Author Archives: Risen Webmaster

Blog September 26th Les Miserables – Part One


Love Is The Way featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album Love Is The Way recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

So for my birthday my lovely wife, Caroline took me to London to see Les Miserables in concert at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. The show starred Michael Ball as Javert, Matt Lucas as Thénardier, with Alfie Boe and John Owen- Jones taking turns to play Valjean. I was perhaps a tad disappointed when we found out that it was John Owen- Jones and not Alfie Boe that was singing at our performance – but not for long as Owen- Jones was absolutely brilliant – his solo of “Bring Him Home” was the best solo I have ever heard and the applause afterwards seemed to deservedly go on forever. All the cast were brilliant with Matt Lucus, together with Katy Secombe as his wife, so very funny. The set was also great and the sound fabulous.
I thought in today’s blog that I might list some facts and figures concerning Les Mis like the fact that it is the longest running show in the West End and the second longest running in the world- however I found this article on the net written by Rob Sumrall much more interesting :
Valjean serves 19 years for stealing bread for his sister’s starving child. He had become a hardened man, wrestling with bitterness and the lack of opportunities that life serves to convicted criminals. Finally, the Bishop of Digne, Monseigneur Beinvenu shows Valjean kindness. Valjean is offered a bed and a meal in the Bishop’s home, but returns the kindness by stealing the Bishop’s silver and slithering away under the cover of nightfall. The next morning, Valjean is brought back to the Abby by two constables who have caught him with the absconded silver. The lyrical dialogue is stunning:
[CONSTABLE ONE]
Tell his reverence your story
[CONSTABLE TWO]
Let us see if he’s impressed
[CONSTABLE ONE]
You were lodging here last night
[CONSTABLE TWO]
You were the honest Bishop’s guest.
[CONSTABLE ONE]
And then, out of Christian goodness
[CONSTABLE TWO]
When he learned about your plight
[CONSTABLE ONE]
You maintain he made a present of this silver.
[BISHOP]
That is right.
But my friend you left so early
Surely something slipped your mind
[The Bishop gives Valjean two silver candlesticks]
You forgot I gave these also;
Would you leave the best behind?
So, Messieurs, you may release him
For this man has spoken true.
I commend you for your duty
And God’s blessing go with you.
[The constables leave.]
And remember this, my brother,
See in this some high plan.
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs,
By the passion and the blood,
God has raised you out of darkness:
I have bought your soul for God.
Shaken by such an act of mercy, Valjean enters into his dark night of the soul. The Bishop’s kindness is doing war with his jaded view of a harsh, unfair world. He wrestles with the man he is, the bitterness that has ensnared him, and the mercy and grace that is just beyond his reach. Valjean has seen his share of injustices during his life. Now, he wonders how the Bishop could have been so kind:
One word from him and I’d be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?
I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I’ll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!
What follows in Les Mis is the unfolding of Jean Valjean’s new story. After staring into the “whirlpool of his sin,” he emerges as a man touched by grace. He becomes a kind-hearted, upstanding citizen, albeit under an assumed name and on the run from the law. He spends his life caring for others and extending mercy.
What a message! A man encounters the grace of Jesus Christ expressed through the unconditional love of one of His servants and he is inexplicably and unalterably changed! He becomes a friend to the downcast, a father to the fatherless, a forgiver of his enemy, and a savior to the rebel. The criminal becomes the saint. That’s what redemption does!
I’ll conclude the article next week

Quote of the week
Whenever Christianity has been misunderstood it has been because it has been a miserable caricature and not the real thing
Selwyn Hughes in Every Day With Jesus

Blog September 19th Marnus Labuschagne


Marnus Lasuschagne


England and Australian cricketers enjoying a beer together after the
Ashes Series

Lean One Me (Bill Withers) featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band from
the album Heart and Soul recorded and produced by Ross Gill

So the Ashes ended 2 wins each with one draw  but with the Australians retaining the “Urn” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ashes_urn as they were already holders.  In recent blogs I have talked about the English crickete,r Ben Stokes  and I suppose to be fair I should now mention an Australian player. I expect most would think I would choose  Steve Smith who batted so incredibly well, however instead I have instead chosen to highlight the player who stepped in for Smith when he suffered concussion after being hit by the English fast bowler, Jofra Archer – Marnus  Labuschagne.

