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Distinctly Askew

Odds and ends, chance finds, unexpected treasures...

Updated: 2017-09-06T03:23:04.434+01:00




Thanks for dropping by. As you can see, I haven't posted here for a while here. I'm over at instead. Feel free to have a look through the archives here though, I still get the odd comment coming through on old posts. Hopefully I'll see you over at the new place soon.(image)



We went to Speedwell Cavern yesterday.  Its flooded so you have to get into the cave by boat,  as we journeyed our guide told us about the little blast holes that miners had carved into the tunnel.  Once they had laid explosive they would run to these holes and hide in them as rock, and the lead they were trying to mine, flew past them following the blast.

This morning in prayers we looked at Psalm 84 and were asked to imagine what it means that we describe God as a home.  I wondered if one thing it could mean was that he was my blast hole.  Somewhere to hide and take refuge when explosions and blasts occur.

It feels a little bit like there are blasts in my life right now.  Life is unsettled.  So it is good to know that in God I have a home.(image)

New WordLive


Do you know about Wordlive? Its a scripture union site with great daily readings, thoughts and prayer exercises available for free.

They've had a re-design and it all looks very simple to use, with some excellent God-focussed content. May be a good way of getting some bible in your life.

I like the alt section which takes quite a playful approach to it all. They claim its "Throwing a large rock into the still waters of the quiet time." It just might be...

Go have a look, its good.

Desire and Discipline


When I think about my walk as a disciple I realise there are two things that are critical:  desire and discipline.

Desire sets where I am going, King David said:

"One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple."

Perhaps the longing for God is the only desire that can be fully and truly satisfied.

Discipline gets me moving,  it is what I need to place one foot in front of the other.

Without desire I strive to go nowhere or walk aimlessly.
Without discipline I stay put and more and more frustrated at lack of movement.

Which do you need God to give you today?

God give us the desire for you.  Help us set our destination. 
God teach us discipline.  Help us get up and walk.(image)

Advent Pause 4 - Subtract and Stop.


My friend Andrew has also been blogging an advent series about making space.  I hesitate to tell you this,  because his posts are more frequent and better than mine.

On Saturday he posted this:

"There is so much that needs to be done in preparation for Christmas...
At times – and especially if there are any other factors in our lives that drain us, as there so often are – it is as
much or even more than we can do to get done what needs to be done.
At times, we just need to take time out. Re-focus. Pray.

Pray, even though prayer is elusive; even though the Christ-child, the King of Heaven, is elusive.
And then step back in to the day."
I re-blog this because I need to hear it.  I have been attempting to write posts on pausing in Advent while at the same time hurtling through a busy life of church, socialisation, family, study and Christmas preparation.
My pauses have just been additions to my business.  They've been great and God's blessed me, but over the last few days events have reminded me that they're not enough.  Pausing is not just about addition - it is also about subtraction.
What do I need take away, in order to rest?  What do I need to stop doing?
Just for a little while I'm trying to get into stop mode. 
I took an hour out to go to our prayer room this morning. 
We had a meeting cancelled tonight so we're going to decorate a tree, then just chill together.
This has started to help me feel stronger and more peaceful,  and it will definitely improve the lives of those I love and see every day.
So,  may God bless the additions to life that you and I make this advent.  May they be fruitful and may we meet with him.  But may he also bring us to places where we don't just pause,
we stop.

The photo is by alykat on flickr.(image)

Advent Pause 3 - Celebrate!


So far these tips have been pretty inward looking. Lets widen things a little. I know advent is a time for reflection, anticipating Jesus coming and contemplating the not-yet. But come on! Christmas is coming, have some fun.

The mix of quiet anticipation and exuberant celebration can work really well. Why not get some people together - even better if they're people you don't always do life with. Get them round and have some fun together. You don't have to plan the party-to-end-all parties, it might even be worth avoiding the consumerism tendancy for a full on blow out. But a little celebration with friends, neighbours or even strangers might help you meet with God in a new way.(image)

Advent Pause 2 - Music


Each year at church we have an advent song. This year it is Take That. I'll admit, the 18 year old me would have been horrified by the thought that I might ever lead a service that featured the music of Mr Barlow et al, but either they've changed or I have because in the context this kind of worked.

