Blog November 8th Rugby Union World Cup Part One

Put Your Hand In The Hand Of God featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album “Precious” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

First just to say that I went to see The Pilgrim’s Progress animated film last week and it was brilliant. It is on this coming Saturday, November 9th at The Vue Cinema, Gun Wharf Quay, Portsmouth- there is only one viewing at 1.00 pm. See if you can make it – you will not be disappointed.
I was so very, very, very disappointed that England did not win the Rugby Union World Cup on Saturday but my disappointment was greatly reduced when I read this article by the South African captain -Siya Kolisi,
I grew up in the impoverished township of Zwide in South Africa, where I was raised by my grandmother because my mother and father were too young to look after me. Ever since I can remember, rugby has been a big part of my life. My dad and uncles played this sport, and as soon as I could, at the age of 8, I started playing too.
Living in the ghetto, we struggled to get by. We couldn’t afford to pay for my school and all the fees that went along with it, but I went to school every day because it was where I received my one meal for the day. In the evening, I would return to our two-bedroom home where seven of us lived, take the cushions off the couch and sleep on the floor for the night.
I always enjoyed rugby; I trained every single day for it. Rugby seemed to keep me away from a lot of the bad things going on around me. I lost a lot of friends because while I was focusing on being the best I could be in my sport, they were falling prey to the struggles and temptations of life in the hood. I was set on preparing myself for any opportunity I could, though I didn’t know what that may be.
When I was 12 years old, I went out on the field to play with my school team in our first game of the season. Facing a nearby school which had a great coach, we were defeated by 50 points. After the game, that opposing coach approached me and said he thought I had talent. He invited me to play for his school. From there, this coach took me under his wing, becoming more of a father figure to me than I had ever had. He knew how much this opportunity meant to me and I worked hard to take full use of it. He took me to my first provincial trial, where I played in boxers because I couldn’t afford rugby shorts. Soon, I found myself on the provincial team, heading to tournaments to play the game I loved more than anything.
When I was 19, I became a professional. In 2012, on the same weekend of my 21st birthday, I played my first game with the South African national team. Having the chance to play in the 2015 Rugby World Cup was a huge privilege, but I only played 30 minutes of it. Now, as a captain of the Springboks, I couldn’t be more honoured and excited to represent my country in the World Cup. I know I was chosen to be a captain of this team — the highest position one can achieve in this sport — for the person I am. Therefore, I try to remain true to who I am, not letting little things get into my head. I try to be a good example to others when I play.
God has been preparing me for such a time as this. While I grew up going to church with my grandmother, and went off and on the past few years, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I truly gave my life to Christ. While struggling with a lot of things personally — temptations, sins and lifestyle choices — I realized I wasn’t living according to what I was calling myself: a follower of Christ. I was getting by, but I hadn’t decided to fully commit myself to Jesus Christ and start living according to His way.
That is, until something I was struggling with in my personal life was exposed to the public. Up to that point, everything I was fighting against was hidden, but when my sin was exposed, I knew I either had to change my life, or lose everything. I decided to lose my life and find it in Christ.
Walking alongside a spiritual mentor, I’ve been able to discover the truth and saving power of Christ in a whole new way. This new life has given me a peace in my heart I’d never experienced before. Now that I have given everything to God, nothing else affects me. I now live and play with the freedom of knowing His plan will always happen, and at the end of the day, that’s all I care about!
I don’t have to understand everything in life, and there are so many things I don’t, but I know God is in control of it all. My job is to do the best I can and leave the rest in His hands. While I was really struggling in the midst of my sin, I read a verse in the book of Isaiah in the Bible that really stood out to me. Isaiah 43:2-3 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.” I read it over and over, for days.
If God can come through for countless people throughout history who had their backs against the world, He can do the same for me.
Siya Kolisi,
Quote of the week
We represent something much bigger than we can imagine
Siya Lolisi

Blog October 31st First Meal on the Moon

A Time For Everything featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album The Season of Singing recorded and produced by Ross Gill

