Archive for September, 2010

I’m a bit of a fits and starts reader when it comes to ‘proper’ books. My mother says I have ‘narrative hunger’, which means I will read a crisp packet just to keep words flowing through my head. These days the internet seems to fill that gap, and my reading of books has dropped off. But this summer I really enjoyed getting back to real reading and I’m hoping to continue this pattern as the holidays become a dim memory.

The Lord must have known my need to read, and not just read escapist fiction, and so somehow I have ended up convening a small study group of women from our church, two of whom were confirmed just the other weekend. Looking around for a confirmation gift for them, I came across a fairly new book by Australian evangelist John Chapman.

‘Chappo’ is a wonderfully engaging and straightforward communicator and I’ve loved listening to him (sermon tapes on holiness and evangelism) and reading his books (especially ‘Know and Tell the Gospel’) over the years. The book I chose for our friends – and then this little group – is called ‘A Foot in Two Worlds’. Its subtitle is ‘The Joy and Struggle of the Normal Christian Life’.

I’m now two chapters in, and I thought I’d try and summarise my reading on the blog, so I can be really clear when I lead our discussion tonight. The book very helpfully comes with a discussion guide at the back, which is a great boon for my fuzzy head.

The book has only seven chapters, and with the first and last chapters being introduction and summary. This means we should be able to finish it over five sessions, which I think is a manageable course length.

Chapter 1: Christianity is not for wimps

Chappo begins with the joys of the Christian life, reminding us that when we become Christians, God forgets our past, giving us continuous forgiveness and sending the Holy Spirit to live with us.

But he also gives us the full picture:

Right from the beginning, I also found living as a Christian much more difficult than I had imagined… Some days I felt overwhelmed. It seemed an endless grind…

He describes us as ‘people with a foot in two worlds’:

We have one foot firmly planted in this world and, at the same time, one foot planted in the world to come, where everything is perfect.

Chapter 2: This Present World

In his second chapter, Chappo helps us to think about the fallen world we live in, remembering how it is good but fallen, firstly with a brief sweep through Genesis 1-3. He also has a good section on the devil, giving some nicely alliterating points about the Father of Lies:

  1. He deludes us
  2. He discourages us
  3. He denounces us
  4. He diverts us
  5. His demise is sure

So he summarises

This…world. While it is good, it isn’t good enough. I am meant to be dissatisfied. Thankfully that isn’t all there is.

I am very much looking forward to discussing this with our little group. Chappo doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of the Christian life, but nor does he ignore its joys. There’s lots to talk about here.

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When you live in the inner city, people from the council or from government agencies are always coming round asking what facilities you need, or suggesting events that you should go to, that they have laid on. I never encountered government in such quantity until I came to live in a deprived area. They are involved in everything!

Sometimes I just want to suggest that the people asking the question give up their well paid job so the council can give the money to the church instead. And other times I want to say that they should come and live here instead of swanning in and trying to build “community cohesion” from outside, 5 days a week, 9am-5pm. Community doesn’t work like that. You need to be here. And you need the gospel to help you.

The Breathe Network seem to have a much better idea of what makes good community. NB From 3min30s onwards there’s no more action…

[HT Mark Meynell]

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The Vicar's Wife likes to have warm ankles

So it’s been getting a bit chilly here and we’ve fired up the wood-burning stove 3 or 4 times in the last week. So today I’m sharing a few thoughts about surviving Vicarage cold…


We have new slippers in the Vicarage, both me and the Vicar. Warm feet make a huge difference to happiness in a cold house. The slippers of happiness are made by The North Face. Mine are of the bootie variety, and the Vicar has mules.


Let's hope these are long enough...

I am also seriously considering investing in some Marks and Spencer Warmwear. M&S claim that these ‘layering pieces’…’generate heat’ and ‘act as insulation’. I’m a wee bit concerned that they might be a bit short and not tuck into my low rise jeans, thus ensuring  that I have cold kidneys and monumentally failing to keep me properly warm. Too-short t-shirts are the bane of my life in cold weather. I will try them, however, and report back. Unless any of you have tried them already…? I’m 5’10” btw, so my back is quite long. [HT Cassie]


Scarves are essential for warmth and I’m especially pleased with the gorgeous Black Ruffled Skinny one that Icklesis bought me for my birthday this year. Don’t be without one. But you knew that, anyway, didn’t you?


And finally… work out where the cat is and join her. She knows the warmest place in the house for certain. As you can see, it’s usually in front of the fire.

Ahhh. Toasty.

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This Sunday the Vicar preached for the first time in our ‘Blessed’ sermon series, looking at nine psalms that speak of how God blesses us. This week we were in Psalm 1.

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1v1-2

At the end of the sermon the Vicar read the ten commandments so that we could spend a few moments meditating on them. And here are two kinetic typography clips I collected last week. And this was a sermon I didn’t proofread before it was delivered…

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I saw the original YouTube clip for this a while back, but here it’s been brilliantly set to a kinetic typography animation. An excellent bible summary in less than a minute – what are you waiting for?