Anyway. My next tip for pausing is to find some advent music. Put it on and just listen. Allow yourself the space of a song, or even an album and talk to God about it. You could even hum or sing along.
In the Askew house we might go for a little choral music, but more likely some Sigur Ros or Sufjan. Our absolute favourite though is Low Christmas. We love the first play each year towards the end of November. Listening to it gives a great idea of the mixed emotions - excitement, nostalgia, melancholy, loneliness - many face during this season.

I know there's loads of music out there right now, festive noise bombards us in the shops and on every advert and a lot of its rubbish. Don't let that ruin great Christmas music for you though. Find something you like and listen to it with God.(image)

Speaking and not speaking


I Learned two new words at college today. Apotaphic and cataphatic. I like them.

How arrogant of me to think I can speak accurately of God when he is so far beyond my understanding.
How arrogant of me to not speak of God when he constantly speaks of himself.

They made me think of Pete Rollins' book.

God, help me speak of you lovingly and truthly. And when its time for silence help me to shut up.

[FB readers, this post will be full of annoying jargon without the links, they can be found by a click through to](image)

Advent Pause 1 - Walk


(image) In my last post I said I wanted to slow down this advent.  I thought I might think aloud about ways I might do that.  If you like you can play along too: how might you make pauses this advent?

The first way I'm going to do that is quite simple.  Walk.
Whenever possible I like to walk, to meetings, to work,  to the shops, to church.

When I drop my boy off at nursery I like to walk back through the park.
When I got to see someone for a coffee in town,  I like to walk.

The temptaion is to jump into the car, to be there faster.
Or squeeze in with everyone else on the tram.

If I resist that temptation,  I might take a little longer to get to my destination.
I might even be a few minutes late (I often am).

But I will feel a little fitter,
I will have had some space to think,
I'll be able to see real people and places in my city, and notice my environment.

And I might even have met with God.

This advent I'm going to try to walk more.
(The photo is by H Adam on Flickr).(image)

Holidays are coming...


allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />This Sunday sees the beginning of Advent, the time when Christians prepare for the celebration of Jesus birth at Christmas, and remind ourselves of our hope that he will return.Of course if you looked at the world around us you might think we were already in the season of preperation - stores are decorated, Delia and Heston reminice on tv adverts, and though I've not yet seen the Christmas Coke advert yet (a certain sign Holidays were coming for my brothers and me) I'm sure it can't be far behind. And with the certain motion of festive red lorries, we roll on towards the festive season. Holidays are coming.Please don't think I'm complaining, I love the fact that I could go with my family to watch the Sheffield illuminations begin on the 22nd December. I love that for a month our city centre includes a german market and an outdoor ice rink. I love that I can start to get excited and get ready.But there is a sense that as the Christmas juggernaught gains pace life becomes more hectic - we rush to get the shopping done, the travel arranged, the parties planned, and... Oh no! We've forgotten to book anywhere for the cat! All that is before you add in the extra pressure of church or mission activities around the season. The run up to Christmas is, perhaps rightly, seen as prime trading time for many missionary minded churchgoers and so there is a rush to plan carol services, Christmas fairs, and evangelistic initiatives that make the most of peoples interest in our stories at this time of year.I'm not complaining at all. I love the parties, I love buying presents, I love the fact that mission can seem a bit more fun because I get to wear a Santa hat. But I can't help feeling that in all this busyness I might be missing something of the wonder and awe, and hope of this season.Perhaps I need to make some time this advent to pause.One of the key messages of our Christmas story is that despite everything that was going on, Roman tax legislation, angry tyrannical monarchs, fearful fathers seeking divorce, the son of God is still born.  The incarnation presents an interruption to our furious activity. A pause in the "business as usual" that points to something greater, more beautiful and more mysterious than our current existence. This Christmas I want to enjoy the festivities, I want to male the most of the opportunities presented to me to share my story, and I want to get caught up with those around me in celebration.  But more than that I want to stop and pause. To and slow down, and consider what this all means. To make space to contemplate the beautiful mystery at the heart of our parties. That God was born as a Jewish man in Roman occupied Palestine, and lives on in the hearts of people here and now.Let us make the most of every opportunity this advent,  let us celebrate the season wholeheartedly.  But let us also make pauses in our life so that we have the space and time to encounter the one whose birth we celebrate.Have a great advent.[...]

