Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Dear Me: A letter to my 16 year old self...

Dear Me: A letter to my 16 year old self...

Hi Kevin

It's me, well you, in a way us, from 45 years later writing to you in order to give you snippets of wisdom from my life experience that may help you to get the best from what lies ahead in your life.

Maternal Grandparents Wedding Anniversary 1960s
Well here goes... I won't spoil any of the surprises that lie ahead in your life. That would be strange. Generally things are good but there is always room for improvement. There will always be events in life you can never be prepared for or anticipate. So try to be prepared.

'Pull your socks up Kevin' as one of your teachers you'll remember said to us in Junior School. It's good advice, to 'make an effort to improve one's work, performance or behaviour'. Carry that advice with you always.

Kevin I've always thought of you as an honest and caring person. I haven't changed my opinion now either. Like other people we're not perfect. Sometimes you do lack motivation and self-believe. At times you do procrastinate. Ephesians 5:16 says 'Make the most of every opportunity'. Or 'Do it now' would be a good inspirational motto. Why not copyright it & offer to sell it to a global company, like Nike, then open a trust fund and give half the money to charity.

Procrastination comes with our character Kevin. There's nothing wrong with caution or weighing up the pros and cons in situations. You could find out about the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator. You'll find it will aid self-understanding and enable you to modify some of your negative characteristics.
Believe in yourself.

You don't enjoy reading, but I encourage you to read books which provide you with moral guidance, the bible particularly, and to learn from other people's life experiences. This is often achieved by listening more than speaking, in the same ratio as your ears to your mouth - 2:1. Try to differentiate between wise and foolish people, even though this can be difficult. Heed the wise and avoid mixing with fools.

At 16 you've already experienced some bad stuff during your childhood, but... my advice is 'be forgiving'. It's best not to carry that weight around with you through your lifetime. People will hurt you and likewise you them. Avoid it if you can. But if you can't then use forgiveness. Bitterness will eat away at you.

Empathy is one of your strengths Kevin. It's often helpful to look at issues through other peoples' eyes, or walk in their shoes. But trust in your gut feelings and treat others fairly. You will meet many types of people during your lifetime. You are white, male and hetro-sexual and physically able. Others wont be the same, so I advise you to accept these differences. Treat everyone as an individual. Remember they and 'You are a unique individual there has never been another person like you in all the 60 billion people who have walked on this earth'. Fact. Accept and enjoy your gifts and your life's loves.

There will always be family and many friends in your life. Hold them close, love and respect them all. As you enter adulthood Kevin remember there will be those who come and go in your life. Some losses with be painful. Comfort those who mourn. Some years ago I remember reading this, 'We all have an illness called life. One day it will be the death of us'.

A final piece of advice. Love and be loved. Trust and be trusted. Respect and be respected. Forgive and be forgiven. Have a blessed life.

Kevin Lindsay-Smith
Aged 61
April 2016

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Joy to the world

A Living Faith article published in the Tamworth Herald on 13 December 2013
The news reports that 'Christmas' is good for our economy. The Good News I want to bring to you is that 'Christ' is also 'mas'sive for our future and spiritual well-being. As we join others in Christmas shopping we hear the well-known Christmas songs and carols playing to help us feel in the festive mood.
So in this Christmas edition of the Tamworth Herald I thought it would be a good idea to tell the Christmas story using only the first lines of Carols.
O come all ye faithful; Hark the Herald angels sing; It was on a starry night when the hills were bright; In the bleak mid winter; It came upon the midnight clear; The first Noel the angels did sing.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night; Silent night Holy night; Angels from the realms of glory; Ding Dong! Merrily on High; Joy to the world!
Little Donkey; O Little town of Bethlehem; Once in royal David’s city; The virgin Mary had a baby boy; Infant Holy Infant lowly; Away in a manger; See him lying on a bed of straw; Unto us a child is born! 

