer to our quest. Wisdom is a gift from God. It is not something that we can buy or earn or acquire it is given to us from God to do his work.

Solomon used his wisdom for God, but then he seemed to forget who he was and who God is. We learn from the scriptures that in his old age Solomon worshipped the gods of his foreign wives and the integrity of the covenant between God and his people was put in jeopardy. After Solomon’s death the kingdom crumbled and became divided.

Perhaps our definition of wisdom should change to, ‘The route to wisdom is through righteousness, experience and knowledge of God’. I still don’t agree with my friend’s theory on vintage and classic cars though.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 9

Exodus 6 v 1 – 13/ Matthew 4 v 18 – 22/ Acts 9 v 1 – 10

Tell me Mr. Turton, what you consider to be the most important aspects of being a Building Inspector?

The words floated across the desk as if on butterfly wings but landed on me as if on a hornet’s sting.

It was July 1969 and I was a 21 years old bricklayer working for my father. Two months earlier Jean and I had got married, and we had a long talk, as newly marrieds do, about the future. Jean worked for Sharpe’s greeting card manufacturers in Bradford and earned £14 per week. She had just returned to Sharpe’s after leaving to be a House Mother in a children’s home in Knaresborough, but the pay in social care did not compare with that at Sharpe’s. I had been given a pay rise on reaching 21 and now earned £10 per week. We had just bought a house for £2,500 and with it came a mortgage of £7-10 shillings per month so the long talk that we had resulted in the decision that I needed a job with better pay.

I had met Building Inspectors when they came on site to check our work and one in particular, was very friendly with my dad, I think they had an army connection from the war, and he told me of a job opportunity at Huddersfield County Borough Council for an Assistant Building Inspector. I applied, and there I was sitting in the Borough Engineers Office being interviewed by the Borough Engineer and two other people. It was the first interview that I had ever had and I was totally unprepared for it.

The Borough Engineer was a man called A. L. Percy who stood for no nonsense. He was short in stature, and had a military stance with a sort of weather beaten face and a very short crew cut hairstyle, the hair turning grey on the top of his head. It was A.L. Percy who had fired the question at me.

If the truth was known I knew very little about the role of a Building Inspector, my only contact was through being on site when he looked down a drainage trench or foundation excavation, but I knew nothing of the legalistic background to his site visits.

I know my dad used to complain when they were late arriving for an inspection and we were left waiting, but he also described his friendly Inspector (George) as being the one who spoke the most sense, so that was it, that was the answer.

I blurted out, ‘don’t be late and talk sense’.

As the words left my mouth my stomach rolled over and over, and I subconsciously realised what a stupid answer that was. The room seemed transfixed in time, no one spoke, A. L. Percy just stared at me and I wished that I could go home.

Why couldn’t he ask me a question about bricklaying, about foundations, about building a chimney breast, anything except a Building Inspector?

Eventually A. L. Percy lowered his crew cut head and with his fountain pen, he started to write in his book in front of him on the desk. Suddenly, without even lifting his head, he said, ‘do you want this job as a permanent career?’

I had given up after the ‘talk sense’ answer so I just muttered something about learning the job and moving forward. Mercifully that was the last question and after a few instructions regarding procedures, I was requested to go into the anti- room with all the other applicants and wait further instructions.

As I sat in the anti-room I looked at the other applicants, all older than me, more experienced, and I bet they know all there is to know about being a Building Inspector. After about ten minutes one of the interviewers came into the room, thanked us all for attending and told us we could all go home, except Mr. Turton who was requested to go back into the interview room. For a moment I was looking round to see which one Mr Turton was, then I realised it was me.

On re-entering the interview room, everyone was standing and smiling, except A. L. Percy who just shook my hand and said, ‘welcome to the team’. I was asked the usual questions such as how much notice I had to give to my present employer, as they would like to get me ‘on board’ as soon as possible.

I suspect they were eager to train me up as a Building Inspector and get me to talk sense.

