Category Archives: Pause for Thought

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 17

Mark 7 v 31- end; Luke 7 v 11 – 15

Instant Success.

I was in my local supermarket the other day. Visiting the shops is not something that I’ve been doing recently due to the COVID 19 crisis. At the start of the crisis my daughters and their respective families did my shopping for me and delivered everything I needed to my front door. As the restrictions continued I was introduced to on-line shopping so the, supermarket now delivers everything I need to my front door.

I have to admit that on one occasion I did treat myself to a take away meal which turned out to be quite an experience. Prior to COVID restrictions I sometimes frequented a rather nice Golf Club three or four miles away from my home. It is a place where you can really splash out on a special occasion in the upstairs restaurant or have an equally nice but more modestly priced meal downstairs. Like many such establishments the present crisis forced them down the take away meals route so I thought I would try them out and treat myself to an evening meal from their menu. I ordered the meal over the telephone and was given an appointed time for its delivery.

Now my previous experience of take away meals has been that the meal is delivered anytime, or sometime, by either a young lad on a moped or someone in jeans and T shirt driving a dishevelled Vauxhall Corsa that has been rescued from the scrap yard into the service of take away meals delivery, so I expected something of the same from the Golf Club. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

To the minute of the appointed time an almost new Range Rover pulled up outside my house and out stepped a young man dressed in dark trousers, white shirt with a bow tie and a red waist coat. He carried with him a cardboard carrier bag with the club’s name emblazoned on the side. Complying with COVD 19 guidelines he placed the bag on my door step and stepped back and conversed with me from two metres. He asked if I required anything else, a bottle of wine perhaps. I looked round to make sure I was at home and transported to their restaurant, but answered that I did not require anything else. The young man wished me, ‘enjoy your meal’ and drove off in his Range Rover. I was unsure if I should go and change into my suit and get out the best knife and fork and plates only used for special occasions, before I could eat my meal.

But that was then and now I’m back to earth with a bump in my local Coop.

 Surprisingly I have missed the experience of selecting the items that I require off the shelves. There is something about selecting the specific tin, packet, tray of meat or item of vegetables that is somehow satisfying, so armed with my face covering and subjecting my hands to the sanitizer spray at the entrance and keeping to the 2m distancing marking on the floor, I entered my local Coop. My intension was to prepare a spaghetti bolognaise so I was searching for the ingredients when I noticed in the freezer cabinet a spaghetti bolognaise meal for one, a meal made in an instant. I was intrigued, it takes me 45 minutes to prepare my version and yet this was a meal ready in an instant, how do they do it.

Reading the label it transpires that the meal takes 4 minutes in the microwave oven and a further 1 minute to rest before eating. I thought that is not instant, it takes at least five minutes.

Across the aisle I noticed the selection of coffees, one of which was ‘instant coffee’. My coffee machine takes about fifteen minutes and even using granules I have to boil the kettle; again it’s not actually ‘instant’.  So what do we actually mean by ‘instant’?

At one time it was thought light was instant and what our eyes saw was happening instantaneously, but then Albert Einstein discovered that light travelled at a certain speed so consequently, by the time an activity had taken place and travelled to our eyes and had been received and had been processed by our brain, time had elapsed so it could not have been instantaneous.  (I hope you’re keeping up with this because it’s educational).

However, in the Bible we find many references to Jesus instantly changing people’s lives, particularly in relation to healing and miracles.

When Jesus was at the wedding at Cana (John 2) the water was changed into the best wine in an instant in fact even the servants carrying the jars never saw it happening until they poured it out.

In Mark 5 v 21 we read of a woman who had been suffering for many years despite the best efforts of her doctor and physician, but when she touched the edge of Jesus’s cloak she was healed instantly.

Similarly, when Jesus healed the deaf mute in Mark 7 v 31, the man’s hearing and speech returned instantly. Perhaps his spiritual hearing and his ability to shout and praise God also returned instantly.