Come and join the celebration; Of the Father's love begotten; God rest you merry gentlemen; As with gladness men of old; We three kings of Orient are; Good king Wenceslas;
Love came down at Christmas; The Holly and the Ivy; See amid the winter's snow; Hope of heaven; On Christmas night all Christians sing;  We wish you a merry Christmas! 

A Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year to you...

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Hope overcoming Fear

Today, on this Easter morning, we stand... we stand together before the cross, the cross of Jesus. As the sun rises we experience the change from darkness into light. And we are reminded of God's risen son Jesus, Light of the World, and of our Christian hope of eternal life.

In John 3:16 the Bible tells us 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.' In his New Testament translation 'Who?', Paul Langham records Jesus saying this: 'God gave his greatest treasure, his one and only Son. Everyone who trusts in me will burst through death into eternal life.'

The cross remains the symbol of Christianity, nearly 2000 years since Jesus' crucifixion. The idea of Roman crucifixion was execution, to bring about a prolonged and painful death to the victim, but also to strike fear into any witnesses, friends or family of the condemned.
At Easter the world is reminded of the message of Christian hope, which overcomes our human fear; however that might manifest itself in our lives. Fear - F E A R, because without God we may often find ourselves being Frightened, Envious, Angry & Resentful. 

As believers, with God, we have Christian Hope - H O P E.
H: with God we are made Holy, set apart.
O: with God He gives us Opportunities, opportunities to be obedient, to do His will.
P: with God we live with His Promises as set out in His Word.
And E: One of God's many promises is Eternity, to live with Him forever, in our hearts today and with the love of God in our tomorrows, in His heavenly realm. At Easter we celebrate Jesus' resurrection, new life over death, hope over fear. H O P E: Holy, Opportunities, with Promises & for Eternity.

Barack Obama's first inaugural address as president of America in 2009 was called 'Hope over fear', a title he took from one of his pastor's sermons. In his address Barack said "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord." The President concluded his speech by saying. "with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom ... to future generations."

So today we gather, as members of the body of Christ, choosing a living hope over fear. With our eyes fixed on the horizon, with God's grace, with freedom from the chains of the evil one, with faith, sharing the good news of Christ with this and future generations.

St Peter says 'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.'

May the Easter message of Hope, Hope overcoming Fear, be with you today and always. Amen


Thursday, 24 January 2013

A letter to self - our search for wisdom

O God; open our hearts to your word - a word that passes swiftly and faithfully from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the life. Amen

I wonder from ‘where’ you’ve gained the greatest influence in your life? Or perhaps I should first ask ‘who’? Was it from your parents, family, teachers, friends, historical figures, sport or musical icons, ministers or other church members perhaps? Or maybe that influence came from certain books, films, poems, TV programmes, music, tragedies, holidays, the internet, happy times? I could go on. Whatever influences and experiences have shaped us and moulded the way we are, we are and have become the personalities we are, created and loved by God as unique individual human beings.

And have you ever asked yourself questions like ‘What on earth am I here for?’? Who am I? What am I here for? What is the purpose of my life? You may not have answered those questions but hopefully we can begin to dissect a few of these issues from what Paul is saying in his 7-verse section of his letter to the Ephesians (5:15-21). As in the previous sections of Paul’s letter that we’ve been reading, praying about and studying in the last few weeks, they contain God-given God-breathed advice as to how we might live out our lives on this earth.

Giving good advice and listening to good advice are two sides of the priceless ‘wisdom’ coin. The books entitled "Dear Me: A letter to my 16 year old self" are a compilation of letters written by various people to their 16 year old self, (edited by Joseph Galliano). The first ‘Dear Me’ book includes letters from a variety of well-known people including an Archbishop! Another book called ‘What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self’ is a similar collection of letters written by famous women to the women they once were. The letters included in all of these books are filled with advice and insights the writer wish they had had when they were younger.

I wonder, if you sent a letter back through time to your younger self, what your letter would say and what advice you might offer? The ‘Dear Me’ series also has a website. So you can write your letter and submit it for publication too, to share your own wisdom from what you know now with everyone else in the world.

