The sun is shining
We have our indoor roses on the balcony
It’s coffee time
Chubbies is on my lap
The sun is shining
We have our indoor roses on the balcony
It’s coffee time
Chubbies is on my lap
Lying on my back for the last 3 days over New Year (suffering from mild stomach flu) has been giving me plenty of time to think and pray about things, when not overcome by nauseous feelings!
I pray for things I hope for, concerning people I care for, and for those things and people I hate!
Yes, confession time, there are lots of things I hate! And by confession, I don’t mean things I repent of, but things that I embrace in prayer!!! It’s a self-revealing thing!
But what place has hate in a believer’s life?
A few months ago I brought this up on a Christian page on Facebook and was surprised by many of the comments. Surprised, not that they weren’t lacking in wisdom, but by their lack of biblical basis.
In brief terms they petitioned me to reject hate and embrace love for the subjects concerned. Yes I can affirm the wisdom of such advice since hatred so often destroys it’s host from within. A bit like lack of forgiveness which kills the self and not the object. Such wisdom I’m familiar with through my experience with those involved in psycho-therapeutic care and support.
But what was lacking was real advice about how to deal with evil in this world. It seemed like they were suggesting I just had to accept it an be all lovey-dovey to those perpetrating various horrors. That seems to foster an idea that the Christian life is about being a weak yes man, or even a ‘patsey’ to an abuser. Surely being a follower of Jesus means having more guts than that?
My regret at this point, is that I haven’t done much reading on the subject, mainly because of where I live and access to written material. Before I retired, as a bookseller, we had the title ‘Hate Work’ by David Augsburger on our sales shelf. Now I’m sorely disappointed that I never read it despite devouring several of his other titles. Hopefully I get a chance of borrowing it this summer and being further enlightened/corrected!
But I still have my bible, which in its electronic version enables easy searches for word studies. While I have no knowledge of Hebrew or Greek, I have to rely on the translators.
It’ll probably come as no surprise that the Hebrew Scriptures contain quite a lot of entries about hate. What has been more surprising has been the discovery of a definite stream of acceptable hatred exhibited there. Many references about the things that God hates, about hating evil with a perfect hatred. Such themes don’t get talked about much in Sunday sermons!
Of course, Jesus was all too familiar with such theology. Why else would he start talking “You have heard it said that you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy”? It’s worth paying attention to how Jesus answers his own question!
And Walter Wink in his Engaging the Powers series has spent plenty of time highlighting the radical teaching of Jesus. Instead of hating we are to confront evil in a non-violent way that exposes the injustices in a way that cannot be avoided.
I might go further to say that a righteous hatred will seek to confront and transform the purpatrators yet without destruction.
Perhaps that is going a bit far because Jesus himself exhibited hatred and anger by name-calling “tell that fox…” “you den of vipers” “whitewashed tombs” etc. Not just name-calling; he also made a knotted whip, drove out sacrificial animals from the temple and overturned the tables of money chargers. That’s quite a few steps further than I could ever go myself or argue for!
Perhaps it’s enough to summarise things in the petition to “BE ANGRY AND SIN NOT’?
But this was supposed to be about Hope, as well as Hatred.
As I’ve thought and looked at. scriptures about God’s people and experience of hope, I’ve been surprised that very often the focus has not been on the end point, the final destination of hope. So often mentions of hope embrace the commitment to follow the ways of the Lord. To focus on THE JOURNEY rather than the destination. Sure the destination is what we want, but how we get there is ALL IMPORTANT!
I don’t understand prayer. The things that I pray for can seem impossible, and as it turns out, they often are! But perhaps the important thing is that we PERSIST in telling and asking God about what we care about most. God wants us to bring things to him, to show her (yes I’m mixing my genders) what we long for. We express our total reliance on the creator and it’s not dependent on the final destination. Again it seems to be about the journey. But thank God that we can see some final destinations!
So it seems to me that Hope and Hatred have perhaps more in common than meets the eye. Godly hatred acts like hope, by being faithful to the nature of Christ, to living in and practicing a non-violent obedience to the creator.
So in my terms, things like Antisemitism, Islamophobia, Zenophobia, Sexism, Bigotry, etc etc have no place in a believers life. No place for ‘hate-crimes’ for the faithful community. Perhaps the far-right evangelical world in the USA have a few more things to learn? As we all do.
So pray for those you love, for healing, success. Pray for those you hate, that they’ll be transformed by the great creator and start doing justice in place of their destruction, and, given the opportunity, confront in a transforming way. Speak truth to power; take a leaf out of Greta’s book and refuse to be intimidated.
Happy Christmas Everybody!
OK. Relax. This isn’t going to be a six page rant by a deranged President.
It’ll be shorter!
OK it’s been a big year. Things in the White House… Oh! I’d better not talk about that.