All the miracles that Jesus performed defy human logic, but none so much as the raising to life of Lazarus  in John 11 v 43, and the raising to life of the widow’s son in Luke 7 v 11. Both these men returned to life from death instantly after a command from Jesus. As it has been said many times in human terms it is impossible but everything and anything is possible through God and his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

But for Jesus relief from the suffering on the cross was not instant and he would have felt the pain of the nails, the crown of thorns and the spear in his side before he returned to the Father.

For us, through Jesus’s death and resurrection, our sins have been forgiven instantly and through faith we can be one with God and look forward to everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I found all the ingredients for my Spaghetti Bolognaise but on returning home I discovered I had no spaghetti. I had Cottage Pie instead which was equally as nice, – not as nice as the Golf Club take away though.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 16

John 13 v 1 – 17

Put Your Best Foot Forward.

The COVID19 has without doubt affected everyone in one way or another, and will earn its place in the history books used to teach in schools in years to come. It is ironic that the saga of schools closing, national exams cancelled, and qualifications awarded purely on the basis of teacher assessments, will no doubt become the subject of many a Ph.D. Thesis in the future. Education is just one of many areas of our social structure that have seen unprecedented change over the last six months.

I’m sure that some of our young people considered the situation as having some appeal, perhaps an extended holiday, especially when mum and dad could have been at home also due to the crisis, and the weather was good. But for many it was a disappointing climax to three or four years of hard study. At the time of writing this Pause for Thought, one of my grandsons is waiting for an email message to tell him how his academic achievements have been assessed over the past year to give him his GCSE results. His future studies and possibly his career depend on that email.  No pressure there then.

As a youth leader, some years ago I was involved in The Methodist Association of Youth Clubs, ( MAYC) and helped to organise Youth London Weekends, a time when likeminded young people came together from churches nationally and internationally.  In one of the group sessions I asked what young people particularly enjoyed about school. The answer generally came in four parts; 1) morning break, 2) lunch time, 3) afternoon break, and 4) going home.

In my school days it would have been; morning play time, dinner time, afternoon play time and home time. How terminology has changed.

Actually my most enjoyable time at school was going on the school trips. These came along once in a school year and they were the highlight of the year for me.

One particular trip still stays in my mind after all these years, it was a fossil finding trip to Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales.

This milestone event took place in 1958 and the school informed all parents that suitable sturdy footwear was required, along with raincoats and a woolly jumper. The raincoat and jumper were not a problem but I think I only had one pair of shoes, worn for school during the week and polished up for Sunday. They were shoes but not the kind of suitable sturdy shoes for a fossil hunt to Malham Cove, and there was no way that mum and dad could go out and buy a pair of suitable sturdy shoes just for a school trip. So dad borrowed a pair of hobnailed boots from someone, just for me to wear on the school trip.

Hobnailed Boots were really strong heavy leather boots with metal studs driven into the thick leather soles and heels. My boots were very grand and were obviously ex-army as they had been polished to a mirror finish, but unfortunately they were three sizes too big for this ten year old with small feet. Mum came to the rescue by supplying three pairs of dad’s thick woollen Wellington boot socks that increased the size of my feet and did the trick.

The day of the trip arrived and with great excitement I crammed my feet, and three pairs of dads socks into the shiny hobnailed boots and clomped my way to school pretending to be a soldier on an army march. It was when I arrived at school that I immediately noticed that all the other members of the class were wearing pumps, sandals or light shoes, obviously suitable sturdy footwear meant different things to different people.

We climbed aboard the old bus that the school always hired for school trips, and it thrashed its way up the hills from Bradford through Keighley, Bingley, Skipton and on the narrow winding road to Malham where we disembarked. The teacher told us that we were going to walk to the top of Malham Cove and search for fossils and then walk back to the bus.

There are two routes to the top of Malham Cove, one an easy route that meanders up a grassy bank to the top, and one that was the more difficult route up a rocky escarpment to the top. Now hobnailed boots are very good on meandering grassy paths but hobnailed boots are rubbish at negotiating stony paths and wet slabs of Sandstone and Granit especially when the hobnailed boots are three sizes too big. Our teacher chose the difficult route up the Stoney escarpment.