Sometimes other people see something in us that we can’t see ourselves and I suppose that is the skill of a good interviewer to tease out of an applicant the potential that makes the applicant the best for the job.

God not only sees the best in us but also gives us the skills and ability to do his work. Take Moses for example, he would never have considered himself as being a great leader, in fact he tried every excuse in the book in an attempt to persuade God to send someone else but God knew that Moses was the man and he would successfully do God’s will.

The disciples were taken way out of their comfort zone when they responded to God and followed Jesus. If we consider the journey that lay before them it is unlikely that any of them would have been successful applicants at an interview in human terms, but when God choses someone for his work he gives them skills, strength and power to do the job.

Paul had a complete change of direction in his conversion on the road to Damascus,. Who would have chosen him to be the conduit of God’s message of good news through Jesus Christ to all nations, when he was persecuting the very people that he would later actively save? God knew that Paul was the man he wanted to do his will and would be his servant.

God calls us all to do his work, sometimes in the most unlikely way, outside our comfort zone and what we would consider, to be beyond our abilities, but when God calls we will respond because, like Moses, no matter how many excuses we put forward, God will give us what we need to do his work.

In answer to A. L. Percy’s question about my career, I stayed in Local Government Building Control for over 40 years so my mumblings to his question were fulfilled.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 8

Various scripture references

It goes without saying that I have the greatest respect for the scriptures, and the Word of God, and I hold every word as sacrosanct. However, I have to admit that my sense of humour sometimes gets me into a little trouble.

I do believe that God has a sense of humour, and I justify that conclusion every morning when I rise from my bed, look in the mirror and think that the reflection is a picture of the pinnacle of God’s creation. God must have a sense of humour.

However sincere I may be, the scriptures do give the opportunity to raise a smile on occasions, for example; – Recently my daughter was redecorating her dining room when she accidentally knocked a full tin of paint over the carpet. At the time she was devastated and desperately tried to clean up the mess but despite her and my son in law’s best efforts, the carpet was ruined. On my advice they contacted their insurance company who sent out an Assessor and a new carpet was agreed.

I thought of Mark 2 v 1 – 5 , when the men made a hole in the roof of the house to enable them to lower their paralysed friend to Jesus. Can you imagine the owner of the property trying to explain the chain of events to the insurer’s assessor and justifying a claim for the damage to the roof, carpets, decorations, furniture, paintings on the wall and all the other damage that came as a result of the incident? I wonder if they believed him when he told them that the paralysed man got up and walked away.

The last time the assessor had this sort of problem was when a brass band was practicing their marching routine and the walls of Jericho fell down, and that cost a fortune. (Joshua 6 v 15-19)

Fortunately, with regard to my daughter’s carpet, my son in law was very understanding and comforted her in her time of distress, but I wonder how supportive Jonah’s wife was when he returned, after being out for three days and nights, with the excuse that he had been swallowed by a big fish and had been its stomach for the duration, (Jonah 1 v 17). I’m sure her first response would have been, ‘go in the shower you smell awful, and don’t use the best towel’.  After that the interrogation would commence.

You have to feel sorry for the Nation Farmers Union Assessor of that time, as he really had his hands full. First of all the crops were devastated by a great flood, (Genesis 7 + 8), then Noah ran his boat aground on the top of a mountain and a herd of animals escaped and ran wild all over the place. If that wasn’t bad enough, there followed a great famine for seven years (Genesis 41 v 25 – 36) when all the crops were ruined and rationing had to be introduced.

Then there was the incident with pigs, (Matthew 8 v 28 – 34). Demons driven out of men and entering into the pigs was one thing, but then the pigs jumped off the cliff and drowned, so who pays for all that? I bet there will be small print exclusion in the policy regarding being possessed by demons.

It is not just crops and animals that the assessor had to contend with, there were also the Fig trees, (Matthew 21 v 18 – 22), one tree was cursed and they all gave up, the farmer had no Figs. Try explaining that to the supermarkets.