Back home in England there’s also been some politics… Probably better not to talk about that either!
OK, it remains for me to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Will & Yvonne
Sorry, you thought you’d escaped, huh?
Thinking good thoughts, I’m so grateful our big baby, Chubbies, is still with us. Back in the spring he had further traumas and we think suffered some brain damage after hitting his head on the coffee table as he fell off the settee. He was paralysed for 12 hours. He recovered a bit but I thought he might not make it past August. Then, despite getting weaker and being almost unable to walk, I thought he’d be unlikely to see Christmas. But he’s still with us. Still adorable and happy despite his problems. The highlight of his day is after his breakfast. When we’re having coffee on the balcony and indulging in some soft gooey sweet Chinese bread he pricks up his ears and struggles to join us, often falling over several times. But he knows he’ll get a treat and stares up adoringly at his daddy!
The other four, Mr Jack, Miss Chili, Yoda and Miss GeGe are all also adorable. GeGe sleeps in her cosy little bed beside ours and wakes us up in the morning with little kisses and meows. She came to us in the spring and is a beautiful Golden British Shorthair.
We know the weather in the UK has been awful this autumn but it’s been quite pleasant here. This last week the temperature has dropped and we at last switched on the underfloor heating. The fur babies love it! It’s still not really cold, just 8C, but I put on my fluffy lined winter trousers which make it nice and toasty when we go out. I can’t believe I grew up wearing shorts until the age of 12 in the middle of winter (when winters were a lot colder). Shorts here in Changsha are the order of the day from May through September/October. No longer!
Yvonne and I crossed off a bucket list item in April to celebrate my 70th. Only a short trip but memorable. I was surprised how clean Tokyo was. And not a waste paper bin anywhere in sight. Everybody takes their rubbish home. A model to follow!
We’re still going to our singing classes but I’ve been relieved at not having to do any solo’s in public this year. The last special event was a couple of weeks ago, singing a patriotic song in the opening ceremony of the local finals of ‘It’s a Knock Out’ type of competition. Lots of parades, military escorts and flags etc. And unbearably cold at 07:30 in the morning. Just in our shirt sleeves and dresses for our bit, we performed physical jerks to keep warm before we got ‘on-stage’.
I do miss the Highgate Choral Society and singing those big classical masses and requiems. So grateful for having had the chance to take part in them for 10 years. There are symphony concerts here but I can’t remember the last one I went to. I haven’t been following the programme of events as I used to.
Yvonne continues to complain about the amount of time I spend on my phone! Most of it is to do with photography. I’ve done some Udemy courses in editing stills and also a bit of video but I’ve not majored on the latter. I contribute regularly to a Facebook photo page which is a mutual self-help group. Lots of constructive crits and examples about how others might edit your own photos. A great learning experience.
I’m writing this on a new iPadAir3, a generous gift from Yvonne’s daughter Shu Fang. I’ve located the old one (still many thanks to WGMC for their generous gift), next to our fish tank (no fish, just plastic plants etc). I’ve got a Fish app on the iPad including some sharks so I can compete in a way with a Scot’s friend who keeps REAL fish!!!
I’ve also got a new pair of Apple’s latest cordless earphones. They’re great and so much better than a single cheaper earphone which never worked properly with phone calls.
Another short trip we made was to the world’s longest glass bridge. We thought we were going to it last year but ended up booking on the wrong tour!!! In the end it was a lovely setting but not as scary as a much shorter one we’ve also been on! It seems the Chinese have a fascination with glass bridges. Hunan has another 3 of them. Do they have them elsewhere?
As I mentioned earlier, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us both
Will & Yvonne
For the best of my photos (though not necessarily in chronological order) go to
And for my occasional ramblings
I could have chosen a different title, perhaps ‘Things that make for peace’ but perhaps that didn’t resonate as well as my first choice.
I don’t know if I’m any different from anyone else? Perhaps living in China and only getting my news via the internet makes me more negative? But there’s too much terrible news at the moment. Massacres in El Paso and Dayton Ohio; well documented liars in positions of extra-ordinary power; natural disasters. They all tend to mask out the good news and sources of hope.
So where do I go for positive news? It’s often not from the great and the mighty, but from the personal and mundane.
The Scriptures teach that humanity is made in the image of God, so perhaps that hope comes from his creation responding in a way that fits the image.
I’m grateful for those stories of hard-pressed police officers reaching out to help beyond their official duties. I’m grateful for people who’ve worked for years to combat racism and prejudice in local communities. I’m thankful for those who’ve stood up for justice and peace on a larger scale, airing the message of Jesus to love enemies to the political powers and to work for de-escalation of international conflicts and to outlaw obscene weapons of destruction. I love reading about people reaching out to save animals caught in dire circumstances. I’m grateful for all those little acts of kindness, such as young people giving up their seat for me on the bus. I’m grateful for technology and science when it’s used to advance our quality of life and for those moments of inspiration, like the moon landings.