I was particularly struck by Hugh Jackman, an Australian actor who wrote in his ‘Dear Me’ letter ‘Keep writing down one list... and one list only... the 5 things you love to do, and the 5 things you are good at... they will keep changing, but one day they will match up... and there is your path... But even then keep writing your list just to make sure you're still on the right track.’ So that might be another interesting exercise for you to undertake in your spare time.

Here are excerpts from some letters:

"Life itself is a journey. You can draw your own maps." (Brian Keenan)

“Try more things. Cross more lines.” (Breena Clarke)

“Learn how to celebrate.” (Olympia Dukakis)

“You don’t have to be afraid of living alone.” (Eileen Fisher)

 “Don’t be so quick to dismiss another human being.” (Barbara Boxer)

“Laundry will wait very patiently.” (Nora Roberts)

“Your hair matters far, far less than you think” (Lisa Scottoline)

“Speak the truth but ride a fast horse.” (Kitty Kelley)

It’s interesting to hear nuggets of advice from other people. The bible too is full of the wisdom of individuals who have offered their wisdom, based on their life experience, and particularly their relationship with God. Historically, the wisest man who ever lived (besides Jesus) was King Solomon. We can find this documented in the second book of Chronicles. Solomon’s only request to God was that God would grant him wisdom. Solomon could have asked for riches, long life, or victory over his enemies, but he did not ask for any of these things. He said, "Give me an understanding heart to rule Your people, that I may know the difference between good and evil. Help me to judge these great people of Yours."
Solomon’s most famous wisdom was the decision he made one day when two women brought a baby to Solomon. Each woman said the baby was her child. Solomon said, "Cut the baby in half and give half of the baby to each woman." (Of course, he didn't really intend to kill the baby. It was just a test.) "NO!" screamed the real mother, "Give her the baby. Do not kill him." Then Solomon knew who the real mother was because of the way she loved the baby. He gave the baby to its real mother. Of course it’s not always easy for us to make the right decisions in our lives, and to use the wisdom we have or can acquire during our lives.
Our passage begins, in the Amplified Bible translation, ‘Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people),’
I believe life is often best described as a journey and every step worthy of careful consideration. As many of you know I have been involved with Instep who’s slogan is ‘Men Walking Together’ and its name comes from Galatians (5:25) ‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit’. We’re thinking today about how as humans we rely on our own wisdom, but with God’s wisdom, Christ’s example and the Power of the Holy Spirit we are less likely to stumble as often throughout our life’s journey.
Our passage continues by saying ‘16 Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.’ 17 Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.

Inspirational sayings and quotes have enormous power and impact on us. The words "live, laugh, love" as well as the longer slogan "live well, laugh often, love much" are both extremely popular on a wide variety of items and products. The words are part of a poem by Bessie Anderson Stanley. The words are often linked to 3 biblical verses.

Live Making the best of our lives, our time on earth being a vehicle through which the light of Christ shines is what Christians are called to be. Matthew 5:16 says ‘let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’ and part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Laugh “...A time to weep, and a time to laugh” from the book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3:4 The whole of this well-known chapter beginning There is a time for everything’ offers wisdom on balancing our time between our different demands in our lives. Authorship of Ecclesiastes is attributed to King Solomon. It’s described as ‘the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of ... life upon this earth — and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth’.

Love - John 13:34 has more of Jesus’ words ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

But the 16th verse also includes a warning about the existence of evil, so we must also be very careful. Similar to St Paul’s warning St Peter says: "Your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5.8). Then we here another warning... ‘18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.