Finally I think the biggest ‘head in hands’ event goes to McDonalds, (or whoever it was in those times). There were 5000 people, all hungry, and the disciples were just about to send them off to the towns and villages to eat, (Luke 9 v 10 – 17), McDonalds restaurants across the region were gearing up for the biggest night of the year with record sales. Then, at the last minute, a few fish and five loaves of bread not only fed the multitude but also provided some food for later and still some left over.

I bet McDonalds had some left over that night too.

The house roof, Jonah’s excuse, the flood, Noah’s boat, the seven year famine, the herd of pigs, the cursed Fig tree, and the feeding of the multitude are all true stories, but don’t just take my word for it, get out your Bible and read it for yourself, and while your checking those stories, check how many people Jesus healed, find out his teaching about relationships, compare your present way of life with that of a true follower, and read the good news of salvation, it’s all in there, just waiting for you.

A new Local Preacher was giving his first sermon to a congregation under the watchful eye of his mentor. The novice had chosen to preach on the contents of the Methodist Catechism and was doing well until he reached the Apostles’ Creed when he lost his place in his notes. There was a long silence that started to get embarrassing, so the Mentor leaned forward and said, ‘ I believe in God the Father’ and the novice replied ‘so do I , so do I’.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 7

John 4 v 1 – 15

Monty Don with Gardner’s World on BBC TV on a Friday night is one of my highlights of the week. I look forward to catching up with life at his Long Meadow garden, and seeing how my tomato plants should look like, but unfortunately doesn’t. I try to follow all his instruction and advice, use the correct compost, plant the seeds and prick out the young shoots, and although my plants grow, they do not reach the high standard that he seems to achieve.

On a recent programme he concluded his transmission by saying, if you want to attract wildlife into your garden, install a garden pond. My ears pricked up, I could install a pond in my garden, I have just the right place by my new dry stone wall, and the wildlife will love it there.

The next day I am onto the Internet looking for a suitable pond. The choices are endless, there are pond liners, water- falls, imitation rock pools, pre formed fibre glass theme park water cascades, and you name it and its there on the internet. Then I discovered a, pre formed plastic pond ideal for wildlife, just dig a hole in the required location and insert the pre made plastic pond, this is perfect.

Two days later my front porch is decorated with a large cardboard box with a picture of a garden pond emblazoned on the side. Like a child at Christmas, I ripped open the packaging and inspected the contents, the pre made plastic pond ideal for wildlife was complete and undamaged. It seemed larger than I had imagined, not in its footprint but in its depth. I expected it being 150mm deep whereas this pre made plastic pond ideal for wildlife, was 350mm deep, never the less, the instructions seemed encouraging saying, simply dig a hole in the required place in the garden and insert the pre made plastic pond ideal for wildlife and fill with water. The completed water feature will create a safe and secure habitat that will be irresistible to aquatic and other varied species of wildlife in your garden. I can’t wait.

Armed with my trusty stainless steel garden spade, I advanced into the garden up to the spot by my new dry stone wall, and with vigour I drove the spade into the ground, but it bounced off. The texture of the ground was a cross between concrete and gun metal and had been baked in the hot sun for two or three weeks by now, where is a JCB when you need one?

Not to be put off by this minor setback I retreated to the garage and armed with my pick and shovel, and a long steel bar with a heavy sledge hammer, by tea time the hole was excavated and the pre made plastic pond ideal for wildlife was in the hole and filled with water, and even washed pebbles had been laid around the bottom of the pond in the water to complete the irresistible habitat for aquatic and other varied species of wildlife in my garden. I still can’t wait.

The importance of water, wells, and the Oasis appear many times throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament we can read about Jacob’s Well, about David caring for his flock by the watering place, even Joseph was cast into a well before being sold as a slave by his brothers. Later on in Exodus we read how Moses had to strike the rock with his staff to get water for the thirsty Hebrew nation.

