Category Archives: Pause for Thought

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 35

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Bill Brown

Bill Brown sat at his desk in the Post Section of United Insurance Ltd. It was exactly 9.0am and he had followed the same routine as he had done on the average day for the past 30 years.

His fingers played with the edges of the letter that lay in front of him on the desk. It was a letter that he had extracted from a plain brown envelope. The envelope was not there when he left the office on the previous evening, but was there this morning when he arrived.

There was a name typed on the front of the envelope and it read, ‘Mr. B. Brown (Post Section).

Bill Brown was a Bill, not a William. His birth certificate read; – First name – Bill.

 Christian name– Brown. Fathers name – Bill Brown. Mothers name – Mary Brown.

Bill’s grandfather was Bill Brown and so was his father, in fact all first born sons of the Brown dynasty were Bill.

No one could describe Bill as being exceptional; he was the epitome of average. He never did anything wrong but paradoxically he did nothing that could be described as brilliant. His school report listed all subjects were average, and this was reflected in his exam results, average.

Leaving school at 15 years old, found him working as an office junior at United Insurance Ltd., where he remained all his working life.

He married Marjorie when he and she were 21 and they purchased a small three bedroomed semi- detached house in a suburban estate on the edge of Leeds, where they still live today. They have two children, a 17 year old son, Bill, and a 15 year old daughter, Susan.  

Bill Brown could be described as an average man, in an average job, with an average family living in an average house, but this morning everything could change.

He had read the letter once and now read it again a second time to make sure he had read it correctly. It didn’t change no matter how many times he read each word.

The letter set out the terms of his redundancy very clearly and concisely.

At 5.0pm Bill turned his Ford Fiesta out of the car park and headed towards home although his mind was elsewhere. What would Marjorie say? How would the children react? What would he do with his life without United Insurance?

Marjorie was very sympathetic, saying, ‘Don’t worry dear. The money is good and I’m sure you will find something else’.

Bill junior smiled and said, ‘Does that mean we can buy a BMW with the money?’

Susan, on the other hand was a little more constructive in her thoughts. ‘We must find you something else to do’ she advised.

Bill appreciated her enthusiasm but he had no experience of practically anything outside the Post Room of United Insurance.

Susan thought for a few minutes contemplating the skills and abilities at her father’s disposal, then, in a burst of a Eureka moment she exclaimed, ‘You can write a book’.

A frown crept across Bill Brown’s forehead as he thought a book about what?

Susan was prepared for his response. ‘You could write a book called, ‘The Average Man’s Guide to Being Average in an Average World’ it would be a best seller’.

There is a line in a song from the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ where the disciples sing, ‘When we retire we can write a gospel and they will all talk about us when we are dead’.

They are reacting to Jesus explaining his destiny and his prophesised journey to the cross.

I don’t believe that Tim Rice wrote these words disrespectfully, but using artistic licence to portray the disciple’s realisation that Jesus was soon to leave them on their own. The events that would soon unfold before their eyes will be so life changing and crucial to God’s creation that they must be written down for posterity.

Each Gospel is written in a different style suitable and relevant for a specific reading audience, Jews, Greeks, Gentiles and everyone.

The disciples knew that they had to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ, not just to a favoured few but to all people, the average person be they Jews, Greeks, Gentiles and everyone.

Let us not forget that the disciples were themselves average people, but through Jesus Christ they redefined the definition to everyone who has ears must hear.

Bill Brown wrote several books including; ‘The average man’s Guide to DIY’; ‘The Average Mans Guide to Home First Aid’, and ‘The Average Mans Guide to Making an Insurance Claim’.

All his books had average success and he sold an average number of copies.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 34

Revelation 3 v 20 – 22

Someone’s Knocking at the Door

After revealing my mother’s infatuation with superstitions in a previous reflection, I now have to admit in indulging in a tradition that has been marinated in superstition for centuries.

Although I have, to the best of my knowledge, no connections with the highlands of Scotland, in fact I can recall only one brief venture over the northern most border on a tourist trip with Jean to Gretna Green, I have, for as long as I can remember celebrated Hogmanay.

This celebration which dates back to pre-Viking days is observed with great vigour in households across Scotland at New Year.

The revelry can last a week and involve such activities as, launching balls of burning straw into the air, burning replica Viking Long Ships , chasing an unfortunate volunteer dressed in an animal skin down the street while beating them with a stick, consuming large amounts of Whiskey and partaking in the first footing ceremony.

