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Blog March 14th “Ordinary Days”


Cast of “Ordinary Days” Max Panks, Kathryn Kitchener, David Murray and Katie Forge.

“What More Could You Do Lord?” featuring Lucy Stimpson-Maynard from the album “Where Would I Be Without You?” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

So last Friday I drove to Raynes Park – left my car – walked to the train station -caught a train (which now seems to be called an “Overground” ) to Clapham Junction – changed to catch another “Overground” to Clapham High Street- walked up Clapham High Street past endless bars (all pretty empty at 7.00 pm but all packed solid at 10.00 pm) ) turned right and came to the Bread and Roses pub and theatre. Why? Well because three of the cast of Risen! The Musical – Max Panks (Jesus) David Murray (Thomas) and Katie Forge (Joanna) were playing there in the musical “Ordinary Days” written by American composer Adam Gwon. The pub was great – everyone so very friendly- the theatre was intimate with a fantastic atmosphere and the show was fabulous.

If you have not heard of “Ordinary Days” here is a little synopsis:
Set in New York City, the musical follows four characters, Claire, Jason, Warren and Deb, exploring how their ordinary lives connect in the most amazing ways. The show includes 21 songs which tell the story of these two men and two women.
Claire is in her 30’s and is embarking on a new stage of her life with boyfriend Jason. The decision to share an apartment is the catalyst for Claire to face her past.
Jason is in his 30’s and is the boyfriend of Claire. A romantic at heart, he spends the bulk of the musical attempting to further his relationship, at first by moving in (“The Spaces Between”) and then by proposing. Claire consistently resists his attempts leading to the central conflict of their story arc (“Fine”).
In her mid- twenties, Deb is a cynical and defensive grad student who is struggling to find focus in her life. She meets struggling artist Warren when he finds her thesis notes in the street.

The cheerful and sometimes annoyingly optimistic Warren sees beauty in the simple things in life, delivering the musical’s message and final number (“Beautiful”).
Wikipedia states:
London based company Curious Tales Theatre announced they were staging an amateur revival of “Ordinary Days” at The Bread and Roses Theatre for 5th-16th March 2019. Under the direction of Phoebe Rhodes and musical direction of Adam Parrish, the performance will feature live painting by artists and performers Max Panks (Jason) and Kathryn Kitchener (Claire).

So if you happen to be in London tonight, tomorrow or Saturday then I can wholeheartedly recommend you take a trip to the Bread and Roses theatre- you will be wonderfully entertained.

Quote of the week:
People need loving the most when they deserve it the least
The Word for Today

Blog March 7th “Ash Wednesday”

There’s More Than One Way Of Saying I Love You featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard and the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album “Uplifted” recorded and produced by Bob Ross

So yesterday was “Ash Wednesday” and Tuesday was “Shrove Tuesday,” often known as “Pancake Day”. I made some pancakes myself and they were pretty much a disaster being too thick, sticking to the pan and only tasting passable when smothered in sugar and lemon juice.

But what is the history of these two events and also Lent of which Ash Wednesday is the first day?

The expression Shrove Tuesday comes from the word shrive, meaning “absolve“.  It is the day in February or March immediately preceding  Ash Wednesday” which is the first day of Lent.
Shrove Tuesday is celebrated in some countries by consuming pancakes. In others, especially those where it is called Mardi Gras it is a carnival day.  Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent, because they are a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The liturgical fasting emphasizes eating simpler food, and refraining from food that would give undue pleasure: in many cultures, this means no meat, dairy products, or eggs.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to utter  the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. The ashes may be prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. Because it is the first day of Lent, many Christians, on Ash Wednesday often begin abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Easter Sunday arrives.

Lent is traditionally described as lasting for 40 days, in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert and, during which he endured temptation by Satan before beginning his public ministry, The history and beginnings of the observance of Lent aren’t clear. According to Britannica.com, Lent has likely been observed: “since apostolic times, though the practice was not formalized until the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.” Christian scholars note that Lent became more regularised after the legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313. St. Irenaeus, Pope St. Victor I, and St. Athanasius all seem to have written about Lent during their ministries. Most agree that by the end of the fourth century, the 40-day period of Easter preparation known as Lent existed, and that prayer and fasting constituted its primary spiritual exercises.