What gives me hope? In part, it’s a choice to live out the gift of God here in my little orbit rather than succumb to despair. And I’m reminded of Mr Rogers’ mother’s words on seeing disasters “Always look for the helpers”.
“I have a hope in God – a hope that they themselves also accept – that there will be a ressurection of both the righteous and the unrighteous” Acts 24:15, — even if I don’t understand it.
The last 24 hours I’ve had these loud thoughts in my head which have deafened me to most other input.
As a faltering Believer, I’m becoming increasingly embarrassed by the term Christian!
Because ‘news’ very often means broadcasting about bad things that have happened, the term in the headlines has become associated with red hats, sexism, bigotry, gerrymandering racism, and not least, pussy grabbing presidents, all assisted by Fox News acolytes (Shep Smith excepted). But none of this has been ameliorated by millionaire TV evangelists or bogus faith healers.
I’m sure there are plenty of others out there who are equally frustrated.
Yet I’m thankful that I’ve known, and learned from, hundred of Americans and Canadians who’ve been struggling daily to place their feet in the sand where the man from Nazareth has trod. This carpenter became a refugee as an infant, learned from the people of the book about compassion and caring for the least among us. Later his teaching frequently exemplified the behaviour of foreigners, untouchables and the unclean rather than those who had been brought up soaked in “10 words”.
So where am I going with this? We need to continually discern what we hear and see and decide what is authentic and what is counterfeit. And this applies equally to every area of life, not just faith. Politics in the US and the UK over the last couple of years has given too loud a voice to the counterfeit. We need to be constantly aware and, as the carpenter once said, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Fines for overspending:
Pro-Brexit links with Russian Intelligence:
Damage to existing trade:
Conservative MP raises questions
It was cooler in the UK!
Actually the very first day it was quite warm. Having landed at 06:05 we were in the Heathrow Terminal 3 car park at 06:45 (is this a record?) and it was hot! In some parts of London it reached 35C that day. On leaving 3 weeks later it was cold, around 17C. Such are British Summers!
Oh the flowers!
The British climate suits flower boxes and hanging baskets perfectly, together with the skill and care of those planting them. We miss going for walks looking in people’s front gardens and all the wonderful flower displays.
Friends and Family
So wonderful to see friends from the different walks of my life in the UK; from school, from the skating rink, from church. But so many in such a short time was a challenge for an introvert.
My family were so wonderful and hospitable to their ‘foreign’ brother! Giving me somewhere to stay; giving up their bedroom for me; picking me up from the railway station late every night; organising a wonderful family holiday in South Wales; meeting up with aunt and cousins!
And of course, the purpose of my visit: Miriam’s 95th birthday!
And for those that know me, I have a headless ancestor who ‘inherited’ the Bishop’s Palace in Lamphey which was very special to visit.
The sad part was meeting with so many friends to celebrate the life and passing of our dear friend and colleague Alan Kreider.
But the thanksgiving service date was adjusted so that I could attend! And I wasn’t the only long distance visitor. Anne Wilkinson-Hayes came all the was from Melbourne Australia, like me fitting in this reflection time into our holidays. And it gave me a chance to play the guitar and sing again with other former Wood Green Mennos. Precious. Who knows, probably the last time that will ever happen!
Sorry to be a grump, but the UK has the worst mobile phone network! I’ve got used to reliable 4G everywhere and there you were lucky to get any signal at all (especially if you were on the train) and only rarely 4G. And it’s only a small island, highly developed technological society! What happened? Someone pointed out that in world speed rankings the UK is placed only 27th behind Bulgaria and Greece! But take some comfort from the fact that we’re ahead of both Germany and the USA, but way behind Canada! I have wondered… if the networks had been in public ownership, all that money providing masts etc for 4 separate networks could have been spread out to provide universal coverage for everyone instead of duplicating each other and leaving huge blank spots everywhere. And if privatisation was still required then the infrastructure could have been rented out to the providers, in much the same way that GiffGaff piggy backs O2 and Virgin piggy backs EE, or Southern Trains piggy backs the rail network – oh but that’s another story!
One big highlight was visiting Bletchley Park. Highly recommended. But do some reading up before you go.
So, now back to being an expat in China.
“What, ‘expat’? You’re an immigrant”. Well actually the best I can do here is to get a 3 year residence permit. Permanent residence does not exist (at least for the likes of Tom, Dick or Will; you need to be a multi-millionaire or a major captain of industry to qualify for that, and I’ve NEVER heard of anyone getting it). So expat I am, despite intending to remain here for the rest of my days, it’s still up for scrutiny every 3 years.