It may, or may not, come as a surprise to learn that my involvement in Hogmanay is a very sober variation of the first footing element of the celebration both as a lad and as a responsible adult. For over fifty years Jean and I have celebrated Hogmanay with friends in York, (with the exception of this year).

We always revel in good food and competitive games of Scrabble and Mahjong from where we are led into the lilting voice of Andy Stewart singing, ‘Donald where’s your trousers’,   and other Scottish masterpieces.

At the stroke of midnight the ‘First Footing’ ceremony is initiated.

First Footing is an essential element of the old year climax and the New Year welcome. Unless the ceremony is fulfilled precisely then who knows what bad luck will befall onto the New Year.

You can imagine how my mum would react to that.

First of all, before the midnight hour, someone has to go outside the house. This someone must be male, preferably tall, and dark haired. They must carry with them, a piece of coal, a pinch of salt, a piece of Christmas cake, (other types of fruit cake are available), a silver coin and a dram of Whiskey, (or in our case Tonic Water or Shloer).

When the clock strikes twelve, the first footer is permitted to cross the threshold and re-enter the house bringing their gifts with them. They can then kiss the ladies and shake hands with the gentlemen before joining hands and singing,’ Auld Lang Syne’.  The revelry can then continue until retiring to bed at an earlier time than last year.

The first footing always reminds me of the Bible, Revelations 3 v 20 – 24, along with a painting by the pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt. The painting shows the figure of Jesus Christ holding a lantern and knocking on a closed door.

The door is overgrown and obviously has not been opened for many years. It has no handle on the outside so can only be opened from within.

The picture and the scripture represents each one of us, having Jesus Christ knocking on the door of our lives wishing to come in, but not all will open the door. Despite no response he never gives up and keeps knocking, asking for the door to be opened and his crossing the threshold into our lives. He brings with him not a piece of coal, or a piece of cake, or a silver coin, but light and peace and hope and love.

Jesus will not force his way in, he will not impose himself on the unresponsive. There is no handle on the outside to enable him to open it by himself. He must be invited from within. Verse 22 says, ‘If you have ears then listen to what the spirit says’.

Let Jesus be the first footer over the threshold of your lives, respond to the knocking and open the door, allow him in and let him reside in your heart for all time.   

First Footing does have its problems. I have always been short in stature and light haired so I have never had the responsibility of crossing the threshold. I have to say that considering the weather conditions at midnight in late December the first footer has to endure cold, rain, wind, and often frost and snow so I have never regretted my exclusion from performing this ritual.

A further problem is that as the years slip by it becomes more difficult finding a male member of our little group who has dark hair, – or any hair for that matter.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 33

Psalm 25

Don’t Walk Under a Ladder.

My Mum was fanatically superstitious. I understand that she was quite ill after giving birth to me and certainly suffered from a nervous disposition for most of her life.  She was a heavy smoker, something that undoubtedly was a major contributory factor in her relatively early death, but it was unquestionably a symptom of her nervous state and vulnerability.

All this culminated in a strange cocktail of traditional superstition and her personal made up variations.

Certainty a belief of bad luck when a black cat crossed her path was well known and not unusual along with not walking under ladders, (although actually this is very good advice never mind superstition), but mum invented others that were a bit more obscure.

If, in the process of setting the table, two knives became crossed, they must be uncrossed immediately because crossed knives meant a battle was imminent. Similarly, mum would never stir anything with a knife, because to stir with a knife was to stir up strife.

The colour green was taboo and must be avoided at all costs. I once bought a green van and mum would not even sit in it never mind ride in it. Having anything green would only end in tears.

Items of clothing did not escape the superstitious shadow. If mum dropped a glove, someone else had to pick it up. If mum picked it up it was bad luck and spelt disaster, however, if someone else retrieved the glove then they would be the recipient of a nice surprise. If the glove was blue it had to come true.

I have to admit that if I drop a glove today I am delighted if someone else picks it up blue or any other colour.

On no account should anyone open an umbrella inside the house and if they did, it had to be held upside down, (the umbrella not the person). I am not sure what the penalty for such an act would be, but mum wanted no part in it. Similarly it was woe and thrice woe on anyone who placed a pair of shoes, (even if brand new), on the table.

Spilt salt had to be thrown over the left shoulder so as to blind the devil that was standing behind her, it was usually my dad.

How mum moved around the house also had relevance. She had to touch a particular chair, a specific place on the table and pick up a particular cup in a set order; otherwise her day would be a disaster. It was also tempting fate to enter the house by the back door and leave the house through the front door without first sitting down.