So there you have it – and so for me no more chocolate until April 21st!

Quote of the week:

Enjoy where you are on the way to where you are going

The Word for Today

Blog February 21st “Doubts – Part Five”


Bathe Me In Your Light featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album “I Look Up To The Heavens” recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

So here is the fifth and last extract from Selwyn Hughes’ “Every Day With Jesus” – and from the edition -“Strong at the Broken Places.”

Selwyn is referring to the passage in the Book of Acts, Chapter 1: 1-11- “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.”

We spend one last day exploring some of the insights which enable us to overcome doubt and develop our faith.  The final principle is this: recognise that if you did not doubt, you could not believe. So don’t be intimidated by your doubts. The Christian writer Robert Brown said this: “You call for faith; I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists. The more of doubt, the stronger of faith, I say if faith overcomes doubt.” Those who doubt most and yet strive to overcome their doubts become some of Jesus’ most remarkable followers.

We began this section by looking at Thomas the doubter and we end by looking at Thomas the doer. One commentator says that Thomas being a twin (his name Didymus means twin, John 11;16) must have developed an early independence of judgment that made it possible to break with his twin and follow Jesus. This is an assumption but I think it is a valid one.  Perhaps it was the independence that led him to reject the testimony of the other disciples when they said “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:25)  When Jesus said to him “Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27) his doubts vanished and he responded “My Lord and my God! (John 25: 28)

Until then no one had called Jesus “God”. They had called him “Messiah”, “Son of God”,” Son of the living God”- but not “God”. Here Thomas the doubter leapt beyond the others and was the first to confess Jesus as God. And Thomas’ faith did not stop there. As we said earlier, he almost certainly took the Gospel to India. The doubter became a doer!

Quote of the week:

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

John Wooden

Blog February 21st “Doubts -Part Four ”


Glorious In His Humility featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album Love is the Way recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

So here is the forth extract from Selwyn Hughes’ “Every Day With Jesus” – and from the edition -“Strong at the Broken Places.”

Selwyn is referring to the passage in the letter of James, Chapter 1: 5-8 “But when he asks he must believe and not doubt.”

When dealing with honest doubts another principle to apply is this: make a conscious decision to doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs. One of the key issues of the Christian life, as we have been seeing, depends on how prepared we are to exercise our wills in favour of God and His Word. To do this of course requires faith- faith in the fact that God has revealed Himself in His Son and through the Scriptures.

As a teenager I had many doubts about the Scriptures. But one night I made a conscious effort to accept them as the eternal and inerrant Word of God. Please notice I said “a conscious decision.” In other words I decided by an action of my will to doubt my doubts and believe my beliefs. Then I discovered an astonishing thing. Both doubt and faith are like muscles – the more you flex them the stronger they become.  Up until that time I had been using the muscles of doubt to a great degree, but unfortunately I had failed to exercise the muscles of faith. When I made up my mind to accept the truth of God’s Word by faith,  muscles I never thought I had began to function. Now many decades later those muscles have developed to such a degree that I find it easier to believe God than to doubt Him. I trace the beginnings of my spiritual development to that day, long ago when I decided to take what one theologian terms “the leap of faith.”

Quote of the week:

If it were not for hope the heart would break

Dr Thomas Fuller in The Word for Today

 

Blog 14th February “Doubts -Part Three”

“He’s Never Lied” featuring Lucy Jane Rutherford, Jim Rogers and Mike Backhouse from the album “The Season of Singing” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

So here is another extract from Selwyn Hughes’ “Every Day With Jesus” – and from the edition -“Strong at the Broken Places.”

Selwyn is referring to the passage in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 11:3 “Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else.”