But for me the most significant reference to a well is with the meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan women at a place called Sychar close to Jacob’s Well. Jesus was thirsty and asks the woman to draw him water from the well, a most unusual request from a Jew to a Samaritan woman.

But the water from the well will only satisfy the physical needs and soon we will be thirsty again, but Jesus points out that her spiritual needs will only be fulfilled by drinking from the life giving fountain that only he can provide. Anyone who drinks from the life giving water from Jesus Christ will never be thirsty again.(John 4 v 1 – 15)

I have watched the pond in my garden with interest, the Robin came and inspected the work, then flew off to the old birdbath, and the Blackbird followed and also chose the old birdbath.

My next door neighbour told me they have frogs under their garden shed, I told her to direct them into my garden because I have a pond ideal for wildlife, but they (the frogs) have refused the invitation as yet.

As a Father’s Day gift my daughter and family bought me a solar powered water fountain for the pond. As long as the sun shines the fountain sends a spray of water up from the pond and its return to the water results in a gentle audible trickle. Its very relaxing and even when the sun is hot, the sound creates an illusion of being cooled.

It’s ideal for wildlife and grandads.

Derek T.

Garden seat refurbished

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 6

Genesis 49 v 1 – 28; Matthew 4 v 18 – 22

Right at the start of the lockdown I dragged an old rotten, rusty garden bench from under the hedge at the bottom of the garden. My first thought was to scrap it, burn the rotten wood and put the cast iron ends on the drive for the scrap man to collect while doing his rounds. On looking more closely I decided that with major surgery perhaps we could salvage some of the bits and restore at least half of the bench into a single seat, after all on television they rescue items from a tip and sell them on for vast sums of money, could we do the same with my garden bench.

One of my  grandsons said that he would like to help so on the first convenient day, after ‘on line’ school work had been completed, he arrived at my house to commence work, two metres apart.

First job, I said, is to cut the timber slats from off the cast iron ends, and I gave him a hand saw. The bewildered look on his face made me suspicious so I said, have you ever used a saw before? No was the reply, he had not, so we started with the health and safety, went on to how to hold a hand saw without losing fingers, how to cut on the downward stroke and how to keep your left hand out of the way, (he’s right handed and was wearing gloves). It was a nervous start but by the end of the afternoon I had enough off cuts to keep the log burner going for a month.

Day two involved drilling holes at either end of the shortened wooden slats so I gave my grandson the power drill, but I noticed the same look as with the hand saw. Have you used a drill before? No came the reply, so we started with the health and safety, went on to how to hold the drill without making holes in his favourite trainers, how to fit the drill bit into the drill, how to make sure the drill was rotating in the right direction, and how to measure to make sure the hole was is the correct place. It was a nervous start but by the end of the afternoon if anything didn’t move it had a hole drilled in it.

Actually, he did amazingly well and described it as being like a Tech lesson at school, but it brought it home to me, that any simple job is only simple if you know how to do it. If you don’t know how to do it or if you don’t have the right skills the job is far from simple and appears to be impossible.

I read once that the indication of a good musician is that they make playing a difficult piece look easy and I think it is the same when anyone has a special skill, they make doing something difficult look easy. I can recall while on holiday, all members of my family tried turning a clay pot on a wheel. We watched a demonstration by a potter first then we all had a go. Mine was a disaster; it reached fifty millimetres high then collapsed in a wet sludge all over my feet. Turning a clay pot is not easy.

My working life started as an apprentice bricklayer and the first brick arch that I ever built fell down just as dramatically as my clay pot on the wheel, into a mass of bricks and mortar.  I had set the timber former wrong in the first place so when I removed it the whole arch collapsed with it. It took me days to build it, but it failed due to mistake at the very start. Ten years later I was teaching first year apprentice bricklayers at Bradford Technical College and we always made sure the wooden former was fitted correctly before we started building the arch.