Then there was the piece of string.

The heating for the house and the cooking came from a type of Aga stove in the back room. Across the front of the stove was a handrail from where a piece of string dangled down.

 The string appeared to be nondescript apart from a series of knots along its length similar to a Rosary and mum would sit in her chair next to the stove and play with the string in her fingers which seemed to help her relax. One morning we came downstairs to find that the string had disappeared without trace. No one would own up as to who the culprit was who had severed this piece of physiological well-being, but my brother in law always has a glint in his eye every time the subject is raised, even today. Fortunately mum found a new piece of string and the saga continued.

Psalm 25 has a message that assures us that all superstitions mean nothing and it has no relevance whether we open an umbrella indoors, wear a green jacket or drop a glove, because our protection comes from God. Whatever happens in this world we must put our trust in God and we will be protected, guided and God’s love will be poured over us. His kindness and compassion will be with us as it always has been throughout all time, (v 4 – 7)

We can turn to the Lord at all times for help and he will rescue us from all evil. We can ask for mercy and he will be merciful, (v 15-17), we can ask for compassion and we will be relieved from loneliness and all our worries.

In these times of the COVID pandemic it is easy for us to become depressed and let the stress of the situation overcome our thoughts and lives, but God’s words through the Psalmist ring true and give hope and strength to those who trust in God.

Although I do not share my mum’s fear of superstition, I still walk very carefully along paved footpaths because we all know that if we tread in a nick we will marry a brick and a beetle will come to the wedding. ?????

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 32

Luke 2 v 1 – 5

The First Noel

I am reclining in my conservatory with the log burner blazing away listening to my radio. The newscaster is telling us of the slight relaxation to the COVID restrictions that will be introduced over the Christmas period. The radio announcer came on and proclaimed that it would be a different Christmas this year, not the usual festive experience that we are accustomed to. His statement left me a little puzzled because the festive experience has been a gradual change for me as years have gone by. Recent festive experiences are a far cry from those when I was 6 or 7 years old in the mid 1950’s.

To ascertain just how different, I telephoned my two sisters, (both are older than me), and had a long conversation with each of them about our recollections of Christmas past.

It would start when dad brought down the boxes of Christmas decorations from the loft. We had the same artificial Christmas tree for years. I think mum and dad bought it before any of the children were born and it was still being brought out in the 1960s.

The tree was a brown and green twisted wire sculpture with green paper pine needles and a red dot at the end of the branches. As the wire branches were folded up to go into storage, when they were unfolded the tree took on an irregular shape with its boughs pointing in different directions. The tree decorations were a little unusual, a toy car, (a Jowett Javelin bought the year I was born), a battered and forlorn fairy on the top, and a selection of home- made paper lanterns and paper chains.

The room decorations were also ancient and came out every year. They were paper and folded up like a concertina then opened to span from the light in the centre of the room to the four corners. Some opened into a ball and they dangled down from the light.

Christmas dinner was always exciting and special. Dad had a secret admirer who, every year, left a turkey or Capon (a large chicken) on our front doorstep. We never did discover who it was.

Dad would take it down to the cellar where it was cooler until mum could prepare it. My sister recalled that one year there was a commotion in the cellar because the bird was not dead and woke up to run round and make a fuss. It still appeared on the table on Christmas Day.

The turkeys were not dressed or oven ready prepared, they came complete with heads, feet and feathers. Mum would sit in the back room with a blanket on the floor and spend hours plucking the feathers off the bird and burning the stubble off with a candle. I don’t believe that mum could cut the head and legs off so I assume dad must have done that.

Christmas Day was special and magical. We would all congregate on mum and dad’s bed and have a sock and a pillar case. In the sock there would be an apple, an orange, some nuts and a sixpence, (half a shilling or two and a half pence), and in the pillar case would be our presents, some bought and some home made by mum and dad. Any larger presents were left by Santa downstairs. I would charge downstairs to see if Santa had eaten the mince pie I left for him the night before and sure enough, only the crumbs remained.

We always had to have something new to wear on Christmas Day. My sisters had a new dress or skirt and blouse often made by mum and I would have new trousers or shirt. We had to look smart on Christmas Day even if we didn’t go out anywhere.

Then dad would light a fire in the front room, possibly the only time a fire was lit in there, and the house would start to smell of cooking as mum prepared dinner which was always great. There was always great excitement when we got to the Christmas pudding. Who would get the sixpence wrapped in greaseproof paper hidden in the white sauce? I think we all got one.