An important thing to remember when considering the issue of doubt is that although God would prefer us to believe, He is exceedingly loving and gracious towards those who struggle with genuine doubts. Did you notice that when we were looking at Thomas two days ago that Jesus did not denounce his attitude of doubt, nor did He refuse his request for physical evidence that He truly was the Christ? Instead Jesus said to him “Put your finger here; see my hands. Roach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe (John 20:27)

The passage before us today tells of another occasion when a person closely associated with Jesus become obsessed with doubt. John the Baptist was in prison and probably suffering great discomfort and disillusionment. From prison he sent some messengers to Jesus to ask if He really was the Messiah or if they should be looking for somebody else. John, you remember had baptised Jesus and had introduced Him to the world with these words “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1; 29)

Does it not seem strange that John who had witnessed the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at His baptism, should have developed doubts about who He was and the validity of His mission? How did Jesus respond to this situation? With tenderness and sensitivity. He said “Go back and tell John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear. (vv 4-5) Jesus could have rebuked John, His doubting cousin, with strong words of reproof, but He didn’t. Although Jesus is concerned when we have problems, He is more concerned about people.

Quote of the week:

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

John Wooden

 

Blog January 31st “Doubts -Part Two”


Caption “How Great Are His Signs”  from Risen! The Musical featuring the London Touring Cast at the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth


“It’s Now One Week” followed by “How Great Are His Signs” from the album Risen! The Musical featuring the “Original Cast”

So last week I started to consider the issue of having doubt in one’s Christian faith. I talked about how in Risen! The Musical we portrayed the unfairly named “Doubting Thomas” in his true light – a loyal friend and follower of Jesus. Selwyn Hughes also refers to Thomas later in this extract from an “Every Day With Jesus” edition -“Strong at the Broken Places.”

I once met someone like this: She was a scientist and had serious doubts about certain parts of the Scriptures. “I’m afraid that one day I’ll wake up” she said “and discover that science has disproved large chunks of the Bible.” I could sympathise with her but in reality her doubts were quite unfounded. Science- real science that is – will never disprove the Bible. Half – baked science may appear to discredit the truth of God’s word but real science only ever validates it.

The classic example of a person who doubted is the disciple Thomas. We call him “doubting Thomas” but that is largely an unfair label. How said it is that often we pick out a negative trait in a person and label them according to one thing. Thomas had his moment of doubt, but he became strong at the broken place. How strong? Let history judge. A well authenticated tradition has it that Thomas went to India and founded a strong church there. Even today there are Christians in India who call themselves by his name – the St Thomas Christians. They are some of the finest Christians I have ever met. Thomas had his doubts allayed in one glorious moment of illumination- and then he went places. So can you!

Quote of the week:

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.

John Wooden

Blog January 31st “Doubts -Part One”

“Peace Be With You” featuring the London Touring Cast from the album “Risen! The Musical

A few blogs ago the quote for the week was “Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs.” This was inspired by some thoughts on doubt written by Selwyn Hughes in an  “Every Day With Jesus” edition -“Strong at the Broken Places.” I want to spend the next few weeks using extracts from this to explore the issue of doubt in the Christian faith.

When thinking of doubt invariably the name of Thomas comes up – in my opinion most unfairly deemed “Doubting Thomas” Risen! The Musical gives what I feel is a very plausible explanation for his doubt and before embarking on Selwyn Hughes’ thoughts I decided to share this extract from a blog I wrote in April 2015.

In John’s Gospel we learn that the first person to see Jesus alive was Mary Magdalene- that was very early on the morning of what we now call Easter Sunday. Luke’s Gospel tells us that later that afternoon He appeared to Cleopas and his friend as they were walking to the village of Emmaus. Later that evening Jesus again appeared to His disciples but John tells us that Thomas was not with them. When the disciples  exclaim to  Thomas “ We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25) Thomas  does not believe them and  says “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my finger into His side, I will not believe it.”