Those people wearing pumps, sandals and light shoes were dancing up the path like young Gazelles and Mountain Goats , but for me I was thrashing my way up the path like the old bus that had struggled to bring us here from school. It was a case of two steps forward and three steps sliding back. By the time I had reached the top there was no time for fossil hunting it was back to the bus for sandwiches.

I was not feeling enthusiastic about descending the Stoney path back to Malham in my oversized hobnailed boots and was beginning to regret the kind gesture of dad’s friend who had lent them to me. Then the teacher announced that due to the Stoney path being so dangerous they had decided to return by the meandering path down the grassy bank.

Now we are talking suitable sturdy footwear. Hobnailed boots rule ok.

I had to secretly smile as we boarded the bus in Malham and I saw the terrible state of the pumps, sandals, and light shoes and the state of the feet inside them.  I looked down at my not so shiny, three sizes too big but dry and comfortable hobnailed boots and thought, ‘Thank you dad’s friend, who- ever you are, nice boots’.

In the Bible when we read of the journeys made Jesus and the disciples, they would have been made on foot. There were no made roads as we would recognise, they would have travelled on stony paths and grassy banks. The day time temperatures would have been quite hot and the atmosphere was dry so the paths were dry and dusty making it a dirty sweaty situation for their feet.

There was no hobnailed boots for Jesus and the disciples, suitable sturdy footwear in those times was sandals laced with lengths of leather string so after a day walking their feet would be dirty, dusty and unpleasant, and possibly this is part of the reason why ceremonious washing before a meal was so important in Jewish culture, not only washing hands but also arms legs and feet.

If you were a wealthy family you would have slaves or servants to wash your feet for you when you returned from walking, but even in the servants protocols there was a pecking order and foot washing was allocated to the lowest of the low, the job was so unpleasant.

That is the significance of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet in John 13 v 1 – 17. Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah, lowered himself to be the servant who washes the feet of the disciples.

Through this act of love Jesus demonstrated that the highest rank in the structure of the Kingdom Heaven is that of a servant who is willing to give up all to wash the feet of those who are in need.

The message to the disciples was that they having had their feet washed by the almighty should not hesitate to wash the feet of others.

The Bible tells us that after washing all the disciple’s feet Jesus returned to the table In which case the Son of God washed the feet of him who would betray him, Judas who at that time had made up his mind to hand Jesus over to those who would send him to the cross. Jesus demonstrates that even those who are our enemies receive the love of God through Jesus Christ.

The disciples could not understand the spiritual significance of Jesus’s actions and Peter initially refused to have his feet washed by his master. Shortly after Peter would deny three times that he even knew the man who washed his feet.

I actually liked those hobnailed boots, even though they were three sizes too big and needed three pairs of socks. They were different to all the other footwear worn by the rest of the class but hey never let me down and kept me warm dry and safe. I wanted to keep them but dad said they had to go back. He polished them back to their mirror shine with a bit of spit and polish.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 15

1 Kings 19/Psalm 18;12/Luke 17; 23-24/Revelations 11;19.

When Lightning Strikes

One thing with the recent warm weather is the dramatic thunder and lightning storms that herald the end of the hot spell. When warm humid air meets colder air in the atmosphere the result is often heavy rain and a fireworks display across the sky.

I have to admit that as a six or seven year boy I was not happy with thunder storms, I don’t think my mum helped as she was terrified of thunder. The family used to reassure me by telling me it was not really thunder; it was God moving his furniture round in heaven. However, I wasn’t convinced of the accuracy of this theory.

Just round the corner from our house was an industrial laundry called, ‘Allied Industrial Services’ (AIS), that had a fleet of large vans that bumped and banged down the road. Every time it thundered my mum would say to me, ‘Don’t worry it’s not thunder it’s just the AIS vans. She was hiding under the kitchen table at the time so again I was not convinced.