The one thing that has never changed and will not change even with COVD restrictions is that Jesus Christ came into our world to save us from our sin and offer us everlasting life.

It is not important if the tree changes, or if the decorations festooned across the room are different, or if the illuminations in the garden are more or less extravagant than last year. It’s not even important if the presents reach Santa via Amazon or the internet.

What is important is that the child born in the stable, into poverty, a King humbled from a palace into a manger, will grow into the saviour of the world. This is the good news that Christmas brings.

Perhaps next year we will be able to resume the festive experiences that we are accustomed but let’s not forget that which never changes.

The turkey or Capon was delivered anonymously for about four or five years, then suddenly stopped. Perhaps the sender realised they had got the wrong address.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 31

Luke 2 v 1 – 7

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.

Robert Burns, the eminent Scottish poet wrote; – ‘The best laid schemes o mice and men gang aft agley,’ He was writing a poem about a mouse at the time but his sentiment is as true as it can get. No matter how best we plan, our schemes are often thrown into chaos by the unexpected.

My wife Jean and I planned our move from Bradford to Derby in 1973 with meticulous precision, or so we thought. I had successfully negotiated the interview for the new job, Jean and I had visited Derby to look around the town and the surrounding area, we had even attracted a buyer for our house in Bradford and everything was going to plan.

The arrangement with my new employer was that temporary accommodation in the form of a local authority house would be available for six months when I commenced my duties. One week prior to my commencement we received a telephone call to say that the accommodation was not available.

We quickly made the journey to Derby and fortunately managed to secure a bed and breakfast accommodation in a house on Duffield Road, just outside the City Centre. For the next six weeks Jean lived at home in Bradford and I enjoyed bed and breakfast accommodation in Derby. Eventually all was well and we bought our own house where I still live today.

From the start we naively thought that it would be a simple process moving about 100 miles south from Bradford to the Midlands but we quickly realised that life is not that easy. The spoken word changes in that short distance and somethings have a different meaning which makes every day routines challenging. A visit to the Bakers for example, I requested a selection of buns and was presented with rolls of bread. What I should have asked for was ‘little cakes’.  Spuds became potatoes and an alley between houses changed from a snicket into a ginnel.

Suddenly I grew feathers and became a ‘duck’ and on a visit to the next town of Ilkeston I became a ‘youth’. In Bradford everyone was ‘luv’, a habit I had to get out of when working for a politically correct Local Authority.

I’m not sure what the local builders made of my Yorkshire accent, as words like ‘so’ and ‘door’ usually raised a laugh at my expense.

The views on gastronomic preferences also raised many eye brows. Someone described me as being ‘strange ’as we ate cheese with our Christmas cake and mince pies, and the fact that we ate our Yorkshire Puddings before the main course of our meal bordered on insanity.

Just when we thought that we were back on our plan, Jean and I discovered that we were having our second child. What did Robert Burns say about the best laid schemes of mice and men?

I bet Mary and Joseph and their respective families had everything planned for the marriage of their son and daughter. In those days marriage had two stages, betrothal and the wedding, each stage having its own ceremony and celebration. The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph were betrothed so had gone through the first celebration and excitement was building towards the wedding.

It was at this stage when the plans started to go wrong. Mary was expecting a child and it took God’s intervention to persuade Joseph to continue with the marriage. Then just when the new plan was in place, who could foretell that Herod would declare a census. Well actually the prophets of the Old Testament foretold it.

The journey to Bethlehem was not part of the plan, and not being able to find accommodation had not been thought out. Certainly giving birth to Jesus in a stable was never envisaged a few months earlier.

The chaos did not stop there, the shepherds visit was not on the agenda and neither was the subsequent evacuation to Egypt to keep the young child safe.

Mary and Joseph must have thought, ‘What next?

No doubt Robert Burns was correct about the best laid schemes of mice and men, but perhaps we should look to the plans that God lays out for us all, those plans that never go array.

God’s plan for Mary, Joseph and Jesus were written centuries before and we know that his plan led to our salvation through Jesus’s death and resurrection.

I wonder if when our plans go wrong, it could be that God is making corrections on our behalf. Perhaps the direction of our planned journey would take us to the wrong place and God redirects us to where he wants us to be rather than where we think we would like to be.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 30

Genesis 11 v 1-9: Luke 14 v 2 – 30:                Joshua 2 v 14 – 15

Another Brick in the Wall

My next door neighbour is having extensive building work carried out to his house. Part of the work involves a two storey extension that abuts my drive; consequently, I have had a perfect view of all aspects of the work as it has progressed.