 So it’s not just a matter of having a skill or knowledge, it’s also a matter of learning from mistakes and passing on that awareness to others to avoid similar mistakes by others in the future. This principle is particularly significant when relating it to Remembrance Sunday thoughts and reflections.

Throughout the Bible we see examples of skills and knowledge being passed on from teacher to student, and from one generation to another. In the Old Testament, where there was no written word never mind ‘Wikipedia’ (Internet) , the history of the Hebrew nation was passed down through the generations by word of mouth and remembered through festivals and traditions.

But it is in the New Testament that we witness the skills, knowledge and wisdom being passed from teacher to disciple, from disciple to believer, from believer to missionary, and from missionary to the nations of the world.

Jesus taught the disciples, corrected their mistakes and through the Holy Spirit gave them the skills that they needed to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to the nations of the world, to all people.

This was not a simple task and would have appeared to be impossible to this group of twelve from Galilee, but nothing is impossible to God and through Jesus Christ.

So now it is our turn to pass our knowledge and understanding to the next generation, if not through word of mouth then by example, our life style, our behaviour, our teaching and sharing our beliefs, openly standing up for what we believe is right, and sharing the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you know that Winston Churchill found peace and relaxation through bricklaying? He built a garden wall in his family estate.

I really enjoyed working with my grandson on the resurrection of my garden seat. Sharing his enthusiasm and those, ‘ Why don’t we do this, grandad?’ moments, but I have to admit that I was relieved to deliver him back to his mother with all ten fingers, ten toes and no sticking plasters.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 5

Luke 9 v 12-17; Luke 22 v 14-24

I have just been reading a little book of jokes; well it’s more a little book of funny stories published by the ‘Dalesman’ magazine. The stories are predominantly Yorkshire based and rely on a northern sense of humour, but one story particularly struck home to me.

It was a story about a young lady at a railway station after a day shopping. She had purchased a cup of tea from a kiosk and was frantically trying to cool the beverage so she could consume it before her train arrived. She was blowing across the surface of the tea and then taking small sips while having one eye on the incoming trains. An elderly gentleman was sitting close by and took pity on her. He went over to her and said, ‘you will never cool it down like that, here take mine I’ve already poured it into the saucer’.

I think you have to be over a certain age to appreciate the humour, but for me it struck home because that is exactly what my dad used to do. When he had a hot cup of tea, he would pour it into his saucer then lift it up in both hands and drink it from there. It wasn’t a problem when we were at home, but if we were out somewhere ????

My sisters reminded me recently how much dad also liked garden peas, which isn’t unusual, but it was the way he ate them, by stabbing each individual pea with his fork, a technique that took twice as long to eat his meal than everyone else particularly when there was a generous portion of peas on his plate.

I started to think of how our liking for various foods changes as we get older, either because of personal preference or due to changing trends. I can recall my dad and me for that matter, enjoying a slice of bread and dripping. Now, ‘dripping’ is the fat and juices from cooking beef, which are allowed to go cold and spread on to a slice of bread with a sprinkling of salt, and eaten. If you were lucky you got the little black bits in the dripping left from the beef, which were particularly tasty. I wouldn’t eat it now.

Neither would I eat the cold tripe that mum used to serve up for tea on occasions. Once again, for the uninitiated, tripe is the lining of a cows stomach and can be eaten boiled with onions or cold uncooked. We had it cold uncooked with vinegar that filled the honeycombed texture of the tripe, and I have to admit at the time I enjoyed it, but not now.

My grandad, on my dad’s side, was a big tall chap, who always had little to say, he was truly a man of few words, and although we were never close, I do remember visiting him as a young lad at his allotment, where he would pick a small white turnip, wash it in a rainwater barrel, and give it me to eat like holding a lollipop. I think there would be more bacteria on my hands than on the turnip, but only the turnip got washed. He also gave me Rhubarb, stripped off the thin outer skin, dipped into a bag of sugar and I would eat that. I prefer it cooked today in a pie.