In the book of Luke Jesus says: "Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life. ... Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:34-36). And that's what living in the Spirit of Jesus calls us to do.
The final verses speak of our need to praise, give thanks and relate to others in the Spirit of our Lord. The Serenity Prayer is the name given to an originally untitled prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr. The prayer was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous. Its short version is often found on cards.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


Saturday, 28 January 2012

Stairway to Heaven

'Stairway to Heaven; water into wine' Sermon preached at St Peter’s Church Glascote Heath Tamworth B77 2HH on Sunday 22 January 2012
John 2: 1-11 The Wedding in Cana

Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus: 'Pray...that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.' Do you pray for your ministers? Please do!

I read this week that following his first sermon those praying for a young minister grew in number from one elder to three, then fifty, then two hundred in his new Church. Eleven hundred people were saved and joined the church in the next three years. Pastor Wilbur Chapman said this 'It was the fruit of the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer. Church members have much more to do than go to church as curious, idle spectators to be amused and entertained. It is their business to pray mightily that the Holy Spirit will clothe the preacher with power and make their words like dynamite'
To Commence
Today I invite you to explore with me, or perhaps blow up with dynamite!, this well-known and well-loved passage from John's Gospel. Because in it as in the whole of his gospel St. John brings us to Jesus and the mystery of His love, and Jesus brings us home to his Father and to what we most desire, and the Father brings us to the reality of ourselves and gives us to each other.
Since my retirement I've had the opportunity to sometimes join with the other clergy of our Parish when we meet for lunch at each other’s home. During this time we look at the Gospel passage for the coming Sunday and discuss it and share our thoughts with each other... a bible study, which can often assist us with sermon preparation. We did this on Wednesday concerning today's passage entitled 'The Wedding in Cana' when we are told of the miracle of Jesus changing water into wine. There are many interpretations of its meaning and significance. Here's mine with the help of others and, I pray, the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

To Continue
It's all Greek to me! The passage begins John's description of Jesus' public ministry written many years later. I'm no linguist but the Greek language is known to have many subtleties and can be interpreted at several levels. It can of course be understood from a human perspective as just a story or alternatively at a spiritual level as something perhaps beyond our human understanding. This is the story of how there begun on earth a new age, a new world order of Love, so what better symbol than marriage? 'On the third day there was a marriage’ the gospel passage begins.

A bride and bridegroom set out together on an adventure of love, as two separate people, but in a marriage that works effectively the two find themselves becoming one flesh, learning to trust each other, to see the truth in the depths of the other. They are transformed together and become one in the to and fro of love. Marriage is the symbol of the new world order of which Jesus is the centre, and in which the governing principle is ' to love one another'.

But it is a marriage on the third day. As we reach the climax of the story later in John's gospel we discover the third day is 'the day of life through death'. ‘On the third day’ we now know as Easter. This new age of love is going to emerge out of death. 'A marriage on the third day' is a symbol of the new age which is to come. This symbol of marriage takes place in a small mountain village, from where we are directed just like a 'sign post', towards somewhere beyond that time and place. From human beings growing in love together we journey towards the ultimate marriage we long for, the marriage of flesh and Spirit, the marriage of earth and heaven.

Prior to the wedding in Cana Jesus had called his disciples to follow him. And Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus' followers were starting to realise that he was something special, and they hadn't even seen any of his miraculous works yet! Jesus said to Nathaniel in reply “You will see greater things than that.” And He added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” A reference to Jacob's dream from Genesis 28:12.

So a few days later Jesus, his mother and disciples are all attending the wedding, and the ladder Jesus spoke of is in place. A ladder between heaven and earth, one end of the ladder is in Cana of Galilee, but the other end of the ladder reaches heaven. The angels, we can imagine, are going up the ladder, carrying to God the needs and hopes of all the people at the wedding reception, and the angels are coming down, bringing the transforming power of God into their village.

Water we know is a basic human need, without it life cannot exist. In the area of the world where Jesus walked and talked 2000 years ago, water was and is today a particularly valuable commodity. So when we came to the part in our story when Jesus instructed the servants to fill the 6 large stone water jars, it wasn’t a matter of just getting the hosepipe and connecting it to a tap, like we do when we want to water the garden or wash the car (or I fill our hot tub). No, not that easy at all. We are told in detail that the total amount held in them was in excess of 180 gallons, (that's over 800 litres) so it was no mean feat.