Having a heritage of building construction, including being a bricklayer myself in a past life, I find all aspects of construction fascinating so I have thoroughly enjoyed the past few weeks monitoring the progress of the work from foundations to roof.

There are so many theological and scriptural parallels interwoven in constructional practices.

If individual bricks are stacked one on top of another it is not long before the stack becomes unstable and falls over. However, if the bricks are interlocked, as in a dry stone wall, the structure is many times stronger. Include a mortar bed and joint and the wall is almost indestructible. If we try to work on our own we are limited in our achievements, if we work together in harmony with others we can achieve great things, if we enfold ourselves in the Holy Spirit and work together we can achieve anything.

As my neighbour’s wall began to rise, it reached a point where the builder’s legs were far too short, a problem that I experience often, and a scaffold was required to enable the work to continue. In an attempt to make the builder’s life a little easier I gave my permission for the scaffold to be erected on my drive, so one day, very early in the morning, a team of scaffolding erectors arrived and erected their steel poles in a vertical, horizontal and diagonal formation that created a work of art compatible to any Renaissance sculpture or artistic work, towering high into the atmosphere, well, up to the uppermost point of the gable end.

Genesis 11 v 1 – 9, describes how the descendants of Noah built a City that had a tower so high that it reached into the heavens. It was made from bricks and tar and was an incredible achievement. I wonder what their scaffolding looked like. When God saw what they had achieved he thought they were too clever, so he mixed the languages that they spoke to make it more difficult, and scattered the nations across the world. That’s why builders speak a different language to anyone else.

As my neighbour’s scaffold and walls grew, so the work became more complicated, involving lintels over door and window openings, thermal insulation in the cavity walls floor joists and roof construction and much more. I began to realise that the financial costs of the work were increasing by the day and it made me think of Luke 14 v 24 – 30. Jesus was describing the cost of being a disciple and pointing out that no one should embark on a life with Christ without total commitment. No one should start to build a tower without first working out the cost or he may not be able to complete the work.

I hope my neighbour has worked out the cost. I’m sure he has.

The problem with a high scaffold is that it is a long way to climb to the top and difficult to carry materials such as bricks and mortar to enable the work to continue.

To overcome this problem the builder has installed an electrically powered hoist that can lift and lower materials in a plastic tub. Unfortunately he still has to climb the ladder but the heavy materials can be lifted by the hoist.

It reminded me of Joshua 2 v 14 – 15. Joshua sent two spies into the City of Jericho to collect inside information. While they were there they had to hide from the king’s soldiers in a house owned by a woman called Rahab who enabled the spies to escape by lowering them down to the ground from a bedroom window in a basket attached to a rope. I can’t help thinking it would have been a lot more difficult lowering two men in a basket at the end of a rope than it is for my builder using an electrically powered hoist.

In return for her help and assistance, Rahab was saved by God when the City of Jericho fell. She tied a red chord to the very window that the spies escaped from and she, and her family, was saved from destruction.

I asked my neighbour if the scaffolding would still be on my drive over the Christmas period and if so we could festoon festive lights on it and have a nativity scene underneath to compete with other illuminated gardens along our road.

Sadly he informed me that if all goes to plan the scaffold structure would be removed before Christmas.  

Ah well, I will have to find some other source of excitement during the COVID restrictions.

All this goes to prove that no matter what we see around us every day of our lives, we can relate to the Bible and that God is with us in everything that we see.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 29

Matthew 6 v 28 – 30

From the Ashes of Disaster Grow the Roses of Success.

I picked up a leaflet recently; well it was more a booklet than a leaflet, published by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. It was dated summer 2020, and had obviously been written shortly after the first COVID lockdown had been relaxed.

I have to say that the information contained within the pages of the booklet was interesting and inspiring, describing the work of the Trust, their successes and their concerns for our natural environment and the state of our local wildlife.

One particular article caught my attention. It related to the state of the natural environment during the lockdown period. Prior to the COVID pandemic the threat to many of our wildlife species had been made painfully clear and scientists and naturalists have pointed the finger of blame on the lifestyle of all of us. However, although the crisis and the lockdown has for many been a traumatic and near disastrous experience, it would appear that in many ways the natural environment including our wildlife have thrived.

Lockdown forced us to stay at home, use our cars less, cycle more, and walk more and to stop flying to far off destinations. Believe it or not these changes have seen a measurable positive impact on our air quality and a reduction in atmospheric pollution.