Do not be afraid


It's a command that seems to come up in scripture again and again.Do not be afraid.It is said to Abram,  to Joshua, to Solomon and to many others.In fact its said so often it makes you wonder,  is the human default to a new challenge or experience always fear?  God tells us,  those who would follow him on this adventure,  do not be afraid.There's much to fear in our lives these days.  Financial insecurity,  enemies, younger people, older people,  different people.  Ourselves,  the dark,  death.God says... don't. Fear stops us fully following him.But God doesn't just say don't be scared,  he gives us a reason why.Do not be afraid,  because I am with you.  We don't have to struggle on our own,  pull ourselves together and somehow get over our fears.  Our courage comes from the knowledge that God is with us.  Perhaps that thought is the only thing that will truly allow us to get over our fear.I was reading this Psalm today,  It summed the attitude up quite movingly."If the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us,when their anger flared against us,they would have swallowed us alive;the flood would have engulfed us,the torrent would have swept over us,the raging waterswould have swept us away.Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare;the snare has been broken,and we have escaped.Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth."What are you afraid/worried/anxious about? Ask God to show you that he's with you,  allow him to show you why you don't need to be afraid.[...]

The Ordinary Adventure


The Christian life is not supposed to be dull, it is supposed to be an adventure.Every now and again I see,  hear or read something that reminds me of this truth and that calls out the courageous adventurer within me.  One such time was when I first saw this video.  I love music videos,  this one was one of my favourites from the last few years.  It's by a band called Unkle for their track,  Heaven.Every time I watch this the Holy Spirit gets me.  It stirs me to live more courageously,  to follow God whole-heartedly and to take big risks for him.  I love that feeling and I think its something God wants me to experience.  Perhaps that's the experience the first disciples felt when Jesus said to them "come, follow me".But life is no music video.  When I fall, the bumps are very real and hurt; sometimes I struggle to get back up.  Then when I'm done with my next bit of adventure and risk there's still the washing up to come back too,  or the kids to put to bed,  or the difficult colleague to get on with.  Often it seems my adventures of faith collide with far more mundane or even difficult realities.As I've thought about this I've begun to wonder if this was also the experience for the first disciples.  When Andrew, Simon, James and John encountered Jesus and heard his call the they left their nets and followed him.  The left what they were doing and began a new adventure.  A journey that would take courage and risk as they learnt how to be like him.But they didn't leave their nets for ever, and Jesus didn't take them away from the everyday realities of life.  They went to weddings,  they paid taxes,  they argued and bickered with each other and Jesus used each of these events to change them,  to show them something new.  The adventure he took his disciples on was firmly in the real world,  and the day to day struggles they faced were the very place where they got to see God's power at work.I wonder if this is God's intention for all who would want to follow him.  He calls us all to be disciples here on earth.  He asks us to engage with the struggles and apparent mundaneness of everyday life and to allow him to make it different,  better,  new.I believe God is looking for everyday adventurers.  People who will be obedient to him in every little detail of their life and so will more fully experience him changing our world for the better.Are you eager to part of this great adventure?  Why not talk to God about it now?  Write down a list of the situations you face today;  the jobs you have to do,  the people you will see.  Ask God to meet you in each of those places, let him know you're open for him to do something new.  Then get on with living as his adventurous disciple.[ This is a post I've written for the new Missional Communities Collaborative Blog.][...]

New Season


September has brought some changes for us Askews.

I'm no longer leading Form. I'm a little sad to let go of it, but its definitely the right time and the person I've given it to is doing an amazing job.  I'm continuing to work part time at St Toms with a wider responsibility overseeing missional communities and discipleship for young adults.  That means I'm still involved in Form and leading Form Access but with some other responsibilities too.  Its really exciting to be working with lots of passionate people and exploring with them how we best follow God together.

I have also started training at St Mellitus college in London. I'll be there for 3 years, training to be a vicar.  Those that know me,  know that this has been quite a long held plan (ambition I guess is the word).  So it's great to be finally getting on with it.

St Mellitus is a fairly new theological college with a different approach to training than most.  It's a mixed mode/church based course. That means can study 2 days a week and continue to work for St Toms in Sheffield. The work I do there counts towards my training and my training will hopefully help me be a better leader at Philly; it all connects.

I'll be commuting to London for a day a week so will be getting very used to train journeys.

Things are changing for Helen too.  She is back at work at St Toms.  We share some of the responsibilities for the young adult work,  and she also does some work with the wider missional communities team developing resources,  media and communication.