The time to really get worried was when mum opened the back door. Always when it thundered mum would open the back door. This was to allow any lightning bolt that came down the chimney, (we had coal fires), to escape across the back room and out of the back door and we would be all safe. I never understood how the lightning bolt would know where the back door was situated as the lightning bolt had never been in our house before. It could have chosen the door to the cellar, or the door to the front room, which would have been a disaster because we were not allowed in the front room and mum never opened the front door. She only opened the back door. I decided at one time that I would stand at the bottom of the stairs and if I was brave enough, I would point in the direction of the back door to help the lightning bolt go in the right direction. We never actually had a lightning bolt come down the chimney so my services were never called upon.

I can recall one occasion when Jean and I were first married; we enjoyed driving a few miles down the road from our house into the village of Bingley, (famous for the Bingley Building Society which became the Halifax). Just outside the village was the Leeds/Liverpool Canal which had five locks in a line. This was called the Five Rise and we would park the van in the car park at the first lock and walk along the canal path. It was all very pleasant except on one occasion when half way through our walk it started to rain extremely heavy thunder rain.  There are no shelters at Five Rise so we sought some shelter under a large tree which gave some respite from the deluge. It was when the thunder and  lightning started that I realised that our tree under which we were sheltering, was the only tree at Five Rise and it was by far the highest point in that vicinity. I had a dilemma, should I share this discovery with my new wife or should I just keep quiet and hope for the best?

My predicament was resoled almost immediately when a flash of lightning illuminated the entire canal and simultaneously the heavens above us exploded with thunder that shook the centre of the earth. I’m not sure who reached the car park first, Jean or me, but I’m sure we both qualified for the next Olympic Games.

In those days we did not have the luxury of a motor car, but we did have an elderly Renault van. It was bright yellow and was a funny looking vehicle but very practical, the roof having a detachable section that allowed long items to be carried by protruding them through the roof. We used to remove the detachable section and pretend it was an open topped sports car. It needed a great deal of imagination but it was fun. On one occasion we took our ‘open top sports car’ for a day out in Knaresborough, but I left the detachable roof section in the garage at home.

On the return journey we ran into heavy rain and a thunder storm.  If I explain that the open section of the roof was directly over the drivers and passenger’s head, the significance of my error in leaving the detached section at home becomes apparent.

I tried to lift our spirits by pointing out that we had a panoramic view of the lightning through the open roof, but alas I fear that my enthusiasm was not shared by my passenger who was sitting with a raincoat over her head and shivering. We did laugh about it later, much, much later.

In the Bible thunder and lightning are used to describe the power and authority of God. The almighty power to control the most fearful of the elements, manifested in wind, rain, thunder and earthquakes, but also in the soft calm voice (1 Kings 19)

Psalm 97;3, describes God as, ‘His lightning lights up the world, the earth sees and trembles’. Whereas Psalm 18;12, describes God’s power as, ‘Out of brightness of his presence clouds advanced with hailstones and bolts of lightning. This uses lightning as being symbolic of heralding God’s presence.

Luke 17;23 describes Christ’s second advent as being unmistakable as the lightning which streaks from one part of the sky to another heralding Christ’s coming, and in Revelation 11;19, John uses all the great natural powers of creation to reveal his vision of the presence of God; – ‘There are lightning’s, noises, thundering’s, an earthquakes and great hail’.

All things considered I think my mum was right, – best keep the door open.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 14

Matthew 18 v 21 – 35

And the Next Question Is;-

We seem to be fascinated with quiz questions, be it on television quiz shows, purchasing books of general knowledge questions, board games with questions or even pub quizzes, we are all susceptible to the urge to show our knowledge.

Life is full of questions, and it’s not just limited to the younger generations, although young people do tend to raise questions that can be challenging as any parent will experience at some point in time.

I read recently of a young boy who approached his dad with a question, ‘Dad, where did I come from?’  His dad took a deep breath and launched into a complex and embarrassing explanation of the birds and bees. When dad had finished the young boy looked puzzled and said, ‘But mum said I came from Oldham and we moved to Derby for your job at Rolls Royce’. This just goes to justify the first line of all exam papers, ‘Read the questions carefully before you answer’.