Experts now tell us that due to lockdown, our air is fresher, fish have returned to many of our waterways, and birdsong is now louder and more vibrant, (Jo Smith Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

The imposed, ‘stay at home’ culture has resulted in other advantages for our wildlife, such as grass verges not being cut, and road side hedgerows being left to overgrow providing a much needed haven for small mammals and insects. A noticeable influx of natural wild flowers and fauna in the hedgerows has provided of explosion of colour along many of our country lanes and across our fields.

All this is good news for our natural environment but it is also proving to be good news for us. Evidence has shown that cycling and walking in the countryside is beneficial to our mental health in addition to our physical fitness. Walking around a lakeside or following a stream or watercourse is known to have a calming effect on our stress levels and even listening to birdsong has proved to help reduce the cares and concerns of everyday life. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to parkland or countryside locations will also have greater opportunities to observe wildlife species perhaps not usually seen.

I am blessed that I live adjacent to a large area of countryside and parkland, and I regularly take myself off to walk across the fields, stop for coffee at a local farm tea rooms, (when COVID permits) and return home via a circular route. In recent weeks I have sighted Buzzards, Herons, ground and tree mammals, and the annual arrival and departure of the squadron of Canada Geese as they, in chevron formation, noisily pass over my house.

 I can disclose that there have been many sermons mentally written while I have been immersed in the tranquillity of this alternative world.

The natural environment is an essential ingredient to the well- being of our physical and mental health, our spiritual fulfilment and our ability to cope with situations beyond our comprehension.

During this COVID crisis it is understandable that there are some people who are depressed and worried not just about the present situation but also about the future and it is natural that we concentrate on the negative aspects of the situation. However, the message we receive from Matthew 6 v 28 – 30 is clear, God will never desert us, never leave us on our own and will never reject us.

As God blankets the hedgerows with colour and beauty, and as he brings life back to the barren ground, so will he clothe us with so much more. We will emerge from the darkness of the COVID crises and we will feel the warmth of God’s love poured over us.

From this crisis perhaps there will be a long lasting transformational change in our relationship with nature and through that change we will experience further the love and strength of our gracious God.

Many years ago when I worked in Nottingham, I sometimes used an underpass, (now filled in), which tunnelled under Maid Marion Way. It was dark, unpleasant and often had a revolting smell. Half way along its length it crossed a second underpass and at the junction there was a small kiosk selling newspapers and soft drinks. Sometimes they also had a few cut flowers in metal containers outside for sale. It was a temporary haven in the middle of a dark unpleasant journey, an oasis of colour and hope.

Warning

Take care, if we return to business as usual at some point in time, will it spell the end of the wildlife revolution or will it start a new era of nature’s rule?

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 28

Leviticus 19 v 18

Bonfire Night

Well Bonfire Night 2020 came and went like a damp squib, in fact if it hadn’t been for one of my neighbours trying to demolish my greenhouse with a rather large rocket, I don’t think that I would have noticed that this bizarre tradition had actually taken place.

A few years ago my granddaughter had a Swedish pen friend staying with her over the November period, (do we still have pen friends?), She stayed with us throughout November consequently she had to experience our bonfire night extravaganza. We tend to forget that this festival is solely relevant to this country and totally alien to people from foreign lands. This was the case with Mona, (the pen friend from Sweden) so we had to try and explain why we not only set fire to piles of wood, polluting the atmosphere for a couple days, but we also make effigies of a historical terrorist and burn them as well. Add to this the fact that we then buy explosives and attempt to blow our gardens, (or our neighbour’s gardens) to bits and it’s not surprising it is difficult for our continental friend to grasp the reasoning.  I suspect that they do similar weird events in Sweden.

Although today’s bonfire celebrations have become rather grand affairs similar events in the late 1950s were equally as exciting to this 12 year old lad at the time.

Bonfire night actually started about two weeks before November 5th because that was the time that we started, ‘chumping’. Now ‘chumping’, involved scouring the neighbourhood for bonfire material. It meant going out after school and on Saturdays collecting anything that people didn’t want anymore and were willing to donate it to the bonfire to be burnt.  This could be tree pruning, old fences and other wooden items, but also included settees, chairs and even mattresses. Environmental pollution didn’t come into it in those days. All the bonfire fodder was collected and stored in our back yards, and in our case, covered with an old tarpaulin off the back of old army truck.