But not all things from younger days have been rejected; I still love the skin on top of a rice pudding, especially when Nutmeg has been added to the rice and milk. This is something that you don’t get from tinned rice pudding. I still have a soft spot for tinned sliced peaches with Carnation milk or tinned cream, and for tinned salmon, all of which were in my eyes a treat for Sunday tea.  But I have never liked the skin on top of the custard; dad could have that with pleasure.

I do remember with some satisfaction, a little shop on the outskirts of Bradford that served hot pork pies with mushy peas in a bowl and with a spoon. When it was cold weather and dad and me were working we sometimes went there to warm up and have pie and peas with a spoon, very nice.

We have clues from the Bible as to what foods made up their diets in those times and how they ate them. The Bible mentions a range of foods including; grapes, dates, olives, wheat, bread, fish, beef (oxen), flour, oil, figs, lamb, yeast etc., and many references to eating with their hands. Parts of the Passover meal involved dipping bread in meat juices and eating them with their fingers.

Perhaps this was part of the reasoning behind the Jews infatuation with ceremonial washing before a meal, remember the wedding at Cana the water jars were intended to be washing purposes when Jesus turned the water into wine.  

I think the most important reference to food and eating in the Bible is the Passover meal when Jesus broke the bread and said, this is my body given for you, and then he took the wine and said, this is my blood given for you, then he said, do this in remembrance of me.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 4

John 20 v 19 – 26

I don’t know about you but one thing I find can be a bit irritating is the advertisements on television. I appreciate that the considerable income generated from this kind of media, enables the programmes to be produced and broadcast, but even so some of the best efforts of the advertising moguls to persuade us of the miracles of their products, put together with the ‘commercial’ time allocated to them on our screens, seems to me to be a bit excessive.

When watching the commercial intrusion, I have started to play a little game of categorising the efforts of the advertising companies into; – 1) the confusing. 2) the humorous. 3) the insult our intelligence, and 4) the good.

  1. The confusing are the ones that have two minutes of apparently unrelated images with usually a classical background music and leaves you with a feeling of, ‘what was that all about?. A good test of the confusing is to turn the sound off and guess the product; it’s usually a perfume (very expensive one) with a French sounding name.
  2. The humorous category is quite small due to the fact that on first viewing the advertisement is very funny, but after being fed the same message repeatedly at every commercial breaks the fun wears off. However, over the years there has been some exceptions, for example how many of you can still remember the PG Tips Chimpanzees, particularly the one with piano on my foot, or Lenard Rossiter and Joan Collins in the 1970s persuading us to drink Cinzano Bianco when most of it was spilt down the front of Joan Collins dress? Today the humour is still there but more subtle, as in talking cats and dogs, and aristocratic Meerkats.
  3. The insult to our intelligence examples are those that stretch our imagination to the limit, like pouring Blackcurrant juice, mud and oil down the front of a white shirt, dipping it into a water based solution and it comes out shining bright and not a stain in sight. There may well be an overlap into category 2 here. I did try the product, a white T shirt with tractor engine oil poured down the front, dipped into the product and guess what, – it came out black. There is a more concerning side to this category, are we really expected to believe that everyone who takes part on a gambling site is going to win a prize? I don’t think so but some people do think they will, it’s the power of advertising.
  • The good ones I like and I have used two or three in this category, ( I admit they are quite old now) as illustrations in my sermons. The football match in the trenches in 1916 is quite a powerful image for Remembrance Sunday, even though it promotes a super market. I have also used ‘Simon the Ogre’, (apologies to all Simons reading this), where a man is bad tempered at work, bad tempered driving his car, bad tempered at home with his wife and children, and bad tempered at the airport, but after diving into the hotel swimming pool he emerges totally transformed in fact he is Mr Wonderful, all due to the package holiday company. We can relate this to Baptism, the water symbolically washing away all the evil from us and leaving us different people, and if we change the water to the Holy Spirit, we are cleansed internally also.  