I have to say I did not really take to him, mainly because he un expectantly played so well but mainly because he chewed gum so irritatingly – he chewed so much that one could say that he “chewed for England” – if he was not Australian!

When I did a bit of research on him I was surprised to discover that he originated from South Africa ( I thought it was just English cricketers that did that – e.g. Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Sam and Tom Curran.)

Anyway here is an extract from Wikipedia – As you read it you will see the part with which I was most surprised and delighted:

Marnus was born in Klerksdorp, in South Africa’s North West province, to South African parents. His family emigrated to Australia in 2004 when he was 10, after his father gained work in the mining industry, and Labuschagne attended school in Brisbane. He grew up speaking Afrikaans, and only became fluent in English after moving to Australia.   Marnus  made his debut for Queensland during the 2014–15 Sheffield Shield season. He also plays for the Brisbane Heat. He made his Test debut for the Australian national team in October 2018. In August 2019, he was the first cricketer to become a concussion substitute in a Test match replacing Steve Smith

Marnus is a committed Christian and was brought up in a Christian household; however, he committed to his faith aged 17. On his faith, Marnus says, “Sport is a fickle game and injuries play a big part. In the big scheme of things, what you’re worth, what you put your value in, isn’t out there on the pitch; it’s internal and in Christ… cricket is always going to be up and down and if you have [Jesus Christ as] a constant in your life, it makes life a lot easier.

The Ashes was really well fought – hard and I believe in the main pretty fair – I was chuffed to see the featured photo of both teams at the end enjoying a beer together.

Quote of the week

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

Winston Churchill

Blog September 12th Saul of Tarsus and Acts- The Musical

Father Help Me Acknowledge You – featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album I Look Up To The Heavens recorded and produced by John Hodginson

So my last two blogs have focused on the way that England cricketer Ben Stokes has turned his life around. Last week I said that this made me think who else in history has turned their lives completely around – there are of course countless people but one in particular comes to mind – Saul of Tarsus who we read of in the Book of The Acts of the Apostles (which incidentally is what the sequel to Risen! The Musical is based on.) I then promised I would share how we portray in song Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. So here it is – perhaps first I should explain that the musical has the story of the Acts of the Apostles told through its writer, Luke speaking to Theophilus who is likely to have been a Roman official and Luke’s Patron.
Luke: Spoken
So the Gospel cannot be stopped- it spreads far and wide like wildfire – one apostle named Paul is blazing a trail – preaching the good news of Jesus
He’s founding churches everywhere – in Ephesus, Corinth and Philippi, Thessalonica, Colossae, and Galatia -Theophilus, Paul is Spirit inspired.
Theophilus: Spoken
Paul- who is Paul?
Luke: Spoken
Paul is …. remember the man who stood by – who condoned Stephen being stoned to death
Theophilus: Spoken
Saul!!
Saul is Paul!!
Luke : Spoken
Yes- let me explain –
Sung
As you can see Saul is still full of rage – but all of that is now about to change – he is walking the Damascus road – and look who he is about to behold!
Saul: Sung
Damascus I am nearly there – I’ll jail everyone that should dare -dare follow the Way.
Voice of Jesus:
Saul – Saul-why do persecute me?
Saul:
Who are you, Lord?
Voice of Jesus:
I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, now get up and go into the city and you will be told what to do.