The road at the front of our terrace houses was unmade and at one point just past our house it became quite wide, so this was the perfect spot to build our communal bonfire. All the dads would build the bonfire the night before and someone would have the responsibility of lighting it when it started to get dark on the night. There was always an issue as to who made the Guy Fawkes to go on the top of the fire. Some years we would half a dozen Guys but it didn’t seem to matter they all went up in flames.

In the eyes of a twelve year old lad the fire looked to be enormous and definitely bigger than last year, in fact it was the biggest we had ever done, until next year. As the fire became established the flames would leap into the night sky and sparks would fly in all directions. Mum would make sure that we stood a good distance away but all the dads seemed to be fire proof. I always wondered how the paint on the surrounding houses survived.

All the community from the terrace would take part in one way or another either chumping, fire building or providing food on the night. Someone would bring out some cups of soup, usually tomato; someone else would bring out a plate of parkin, (a Yorkshire version of sticky gingerbread), someone else would make toffee apples and bonfire toffee, and it would be shared around while we stood at a safe distance from the fire. The fish and chip shop on the end of the terrace did a great trade.

All the houses had a low stone wall to the front garden, at one time they had iron railings but they disappeared in the war effort, but what was left was a perfect stage for fireworks. As every house had their own display it looked resplendent, not big bang but more sparkle and fizz. The big bangs tended to appear later in the night when the older young people were still round the fire and we were indoors.

Bonfire or Guy Fawkes’ night is a British tradition with its roots in a historical event. The Bible also has festivals and celebrations which similarly have roots in tradition.

There are many festivals in the Jewish calendar that are very important to the Jews both historically and today. Not only do they allow for communities to gather together but they also link Jews to their past and the origin of their race.

Many of the festivals come from the word of God and can be found in the book of Leviticus, which contains the regulations for worship and religious ceremonies of the Jewish people in ancient Israel.

Jesus uses some of the words from Leviticus to explain the second new covenant that he brought to the world, Leviticus 19 v 18 says love your neighbour as you love yourself and Jesus added this to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and love your neighbour as you love yourself.

A few years ago I went back to Bradford and while I was there I visited my old house on Glendare Terrace.  It was still there and looked highly desirable. But the road to the front of the house had been made up and now was tarmac. Where does the bonfire go now?

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 27

Genesis 41 v 25 – 34; Luke 2 v 1

Press Button B and Get Your Money Back

I read a newspaper article recently about me. It is a strange experience reading what someone else has compiled about you; I read it to see if there was anything there that I didn’t know about myself. The pivotal point of the article was that I had produced my first book at the age of 72, (actually I was aware of that fact) and why I hadn’t done it before. The newspaper reporter had interviewed me over the telephone due to not being able to visit because of COVID restrictions, and as we talked I thought of how the conversation would have been different back in the 1950s.

I can remember the first telephone that was installed in our house. My dad needed one for his building business and after much deliberation mum finally agreed.  The telephone was black Bakelite with a bright silver metal dial with finger holes corresponding to numbers from 0 to 9. We were on a shared line which meant that the telephone line outside the house served both our house and the house across the road. It was cheaper to install this way as opposed to a dedicated line, but it did mean that only one user could make calls at one time and It also meant that we could listen in to their conversations and vice versa.

Making calls was also different, we could only dial a local call, but any other calls that were long distance, (Trunk calls) had to be through the operator. This was achieved by dialing 0 and requesting the number, but we could only do this after 6.0pm because it was cheaper at that time.

Of course there were no mobile phones or cordless phones and I can recall that our telephone had a cord that had a life of its own. It used to twist and curl up effectively making it shorter in length resulting in the phone being regularly pulled off the table.

All telephone calls were paid for by the minute, local calls being cheaper than trunk calls, (which were cheaper after 6.0pm). Mum and dad were fanatical about the cost of the calls and they installed a wooden box next to the phone to put money in after every call. I was far too young to be allowed to use the phone but my sisters used to spent hours on the phone (according to mum and dad) and they had to put money in the box.

If you did not have a telephone at home, you could use the telephone box which to me as a lad was great fun. You had to follow a strict procedure in order to make a call. First you had to remember the number to be dialled, then the receiver could be lifted and the correct money inserted into the slot. Now you could dial the number. If the call was answered, then the button marked A must be pressed and then you could speak. If the call was not answered you had to press the button marked B and the money was returned. As a very young lad, every time I saw a telephone box I would go and press button B to see if the was any money left in.

A telephone box was also a welcome shelter when caught in a shower of rain but you had to pretend to make a phone call.