Another young person asked their dad, ‘Why is the sky blue?’ to which dad replied, ‘I don’t know ask your mum’. The child asked, ‘Dad why are trees green?’ and dad replied, ‘I don’t know ask your grandad’. The child asked, ‘Dad where does the moon go to during the day?’ and dad replied, I don’t know go and ask your grandma’.  The child then said. ‘Dad you don’t mind me asking questions do you?’ and dad replied, ‘Of course not, you don’t learn anything if you don’t ask questions’, which goes to prove that the answer to the question is just as important as the question itself.

Learning through questions is perfectly true and using questions is pivotal to our learning throughout life. My dad always said that you learn something new every day and you never stop learning, so perpetual learning comes from perpetual questions.

Throughout this COVID 19 crisis, how many people have asked the question, ‘How do I work this computer?’ In my case, my grandchildren have answered that question. It’s like a reversal of roles from them asking me to answer homework questions to me being taught computers by them.

The whole philosophy of the subject of questions is complex, for example, the complexity of the question depends on the person asking it and the complexity of the answer depends on the recipient of the question, (I hope you followed that). For example, can you imagine Einstein asking the milkman if E=Mc2 is the right equation for relativity, (I hasten to add this is not a reflection on milk men) but who could answer a question of that magnitude.

During my service as a JP, questions were central to the process of justice. The entangled journey to find the truth comes from evidence and questioning and there are strict procedures that apply to questioning in court. Obviously questions must be constructed in a format that avoids confusion or directing a witness into a particular predetermined answer. In other words you can’t put words into a witness’s mouth. 

However, despite all the protocols there are still times when even the best get it wrong, like the time when the prosecuting council, asked the witness, who was he defendants twin brother, how long he known the defendant.

But through questioning the truth will prevail, as in the case where a young man was accused of driving without a license. The prosecution asked, ‘Are you aware of the charge of driving without a license?  The accused replied, ‘Yes Sir.’ Prosecution asked, ‘Do you possess a license?  ‘No’ came the reply’. Prosecution asked, ‘How did you come here to court today?  ‘I drove here and parked in the car park,’ came the reply.

So by questions we gain knowledge and also through questions we can seek and find the truth. Never before have we had the depth of answers to all our questions at our fingertips. The internet is a cauldron of information and answers and has now become the centre of learning in many household.

When it comes to questions on life, the Bible has all the answers within its pages. God’s word reaches out to us and guides us through our life style, way of life, social relationships, truth and forgiveness.

In Matthew 18 v 21 we are told that Peter asked Jesus a question, relating to how often he should forgive his brother who has sinned against him. Peter probably thought that he was showing grace by offering 7 times, but Jesus showed by figuratively using 490 times that forgiveness is given indefinitely. Jesus then reinforces his answer by using the parable of the unforgiving servant. One servant receives forgiveness from the King but in turn shows no forgiveness to his brother servant. The point being that as we receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ, then we must also show forgiveness our brothers and sisters who have sinned against us.

I often use an illustration of a friend who always filled in his diary with a pencil so that he could rub entries out and change them. The problem was that he put so much pressure on the pencil that the imprint from January could be read in December, so the entry was never erased.

Through Jesus death and resurrection our sin is rubbed out, not leaving a trace or imprint, not just for the present but for all time never to show up on future pages.

A young man was in court pleading guilty to a charge of shoplifting. It was the 25th conviction for shoplifting in his young but energetic career in crime. The defence solicitor was summing up on behalf of his client prior to sentencing and he addressed the court as follows; ‘Can I make it clear to your worships, that my client has not one ounce of dishonesty in his character. It is clearly a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. – 25 times

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 13

John 21 v 1 – 14

Gone Fishing

I watched two programmes on BBC 4 television recently, both were documentaries about Thailand. One was about Thailand wildlife, and one was about a railway train journey.