And this is why poor Thomas has forever been referred to as “Doubting Thomas.”  I had always felt this to be completely unfair – we learn from John 11:16 that Thomas was, in fact, a courageous man who told the rest of the disciples that they should all follow Jesus into danger when Jesus decided to travel to Bethany near Jerusalem- in fact Thomas said to the disciples “Let us also go that we may die with Him.” – hardly the words of a man who doubted Jesus!  Risen!- The Musical portrays Thomas’ “doubt” as being caused  by him being  so overcome with grief, after seeing Jesus crucified, that he just did not dare believe the disciples when they told him that Jesus was alive. He did not want his hopes dashed yet again.

John tells us that Jesus appeared to the disciples again one week later and this time Thomas was with them and proclaimed to Jesus “My Lord and my God.”  In Risen!- The Musical  I took a little poetic licence and imagined what Thomas would have done in that week between hearing from his friends that Jesus was alive and then seeing Jesus Himself.  I have portrayed him going somewhere in solitude, immersing himself with those Psalms that focus on trusting God and ending up singing “How Great Are His Signs.”  This is a song that not only featured in Risen! The Musical but was also the title song of the EP “How Great Are His Signs” featuring the wonderful Portsmouth Gospel Choir. This will be next week’s featured song.

Quote of the week:

The church is not perfect – that is why people like us are welcomed there

The Word for Today

 

Blog January 17th “Mollie Pearman Tribute”

It was with great sadness that I heard that my dear friend Mollie “Northern” Pearman had died while visiting her family in Australia. Mollie was a pillar of Holy Rood church and a wonderful supporter of Mustard Seed Songs. She came to every concert and production – was first to buy our CDs and DVDs and would always post lovely comments on social media as to how much she enjoyed what we were doing.
Her funeral was held in Australia but there was a memorial service for her at Holy Rood church. The Curate, Colin Prestidge summed up Mollie very well when he prayed:
We thank You gracious Father for Mollie’s colourful and vibrant personality which brought much joy to those around her, for her warm friendship and care of others and for her clear thinking and straight talking approach which enabled her to “win through” and “get the job done” even when times were difficult and life was challenging. We thank you dear Lord for Mollie’s strong faith, her unwavering commitment to You for all that she contributed to the Friday morning Bible study group and for her servant heart and selfless love, which always put others before herself.
The featured video of “You raise me up” was played at Mollie’s memorial service. It was one of her favourite songs and I feel it is particularly appropriate as Mollie did indeed “raise up” all those that she met.
All at Mustard Seeds send our deepest sympathy to Mollie’s family – we will all miss her very much indeed.

Quote of the week:
Nothing is more embarrassing as watching someone do something that you said could not be done
Sam Ewing in The Word for Today

Blog January 17th “Jurgen Klopp”

Bathe Me In Your Light featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album I Look Up To The Heavens recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

Back in December 2016 I wrote that the Liverpool F.C Manager, Jürgen Klopp is a Christian. His team are of course now leading the Premier League and so I thought I would share some extracts from an article which my old and dear friend Mick Mellows recently sent me:

Jürgen Klopp is one of the most prominent figures in the world of sport in his home country of Germany, but success in football is not the most important thing in his life. Klopp, born in Stuttgart said in an interview with BT Sports: “I’m Christian, I have to say, and I believe in God”. In another interview he said: “To be a believer, but not to want to talk about it – I do not know how it would work!” “If anyone asks me about my faith, I give information. Not because I claim to be any sort of missionary”. When I look at me and my life – and I take time for that every day – then I feel I am in sensationally good hands.” He continued. “And I find it a pity if other people lack this sense of security – although they don’t know it, of course, because otherwise they would probably look for it”. In this interview he also discussed the struggles of playing football on Sunday mornings, when he was still a teenager, and how he understood that there was plenty of time throughout the week to grow in the Christian faith. In yet another interview with the German media, Klopp said: “Jesus Christ is the most important person in history. For me, this is an easy answer”. He went on to explain why he believes in Christ. “This person comes into the world, and has a clear mission, which is not easy to accomplish at all”. “In the end of his life, he took all the sins on himself and was nailed on a cross”. This is why Jesus’ death on the Cross “was the greatest act that has never been achieved, because it changed everything”. “We don’t have to do it [pay for our sins] and this is a huge comfort”, he added.