There are many examples of how messages were sent and received in the Bible. Luke tells us that Emperor Augustus decreed that a census must be taken across the Roman Empire. With no telephone, internet, radio or any communications it would have been a matter of messengers sent out across land and sea to organise the census.

God’s messages were sent through the prophets and their words of warning and repentance were spoken to the nations. Dreams and visions were also prominent. Joseph is well known for his gift of reading and interpreting dreams as in Genesis 41.

It could be argued that the most unusual message was delivered by mysterious appearing human hand writing on the plaster walls of King Belshazzar’s Palace as described in Daniel 5. King Belshazzar had defiled the drinking cups stolen from the Temple. Somehow you just know that words on the wall written by a mysterious hand are not good news and it certainly was not good news for King Belshazzar.

The words spelt, Numbers, Weight and Division. His days were numbered, he had been weighed and found lacking, and his kingdom would be divided and scattered. All of Daniels interpretation came to pass.

I can recall introducing the first mobile telephones into Nottingham City Council Building Control section in the mid- 1990s. They were made by ‘Motorola ’and were so big that you required a holster fastened round the waist in order to carry them.

A far cry to the slim mobiles/cameras of today.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 26

Philemon Chapters 1 – 25

Dear Sir – or, To Who it May Concern.

I received a letter recently, I know it’s not unusual to receive a letter, I get them all the time, usually from Inland Revenue, Gas or Electric suppliers, and so on, but this letter was different. It was hand written, on lined paper and the hand writing was meticulous. It was everything that my letters are not.

I tend to type my letters due to the fact that my handwriting emulates an unknown foreign language and can only be interpreted by experts from Bletchley Park, but this letter was Copperplate Calligraphy. Furthermore, this letter was from someone who I have not seen or heard from for almost fifty years.

It was from someone who I worked with at Huddersfield from 1969 until I left for Derby in 1973. He had obtained a copy of one of my books from a mutual friend and on reading it had generated a multitude of memories that had enthused him to write to me.

There is something about a hand written letter that is special. Typed letters tend to be official and regimented, whereas hand written letters are more personal and somehow sincere. Letter writing is a unique way of sharing thoughts with someone else that is in a different location, and is increasingly becoming a lost art form with the development of email and texting. A letter can portray sadness, excitement, congratulations, a cry for help or a combination of all the emotions.

Experts tell us that a letter should contain six elements;-

  1. The senders address
  2. The Date
  3. A Salutation (greeting)
  4. The Body of the message
  5. Conclusion
  6. Closing Signature.

The letter that I received contained all of these elements and all the emotions from events that had accrued over the 47 year period since we last met. As with us all it was a cauldron of good news, disasters, and at times suffering all laid out on the pages in a meticulous array of perfectly formed letters and words.

The Bible is full of letters, in fact it could be argued that The Bible is a consolidation of a multitude of letters written and handed down from generation to generation, some historical accounts of events, some reports of happenings, some of profound teaching, and some of prophesies and predictions.

It goes without saying that Paul’s letters are significant and central to Christian Theology, but for me, one of his letters stands out as a portrayal of his tenderness and love not always demonstrated in his other letters.

Paul’s letter to Philemon comes from the apostle’s heart and shows courtesy, tact, a little humour and love in order to get his plea on behalf of Onesimus, over in a tender but powerful way.

It has it all, dated about AD60 and written while Paul was under arrest, the letter has a passionate salutation and praise of Philemon’s work and service in the name of Jesus Christ before launching into his appeal for Philemon’s compassion, forgiveness and clemency towards Onesimus.

Paul was aware that to fulfil his request would be difficult for Philemon as it went against the rules on how to deal with a disruptive slave, but Paul points out that as Jesus forgave Philemon through Paul, so should Philemon forgive Onesimus in the name of Jesus.

In faith Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon possibly before an answer to his appeal has been received, he will return not just as a forgiven slave but as a brother in Christ.

Paul’s Epistle to Philemon has been described as, ‘A true little masterpiece in the art of letter writing’. – Ernest Renan

‘We are all the Lord’s Onesimi’ – Martin Luther –

Unfortunately we have no record of the result of Paul’s appeal but I have faith that Onesimus was received by Philemon as the prodigal son was received by his father.

I am just about to start my reply to my friend’s letter, I tried hand writing it but reading it through even I didn’t understand what I had written. I think to avoid him thinking that I have been taken over by aliens, I will have to type it, at least he will be able to read it.

Derek T.