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Do come in, but perhaps you won't find what you're expecting...

Not everyone knows the real answer to this question. And sometimes it’s tempting for us to do something worthy but low down on our priority list in order to help people who think the church is really a sort of extension of social services.

That was my temptation earlier today, when local social services telephoned us. The lady calling didn’t introduce herself, but asked if we had a room available for a parent to have contact with their children. They needed two hours, twice a week. I answered that our church hall was available to hire if they were looking for space.

But that wasn’t what this lady wanted. She was after space that was free. Or was there somewhere else? Perhaps the Vicarage? ‘Because churches want to support families staying together.’

Well, obviously, that is something the church wants to support. But we are a small congregation in a deprived area. So we can’t afford to let people use our rooms for free. And you all know that the Vicarage already has plenty of people in need passing through its doors. And, when we consider what we’re really about, our mission is not social service, to keep families together (for example), just because that is a good thing. Our mission is to help bring people out of the dominion of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son. And stronger families are a result of that, not an end in itself. We need to keep the main thing the main thing, otherwise we could spend all our time in worthy, but ultimately fruitless, activities.

I was interested that they thought the church would help (which we might have been able to do I guess, if we were a wealthier church with a church hall that was open anyway). There is still a perception that churches care about people and their troubles. I can’t imagine Richard Dawkins gets many calls asking him to make his living room available for use by families in crisis.

Incidentally, I wonder if this is part of a new plan for councils to reduce their spending? Perhaps they are looking to the church to provide free facilities for all their other activities as well. Will we be getting a call from their finance department asking if we’ve got space for a few of their accountants? Is this an initiative that Grant Shapps has launched?

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Superman Engineer

This summer the kids enjoyed all their usual home activities – playing on their bikes, arguing over the PS2, making a mess and dressing up. The Engineer was particularly keen on his (very nearly too small) Superman costume. Since we didn’t have a haircut until the day before they went back to school, he was also able to work on his Superman hair. Can you see his kiss curl?

You look JUST LIKE Superman, darling.

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We had a helpful sermon series on Colossians earlier in the year, and I’m looking forward to hearing Lizzy Smallwood speak from the same book at the Northern Women’s Convention on 9th October. In the meantime, this is a brilliant reminder of the riches of Chapter 2.

[HT Dan Green]

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At least I'm not a tangerine. Not today, anyway!

My kids have come back from school at the beginning of the new term with a new counting rhyme. They count the buttons you have on your clothes and chant

Gypsy Queen

Then you are pronounced to be one of these. Today I am (thankfully) a Lady. Happy was declared to be a Monkey on the morning he left. Oddly accurate, these counting rhymes. What are you today?

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I know, I know, we’ve all finished our holidays and everyone’s gone back to school and work. But I’ll forget this if I leave it till the right sort of time next year. And this year I really enjoyed my holiday reading, so here they are – maybe you could stick them on your Christmas list or something. Or even do some reading out of holiday time… So, in no particular order…

  • Hearts and Minds by Amanda Craig – great novel about the experience of immigrants and the interconnectedness of people’s lives.
  • Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym – I enjoyed this far more than Excellent Women, which was the first Barbara Pym I read, possibly because Jane is a Vicar’s wife who always looks as if she’s about to go and feed the chickens.
  • The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford – I’m rather embarrassed I’d not read this before. It was a fun read, rather than a brilliant one, and I’m looking forward to reading some more of her books. I notice that India Knight cites her stuff at the top of her recommended comfort reads. I’m going to check out some of the other’s on that list – I’ve not read (quite) all of them…
  • 1,000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke – lighthearted non-fiction about Anglo-French relations since William the Conqueror. Although I kept the cover out of sight as I read it beside the pool in Brittany.
  • Armadillo by William Boyd – funny and clever novel about identity and fitting in.
  • The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom – I first came across Ian Sansom by accident, looking for stuff by C J Sansom (totally different, but excellent too). This is the fourth (I think) in the very funny mobile library series, about a North London Jewish librarian running a mobile library in the far north of the north of Northern Ireland. Hilarious characters and gentle mysteries in all the books in the series.
  • The Gospel-Centred Family by Tim Chester and Ed Moll – excellent and challenging short book on Christian parenting. Would be easy to use as a course or to read with a friend.
  • A Shelter in the Time of Storm – Paul Tripp – I’ve recently been using this book to help me get my devotions back on track. I’d rather lost the plot with my Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers (rather too much shirking and slacking, alas). I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a series of meditations on Psalm 27, each with a couple of thought provoking questions to take with you through the day. It’s subtitle is ‘Meditations on God and Trouble’ and I think it would be brilliant for any Christian who is low, tired or struggling, which is probably most of us…

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