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in the (lowest) corner of a rural field

Some people have lived such important lives. In a recent wander through a cemetery in Pembrokeshire (SW Wales) one memorial is designed to attract attention more than any other. And it does. High above all else. The erect, stone figure can be seen from some distance. A military man of some kind, I suspect. Maybe a general? In life he commanded armies and now in death he is commanding graves. But I am not wandering for his sake. I am on a little pilgrimage. My eyes look here and there for the headstone I have come to see. Ahh, there it is. Down at the lowest point in the cemetery, close to the boundary, in a nondescript little space. Having been added far more recently than its neighbours, the colouring (and the material being used) is a little different, making it easier to locate. I draw nearer ... ... and still nearer. It is my first time back to The Hookses in Dale since John Stott died, four years ago (later this month). This is the place where John Stott
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lyrics for living 23 (every hue)

Last month Barby and I went off on a little holiday. We stopped at Lake Taupō and walked into town along the lakefront. The day was drawing to a close. The  toi toi waved to us as we passed by. Their beauty—ever resilient, yet fragile—always captivates me. Barely 30 minutes later, we were retracing our steps back along the lakefront. I lingered with the same row of  toi toi— but a little further along and facing another direction.  Wow. What a difference.  In 30 minutes... Before we had even reached our motel, I was breaking forth into song for my long-suffering audience of one. As a pastor all those years ago, it was a song I chose so often.  "#448 in the Baptist hymn book". The number is with me to this day. The lyrics go like this [NB: verse 3 is not in many hymnbooks, probably because it has a pew-giggler line in it]: Loved with everlasting love,      led by grace that love to know;  Spirit, breathing from above,      Thou has taught me it is so. O this full and perfect

cairo and the kohinoor

What a fun journey this has been... Cairo, a few months ago Last October, with the borders opening up, I returned to Cairo to visit our team there.  On this occasion my friend and colleague in Lebanon, Riad, came across for the meetings.  His presence opened the way to meet other people and ministries. One place he took me was the Evangelical Theological Seminary Cairo ( ETSC ), where we were hosted by Dr Hani, the president.  The Center for Middle Eastern Christianity on the top floor captured my eye, as it is home to Kenneth Bailey's library.  As a young pastor, embarking on my first sermon series, in 1985, I settled on Jesus' parables in Luke, with Bailey's Poet & Peasant as my guide.  Bailey became a bit of a hero for me, providing the spark for post-graduate work on the parables which was completed, eventually, as a DMin in 2011. Also capturing my eye were the paintings in the little chapel on the ground floor.  They seemed to be the perfect stories to have watchin

the wairarapa

At some point during last year it dawned on me that there was just the one final corner of New Zealand that remained unexplored for Barby and me. The Wairarapa—especially the southern section which is the most southern point of the North Island.  As soon as a week of annual leave came into focus, I was off to book-a-bach to find a suitable place for a holiday together. So, what can we say now of the Wairarapa?!   'Been There, Done That'—as this sign on the road to Martinborough expressed it. We found a 'bach', or holiday cottage, on the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis of Pirinoa and set our sights on some sight-seeing... Kiriwai Lagoon, with the $3000/night Wharekauhau Country Estate in the distance. Speaking of $3000/night, my understanding is that the two film-makers—Peter Jackson and James Cameron, responsible for an inordinate number of the top-grossing films of all time—have homes in the region. Lake Onoke, looking east from near Ocean Beach Sunset across Lak

scenes from a study

We rushed home from India in that tiny window before the COVID-19 lockdown.  Two years later our belongings followed us, thanks to a small army of kind people who packed everything up for us.  Ever since our home has been piles and boxes—especially my study—because we were planning to move house, one with more space. But that didn't happen... So, because we are staying where we are, we needed to make some changes, starting with my study.  We rented a storage unit nearby and moved things across to it and then went to work. After so many years of things being in different places, it has been fun building a study with plenty of shelves and sentiments—and with everything in one place. A Latin-Zimbabwean collaboration A guest speaker early on in my time at Carey was (Auntie)  Dr Beryl Howie  —I've written about her here  — a family friend from our Indian upbringing. A quiet legend. She held up this card and told her life story through it's truth—"the solution is found in wa

powerful leaders?

"It is sad that the book had to be written". This is how a friend responded when I mentioned that I was reading Marcus Honeysett's Powerful Leaders? When Church Leadership Goes Wrong and How to Prevent It . Why did he respond in that manner?  While Honeysett avoids naming names, the book is prompted by the spate of stories of leaders men from within the evangelical world who have behaved (very) badly. It took me back to Barbara Kellerman's Bad Leadership  and her desire to counter 'the prevailing view (that) leadership is relentlessly positive' (4).  It isn't. Far from it. For this badness to emerge, in such a steady flow of headlines, from within the section of the church that headlines itself as the one having the best grasp of truth—is shameful. It demonstrates just how true the truth is: 'Watch your life and doctrine closely'.  Honeysett has two purpose statements, one near the beginning and the other near the end:  I hope to sketch a map of t

gentle and lowly

They are remembered for everything they aren't.  That is a clumsy paraphrase of an observation JI Packer once made about the Puritans.  What comes to mind today with a word like 'puritanical' is such a long way from what the Puritans actually believed and how they lived—more than 400 years ago.  A long way?  From memory, Packer argued that the meanings associated with the two words were in polar opposition to each other. One other feature of the Puritans is that they were so wordy.  Their sermons, reputedly, could mention a phrase like 'fifty-fifthly', as the main points were enumerated.  One dude spent seven (big) volumes going through Hebrews, one verse at a time.  The most famous Puritan of all, John Bunyan of Pilgrim's Progress  fame, wrote an entire (big) book just on John 6.37. Into this background, steps Dane Ortlund with  Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers.   It is a small book with short chapters using double-spacing on lit