I thought this was an interesting article written by David Scott that was worth sharing
Almost everyone knows Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to stand on the moon. Almost everyone knows what Armstrong said: ‘That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.’ But how many know what Buzz Aldrin did before they stepped out on to the moon’s surface?
Aldrin was a convinced Christian and an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas. Before the flight he had wondered about how to mark the landing. He wrote in an article for Guideposts magazine in 1970 that his pastor Dean Woodruff had told him ‘God reveals himself in the common elements of everyday life’ – like bread and wine. Woodruff gave him a silver chalice to take with him on the flight, and there was just enough gravity for him to be able to pour the wine from a plastic container.
He wrote in Guideposts: ‘In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.’
He also read from John 15.5: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit, for you can do nothing without me.’
Before he took communion, he radioed back to NASA: ‘I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.’ NASA kept quiet about what he was actually doing, though. It was bruised by the activities of atheist campaigner Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who had fought a series of court battles – all of which she lost – against it because the crew of a previous mission, Apollo 8, had read out the creation story from Genesis during their orbit. She thought it violated the constitutional division between church and state.
The Bible and the moon have a lot more history besides all that, though. Three hundred microfilmed King James Versions were carried on the Apollo 14 mission at the instigation of the Apollo Prayer League, 100 of which went down to the moon in the lunar module with astronaut Edgar Mitchell.
There’s also a paper Bible still on the moon; it’s on the dashboard of an abandoned lunar rover and was left there by Apollo 15 astronaut
Quote of the week.
The important thing is to recognise that in all pain there is potential- the art is to admit the pain but focus on the potential
Every Day With Jesus

Blog October 24th The Pilgrims Progress – Animated Film

Oh Lord By Praise featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album Love is the Way recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

This week I am giving the soon to be released animated film of “The Pilgrims Progress” a plug because a) it is a wonderful story that has been re-created with great passion and skill and b) because the film’s distributors AO Vision are also distributing Risen! The Musical DVDs (so it is a form of thanks)
To summarise this is a story of an epic journey, faithfully adapted to modern-day. Christian faces distractions, challenges, and perils at every turn of the way, but ends victorious, with helpful guides, as he stays on the narrow path to the distant Celestial City.
The promotion states: In this inspiring feature-length allegory, travel with a pilgrim as he embarks on an epic journey. John Bunyan’s classic 1678 novel is faithfully adapted to modern-day using CGI animation. The story begins with a man named Christian. Overwhelmed with the struggles of life in his home City of Destruction, he carries his burden on his back as he sets off to reach the peace and security of the distant Celestial City. Christian’s journey is difficult. He faces distractions, challenges, and perils at every turn of the way, but finds victory, with helpful guides, as he stays on the narrow path.
One commentator says:
“Who would have dreamed that “The Pilgrim’s Progress” could have been more vividly portrayed than it is in reading the written page- perhaps this rendition has done just that. Through captivating graphics, Hollywood quality voice overs and beautiful orchestration we may just be witnessing”The Pilgrim’s Progress” for the next generation.” Featuring voices of: John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) Kristyn Getty (In Christ Alone,) Ben Price (Australia’s Got Talent)

Visit The Pilgrim’s Progress WEBSITE: http://www.Pilgrims.Movie
Like The Pilgrim’s Progress on FACEBOOK:…
Follow The Pilgrim’s Progress on TWITTER find your cinema and get tickets at http://www.Pilgrims.Movie
Quote of the week
You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.
John Bunyan

Blog October 17th Part Two Gemma Hillier and Hannah Haughton – Part Two

Team GB after beating Brazil 6- 5 in the World Cup Beach Soccer semi- final

Team GB with their silver medals as runners up to Spain in 2- 3 final

“Living It Up” featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album “Heart and Soul” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

First an apology for last week – it is Hannah Haughton and not Houghton and it is Beach Soccer not Beach football.
So Team GB were runners up to Spain losing 2-3 in the Women’s World Cup Beach Soccer Final in Qatar having the great honour of winning silver medals.
They first beat Paraguay, USA and Russia to then meet Brazil in the semi-final who they beat 6- 5. Team GB came back from being 3 goals down with a goal from Gemma Hillier leading the come -back. With two seconds left of the game, Brazil were awarded a free-kick but goalkeeper Hannah Haughton kept her composure and made a stunning save tipping the ball over the bar.
Team captain, Sarah Kempson added: “I am absolutely buzzing, we have learnt that no matter what happens, if you’re one goal down or three goals down you are still in the game. You’ve just got to keep your head and believe you can win.”
The World Beach Games was set up to give athletes the opportunity to profile their sport to younger audiences.
The Great Britain team, run by the British Olympic Association, sent 20 athletes to the Games.
The event is being run by the Association of National Olympic Committee as the Olympic movement continues to undergo a revamp in a bid to rejuvenate the Games.
It is hoped multi-sport events like the World Beach Games can provide athletes with the opportunity to profile their sport to global and younger audiences.
The sport is set to be included in the Olympic programme for the first time at the Paris 2024 Games.
Last blog I wrote of how chuffed my wife Caroline and I were to see two people that we had mentored/taught go on to such great things. I then likened this to how Jesus must have felt about the way His disciples carried on His message so devotedly. But of course the disciples had a great deal of help – but more of that next week.

