Monday, 8 February 2016

Remember to put the glass down

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question.

Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I...'ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralysed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."

Remember to put the glass down.

With thanks to Anthony Harwood in Lusaka for this story

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Six Things I Hate About Facebook

Well, hate’s a bit strong really. Maybe ‘dislike’ is better.

1. Games. Please- don’t ask! No, I’m not going to build an imaginary farm, join pretty shapes in a row or shoot anybody. I don’t like guns. And I’ve got games thanks. Risk. Trivial Pursuit. Ever played Mexican Train Dominoes? Come on over.

2. Emotional threats. It reads like a caring Facebook post. And then it changes. You get to the bit that says ‘I bet nobody really cares’. Or ‘I will know who really cares if you reply to this’ or ‘I bet I can guess what few friends reply to this’. Or ‘if you post a message you are one of the few who care’. And so on. I don’t respond to emotional threats. Neither should you.

3. Avoiding commas and apostrophes. What have they done to offend people? They’re needed. Especially with “You’re” and “Your”. It annoys me. As someone recently posted, commas are essential and can save lives:

- Let’s eat Grandma ...or perhaps...
- Let’s eat, Grandma

4. Facebook posts that can go on too long. Oops.

5. Cats. Why? I mean, why?! So many of them. Facebook is being taken over by cats! I love stories about you. The funny things. The family things. The holidays. The beautiful photos. The not so beautiful photos. I love celebrating with you. And it’s a privilege to pray for you in the hard times. But cats?! Please- no more!

6. Public unfriending. Why announce it? Just do it. I’m grateful I’m your friend. I don’t need to know you’ve unfriended everyone else. And if you were to ever unfriend me, I might just have to come over and shoot your cat.

Taken from my Facebook page.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Times Paces

When I was a babe and wept and slept,
Time crept;

When I was a boy and laughed and talked,
Time walked.

Then when the years saw me a man,
Time ran.

But as I older grew,
Time flew.

Soon, as I journey on,
I'll find time gone.

May Christ have saved my soul, by then,


'Times Paces' by Henry Twells, adapted by Guy Pentreath

Monday, 4 January 2016


When you meet someone for the first time, what do you ask them? Probably pretty early on it’s ‘what do you do?’ Or, ‘do you have a family?’ Maybe ‘where do you live?’

They are reasonable questions. They help us find out about the newcomer. But often, without realizing it, we are forming a judgement of them based on what we learn of their job, their family background, the kind of house they live in; possibly by the clothes they are wearing.

There was an interesting experiment recently. Six photographers were asked to photograph the same man, wearing the same clothes- so there was no outer differentiator. One was told he was a life-saver, another that he was a fisherman. One was told he was a millionaire, another that he was a recovering alcoholic. One that he was a psychic, another that he was a former prisoner.

The six resulting photographs of the same man in the same clothes are entirely different:

The labels we give people do not actually determine who they are, only how we perceive them to be. Every one of us is different. No two people are the same. We all have a precious God-given life, character, passion and a future beyond where we came from, what we do and how we look.

Let’s look beyond the obvious to what ‘can be’. Some friends of mine are doing this right now. I’m taking a team out to India in February to see how they are getting on. Children are being rescued, food and medical help is being provided. What others threw away as worthless lives, we are taking hold of, giving children a hope and a future. The Bible says God takes all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms— and they get properly fixed and fitted together in vibrant harmonies (Colossians 1: 19, the Message version of the Bible). So good that God didn’t asses us on what we can and can’t do!

The labels others have given don’t determine who we are.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Gerald Coates - Pioneer: The Story of a Book

‘Should I? I mean, really, should I?’
It’s early in 2011 and I’m considering a radical step. Leaving my job as Pensions Director for the Mars Group- and starting a Masters in Theology at Mattersey Bible College.
Roh, my wife, looks on as I pontificate. She knows she doesn’t need to say anything. I’ve made my mind up. I’m just trying to rationalise it!
It was a bold step, but out of it came much more than a Masters. My final dissertation was on the house church movement. It was 57 years since Arthur Wallis wrote his ground-breaking In the Day of Thy Power. My dissertation title seemed quite clever at the time: 57 Years of Restorationism in the UK: Ongoing Legacy or 57 Varieties?
The dissertation gave me access to a number of the house church pioneers- Peter Lyne, Terry Virgo, David Matthew…. And Gerald Coates.
I was grateful for the day spent with Gerald. I left him a copy of my last biography, Cheating Death, Living Life – Linda’s Story, a story of God’s miracles in what could have so easily been a tragic life. And I said that if ever he wanted a biography done, to let me know.
I heard nothing.
We corresponded on something else via Facebook. I suggested the book again. Nope.
Then Anona, Gerald’s wife, steps in. The book should be written.
And so it was.
Starting with reams of wallpaper to plan out the timeline, two further days spent with Gerald and Anona, a lot of recording, a glass or two of wine, a contract with Malcolm Down Publishing, rewrites, rewrites and rewrites… and finally a book.
Gerald’s is an important story. It tells of God’s goodness and the work of the Holy Spirit in our generation. I’m grateful to have had the privilege of writing it.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

He also made the stars.....

If the Bible has a throwaway line, it has to be this:

'He also made the stars.'

It's in Genesis chapter one, amidst verses that describe God's creation. There's a lot about light and sun and sea and land and trees and birds... and in the middle, in verse sixteen.... he also made the stars.

What does this actually mean? When I travel to New York from London, it takes me seven hours at 500 miles per hour. If I travelled at the same speed to the moon, it would take me three weeks. At the same speed to the sun? Twenty-one years. The edge of the Solar System? 900 years. The furthest reaches of space.... That would take me, travelling at 500 miles per hour, around twenty quadrillion years. (That's a 20 with 15 noughts after it!)

How amazing that a God that does 'big', also does 'small' and cares for me!

Here's a video that gives you some idea of the immensity of space- and how small we are in comparison.

He also made the stars.

(There's more on this in my book God-Life: chapter 4)


Friday, 25 September 2015

Résumé Virtues or Eulogy Virtues?

David Brooks wrote a beautiful article in the New York Times. His proposition is a simple one. Do we want to build our virtues as reflected in a career résumé, or do we want to build virtues in our life that might be remembered after we are gone - what Brooks calls a Eulogy Virtue.

Here's a quote from the article:

"Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character."

And again:

"You (can) live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet."

I appreciate my résumé. My success in the world of work has taken me a long way. But if I want to go further - beyond this life - I need to add the kind of virtues that may be talked of at a funeral.

I don't expect for a moment that anything I do to build my inner life will be of the least use when one day I stand before God's throne. The only passport to eternal life is one stamped with the words 'Paid in full by Jesus Christ'. Nevertheless, to live well in this life requires me to build a set of Eulogy Virtues. Anything less will be less than satisfying. Anything less will be less than worthwhile.