Back to my pension being fixed with no annual increment; back to it’s value going down due to the exchange rate fall following the Brexit vote; back to hot summers and air-conditioning; back to a new gymn with a nice swimming pool just 10 minutes walk away; back to delicious Changsha spices; back to my darling wife and our beautiful cats; back to VPN with fingers crossed; back to our beautiful home; back to KTV (Karaoke) with friends.
And now I’ve got over jet-lag (it’s taken me 10 days; it’s always worse flying East), I’m grateful.
NB: many of the photos are links to albums in Flickr if you want to see more.
Today is one of those days that you hope will never come. This morning I heard that my dear friend Alan Kreider died yesterday, May 8, at 08:08.
I first met Alan in the late 70’s! A mutual friend suggested that I really ought to meet him some time. I had been spending some time thinking about my faith’s response to violence and war, and Alan was a major thinker in the UK Christian world on that subject. At one time he debated on The Arms Race with the former Chief of Defence Staff, Sir Neil Cameron, at the church I was attending. Sir Neil, like Alan, was a committed Christian who tried to allow his faith form his opinion on social and political subjects. As it turned out, as a debate it lacked a certain something. Quite early on in the discussions, Sir Neil lost his voice! I wonder whether it was the surprise response Alan gave to one of his key points: Take care lest we forget (with particular reference to the traumas to two world wars, that we dare not forget the suffering and commitment so many made to opposing tyranny in Europe). Alan reminded Sir Neil that the text was taken from the Hebrew Scriptures (Deut 6:12 “…take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” NRSV), and explained that the warning was not to forget that it was by God’s mighty hand that the children of Israel were delivered, not by the force of men.
But one of my first formative meetings with Alan was at a study group on War and Peace hosted by The Shaftesbury Project, which Alan and Neil Summerton co-chaired. The gathering, though small, was quite a heady bunch, including a general, some with Doctorates in War Studies, teachers, Navy Chaplains, and one lowly ignorant civil engineer trying to make sense of his faith and world issues (your’s truly). It was a fascinating Saturday’s study where I just sat back and tried to absorb as much as I could from these learned people while having nothing to contribute myself. The gathering concluded around 4 in the afternoon so I made my way to the nearest MacDonalds (confession time) on Oxford Street for a strong coffee. I was somewhat surprised when Alan turned up and sat with me (somehow I imagine he must have been drinking tea rather than coffee)!
He inquired of my perspective on the meeting that day. I recounted that I found it incredibly useful and stimulating but that I’d probably not come again because it was a ‘study group’ and as such was on a completely different plane to where I was at and that I had nothing to contribute, being a ‘beginner’. I was completely taken aback by his reply. “The group will have to change then!” What!!!
As it happened, I did return to the group and eventually found my place where I could contribute, not by adding to the content of the message, but by helping with some practical matters of producing and distributing materials which the group had developed.
Such was Alan’s grace. He valued ‘a nobody’, and it made a huge impression.
A few years later I went on to join his church, the London Mennonite Fellowship (which later became the Wood Green Mennonite Church). The early months of attending the congregation were incredibly meaningful for me. I was a bit depressed at the time, and being an introvert found it hard getting to know new people, but Alan seemed to give me a great deal of his time. After worship together in Highgate and a simple bread and soup lunch (served by Liz and Bill Barge) he’d often take me off for a walk and a chat in the beautiful green spaces around that part of Highgate, North London.
He and the church mentored and helped to bring me inner healing and spiritual challenge! As such, I have no hesitation in describing him as the most important influence on me in my adult life.
So now he has gone.
I feel a piece of me has died.
Well, not died, but taken on a new form. Even though I’d not seen him for about 4 years, what he gave me lives on and I hope is bearing new fruit. Only others can say whether that’s so or not.
He modeled so much of what I understood the gospel to be; not just teaching it, but living it out. While I still have a long way to go I’ll never forget something (actually there are many things) he once said. Hold on to those you might regard as your enemies. Sounds like Jesus talk to me!
I’ve often heard that as Christians we must sing praises to God at all times. Such things are pretty difficult. But whenever I would ask Alan how he was doing, he’d always reply “I’m grateful”. Not in a ‘happy-clappy’ sort of way but in a gentle, thoughtful, meaningful way which conveyed that he had a ‘renewed’ perspective. I’ve tried and am still trying to model that myself. I think Alan called it ‘re-reflexing’; cultivating new responses in a way that they become habit-forming.
So I’m grateful, for the life of this lovely man.
Perhaps he’s grateful too with his ‘new body’ now that the old one has perished. And it seem entirely fitting that he died on 8th May at 08:08, knowing that he’d named his house “The Eighth Day” with it’s reference to future things, resurrection, assembly and completion.
So fare thee well, Mr Grateful. I’ll miss you but never forget you.
And many blessings to Eleanor, Andrew and family during the difficult days ahead.