The servants would have been to-ing and fro-ing until they were full to the brim. Not miraculous yet but we're getting there. You know I think the task may have been made easier by God. I can imagine that each vessel of water going into the jars grew, just like the food during the feeding of the 5 thousand did. Now we have the water and of course the ladder. Don’t forget the ladder down which the transforming power of God is flowing! And when the water was passed out among the wedding guests it tasted like the best wine ever.

In verse eleven John culminates the story, 'What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.'

To Conclude
Jesus' response to Nathaniel's new faith is the promise that Jesus himself will be the "ladder which unites earth with heaven". And it can be a ‘first’ sign for us, directing us, perhaps with a new faith from the miraculous event at this particular wedding towards a new understanding, a new life, a new relationship with God. Jesus changed the water into wine. Jesus is the new wine. He is the door to heaven, the ladder to God. Jesus proclaims that he is the fulfillment of the promise made to Jacob and his descendants. Jesus is the true ladder and 'stairway to heaven'. In Jesus' incarnation, the divine Son of God taking on human flesh for our sake, we see the union, the coming together as in a marriage, a union of heaven and earth? God making his dwelling with us and bringing us into the heavenly reality of his kingdom.

Jesus' death on the cross where he defeated sin and won new life for us through his resurrection opens the way for each of us to come into a new relationship with God as his sons and daughters. And collectively we as his church represent the bride and Christ the groom. We are invited to join with him in unity with God. And so we celebrate today, as we climb a rung on the ladder, by taking a small human step, but more importantly ‘a giant step for mankind’ towards, no not the moon, but heaven, Jesus’ gift to us, as we share together in communion today, the wedding feast of bread and of wine.

And finally...

I'm a little teapot made of clay
Filled with refreshing liquid every day
Lord forgive the rubbish that I spout
Tip me up and pour it out
Fill me with your Spirit that I may be
An even more refreshing cup of tea
Poem written (and included with permission) by Marilyn Bloomfield

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Bringing Hope

During the Instep Men's weekend at Cliff College, Calver (situated in the Peak District National Park and the area known as Hope Valley!) in October 2011 I collected these thoughts to reflect our discussions.

Bringing Hope

Whether we have need or greed
Whether we have gout or doubt 
we all need hope

Whether we know drugs or thugs 
Whether we are blind or kind
we all need hope

Whether we sing sweet or off beat
Whether we are old or bold
we all need hope

Whether we have health or ill-health
Whether we have wealth or fear death
we all need hope

Whether we seek work or work to seek
Whether we are retired or work tirelessly
we all need hope

Whether we are a prophet or a puppeteer
Whether we are disconnected or switched on
we all need hope

Whether we are a mentor or need mentoring
Whether we see a messy world or heaven on earth
we all need hope

Lord bring us hope
Spirit bring us strength 
God give us faith


If you wish to know more about the work and activities of Instep, a Christian Men's Group then please go to

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Caesar Augustus
Census took
Mary Joseph
Inn look

No room
Stable loaned
Manger born
Swaddling clothed

Shepherds field
Watch flock
Angel appears
Glory shone
Angel spoke
No fears

Good news
Saviour born
Great joy
Christ Lord
Born today
Baby boy

Heavenly host
Praising birth
Glory High
Peace earth

Shepherds said
Bethlehem go
This thing
Lord told

Mary Joseph
Baby manger
Shepherds found
Spread word
All heard
Were astounded

Mary treasured
Pondered heart
God praising
Shepherds returned
Things heard
Seen amazing

Came afar
Magi east
Followed star
Where born
Jewish king
Worship adorn

Bethlehem star
Child bowed
Gifts Incense
Myrrh Gold

Word Flesh
Light Mankind
Grace Truth
Son Glorified
Words from Luke 2, Matthew 2 & John 1