I had to admit, previous to these two programmes I knew very little about Thailand. I thought more about their neighbours Vietnam and Cambodia, being of a generation that remembers the Vietnam War and the American intervention, so the picture painted by the filmmakers of the country and of the people was extremely enlightening.

I was aware that Thailand, a country in South East Asia, is predominantly Buddhist, and was formerly known as Siam. It appears that the change of name from Siam to Thailand was an attempt by a 20th century dictator, Luang Phibunsorgkhram , commonly known as Phibun,   (I wonder why?), to bring the country into line with Western Politics and culture. Pity really as Siam’s culture was unique and much of it could be envied by the West.

As Buddhists, their culture is passionately based on harmony between nature, the natural world and human society, so it’s not surprising that they have a great respect for all creation and believe that there is interdependency between all nature and the human race.

Sandwiched between Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar (formerly Burma), historically, Thailand has been threatened by colonialism from both French and British pressure, but it never happened, partly due to the clever negotiating skills of the Thai (Siamese) sovereignty and trading agreements with the super powers.

I admired one King who arranged for the construction of a grand British Consulate building on one side of the road, and an identical one for the French on the other side of the road. Diplomacy or what?

I was also familiar with the Rogers and Hammerstein musical and film of, ‘The king and I’, but I didn’t appreciate that it was based on a true story. The relationship between a Welsh widow, Anna Loenowens, and King Mongluf actually happened and the Loenowens family became wealthy residents. However, it appears that the King was not impressed with the film and banned it from being shown anywhere in the country, and the ban is still in place today.

I was most impressed by the landscapes filmed in the programmes,  and the way the Thai people were portrayed as gentle advocates of caring and respecting the harmonic relationship with wildlife, be it elephants or deadly poisonous snakes they go out of their way to maintain the natural balance between all living things. One example was an elephant which had lost a leg through a land mine explosion. A prosthetic leg had been manufactured specifically for the animal so that it could live a normal life, and it worked.

One story really did impress me.

At a particular time of the year the sea off the coast of Thailand, is the host for an incredible event. Shoals of small fish make their way from the breeding grounds to the open sea. These are Anchovy, and they pass the Thai coast in their millions.

At exactly the same time flocks of Tern arrive to feed on the fish just below the surface. Simultaneously, pods of Great Whales arrive also to feed on the Anchovy, the whales rising from deep water with open mouths to scoop up thousands of fish into their throats with every dive, and while all this feeding is going on the Thai fishermen are casting their nets in the shallows to bring boat loads of fish back to the shore for processing. The Anchovy are filleted and dried in the sun and will be food for the community for a year.

So the Anchovy arrive at the predicted time, they are met by flocks of Terns which feed on them. The whales also arrive to feed and the fishermen also arrive to catch fish for the community, and there are still enough Anchovy to return to the breeding grounds next year.

How many Anchovy can there possibly be?

As I watched the fishermen casting their nets into the shoals of fish I thought of John 21v1.  The disciples, depressed and vulnerable after the death of Jesus, decide to go fishing on the Sea of Galilee but despite fishing all night they caught nothing. Let’s not forget that these are experienced expert fishermen, but even they caught nothing. Perhaps even with all our expertise there are times when we can only succeed when we invite Jesus to be with us.

When they follow the instructions from Jesus their nets are full and are at breaking point, they struggle to drag the nets to the shore. The Bible tells us there were 153 fish caught in their nets, a very specific number. This possibly represents;

  1. The number of languages in the known world at that time.
  2. The number of races or tribes in the known world at that time
  3. The number of species of fish known to be in the Sea of Galilee.

Whichever the interpretation we choose i’s meaning is clear, all people in all races in all the world will be saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the preaching of the Gospel.

It’s good to know that the natural world, working in harmony with Thai people is sustainable, but it’s disappointing that throughout history the Western world has stripped Thailand of it forestation in its search for timber, particularly Teak.   

Thankfully this has now been prohibited.  

Derek T.

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.