Quote of the week.
Enjoy where you are on the way to where you are going
The Word for Today

Blog October 10th Gemma Hillier and Hannah Houghton

Gemma Hillier is centre holding the G with Hannah Houghton on her right

I Will Tell featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album ” I Look Up To The Heavens” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

Well it’s been a busy week. The animated film of “Pilgrims Progress” is soon to be released. It is being promoted by “Hatikvah Films” – who are also going to distribute Risen! The Musical DVDs- but more of “Pilgrim’s Progress” next week.
Yesterday saw the launch of the “Just One” event which is to take place at the Portsmouth Guildhall on April 4th and 5th of next year. There will be music from Noel Robinson and the Portsmouth Gospel Choir together with a presentation from the wonderful Evangelist J.J. John. The launch was held in the Portsmouth Cathedral with Noel singing and J. John addressing a packed audience- but more of that later as today I wanted to feature the Team GB Women’s Beach Football Team which is taking part in the World Championships in Qatar with GB playing their first televised game tomorrow at 1.00 pm against Paraguay. They then play the USA on Sunday and Russia on Monday. So why am I featuring this event? Well my wife Caroline and I know two of the Team GB players really well. I taught Gemma Hillier at Crofton School (Gemma now teaches PE at Fareham Academy) and Caroline mentored Hannah Houghton who is now a full time sports coach at Cherbourg Primary.
It is so very rewarding when someone who you have taught goes on to do great things and it just made me think how proud Jesus must have been with what His disciples went on to do after He ascended to heaven. For three years they had listened to His every word, witnessed His miracles and had been amazed at His wisdom, His compassion for others and, of course ultimately the sacrificing of His own life.
Jesus entrusted His disciples to continue to proclaim His message of love and forgiveness and this, of course is what they did, usually at the cost of their own lives. The story of how they do this is in the Acts of the Apostles, which, as I have mentioned previously, is what the Mustard Seed Songs sequel to Risen! is based on. Joffy, our wonderful Musical Director is, at this very moment, putting the finishing touches to phase one of Acts- The Musical Part One – and more of that very soon.

Quote of the week

No matter how many mistakes you have made you can always start again
The Word for Today

Blog September 26th Les Misérables – Part Two

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

So last week I finished my blog with the words of Rob Sumrall who when referring to Les Miserables said: 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 promised that I would conclude the article and here it is:
The Christian message is one of redemption. Ephesians 1:7 tells us, “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” That sinners can experience redemption is good news indeed! God has given Jesus, a sinless model of perfection, to become sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of the work of Christ, dirty sinners like me can experience forgiveness and healing according to the riches of God’s unmerited grace.
There is a wrong idea that seems to plague mankind. That idea says that God’s hope, God’s redemption is for the good people of this world. The polished, decent, and religious people are viewed as somehow deserving of redemption. But woe be unto you if you find yourself among the dregs of society. The down-and-outs. The homeless. The harlots. The criminals. The sinners. They stand little chance of redemption, according to this way of thinking. This ideology is wrong! I can’t lend strong enough emphasis to this fact. First off, none of us are nearly as good as we might think. Secondly, redemption is extended to all those who would place their faith in Christ and repent of their sin. Valjean reminds us that even the hardened criminal is not beyond the reach of the Lord.
Les Miserables could give the impression that one is justified by doing all the good things that Jean Valjean did. One might think that Valjean is redeemed by his acts of kindness and mercy towards others. That conclusion is damning. Redemption does not come through good works; redemption is evidenced through good works. Valjean lived a life helping his fellow man because of his surrender to God in the first act.
Valjean’s life ends in fitting fashion. The man who encountered God’s grace wants to be home with the Lord. He faces death as a redeemed man, unafraid of what lies ahead. This too, is the hope of the believer – that one day we will be home with God. Only the redeemed can sing with Valjean:
God up high,
Hear my prayer
Take me now
To thy care
Where you are
Let me be
Take me now
Take me there
Bring me home
Bring me home
The heart cry of the redeemed is to be with the Lord. Death is not scary. It holds no frightening mysteries. Only the promise of the presence of God lies in wait for the miserable people who have been redeemed by Jesus!
This reminded me of Luke 5:31-32 – Jesus answered them “It is not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. “
Quote of the week
It’s not what you have lost but what you have left that counts
The Word for Today

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:
Tell his reverence your story
Let us see if he’s impressed
You were lodging here last night
You were the honest Bishop’s guest.
And then, out of Christian goodness
When he learned about your plight
You maintain he made a present of this silver.
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” 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 is Paul!!
Luke : Spoken
Yes- let me explain –
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?
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