Its an exciting time for us all,  but some of the changes are quite a challenge to get used too.

Related but different:  We have a prayer/support network whom I text once a week.  Its a way of sharing our journey with others and making sure there are people praying for us regularly.  If you'd like to be on Team Askew then leave a comment or send me a message and I'll sort it out.

Any changes for you this new season?(image)

Rooted in Love


Roots, our community for 4 1/2 years has just come to an end. Here are some reflections about what we've been and where we all might go next.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

We started the community that became Roots in 2006, during a pretty painful period of life.  We met with some friends,  Becky and Phil,  and shared with them our need for community.  They agreed,  and so every week we went to the pub to do the quiz.

The community grew.  Eventually we took our name.  As we did the above verses from Ephesians 3 became very significant for Helen and me.  We wanted to be "rooted and established in God's love" and wanted the community we'd started to feel that way too.  As roots Roots got bigger that phrase stayed with us, and influenced our desire to function like family to one another.  A number of people came through the community.  I hope that, like us, they found belonging to Roots helped establish them in love.

This summer I've been reflecting on these verses again.  I continue to want to experience, share and be rooted in love.  But this time round my attention has been drawn to another phrase:  "that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

What is the fullness of God?  We can only imagine!  Far greater than our current experience I 'm sure.  God; the creator who reigns in heaven.  The King of a kingdom where there is no sickness, sin, death, pain... where there are eternal pleasures we can only imagine.  Paul prays the Ephesians might be filled with his fullness.

As I've chewed over that phrase I've got increasingly dissatisfied.  It points to more,  to a great, fuller, deeper experience of God that I desperately want to explore.

So my hope and prayer,  for myself and for anyone whose been part of roots ever is that each of us would continue to be rooted and established, that each of us would continue to know love,  but also that each of us would push out into new adventures with God.  The each of us would be filled with his fullness and share that fullness with as many other people as possible.

Roots has been amazing,  but I hope, pray and believe that there is far better things for each of us.(image)

24-7 Prayer and Powerhouse


We're half way through week of 24-7 prayer here at Philly.  We've done it slightly differently this time.  We've not got a central prayer room where everyone goes,  rather we're encouraging people to pray where they are - at home, at the office, at the pub and with their family and friends.

I love these prayer weeks I woke up in the night on Monday and lay awake for a little, then suddenly I thought "someone from Philly will be praying now" it was a great feeling.  These weeks always help me be just a bit more focussed on investing in my prayer and worship life and remember that it is part of something bigger; a community at prayer.

If you're praying for an hour with us this week,  I hope that the space you've made has allowed you to meet with God in a new and deeper way.    This morning I was reminded of what James says: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5.16 - verse hunters).  The stuff you're doing in your hour (or for some people more)  may seem to be small but what you're doing is powerful, connecting with the creator, the Lord and talking with him!

I'd love to hear from you what you're doing with your hour, and also if you have any prayer requests or testimonies. Why not join our FB event page,  or leave a comment here,  or just post something on your wall,  it'd be great to hear as many prayer stories as possible.

Tonight I'm joining Form guys and some others from our church to stay up half the night praying and worshipping.  The guys who are helping me run it have really gone to town with creative ways of connecting with God.  We're calling it Powerhouse,  I'm really excited!(image)



Here's a weird little story.  On Monday I had awful hayfever,  every year I get it for about a week and it sucks.  Anyway,  I was lying in bed, bunged up and snotty and Helen asked if she could pray for me.  She put her hand on my nose (bold, given the amount of nastiness) and had a little pray.  Straight away there was change,  exactly one half of my face got completely better!  My left sinus stopped hurting and my nose was cleared,  the right hand side stayed exactly the same.  We were tired so I accepted that as gift from God and went to sleep 50% more comfortable and 50% still blah. Funny.

Since then I've been thinking; why did that happen?  Its an experience that's not unique.  Often when I pray for people that Jesus would heal them they tell me things immediately get better; not totally but substantially improved.  I talked to a friend recently who has been asking God for some big provision too - car MOT,  holiday, that kind of thing - and been finding that he's giving them about 1/2 the provision.  The rest they have to save for or work for.