Saul : Sung

A flash of light has pieced my soul

Searching the very depths of me

A flash of light has made me blind

But my sin I clearly see

Jesus You called my name
I am overcome with shame
Thought I was a zealous Jew
But I was persecuting You

Travellers with Saul: Sung

A light shines all around

Yes we can hear a sound

But do not understand

What has happened to this man

A light shines all around

Yes we can hear a sound

But do not understand

What has happened to this man

To Damascus we will lead him by the hand

Luke: Sung

Now a believer named Ananias has had a vision from the Lord who has told him he is the one to restore the sight of Saul. Ananias is reluctant but the Lord says of this man “He is my chosen instrument -now on him place your hands. To Gentiles and their Kings – before the people of Israel Saul will carry my Name for this is my will. “

Luke: spoken:

So Ananias lays hands on him and says – Brother Saul- the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road to Damascus has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit – then immediately something like scales fall from Saul’s eyes and he sees again. He gets up, eats, regains his strength and is baptised.

So there we are -just a flavour of Acts- The Musical!

Quote of the week
In our Father’s presence, out greatest problems turn into possibilities
Selwyn Hughes Every Day With Jesus

Blog September 5th Ben Stokes Part Two

I’m A Believer (N. Diamond) featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album Heart and Soul recorded and produced by Ross Gill

So last blog I wrote about Ben Stokes’ now famous innings against Australia in the Third Ashes Test match at Headingly – Sunday August 25th 2019. I also wrote about how he had changed his life around since being charged with affray and being fined £30000 by the English Cricket Board.

Phil Tufnell, the ex -England cricketer says. “Reports from the dressing say he’s been amazing, helping out all the guys, working hard, training hard. Another ex -England Captain Michael Vaughn says that Stokes works harder on his fitness than any other player he has known and England playing colleague Stuart Broad talks about want a fantastic person Stokes now is.

This is a far cry from the person who not only was charged with affray in 2017 but who also in December 2011 was arrested and cautioned for obstructing the police -who in February 2013 was sent home from Australia in disgrace after late-night boozing on a Lions tour -and of whom coach Andy Flower said: “You don’t want to play for England. You just want to p**s it up the wall with your mates.”

Stokes said back in 2016 that his favourite tipple was Jagerbombs, a mix of Red Bull and the liqueur Jagermeister. Asked how many he could sink on a night out, he said: “I’ve lost count after 20.”

What changed his life around? Well it would appear a lot has to do with his wife Clare with whom he has two children, Layton and Libby. Stokes said: “Clare is like my best friend and she and my family have helped me through the ups and downs. As long as they are there, that’s all that matters. I really miss Clare and the children when I’m on tour. Cricket and family are my life. I’ve learned lessons that will stay with me.”

So it would appear that Stokes’ wife has helped him to make a dramatic change for the better- this made me think who else in history has turned their lives completely around – there are of course countless people but one in particular comes to mind – Saul of Tarsus who we read of in the Book of The Acts of the Apostles (which incidentally is what the sequel to Risen! The Musical is based on.)  Next week I will share how we portray in song Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.

Quote of the week

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Sir Winston Churchill

Blog August 29th Ben Stokes Part One

Higher and Higher (Smith/Miner) featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album His Story recorded and produced by Ross Gill