Oh I nearly forgot- last week I said that I would write of how Mustard Seed songs were played at the Memorial Service of Rev. Selwyn Hughes, writer of Every Day With Jesus. Well basically Selwyn died in January 2006 and it was my great honour to have our songs played at his Memorial Service held at Central Hall, Westminster. Graeme Kendrick led the worship, Hugh Priddy sang “Here is Love” and one of the reflections on Selwyn’s life and ministry came from Mrs Fiona Castle.

 

Quote of the week:

God gave you the gift of memory to re-play the past and the gift of imagination to pre- play the future

The Word for Today

Blog January 10th “Unblocking the Wells and Hold the Line”


Lord I Come To Bathe In Your Glory featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album Love Is The Way recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

I have been reading Every Day with Jesus (EDWJ) since first becoming a Christian in 1997. It is published by CWR and written by Rev. Selwyn Hughes. In fact Selwyn died in 2006 but EDWJ is still published every two months with earlier editions revised and updated by CWR’s Chief Executive, Mick Brooks.  The revised editions are also given new titles and I was so pleased to discover that the present edition “Hold the Line” had originally been titled “Unblocking the Wells.” This was a special edition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of EDWJ.  Now on its front cover you will see from the photograph what is a mini CD (it slots onto the inner part of a CD tray) and this mini CD contains tracks from Mustard Seed Songs – one of which is featured today.  Here is the story which is taken from my blog of July 3rd 2014:

When taking part in the Alpha course I had started to read Selwyn Hughes’s daily devotions -“Every Day With Jesus” (EDWJ) published by CWR (Crusade for World Revival.)  Some of the songs I was writing were inspired by Selwyn’s words, for example   “Jesus is the Alphabet” and “In Times of Trouble” from our first album “I Look Up To The Heavens.”  “Lord I Come to Bathe in Your Glory,” “Glorious is His Humility” and “How Can I Love You More?” from “Love is the Way,”  our  second album and from our third “Uplifted”  “ We Can’t Set The World on Fire. “

I had become a Partner (supporter) of CWR and on one visit to their HQ, the beautiful Waverley Abbey House in Farnham, I visited their shop to find only a limited number of CDs on sale.  Mick Brooks, the CWR Chief Executive explained that the shop was run by a franchise but soon CWR would be running it themselves.  I left Waverley with the idea that I would send them some Mustard Seed CDs in the hope that they would be interested in selling them in their shop.

I did this and then waited and waited.  I decided it was another rejection just like all the pop songs I had written previously. However after a month or two I decided to give CWR a ring and when I did I was told “Have you not received our letter? We have invited you to Waverley to discuss how we can use your songs – to be honest when we read you are a PE teacher with no musical experience we were not expecting much but when we heard the songs we were amazed.”

So off I went to Waverley to have a meeting with Mick Brooks and Mike Ashford, the Head of Marketing.  Mick told me that they were considering giving one of our CDs away to every new subscriber to EDWJ.  I asked how many this might be and was  told about 500 – I was overjoyed;  although our three CDs were selling well it was hard work doing it all by word of mouth. Then Mike Ashcroft interjected to say that the marketing department had just had a meeting in which they floated the idea of making a mini CD of Mustard Seed songs and attaching them to every copy of the 40th Anniversary edition of EDWJ. Again I asked how many this might be and nearly fell off my chair when the reply was 80, 000 – distributed world- wide!!

The song I have chosen to feature this week is one that Selwyn inspired in the year 2000, when writing his devotional about the Book of Revelation.  He explains that the image of Christ in Revelation 1: 12-16 is the one that he always holds before him when he prays

And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

Since that special edition of EDWJ in 2005 Mustard Seed Songs have had a very close association with CWR and one of our songs was played at Selwyn’s Thanksgiving  Service in Central Hall, Westminster- but more of that next week.

Quote of the week:

A problem is only a solution in disguise

Every Day With Jesus