Why is that?  I don't know.  But I have to admit I quite like it.  I guess it fits with the weird life we live right now where we are in the kingdom of God and at the same time waiting for it.   The trouble is that there is still this gap with what I see in the bible stories (everyone who came to Jesus gets healed,  everyone gets what they need in terms of provision) and my experience.  Maybe God allows that frustration at times to keep us hungry,  to keep us going back and persevering but he also gives enough so that we'd keep hope and keep going.

The only bible story I can think of where this sort of happens are in Mark 8 where Jesus heals the blind guy.  First time he puts his hands on the guys eyes and he can see things like trees walking around,  second time he does it and the guy can copletely see again.  I guess its encouraging that even Jesus had to persevere.

Whatever,  I am increasingly confident that God wants to do good things with people,  he wants to heal,  he wants to provide,  he loves.  I'm excited I'm starting to see of that happen in my own life and at the same frustrated that its still only partial.  I'm going to keep asking him to help me and I'm going to persevere.(image)



So I think its time to resurrect the blogger Distinctly Askew. As I've thought a bit about my (ahem) web strategy I've realised I actually want 2 different things. 1. Somewhere to share God stories and thoughts with people who are interested in that sort of thing. 2. Somewhere to talk about mucic, shiny things, pretty pictures and genearlly have a bit of a (even bigger ahem) lifestream.

So henceforth (or until I get a different idea) Distinctly Askew Blogger will be strictly Godtastic. I want to get in the habit of writing about the stuff I'm thinking through and would hope some of you out there will talk to me about these ideas. Distinctly Askew Tumblr will continue to be what it is, a messy scrapbook of pics, tweets, links and stuff that excites me. I'll make sure you get a little teaser summary of each of these posts over there but you'll need to click through in order to get the full thing.

Got that? Ok, lets go.(image)

New Year Changes


Hello there, happy new year,  I hope you had a great Christmas.

So you've probably noticed that blogging has been infrequent here for a while.  Other people are making some great changes to their blogs to gear up for 2009.  I'm choosing a different path; abandonment.

I've been running a second blog over at tumblr for a while now.  It just fits with the whole reason that I blog; which is to have fun sharing things with other people and open up conversations that can spill over into "real life".  It also plugs into my other online presences, like flickr and twitter so it works as what geekier types call a life stream, holding all my online activities in one place.

I'm not totally leaving this place.  I'll keep the blogger Distinctly Askew going and think I'll probably put up the very occasional, longer post.  They'll more than likely become more and more faith based.  When I post here,  I'll also put up a summary over on the tumblr page too.

Thanks so much to the people that have read the ramblings here,  have commented and got involved or said nice things to me.  I hope you'll come over to the new place and continue to keep up with things there.

See ya.(image)

Slow Down


A little meditation I’ve written for Church on Sunday:

Slow down, Christmas is coming,

don’t worry it will arrive.
The unwritten cards really don’t matter;
you don’t need to fret about presents still to buy.

The office party is all in the past.
The long journey home, on Christmas Eve,
through sleet or fog or freezing rain;
for now, it doesn’t matter.

Forget about Nigella’s, or Jamie’s or Delia’s time plans.
Don’t fret about what you’ll say to Mum, or your uncle, or your brother when you see them,

or about having to be nice for a whole day.

Don’t worry about what you’ve spent so far,
or haven’t bought yet
or whether they’ll like it
or whether they’ll be there.

Don’t worry if this isn’t how your family does Christmas
or if it doesn’t seem right,

or if you just miss them
and this time of year hurts most.

Slow down,
Christmas is coming,

it will all happen soon.

But there is something more.

God loved people like you
so much that he gave his son.
Slow down,  

Christmas is coming
Slow down,


God loved you
So much that he gave his son.

Celebrate what he’s done.

Form blogs


A couple of good blogs from other people involved in Form this year.

Hannah leads some of the student work at St Toms and is also on the team helping lead Form with me.  She writes really well, particularly about her experiences with God and Church.

Pete is one of our trainees.  I love his blogs name.  He goes for a more current affairs/cultural critique approach.

Its cool to see how much people's personalities show in the way they write.(image)



I am properly trying out tumblr now.  I really like it,  it just seems a bit more fun.

I'll probably keep this blog going too - at least for a bit - for the more thought out things I occasionally do but over there I'll post lots more.(image)



I really hope it does snow tomorrow like everyone is saying.(image)



After a busy but fun wek its been great to have a couple of days mainly doing Dad type things.(image)



You are beautiful!
Pure and simple.(image)

Call + Response


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