Last blog I mentioned Liv Cooke, the freestyle footballer who, in the face of adversity, turned a problem into an opportunity – due to injury she had to give up her career as a professional footballer but instead dedicated herself to becoming a world champion in free style football.
Wikipedia says this of the England cricketer Ben Stokes:
In September 2017, Stokes became involved in a street brawl near a nightclub with two men, at which teammate Alex Hales was also present. This incident led to these two players missing the fourth game of the series against West Indies, with a hand injury ruling Stokes out of the final game. Stokes was withdrawn from the England squad for the 2017–18 Ashes. A video also emerged on Snapchat of Stokes mimicking Katie Price’s disabled son shortly after being arrested in September 2017, for which Stokes later apologised on Twitter. He lost his apparel sponsorship with New Balance over these incidents.
Stokes was charged on 15 January 2018, along with the two other men, with affray. The trial started on 6 August 2018, which ruled him out of the second Test match against India. On 14 August he was acquitted.
In September 2018, Stokes was charged with bringing the game into disrepute by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) over the affray incident. In December 2018, the Cricket Disciplinary Commission announced that Stokes would be fined £30,000, after he pleaded guilty to the charges. It was also decided that Stokes should be banned for eight matches, all of which had been served by the time the Commission issued its verdict.
WHAT A TURNAROUND FOR THE HERO OF THE RECENT THIRD ASHES TEST MATCH AGAINST AUSTRALIA – in which his innings is regarded as one of the best, if not the best ever played by an Englishman. The media is full of stories of his remarkable innings – Even the Australian press has been complimentary with Peter Lalor writing: “Forget Ian Botham’s efforts in 1981, forget Don Bradman and Arthur Morris’s in 1948 – Ben Stokes has single-handedly pulled off one of the most remarkable Ashes victories in a place where the remarkable happens.” He went on: “Stokes was incredible. Indomitable. Unbelievable.”

However what so impressed me is that this man, now a national sporting hero, was only a year or so ago in a very dark place. Again someone that in the face of adversity (albeit his own fault) turned his life around – but more of that next blog – today I wanted to finish by adding my congratulations not only to Ben Stokes but also to Jack Leach, who may only have scored one run, but who stayed in while Ben Stokes did all the hitting – if Jack Leach had been out then England would have lost the game and also the Ashes.

Even more important to mention was the sportsmanship of the Australian team who, after the final run was scored, all immediately went to Ben Stokes to offer their congratulations – all shaking his hand and some even giving him an embrace. Fair play – the Australian’s have not exactly had a great reputation for their sportsmanship but on this occasion they deserve every credit.

Quote for the week
Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
Winston Churchill

Blog August 22nd Liv Cooke


If I Say I Love You Jesus featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album Precious recorded and produced by Ross Gill

I was watching a clip of the Manchester United midfield player Scott McTominay being interviewed by a woman I have to admit I had not heard of- Liv Cooke. At the end of the interview Liv lay on her back and started juggling a football with her feet. Scott was impressed and so was I – so much so that I googled her name and found out the following:
Liv was born on 20 April 1999 and is a British professional football freestyler, the current world champion and 4 x world record holder. She is also a Champions League Match Day Reporter, Entrepreneur, UEFA Women’s Football & Men’s Euro 2020 Ambassador and director of Africa Angels Charity.
Liv got into football at a young age having grown up with her two older brothers, Jack and Sam.
At the age of 10, Liv joined Preston North End F.C. whilst also playing in Woodlea Junior School’s football team. She went on to study at Balshaw’s Church of England High School, where she captained the girls’ football team, and signed for the Blackburn Rovers F.C. Centre of Excellence at the age of 14.
One year later, Liv was sidelined by a recurring back injury and discovered freestyle football videos online. She began to learn the basics in her back garden and stopped playing football in 2015 to focus on freestyle. In 2016, at the age of 17, Liv left Runshaw College early to pursue a career as a professional football freestyler.
In November 2016, Liv finished second in the 2016 World Football Freestyle Championships in Melbourne breaking her foot during the final.
In August 2017, Liv became the world’s number 1 football freestyler obtaining full points in every battle during the event in Prague on her way to the world title. Alongside competing, she has recently appeared in a number of TV commercials, hosted video series and regularly travels across the world to make appearances.
In December 2018, Liv broke four world records live in Barcelona. She currently holds these records.
Alongside her football freestyle career Liv has founded multiple businesses and worked for many charitable causes. In 2018 Liv became the director of Africa Angels, a charity that works to support education, equality, eliminate poverty and transform communities in Africa
As a result of Liv’s work, she has won a number of awards including Parliamentary Rising Star and Woman of the Future.
Not only are her skills simply amazing – please watch the video, or here is a link to a shorter clip – (although it is for an ad and I don’t think it is nearly as impressive as the today’s featured video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OMIgoSE-Z4
All the following may have become clichés – “one door closing and another opening”- “there is always a solution to every problem” -“ every problem is an opportunity in disguise.” Nevertheless Liv having to give up traditional football through injury and then choosing not to cry but to focus on another form of football is, I believe a wonderful example of what can be achieved in the face of adversity.