The other ‘theological’ advertisement that I have used was called ‘the train’ and it featured, understandably, a train picking up little cartoon like passengers including a young couple with a pram, at the station. The train moves off and stops at the next station where the young couple alight and return with the child, now growing up, dressed in school uniform. The train moves off and stops at the next station where the couple alight and return with ‘L’ plates for learning to drive. The journey is repeated and at each station the couple alight and return with, a black gown and mortar board hat (university) , wedding dress and finally a young couple with a pram, and it all starts again.

The advertisement is for a well-known bank who make the point that they (the bank) will be there at every stage of life to help support their customers and give financial support and security, and it is very comforting to be aware of that.

However financial security only relates to the material things in life, what about the Spiritual support that we all need at those same stations, no bank can offer that. In addition there is the obscure fact that banks make charges for their services, as my dad would say. ‘There’s no such thing as a free meal’.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is there beside us at every stage of our lives, even the dark times that are not planned for or expected, and all charges were paid in full when Jesus was lifted on that cross at Calvary. Jesus has been with us in the past, is here with us now and will be with us into the future, and that’s more comforting than the bank.  

Luke 20 v 19 – 26 Jesus said ‘ Pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor and pay to God what belongs to God’.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 3

I have mentioned in previous Pause for Thought about some of the books I have managed to read during this lockdown. These have included; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (John LeCarre), Moby Dick (Herman Melvyn), and a couple of others, but I’ve just finished one book that has had me spellbound from start to finish, in fact I couldn’t put it down in case I missed something.

It’s all about a man who works for the government as a lawyer. He is really clever and knows his stuff, so he soon starts to work his way up through government circles and, even though he is relatively young, he is destined for a Cabinet Office position. However just before his ultimate promotion, he discovers that the government that he has worked for all this time is actually controlled by a Mafia type organisation and everything is not as legal as it seems.

He decides that, regardless of the promise of greatness within the organisation he could not continue in a career that would be steeped in untruths and corruption, you could say that he saw the light and wanted out.

Unfortunately, the Mafia organisation think he knows too much and must be silenced.

Despite our hero changing his identity, the Mafia catch up with him and have him arrested on a false charge but, remember he is a lawyer and a very clever one, so he gets acquitted.  Not to be put off, the Mafia organisation move up a gear and employ a team of ‘hit men’ to attack and kill our hero, but he still has friends within the government, and they manage to get a message to him warning him of the attack. He quickly packs his bag and gets out of town so when the hit men arrive he is long gone.

Our hero decides that the best form of defence is attack, so he gathers a few of his trusted friends and starts to spill the beans about the government corruption and launches an opposition party. As you can imagine this does not go down well in government circles, and the hit men are called in once again to have another attempt to kill our hero.

This time they corner him outside an army barracks but the soldiers see what is happening and come out to drag our hero inside the barracks to safety.

The commanding officer of the barracks sympathises with our hero, but knows that government spies will soon inform their employers of our hero’s whereabouts, so he packs him off onto a boat bound for another country.

Unfortunately, you’ve guessed it, the ship is hit by a perfect storm, and a tsunami and everything else that a ship can be hit with and it sank, forcing everyone on board to swim to a nearby desert island where they were washed up safely, but the island was full of wild animals and reptiles and the survivors were in constant threat of deadly snake bites.

The natives on the island were very friendly and cared for the shipwrecked party very well. Eventually after several months they were rescued by another passing ship and continued their journey.

I won’t tell you the ending because you may want to read the book yourselves and that would spoil it, but I can say that our hero made several more journeys and he died at an old age.

This book has everything, an insight into government corruption, spies and counter spies, political skulduggery, military intervention, court room drama, sea journeys and sea disasters, shipwrecks and survival on desert islands, and an ending that leaves you wanting more.

This is a great read and I can recommend it to you all.

It’s called Acts 8 – 28 in the Bible.

Derek T.