Quote for the week
I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man that had no feet

Blog August 15th Mick Mellows and “Faith and Football”


Mick Mellows


Where Would I Be Without You? featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album “Where Would I Be Without You? recorded and produced by Ross Gill

Last week I said that I am privileged to have been asked by my dear friend Mick Mellows to be part of the team that is putting on the “Just One” event in the Portsmouth Guildhall on April 4th and 5th next year . The “Just One” event which includes a talk from J. John and music from the Portsmouth Gospel Choir and Noel Robinson, is being organised by the charity “Philo Trust” in conjunction with the charity “Faith and Football”, of which Mick is Director. I also said that I would tell you more of Mick and “Faith and Football” this week.
I was in my second year of studying to be a PE teacher at King Alfred’s College, Winchester and the buzz was that the centre forward of the England amateur football team was coming to study PE. I had expected at least “Roy of the Rovers” so at first sight Mick did not look anything special, however he was quick, had a great left foot and was totally dedicated. It was not long before he captained the Ist team which I just about scraped into (occasionally) and part of that job was to run the coaching sessions. It was in these that his experience, knowledge and professionalism shone through.
It turned out that Mick had the same room in the “Carfax “student accommodation that I had in my first year at King Alfred’s. A room close to ours was felt to be haunted and the whole place was pretty spooky- so Mick and I had much to talk about outside of football.
After we left college Mick spent a year teaching before playing football professionally in Belgium and eventually Portsmouth FC. It was at this time that we renewed our friendship – I would go to watch him play every week and then meet the Pompey players and the opposition players afterwards in the Players bar. He and his wife Felicity, together with my wife and I would then go for a curry (often paid for by Mick’s winning bonus) Our friendship grew with the four of us going on regular holidays to France. When my two sons, James and Chris were born Mick and Felicity became their God parents.
Felicity had studied what was then called Divinity at College – she persuaded Mick to join her at St Mary’s church in Portchester Castle and that led him to become a Christian. He later formed the charity “Faith and Football” with the Pompey legend, Linvoy Primus. The work that they do includes “Community Football Leagues, the Social Enterprise and Business Challenge, the Leadership Academy, the Extra Time Literacy Scheme, Walking Football and the Alpha Course. You can read more by visiting www.faithandfootball.org.uk
In 2015 all the tremendous work of “Faith and Football” was rewarded when they received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
I have the pleasure of seeing quite a lot of Mick at the moment, first because of the JustOne event and second because we are playing golf together!
Quote for the week
A problem not anticipated is a problem. A problem anticipated is an opportunity.
A.L Davis – Owner of Oakland Raiders American Football Team

Blog August 8th


I Love You Lord (Laurie Klien) featuring the Portsmouth Gospel Choir from the EP “How Great Are His Signs” recorded and produced by Joffy Girling

I am privileged to have been asked by my dear friend Mick Mellows to be part of the team that is putting on the “Just One” event in the Portsmouth Guildhall on April 4th and 5th next year The “Just One” event is being organised by the charity “Philo Trust” in conjunction with the charity “Faith and Football” , of which Mick is Director.
The idea behind “Just One” is that one follower of Jesus invites someone who is not yet a follower to listen to evangelist Canon J. John. J. John has been described as a creative speaker with an appeal that transcends gender, age, race, culture and occupation. His much-loved art of storytelling helps people to discover spiritual meaning in a way that makes sense of everyday life. He has been speaking of the relevance of Christianity since 1975.
In addition to hearing J. John speak the evening will consist of testimonies and music from Noel Robinson who wrote, among others, the classic songs “All heaven declares” “Come Lord Jesus” and “He is Risen.” The Portsmouth Gospel Choir (which is where I come i ) will also be there singing songs such as today’s featured song “I Love You Lord” and “Mustard Seed of Faith” both of which can be downloaded via https://mustardseedsongs.hearnow.com/
“Just One” has already taken place, with thousands and thousands, in attendance at the Arsenal Football Club ground and Gillingham Football club ground. It was originally going to take place at Portsmouth Football club’s Fratton Park but when this was not available Mick contacted the Portsmouth Guildhall who were delighted to stage the event.
The amazing “Just One” which took place at the Emirates Stadium (Arsenal’s ground) is captured in this video https://justone.co.uk/emirates/
By the way I will tell you more of Mick and “Faith and Football” in next week’s blog- meanwhile Caroline, Genna and I are off to stay at Caroline’s brother’s place in Malvern to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Caroline’s twin brother Chris has a Labrador puppy called Bella so lots of dog walking in the Malvern Hills is on the cards.
Quote for the week
Money is a universal provider for everything but happiness and a passport to everywhere but to heaven.
Every Day With Jesus

Blog August 2nd “Genna’s First Birthday – Unconditional love”


“Amazing Love” featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album “Love is the Way” recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

So today is the first birthday of our lovely Labrador “Genna.”  Here are some photographs logging her first year.

Of course she can be naughty at times and obviously pretty demanding but we love her unconditionally and we believe that she loves us unconditionally. Whether that is totally true some may dispute but what I believe cannot be disputed is that God loves us unconditionally.

He loves us regardless of our age, our looks, our height, our weight, the colour of our skin, whether we are rich or poor, where we live, how intelligent we are, what job we have or do not have…. you can add to the list yourself but there is nothing you could include that would stop God loving you unconditionally for God is love.

Quote of the week

If it is too big to become a prayer it is too small to become a burden

Word for Today

Blog 25th July Bringing hope and joy to a very poor community

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/Mustardseedsongs-RisenChristCentralChapel

On the death of his Grandfather (his father had already died) Patrick Oki was about to become Chief of his village in Nigeria. However the Elders wanted him to denounce his Christian faith and return to the native religion which had been practiced before his Grandfather was Chief; this included human sacrifice. When he refused his life was in danger and so he sought asylum in England. It was in Haslar Detention Centre, Gosport that Mustard Seed Songs Founder and Trustee Ken Shearsmith first met Patrick some ten years ago. Unfortunately his asylum claim was rejected and he was deported to Nigeria where he had to re locate a long way from his village to stay safe.

Patrick told Ken that when he returned from England he was ill for two years, not being able to walk or even stand; having been rejected and abandoned by his family and friends- he was left to die, with no one to care for him except his son Emmanuel. Sometimes they had no food to eat, and he even prayed for God to take his life- all this because he had denounced the religious tradition of his people to follow Jesus. Patrick says I made a vow that if the Lord healed me I would serve him all the rest of my life and one day the Lord sent a servant Evangelist Lady Lizbeth who prayerfully joined hands with me and the Lord set me free. Praise the Lord I became born again to the glory of God.

Patrick is now indeed serving God as an unpaid Pastor in Cross River State, Southern Nigeria. His congregation is, at present worshiping in a hired hall and is looking after a number of orphans. Mustard Seed Songs has been working hard to bring them hope and joy by funding the building of their very own church which is named after Mustard Seeds musical Risen! – The Risen Christ Central Chapel. The featured pics show how the building work has progressed over the last two years.

Mustard Seed Songs are so thankful to the wonderful Portsmouth Gospel Choir for supporting its campaign – Mustard Seed of Faith is a track taken from their EP How Great Are His Signs

It is Pastor Patrick’s favourite song